Amateur Versus Professional | Maya Deren by Michael T Vollmann

The major obstacle for amateur filmmakers is their own sense of inferiority vis-a-vis professional productions. The very classification “amateur” has an apologetic ring. But that very word–from the Latin “amateur”–“lover” means one who does something for the love of the thing rather than for economic reasons or necessity. And this is the meaning from which the amateur filmmaker should take his clue. Instead of envying the script and dialogue writers, the trained actors, the elaborate staffs and sets, the enormous production budgets of the professional film, the amateur should make use of the one great advantage which all professionals envy him, namely, freedom–both artistic and physical.

Artistic freedom means that the amateur filmmaker is never forced to sacrifice visual drama and beauty to a stream of words, words, words, words, to the relentless activity and explanations of a plot, or to the display of a star or a sponsor’s product; nor is the amateur production expected to return profit on a huge investment by holding the attention of a massive and motley audience for 90 minutes.

Like the amateur still photographer, the amateur filmmaker can devote himself to capturing the poetry and beauty of places and events and, since he is using a motion picture camera, he can explore the vast world of the beauty of movement. (One of the films winning Honorable Mention in the 1958 Creative Film Awards was Round and Square, a poetic, rhythmic treatment of the dancing lights of cars as they streamed down highways, under bridges, etc.) Instead of trying to invent a plot that moves, use the movement of wind, or water, children, people, elevators, balls, etc. as a poem might celebrate these. And use your freedom to experiment with visual ideas; your mistakes will not get you fired.

Physical freedom includes time freedom–a freedom from budget imposed deadlines. But above all, the amateur filmmaker, with his small, light-weight equipment, has an inconspicuousness (for candid shooting) and a physical mobility which is well the envy of most professionals, burdened as they are by their many-ton monsters, cables and crews. Don’t forget that no tripod has yet been built which is as miraculously versatile in movement as the complex system of supports, joints, muscles, and nerves which is the human body, which, with a bit of practice, makes possible the enormous variety of camera angles and visual action. You have all this, and a brain too, in one neat, compact, mobile package. Cameras do not make films; filmmakers make films.

Improve your films not by adding more equipment and personnel but by using what you have to its fullest capacity. The most important part of your equipment is yourself: your mobile body, your imaginative mind, and your freedom to use both. Make sure you do use them.


DOGME 19 by Michael T Vollmann

DOGME 19 - First Draft

A new filmmaking “VOW OF CHASTITY” for the modern age, to push back against the gloss-ification and inauthenticity of the contemporary narrative film.

  1. Shooting must be done on location.

  2. No more than 1 artificial cinematic light may be used. All other lights must be practical. Bounces are okay.

  3. Story and Emotion should always trump technique, cinematography or continuity.

  4. A single explosion OR gunshot may be permitted if absolutely necessary.

  5. When casting, embrace ugly over beauty. Non-actors — in their element — must be chosen over “trained” actors if greater authenticity and believability can be achieved.

  6. When editing, no additional shots or angles shall be employed than are necessary to construct a scene. Fewer is better.

  7. A film should strive for a length of 89 minutes. Never more than 110.

  8. Low contrast S-log looks or milky monochromatic color schemes should be avoided.

  9. Scripts may be be used, but improvisation, spontaneity and the use of serendipitous environmental elements should be highly encouraged.

  10. Careful consideration should be given to credits and credit order to ensure fairness and to provide the clearest representation of the weight of all creative contributors.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin  — Monday 20 May 2019

-Michael T Vollmann

There are a few other trends in cinema that I’d like to contrast or resist, but haven’t thought through how they should be worded into the manifesto. For example:

  • Third acts are becoming intolerably long with too many twists and explosions. I’ve added a “single-use” clause for explosions and guns, but this seems arbitrary. Wonder if there’s a more clear rule to enact.

  • Modern cinematic language is becoming more and more literal. If someone grabs for a gun, there must be a CU, if someone looks askance, we must see the reverse to know why. While watching some classic 60’s & 70’s movies I’ve noticed that wider less descriptive shots are often used to convey important plot information, but the lack of literal “beat-us-over-the-head-shots” left me confused, my mind searching. Not because the information was missing, but because the form was less hand-to-mouth. Our current hand-to-mouth language trains audiences to be dumber.

  • I’m also considering whether there should be a strict 2 lens policy. (Something wide-ish, and long lens when necessary). I’ve been reading about how many films over time were shot with a single lens. This is more of a stylistic choice, but one I’d likely employ on my own film.

