Sunday, May 10, 2009

The State of Things


Last night I was watching "Frozen River" the indie film starring Melissa Chessington Leo in a breath taking performance of a single women raising two boys. I was a bit saddened to see that she did not get the academy award for her performance in the film. I hope to see her someday again real soon in another film. But this is not really about the film "frozen River" or Melissa Chessington Leo performance. Instead it's about indie film in general.

There are so many other people out there who have more experience in this train of thought then I do, but since I did make a film, and have tried to get it shown I figured I could add my voice to all those other voices. As many of you who know I'm not a fan of the "mumblecore" films. In fact I just don't see how these films make any money at all. I see films like Susan Buice's and Arin Crumley's film "Four Eyed Monsters" and admire the work they put into that particular film. I even bought the first pressing of the DVD because I missed it when it was playing here in Philly. And there is the point. How does one make a film and make any money back when we live in a society where we are bombarded with so much information, and product?

I'm a married guy with two boys who has a day job that keeps him busy. I do live in a metropolitan city where art films do come, but can I afford a train ride to and from where I live, the price of a ticket, and a meal all to see an indie film that I know I'll enjoy, but be tapped out after seeing it. Why not just rent a movie from one of the DVD kiosks that have popped up in many local supermarkets. There it's about a buck a night, and I can watch it in my own home. Of course that would be after the kids are asleep, and that's if the lady of the house isn't too tired from her day also. Because lets face it seeing a movie alone especially a indie film is no fun alone. But I digress I guess. This is about "indie" films making money.

"Frozen River" was distributed by Sony Pictures Classic, and guess what their no longer a company. According to box office the film made a little over 2 million. After seeing the film I have strong doubts that the film ever showed a profit, but i could be wrong. I haven't seen the DVD sales, and I'm sure the DVD marketing is touting the movies theatrical release. Again It's a GREAT little film, but how do you make a film like this and make ANY money. "Slumdog" hit the jackpot, but that was a studio hyped film. It had a slow roll out and the company saw it had legs and so it struck more prints, and then went national. One film out of who knows makes it, and that's even very optimistic.

So again how do we as filmmakers make ANY money off our work. The Internet is an answer, but again a lot of the studios have co-oped the marketing and selling of films here on the net. Niche film making is good, and profitable, but you need to make sure that your product isn't more then your overhead. There are some filmmakers out there that are doing it, but I actually question a lot of their figures. The film business is not known for its transparency. In fact it hides its stats and figures like a close guarded secret.

I've wrestled with continuing on in my film making endeavors, and I really don't know what I'll do. I keep moving forward, and I grow weary of the game. It's all about perspective I guess, and priorities. I still have a deep love for film making, and would like to do some more films, but there are other things in life that I love doing, and I don't want to ignore them. Is all this "indie" talk just BS?, or is it something that may transform "indie" film making. Maybe that something will propell indie film making into a new direction, and onto a new plateau. As for right now I still think some interesting films are being made, but is there an audience who will go and see these films? The answer for me is that there isn't, and the business is transforming into something else. Everyone is trying to second guess what that is, but I don't believe anyone knows.

I still think Coppola was right about the farm girl in Idaho making something on her laptop that will blow distributors and audiences minds. It's being done everyday, but in what shape or form is any body's guess. Well that's my two cents, and for what it's worth I'd like to believe something unique is coming and that it will propel cinema into a new stratosphere of creativity and story telling. How cool would that be? We shall see.

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