POV: Hobbyist To Award-Winning Filmmaker


Meet Robert Philipson of Shoga Films, a former professor of African-American studies, published author, and Harlem Renaissance historian. His work encompasses the intersectionality of race, music, & sexuality, through the unique lens of a queer Jewish man. An accomplished filmmaker of multiple award-winning films, Philipson has carved out a niche space for himself and his collaborators. WMM had a chance to catch up with him, in anticipation of his latest short film, Smoke, Lilies, and Jade.

WMM: Where are you from, what is your background, and how do you think that informs what you do as a filmmaker?  

RP: I grew up in Pasadena and pretty much lived in California (undergrad at UC Santa Cruz) until I went to Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer from 1974-77. As a result of that experience, I worked towards a degree in Comparative Literature with a specialty in Black and African literature. Unable to get a tenure-track position, I left academia in the early 90s...

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POV: Community Is Everything For Filmmakers

In anticipation of the We Make Movies Creative Services launch, we thought we would chat with its Creative Director, Steven LaMorte. A director at heart, who enjoys empowering other people, and producer by trade, who produces like a director, Steven has made a name for himself as a special effects artist through his company Sleight of Hand Productions. He teamed up with WMM to teach mobile filmmaking to students of all ages all over the globe, and discovered the culture and values around filmmaking we embrace match his own sensibilities. He wishes to be the producer that he wishes he had while learning to make films, and considers himself to be "like mom and dad - I want you to have the sun, the moon, and the stars, but also be aware of budget." Welcome aboard, Steve!

WMM: Where are you from, what is your background, and how do you think that informs what you do as a filmmaker?  

SL: I'm originally from Staten Island, New York. Growing up as an only child,...

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POV: DIY Filmmaking With Style

We had a chance to sit down with the dedicated Chief of Production of We Make Movies, Eric Michael Kochmer. As a longtime member of the collective, he has always made himself available to the community, while broadening his own skillsets as he made his films. His tireless efforts to bolster fellow indie filmmakers led to the development of the production services offered through our production company. He is industrious, kind, and enterprising, but what makes him tick? We asked him!

WMM: Where are you from, what is your background, and how do you think that informs what you do as a filmmaker?  

EMK: I grew up on a dairy farm in Pennsylvania and then I moved to New York City to study experimental theater. I’ve always had an interest in the peculiar which turned into a passion for the avant garde. Work that pushes the traditional boundaries of style and form, as well that pushes the envelope on what is appropriate and comfortable. Now...

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Anti-Racist Filmmaking: Showing Up

industry Feb 22, 2021

[This is PART V of the WMM Anti-Racist Filmmaking blog series. Visit wemakemovies.org/blog for the previous FOUR parts.]

So you've left the meeting. You were attentive and taking notes. You digested all the ways in which we are all complicit in racism, have educated yourself on the unspeakable atrocities endured by Black people in this country, and are beginning to understand how far-reaching racial injustice extends itself, embedding itself in every facet of American life. But you're left still not knowing what to actually do. Like every diligent person who ever walked away from a meeting, you want to know, what are your action items?

Well, we found some ideas from experts who have devoted their lives to the fine work of racist education and and have shared them below. 

Go out in the world and switch up what you notice. Don't take anything for granted. Ask different questions than you have before. Diversity Educator, Dr. Eddie Moore,...

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Anti-Racist Filmmaking: Read & Listen

industry Feb 22, 2021

[This is PART IV of the WMM Anti-Racist Filmmaking blog series. Visit 
wemakemovies.org/blog for the next FOUR parts.]

The following is by no means a complete list, but it is a place to start. 

  1. Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor, by Layla F. Saad
  2. White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, by Robin DiAngelo
  3. So You Want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Oluo
  4. Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, by Ibram X. Kendi
  5. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander
  6. How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi
  7. Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  8. Women, Race, & Class, by Angela Davis
  9. The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century, by Grace Lee Boggs
  10. Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-first Century, by Dorothy Roberts
  11. ...
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Anti-Racist Filmmaking: Watch List

industry Feb 16, 2021

[This is PART III of the WMM Anti-Racist Filmmaking blog series. Visit
wemakemovies.org/blog for the other FOUR parts.]

