The Big Idea | March 2018

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Mary Margaret Mullane founds Akron Film Collective



Name: Mary Margaret Mullane

Occupation: Film Director, Yoga Teacher, and founder of the Akron Film Collective

Hometown: Savannah, GA

Current neighborhood: Highland Square


What’s your big idea and when did it begin?

Akron Film Collective was founded on January 30, 2018. Akron Film Collective is intended to bring together a community of filmmakers from Akron, Ohio, and surrounding Northeast Ohio to inspire, educate and advocate for the advancement of the cinematic arts through film production. This group is intended for industry professionals and artists who are invested in actively creating the craft and artwork of moving images whether through film, video, or digital art as their medium.

We make films and explore the craft. Filmmakers join to hone their skills, study, network and to collaborate on projects. The scope goes beyond simply showcasing commercial work. The purpose of Akron Film Collective is to elevate the cinematic arts as seen in styles such as video art, documentary and narrative films. Thematic projects will be given quarterly to promote engagement and expansion. There are roughly four quarters in a year if you go by the seasons. Therefore, we will be having at least four assignments a year. This will give filmmakers time to develop, plan, produce and edit their work. By creating four assignments a year it will mean that if the filmmakers follow these loose thematic assignments that they could potentially be producing four films a year. I want to build creative energy and momentum by having filmmakers gather in this way to produce films without having the pressure of commercial and conventional grade work or interests.

While not all cinephiles are filmmakers, Akron Film Collective is created for the filmmaker. There are a lot of social groups as well where people can go watch movies and discuss them. These are great groups, but the Akron Film Collective is not merely a social group. It is for filmmakers. You have to be making films. We will be hosting events for people to attend screenings, but that is not the primary function of the Akron Film Collective.

Above all, the Akron Film Collective is an opportunity for filmmakers to lower their guard, their defensiveness, desperation, and the one-upmanship I feel at some networking events. This isn’t merely for networking or about finding the next job. The Akron Film Collective is so that filmmakers can have discussions and explore deeper avenues of filmmaking besides the worn out questions of ‘What is your favorite film?’ or ‘Who is your favorite film director?’ As filmmakers we need to be asking better questions and be more curious. Not just of other people, but of ourselves and the craft.  

Akron Film Collective is about fostering the love and practice of filmmaking as artists, technicians, and craftsmen/women. I really hope that filmmakers explore all the facets of filmmaking besides traditional narrative films by considering form, color, texture and sound. [I hope they] try something new and dare to fail.


Why pursue it?

I’ve been pursuing filmmaking since 2006. I took a hiatus from filmmaking in 2013. Pursuing this idea of the Akron Film Collective and its manifestation is a way to reconnect with my passion for filmmaking and make peace with the fear of judgement, failure and criticism that all artists face.

This is important because I strongly felt the sadness and frustration of not having a film community, and really missed being in an immersive environment of artists who are passionate about their craft. If that’s the case for me, then I know that there must be other filmmakers who need the Akron Film Collective.


When did you know your big idea was a good idea?

I knew the Akron Film Collective was a good idea because it was rejected for a grant last year. All artists face rejection, and sometimes new ideas may be ready but people may not be ready for new ideas. Also, sometimes as artists we have to work more on the craft instead of being sidetracked by rejection. People want to do what is safe and what they are comfortable with. [They] support the cinephile and not the filmmaker by setting up more and more film festivals. Film festivals are great, I love them, but how does this support the local filmmaker community? I also chalked it up to being new to grant writing, and they possibly didn’t see or understand the need the way I did as a filmmaker. After months of still noticing the lack of a thriving filmmaker community and the compounding rejection and isolation, it strengthened my resolve. I personally felt the effects of not having a community of filmmakers and video artists to collaborate and discuss projects and the craft with.

Having felt my own need and spoken with filmmakers who are just starting out, they too expressed similar frustrations and concern. The newer generation of filmmakers and video artists I worked with at minimum wage jobs expressed a similar and old strategy of wanting to save up their money so that they could move somewhere else. The usual places like Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, Austin, Chicago, and New York. Filmmakers move where there is opportunity and a thriving community. The truth is that people only truly love where they are from because they have achieved some level of success, inclusion and are thriving. I was tired of gatekeepers telling me how great Akron was when there seemed to be little opportunity for filmmakers. I wanted to challenge my perception, and do something about it instead of continue to feel the pain of powerlessness. Knowing that the big idea was good enough for me was important, because I know deep down that I’m not the only one and that I should persist. I do not know how the future will unfold, but for however long I stay in Akron, I want to be a part of a film community and I want to see the film community thrive here.

At the Cleveland Film Commission networking event in January, I networked and met fellow filmmakers and started talking with them about the Akron Film Collective. They were excited. You could see their eyes brighten and they started to engage, were curious and stood up straighter. Person after person said it was a great idea, and they were deeply thankful and curious about finally having a film salon in Akron just for filmmakers.


How do you hope your big idea helps Akron grow?

I hope the Akron Film Collective creates such a thriving community of filmmakers that the City of Akron sees the need to open their own Akron Film Commission. It would be so great to have filmmakers in Akron learn skills and contribute to the area instead of having to leave because of lack of opportunities. [I hope] that the filmmakers in the area are bolstered by businesses so that they have the confidence and funding to create short and feature length films in Ohio or elsewhere. In the future, it would be great to have industry professionals, filmmakers and video artists be genuinely interested in creating work in not only Ohio, but Akron — beyond tax incentives, but because we have talent, locations, creative ideas, and community.

At the very least, I would love to see Akron grow as filmmakers, producers and content creators [explore] the medium of the moving image as an art and not only a commercial enterprise by taking creative risks, refining their techniques and exploring compelling visual storytelling.

I want people to feel more creative, curious and inquisitive while enjoying the process of filmmaking.

(Photo courtesy of Mary Margaret Mullane) 

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