Amateur Hour

I happened to find myself in a conversation earlier this morning in which the words 'minor' and 'amateur' were both used as a form of negative criticism of a film.  These two words are employed time and again to discredit and demean, but they need not be used for such means, rather they can be used as a source of both growth and encouragement. Why not, little by little, try to untwist the gnarled mess created by those who have misguidedly wielded these words...           
Main Entry: am·a·teur 
Pronunciation: \ˈa-mə-(ˌ)tər, -ˌtr, -ˌtyr, -ˌchr, -chər\
Function: noun
Etymology: French, from Latin amator lover, from amare to love
Date: 1784
2 : one who engages in a pursuit, study, science, or sport as a pastime rather than as a profession
3 : one lacking in experience and competence in an art or science

"I have been making films for over 15 years now.  I have contributed to many commercial films as 'director,' 'photographer,' 'editor,' 'writer,' 'actor,' even, 'grip,' etcetera, and sometimes in combinations of all of these.  But mostly I have worked without title, in no collaborations with others--I have worked alone and at home, on films of seemingly no commercial value...'at home' with a medium I love, making films I care for as surely as I have as a father cared for my children.  As these home movies have come to be valued, have grown into a public life, I, as maker of them, have come to be called a 'professional,' an 'artist,' and an 'amateur'.  Of those terms, the last one -- 'amateur' -- is the one I am truly most honored by...even tho' it is most often used in criticism of the work I have done by those who don't understand it."

[From "In Defense of Amateur" by Stan Brakhage in Brakhage Scrapbook: Collected Writings 1964-1980]


"When it comes to a true artist, what does it matter if one work is a bit less good than the other?  Wouldn't it be ridiculous to reduce Picasso to one great (or perfect) painting or William Carlos Williams to one single perfect poem?  What fool would do such a thing?  If we can learn anything from all the talk about the author's cinema, it is this: A minor work of a true artist takes an important place in the totality of that artist's life work and must be approached with as much love as his masterpieces."

[From "On Secondary Works of Great Artists" by Jonas Mekas in Movie Journal: The Rise of the New American Cinema 1959-1971]