Second teaser for our arty horror webseries- “The Phantoms Came To Meet Him” now in development!
First teaser for our arty horror webseries “The Phantoms Came To Meet Him”- now in development!
An Open Letter to the Film Industry (in rebuttal to George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, David Lynch, Steven Soderbergh, Martin Scorsese, John Sayles and honestly we forget who else there were so many):
Over the last few years we have been hearing the same old song and dance from a whole lot of you.
What are you people talking about you ask, eyebrows furrowed?
We’re talking about the ominous rumblings that the film industry is dead; that if you want to make films for a living (or at least break even on them) you can pretty much go kick rocks. At the same time we are also seeing other ways in which big people in the industry are reacting. More on that in a sec.
Who are we you ask? Oh nobody you would know. We’re the underground filmmakers, the no-budget indie people, the experimentalists, the freelance film critics and journalists who get all excited about people like Bela Tarr, Wang Bing, Claire Denis, Frans Zwartjes, Jia Zhang-ke and Lav Diaz. The young and drifting into middle-age nobodies. The 20-ish to 40-ish people.
So what specifically are we referring to?
David Lynch tells us the state of the film industry is “depressing”. Yeah? No shit Sherlock. We’ve known that for a long time- at least when it comes to what gets funding and distribution and what doesn’t. Spielberg and Lucas blathered on about an implosion of the film industry and $50 tickets. There was Soderbergh’s “State of the Film Industry” thing…. John Sayles did some interview where he said it’s all but impossible to make a living as an indie filmmaker now. Kentucker Audley of the wonderful site NoBudge wrote an article this year for Filmmaker Magazine wondering if filmmakers should just aim to be hobbyists. Spike Lee as we all know followed in the tradition of Zach Braff and Rob Thomas/Kristen Bell and took to crowdfunding platforms, not to support starving, talented young filmmakers, but to raise funding for their own work, despite millions of dollars that he and they’ve made in their careers. Lee, to add insult to injury published a list of must see films, which rivaled Paul Schrader’s 2006 “The Film Canon” for a generic, unimaginative, mostly Western-centric and a borderline racist, sexist viewpoint of what should be considered important in the culture of cinema.
Martin Scorsese was kind enough to hop aboard the bandwagon this week in his own “A Letter to My Daughter” where he takes an alternative to the gloom and doom people, by saying “the future is bright” and that he has hope because of this:
“I don’t want to repeat what has been said and written by so many others before me, about all the changes in the business, and I’m heartened by the exceptions to the overall trend in moviemaking – Wes Anderson, Richard Linklater, David Fincher, Alexander Payne, the Coen Brothers, James Gray and Paul Thomas Anderson are all managing to get pictures made, and Paul not only got The Master made in 70mm, he even got it shown that way in a few cities. Anyone who cares about cinema should be thankful.”
Yes- we should be hopeful about the future of cinema because of a bunch of well-established and occasionally talented Hollywood American filmmaker guys.
That’s cool. Well done. Very inspiring, Marty.
Now what were these other ways in which some other big film people are reacting? Well here’s one: last year Bela Tarr opened his Film Factory in Sarajevo. He was chatting with a couple of us in 2011 about it, saying it would be something like the Bauhaus group- in the sense that it would be a supportive environment for people to build with the tools needed- in this case to build films.
As Tarr describes it on the Film Factory site:
“It is in this context that we are seeking to demonstrate, emphatically and convincingly, the importance of visual culture and the dignity of the image to the coming generation of filmmakers. Our aspiration is to educate mature filmmakers who think responsibly, with the spirit of humanism, artists who have an individual outlook, an individual form of expression and who use their creative powers in the defence of the dignity of man within the reality that surrounds us. Probing questions concerning our outlook on the world and the state of our civilization must impact the work of the new programme of doctoral studies in Sarajevo.”
Hey that’s great, right? What’s the problem with that? Well there is this: the yearly tuition fee is 15.000 Euros- essentially pricing out all low income, underground and no-budget independent filmmakers- and therefore doing little to change filmmaking from being in Tarr’s words “a fucking bourgeois profession”.
