Author Topic: future of indie filmmaking  (Read 7953 times)

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grand theft sparrow

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Re: future of indie filmmaking
« Reply #30 on: July 05, 2006, 12:21:50 PM »
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also: hbo just aired some thing about Boffo!  Box Office something or other i am also going to watch.


Don't expect anything spectacular in that one.  There's very little in it that won't make you say, "I already know this," or, "Who cares?"

Split Infinitive

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Re: future of indie filmmaking
« Reply #31 on: July 05, 2006, 01:22:34 PM »
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I'm not surprised the initial reaction to TCM's new documentary is underwhelming. When I first saw the commercial, I was excited by what filmmakers TCM was finally taking notice of, but when I saw the guidelines for inclusion in the documentary, I felt they were too general to be interesting. This film will likely be just a short biography of filmmakers I already know.
I sort of feel the same way -- I have a hard time thinking of Paul Haggis and Ang Lee as independent filmmakers at this point in their careers, though I suspect the documentary's coverage of earlier independent films may cover more... uh... independent films.
Please don't correct me. It makes me sick.

grand theft sparrow

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Re: future of indie filmmaking
« Reply #32 on: July 05, 2006, 02:04:49 PM »
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I'm not surprised the initial reaction to TCM's new documentary is underwhelming. When I first saw the commercial, I was excited by what filmmakers TCM was finally taking notice of, but when I saw the guidelines for inclusion in the documentary, I felt they were too general to be interesting. This film will likely be just a short biography of filmmakers I already know.
I sort of feel the same way -- I have a hard time thinking of Paul Haggis and Ang Lee as independent filmmakers at this point in their careers, though I suspect the documentary's coverage of earlier independent films may cover more... uh... independent films.

In the technical sense, they are very much independent filmmakers.  They raised their money for their most recent films from the ground up.  Of course, it helps that they both have worked in Hollywood for years but, in the same way that George Lucas is an independent filmmaker, so are they.  Independent doesn't mean you had to suffer to raise your money.  You just don't have it thrown at you.

The problem is when we think of the term "independent," we think Stranger Than Paradise or Pi or She's Gotta Have It, movies that came from nowhere with no familiar names of any kind, funded by credit cards and grandmothers.  But in reality, anyone who doesn't get their money from WB, Paramount, Disney, Universal or Fox is independent.

That all being said, the only production stories that will be of value to anyone like us are the ones from guys like Jarmusch or Aronofsky, which most of us know already.  I'm looking forward to watching this but I think that it's going to be exactly what GT said.  Interesting but nothing new.  However, people in our parents' generation and older (the ones that aren't film geeks, that is) will possibly get something out of it.

MacGuffin

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Re: future of indie filmmaking
« Reply #33 on: October 15, 2006, 11:14:44 AM »
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Survival Tips for the Aging Independent Filmmaker
By JOHN CLARK; NY Times

JON JOST might be considered the epitome of the aging, alienated and aggrieved independent film director. He is sitting in a borrowed New York apartment in hand-me-down clothes, doesn’t have a place to live and has no visible means of support, other than a coming arts residency at the University of Nebraska.

“Most people from my generation became teachers long ago,” Mr. Jost said.

For the past four decades Mr. Jost, 63, has been making films on shoestring budgets with no-name casts that almost nobody outside of European film festivals ever sees. Perhaps the closest he has come to popular awareness was “All the Vermeers in New York” (1990). Since then he spent a decade in Europe toiling away in relative obscurity. From 1972 to 1976, he lived in Montana, where he scrounged from garbage cans and lived with a single mother and her daughter in one room with no heat or running water.

In 2004, he stayed in Newport, Ore., at the house of one of the actresses he cast in his most recent film, “Homecoming,” which he is still trying to find a festival home for domestically — forget about distribution. His income, such as it is, comes principally from selling DVD’s of his work on the Internet. He now lives in Lincoln, Neb.

“I can’t say I’m happy not making a living after 40 years in the business,” Mr. Jost said. “I’m not independently wealthy. I’m independently poor.”

