On the Low Budget aesthetic

May 26, 2008

One thing I have noticed in my years of running MUFF and making independent cinema, is an absurd prejudice in this country to low budget aesthetics. It’s as if years of government funded, technically well polished (but crap!) films, have Australian film industry personal and potentates all hooked on the fine tuning of a films aesthetic. And not worrying about its content, excitement, originality or quality as a work of art. I mean Esther Blueberger was polished, but it was a polished turd. Am I right, people?

At Accent Underground (AU), the MUFF DVD label we set up with Accent Film Entertainment, we have been releasing these less polished and low budget gems to the Australian public. Just watch “demonamongus”, “Welcome Stranger”, “The Garth Method” and others on AU and tell me these are not great local films?

They may not have the millions wasted on them polishing every detail. But they are all ballsy, original new Australian movies.

The Magician, by Scott Ryan, was 90% the same movie that played at MUFF compared to the version that came out after the FFC got involved, adding 300K or so to polish it that extra ten percent. I’m all for doing that polish, if you can and The Magician is better for it. But the original was equally as impressive as the finished product. It just had a new ending, decent sound mix and some proper credits. But the talent revealed in the early cut was clear to see.

Whenever I watch a low budget movie, Australian or otherwise, I enter into an agreement to expect some rough edges. It comes with the territory. That’s why its a low budget movie! I call this expectation ‘the low budget impressionist effect’. Things are sometimes not as polished as they could, or should be. For example, the sound may be a little low in one scene, a music cue not quite at the right level in another, a visual effect that could be slightly better, etc. These things all can be fixed given large $ in post. But the point is low budget films often don’t have the lolly of big budget films and should not be scolded for their inherent limitations. In fact, these drawbacks should be understood and appreciated!

Lars Von Trier’s whole Dogme 95 movement pulled us away from this absurd obsession with over polish in modern cinema. I mean, do we look at impressionists and ask of them why they didn’t paint a clearer picture? Of course not.

Low budget aesthetics are a form of cinematic impressionism that varies depending on the resource, budget or even intention of the films creator, and should be acknowledged as such.

If we embraced a more rough and tumble aesthetic, that recalls many great movements in cinema from Dogme to the French and British New Wave movements, back to early days of experimental, underground and even silent cinema, we can see the excellence in low budget cinema, for what it is. And perhaps reward it, next time around, with a more comprehensive budget. Instead of pouring millions down the gurgler on crap like September, Blueberger and other recent flops.

Like Robert Connolly says in his ‘white paper’, and in what he said was canvassed at 2020 conference, we should reward talent, innovation and success. I say to do so, also, from whatever aesthetic tier a work of cinematic art may emerge from.

Again, your thoughts are welcome in the comments page…

2 Responses to “On the Low Budget aesthetic”

  1. I think Kriv Stenders is a master of this aesthetic and I look forward to his upcoming collaboration with Connolly. Home.

  2. Rupert said

    I think it may have all started with another verbal slip up from Michael Curtiz, I think he said “Polish’d films are great”, and from then on instead of media interest in Polish cinema, they started mopping up Hollywood. Actually any number of films with good content over-rides too many tidy technical aspects, why did Dr Who as a series last so long? With its cheap BBC sets and effects you’d have expected it to fail yet Dr Who has been blessed with a fine cast of characters, brilliant writers, and interesting contexts … so let us not funk out on content.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: