Project 87: An Introduction

In 2013, Spike Lee released a list of 87 films that every film student entering the Tisch School of the Arts in New York should see. While this list is lacking in the works of a number of esteemed directors – and notably, lacking any female directors – it can be considered a good starting point on the road towards seeing the “essential” movies for every director and producer in the industry. He explains it all briefly in the video below.

When I first conceived of the idea of starting The Cinema Freak, it was this list that pointed me in the right direction. I’ve dubbed the undertaking of its viewing and analysis Project 87, a task that will take me through time, genre and language, and force me to address a lot of work that, until now, have been viewed on a for-pleasure basis only.

As well as the challenge of dealing with this massive list, I’ll be addressing other movies that I have always held in high esteem, movies that changed the way I thought about cinema and storytelling. The concern about dealing with movies in this way, ones I have developed feelings for in repeated viewings, is that any criticism of them might be tainted with the stench of bias – which is precisely why I’ll be avoiding “reviewing” a movie.

Of course, Project 87 is more than an excuse to watch movies and write about them. While I undertake the process – which I anticipate taking well over a year to complete – I’ll be attempting to develop fresh eyes for movie making, studying in what spare time I have the art and craft of production, and beginning my own independent productions.

I have always had a deep fascination with the production of film and television, from the writing all the way to the post-production and marketing. Simultaneous to my viewing experiences and criticism, I’ll be keeping a record of my own struggles and (hopefully) triumphs in the business.

Project 87, at its core, is a starting point. It’s not the be-all and end-all of The Cinema Freak, nor is Lee’s list the definitive version to follow for anyone looking to enter the industry as informed as possible. The question should be raised – both for my benefit, and for the benefit of anyone looking to search beyond Lee’s list: what movies would you add to the list? Which directors are missing?

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