08 February 2010

why can't we be more like music?

In today's badly-written article about the death of indie film, Flavorwire's Judy Berman explains why indie film can't flourish like indie music does.

Never mind that the "death of indie film" article is an article that practically writes itself or that most indie bands aren't exactly swimming in cash, Berman's chief problems stem from a couple of things:

  1. Her definition of indie isn't exactly indie. When your article's primary example of just how bad things are is a film with a budget of $20M (the highest budget eligible for an Indie Spirit Award), then you aren't talking about indie film. You're talking about a small studio film that just doesn't happen to have a studio. The ability (or inability) of a $20M film to get made means very little in the indie film world.
  2. She asks, when was the last time you saw someone in a Wendy and Lucy shirt? As if all films are able to sell is a DVD. The thing is, most indies will sell you more than that. Some of them a lot more. Ink, for example, will sell you a DVD, a Blu-Ray DVD, a t-shirt, a poster, and a soundtrack. Most bands won't sell you that much.
  3. "Hell, O.C. and Gossip Girl creator Josh Schwartz has probably broken more indie musicians to the mainstream in the past 10 years than your average major-label A&R dude." But you know who also discovers bands? Yeah, indie filmmakers.
  4. Hipsters. Indie bands are successful because of hipsters. Yay stereotypes!
I could go on, but it isn't really worth the effort.

Yes, Berman is right in the music has built-in advantages over film. Any idiot knows that. It's like saying it's easier to find things to do in the summer than winter. What she doesn't do is present any ways in which film can close the gap. There are no solutions, only problems. And the problems aren't all that well thought out. Some of them are just wrong.

It's nothing more than lazy, misguided journalism. It's a shame that people have latched on to it as something of value. All it does is encourage this sort of garbage.

Still, that doesn't change the fact that indie film is in trouble. But we don't need an article to tell us that. We need an article to present ideas on how we can fix that. Anything else is just a waste of everyone's time.

Having said that, let's hear it. What can film do to stave off death?


/britmic said...

Indie film (and by film i really mean movies) must provide a value that is worth paying for - as simple, and as difficult, as that. Not only to audiences, but to investors who may expect a return or may just be avoiding tax.

Even movies with blockbuster budgets are struggling to provide that - witness Avatar marketing of 3D to justify that production budget and hook in the 12 - 25 demographic. Because, really, computers make things cheaper not more expensive in the long run.

I say fuck it, I'm an artist and entrepreneur and I'll make any damn movie I please. If you don't care to see it or don't know it exists, that's the real issue that indie film faces.

Also don't underestimate the power of interactive fiction, ie gaming. The "film director" may have to become a "game director" or "creative consultant". Films won't go away any time soon, but they are competing against many many other forms of entertainment.

I'm not in the T-shirt business and I'm not in the soundtrack business and I'm not in the poster business and I'm not in the marketing business. Screw it. Film or death.

Film is dead. Long live film. Dramatise your differentiating idea.