It Could Be Getting So Much Better All The Time #7: Demand The Auteurs!

Mike Ryan, producer of the lowest budgeted film ever nominated for an Academy Award, producer & co-conspirator of both Todd Solondz's and Bela Tarr's latest opi, frequent contributor to Hammer To Nail, and all around opinionated mofo and raconteur (bless his bbq & bourbon lovin' soul) had this to rant:

For me one of the scariest aspects about the future state of indie film is not the problems connected to distribution (though they are formidable and problematic for other reasons) but instead I am most worried about the future DEMAND for the auteur driven films that I love. I am not into film because I like to sit and watch moving photographs of talking heads, I like cinema that gives me drama in a form that is unique, specific and distinct from any other medium. Most movies really are just filmed radio shows, driven by talk, and that's not why I am into the film medium. The problem is not just getting true auteur driven cinema made but the problem is about maintaining the demand for that kind of cinema. Unfortunately the types of 'solutions' you are proposing do not address that aspect of the problem. In fact ,watching 'films' on computers or, god forbid, hand devices, will only further reduce film literacy and increase demand for these types of 'filmed radio shows' that play best on tiny screens. For me 'indie film' is not a business model that worked for twenty years because films were made for cheap and sold high. For me indie cinema is about artists expressing themselves in a way that was NOT overtly commercial. The 'decline' did not just start last year, in my opinion it started with SEX LIES AND VIDEOTAPE, a generic filmed soap opera that was made cheap sold high and shifted the 'success' criteria from individuality and formal innovation to box office numbers.
So my 'solution' would be more connected to maintaining/creating an appreciation for the true cinema experience. I would like to see that arts funding (Redford mentioned that he hopes that Obama may be arts friendly) be earmarked for cinema programs in local museums/libraries. This means projecting actual film prints of both classic art house films and contemporary work by true cinema auteurs, in the style of the rep theaters of old.

I do believe that trends move in a dialectic counter swing pattern: the current generation of 18-25 year olds are buying more vinyl than ever before, this is the first generation in which parents did not own a record player and so the kids have become curious and have discovered the joys of uncompressed music. Yes indeed an acoustic guitar sounds very different on a record than compressed on an MP3 and consequently small record stores across the country are hauling the old crates out of the basement as cd inventory decreases. Likewise, Starbucks announced massive layoffs yesterday, stores all over the city are closing and yet MUD COFFEE and other indie coffee store fronts are doing great business. Untill Starbucks came to NYC it was hard to find a decent strong cup of coffee, Starbucks raised the bar on coffee literacy and that allowed other places like MUD, who serve way better coffee than Starbucks, to prosper. Likewise Tower records on Broadway closed and the tiny specialty store OTHER MUSIC is still open.

So I am hopeful that in the future age of VOD DOD on your IPOD the demand for true cinema will return. In my dreams Bela Tarr will be recognized as the living God that he is and demand for his films to screen will increase because it CANNOT be seen on a computer or hand device. But , I still think we need a little help from big bro to keep cinema alive while we weather this transition period so my 'solution' would be in directing government art money toward local cinema museum/library screening clubs.