Mr. Jost’s plight and perseverance constitute an extreme version of the mostly sideways career path followed by many of the generation of independent filmmakers who made a splash in the late 1980’s and early 90’s. When these directors, mostly now in their 40’s and 50’s, got started, the indie business was full of mom-and-pop operations with nickel-and-dime aspirations. Now the corner stores have been edged out by studio specialty divisions with far larger appetites and needs. Geoffrey Gilmore, the director of the Sundance Film Festival, said that in the early 90’s an independent film was considered a hit if it grossed $1 million. Now it’s $25 million.

These elevated expectations have proved to be a problem for many (though not all) of the filmmakers who chose to stay close to their indie roots, as opposed to, say, Bryan Singer (“The Usual Suspects” to “X-Men”) and Christopher Nolan (“Memento” to “Batman Begins”).

Today, to keep working, these filmmakers need stars.

“The biggest change has been the casting,” said Mary Harron (“I Shot Andy Warhol”), 49. “We had a free hand until Hollywood stars became interested. It’s a huge problem. We used to be able to draw from a large pool.”

The producer Ted Hope (“American Splendor”) seconded that notion. “Just to get above $2 million you have to cast certain names,” he said. “Ten or 15 years ago you could make a film for $1 million and get a release. Specialized distribution has now become a science. They’re not looking for singles.”

Mr. Hope added that singles hitters like Hal Hartley (“The Unbelievable Truth”) and Todd Solondz (“Welcome to the Doll House”) have also had a hard time because their audiences have dropped away, though both have films coming up (Hartley’s is “Fay Grim,” Solondz’s is untitled). They might be stars in the indie world, Mr. Hope said, but audiences just won’t flock to a Jim Jarmusch film for an anomie fix or to a Solondz movie for a dose of discomfort (or disorientation).

“If I were starting out now, I would be a producer for the Internet,” Mr. Hope said.

As he suggested, it’s tough for longtime producers of indie films too. Christine Vachon, who has worked for years with indie filmmakers like Mr. Solondz, Ms. Harron and Todd Haynes (“Far From Heaven”), said the struggle to get money for three of her most recent films, Mr. Haynes’s “I’m Not There,” Tommy O’Haver’s “American Crime” and Tom Kalin’s “Savage Grace,” was “soul deadening.” She said that some of this agony is a consequence of a conservative cultural climate that resists experimentation, a thesis she elaborates on in her new book, “A Killer Life: How an Independent Film Producer Survives Deals and Disasters in Hollywood and Beyond.”

Comparing the landscape now with the 90’s, she said, “it feels like a different cultural environment.”

The director Finn Taylor (“The Darwin Awards”) pointed to a new aesthetic conformity. “I feel like the indie genre has developed the same predictable subgroups that the studios have,” he said. “Screenwriters play it structurally safe: interconnectivity of stories, time shifts, following quirky characters.”

Of course the movie business, no matter what the scale, is inherently unstable, and so are the people in it. Mr. Gilmore said that there is an indie equivalent of box office poison, “a person who takes a script that has sex appeal and turns it into something marginal, esoteric.”

It’s also true that a director’s interests change as he or she gets older; audiences may or may not follow, but the filmmaker’s vision is almost always guaranteed to require a larger canvas and more money.

“If you’re in your 40’s, you’re going to do a movie that’s more expensive than what you made in your 20’s,” said Mr. Taylor, who is 48. “The story you want to tell is bigger.”

In some ways, then, independent filmmaking may be a young person’s game. It is certainly easier when there is no family to support. And pulling together projects can be debilitating, especially now that budgetary thresholds, casting requirements and narrative norms must be met. Mr. Taylor said that one reason he has never had a family is that these demands are so all consuming.

“I’ve been engaged, had long-term girlfriends,” he said. “But making films has taken a lot of my time. It’s hard to maintain a relationship. For me it would have been difficult to pull off the nuclear-family thing. My crew is my family.”

Mr. Jost said, “It precludes you from having a life so that you can make movies that might be of interest.”

