A Wakeup to the “Awe(some/ful) Future” of Indy Filmmaking

Screen shot From Uproxx.comThere’s some fun and evocative smack talking going on over at Uproxx.com that caught my attention:

“Granted, some of this is entirely the fault of the indie film scene itself, which is always rife with idiocy, and these days is basically celebrating incompetence because competence is just too Hollywood, man. The hot movement, mumblecore, seriously got its name from the fact that the filmmakers lacked the technical competence to point a microphone at an actor’s mouth. And “The Room” and “Birdemic” are epic train wrecks well beyond just your standard bad movie, although they’re still better than anything the mumblecore movement craps out.

But that’s the thing. You no longer need technical competence to achieve the two main goals of indie filmmaking: getting into the pants of disaffected hot people, or making boatloads of cash. And this is both a great thing and a problem.”

The article changes tone later in the piece to basically read “don’t get me wrong, there’s gonna be a lot of good stuff to watch, but you’ll just have to wade through the bad…” But I say too little too late – it’s tough to claim both sides of the fence.

You know what else I say? I say bring it on. You know why I say it? Because we have to.

I’m bored with the industry rhetoric around keeping something like film making “pure”. It might be a convenient thing to say if you’re struggling to keep your seat at the table, but isn’t it sort of boring? It would be one thing if people claimed fear. That’s legit. “Hey man, I’m scared for the future because it means I have to do X, Y, and Z.” I buy that. It’s scary for lots of people. But to claim “this just isn’t how it’s supposed to be” is complete bullshit.

I’ve hustled my way into a reasonable spot on the food chain for more than a decade. Perhaps so have you. And I think it’s fair to cite “competence” if you’re there. That’s a requirement for any sort of staying power. It’s the “price of admission” as I’ve said before. And honestly, I’m sure you’d agree, it would be just peachy if I could sit back in the comfortable position and ride some magic carpet into fame and fortune, without change, without fear and struggle, without arrows coming at me. But it ain’t like that. It’s the whole enchilada, the whole range of emotions, the whole range of human experience. So call me crazy: isn’t trying to keep filmmaking in some ivory tower sort of like trying to juggle water?

It sounds exactly like the argument a certain cross-section of photographers made when things “went digital” about 10 years ago. So many cried foul. “Now anyone with a camera can be a photographer!” But isn’t that the point? There is and will always be several tiers within any given industry. That’s the nature of industry. What are the alternatives? Not to make films or take photos so people don’t get inspired? Don’t make better technology? Don’t share information? On the contrary, we must live with the ever-quickening conveyor belt.

In fairness, this shift in the marketplace is certainly affecting some industry folk, and I’m sad that some will be hurt by the shifting landscape. But trying to preserve a golden time in history should not be the mission. The mission is about doing what you can do to elevate things, and about pushing on. The mission is to celebrate the good parts of what the future brings, to shape it as you can, to work hard, to give to it. Because–last time I checked–the future is unavoidable.

If anybody feels in harm’s way with the changing landscape, there are plenty of other lines of work. But if I may say so–without being too bold–I can pretty much guarantee that those other industries are not immune. They are being forced to innovate, stay fresh and stay nimble to differentiate their product from the next guy’s product. If you somehow think those other industries might sit around and wait for you any more than the photo or filmmaking industry will, you’d better think twice.

35 Responses to A Wakeup to the “Awe(some/ful) Future” of Indy Filmmaking

  1. spencerpdx June 3, 2010 at 1:25 pm #

    And when the establishment is remaking the Karate Kid vs. new, exciting content, then they deserve to be taken down by one ankle-biter at a time.

