What is this?
lo-film (noun) From the combination of the root words “lo-fi”, meaning low fidelity or a home-made aesthetic, and "film", referring to moving pictures.
The ease and affordability of digital filmmaking was bound to produce new methods of creating cinema that are quite distinct from the careful-planning/careful-execution model of old. lo-film is one of these new methods.
The Rules of lo-film
If these tenets are not met, it still might be a cool movie, but it's not really a lo-film.
1) A lo-film is shot in a single day.
2) A lo-film is not planned before that day. Everything, from dialogue to action to plot is improvised as it is filmed. The only element that may be set ahead of time is location, so people will know where to meet.
3) A lo-film does not have a director. Each performer creates their own character and is the sole authority on what that character says and does. Similarly, each camera operator decides what to shoot and how. All filmmakers can suggest and advise, but none may give orders.
Some lo-film Guidelines
These are suggestions that have been extremely helpful in our experience.
a) We have found it extraordinarily helpful to make lo-films in batches. When you are only making one lo-film it is hard to avoid internal pressure to make it “good”. The pressure to excel actually stifles creativity, so we suggest lo-films be made with regularity- such as every Saturday for several months. When you know you are making another one next week and another the week after, the pressure to make each lo-film good is reduced, and a smooth creative flow is easier to achieve.
b) Stay active. This is true in all filmmaking, but it bears specific consideration when improvising. Film is about DOING.
c) Let your special effects be terrible. Ridiculous special effects have been a cornerstone of the lo-film aesthetic since the beginning, and embracing this allows the filmmakers to be unfettered in their imagination. Yes, a giant caterpillar can attack. Yes, there can be an inter-dimensional vortex. When you don’t ask your effects to be convincing, the world you imagine has no limits at all.
d) Read Keith Johnstone. If lo-film has a bible, this is it.
The Los Angeles Series // 2001
16 consecutive Saturdays, 16 films. Still the record.
The First New York Series // 2009
10 consecutive Saturdays, 11 films.
The Istanbul Blitz // 2013
3 days in a row, 3 films. A record of it's own.
The East Coast mini-run // 2014
4 consecutive Saturdays, 4 films.