The Revolution WIthin The Revolution Is Still Needed

I have always found the entrenchment of the bureaucracy a pretty normal occurence in any field or job I have had -- film or otherwise. People generally promote people who are like them. The status quo grows more homogenous with every passing year. This is particularly true in high cost enterprises like the film industry.


It's true that price at the point of entry in filmdom has been dropping steady as has the means of delivering a return (aka distribution) has become more accessible, but still it's hard to go the normal route if you don't have much bread. True though, I never had financial resources to fall back on and nor did many of the people I started out with. But I definitely had a lot of privilege: I am a white middle class male in America, armed with some decent schooling.

Sure, a film career can be had even if you come from modest means, but the ones who land here are the exception and not the rule. It is such a struggle to live a creative life in this country currently that most of the survivors got here by the easy route (privilege of one sort or another). And frankly that sucks. We need more exceptions; it is the key to a vibrant culture. We can't allow only the best and the brightest to reach the light -- it gives us an unrealistic picture, amongst many other things. We can never stop being vigilant that the new wave we promote doesn't look just like us. I must admit that I still get behind work first and foremost because I love it -- and I most often love stuff that I relate to, and there lies the rub...

Nonetheless, it was the quality of Caitlin McCarthy's work that brought her to my attention -- or rather first and foremost to my wife's attention. But let's face it, I also liked what Caitlin had to say. Beyond her scripts, I encouraged her to pull some of the ideas she had FB'd me into the blog post on how to save indie film that we posted two days ago. I am excited that it got some people talking, even if they don't see it as dire as Caitlin does.

We got a lot of good comments here on the blog. Vadim Rizov over at IFC's Indie-eye blog blogged about it : "...we don't need the 'working class youth' to 'seek out' industry patrons; in this hard world, like everyone else, they'd do better to start their own infrastructures, then get enough clout to become their own patrons, then get the grants. It'll be tough, but definitely more rewarding."

That comment has Caitlin coming back to us with more; she knows firsthand that it takes more than hard work and a good attitude:
After working with at risk, no income/low income teenagers for over six years, I can tell you that "just do it" is a Nike ad -- it doesn't apply to real life when you come from a disadvantaged background.

I have breathtakingly talented students in my classes (I teach over 150 students each year), but they can't create art at home. Many of them don't have a home. They are bouncing between relatives, foster homes, homeless shelters, or friends' couches. If they are at home, it's usually one or two room living with their siblings. Many of my students complain that they can't do homework at home because there isn't a quiet space to do it. They can't go to the library, because the nearby libraries have all been closed. The one downtown is surrounded by drug dealers and prostitutes *during the daytime* -- forget about night. They can't participate in an after school program because they don't exist (other than sports).

For my students, dreams don't come true without guidance and support from someone outside their families and neighborhoods. They need someone to believe in them on a continuous basis. They've had to fend for themselves all their lives for the most part. They are desperate to belong to something. That's why you see so many of them in gangs. If they're not in gangs, they belong to a sports team or a church group -- something with regular meetings that they can depend on.

The author of the IFC article means well, and I think this "do it
yourself" advice would work with the middle and upper classes, where there is already support at home and in their community. But it won't work with the lower classes who have so many strikes against them already.

Perhaps this is why we don't see more filmmakers from the lower classes. The film establishment wants to believe that if you're good enough, like cream you'll rise to the top. That is incredibly naïve (or maybe it's deliberate so their friends and relatives can get all the jobs because "there's no one else" to hire).

If anyone thinks class doesn't exist in this society, come hang out with me in three weeks when school starts again. I feel the separation in the classes. Poverty and lack of opportunity are like pieces of sandpaper that wear you down, slowly but surely, every single day until you're defeated. This is something that crosses ALL color lines. You can be white and poor.

Sorry to get on my soap box, but I am disturbed by how some people simply don't how it is for some people out there. But many of these people can't be blamed for their ignorance, as they haven't spent time living and working with a disadvantaged population. Once you have "ground truth," you'd know better than to say "do it yourself, kid." That's essentially telling the kid to figure it out for themselves, away from you, so you don't have to get involved. If you want to make a difference, you MUST get involved for the long haul. It's a marathon!

-- Caitlin McCarthy

Hope For The Future pt. 7: The List #'s 26- 29

26. Collaboration among filmmakers is recognized as being a necessity among filmmakers. Todd Sklar’s tour of films with their filmmakers brought vital work and their creators to places that generally went lacking. The teamwork approach benefited everyone. One can easily imagine that this model, like the collaborative finance model, will extend to production too, and not just in the aforementioned crowdsourced way, but in ways that will make individual personal films stronger too.

27. The Independent community has demonstrated that it is quick to action and embraces both tolerance and strength. Over five years ago, the indie film community joined forces to defeat the Hollywood Studios’ and the MPAA’s Screen Ban, but despite a lot of activist attitude they have not joined forces in a significant way since then. But it doesn't mean it can't, or won't.

