For my tastes, I have long encouraged the practice of getting away from the cinema of excess and getting back to the compromise. I have always learned a great deal by bouncing back and forth between budgets. Truth be told, for me it is out of necessity, not strategy. Yet for directors, the proof has come that it should be part of the process.
Time and time again, filmmakers have rejuvenated themselves, their work, and their careers by dropping their budgets and picking up some freedom in exchange.
Ang Lee, Alfonso Cuaron, Gus Van Sant, Steven Soderbergh have all done this, with Crouching Tiger, Y Tu Mama, Gerry/Elephant, and Schizopolis. Coming off of The Hulk, Great Expectations, Finding Forester, and The Underneath respectively, these subsequent "indie" productions yielded great work (generally) and a major creative reboot.
And now we get to witness this again with Darren Aaronofsky's The Wrestler, Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire, and Jonathon Demme's Rachel Getting Married. These are three of the year's best films. This formula could also be applied to Van Sant's Milk (which I hope to see this weekend) but now the back and forth between budgets and control appears to be part of Gus' process.
Ann Thompson pointed this out to everyone in the business today so hopefully we can witness a few others gaining from the new poverty. Anne includes my other fave of the year, Ari Fohlman's Waltz With Bahir, as another benefiter of this approach.