19 September 2009

the indie world as i know it, as of today

It's been an interesting couple weeks in the indie film world, and as I get ready for a couple days off in the great state of Maine, I thought it might be worthwhile to point out some valuable stuff...

++ The big news, of course, was Josh Olson's diatribe I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script in the Village Voice.

Some thoughts: Olson, while failing the asshole test, makes some good points. In fact, he's almost entirely correct. There's an influx of people who think that surely they can write a script, when all evidence says that they cannot write something as simple as a 1-page term paper. Some of them aren't really willing to, you know, learn their craft. And they don't really see that as an issue. So they press on, and that's fine. They should press on.

The thing is, in skipping the craft of writing (or filmmaking), they've also skipped the part where one learns how to handle constructive criticism. This is almost as important as learning how to write. For their entire lives, they've been encouraged by friends and family (as they should be), but no one's really sat them down and said, "look, you aren't God's gift to film" (to borrow my father's phrase). It's a shock to their system, I guess, and they lash out, which is a terribly rude thing to do when someone spends a lot of time they don't have trying to help you out. They aren't out to crush your ambitions, but someone needs to be honest with you. Calling them an asshole doesn't help.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, that's what killed the uber-indie project. It just wasn't worth it anymore.

++ ...many people think tv programming should be widely available for free on the internet. Of course the content is never free. Someone has to pay to create it and we purchasers of cable and satellite services pay the subscription fees that pay the content companies and allow them to create all that content. Someone always must pay for free. Its unfortunate that there are some incredibly greedy people who think their entertainment needs should be subsidized. We aren’t talking healthcare, we are talking The Simpsons. No one in the country has the right for their Simpsons to be subsidized. -- Mark Cuban on TV Everywhere

++ In case you missed it, Anne Thompson is now over at indieWIRE. So, update your bookmarks. Her summary of the marketplace at Toronto is a grim one, but contains a glimmer of hope: The old independent market is over. A new one will take its place.

We can only hope.

++ About that new one...One of my favorite producers, Ted Hope, has been trying to rally the troops over at the must-read truly free film. There's two recent posts especially worth a read:

++ I have been a beneficiary of others' slack behavior. I got full advantage of an inefficient, lazy, inbred, elitist system. I have gotten to make over 60 films in 20 years. It gets much harder from here. I am doing what I can to help and there are some others that are out there doing the same, even a few doing more, but it is not enough. We have work harder to increase the reach of our web, to shrink the holes in our net. We have to get our comrades to adopt and utilize the tools before them. -- DIY, DIWO, But Just Do It.

++ The time is now. If we don't fully own the absolute necessity to change how we've all been working, we won't be working -- and we won't have the illuminating, inspiring, transforming films that we now enjoy. It's your choice, but action is required.

There is the capacity for many more of us to create and prosper from creative media work. This capacity can also close up and vanish along with our audiences. The canaries are now the size of Big Birds and we somehow are able to ignore them (but that is a subject for a different posts).

SO YOU SAY YOU WANT A SUSTAINABLE & TRULY FREE FILM COMMUNITY AND CULTURE? Time to take some action.
-- 18 Actions Towards A Sustainable Truly Free Film Community

So that's it for now. Go. Read. There's a way to make this work for those of us who make films outside the studio system (and with no money). One of us will crack that code, and probably soon. But we'll never do it if we don't think outside the box, if we don't try pretty much everything.

1,000 words (#7)

14 September 2009

what's so great about that film?

One of the more frustrating aspects of the festival submission process is the seemingly arbitrary method by which films are selected. Since no one person has the time to watch the hundreds or thousands of films a festival receives, fests have to parcel out the preliminary aspects of screening to, at minimum, get the list down to a manageable size so the core programmers can make the final decisions. Often these people in the first line of defense are volunteers and, let's face it, they may or may not know what the hell they're doing.

It's not surprising, then, when good films don't make the cut and bad films do. It's just one of the hazards of festivals.

Some say the answer to that is for festivals to give feedback to the films that didn't make it, but isn't that just making the situation more volatile by giving the already over-taxed screeners more work? How does help?

Enter the Festivus Film Festival, a 3rd year festival out of Denver geared toward "the guy that pawned his car to make a film." They're a very filmmaker-centric festival (and one that programmed my film gravida back in year one) named after a Seinfeld episode. This year they've added something interesting: videos of the screeners talking about what they like in this year's crop. Here's Johnathan McFarlane (also the festival director) on Jeremy Dehn's Miracle Investigators :



Does this add more work for the festival? Yeah, sure. But it also puts a face on the festival and shines a little bit of light on the process. I think we can all appreciate that.

See the rest of the videos
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