  2. Nick Bicanic June 3, 2010 at 1:26 pm #

    Great summary and position on the subject. I agree with the points you have made from “Bring it on,” right down to your compassion to folk who may feel they are in harms way. I have recently joined the ranks of full time photog and once that happened, I found a local group keeping a watchful eye on me and a close neighbor, who too is emerging since moving from BC to Ontario. This “Big Brother” whom I feel are threatened by what we are producing really have great work! My answer is not that we are better, because they are every bit as unique as us, but that as times change so should we, hence why I am now implementing your part three Chase, “Share.” I didn’t learn by people hiding secrets, but instead by those who shared with me and for those who are fearful of this changing industry, I too am trying to help them see that they have every opportunity as anyones else does. Jim Rohn once said the same wind blows on us all, it is the setting of your sail which determines your future.

    Thanks Chase.

  3. Aaron @allstarstudios June 3, 2010 at 1:31 pm #

    Well said. Embracing the digital revolution along with social media and the likes is ‘the new photography’. Being willing to make changes with the industry proves ‘staying power’ and passion. Thanks Chase!

  4. Clark Dever June 3, 2010 at 1:47 pm #

    Right on Chase, The beauty of the democratization of art is that it rids the world of a boring and dangerous monoculture. Digital technologies have been paradigm shifting in almost any arena they touched. I can’t wait to see the explosion of diversity that will be generated in the creative fields over the next decade. Innovative techniques and styles will rise to the surface (think HDR) and may become slightly cliche, but they will broaden the horizon for the next generation of creatives. The iterative nature of evolution is more fun to watch when it’s sped up to digital cycle times!

  5. Kimberly June 3, 2010 at 1:49 pm #

    Truth. Thank you for saying it. I find the most value in your words when you’re pushing us. Thanks for that (the other things you share – ideas, resources, etc. are all appreciated too – but the push, that’s gold).

  6. Chase June 3, 2010 at 1:51 pm #

    I agree with spencerpdx – the art of cinema is not who can make the best version of, rather than, what can be brought to the table.

    One side of the coin says those arguments are interchangeable, but one glance through slashfilm.com and you see what I am talking about.

    Part of the glory of learning to be competent is the fun it takes to get there. You may never start out thinking your making the next piece of awesome, but you never know unless you just follow YOUR dream.

  7. Lane Moss June 3, 2010 at 2:07 pm #

    Well said, Chase.

    I hope I am never in the school that wishes the industry to exist for the sake of preservation as opposed to innovation/adaptation. It seems that would be the step just before collapse. That said, I think it is easy for us to talk a big game on our side because we are, in a sense, the “Johnny-come-latelies” with the newfangled inventions and the desire to see things advanced according to what’s available to us. I have to believe that the people arguing for the purity and preservation of what they believe film/photography/art-in-general should be were not always that way, but rather that it was a slow and steady process of fear and pride. I hope I always remain humble and bold enough to welcome change in the industry I am blessed to be a part of.

  8. jen berry June 3, 2010 at 2:35 pm #

    regardless of the medium in the end it is the Indian and not the arrow. It is the content and the connection with the subject to viewer. This comes to a true filmmaker no matter the tool used. True Talent always prevails in the end. Well said Chase. This has been a topic on my film sets for a long time now and some DP’s are embracing it while others are turning a shoulder.

  9. Jonny June 3, 2010 at 2:58 pm #

    Interesting post.

    The reality is that ‘the industry’, trends, public interest, and technology as a whole doesn’t really give a shit who it hurts, and who loses their job when things morph yet again in unpredictable ways. Either we don’t change and become irrelevant, plod along with the industry and be equally irrelevant, or fight tooth and nail to try to stay ahead of the industry through innovation.

    Even those who work hard still run the risk of ultimately becoming irrelevant before ever even becoming truly relevant in the first place, and I suppose i’m ok with that.

    Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks anyways. My own personal philosophy on life is this: If you aren’t having fun, your doing it wrong.

