Support for the film arts, Lopez style

  • Sat Jun 26th, 2010 12:25am
  • Life
From the Simonton Documentary

From the Simonton Documentary

Just over a year ago, writer, filmmaker Russ Levine, a long-time Lopezian, decided to turn into reality his dream of a social networking forum in which ordinary citizens join together with film enthusiasts to share their ideas and support other filmmakers.

As a result, camgrants.org was born. (Cam stands for “Citizens Alternative Media.”)

Last week, camgrants.org finished its first contest for documentary proposals—Camgrants is currently focusing on documentaries, although they have plans to expand to narrative films at a later date—and is now having members vote on the documentaries they would most like to see funded. Winners are to be announced in early July.

“One of the things that makes us unique, is the fact that it is the members of camgrants.org, most of whom are simply citizens, not directly related to the film industry or filmmaking process, who decide which projects are funded,” Levine says.

“We also provide a forum for documentarians to post trailers of their work, detailed proposals, and to receive feedback from other creative, like-minded people. I know of nothing else quite like it for filmmakers and, most importantly, the average citizen who is surrounded by the media.”

Membership is free and interested people can sign up by visiting http://camgrants.org/index.php?option=com_mambocharge_plus&op=showproducts&category=2. There are two levels of paid membership, one at $19 a year and the other at $29 annually. Paid membership allows one to vote on proposals and additional votes may be purchased for about a dollar and a half apiece.

Camgrants.org has already been a major presence at the recent Seattle International Film Festival, represented there by Levine and marketing director, Chrystal Vang.

“It was great to meet so many people who were so excited about movies,” Vang, who has worked professionally as both a still photographer and with film crews, laughs, smiling broadly as she recounts her experiences and favorite movies.

Among the proposals in this years contest were an eclectic array of subjects. Lopez filmmaker Joel Bruce, has been working on “The Art of the Wall,” a documentary about the plywood wall which appeared in Lopez Village last year and, for a time, provided a forum for any visual artist who wished to use it as a grand and public easel.

Bruce was impressed by “the idea of artists going into it [painting on the wall] knowing that it will be covered over by the next painting—that could influence what they are about to do.”

Other proposals have come from as far away as India, such as “Benzy,” the true story of an autistic child who, by the age of 9, had established a reputation for performing and recording ragas, melodies traditionally associated with Indian classical music.

Another proposal, “Abundance in the Desert,” is described by its producer, Tchavdar Georgiev, as examining “a new breakthrough in the study and understanding of classical Arabic poetry, one of the richest of poetic traditions. Looking at the oldest Islamic poems from 700–1250 c.e., Professor Raymond K. Farrin of the American University in Kuwait outlines a new approach to appreciating classical Arabic poetry based on an awareness of concentric symmetry, in which the poem’s unity is viewed not as a linear progression but as an elaborate symmetrical plot.”

Guided by Levine and his wife and business manager, Ann Marie Fischer, camgrants.org is Levine’s way of attempting to address “the gulf created between media creators and consumers of that media. At camgrants.org, we want to bridge that gulf.”

Levine welcomes visitors to the site (camgrants.org) and can be reached regarding the work he, his team, and members are trying to accomplish at: cam_director@camgrants.org. There are numerous opportunities for volunteers, as well as intern positions available.

In the truest spirit of Lopez, camgrants.org encourages creativity, individual expression, and grassroots support.