This past weekend I attended the Independent Film Forum, a yearly forum held about all things indie filmmaking. It’s filled with keynotes, case studies, market reports, networking opportunities and much more. It’s a great place to go to get an understanding of where things are currently in the indie film marketplace and also to meet others in the field.
Overall, the theme of this past weekend, as I saw it, was this:
Things are difficult for making independent films.
Even the keynote speaker opened his discussion with acknowledging how very poor his film did at the box office the previous night.
But things are also very exciting.
The entire marketplace is shifting right now and rediscovering itself, with new distribution platforms sprouting up constantly, making it easier than ever before to reach an audience.
But with that, comes the difficulty of being heard among the noise.
Is it just me or does it seem like there’s a constant stream of mindless content available everywhere you turn, all designed for the attention span of a three year-old? And does anyone else wonder why television is having a golden age but cinema remains mostly saturated with comic-book tales and 3D epics? Television is embracing complex, character-driven stories that audiences very clearly want to see. In my opinion, it’s time independent filmmaking caught up.
So, will there ever be a time that is “good” for independent filmmaking?
Chances are, probably not. The very nature of being independent implies a certain level of difficulty in that something is created outside the influence or control of others and in the film world, those “others” have a lot of control over theatrical distribution and exhibition. But with digital platforms, they do not. At least, not yet.
And yes, films are incredibly expensive to produce and money is hard to find. But was it ever being handed out or grown on trees? (It pains me sometimes to think about how many stories could be told, meaning films could be made, with $100 million dollars, which these days is just a third of a blockbuster’s budget but I shouldn’t get started…)
As an independent filmmaker, I believe we need to continue to try to make our character-driven films, despite the difficulties. There is an audience. One that perhaps don’t go to the theaters anymore because they want stories beyond the narrow offerings of box office blockbusters and consumer marketing opportunities. An audience who likely binge on cerebral episodic television but will come out to the theaters once again if we give them a good reason to.
As noted during a panel discussion at the forum, “It’s the wild wild west out there” in terms of independent film distribution.
And If that’s the case, then anything goes, so what better time for independent filmmaking to thrive?