The Elephant In The Room: Indie Filmmakers Can Not Survive As Things Are

IFP's Independent Film Week in NYC was a great event with many diverse elements. It was a place to be. Like walking into your favorite restaurant, and finding all the chefs -- from the places you wanted to go but could not ever afford -- were hanging out and having a cook off and you were the private taster.  So many riches! Good ideas, access, and a good cool vibe.

From the start, I felt the RE:Invent Story mini-conference was too good to miss -- and I wasn't wrong. Top thinkers, makers, doers, getters, and yes, takers to, all sharing and telling like they see it. A peek behind the curtain or inside the kimono, whatever.  It was a privilege to be there. I was feeling inspired to be in the room and hear all the positive upbeat proclamations. For a moment, I felt life was swell. The sun was shining. I even felt thinner, taller. Was my wallet getting thicker too?  Was this the real reality?  Was my life a fiction?  Or did they just not have the glasses.  You know, the ones from "They Live".

My favorite class ever in high school was the day my history teacher told us he was going to teach us to read. History wasn't what we read on the page,but the ideas they trying to express with showing it, the stuff in between the lines.  The only way to ever read history he said, was to find the bias.  Only the victors get published, but the nature of war is that the losers are the ones that die more.  The numbers that count are the bodies piled up in mounds, not the few who live to reap the spoils; look there for the true tale of what was lost while others won.

As the warm glow of afternoon light sauntered in the windows of Lincoln Center, I looked around at the smiling face and looked for the dark.  The Elephant In The Room is the same one that is forever there and forever ignored.  I didn't want to talk.  I wanted others to step up to the mike, but sooner or later things have to be said.  Someone has to get out on the dance floor first.

As Indiewire reported:

"We’re not really addressing the elephant in the room," said Hope. “As much as it’s a great time to be a storyteller, and as much as the cost of making movies goes down, as disruptive as the transformation from an entertainment economy of scarcity to one of great abundance is, the real issue right now is the artists and the people that support them are not benefiting from their work, and it just can’t be done. I’ve watched six years of my own personal earnings keep going down each year. I talk to all my fellow producers, who are saying, ‘I have to move out of New York, it’s too expensive to live here.’ I’m not making a living producing the movies. And the system as it’s set up right now does not benefit artists or those that support them. Until we can tell stories again of ‘The Wedding Banquet’ or 43 times return on ‘Brothers McMullen,’ until we have our Google billionaires again, there won’t be enough money. We need to develop a sustainable investor class that supports the artists and benefits from doing so. Right now, it doesn’t happen. And that’s what we need to do is focus on that. Because we, in America, live in a market-driven entertainment economy, and it can’t support itself. Filmmaking will be the province of the young and the rich for the next 10-20 years unless we do something drastic to change it. And that’s where we are right now for all the change and disruption we have. We don’t have a system that supports the creators or their supporters.”