Going to think through these more…

INTAKE by Michael T Vollmann


Daring Greatly | Brené Brown

The Gifts of Imperfection | Brené Brown


Noah Land (2019) | Cenk Erturk

Meeting Gorbachev (2019) | Werner Herzog & André Singer 

Goldie (2019) | Sam de Jong

Red, White & Wasted (2019) | Sam Jones & Andrei Bowden Schwartz

Midnight Cowboy (1969) | John Schlesinger

Gleason (2016) | Clay Tweel

All The Presidents Men (1976) | Alan J. Pakula

Marathon Man (1976) | John Schlesinger

Blue Valentine (2010) | Derek Clanfrance

Strong Island (2017) | Yance Ford

The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017) | Yorgos Lanthimos

Thunder Road (2018) | Jim Cummings

American Gangster (2007) | Ridley Scott

Cold War (2019) | Pawel Pawlikowski

The Place Beyond the Pines (2012) | Derek Cianfrance

Filmworker (2017) | Tony Zierra

Moon (2009) | Duncan Jones

INTAKE by Michael T Vollmann


The Right Stuff | Tom Wolfe

Cat's Cradle | Kurt Vonnegut


Fyre (2019) | Chris Smith

Roma (2018) | Alfonso Cuarón

Pet Names (2018) | Carol Brandt

Young Adult (2011) | Jason Reitman

Suntan (2016) | Argyris Papadimitropoulos

The Florida Project (2017) | Sean Baker

The Duchess (2008) | Saul Dibb

Red River (1948) | Howard Hawked & Aurthur Rossen

Science Fair (2018) | Cristina Costantini & Darren Foster

Charm City (2018) | Marilyn Ness

The Feeling of Being Watched (2018) | Assia Boundaoui

Minding the Gap (2018) | Bing Liu

United Skates (2018) | Dyana WinklerTina Brown

Circles (2018) | Cassidy Friedman

Netizens (2018) | Cynthia Lowen

Day One (2018) | Lori Miller

INTAKE by Michael T Vollmann


Nineteen Eighty-Four  |  George Orwell

Slaughterhouse-Five  |  Kurt Vonnegut



Inception (2010)  |  Christopher Nolan

Wonder Woman (2017)  |  Patty Jenkins

The African Queen (1951)  |  John Huston

Coco (2017)  |  Lee Unkrich & Adrian Molina

Prelude to War (1942)  |  Frank Capra

Drive (2011)  |  Nicolas Winding Refn

Basic Instinct (1992)  |  Paul Verhoeven

Carol (2015)  |  Todd Haynes

Voyeur (2017)  |  Myles Kane & Josh Koury

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)  |  Gareth Edwards

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)  |  Rian Johnson

Ten Meter Tower (short)  |  Maximilien Van Aertryck & Axel Danielson

Moonlight (2016)  |  Barry Jenkins

Schindler's List (1993)  |  Steven Spielberg

Whose Streets? (2017)  |  Sabaah Folayan & Damon Davis

Raw (2016)  |  Julia Ducournau

It Follows (2014)  |  David Robert Mitchell

The Lobster (2015)  |  Yorgos Lanthimo

Give Me Future (2017)  |  Austin Peters

The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman's Portrait Photography (2016)  |  Errol Morris

I Am Another You (2017)  |  Nanfu Wang

The Blood Is at the Doorstep (2017)  |  Erik Ljung

Strad Style (2017)  |  Stefan Avalos

Dear Coward on the Moon (2017)  |  Carol Brandt

Quest (2017)   |  Jonathan Olshefski #MFF2017

Lemon (2017)  |  Janicza Bravo

The Force (2017)  |  Peter Nicks

Manlife (2017)  |  Ryan Sarnowski

The Founder (2016)   |  John Lee Hancock

Get Me Roger Stone (2017)  |  Dylan Banks, Daniel DiMauro & Morgan Pehme

Moana  |  Ron Clements & John Musker

The Little Prince (2015)  |  Mark Osborne

Ghosts of Abu Ghraib (2007)  |  Rory Kennedy

Newtown (2016)  |  Kim Snyder

Hidden Figures (2016  |  Theodore Melfi

La La Land (2016)  |  Damien Chazelle

Force Majeure (2014)  |  Ruben Östlund

Mulholland Dr. (2001)  |  David Lynch

I watched: Ramblin' Freak (2017)  |  Parker Smith

Glory Daze: The Life and Times of Michael Alig (2015)  |  Ramon Fernández

Beware the Slenderman (2016)  |  Irene Taylor Brodsky

Can You Dig This (2015)  |  Delila Vallot

Ain't Them Bodies Saints (2013)  |  David Lowery

The Panic in Needle Park (1971)  |  Jerry Schatzberg

The Big Short (2015)  |  Adam McKay

The Hustler (1961)  |  Robert Rossen

Iris (2014)  |  Albert Maysles

Patton (1970)  |  Franklin J. Schaffner

Amanda Knox (2016)  |  Rod Blackhurst & Brian McGinn

Dope (2015)  |  Rick Famuyiwa

Life Itself (2014)   |  Steve James

Stranger Fruit (2017)  |  Jason Pollock

Dealt (2017)  |  Luke Korem

Spettacolo (2017)  |  Jeff Malmberg & Chris Shellen

The Work (2017)  |  Jairus McLeary & Gethin Aldous

Nobody Speak: Hulk Hogan, Gawker and Trials of a Free Press (2017)  |  Brian Knappenberger

