Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Martin



I've talked about this film before, and how much I admire George Romero as a filmmaker & storyteller, so after looking at it again and hearing the commentary which is on the DVD I seem to have found a fondness for the film that I didn't have before. Long ago Romero once talked about "regional filmmaking", and that more and more of it would happen in the future. No one could have predicted that the tools to film-making would become less and less expensive thereby empowering a whole new generation of film-makers. But instead of it becoming a regional phenomenon, it has become a world wide phenomenon based largely on the internet. In the 60's the portable cameras such as the Eclair ushered in a wave of in-the-street film-making that was not seen ever. Film-makers were not tethered to the studio, and instead they had more portability thereby making the outside world their own studio. Today film-making has become much more portable, and less expensive. No longer do you need to spend large sums of money on film stock and processing. Today it's all about HD, and digital. Already Hollywood and mainstream film-makers are jumping on the digital bandwagon. In a market that has become quite diverse, and fractured into thousands of niche type films digital seems the only cost effective route to go. As technology gets better and better filmmaking will become all digital, and film will become a distant memory. It's already beginning in today's schools where students are no longer taught on film, but instead on digital because it is cost effective. I still believe personally film will be around for some time, but the writing is on the wall, and film production will be relegated to more expensive productions that will market their film towards people who think of film as quality. After all digital movies can be produced for much less and can be quickly produced then if they were shot on film. Quantity is NOT quality, and it's something we saw in the 80's during the videocassettes revolution. In the 80's there was a hunger for product, any product that could get itself onto tape. Some of these films were original shot on video, and the quality suffered. They were quick slice 'em & dice'em films that were hastily put together, and it showed. Distributors paid good money for these films, but the consumer soon caught on, and then started to look for films that said "shot on film".

The same thing is happening now to some extent. There is a lot of product that is shot on DV, and some of it's really innovative, and good looking, but there is a lot of garbage out there too. In time consumers catch on, and quickly the market begins to change. So what has all this have to do with the film "Martin"?

Martin was released as a regional film. Meaning the film was released in several different regions at different times. I believe they called it a "limited" release. As soon as the film closed in one region it would open in another. This was due to the releasing company being able to have only a certain amount of prints available at one time. Films like "Martin", or "Eraserhead" had to have word of mouth to succeed, and they were given a bigger window to succeed in. Now films have shorter life cycles, and usually if the film has poor word of mouth a film is usually taken out of the theaters and relegated to DVD, where suprisingly enough it can have a second life. "Martin became a midnight cult film, when there was a market for midnight films. Today there is little market for such films. There may be a revival of sorts of these films in today's market, but in no way have they caught on the way they once did. A "Rocky Horror Picture Show" if it were released today would find more success in the DVD market then it would in the theater.

Martin was a predecessor of things to come. Romero shot with a small crew, and cast friends and family in his film. All were professionals, and had worked in theater, and or commercial spots, but all were friends of the film-maker. This is what we're seeing now. Friends and family doing there own thing, and creating films that would ordinarily not see the light of day. With equipment becoming less and less expensive we are seeing not "regional film-making", but global film-making. There is no need to go through the distribution avenues of the past when one can almost try and market it one's self. This is no easy task, but then the stakes are lower too. Someone will eventually do something so unique that the industry will sit up and take notice. After that it will be copied, and marketed to death until it becomes no longer the "in" thing to watch, but by then there will be something new that will take its place. There have been blips on the radar screen to confirm all this. "The Blair Witch Project", and or "Bubble" are all examples of films that a small in scope, but have been given wider notice due to the way they were marketed.

I guess that's what I see Martin as a precussor to all this DV film-making, and it still inspires me. I'm in love with the idea of a few people who love cinema putting together a film and getting it out there, and not because they want to be famous but because they have a great story to tell. I love the idea of film-makers creating because they love the medium, and that they have a special love for it. It's sort of reminds me what a certain bunch of film-makers who were making films on the streets of France in the 50's and 60's. They were doing it for the love of cinema, and thinking second about the market. It's usually how great films are created, and some day I hope to do at least one good film that resonates with others as they did with their films. I can only hope, and continue to do what I love to do, and that is make films.

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