New adventures of independent film in CR IV

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From the evolution of the amateur film into the current times it became apparent that today it is quite unconceptionally defined. The field therefore needs to be adapted to the new social situation, new trends and the understanding of the audiovisual expression.

Hardly anybody would imagine during the deep-rooted Communist era of the 70's that the time would come when everyone will have a digital camera in their personal device called smartphone and the ability to share the videos with the whole world with just one click. Nobody could have guessed that there will be technology available that can compete with expensive cinematic cameras for just a fracture of costs or that people would use still picture cameras to shoot video. The times have changed significantly and even the established professionals have to fear of being outrun by progressive creators who grew up with established technology. Naturally, I am speaking in technology terms. It's not necessary to mention that pure amateurs have been able to come up with more interesting and intriguing plots many times in the history.


"The amateur film in our country has not evolved along with the professional cinematography since the very beginning as it used to in other countries. It rather evolved in unity and conjunction with it. In some periods (thirties to eighties) even supplemented it and overcame it with formal values, esthetics, content and ethics," as the FAMU professor Rudolf Adler puts it. Practice has shown us that even in the obscurity of the amateur film competitions we could find exceptional films which led even the older generation members of the jury to think they were watching a professional production. The quality of these films was on such level that it became inconceivable for everyone that such works were not created by professionals. Such cases show up more and more often. Mostly they are created by persistent film makers, mostly self-taught or organized groups. Affirmation of their achievements comes in the form of cinema distributions or TV broadcasting rights of their films. And that is exactly the film making sphere which transcends the definition of the original amateur film and comes to be called independent, is it already is in the foreign countries. The biggest part in this progressive evolution comes from the creators' motivation which has been taken away to the older generations during the regime. "It is the new generation, which sees our film making efforts merely as a stepping stone to a possible switch to the next level, who can barely realize their project without sponsorship. A film is a film, regardless of the format and tools used to create it. It's not necessarily the budget that determines the quality of the final product," is what Rolf Mandolesi, a foreign author, says about the independent sphere. Whoever has ever visited an amateur film competition would certainly agree that the artistic and technical quality of the competing works is poor but now more than ever works show up which are noteworthy and surpass these conventions. Although combining and mixing of the proverbial apples and pears can bring out negative impressions even towards the best works in the final effect. The few remaining bards of the golden era of the amateur film will not save it anymore. Not to speak of the problem of illegal use  of authorship, especially musical, which the amateur film has ignored for so long. Only now at the end of the 21st century things moved on and a partial solution came up through the agreement with the Authorship Rights Protection Agency (OSA in Czech) pushed through by Jaroslav Šika which crystallized into affordable service on a film portal Filmdat. Also quite common are the damages to the software industry by using illegally obtained software. The amateur film simply has more than a few sins to deal with.


Unfortunately, we won't break through into the world with the amateur films,

because in there the "amateur films" are on par with independent films when it comes

to quality (both artistic and technical).

Petr Lášek, Amatfilm


If we take a look to get inspired in the most free country of the film production, over the ocean, then the film makers have always separated into the professional cinematography represented by the mighty power of the film studios, what with being commercial subjects, and the independent productions. Those are the people who managed to create a product outside the giant dream factories of Hollywood, mostly with the fraction of the big films budget. And their films usually lived only through the festivals, without being in the distribution. Hollywood itself undergoes a big changed under the pressure of the so-called "low budget indie films". For now it resists, but it won't last forever. Digitization of the industry can foreshadow that. Even the famous Steven Spielberg had himself heard when speaking of a Hollywood implosion when the studio system most certainly has to extinct. And that is where we have to look for the inspiration. It's not about comparing two incomparable worlds, Czech and American market, but rather making sure that the term independent represents the creators who somehow managed to obtain necessary budget for their productions without anyone pointing fingers at them for not having the required education or that their projects are not backed by big studios. On the contrary, they are the ones who could create their films more or less freely with all their positives and negatives. And that's the basic thing that the new definition has to bring to the new Czech film maker upstarts, more so to the most able and persistent ones. In other words, it's all about the motivation which has to be woven into the category to enable the creators to constantly move ahead and improve.


The (film) development in the world was much faster than here,

so this expression "had to" be replaced.

Film industry is no longer willing to offer

the "amateurs" or the "non-professionals" the means for entertainment.

Max Hänsli, former UNICA president


The main source of the change in the definition of the artistic movement in our country is the proper organization and accommodation of support on multiple levels. It is necessary to start mapping the creative base ground on basic level, purely beginner's level, which is the closest to the previous amateur-ish customs and then by mapping the category of the school films. Above this should be necessary to define the independent non-commercial film category. This category needs to be popularized and establish a good supporting ground for it. The duplicitous support for student films which don't fall into the independent or non-professional culture and only abuse the support of their establishment. The definition of the new competition has to happen which will be the closest to the true definition of independent film. This category is vital for the future as it needs to be accepted by the ministry of culture. Today's independent film maker has not really chance of acquiring any support from the cultural development funds and the support of the Czech cinematography. There is no real chance for them to borrow equipment as it is for the film school students and so they have to push hard through the net of the amateur competitions which, in the final effect, sully and devalue their film, only enforcing the negative approach from the side of media and the public. But in fact the best of the advanced category of indie film could profile as the movers of the modern non-commercial cinematography in the future and achieve great artistic success in the world while promoting their home county and country they live in. This requires, however, a good environment which spawns a community that understands the new establishment of non-commercial/independent film in accordance to the new democratic arrangement of the country, keeping the free market in mind.

On the other hand we have to admit that we have something learn from the care of the previous regime for this field. It is the enlightenment, education and groundwork for the film makers. The network of the regional centers was almost flawless which is almost a utopia in today's world of budget thinning of this indebted country.


Look at the film environment around you

and think. Do you really find it alright

that there is just the amateur

and professional (big budget) film scene?

What makes CR so unusual that it doesn't need a category of independent film makers? What determined if the person from the film school who might not even work in film for the rest of their life would be considered a professional while the self-taught person would be called an amateur? Even OSA supports with its separate price list for the amateurs the creation of an enclosed community which can't show its films outside of the restricted events. An intellectual ghetto is then created, an education monopoly if you want. That's something not even closely related to art which film undoubtedly is.

Petr Tomek, the founder of UnderFilm



Amateur = non-professional, unskilled

English-Czech dictionary, Fragment, 1996

Amateurism = pursuit of something as a hobby, not for occupation, professional inadequacy to carry out the desired activity, incompetence

Foreign words dictionary ABZ



Film amateur

A person who carries out film production as a hobby outside of their main occupation and without any expectancy of profit. Amateurs either work alone or in groups, often organized in film interest groups. They use amateur film equipment for their work. The amateur film makers' works are usually meant to be seen by the family circles, the more notable ones may find broader audience such as the educational films, documentaries, propaganda etc. The results of their works are then publicly shown and evaluated at various competitions and festivals of amateur film, with their spectrum ranging from the clubs to the international.

Organization of the amateur cinema activities

Purposeful arrangement of the amateur film makers' works. The basic organizing unit is a film club. Besides the founders they are also being overseen by the regional or county centers through the methodists who work closely with the film section (formerly Advisory Board) comprised of the experienced amateur film makers. These centers offer help to the film interest groups, organize their education, competitions, screenings, care for the material supplies of the regional and country events, promoting these activities etc.

Film and film technology, discipline encyclopedia, Otto Levinský and Dr. Antonín Stránský, Prague 1974, SNTL / Specialized Literature Publishing