The art of filmmaking is an incredibly strange beast, in that those who pursue it, to a large degree, decry the idea of it actually being art. Now, it can be successfully argued that the (perceived) high cost of entry into filmmaking justifies the more business minded approach of many modern filmmakers. As well, the fact that the film industry hasn’t exactly made its copious amounts of money on selling ‘art’ films, might also explain the advent of independents discussing ROI as opposed to Fellini.
Fine points indeed, but I would argue that as we stand at the dawn of this new decade, with more tools, and opportunity than ever before, it is time that we reclaim our art, by all means necessary.
Let’s be honest, it was most likely not box office numbers that first sparked our collective interest in making films. I didn’t look up the opening weekend returns for Down by Law, after being mesmerized by its utter coolness, nor did I check the box office for 8 1/2, Mean Streets, Blue Velvet, The Last Picture Show, Europa (aka Zentropa), Junior Bonner, The Limey, Pi, The Wild Bunch, The American Astronaut or any of the other films that inspired and informed me over the years. My film library isn’t organized by studio, or box office gross, is yours?
Sure, I get that films cost varying degrees of money, and yes, it should be recouped if at all possible, and yes, I absolutely want to see filmmakers, and artists (myself included) making a sustainable living from our own work, as it is key for continued work, and growth in that work. What I am saying is, maybe it’s time to stop chasing an ‘industry’ that isn’t interested. Maybe it’s time to embrace our meager beginnings, our vast inspirations from great cinema, and instead of trying to conform to a world increasingly dominated by spectacle, carve out a wholly new space for alternative cinema.
It may be a little too utopian an ideal, I get it, I do. But, the writing seems to be on the wall. There is no golden ticket, are there are no rules. We are at a point in history where we really do have the opportunity to be an integral part in shaping this new landscape of modern cinema, so what the hell are we waiting for? An invitation? Someone to tell us what to do? Isn’t that the problem in the first place?
Here’s my 1st draft at a personal little three-part plan to get this going:
1) Double down on your personal investment in your craft, with the knowledge that in the end, better films, more engaging stories and solid craft will pay more dividends, monetary and otherwise, than any market research ever will.
2) Forget the film industry, seek out inspiration from those truly re-shaping the way in which we work, share work, share information, interact and live our day to day lives. The folks at Google, Twitter, Facebook, Apple, YouTube, and the list goes on…and on, are the ones on the cutting edge, driving the future. Not Hollywood.
3) Create. A lot. And share it. With everyone you possibly can. And encourage them to share it, by making it awesome.
So, maybe we don’t have deep pockets, or a vast rolodex, to get started in creating this new cinema. And, maybe we have to endure a little more sacrifice, maybe we have to shoot on nights and weekends on borrowed gear, or maybe we do have a budget, but it’s only $50K, or $25K, or 10K, or perhaps only $1K, but with that we create something amazing, that doesn’t sell to Hollywood, but does sell to people. And from that we can build, and continue to build, and experiment, and grow. Maybe during the next little while, we’re sharing our work for free online, and selling some DVDs here and there, some downloads here and there, and screening it live here and there, gathering fans here and there, and doing new, better, and more exciting work along the way, as we all steadily build a body of work. Work, that over time, increases in value, and increases our value.
It’s not impossible to make great cinema for little, or to make a living from our art, we just need to start doing it, and stop waiting for something to just happen. Christopher Nolan made Following for six thousand dollars over 2 years, Jonathan Caouette made Tarnation in iMovie for $300 based on footage filmed over his life and it was absolutely incredible, Shane Carruth made one of my favorite films ever, Primer, for seven thousand dollars, while teaching himself every aspect of filmmaking along the way, my friend Lovisa Inserra made her completely unrelenting look at a 3-time loser on the expressway to self destruction, Buster, on hand processed Super 8, and no budget. All of these films and artists blew me away, and I know that there are more artists like them out there, so let’s get ourselves together and do this thing.
Let’s make this our decade, let’s resolve to create a new, and sustainable alternative cinema. Starting. Right. Now.
* Above production still from Buster, a film by Lovisa Inserra.
Posted in Person of Interest