Talking About The Early Days: Hartley, Gondry, Field, Puccini & Berman, and Motolla

Okay, this is also about talking these days too, but I didn't know how to put that into the headline.

I was interviewed on Wednesday by Aaron Aradilis for his BlogTalkRadio show "Back By Midnight" on the occasion of the DVD release of ADVENTURELAND. Martin Starr precedes me so that give you ample reason to tune in, but if you need more Anthony quizzed me on the big questions like why I wanted to make me movies in the first place. We cover Hal Hartley's early films, and the current state of indie film of course. We go into why it was obvious that Michel Gondry, Todd Field, and Puccini & Berman were obvious artists to back for their first narrative features. We even hit the state of film criticism and the crisis in print media. I guess we go on for awhile.. but of course you get to enjoy my nasal honk for most of it (and a couple good tunes off the Adventureland soundtrack).

Email Blast: Good Movies And What You Can Do To Save Them

Periodically I send out email blasts to various film folk and some actual film enthusiasts.  I resort to the blast because there still is a certain breed of people that don't seem to do much web surfing.  They want their news delivered and they haven't mastered RSS feeds or Feed Burner subscriptions (I know, I know, no one likes to enter their email address, but...).  It usually is a recap of much of what I have previously written here, perhaps with a few Twitter posts thrown in.   Since many are industry types, I need to stir them up a bit.  I sent the following out yesterday afternoon.  Here it is for your reading pleasure.

I have been asked why I stopped doing these email blasts; was it that everything is now okay in Indieland or was it that good movies stopped coming out? Did the lack of blasts = no news to report? I am happy (okay, sort of happy, sort of really really frustrated) to report that none of that is the case.

The good news is a week doesn't go by now when I don't see at least one film that really impresses me (Goodbye Solo, Treeless Mountain, Star Trek, The Exploding Girl, We Live In Public, Made In China, Humpday, The Yes Men Fix The World, Sugar, In A Dream, Tulpan, Hunger), but the unfortunate flip side is that it is rarely in a commercial theater that I see these films anymore. It's bad that it has become increasingly hard to read about such films (please check out HammerToNail) as papers and magazines fire critics and give less space to ambitious work. The really horrible reality is the trickle down is going to reduce & effect the films you see for years to come completely altering the movies that get made and find their way to your eyeballs.

The next few years' culture dose is corroding rapidly away as I type and your diet is about to get really limited and hyper-specific. Trust me, as someone who has tried this with other such essentials like food -- even if it is delivered right to your door, you don't want the same meal on a regular basis, particularly when they can't source or afford the best and most unique ingrediants. Filmmaking is going on a horribly bland diet that is not good for anyone.

Now if I was really good, I would tell you how we can all solve this by working together. But I am not. I need your help for that -- and that is a hard thing to both get and then to use.

I stopped doing email blasts as I thought the blogging would give more people access and thus I would get more input, but I am now not believing that is the case. On TrulyFreeFilm, I have spent the year speaking of solutions for Indieville, but what I always find people prefer to hear about the problems. On TheseAreThoseThings, I have attempted to curate a little corner of pop culture, but it's hard to get people to participate. On TheNextGoodIdea, I've hoped to publicize the things that are making this world a better place step by step. I lost steam at InfoWantsToBeFree hoping to highlight the issues that shaped our media-mindscape, as I was encouraged to build it and others would join, but that just wasn't so. And yes, there is the one I do with my son, for the young 'uns too: BowlOfNoses. I would love it if you chose to subscribe to these blogs so I could believe they were valuable to you -- or maybe I need to recognize the opposite.

So today, I blast out with a statement of the obvious: Art FIlm culture will dwindle down further to a bloody flatline unless you start to act to preserve it. Everyone sees it, but what are we going to do about it? This is urgent. Really urgent. More good films are going undistributed than ever before.

Mainstream news media has started reporting on Indie's presumed death. This is the first time that in twenty years I think that MainstreamMedia looked at Indie without naming it Weinstien, Sloss, or Sundance or that wasn't during the Oscar season I believe (okay, so I exaggerate for the sake of emphasis, but you know what I am saying). In prepping for what was my first live broadcast appearance (what? you didn't yet look at that earlier link? just click on it now), I tried to consider what were the problems facing Indie film, and in less time than it took to write with this email, I came up with 38 Problems. Thirty Eight. And that was easy. Read them. Ponder. Link. Distribute. Add to the list. To kill the beast, we must name the beast.

But the situation is worse than what I just wrote. If you missed it Hollywood Reporter did an article how even the A-list auteurs' star-filled agency-backed packages are failing to find US buyers at Cannes on Sunday:
http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/content_display/film/news/e3ibd965fb07c296111fd0b189f8ac38b39

And that's not the only one. Foreign sales acquisitions have fallen. Festival funding is drying up. Places to push the message out, like newspapers and magazines, are folding. And is anything taking their place? I have been twittering similar stuff for a long time. What? You are not on Twitter yet? Forget about what others have said; Twitter is a great filter, a curating tool. I have found a film project through it, music to listen too, art to see, books to read, and issues to respond to. Forget the folks who Twit about what they... eat. Follow the ones I follow. Heck, follow me. It's simple and free and I dig it.

It's funny. I wrote this blast for a clear reason. The title still sticks, even if the answer never made it to print. I have now gone on too long to burden you with such further details. That will have to be another blast. Or blog post (where you will miss it if you don't subscribe). I am sure you have some ideas for solutions, or evidence to the contrary. Let me know them. I will blast about them. Or I would be happy to have you post on any of the blogs. Let me know.

But don't despair. Trauma generally breeds action. As a species, we've generally demonstrated we don't act until the pain of the present becomes greater than the fear of the future and the unknown. I think we are there -- maybe not at the bottom, but with a little imagination we can now see the bottom or at least guess the depth. And there are reasons to look up (many of which have been chronicled on TFF): as has been said by others "The theatrical market is healthy; the economic model is not healthy.". A better delivery system has been found, albeit by the bootleggers, but hopefully someone -- and someone with a commitment for equal access and equal opportunity -- will learn how to monetize it.

In the meantime, please go see some films. Tell your friends, family, fans, and followers why you liked them. Tell them to see them. Curate. Facebook about them. Take culture into your hands. Bring people together. Tell the media you care about culture and want it covered.

Maybe come here me talk about all this stuff. I am doing an event 5/28 for NY Foundation For The Arts. Please come.

Thanks for reading. And watching. But don't fiddle. Our culture is burning.

Ted