This ("What are the biggest 3 problems in the indie film community today?") is one of those questions I get asked alot. I don’’t think there is a simple answer to this. If you read this blog, you already know I can never get my list down to just three answers. But I get asked this so much, I am going to give it a shot. Ready, set, go! I have identified 75 problems which I have posted on this site (38 Problems, & original problems). The list seems to refuse to get shorter, even as problems get solved. Nonetheless, it's growth is not a cause for despair, but a truly energizing phenomenon, as I bear witness to our community coming together to make it better. People are taking chances, experimenting, and daring to think brave thoughts. So it is not a problem that there are so many problems. The vast number of issues facing Indie Film is really just one big opportunity.
That said, that question of what is The Big Three gets asked time and time again. My answers will always change, thankfully. The question itself is akin to a thermometer, just taking the temperature of the here now.
I think the biggest problem for indie filmmakers is primarily a marketing problem; filmmakers must move from creating a series of “one offs” where they reinvent the wheel each time, sourcing an audience from scratch on every new project, and instead move to maintaining an ongoing conversation with their communities. I say this is marketing, because it demands a change it what we are offering from a series of single projects, to a deeper and ongoing relationship. It requires a change of approach for all artists. We need a shift of focus and appreciation from product to process. This the problem as it is experienced on an individual basis for the creators.
That said, for everyone involved in Indie Film simple survival is never very simple. Priorities often become keeping your job, and when that is the case, art of course suffers. This is that corp. was/is arguably one of the most successful indie production companies in America and we had to shut our office in the same month that we had the #1 film in America (The American) and the first film sold at the Toronto International Film Festival (Super). We also closed a deal with Focus that month to make an adequately budgeted feature, had another film in post, one shooting, and one prepping. We have our best development slate ever. We had virtually no staff or overhead, and it was still too expensive to have an indie film business. This lack of a sustainable business model plagues us in many ways. Indie film as it currently stands can only be the provence of the young, the wealthy, and the so-committed-you-have-to-judge-us-as-insane. I may be wrong to use myself as a model, but when after producing over 60 films that pretty much have been uniformly praised and profitable, and the only viable business structure is a film by film singular approach, isn't it time to completely readdress how this whole shebang is structured? Or maybe we all need to abandon the belief that this is a business and look at it as more of a field that we are fortunate enough to play in. And for those that like to watch, we have to stop taking it for granted that the best players will participate, unless we change the nature of our support.
I recognize I being very broad. To simplify what I've already said so far, among the biggest problems in indie film are: 1) The creators' mindsets; and 2) the overall infrastructure from top to bottom of the industry; so what would be the third? Why, of course, the very stuff we make.
Content is a pretty extreme issue with many films and filmmakers – both not being original, not being ambitious, or not being truly able to differentiate themselves in the marketplace - but it doesn't really seem to be a concern for the industry. It's hard to see that it is a concern even for the audience either as you don't really hear them complaining, but they show it by simply not showing up. As far as the creators, I know I am as guilty of this as everyone. I keep making feature films because I love them and they work really well for me -- but honestly, people in general do not know how to like indie features, and you have to question if it makes any sense to keep the feature as our dominate form.
Not only do we need to change the methods by which we all engage with films, change the structure by which we make, discover, spread, present, appreciate, and engage with film, but we also have to drastically change what is that we make.
So this brings me back to where we started, and perhaps exposes why this is a problematic question to ask. What are the the biggest problems in the indie film community today? Why the content, the apparatus & infrastructure, and the context by which we all engage of course. I guess, I could of simplified it further and just provided a one word answer: EVERYTHING.