WHAT IS A CINEESSAY?
Cine-essays are 10-90-minute experimental nonfiction films that are philosophically, culturally, and politically-informed, while often being archive and/or video-collage-based, “a fusion of documentary filmmaking and avant-garde filmmaking by way of appropriation art… employing fluid, experimental editing schemes.”
At Public Sphere, we approach cine-essays in the way that French film theorist and filmmaker Alexandre Astruc spoke of the "camera-stylo", or Dziga Vertov addressed the “kino-eye”. Astruc’s camera-pen gave rise to "a form in which and by which [a thinker]... can express thoughts, however abstract they may be, exactly as in the contemporary essay. ...only the cinema can do justice to them. The cinema is... a language which can express any sphere of thought."
Astruc held at the time that:
"The cinema is now moving towards a form which is making it such a precise language that it will soon be possible to write ideas directly on film without even having to resort to those heavy associations of images that were the delight of the silent cinema… it will be possible for the cinema to produce works which are equivalent, in their profundity and meaning... to the essays of Sartre and Camus… in this kind of film-making the distinction between author and director loses all meaning. Direction is no longer a means of illustrating or presenting a scene, but a true act of writing. The film-maker/author writes with his camera as a writer writes with his pen."
Despite this however, cine-essays are not self-absorbed focused upon the filmmakers as attention-seeking personalities, but instead upon concepts and ideas that are expressed as they would be in a critical philosophical essay, only here with an entire archive of images and sounds to draw upon, creating a more three dimensional essay form.
Following the philosophically-informed approach to content of Adam Curtis, Trinh T. Minh-ha, Guy Debord, Astra Taylor, or Chris Marker, as well as the collage-oriented visual sense of Jean-Luc Godard, Penny Lane, Arthur Lipsett, Barbara Hammer, or Renet Vienet, cine-essays are essay-films that break the distinction of intellectual vs. accessible as much as they do consumption vs. production.
Most of Public Sphere's 30-90 minute cine-essays are for rent individually, however, the much shorter ones are produced and distributed as part of our freely-available TIPS series (which stands for The Institute for the Public Sphere), on YouTube & Vimeo. These open access, 10-30 minute mini-essay films conjoin cutting-edge critical, cultural, & political thought with the analysis of past, present, & future events, as well as aesthetic objects.
CALL FOR CINE-ESSAYS
We invite existing and would-be essay filmmakers to contribute either written or filmed proposals, or to submit completely finished works to our editorial team.
To increase the likelihood of acceptance, please keep the following instructions in mind, as this is what we recommend:
1) Compose a brief essay-length, philosophically-informed piece of writing (1,500-10,000 words = roughly equivalent of 10-60 minutes @150 words per minute, spoken).
2) Record yourself or someone else delivering it with high quality audio
3) Superimpose a video collage composed by you and/or a collaborator on top of the voice track
4) Add titling, intro, and outro text, and once it’s accepted, we will add a Public Sphere or TIPS logo as well as intro language.
5) Send the proposal or completed work with a cover letter to email@example.com.
6) You will hear from us within 14 days of submission.
Importantly, we do not want the focus of these cine-essays to be personalistic, in which it is about you as an individual. This is the case in many YouTube philosophy channels, many of which we respect greatly, but that is not Public Sphere’s project. Rather, we seek to create space for restoring the cinema's original vocation, that of rendering perceptible what embodied, subjective perception eludes.
Also, for the type of cine-essay we are interested in, the script is the basis from which everything else flows. Public Sphere, however, does invite other innovative approaches to form, we just ask that you think of it primarily as an “essay in film form”, rather than either a completely aesthetic abstraction on one hand or an overly personalistic cultural object on the other.
Finally, Public Sphere also usually prefers cine-essays that do more than explicate a particular philosopher, while barely addressing their concepts, much less engaging in their own act of philosophy more directly.
We support the leadership of ideas, not the leadership of individuals, and so we see concepts as central in terms of form, content, titling, and description alike. That said, we encourage cine-essayists to invoke as many thinkers as you like, but this should primarily be your own intervention, not an account of someone else's.
Public Sphere seeks to create meaningful alternatives to the Patreon model for intellectually-oriented filmmakers and video producers, so as to refocus attention upon concepts rather than individuals or personas.
For this reason, rent, and subscription are the primary forms of engagement we do rather than crowdsourcing. We want to ensure that our contributors are paid for their time and effort, and the rent and subscription model works to ensure that that happens in a way that holds the ideas themselves as the central point, not pandering to an overly-ambitious production schedule. That said, those that are also funded by Patreon in addition to our model are not blocked from participation by any means, either.