The indie film community was very vocal about their opposition to California’s Proposition 8 referendum, but never in a unified way. Similarly, many major figures within the community defended the LA Indep. Film Festival’s head’s, Rich Radon, right of political expression when it was revealed he had donated funds in support of Prop 8, refusing to engage in blacklist tactics. In the end, the obvious conflict of an organization that defines itself by tolerance, being then led by someone supportive of a discriminatory act, albeit on what is called religious grounds, seemingly led that individual to resign. There was no true organized effort by the film community itself either to defeat Prop 8 or to remove Radon, but one suspects the outcome of each will bring more unified action in the months to come.
The community’s embrace of a new issue will be a test of their abilities to act in a unified way.

28. The embrace of the “1000 True Fans” model: filmmakers are recognizing that they need to engage in regular communication -- via a regular output of varied material – with their core audience. Not only is necessary because it speaks of a model of how filmmakers can earn a living , but it also offers a manner of working that will allow filmmakers, and artists in general, greater variation in the type and form of work they do. The dialogue with the audience will also keep filmmakers more attuned to what their audience responds to and why, all the while, strengthening the bonds between artists and their community.

29. Rational consolidation and expansion is taking place in the blogosphere. Indiewire, the premiere indie film news site, was acquired Snag Films, the leading documentary film streaming aggregator. GreenCine, one of the leading sites for art film appreciation, had its lead blogger go over to IFC's IndieEye – greatly strengthening that site. Movie City News got another great editor. As these core film appreciation sites improve, we all benefit. Audiences need to know where to go to find the type of films they love and this bit of consolidation could help.

Tech Meets Media panel in NYC 11/13/08 630PM

This may be of interest to you, even beyond the OPEN BAR...

KlickableTV presents Tech Meets Media: a panel discussing how technology has influenced the changing landscape of traditional media

Traditional media as we know it will soon be gone. Today's content producers must embrace the transition from silver screen to web.
Hear what strategies industry taste-makers and new media visionaries have in mind for the future.

Panelists include:

Genna Terranova, Senior Programmer, Tribeca Film Festival

John Vanco, Vice President & General Manager, IFC Film Center

Christopher Horton, Head of Acquisitions, Cinetic Rights Management

Paul Kontonis, Chief Executive and Co-founder, For Your Imagination

Moderator:

Roger Wu, President and Co-Founder, KlickableTV

Plan to enjoy an open bar and mix and mingle with television, film and new media professionals and trendsetters.

Date: Thursday, November 13, 2008
Time: 6:30pm - 10:30pm
Location: Retreat NYC (http://www.retreat-nyc.com), 37 West 17th Street between 5th and 6th Aves

rsvp: http://klickabletvpanel1.eventbrite.com/

I am babysitting that night, so maybe someone out there wants to cover it and post it for the rest of us...

Know Your Digital Rights

I was on another fun panel yesterday at the Woodstock Film Festival.  All of these discussions are part of the ongoing conversation on the future prospects for both Indie and Truly Free film.  There's a lot more that I can write about that panel, but one thing I felt was the filmmakers' position getting stronger.

John Sloss, the man and the legend, and Ryan Werner of IFC Films were among the panel's participants.  IFC Films is certainly the leader in terms of number of films that they are putting up on VOD, and John, among many other things,  probably sells more films to them than anyone else.  Sloss's Cinetic Digital Rights Management initiative is also probably the leading aggregator of digital rights for feature films.
This whole arena is new for everyone and it all can easily be looked at as one big experiment for the time being.  The market is being created as I type and as you read.  The model is not yet set by any means.  Yet Cinetic and IFC are arguably the market leaders of the moment.  That's why I was so heartened by what I heard them claim they were open to -- something that could truly be a great step towards creator empowerment and ultimately also towards audience access.
Neither company, to my knowledge and according to what was said on the panel, currently does anything to provide the content generator/creator/filmmaker with access to any of the data that their work generates.  I hope that's now going to change, and what was said on that panel makes me believe it could.
Matt Dentler, Cinetic's Digi-maven, has expressed that Cinetic's DRM initiative is all about transparency for the filmmaker.  John Sloss backed that on the panel by saying that he thought it made sense that future contracts include a provision mandating that buyers provide the digital data to the filmmakers.  Not that Cinetic does that yet for its clients, but it can, and as John said, it will.  Ryan Werner also replied to an earlier question that he felt that such information could be provided to the filmmakers if they asked for it (even if they did not contract for it).
Now its up to the filmmakers to demand that their lawyers craft such language.  What will that be?  What is the information we need?  And how can we make sure that we are able to share it with each other?  It would be great if an industry leader on the legal side really stepped up and showed their commitment to filmmakers' rights and drafted something that could become industry standard.  It would be great if we could link to it now!  Who's going to help?
If you are licensing your film for next to nothing, if you have decided to split your revenue with your sales agent, shouldn't you at the very least get the information on who your audience is, where they are located, when they are watching or purchasing, whatever.  If you, the filmmaker, feel forced to make this kind of deal, shouldn't you at the very least be getting the data your work generates?  As filmmakers, not only should you be asking for language from your lawyer, but demanding that your licensor, your distributor provide this.  Do it and according to the leaders on the panel yesterday, they will listen and provide.  I hope it is so.