  10. Bruko June 3, 2010 at 3:43 pm #

    I totlly agree with what you say, hall I’m one of those who cold become a photographer just because photography became accessibile to the masses.
    Still I understand what he says a little. I think the problem is the fact that man people now think they don’t need to learn how to’ use a camera, how to learn to use light, because they think they’ll get away with it.
    And the problem is that If they something to’ say it is true, it doesn’t really matter. But when there isn’t any intention behind an image (moving or still),

  11. Bruko June 3, 2010 at 3:45 pm #

    …at lesa If there is some techinque behind it it hurts a little less.
    (I hate typing on my iPad)

  12. Richard June 3, 2010 at 3:45 pm #

    I agree completely, and commented right after you on that page. Pfft, “purists”…

  13. Jason @ Filmmaking Stuff June 3, 2010 at 11:10 pm #

    I think this is the best thing to happen for indie filmmakers. I don’t care what kind of movie you make – you can now create your own movie business. And this is far better than just hoping for the next picture.

  14. Eric Naslund June 3, 2010 at 11:32 pm #

    I foresee independent movie houses popping up in the next ten.

  15. Tauno June 4, 2010 at 5:37 am #

    Thank you for putting it down.

    Somehow it is inevitable, change is, future is. In that context it is so weird how most of the time human nature leaves the impression that past is better than present or future. I count it to the fear factor, fear to live ones life to the full extent which again is just so stupid. Why one living being needs this self-preservation if it disables most of us to see and be what we could be.

  16. Donnie Bell Design June 4, 2010 at 6:33 am #

    It’s a great thing when little films can get national attention and anyone can be a movie maker. But, I agree with your article when you say it needs to be competent. It seems like a majority of indie films are just being made to be contrary, with no direction, focus or point. It’s fine if you want to be outside the mainstream, but make something worth watching.

  17. Claudio June 4, 2010 at 2:14 pm #

    Perfectly said Chase. I couldn’t agree more. The analogy with “when things went digital” was great. I remember those days, and remember being criticized by other photographers for not using using film, etc. These days, the guys that said that they were only going to shoot with film are not working anymore. If Ansel Adams was present today I bet that he too would take advantage of as many new tools and techniques as he could to achieve his vision. Evolution, new technology, and ultimately change is inevitable. Why not embrace it and run with it. Have fun! Experiment?

  18. Ryan Smith June 5, 2010 at 1:50 pm #

    As my friend often says, “Grow or die.”

  19. caroline June 10, 2010 at 6:12 am #

    I don’t think it’s about keeping film in an ‘ivory tower’, exactly. I think he’s more lamenting a lack of even basic quality that some are pumping out. Less that they’re inching in on our piece of the pie, and more that they don’t even seem to care enough about the product they’re putting out to make sure the lines they’ve written are audible. I’ll forgive production quality for a great concept, but you’ve gotta have at least one or the other.

    The upside to the rise in user generated content, and easy availability, is that now you get to see more great ideas. There’s less obstacles in the way of creation and distribution. The downside is that because it’s so easy to create content and send it out to the world, people will put out anything without much thought. So there’s more crap to weed through to get to the good stuff.

    Ultimately, I think the good stuff that does get through is worth the crap.

    • Rob July 4, 2010 at 2:27 pm #

      I am glad technology has pushed filmmaking but at the same time people have become so obsessed with it that they forget that they should learn some other vital skills. Basic skills like a structured screenplay means nothing to some filmmakers. Filmmaking is about telling a story and just because you can rack focus and dazzle me with good cinematography does not mean its going to be a good movie. It can be very exhausting trying to push through the filth as an audience member to find something that is actually watchable. I understand nowadays everyone wants the title of “artist” but I am getting tired of people saying “you don’t understand my art” as a way to not tell a good story. Great stories come from great writers. Great movies come from great screenplays.

      • John March 6, 2012 at 10:11 am #

        Movies aren’t just about stories. In fact, the “story” or plot is probably the least important element. If you spend all of that time and all of those resources just to “Tell a good story”, you have completed wasted the art form and everyone’s time.

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