Mr. Taylor said he had managed to get by between projects with money he has been given by studios to develop scripts. The indie-film godfather John Sayles (“Return of the Secaucus Seven”) takes frequent jobs as a script doctor for other people’s films, just because they pay the bills. Other filmmakers, like the documentarian D. A. Pennebaker, eke out a living from the royalties on their earlier work. Mr. Pennebaker said that he and his partner Richard Leacock for years lived off the proceeds of their music documentaries “Don’t Look Back” and “Monterey Pop.”

“They kept us in business,” said Mr. Pennebaker, now 81. “Still do. How we made it through the 70’s is a mystery to me. I don’t know how we survived.”

Some filmmakers have managed to find work between work, notably on cable. Alan Poul, a “Six Feet Under” producer, used to troll Sundance for quirky talent, and has hired, among others, Ms. Harron, Lisa Cholodenko, Rose Troche, Michael Cuesta, Miguel Arteta and Nicole Holofcener. The producer Tom Fontana has cherry-picked indie filmmakers for his television projects, including “Homicide: Life on the Street” and “Oz.”

“I like doing television,” said Ms. Harron, who added that she didn’t know where she would be without it. “I’ve learned so much from it technically. I enjoy doing something that isn’t mine. And it’s only a month.”

Ms. Harron, who has directed “Oz” as well as “The L Word” and “Big Love” for cable television, said she enjoyed the process. Working within established aesthetic parameters, with actors who know their characters better than she does, is, she says, a “corrective” for director’s ego.

Another filmmaker who has found both a lucrative and technically satisfying way to make a living outside his chosen profession is the documentarian Errol Morris. Over the past decade, in addition to winning a best documentary Oscar for “The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons From the Life of Robert S. McNamara,” he became what he describes as “an unlikely avatar of American business.” In other words he directs commercials for Apple, Toyota, AT&T and Miller Brewing while making movies about mole-rat specialists and Holocaust deniers.

“It’s indeed shocking,” said Mr. Morris, 58. “I only wish I’d discovered advertising years earlier. I’ve gotten into financial trouble over the years.”

Mr. Morris is one of the few independent filmmakers who have benefited from the turns the business has taken over the past two decades. When he first started out, in the late 70’s, there was hardly an audience for documentaries and very few theatrical distributors of them. At one point he stayed afloat by working as a private detective in New York. Now of course, in part because of the success of his films (“The Thin Blue Line”), documentaries are the darlings of the indie world.

Still, they won’t make Mr. Morris rich. Advertising may. It has also contributed to his skill set and the content of his films. On a Reebok commercial he got to indulge his interest in “shooting the world at alternate speeds” by playing with a high-speed digital camera.

“Will I use that in my next movie?” he asked. “You betcha.”

Mr. Morris is also not above using locations required by his advertising work to further his documentary aims. He said that for “The Fog of War” he needed to shoot a B-29. The only one available was appearing at an air show in Rockford, Ill., so he asked his agent to get him a commercial in nearby Chicago. He did, for Quaker Oats, and the company has since become a steady client.

Some indie filmmakers also find advertising work in new media: Mr. Gilmore said he knew independent filmmakers who direct clips for cellphones and the Internet. Of course the indie business tends to attract the kind of people who do what they do precisely because they despise commercial filmmaking of any sort.

“I have thus far resisted taking jobs in those venues,” the 57-year-old director Terry Zwigoff (“Ghost World”) said via e-mail. “Directing something that is to appear on a cellphone or MP3 player?” he continued. “I would be hard pressed to come up with something more hateful.”

Almost none of these filmmakers, no matter how hard up they are, are willing to be a hired gun on a studio project. Unlike actors, who can spend a few months on a film and then move on, a director must remain committed for years, and many indie filmmakers believe life is too short for that. At the same time, the 40-something director John Curran (“We Don’t Live Here Anymore,” the coming “Painted Veil”) conceded that “as you get older, your definition of selling out changes.” He added, “It’s nobody’s ambition to remain independent. It’s to work with a major studio while keeping your project intact.”

