As a young boy attending Montreal’s Solomon Schechter Academy 30 years ago, Carlton Evans never imagined that one day serious filmmaking would be something anyone could do. Today, as the director and co-founder of San Francisco’s Disposable Film Festival, he is at the forefront of what he calls, “the democratization of cinema.”
When in 2007, festival co-founder Eric Slatkin showed him a one-time-use $20 digital camera that he purchased at a drugstore, Evans realized that making movies was no longer prohibitively expensive and predicted that, “everyone who wanted to become a filmmaker would become one.”
In the last few years, non-professional video cameras – from cell phones to webcams to flip devices – have become ubiquitous. These, together with film editing software that comes already loaded on new laptops, have made filmmaking a part of everyday life. “If you give people these tools, they’ll come up with whole new ways of thinking about films and making films,” Evans said.
Evans launched the first Disposable Film Festival in January 2008 to showcase the best of this emerging cinema. A call for works running 10 minutes or less and made with disposable media resulted in 100 submissions, with 15 ultimately being selected for the festival’s program. Two years later, there were 1,000 submissions, with 12 countries represented in the final program, including Canada.
The international nature of the festival is not limited to the origin of submissions. Although it is based in San Francisco, the festival travels to cities around the globe, including New York, Paris, Brussels, London and Beijing. Evans expects new partnerships to result in its reaching up to 20 locations worldwide by next year, possibly including Toronto, Montreal and Jerusalem.
Running this major effort has been Evans’s volunteer work. A graduate of McGill and Stanford (he has a PhD in art history, with a specialization in underground filmmaking in New York in the 1960s), his day job is working with noted filmmaker and emerging technology expert Tiffany Shlain at her Moxie Institute. He came on board specifically to work on her popular and award-winning The Tribe, an exploration of Jewish American identity through the history of the Barbie doll.
Evans is particularly excited and proud about the social values and awareness that he and his team are cultivating through festival programming and partnerships with sponsors such as Globe bikes. A recent outdoor bike-in movie event with bicycle parking valets and local sustainable food vendors was “a re-thinking of the whole culture around film-going,” according to Evans. “For an entire generation, cars and movies were inextricably linked. For us, it’s about how the world is changing. The generation involved in this new filmmaking travels by bike and takes public transportation. Similarly, there is no rule that says that you have to eat unhealthy, mass-produced popcorn and candy at the movies.”
Evans is pleased that his festival has been a bridge for aspiring, emerging filmmakers to be noticed by and move into the commercial film industry. But for him, it’s more about “building an organization that reflects the future of society and the world” and inspiring audiences to turn the seeming limitations of disposable media into artistic opportunities.
© 2010 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.
Note: This post first appeared as an article in The Jewish Tribune. Click here to read it there.