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.

1000 True Fans

Kevin Kelly's articulation of survival on the long tail was one of the essential readings this year for anyone trying to figure out a new paradigm for Indie and Truly Free Filmmaking.  It may be old hat out in blogland, but it is a concept that still hasn't been discussed enough among indie filmmakers.  It promotes the notion that: 

A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author - in other words, anyone producing works of art - needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.
As a fan of a great deal of diverse artists, I regularly marvel at how musicians in particular do a good job of maintaining an ongoing dialogue with their fans.  Filmmakers, outside of Kevin Smith, don't seem to embrace this necessity.  I suppose it can be argued that prolific artists working in multiple formats, like Michel Gondry, do it well too.  The Safdie Brothers are another good example amongst the more emerging set.  But as Kelly points out:
The key challenge is that you have to maintain direct contact with your 1,000 True Fans. They are giving you their support directly. Maybe they come to your house concerts, or they are buying your DVDs from your website, or they order your prints from Pictopia. As much as possible you retain the full amount of their support. You also benefit from the direct feedback and love.
To ignore this advice and still hope for the industry to simply discover you and reward you, limits your options to mainstream tentpole pictures.  This may well be some filmmakers' dream, but they might as well plan to win the lottery.   What is so exciting is that there has never been a better time to plan on building the apparatus that allows you to be a Truly Free Filmmaker.  The tools to build your 1000 True Fan circle are there.  Kelly illuminates:
 The technologies of connection and small-time manufacturing make this circle possible. Blogs and RSS feeds trickle out news, and upcoming appearances or new works. Web sites host galleries of your past work, archives of biographical information, and catalogs of paraphernalia. Diskmakers, Blurb, rapid prototyping shops, Myspace, Facebook, and the entire digital domain all conspire to make duplication and dissemination in small quantities fast, cheap and easy. You don't need a million fans to justify producing something new. A mere one thousand is sufficient.
... This small circle of diehard fans, which can provide you with a living, is surrounded by concentric circles of Lesser Fans.

I have frequently feared that it is the dream of stardom and wealth that fuels both the indie production cycle and film school enrollment lists.  Maybe that is because the possibility of survival and being a true artist seemed so impossible.  But that does not have to be so, if you invest some time and energy in building your own support system.

Young artists starting out in this digitally mediated world have another path other than stardom, a path made possible by the very technology that creates the long tail. Instead of trying to reach the narrow and unlikely peaks of platinum hits, bestseller blockbusters, and celebrity status, they can aim for direct connection with 1,000 True Fans. It's a much saner destination to hope for. You make a living instead of a fortune. You are surrounded not by fad and fashionable infatuation, but by True Fans. And you are much more likely to actually arrive there.

Any way, read the article and take it to heart.  And for those of you who already know this gospel, please help to promote the word.

A Moral Imperative To Articulate Our Path

"I think there is a moral imperative to articulate our path towards something better. Not to leave it a vague post-modernist muddle. Not to shirk from the complexity and realities of costs. And not even to expect everyone to consent."

I was catching up and reading Kevin Kelly's great blog The Technium. Although his post "The Missing Near Future" was about this world in general and all the various problems facing us, it is equally true about the state of independent film worldwide.  His quote above could be our  new mantra: we have to all articulate a plan.

Read Kelly's NYTimes Mag article from 11/24/08 "Becoming Screen Literate" where he futurecasts the requirements and results of a world awash in screen ubiquity.  I particularly look forward to image data search he sees a few years away:
With full-blown visuality, I should be able to annotate any object, frame or scene in a motion picture with any other object, frame or motion-picture clip. I should be able to search the visual index of a film, or peruse a visual table of contents, or scan a visual abstract of its full length. But how do you do all these things? How can we browse a film the way we browse a book?

There's a lot of effort going on to blaze the path into the new future for film.  I would have loved to have attended the MIT "Futures Of Entertainment" Conference.  IndieWIRE ran a good story on it, focusing particularly on the "collaborative filmmaking" movement that they have also covered well in the past.