make your own:
filmmaking from the margins...

by Lenn Keller

I was on unemployment, when I decided to make my first film, Ifé, a 5 minute, 16mm black and white experimental narrative (or mockumentary as it's been called by some) about a day in the life of a black French butch lesbian in San Francisco. Stylistically, it was inspired by Breathless, the 1950's French New Wave film by Jean Luc Godard. In preparation, I did a number of things, including becoming a member of Film Arts Foundation (a San Francisco organization with awesome resources for filmmakers), watched a lot of films, and did a ton of reading, literally everything I could get my hands on about 16mm film production.

I wrote a simple script, a one person narrative, so I could direct it at the level of my experience and resources (which was pretty close to zero on both counts). I tracked down places I could get equipment and services for cheap (or free). I put flyers around for crew and cast (offering experience, food, fun and a copy of the final product in exchange for work). I pulled together a small crew, and hooked up my talent, made up a storyboard, and a shooting script. Then I just went for broke, financing it myself and with the help of friends. Shooting took place over three weekends, and post-production (lab work, editing, mixing sound etc.) took 3 months to complete. Much to my amazement, Ifé became an audience favorite, screening in festivals all over the world, and won Best Short at the Madrid Women's International Film Festival in '94, and has been included on three video compilations, and is distributed by Frameline in San Francisco. The film bug had bitten hard, and I was eager to embark on my second short, which I wanted to have higher production values, and give myself the opportunity to learn more about producing, by having lots of variables to juggle, like lots of locations, equipment, and people to move around and keep track of.

Sightings Production Journal

Thursday, March 3rd
I start writing the script for Sightings at a coffee shop near my house. I want to continue creating new film images of African American lesbians, but I want this piece to be more technically challenging. To do what I want, I'll need at least three times the money I spent on Ife.

Thursday, May 5th
I finish my application for a grant from the Film Arts Foundation.

Wednesday, June 15th
Hot damn!! I just received a letter from the Film Arts Foundation saying that along with 14 other filmmakers, I've been awarded $3,000!

Monday, July 25th
I post flyers around town and place a few ads for cast and crew. It'll be great if I can hook up a crew of mostly women. I need an Assistant Director, a D.P. (director of photography), some camera assistants, a sound person, boom operator, script supervisor, and production assistants.

Saturday, August 6th
People are calling in response to the flyers and ads. I work up an information sheet with a production schedule, synopsis, description of cast and crew postions (experience & minimum commitment requirements). I want to shoot the first week of September, or the first week of October.
Wednesday, August 10th
Tonite Cindy (D.P.), Ed (gaffer), and Jean (Assistant Director) are coming over for dinner, so we can go over the script, and brainstorm ideas.

Still interested? There's more on the next page









Pre-Production Begins



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