The documentary “The Art of Making It” will be screened at the Freep Film Fest


The creative team behind “The Art of Making It,” a documentary premiering at the Freep Film Festival this weekend, gained a new perspective on the importance of artists in difficult times after the COVID-19 pandemic has made derail filming in 2020.

“I think artists should show up in the darkest times,” artist Chris Watts says in the film.

“That’s when we go to work.”

The film is director Kelcey Edwards’ bracing indictment of the art world and the extremely insular structure that prevents most artists from “succeeding” – that is, making a living from their art or be seen by people who can help them advance their careers. .

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Watts is one of many young artists whose journeys are tracked through film, including Detroit-based painter Gisela McDaniel.

Artist Chris Watts as seen in Kelcey Edwards' documentary,

Many towering and respected figures from the art world also appear in the film, including Brooklyn Museum director Anne Pasternak, who says, “It doesn’t make sense; it is not fair. You may be one of the greatest living artists in the world, and no one knows it.

Producer Debi Wisch, Emmy-nominated for 2018’s “The Price of Everything,” called “The Art of Making It” an “ecosystem movie” during an interview with Free Press.

“What makes someone want to be an artist?” she asked. “How difficult it is to be an artist, and how much training, education, debt and expense most artists take on, and why anyone would pursue a career where, even with a degree from a great school, your chances of making it are less than 5% This film is about visual artists, but it could really apply to a writer, a poet, a filmmaker.

“And why are artists so poorly regarded? There was a study of (the Urban Institute in 2003) … which said something like 96% of Americans appreciate art and think it adds to communities and life and mental health, et cetera – but only 27% appreciate artists. So… where is the disconnect? Who makes this art that all these people appreciate? »

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Filming began in 2019 and was about 80% complete before the COVID-19 pandemic threw a snowball at the production team. The filmmakers debated whether to abandon the project as backers began to pull out. But social issues that have surfaced during the pandemic have come to shine a light on the subjects’ work.

“It’s kind of shocking,” Wisch said, “how spot on the artists were in the issues that erupted during the pandemic. Chris Watts was making art about police killings and mass incarceration long before Black Lives Matter really shed light on what was going on. Gisela McDaniels was making portraits that humanize victims of sexual abuse and give them a narrative long before the #MeToo movement. Jenna Gribbon worked in queer erotica before focusing on the LGBTQ movement we have now.

Artist Gisela McDaniel as seen in Kelcey Edwards documentary "The art of doing it."

“I think that shows you that we should all pay attention to artists, because they see things before we do. They look at it in a way that’s not just dollars and cents – they look at it more like philosophers.

The film screens at 8 p.m. Friday at Cinema Detroit, 4126 Third Ave., and 2 p.m. Sunday at Birmingham 8, 211 S. Old Woodward Ave.

Both screenings will be followed by post-film discussions with members of the film crew.

The full Freep Film Fest program can be viewed at

“The Art of Doing It”

Tickets $12.50

8 p.m. Friday, Detroit Cinema

2:00 p.m. Sunday, Birmingham 8 Powered by Emagine (Theater 3)

Available virtually for $10.50


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