It's Mike and Steve from Jumpcut. We just got back from five days at the Sundance Film Festival, a mecca for aspiring filmmakers that's crawling with students, directors, producers, press, stars aplenty, and film nuts like us. This year we went with a mission: We packed up our cameras and long underwear to go ask people, "What's your issue?"
That's because Yahoo! and Jumpcut have teamed up with Film Your Issue, a cool initiative that invites young people aged 16-25 to make minute-long movies on whatever pressing issue they find important. We kicked off an online competition and user movie submissions will start appearing on the site as of this Thursday. Judges include our very own Terry Semel, along with Walter Cronkite, Brian Williams, John Cusack, Kevin Bacon, Wolf Blitzer, Peter Jackson and many other media luminaries. The films submitted last year were brilliantly shot and edited. George Clooney, one of the 2006 judges, said "It's the Buzz" creator Brian Gonzalez was truly a future director.
We brought our cameras to Sundance to promote the short-film contest and explore issues. The thing that struck us as we stuck our mic in people's faces was that everyone's really passionate about something, whether they were a celebrity or just a local walking down the street. It didn't take long for people to start making their case. Global warming was by far the most popular issue. With very little snow on the mountains (we pretty much ruined our skis), it was on everybody's minds. And the war in the Middle East was the biggest issue for people from outside the U.S. — residents of places like England, Argentina, Peru, Brazil, Ireland, and Australia clearly aren't happy about the state of affairs over there. Other hot buttons were free speech, Darfur, clean water, animal welfare, education, orphans in Africa. (And locals were quiet unambiguous about what they thought of the size and expense of this year's film festival.)
At Project Greenhouse, we discovered that Ed Begley Jr. is as green as it gets. The man rides a stationery bike in the morning to power his toaster and he's happy to talk about clothes made from corn. Tom Arnold is a big supporter of a summer camp for kids with transplants. And we met a guy who's passionate about selling water bottles for $20 a piece in order to drill clean water wells for communities in Africa. This was a stark contrast to the schwag-laden Fred Segal lounge and Hollywood Hotel, where celebrities picked up great clothes and shoes definitely weren't made out of corn.
When we first started filming, it was hard not to be cynical as we interviewed a fur-clad woman who claimed support for the ASPCA. But by the time we came home, after having interviewed about 150 people (yeah, we only had time to see one film), we were thinking we should launch something like "Jumpcut for Good." People are paying attention to real issues. Maybe that says something about people who care about independent film. Maybe they're already focused on good causes (as evidenced in many documentaries screening last week).
But the message here is that it doesn't take a lot to make a film anymore. You don't need to be 10 years out of film school with a big Hollywood budget. Get a good camera and an editor (insert shameless Jumpcut plug here), find your set and go shoot something. It can turn out to be something very powerful.
Mike Folgner & Steve Weibel