Obviously the ideal would be to make a big score on a small movie. Ms. Vachon, perhaps reflecting the view of many of her filmmakers, is looking for that score, but on her own terms. In the meantime she and Mr. Hope and others like them provide “constant motion,” as she puts it, for aging filmmakers too stubborn, too proud and too passionate to give up.

“I’ve spent my life being left out,” Mr. Jost said. “I’d like to stop, but it’s what I do.”
“Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” - Andy Warhol


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pete

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Re: future of indie filmmaking
« Reply #34 on: October 15, 2006, 10:31:11 PM »
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aw that Jon Jost.  I was a big fan of him in film school.  he's got something in him that makes his images more engaging than the rest of the experimental lyrical boys.  however, he gets annoying sometimes with his alternating self-pity and self-love.  I mean, I hate conventional narrative structures too, but this guy pretty much dismisses anything with a "plot" as cliched melodrama.
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MacGuffin

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Re: future of indie filmmaking
« Reply #35 on: November 09, 2006, 12:52:58 PM »
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Sundance taps six for mobile film project
Source: Hollywood Reporter

NEW YORK -- Six Sundance Film Festival alumni directors have been commissioned by the Sundance Institute and mobile phone operator trade group GSM Assn. to create five short films designed for mobile phones, Institute president and founder Robert Redford said Wednesday.

Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris ("Little Miss Sunshine"), Justin Lin ("Better Luck Tomorrow"), Maria Maggenti ("Puccini for Beginners"), Cory McAbee ("The American Astronaut") and Jody Hill ("The Foot Fist Way") have been tapped to create three- to five-minute low-budget original shorts as part of the Sundance Film Festival Global Short Film Project. The films will premiere in February at the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona.

"These will be big stories for the small screen," said John Cooper, Sundance Film Festival director of programming and Sundance Institute creative director.

The films are expected to be circulated by World Congress attendees, though later they will be available for download on the Sundance and GSMA Web sites.

"There's going to be a lot of viral sharing," said Bill Gajda, chief marketing officer of the GSMA. "Once you've got these on your phone, you're going to be able to share these. We want to see where they go, how widely they are distributed and what is the appetite for this kind of short entertainment."

There are no advertising tie-ins planned for the films.

Depending on the success of the venture, more films may be commissioned in the future, Redford said.

"This is a start," he said. "This is in part experimental. We don't want to go too fast, we wanted to test this. This is just one step of many more to come for Sundance's involvement with new technology."
“Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” - Andy Warhol


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MacGuffin

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Re: future of indie filmmaking
« Reply #36 on: January 22, 2007, 12:01:38 PM »
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The Trouble With Sundance
RICHARD CORLISS; Time Magazine

Everybody, I mean everybody who's anybody in movies, or hopes to be, is in Park City, Utah, this week for the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. In this Lourdes of independent movies, hermitty young auteurs will schmooze with Hollywood's BlackBerry set. From the ferment of high art and hype art will emerge new faces, new voices and, I can almost guarantee, at least one film that will figure in next year's Oscar race--just as Little Miss Sunshine, from Sundance '06, is being touted for a Best Picture Academy Award nomination.

The kind of indie film nurtured by Sundance has become the dominant non-Hollywood movie form for smart people. They're the ones who made Little Miss Sunshine a hit, and Ryan Gosling's turn in Half Nelson a must-see. The moguls have taken note too. In terms of product and talent, Sundance has become the crucial farm system for the major studios.

Problem is, indie movies are getting as predictable as Hollywood's. Sundance movies have devolved into a genre. The style is spare and naturalistic. The theme is relationships, beginning in angst and ending in reconciliation. The focus is often on a dysfunctional family (there are no functional ones in indie movies) that strives to reconnect. Within this genre are a few subspecies: the family breakup film (The Squid and the Whale), the finding-your-family-at-school movie (Half Nelson, Brick), the gay drama (Mysterious Skin). Way too frequently, the family goes on a trip. Given the typical Sundance pace, which is leisurely to lethargic, these road movies rarely get in the passing lane.

