This film discussion group was formed on June 13, 2003, after six days of intensive email discussions among seven different people, all of whom became its first members, about the need for a group such as this one. Three of the seven took an active role in its formation for example, though the moderators are Fred Camper and Peter Tonguette, it was a third of us who actually formed and named the group, in what he thought was just a test to see how feasible it would be to form a Yahoo! Group. As far as we know, there is no similar group on the 'Net. I wrote the statement below, and it was revised in November 2003 with changes and additions by Peter Tonguette and myself. All of the seven were invited to read and comment on the original and the revision. Fred Camper
Statement of Purpose for the Yahoo! Film Discussion Group, a_film_by

The primary focus of this group is on cinema as an art form, on a film as an interlinking of technique and theme, style and meaning. Our interest is primarily, though not exclusively, in film as an expression of its author's vision. Furthermore, this is a group for people who believe that for great films it is the director, in most cases, who is the auteur. By this we do not mean that the director is always the producer-writer. To the contrary, it is one of the tenets of auteurism that the director imprints his or her vision primarily through the art of mise-en-scene through composition, camera movement, editing, blocking, light, and so on and not necessarily through the story or screenplay. We wish to emphasize this because we want to avoid the old arguments about how a director always has collaborators and thus can never be an auteur; it is the position of auteurists not that a director never has collaborators but rather that what is most interesting and valuable to us is the artistic contribution of the director, who by virtue of his role in the filmmaking process is ideally suited to orchestrate all the elements of a film by influencing the ways in which they are placed in relationship to each other. If you are more interested in the achievements of screenwriters or actors or producers or cinematographers than directors, and if for you they are the primary auteur(s), this is not the group for you.

We are concerned with actors mainly in the context of particular films, and while discussing how entertaining a film is, and arguing for overlaps between "entertainment" and "art," are permitted, our main focus is not on simply naming moods or pleasures, nor on movie gossip or trivia, though all these can be of interest and are not prohibited, but in experiencing, and discussing, films in terms of the relationship of style to meaning, even when the question of "meaning" is problematic or hard to articulate in a particular film.

We permit, and encourage, arguments and discussions about the contributions of many people other than the director, defenses of non-director auteurs for particular films, or general questioning of or critiquing of the auteur theory. What we're trying to avoid are arguments like the one above about collaborators or about how even John Ford directed bad films. (This is not a hole in the auteur theory; few auteurists would agree that most filmmakers however great made nothing but great films.) These arguments have their place, but one of the reasons we created this group was to provide a "safe haven" for auteurists where they didn't have to constantly defend the basic tenets of the auteur theory.

Many of us are interested in "personal," "experimental," avant-garde cinema, in which the filmmaker performs most or all of the functions that are divided among many craftspersons in commercial filmmaking; even anti-auteurists would admit that for most experimental films the filmmaker is quite clearly the author.

Historically, the "auteur theory" has been more of a modus operandi or politique for film lovers than a genuine "theory," and ours is a group for people who love cinema, or the work of particular filmmakers. Film students who love cinema and agree with our principles are welcome. Film students only looking for help with their papers are discouraged from applying.

There are only a few firm prohibitions. Personal insults against anyone, in or out of our group, are banned. You can write, "That was a moronic film review," but not, "You're a moron." And members shall not post false facts, nor send to the group mass mailings that have no specific relevance to the group's purpose.

Posters are encouraged to give reasons for film evaluations. Opinions without backup are fine, and can be useful, but one intent is to make this group a place where people can try to explore those aspects of their reactions to a film that transcend their personal tastes and quirks, and therefore might be accessible to others. In addition to opinions, informational posts about films and directors of interest, screenings, tapes, DVDs, and news of and opinions about film books, periodicals, and lectures, are all permitted, as are questions on any of our included topics.

Friendly interchanges and jokes are fine, but the primary focus of our group is on discussing cinema, not each other's personalities. It's good to admit to a personal obsession in explaining one's evaluation of a film, because doing so contextualizes that evaluation.

Our intention is to discuss all cinema, including pre-cinema, rather than concentrating mostly on new films. Hollywood films old and new, films made outside of the Hollywood system anywhere in the world, avant-garde/experimental films, documentaries, and other "marginal" works are all potential subjects, as are any of the above made on video.

Posts are open to all on the Web, but only members can post. Members are asked to treat each post as one would a published print-media article. Write it with care; avoid arcane jargon; edit it; be concise; try for eloquence. Post primarily when you really care about a movie, or a related issue. Please try to use an accurate subject line, as it is assumed that not everyone will have time to read every post.

A new member can join the group upon the recommendation of any existing member. If after reading this statement and some of our archived posts, you wish to join and know one of us, write to him or her. If you know none of us, just apply to join, and our moderators will write you back with a few questions.

If you're interested in joining our group you might also want to read a few details about how we operate.


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