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Friday, October 23, 2009

The Re-Birth of Indie Film - coming soon to an alternative venue & a mail box near you





































Independent cinema (in the US) did not have to go through 10-20 years of natural development - from grass roots artists & small businesses driven scenes to those same entities forming larger companies - which was the case with independent music - because in 1984 a very unusual, otherwise underground film called Stranger Than Paradise broke through to the mainstream with the assistance of the existing film distribution & publicity infrastructure (including film festivals & critics) and that success story became the foundation for what eventually became indiewood - Hollywood financed & distributed movies with elements of underground/alternative movies. A little over two decades later, indiewood, and what most people know as the independent filmmaking business in America, has collapsed/is collapsing/has come to a screeching halt. So, a re-birth of the independent filmmaking business/practice is needed, also it needs to be pointed in a direction other than Hollywood, with new goals for success and a new vision, a new understanding, as to what it means to be an independent filmmaker.

This is the shape of the new independent film scene - this is what it will look like when it is re-born:

1 - artist driven & mainstream accessible (also kind of like religion or definitely like weird but good & popular food):
- first, re: the artist driven part: the idea that film is a collaborative medium is one popularized by an industry that created & maintained control over a product - its creation & distribution - by the use of multiple sets of workers. Or, sure, Hollywood movies are a collaborative medium, just as creating a painting or a book can be a collaborative activity - but, paintings are also, and mostly, created by lone artists, same with books, and in the same way, the new indie film will be primarily created by one artist. And there will always be exceptions, but indie film will once again become art (similar to other art making) in the way that it is created.
- on the mainstream accessibility part - no matter how exotic or other worldly ones vision & story, it needs to be able to connect with ordinary people, it needs to be able to impart something useful & recognizable, identifiable, helpful-in-some-way to ordinary people - just as myths about a god taking human form (Christianity) or a human transcending the limits of birth & death (Buddhism) have been adapted to the everyday use of billions of ordinary people world wide. People need stories, inspiration, hope or in some cases fear in order to make it through life, religion is one source of these stories for humans, and art is another. As indie film is art, indie film will have to think about meeting people's intellectual & emotional needs as they deal with existence - and those films & makers who do so will be rewarded with a large following/customer base.
-- another example of mainstream accessibility while retaining a unique voice & outlook is success enjoyed by unusual food/chefs/restaurants. People always need new sensations to get excited about - indie film artists can provide those.

2. A business that is not very closely related to Hollywood or the left-overs of Indiewood:
- not concerned with budgets, grosses, or stars
- not concerned with agents & lawyers
- not automatically in line with intellectual, creative, cultural, moral views & beliefs of Hollywood, sometimes completely opposed to it
- definitely concerned with making projects profitable, no matter how small - eventually profitable (not necessarily all the films by one artist, but enough to make the more experimental ones affordable)
- what the business aspect will look like/an overview: 1- the indie film artist - the writer/director/videographer/editor - makes the movie with available or acquired means, with or without assistance from other artists, entrepreneurs or institutions, 2. the finished film is made available to audiences through D.I.Y. screenings at alternative venues & through mail-order DVDs, & through other means when they become useful/affordable for individual filmmakers to use - avenues such as internet VOD, cable VOD, etc., 3. filmmaker develops multiple revenue streams - from the film (screenings $s, DVD sales $s), merchandise, & through the brand name he or she will acquire by being an active/productive film artist.

3 - all of the elements of the old indie film system - studios/indiewood, film festivals, investors, distribution companies other than ones owned & operated by the filmmakers, critics will not be used. using those will weaken - when it comes to self-sufficiency - the new indie film scene and the new indie filmmaker.

4 - no gate keepers, no experts - any indie film artist will be able to learn, relatively easily - due to the existence of the web, how to make & distribute their work - without permission or support from Filmmaker Magazine blog or Ted Hope or Arin Crumley, indieWIRE, Sundance Film Festival, or even this blog (note - i am a fan of all the people & institutions mentioned, just using their names to illustrate a point).

5 - keep everything as simple as possible & as honest as possible & direct as possible. artists can come to clear understandings with other artists when it comes to working together - no need for agents or lawyers (well, no lawyers until a lawsuit has to happen, but, i think, if approached properly, most lawsuits can be avoided) - for the most part.

6 - No despair, no hopelessness, no cynicism, no unnecessary criticism or harsh criticism from indie filmmaker to indie filmmaker (let critics & the cold, outside world handle that, we will instead support each other), & no gossip. Those mental qualities & results of certain mental qualities/habits are for people who are afraid of living & are afraid of the future & cannot create/can only comment on art, & do not trust positive capabilities of humans, & thus are not useful for indie film artists building a new field of creative & business activity. Have plenty of hope & enthusiasm & good will & happiness - those are essential psychological tools for success.

Sources of inspiration for the re-birth of indie film:

1. Oscar Micheaux - made & distributed movies completely outside of Hollywood

2. City Lights Books - an artist driven & owned business, one poet publishing work by his peers

3. Andy Warhol - a recognizable indie film artist (though, probably not good to use him as a model for mainstream accessibility when it comes to his movies)

4. Dischord Records - an independent music label that did evolve through a truly independent/artist driven creative scene & became a stable business

(note - for some gender diversity, Ani DiFranco would fit nicely in the list above, also, I am sure, many female D.I.Y. artist/entrepreneurs that I may not know about)

The Re-Birth of Indie Film will be led by New York City based film artists, for the most part, & will start gathering steam in November & December of 2009, and will be in full bloom, well known nation wide, by mid-2010. Within 2 years, this new non-indiewood/non-hollywood scene will be the norm/will be what people will refer to when they say indie film. It will replace indiewood the way that punk rock & related music replaced disco.

This will be the final message re: the re-birth of indie film, rest will be communicated through action - screenings, DVDs, etc. And in 2-3 years - around 2013 - we will review the new - 2 to 3 years old - indie film scene that was born now. Get to work indie film artists.

- Sujewa


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2 comments:

John Koch said...

Well stated. Very well stated. I am with you, brother!

The Sujewa said...

Thanks John. Will check out your site & work.

- Sujewa

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