Culture Films News, , , , , , , — August 15, 2012 17:57 — 2 Comments

Review: Fog City Mavericks – on Vimeo

 Bay Area, filmmaking, Fog City Mavericks, Francis Ford Coppola, Gary Leva, George Lucas, San Francisco

Mavericks: a young George Lucas (standing) and Francis Ford Coppola on one of their early joint collaborations

Gary Leva’s 2007 documentary Fog City Mavericks, about cinema pioneers in the 1970s, is released on Vimeo in five installments, making it accessible to today’s digital generation of filmmakers


“Never make a film whose equipment you can’t pack into a van,” says an editor on one of Francis Ford Coppola’s early films, perfectly summarising the spirit of cinema’s pioneers in the 1970s as they wrestled for freedom and control from the big Hollywood studios.

These days we could say ‘never make a film whose equipment you can’t pack into your pocket’, as the iPhone and other smartphones are revolutionising filmmaking, making it even easier and cheaper to go out and make a movie if you have the creative vision and basic skills.

The above quote comes from an extraordinary documentary called Fog City Mavericks that I somehow missed when it was released in 2007 but stumbled across it on Vimeo recently, where the director, Gary Leva, has released it in five parts.

Not only is it a fantastic use of Vimeo, but what a treat this film is for anyone interested in filmmaking history.

Although I have read Peter Biskind’s book Easy Riders and Raging Bulls (and seen the documentary based on the book) it somehow escaped me that a lot of cinema’s true innovators were either from the Bay Area or chose to relocate there.

And then, after watching Fog City Mavericks, it begins to make  perfect sense; for San Francisco with its almost island-mentality; certainly its individuality, innovation and the personal and creative freedom the city tolerates makes it a natural magnet for not only filmmakers, but artists, poets, musicians, geeks and other assorted oddballs and misfits.

Today, San Francisco is synonymous with startups, which mixes the same creative spirit with technology, for sure, but watching a documentary such as Fog City Mavericks and any documentary on San Francisco bands you really do get a handle on the city and its unique artistic gene pool.

From Eadweard James Muybridge’s invention of a device for projecting motion pictures in the late 19th century to the technical wizardry of the Pixar Studio, innovation is seemingly written in San Francisco’s DNA.

Before we even get on to George Lucas and his Skywalker studio/ranch, one of the many interesting facts to be found in Fog City Mavericks is that to capture a moving image, Muybridge used 24 individual cameras on a tripwire and to this day film is captured at 24 frames a second.

Through interviews with great filmmakers and producers such as George Lucas, Brad Bird, Clint Eastwood, Francis Ford Coppola, Carroll Ballard, Philip Kaufman, Saul Zaentz, John Korty, Chris Columbus and  Steven Spielberg Leva’s documentary charts their struggle for independence and the outrageous risks they sometimes took to get their films made.

And that is why this film is so relevant for today’s young crop of filmmakers, because, as Lucas says in the film, it’s all about, persistence, passion, vision and, as in the case of these young filmmakers in the Bay Area in the 1970s, community.

The raging bulls and easy riders proved you don’t need a mega-budget to make a film, and that baton has been handed down to today’s digital generation, but the dedication and belief is something different and The Fog City Mavericks had that in spades.

Go see on Vimeo and thank Gary Leva not only for making a fantastic documentary but for embracing new media and making his film readily accessible by allowing it to be shown legally and freely online.

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About the author

Tony Myers has written 866 articles for Smart Movie Making

Fooling around with the iPhone since 2010. Taking it to the next web by writing about new media, new technology, new wave cinema and the digital revolution.

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