Thursday, June 26, 2008

C'mon everyone - let's put on a BETTER show!

"Every generation has said the same f**king thing."
- John Carpenter in a recent Fangoria interview

You know, I recently read an article about a presentation by Mark Gill on the "Indie Film Crisis."

http://weblogs.variety.com/thompsononhollywood/2008/06/laff-mark-gill.html

In a nutshell his message boiled down to a few things:

1) The industry/outlook for indie films in horrible and will only get worse

2) There are too many movies being released, so...

3) What we need to do is make fewer indie films, but better ones

Hmmm....seems like I've heard all this before...at least three times.

When I co-owned a comic book store in the 90s, I heard the very same thing about "indie" comics. Marvel and DC were the "major studios" and along with a few second-tier big players were flooding the market with titles, targeted as putting out crap, squeezing out the indie guys, etc. Distribution was consolodating/tightening. Costs were rising. Profit margins were shrinking. All the same points as Mark's film talk. And it all boiled down to the same solution: we have to make less product, make less crap, and make "better" stuff.

I read similar rants about zines when I was dabbling in that self-publishing world. It was along the lines of "how do we get more respect and exposure and stop being seen as a bastard child of the comics or publishing markets?" The solution? To fight against the worsening distribution/general outlook for zines by not making so much crap and making sure we make better zines.

Then there were several bulletin board discussions about "microcinema"/shot-on-video movies several years ago. Same thing. The "big guys" (major movie productions as well as major chain video rental stores) continued to squeeze out the little guy and microcinema was seen by the masses as inferior to shot-on-film "real" movies. Jason Santo in fact wanted to create a "microcinema manifesto" that was basically the same solution as all of the above - decrease the volume of output and make "better" movies. Jason is a really nice guy by the way, but I disagreed with him on the whole "manifesto" thing.

Why?

Well, my main thing was, WHO is going to define "better?" Jason, who had his heart in the right place, was trying to collaboratively create a set of standards, that several of us microcinemamakers would all sign on to. Aside from how does microcinema survive in this cutthroat and getting-worse-everyday "industry," Jason was also stuck on the "how do we get more respect" angle.

We started with things like not using natural indoor lighting, never using a built-in camera microphone, etc., but a soon as it moved to non-technical issues, things got kind of gray.

Having made shameless b-movie schlock stuff, it seemed as if my stuff might not be seen as "good enough" within parameters of such a manifesto. If it spoke specifically about character development, and I just wanted to make an action packed, gore-soaked zombie flick, would that not be qualified as "better" product? The problem was that I knew there was an audience for a no-budget, minimal plot gorefest. However, making such a movie would only enforce the stereotype by the general public of microcinema as no-plot, no-budget, amateur backyard crap. So should I not make it?

I could go on about all sides of this issue, from the fact that it's a business business as well as an artistic business, to the fact that everyone has different tastes, as well as different motivations for making art or trying to sell it.

But the bottom line is that is seems like the same solution keeps coming up - "we've got to make less stuff and make better stuff!" But it never works - because the creators (filmmakers, comic book guys, zinesters, etc.) all have their own reasons for making their art. If they are in it for money, they'll keep doing what they think will make them money regardless if a person or committee or club think it's "good." If they are driven by a passion inside, they will make what their heart tells them, regardless of what the world thinks of it.

A market is a market and power is power; the public is fickle; different strokes for different folks; change is the only constant; blah blah blah.

Every generation has said the same f**king thing.

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