It is a huge number of films made in this country and the world. I used to use the annual Sundance submissions as the number for the number of films made in the U.S. (although that does not include studio films); when I participated in a discussion with Chris Hyams the other night he corrected me and said it was far greater. Whether it is 4500, 7000 in the U.S. or 45,000, the problem is the same. A huge number of movies are made and few of them are seen, distributed, and championed. We vote for the culture we want with our choices, voices, and dollars. You'd think they'd be more action in the voices department for better film -- and not just negative attacks, but thoughtful praise for what artists are striving for. Me, I am sucker for the noble failure, for the artist that reaches and may not always achieves, but tries nonetheless. Still we lack the places where we can see and communicate about the work we love (despite the technology being there).
There are some folks who like to dismiss the low percentage of work being seen by simply stating that most indie films suck. Sure, there a lot of simple things many filmmakers could embrace to make better films. I labored to put to print the "32 Qualities Of Better Film" that I was feeling at the time, and it remains far less read and commented than other things I've written. From this, rightfully or not, I discern that the community is more interested in the business than the art. Maybe I look in the wrong places. Maybe I hear the wrong voices. I think everyone I know chose to work in film because of the art, but the business is still against it. I truly believe that can change. I truly believe that it is good business supporting the art and a business structure can now be built that allows "better films" to flourish.
The divide and conquer effect happens in film because most only focus on their individual work -- and thus although good movies are made, no business is done (except by exploitative aggregators and the occasional success story.). Simple changes of behavior can lead to profound change. A little help from your friends goes a long way. Honestly engaging folks around the things you love, even your closest circle of friends and family, can start the ripple effect.
Filmmakers have to accept our mandate to curate and champion if we want our work to spread. I used to think that only 3 or 4 new American directors emerged each year whom would go on to have significant bodies of work. I was able to help co-found and launch HammerToNail.com and through that filter became aware of much more work, and saw over 15 filmmakers whom I suspected would hit that bar. Good movies are getting made that still are not getting seen and appreciated. This may have always been the way it is, but we don't have to stand for it anymore. We have the tools. We reach other. We can build it better together.
It is on one part a consumption problem. We need to manufacture desire in addition to art and entertainment.
It is also a communication problem. We need to get the word out both as to what is out there, but also why we care about it.
It is a perception problem on many fronts. Our work is truly connected to each other -- united we stand, divided we fall. Whether we look at ourselves as individuals or collectives, we don't benefit from a limited definition of cinema that addresses only the creation process and builds a wall between art and commerce -- particularly when we live in a country that does not recognize it as their responsibility to support diverse and vibrant culture. We need to expand what the perception, both that we hold and that which different audiences hold, as to what people think indie film, truly free film, is.
We have to put a lot more of thought and discussion into the discovery and appreciation process. Great discoveries are to be made, but I personally think it all starts with us. We have to increase and accelerate the discussion of the films that don't have the big studio support. We can not get it done on our own. We need to watch and talk about each others work now, and in a positive way.