My God, I am surprised that this whole interview isn't one long, run-on sentence. Most passionate people don't speak in perfectly diagramed sentences and Scott Beiben of the Lost Film Fest is no exception. I was able to catch up with him after a show in Denver, at the Lida Project. He was in a fever of trying to unplug all of his equipment so that he and Liz, from Evil Twin Booking, could catch the 11pm Greyhound. Christ, what a life. He was on tour last year for 147 days and plans to be on tour for 200 this year. Coming up is a big European tour which to me, is an amazing undertaking.
Scott is one of the rare breed of people who lives the life that he believes in and is completely passionate about...just read...
|Scott introducing the films at the Lida Project showing in Denver. Photograph by Glen Andersen|
Heather: Tell me everything you know...
Heather: Well, ok. Maybe just a quick bio of how Lost Film Fest started and why and what you wanted to do with it.
Beiben: Ok. Lost Film Festival was started in 1999, by two kids from the suburbs of Philadelphia, Mike Carroll and Skot Beaudoin, and they got in touch with me because I run a record label. Its called Bloodlink Records. A punk, rock record label, and they wanted a couple of the bands to play at their film festival thing they were going to do in the woods, in this baseball field and the town reacted not so favorably because Woodstock '99 had just happened and they were afraid of riots and all this other craziness. So, it didn't exactly work out and you know honestly, we would've been lucky if maybe 20 people whad shown up including the parents. But instead we decided to do it in my neighborhood, West Philadelphia. We had two warehouses: the Fake house and the Kill Time warehouse and we had films, and bands, puppets, and performance art, and other kinds of craziness. And it was amazing because 1,000 people showed up. It was just nuts.
Heather: Oh my God.
Beiben: Timothy "Speed" Levitch, from the movie, The Cruise, came and presented his film and did this fantastic spoken word piece. And it was just really, really, you know, incredibly special. And I just felt really encouraged to continue doing it. And since then we've done all these events that coincided with bigger events. Like for the Republican National Convention, we did a week long event in PhillyJello Biafra came and spoke, Mark Hosler of the band Negativland came. At other events we've had Ian MacKaye come and speak, Fred Schneider from the B-52s, Esther Bell, the director of Godass, (of which I'm one of the producers)...
A couple of years ago we decided to start taking the lot of shorts on tour with us. A lot of it is mostly political stuff, even though the Film Festival itself doesn't have any particular political aimthese were a lot of MY favorite films, that I wanted to go around with a video projector, VCR, and DVD decks, and just showyou know, show films you know show what I consider the best and truly independent, underground media.
A lot of these films fall under the radar of the actual Film Festival circuit. A lot of them have no chance for distribution other than underground; and that's totally fine because, these are great films that are done on low -budget or no-budget, using a lot of new equipment: digital video all edited on computers and using Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere, or in some cases just edited in camera like the film, Anarchy Carpet.
The reason why I do this is that this is a very important time for information. Information is under attack. Just information in general, especially by the U.S. Government, you know with new insanity to erode the constitution like the U.S.A. Patriot Act, the Homeland Security Act, and the Total Information Awareness Act. All these things erode our civil rights and destroy the 1st and 4th amendments. And freedom of speech, freedom of pressthese things are very, very important to me. And these are very important aspects of a democracy. In the name of opportunism and in the name of big business our ³ leaders" are bringing us down this very dangerous path. This country is supposed to be the torch for liberty but if anything, it's turned into a second rate dictatorship it is a very scary time. But it is also a very important time for us to be speaking up and using our voices. It is important for us to be creating new media, and putting a word out to the world.
Scott and Liz Cole from Evil Twin Booking.Photograph by Glen Andersen
Heather: You mentioned we and us, but really right now I just see you and...
Beiben: Oh, and Liz, ok.
The Lost Film Festival is a collective that consists of about 40 members that are spread throughout the United States and Europe. When we do our events during Sundance, South by Southwest, and Cannes, there are usually a couple of dozen of us organizing the event. Everything is done through consensus. When we do our big events in Philladelphia, we have lot of members who are a part of that. When I'm on tour, I'm just a delegate of the Lost Film Festival philosophy which is basically, a non-hierarchical way of presenting media. We don't believe in hierarchies, we don't believe in top down decision making, we believe in the true democracy. You know, where every person counts, where everybody has a voice, and an active voice at that. And that people do things through consensus. Everybody takes an active role in what they're doing (unlike the elections of 2000 where they were more like a coup than an actual election).
Heather: How much of this would you say takes up your life? Do you have work outside of this...funding, that comes from outside of this or is it all... I know you have your record label, as far as the other 40 members, how do they do it?
Beiben: I just kind of scrape by. I don't really mind. The year 2002, I was on tour for 147 days. This year, 2003, I'm planning on being on tour for 200 days. And that's fine, it doesn't really bother me. I'm used to touring. I've toured with bands for over a decade. I like that kind of life. I like being in new towns and meeting new people. It's fine, my expenses aren't very high.
Heather: Right, I don't think any humans expenses aren't ultimately that high.