The predictability of recent Sundance films is a pity, because the fest used to discover original movie minds. The honor roll of those who introduced their early work there includes both the big fish of indie cinema (among them Joel and Ethan Coen, Jim Jarmusch, Kevin Smith and Darren Aronofsky) and some of the mainstream's champion swimmers (including Steven Soderbergh, Quentin Tarantino, Bryan Singer and Christopher Nolan).

What most of these directors share is a gift for bending, sometimes gleefully mutilating, film form: taking old narratives styles like the crime movie or musical or horror film and making them fresh, vital, dangerous. The subjects could be familiar--amnesia in Nolan's Memento, obsession in Aronofsky's Pi--but when the story was told in reverse, or turned into a weird thriller, the narrative ingenuity became bracing and delicious. They were different from Hollywood--and different meant better.

You don't find as much originality in Sundance films these days, and for a simple reason. In the beginning, the festival was a home for the homeless, for a rambunctious outlaw take on filmmaking. There was no need to be cautious, since indie films were rarely hits. But as Sundance became the showcase for a form of movie gaining marketplace pull, young directors naturally made films to fit the new mold. Sundance films weren't quirky; they did quirky. Quirky became another genre.

In fact, truly imaginative movies have always been anomalies at Sundance. The program is heavy with earnest studies of emotional accommodation. This isn't a supple form, and now it's become formula--creaky and calcified through endless repetition.

What's saddest is that the ersatz indie drove out the previously dominant alternative to Hollywood: the foreign film. Bergman, Fellini and Truffaut are dead, but there are still exciting, challenging movies being made in Europe, Latin America and especially Asia. Some of these films get theatrical release, but to see many top films from Japan, South Korea, China, Thailand and India you need to rent them. A good video store or a specialty DVD catalog is the new art house. Trying to get your intellectual fill with Sundance films is like choosing homemade popcorn over the concession-stand variety: higher quality, little nourishment.

Sure, there are good Sundance movies, with fine actors providing glimpses of behavioral truth. But in general the films are way too cozy. Instead of the high-budget sequels Hollywood deals out, the indie scene offers virtual remakes of earlier, more vibrant films, the rehashing of familiar feelings. Sundance used to be a daring, occasionally dazzling alternative to Hollywood; now, it's just a different sort of same.
“Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” - Andy Warhol


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ono

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Re: future of indie filmmaking
« Reply #37 on: January 22, 2007, 12:33:10 PM »
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Bergman, Fellini and Truffaut are dead...

matt35mm

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Re: future of indie filmmaking
« Reply #38 on: January 22, 2007, 03:30:11 PM »
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Bergman, Fellini and Truffaut are dead...

Perhaps he meant that the age of Bergman and new Bergman films is over.  Or perhaps he's a dickfaced moron.  Or both.

Ghostboy

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Re: future of indie filmmaking
« Reply #39 on: January 22, 2007, 03:34:22 PM »
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That article is so 2003.

RegularKarate

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Re: future of indie filmmaking
« Reply #40 on: January 22, 2007, 03:37:26 PM »
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and Superman doesn't even throw one punch!

modage

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Re: future of indie filmmaking
« Reply #41 on: January 22, 2007, 04:03:34 PM »
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Within this genre are a few subspecies: the finding-your-family-at-school movie (Brick).  The predictability of recent Sundance films is a pity, because the fest used to discover original movie minds. The honor roll of those who introduced their early work there includes both the big fish of indie cinema (among them Joel and Ethan Coen).

What most of these directors share is a gift for bending, sometimes gleefully mutilating, film form: taking old narratives styles like the crime movie or musical or horror film and making them fresh, vital, dangerous. The subjects could be familiar--amnesia in Nolan's Memento, obsession in Aronofsky's Pi--but when the story was told in reverse, or turned into a weird thriller, the narrative ingenuity became bracing and delicious. They were different from Hollywood--and different meant better.
did he watch Brick?  or is he just trying to make some point?
Christopher Nolan's directive was clear to everyone in the cast and crew: Use CGI only as a last resort.

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Re: future of indie filmmaking
« Reply #42 on: January 23, 2007, 04:28:33 AM »
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under the paving stones.

 

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