NEWS FLASH! (and this first one is to the established folks)
You want things to be better? More good/interesting/brave films to be made? You want a healthy, thriving film industry? Perhaps a bright future for a new generation of filmmakers?
How about showing just a teensy-weensie bit of support for the unknown, starving, talented filmmakers, who need it right now? And no that doesn’t have to be money. It can be donating equipment, talking or writing about their work, helping to produce their films- there are many things that can be done to help.
Studios/Production companies? Stop hiring people with 12+ years of experience in development. Bring in new people that actually have some new ideas on things!
Start producing ultra-low budget films by new filmmakers- bring in new blood!
And for shit’s sake! Start making a film or two that an actual adult might want to see!
Programmers? Program films with some guts for a change! Get a clue and stop writing douchey articles like this one: “How To Fake Being an Indie Auteur” and start showing some attention to the people who are thoughtfully challenging narrative form and content.
Festivals? Stop prioritizing safe films by trust-fund filmmakers! Stop charging outrageous fees to filmmakers you have NO INTENTION of screening, because major companies do not back them!
Film magazines/sites/critics? Start talking about under-represented filmmakers!
In the 70’s and 80’s established filmmakers would donate stock to up-and-coming, gifted newbies! Wim Wenders/Jim Jarmusch/”Stranger Than Paradise”- remember that bit of film history?
Studios would give a shot to small budget films by kids out of film school with interesting ideas. Even into the 90’s people like Susan Sontag would champion the work of people like Fred Kelemen and Bela Tarr.
You want things to be better? Stop being self-serving and start making efforts to fix the overall culture and attitude of the film industry.
Start funding ultra-low budget, bold work by unknown new filmmakers.
Guess what? People know how to make feature films for under $20,000. Under $10,000 in fact! We can also think of countless daring, beautiful features that were made for less than $1,000 but never found distribution because the filmmakers didn’t have the money to promote them. And guess what? You don’t always need a screenplay to make a film deserving of an audience! So that whole censorship of the market thing? Let that shit die the death it deserved years ago.
Art/photo studio building owners? Loan out space to shoot in exchange for screen credit or filmmakers’ teaching classes for free (or some other barter-y kind of thing).
Start seeking out filmmakers in countries that have no film industry to speak of right now- there are so many people with so many worthwhile things to share if only given the chance.
Look- we understand that in some cases, things like Bela’s Film Factory are well intentioned- however they are still highly problematic and don’t address some of the root issues that are being faced by many filmmakers and artists right now.
And this news flash is to others like us- the starving, under-represented filmmakers: start lending a hand to each other as much as you can! Lend equipment. Act in someone’s film. Get naked if it means getting naked- what are you? A precious little puppy? ‘Fraid not! Same thing- actors! Be willing to do stuff that puts you outside your comfort zone (this goes for filmmakers too)! Do you know how to build a website or make a poster? Help some poor fool who doesn’t know CSS or Adobe Illustrator from a kick in the face.
Non-filmmakers who like films? See above and do what you can to help.
In short- right now “the film industry” doesn’t give one fuck about imprving things quite yet- so in the meantime let’s have each other’s backs. OK?
Oh and lastly- the film industry is NOT dead. It just needs to be brave and look after itself. Give itself a transfusion.
Scott Barley, (C.3.3.)
G.B. Jones, (Filmmaker)
Ming-Yu Lee, (Chill’m Guerrilla Cinema)
Matthew E. Carter, (Black Country Cinema)
Manjeet S. Gill, (Black Country Cinema)
Andrew J. Walker, (Black Country Cinema)
Juan Gabriel Gutiérrez, (Filmmaker, Cinekinosis)
Seth Fragomen, (Interior Mars Films)
Tomás Rogés, (Filmmaker)
(Please feel free to add your name in support, or join in discussion in the comments section- located at the top).