Robert Redford's new film is the decent kind of drama we've come to expect around April before all the real special effects fireworks start in May. What's actually interesting about The Company You Keep, for independent filmmakers, is the concept of what I like to call the "old-people ensemble," and it looks like a viable strategy in getting an independent film made.
Older actors still need to work, whether they need to keep their SAG benefits or sincerely enjoy the profession. One older actor certainly classes up an indie film, but include several older actors who used to carry movies, then you have an ensemble that grabs attention. The Company You Keep isn't the only film to employ this strategy as of late. Quartet and Best Exotic Marigold Hotel recently took advantage of employing the grey-haired set to much acclaim, the latter receiving two Golden Globe nominations. Think of it like Quentin Tarantino's strategy of employing washed-up actors from the '70cs.
Older film watchers are certainly an underserved market and respond to content about them with actors that look like them. The major complaint against older viewers is that they don't go out to the theaters. They may not do it in droves, but the numbers are up for older viewers. The MPAA released a study that found that the number of frequent moviegoers ages 50 to 59 increased in 2012, from 3.3 million from 3.1 million, and those in the 60-and-up age group rose to 4.6 million from 4.1 million. While those aren't huge gains, there is interest.
Also, more in this age range have finally mastered the concept of DVD and are moving on to streaming, which allows for them to easily access content. My parents just upgraded from dial-up to wireless a few weeks ago (I wish that was a joke, but it's not), so I know why studios and indie financiers would be hesitant to invest in a script that featured this age group. But to my parents' credit, and others like them, they're getting the hang of this new on-demand world, and they like it.
So filmmakers out there, consider stories that feature multiple older actors and you just might wind up with the talent to get your movie made and the press attention to get it into theaters. Like The Company You Keep, make sure it has plenty of stuff for old people to complain about -- they love to remember the good ol' days when journalists were noble and kids stayed off lawns.