AIDC: Days of the individual filmmaker are over

02 March, 2012 by Amanda Diaz

The days of the individual filmmaker are over, according to a panel of documentary-makers at the AIDC earlier this week.

Veteran Bob Connolly, who directed last year's hit Mrs. Carey’s Concert, said he was in a state of despair over the fact that the art of documentary had been reduced to such a conversation.


"If anyone had told me 20 or 30 years ago that I'd find myself in a room participating in a serious discussion about whether or not a TV show about removing stains qualified as a documentary, I'd have come to the embarrassed conclusion that I caught the wrong plane, landed in Surfer's Paradise and blundered into one of those tax dodge conventions so fondly pursued by doctors and dentists, and no doubt the stain removal industry," he said.

"What must the rest of the film industry think of us? The politicians and bureaucrats that control the purse strings of this heavily subsidised so-called art form. How have we gotten to the state of affairs whereby a judge in a court of law has been given license to determine what it is that we do in such a way as to make sensible differentiation virtually impossible?"

Connolly went on to observe that the conference – which also heard that one-off documentaries are no longer in favour with commissioning editors – was mostly devoid of practising filmmakers because many were unable to afford to attend because of their downgraded status on the food chain. With free-to-air commissioning editors preferring to work with production companies rather than freelancers, filmmakers are losing creative control over their own projects.

Writer/director Jennifer Peedom admitted she had carved out her own career by being a "gun for hire" and that it was a cycle that is hard to break out of.

"What that has meant for me is that I don't own the copyright to any of my films, films that I have made…and so that leaves me with no revenue stream by which to support myself to develop my own projects," she said. "And so I finish my next project and I have high childcare overheads and all the rest of it, and a mortgage to pay – and I have to go on to the next gun for hire project."

"It's come to this," said Connolly. "A sausage factory churning out, with few exceptions, what can only be described as product. We are, as an industry busily engaged in eliminating from what we do, the concept of art.

"If we are doing this, and the evidence is mounting that we are digging our own graves, this is not how the great films are made."