More On How It Feels From The Front

Brent Chesanek continues his reflections on the NYC DIY Days Dinner:

I see Stephen Rafael's point when he said "Make a good film." I think you do too while you acknowledged the trouble with that statement. I also agree with what you said about the The Pool. But I think everyone at that table has the resources and could contact Chris Smith directly, or invite him and the handful of other directors of the movies you loved this year to a private roundtable. But why did you shoot this and put the video on the web for everyone to see it? (I know why, but hypothetically.) The people who are accessing this video are just as likely to be making bad films. I feel like, if someone makes a worthwhile film and has the necessary industry awareness, they can get it to you or Raphael or Jay van Hoy and Lars or someone else who can help them formulate their distribution models and make connections.

I know the distro process must be democratized, and I know that in the scenario above, you and the other guys listed are also gatekeepers who would essentially dictate a filmmaker's ability to reach an audience, but does this make sense? If all 4950 films that didn't get into Sundance or any other festival or aren't distributed were as good as The Pool, then everyone would just be watching this DIY Dinner video to find out what to do next and there'd still be a glut in the market. But most of them should be focusing on where they've taken missteps earlier on.

This discussion was feeling a bit like: find an audience, then make a film to profit off them by giving them what they say they want, regardless of whether or not you're making a film that has any merit or personal distinction. So many of the bad films that actually do get distributed are rehashes and remakes, unoriginal but based on successful formulas (essentially, they're crowd-tested). Here, I know the discussion is about distribution, but so much of it just leads right into: Here's how to harness an audience to make money off of regardless of the quality of your film. And I think what Rafael may have been thinking was that this discussion was often putting the cart before the horse--more geared as a way to get exposure to the glut of films that aren't distributed regardless of quality, because that is still the problem--most films are indeed not worthy. But the ones that are worthy are having trouble. This needs to be stressed more and more until it becomes a given. I think there is common ground between your point and Rafael's point: First make the good films. You picked up on that later in the video talking about the lesbian film. (I originally thought you were talking about Working Girls, but that was about prostitutes).

All Facebook pages look the same. After 3 years, so many films will be Twittering it will be total overload and audiences on Twitter and Facebook will not see a difference in these methods, they won't pay attention to what's being said in any of them, and the mechanisms themselves won't be any newer or more special than television commercials or trailers, and certainly no more effective (Twitter is less invasive–a short text message–so it requires an active audience to respond to it. But how can one in fifty of them from different films be effective when the content drives the audience to the film? At least a trailer offers a glimpse of the actual film that can hook a passive audience member). So we will have an over-crowded marketplace of bad films that are Twittering and crowd-sourcing and all this stuff, and again, like Lance Hammer asks Arin, "How do you cut through the noise?"

So much of the talk about social networking and going viral and doing all this stuff ignores the notion that you have to really really really kill yourself making a distinct film first. The glut of films out there is a problem first of quality in development and production, not distribution. Quality, not execution of the methods. That's what's scary. You mentioned on some blog somewhere that despite digital video and computer-based editing, there is still the same number of new voices emerging as there was 20 years ago. Will a glut of new distribution models really bring about new voices? [I think you know the answer is more about salvaging the new voices, preserving and exposing them to audiences via new methods, but this point mustn't be under-stressed.] We need to focus on nurturing the voices.

NYC DIY Days Dinner

A whole bunch of us got together for food, drink, and lots of blab about the way this world of film is changing -- and now you can join us!  

The good folks at The Workbook Project made this happen with a little help from their friends of course.  Come join Lance Weiler, Arin Crumley, Susan Buice, Lance Hammer, Faye Dunaway, Paul Rachman, Stephen Rapael, Slava Rubin, Joseph Marin, Jennifer Kushell, and of course myself.  This is just the intro segment.  Two more to come.  
I was mentioning this dinner to my friend Christine Vachon, telling her how I thought it was a good idea it was, a lot of fun, quite informative, and how well it was shot.  Christine's response was "Did anyone get a word in edge-wise?".  In this episode I don't start to rant until the 27:27 mark, so you be the judge.