Within the vast cyber space that is Twitter, there exists many smaller neighborhoods, each devoted to discussing different interests — NBA Twitter, stan Twitter, feminist Twitter and film Twitter, among others. That last one may conjure images of film school students, movie snobs and wannabe critics discussing perfect cinematography and their favorite foreign films. Yet, there is one user who provides a much needed pin to deflate any pomposity film Twitter may have — Jim Cummings.
Cummings wrote, directed and starred in his first feature film, “Thunder Road,” which premiered at the South by Southwest festival in 2018. Since gaining widespread critical acclaim for the movie, he has become the primary advocate for independent filmmaking — he takes to Twitter almost daily, insisting that anyone can write, produce, shoot, edit and distribute their own movie, just like he did. His mantra? Make movies and make them with your friends.
Last Saturday, I gathered a group of friends and finished a short film on an iPhone in just three hours. No matter the quality of the end product, I feel an immense satisfaction in just having shot something that I wrote. It’s no wonder Cummings is such a vehement advocate for people to just make movies. With the rise of accessible technology, it’s never been easier.
Movies are leading two lives right now: On one hand, we get big budget spectacles that have to be seen in theaters (“Avengers: Endgame,” “Godzilla: King of the Monsters”). On the other hand, more people are making their own films than ever before. Anyone with a cellphone can shoot a short film or even a full feature. Cummings is something of a patron saint for this type of DIY filmmaking. In one tweet, he wrote, “Show off your film gear.” The picture beneath was of a solitary iPhone 7.
That’s what I used last Saturday. My iPhone 7, coupled with a BeastGrip to hug the device for more stable filming. Just a couple decades ago, to shoot my short I would have needed to get a film camera, learn how to operate it, develop the film, splice, edit, etc. — it would take excessive training, along with a large chunk of my wallet. Today, filmmaking is as simple as opening up an app. I didn’t have to wait for anything to develop to see how my film turned out — I just pulled it up on my laptop. In two weekends, I had all the footage I needed.
In the next couple decades, a new generation of writers, directors, editors and cinematographers will step into the scene. These individuals will be the people who went out and shot whatever they could with whatever they had — they learned through their scrappy filmmaking, and armed with a bigger budget, there’s no telling what they could do. Yesterday, it was Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and James Cameron leading the charge. Today, it’s Damien Chazelle, Ryan Coogler, Jordan Peele and Barry Jenkins. Tomorrow, it could be anyone.
Isa Uggetti is a junior writing about film. He is also the lifestyle editor of Summer Trojan. His column, “All the World’s a Screen,” runs every other week.