Amateur vs Independent

June 2012  ‘Ecuador bajo tierra, videografías en circulación paralela” / ‘Ecuador underground’ by Miguel Alvear and Christian Leon (Cine Ochoymedio, 2009) – a unique review and analysis of Ecuadorian amateur / independent films.

Miguel Alvear comments below on the research for the book and the subsequent response from the Ecuadorian national cinema authority (CNCINE): “The parameters we laid out during our research for the ‘Ecuador bajo tierra’ were:

  • The filmmakers/producers are self taught. They have not been through film or TV programs in schools (In the case of Mr. Carlos Pérez we made an exception).
  • The filmmakers/producers do not work (as wage earners) in advertising, television or other professional communication industries.
  • The movies were made with extremely low budgets (under $10,000 US dollars)
  • The movies have not been shown on national TV or movie theaters.

We define these filmmakers/ producers as ‘amateurs’ because they had no formal training or education and also because they do not have access to public funds or other traditional financing-distribution schemes (since we published our study this has changed a bit). However, many of them prefer the term ‘independent’ precisely because they see themselves as outside the state or international funding system. These movies (all shot in video) circulate in ‘pirate’ DVD stores. In most cases the producers see no profit from this.

The Ecuadorian national cinema authority (CNCINE) has created a “Community film” category to accommodate these producers but most have not subscribed to it because they find the procedures intimidating. Also, the State requires a financial warranty for issuing funds which means basically that you either have to pay it in cash or you must have property to mortgage.

Since the book’s publishing (and we believe our study helped in this) producers have started to make business deals with DVD merchants. The Government is also trying to stop Ecuadorian films from being pirated. In August 2012 we have been invited by the Ministry of Culture to organize a meeting for producers, merchants and intermediaries in order to explore business connections between – until now – unconnected parts. One of the issues in discussion is whether DVD merchants will start investing in production. But the dominant issue remains the fact that these filmmakers/producers do not earn any benefits from their work’s sales.”


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