It is no longer the dawn. We are now officially in the new era of a Truly Free Film Culture.
Yes, the business of indie film is back. The rapidity, volume, and consistency of deals blossoming ($30M and counting!) at Sundance should give investors more confidence that you no longer have to rely just on foreign; the US acquisition climate seems quite robust again. Whew. But the good news does not end there.
Indie Film has been infected by a new breed that -- like those that came before them -- refuses to ask for permission. But unlike the earlier wave, their go-get-them attitude doesn't stop at production, it extends into all the pillars of cinema -- from discovery and participation on through production, distro, appreciation, and presentation. The content, the form, the plans of cinema are not only for re-examination, but the rules have been thrown out. Time to get out of the way, and let the fresh air disrupt the stale space.
It is so happening in every which way. Yes, there are new stars, but also new ways of working. This Sundance there are plenty examples of "tribal filmmaking" (thanks to Brit Marling for that phrase) -- teams of collaborators, working together, and moving beyond single authorship. The web world calls this "collabs", but the spirit of this can be found in Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Sound Of My Voice, The Woods, and Another Earth. We will find more teams taking over in the days ahead -- and it is an incredibly refreshing antidote to the antiquated construct of pure "auteur" cinema.
New spirit is there in old bodies too. Kevin Smith's self-distribution plan recognizes the realities of the day. No one in indie film has used social media as well as Kevin Smith has. He understands clearly the need to eventize his picture, and he has done it well. Things started off with a bang at Sundance, and he plans to keep it going. He gave a nice lecture on his past and his plan for the future. In between the curses, he lays it out how he plans to go forward. His roadshow approach of teaming the local premieres with his live act is a value-add propisition that his million plus fan community hopefully can not resist.
Smith's Red State plan has the core indie value at it's heart. To me previously I only really saws this value in terms of content & production, but now has extended well beyond this. Indie refuses to ask others for permission. Smith makes movies his way -- as he learned what happens when he doesn't. He gets his fans the way his fans get him. It is not a one way street, but a true community. He might be divisive, but he is a model to follow. Perhaps, precisely because he is divisive!
The failure of corporate filmmaking to represent the world we live in, particularly compared to indie's success at that, is evident at fest like Sundance. It is also painfully drummed home by the Oscar noms, when all the Best Actress candidates hail from indie projects. As long as corporate filmmaking fails to offer realistic takes on women's lives, Indie Film will always thrive as a welcome alternative. Sundance must be acknowledged too as a tremendous generator of quality content; Sundance's responsibility in delivering 15 Oscar nominees is nothing short of mind-blowing. If the world was just, the Oscar would be renamed the Bob.
I left Sundance boosted and relieved. As great as it was to license our film to a top distributor for a significant profit, it is more the spirit launch that I seriously needed -- and that came from the individuals I got to meet with and hang out with. We are at time of change -- but as someone pointed out to me, what is so great about the now we are in, is that the new breed recognizes change as a constant. They will not take this moment for granted. They accept the fluidity of all. They recognize how the whole world must turn for that one leaf to fall. And they are okay with it.
We ARE going to work together to make this better. Whew!