Mommy Dead and Dearest (2017)  |  Erin Lee Carr

The Usual Suspects (1995)  |  Bryan Singer

The Witness (2015)  |  James D. Solomon

Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru (2016)  |  Joe Berlinger

3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets (2015)  |  Marc Silver

Sling Blade (1996)  |  Billy Bob Thornton

Peace Officer (2015)  |  Brad Barber & Scott Christopherson

For Grace (2015)  |  Mark Helenowski & Kevin Pang

Salesman (1968)  |  Albert Maysles, David Maysles & Charlotte Zwerin

Inglourious Basterds (2009)  |  Quentin Tarantino

Django Unchained (2012)  |  Quentin Tarantino

The Russian Woodpecker (2015)  |  Chad Gracia

The Martian (2015)  |  Ridley Scott

Ex Machina (2015)  |  Alex Garland

Brother's Keeper (1992)  |  Joe Berlinger & Bruce Sinofsky

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)  |  J.J. Abrams

Confidentially Yours (1983)  |  François Truffaut

Grey Gardens (1975)  |  Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Ellen Hovde, Muffie Meyer

A Brief History of Time (1991)  |  Errol Morris

Night on Earth (1991)  |  Jim Jarmusch

Mystery Train (1989)  |  Jim Jarmusch

Chef (2014)  |  Jon Favreau

They Have Escaped (2014)  |  J.-P. Valkeapää

30 Seconds Away: Breaking the Cycle (2015)  |  Faith Kohler

Violet (2014)  |  Bas Devos

Take the Dog  |  Carol Brandt & Andrew Tolstedt

Nicola Costantino: La artefacta (2015)  |   Natalie Cristiani

Atari: Game Over (2014)  |  Zak Penn

Permanent Vacation (1980)  |  Jim Jarmusch

Our Brand Is Crisis: Trailer | David Gordon Green by Michael T Vollmann

The title cards in this piece are interesting to me. I like their realistic nature in that they look like a camera is pushing in on an actual wall of text that is full of texture. I think a nice doc effect or even trailer title cards could be achieved by actually shooting a wall with text, (instead of using after effects 3D motion.)

Intake by Michael T Vollmann

Werckmeister Harmonies (2000)  |  Béla Tarr & Ágnes Hranitzky ***

Damnation (1988)  |  Béla Tarr **

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)  |  Joel & Ethan Coen ***

Dallas Buyers Club (2013)  |  Jean-Marc Vallée ****

Noah (2014)  |  Darren Aronofsky **

First Comes Love (2013)  |  Nina Davenport ****

Beware of Mr. Baker (2012)  |  Jay Bulger ***

Gone Girl (2014)  |  David Fincher ***

The Night of the Hunter (1955)  |  Charles Laughton ***

Inside Out (2015)  |  Pete Docter & Ronaldo Del Carmen ***

All Things Must Pass (2015)  |   Colin Hanks **

Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine (2015)  |  Alex Gibney ***

I Want to Be a King (2015)  |   Mehdi Ganji ***

Capturing the Friedmans (2003)  |  Andrew Jarecki *****

Stories We Tell (2012)  |  Sarah Polley ***

The Overnighters (2014)  |  Jesse Moss ****

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck (2015)   |  Brett Morgen ***

Intake by Michael T Vollmann

Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God (2012)  |  Alex Gibney ****

Girls, Season 5 (2015) **

How to Change the World (2015)  |  Jerry Rothwell ***

The Cult of JT LeRoy (2014)   | Marjorie Sturm ***

Deprogrammed (2015)  |  Mia Donovan ***

Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made (2015)  |  Jeremy Coon & Tim Skousen ****

The Wolfpack (2015)  |  Crystal Moselle ***

Welcome to Leith (2015)  |  Michael Beach Nichols & Christopher K. Walker ****

Thought Crimes (2015)  |  Erin Lee Carr ***

The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst (2015)  |  Andrew Jarecki ****

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015)  |  Alex Gibney *****

24 Exposures (2013)  |  Joe Swanberg **

Drinking Buddies (2013)  |  Joe Swanberg ****

Red Army (2014)  |  Gabe Polsky ***

The Wolf of Wallstreet (2013)  |  Martin Scorsese ****

Greenberg (2010)  |  Noah Baumbach **