Beiben: Exactly, right. You know, I'm not going out buying extravagant stuff. I mean to me, it's all about traveling on the cheap and getting rides here or there or taking the Greyhound. On occasion, getting real cheap plane flights if I need to. And then you know, you make it back showing the movies. When you show movies at universities you get paid a higher amount than other places. And then that enables us,to do information shops in warehouses and rooftops and free screenings and showing films in community centers and that type of thing. So, you know, it all balances out.
In terms of the other people involved in the Film Festival, no one really makes any money at the big events. No one really makes too much money from the Film Fest at all. We just started to get into distribution recently doing DVDs and that seems to be working fairly well. But we sell our stuff for pretty cheap so we'e not making all that much. It's all about DIY ethics. We're applying a lot of the same lessons we learned in the development of the DIY music scene in the 1990's, to film.
The people who help make LFF possible...the audience.
Beiben: That's exactly what we're doing right now. Like it's a whole new form of media that I don't think anyone's ever done before at this level. And I feel really honored to be a part of this, you know. I feel honored to be a part of Evil Twin Booking, which is a cinema booking company that's devoted to booking tours for undistributed films. Films like Horns and Halos by Michael Galinsky, which goes into describing the book Fortunate Son which is about Bush's coke habits in the early 70's, and his draft dodging. It's a book that was suppressed, but it was a documentary that exposes this. And also booking a film called Weather Underground, which was a film that was just at Sundance. It's directed by Sam Green who's also the filmmaker behind Pie Fight 69, one of the films that we show. We're booking tours for Guerilla News Network, Timothy "Speed" Levitch from The Cruise that's showing Richard Linklater's new film called Live From Shiva's Dance Floor. You know, and other stuff.There's a whole bunch of other things that we're a part of -- there's a very large community of independent media makers out there doing a lot of really good, powerful work.
Heather: Since you are fresh off coming from Sundance, can you give me a synopsis of how that went...
Beiben: It went pretty well. We held an event on the 18th in a bar and we snuck all the young people in who needed to get in, and it was really cool. We showed a lot of footage that blew people's minds. We had footage from protests against the war. There were broadcasts via satelliteit was pretty insane having that. We had reports from the streets of San Francisco when the INS and bank buildings were smashed up by the black block, which didn't really make the news but, you can hear in the cell phone (which was miked) you know, windows breaking. It was very interesting. We had Timothy ""Speed"" Levitch come in and do spoken word from his new book. Then on the 22nd we did another event in Salt Lake City at this place called Trasa. It was pretty awesome. On the 23rd, we participated in a protest against the war on Main St. in Park City, which is a pretty big intersection, and it garnered a lot of press: BBC, Indywire Everybody came out --a lot of celebrities were there. Christian Slater, Selma Hayek, Tilda Swenson..
Heather: They were in the protest?
Beiben: Yeah, they all came to the protest. Darryl Hanna, Steve Buscemi, all these folks came out, and it was great. It was a really great opportunity to bring the word out. And yeah I was really excited to have been a part of the organizing behind it. It was a very last minute, word of mouth thing that turned into a very beautiful convergence of media. And the cherry on top was an endorsement of the protest (also acknowledgement of, the Lost Film Festival) by Robert Redford and Geoff Gilmore. I don't know, it's kind of weird because Lost Film Fest and the Sundance are two opposite ends of independent spectrum. Sundance features a lot of "Big Business" in Hollywood, whereas, Lost Film Festival is more of a film as folk art. More like Woody Guthrie traveling around with a projector.
Heather: Nice.. So, I guess just a closing question. For any young kids out there that are hoping to do what you do...what is your biggest and best piece of advice you can give?
Beiben: Young people um...SHARE, that's very important. If you have a camera or if you know somebody who has a camera, get together with your friends and just make films. Keep on writing, keep coming up with ideas, keep on thinking inside out, keep on questioning and keep your crap detectors on full blast. Heather: Yeah! Beiben: That's so important right now. Umdon't believe a single thing the government tells you at all, because at this point, more than likely it's a complete lie. Umand believe what you see around you. Talk to your neighbors. And for people who are now being oppressed by our government. People of color, people from the Middle East, make sure that they feel welcomed. Talk to them and say, hey I'm really sorry about what's happening. The government does NOT represent who I am, and I am very sorry and embarrassed they are acting this way. Just talk to people. Keep the lines of communication open. Ah, and be very smart. Exercise your mind. The best way to effect any kind of activism at this point is to stop consuming. Stop spending money. The way the military budgets became inflated is when they have money. Don't spend any money. Dumpster dive, wear used clothing, grow your own food, start putting up solar panels, make windmills, use vegetable oil for diesel fuel. Learn skills that will enable you to escape a lot of the things that put us in the position we are in right now. The root cause of terrorism in the world right now is not fanaticism, it's not fundamentalism, it's not the government, but it's basically petroleum. It's basically an addiction to petroleum..break away from that. Break away from the addiction to money, and build communities. Talk to people.
The most direct way of effecting change in your own life is to change your diet. Become vegan. Eat healthier, it's not something to be ashamed of it's not classist to be vegan, it's a very simple way of beginning other types of activism in your life, and that's what it's really all about. It's not so much about the filmmaking. It's not about the fame. It's really all about feeling included and breaking a lot of the chains of alienation that are imposed on us by living under capitalism.
To learn more about The Lost Film Fest, check out their site: www.lostfilmfest.com