Dear Filmmakers, it's time we refine our catalogue of films that detail the Black experience. The American collective knowledge of the film franchise, Friday, the seminal Boyz N The Hood, and the eminent Malcolm X just doesn't cut it. There are a plethora of films Black voices have offered up, and they beg to be consumed with as much enthusiasm and appreciation as any film from their White counterparts. 

There are films that were previously buried by the American ego, but have recently been resurrected in light of the BLM movement gaining a newfound audience in the past year. The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975, directed by Swedish filmmaker Göran Olsson, is one such film. Genre-busting content such as the racial revelation disguised as a superhero, sci-fi series Watchmen...

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Ethical Filmmaking 101

events industry Feb 08, 2021

Please note that WMM NEVER wanted to become the arbiters of taste and decency for its community. We HATE censorship of any kind.  However, given the times we are living in, we also feel that artistic guidelines for the community that we want to have and participate in, are needed.

Above all, we feel if you operate with the golden rule of “Do unto others as you would like to have done unto yourself,” we want to think that you will never have a problem with a piece that you bring to We Make Movies. However, because everything in our world now needs to be spelled out, and mutual respect and decency are no longer givens in our society, here is our official policy on what is and is not acceptable in the We Make Movies community.

We Make Movies holds the following truths to be self evident:

  • You have a right to the freedom of speech and the freedom to explore challenging ideas and subject matter.
  • You have a right to develop your voice as a creator.
  • You have a right to...
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POV: Slamdance Premiere for WMMIntl Alum Skinner Myers

Welcome to the inaugural issue of our new profile series, POV, where we dive into the rich worlds filmmakers create through their stories and unique perspectives. Our first guest is spirited filmmaker, Skinner Myers, whose film, "Things Of Beauty Burn" screened at our WMMINTL Film Festival last September, and whose latest film, "The Sleeping Negro," premieres at Slamdance in less than two weeks. 
Myers is an award-winning filmmaker, actor, photographer, and Loyola Marymount University film professor. His body of film work includes writing and directed four short films ("Chimera," "The Last Supper," "Obscured," and "Nigger") while studying film at USC School of Cinematic Arts. His film, "La Tierra Del Exodo," screened in over 90 festivals worldwide and collected many awards, including Best Screenplay and Best Short Film. His next film, "Frank Embree," took home the Grand Jury Award at the 2018 Hollyshorts Film Festival, and his...
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WMM Smartphone Studio Is A Hit At SAG-AFTRA

Two weeks in a row, President of SAG-AFTRA, Gabrielle Carteris invited We Make Movies’ Smartphone Studio to present at her weekly PTEOE (President’s Task Force on Education, Outreach and Engagement) livestreams for the SAG-AFTRA community. In just under two short weeks, the videos have accumulated a combined view count of over 9K, and are only gaining momentum on the SAG-AFTRA YouTube channel. At the end of week two’s presentation, presenters Aubrey Mozino and Sam Mestman earned high praise from Carteris, who declared “Your program, what you have been offering is really something that has resonated with the members. And I want to say thank you for that,  because you are helping to empower. And we want everybody to feel empowered, particularly at a time when everybody feels very vulnerable. You’re really allowing people the ability to see their future."

And empowerment is indeed the goal of Mozino and Mestman, who  developed the...
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WMM Life Hack: Mental Health Tips For Filmmakers

The downtime in between projects tends to leave creatives in the indie film world in a bit of dispirited suspension. The quest for the foolproof script, barriers of financing, procurement and scheduling of cast and crew, and a plethora of other variables can warrant long periods of time without stepping foot on set. Then there are external circumstances, such as an indefinite moratorium on the industry as a whole (you know, our past year in a nutshell), that spawn insecurity in every sense of the word. Thankfully, there are many things a filmmaker can do to stay sharp and geared up for the next opportunity to be on set. Think of the following as a self-care kit for the filmmaker.
There are the basics of self-care, to ensure a healthy mental, emotional, and physical state of being. These apply to everyone. Hydrate. Nourish your body with proper food that enables you to sustain energy, while agreeing with your system....
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