Indie Film Lives, Thrives, Blossoms & Blooms!!!

It is no longer the dawn.  We are now officially in the new era of a Truly Free Film Culture. Yes, the business of indie film is back.  The rapidity, volume, and consistency of deals blossoming ($30M and counting!) at Sundance should give investors more confidence that you no longer have to rely just on foreign; the US acquisition climate seems quite robust again.  Whew.  But the good news does not end there.

Indie Film has been infected by a new breed that -- like those that came before them -- refuses to ask for permission.  But unlike the earlier wave, their go-get-them attitude doesn't stop at production, it extends into all the pillars of cinema -- from discovery and participation on through production, distro, appreciation, and presentation.  The content, the form, the plans of cinema are not only for re-examination, but the rules have been thrown out.  Time to get out of the way, and let the fresh air disrupt the stale space.

It is so happening in every which way. Yes, there are new stars, but also new ways of working.  This Sundance there are plenty examples of "tribal filmmaking" (thanks to Brit Marling for that phrase) -- teams of collaborators, working together, and moving beyond single authorship.  The web world calls this "collabs", but the spirit of this can be found in Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Sound Of My Voice, The Woods, and Another Earth.  We will find more teams taking over in the days ahead -- and it is an incredibly refreshing antidote to the antiquated construct of pure "auteur" cinema.

New spirit is there in old bodies too.  Kevin Smith's self-distribution plan recognizes the realities of the day.  No one in indie film has used social media as well as Kevin Smith has. He understands clearly the need to eventize his picture, and he has done it well. Things started off with a bang at Sundance, and he plans to keep it going.  He gave a nice lecture on his past and his plan for the future.  In between the curses, he lays it out how he plans to go forward.  His roadshow approach of teaming the local premieres with his live act is a value-add propisition that his million plus fan community hopefully can not resist.

Smith's RED STATE plan has the core indie value at it's heart.  To me previously I only really saws this value in terms of content & production, but now has extended well beyond this. Indie refuses to ask others for permission. Smith makes movies his way -- as he learned what happens when he doesn't.  He gets his fans the way his fans get him.  It is not a one way street, but a true community.  He might be divisive, but he is a model to follow.  Perhaps, precisely because he is divisive!

The failure of corporate filmmaking to represent the world we live in, particularly compared to indie's success at that, is evident at fest like Sundance.  It is also painfully drummed home by the Oscar noms, when all the Best Actress candidates hail from indie projects.  As long as corporate filmmaking fails to offer realistic takes on women's lives, Indie Film will always thrive as a welcome alternative.  Sundance must be acknowledged too as a tremendous generator of quality content; Sundance's responsibility in delivering 15 Oscar nominees is nothing short of mind-blowing.  If the world was just, the Oscar would be renamed the Bob.

I left Sundance boosted and relieved.  As great as it was to license our film to a top distributor for a significant profit, it is more the spirit launch that I seriously needed -- and that came from the individuals I got to meet with and hang out with.  We are at time of change -- but as someone pointed out to me, what is so great about the now we are in, is that the new breed recognizes change as a constant.  They will not take this moment for granted.  They accept the fluidity of all.  They recognize how the whole world must turn for that one leaf to fall.  And they are okay with it.

We ARE going to work together to make this better.  Whew!

My Plea For A NYC Directors Support Group (on behalf of AFTERSCHOOL)

I sent the following email blast out this morning. Word's got around and others have asked to see it. So here it is, albeit with a change or two....


Hey there NY Director Person,
Sorry for this group email but times are tough.
You are getting this email because you are one of 120 people whom I have identified as a film director residing at least part time in NYC. I know that there are a lot more of you than that, but hey, I am just one person standing in the forest without much beyond my laptop and a few minutes at my disposal as I drink my morning coffee.
You are also getting this because I am asking you to help facilitate some real change in the NY Indie Film World, and I know you can do it. Maybe not by yourself, but hey, you do have each other.
I know that you directors don't really have a group that you are organized around. I know that this non-existent group doesn't even have a name. But with receipt of this email I would like you to band together and make people go see adventurous & ambitious independent cinema again.
There is a great movie opening on Friday at Cinema Village. Antonio Campos' AFTERSCHOOL debuted at the NYFF last year. When I saw it, I felt it was the strongest debut work to come out of NYC in a long, long time. It was counter to current trends, yet commented insightfully on our current culture. It took bold steps to find it's own voice, but was aware and respectful of film history. It took risks on all aspects of its design and execution, but used each of the elements to build a united whole. It was aggressive in its approach but heartbreaking at its core. In short, it blew me away.
AFTERSCHOOL was one a small handful of films that inspired us to start our screening series at Goldcrest. I found it virtually criminal that great work was not being seen -- particularly by those involved in film creation. We can complain about how tough it is -- or we can actually do something about it. Right now as I understand it, IFC who is distributing the work, has no specific plans to take it beyond NYC theatrically. It will be however on VOD on Wednesday (is it a coincidence that is my birthday?) but it won't see the glory of projection elsewhere if people don't turn out here in NYC. It is a tough film, and not for everyone, but it is great work that should not be missed.
Please go see this movie in the theaters. Please publicize your appreciation for the work-- that's what Facebook and Twitter are for (in case you were still wondering). If anyone of you could write a few words of support for the film, I will eagerly publish it and promote it on one of my blogs/websites. Really, please do this. WE NEED TO SHOW COMMUNITY SUPPORT. Just send me your thoughts.
In fact, I suggest all of you director-folk utilize this new unnamed club of yours and put this kind of weight behind six films a year by truly free filmmakers. It would have considerable impact if this unnamed group of yours awarded six citations annually to new films. In these days of media over-saturation, we all desperately need filters. Who would the public trust most: unknown bloggers or artists whose work they already appreciate it? It's up to you to preserve an active film culture in this country.

And there's even more that you can do. See it once and then if five of you -- ideally those have that have a huge fan base -- could agree to lead a Q&A one night next week after a screening that could really make a difference too. I am going to do it on Monday night but I am sure it would mean more if you do it. We have to get people out to see this movie. We have to show that theatrical is still alive. Imagine if you did this with each of the six films you will now award annually. I know that time is in short supply, but we do need to vote for the culture we want -- and the only way we have to do this is with our labor. This is my plea for you to exercise it.
But maybe you are not the writing type nor the public speaking type; maybe you are more the drinking type. I have an option for those of you too. I have arranged for Vanessa's Mom's bar, WINED UP (on Broadway between 20th & 21st) to offer a third drink free this Friday night after the first show (say 10PM) and Antonio is going to hang out and talk with anyone who shows. It would mean a lot to him if you were there. Please go as my proxy as I will be up in Woodstock for the film festival there.
If you like any of these ideas, or just want to talk about these issues with other directors, just let me know if I can share your email address with each other and I will try to put together an intro email for you to all speak. If you want Antonio to reach out to you, let me know and I will put him in touch. If there is anything I can ever do to help you, please also don't hesitate to ask.
And just in case you are wondering, I had absolutely nothing to do with this film. Antonio is one of the guys behind Borderline Films. They are one of several new film collectives blossoming in our city. Antonio is now producing his producer Sean Durkin's feature debut. Sean's short is DORIS is online for viewing at their website. Jody Lee Lipes has shot all their work and has also directed an excellent doc: BROCK ENRIGHT: THE GOOD TIMES WILL NEVER BE THE SAME. Josh Mond has produced all their work and will continue to do so. Sure, these twenty-somethings have banded together and have each other, but they need you too. We all do. The whole world does. C'mon: Let's save ambitious film culture.