Tenspeed & Brownshoe

Friday, March 10, 2006

Is Independent Film Dead?
And no.
But mostly, yes.
The Blair Witch Project is probably the last independent film to hit theatres. That was in 1999. Now it's 2006. Let's take a look at the slate of films that were competing in the Dramatic Competition at the last Sundance Film Festival, the bastion of independent cinema.
  • Come Early Morning- (D) Joey Lauren Adams. Starring Ashley Judd & Tim Blake Nelson
  • A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints- (D) Dito Montiel. Starring Chazz Palminteri, Robert Downey Jr., Shia La Boeuf, Rosario Dawson
  • Half Nelson- (D) Ryan Fleck- Starring Ryan Gosling, Anthony Mackie
  • The Hawk is Dying- (D) Julian Goldberger- Starring Paul Giamatti, Michelle Williams, Michael Pitt
  • Puccini For Beginners- (D) Maria Maggenti- Starring Justin Kirk, Gretchen Mol
  • Sherrybaby- (D) Laurie Collyer- Starring Maggie Gyllenhaal (isn't she in Sundance every fucking year?!)
  • Stephanie Daley- (D) Hilary Brougher- Starring Tilda Swinton, Amber Tamblyn, Melissa Leo (she's also in my movie--Holla!)

I think you get the idea. This however, does not include the movies that were shown out of competition. You know, the movies that were actually sold. There was a Steve Carrell movie that sold for 10 million, two Bruce Willis movies, and Paris Hilton came...again.

So what happened to Independent Cinema? What happened to the film starring a bunch of undiscovered talent (read: nobody's) and created a huge commercial and critical splash? Do they even make these movies anymore?

Again--yes and no.

With the advent of camera technology, virtually anyone can became a filmmaker. Literally. There's no more expensive film stock or outrageous processing fees. You just point the camera and hit that little red button. Which is actually part of the demise of independent cinema.

And The Blair Witch Project is totally to blame.

After TBWP came out and made some mucho dinero, people ran out to Circuit City, bought the latest (and cheapest) camera, and started shooting. Mostly...shit. And this is what festivals have had to wade through for the last 6 years. Thousands of films were made, everything jiggly hand-held, virtually no discrernible story line, starring--I don't know, the next door neighbor. And then it's sent off to a butt load of film festivals. Now here's the dirty little secret that you're not supposed to know.

The Festival Directors don't watch them.

What an incidenary thing to say. Unfortunately for everyone involved, it's the truth. Do you really think that they sit through thousands of VHS tapes that have the title of the film written in black sharpe? No, sir. It gets tossed to the side. Those DVD's with press kits and pictures of any Gyllenhaal or any Deschanel...they go straight to the top, baby.

So now we're supposed to believe that BrokeBack Mountain is an independent film? I don't think so. Is Crash an independent film? Don't make me laugh. Just because your budget is under 20 million dollars, doesn't mean it's an independent film. Especially if it stars Bruce Willis, or Jennifer Aniston, or any other NBC former Friend.

I think the real problem here is that independent film has the propensity to be, well...chintzy. The acting usually stinks, the camera work is non-existent, and nobody truly cares about the outcome. The goal is to make a quick buck. Guess what, folks? This ain't filmmaking. So can we really blame the festivals? Not really. Not until filmmakers really start caring about what they're putting on screen. Lack of money is supposed to make you more creative, not more apathetic.

Take your time and do your best. Otherwise, you have no business complaining about those summer blockbusters. At least they care.