Friday, April 16, 2010

Film Slaves vs. film makers

There are film makers and there are film slaves. Film makers say they "make films" whereas film slaves are the ones who "make films happen." I'm getting tired of "film makers." These are people you meet at film festivals or in film schools who are the next 'wanna-be Martin Scorcese,' and that they're going to make the next big revolution in the film industry happen. Why? Better yet, how? And even better yet, why should we listen?

This business is based on money, not art. Many of us would like for all of the content of film and television to based on art and the collective needs of our culture to have some form of art that reflects itself but it isn't.

Americans hate art. Most of them anyways. Including myself for the most part. I took some art classes in college and couldn't help but feel their aim was more or less off. They preached art as being "a great equalizer" as something that gets messages across and makes arguments that are original and individual and that if you make something that resembles someone else's you are simply "cliche" or not being individual enough and need to figure out who you are. So, art students go on this quest to prove who they are. They shop at thrift stores, eat ramen noodles, intern at photography studios, and read fashion magazines and for what? Why? So some failed college art professor can feel like they have a sense of power? No.

So it comes down to this. In this industry you either work above the line or below it. You make your own job or you get hired for someone else's. That's how it is. It's not art, it's not culture, it's business. In a capitalist system this is how we determine what deserves to get made or not. It's the project that gets the most money or the most support and its not often the project that is the most deserving. It's the project that is clever, that's seductive, that's edgy, that's whatever the people with the funds want it to be.

For all you aspiring film makers out there get your stupid little heads out of the clouds of revolution and take the coffee order because that's all you're going to be able to do. Indie film is dying. Auteur film-makers are becoming extinct. That's not to say they'll become non-existent, but they're not really needed. Anyone can become an auteur if they're facebook or twitter page is clever enough. That's the reality of this digital age of film-making we're living in.


  1. Bitter much? I have an odd feeling that this was directed at me.

    I think the industry is overtly business oriented, but it does not mean that one cannot play the business and pursue their own artistic yearnings at the same time. That is where so many filmmakers screw up, you saw it with all of the auteurs of the '70s. The filmmakers that stuck with the studio system, prevailed and are still around today, considered as some of the greats of all-time, and then you have the folks like Altman or Cassavettes who kind of slowly slipped away cause they didn't play it from the business angle. What made Scorsese such a big filmmaker is cause he eventually played the game for business purposes, and ultimately he won, getting the creative freedom to do whatever he wants. That is what all young filmmakers aspire to, but it does not mean you have to be a slave to the system, just learn to play it.

    Film is not an easy industry to navigate, and while the auteur is a dying breed, it does not mean that us young guns do not have a concept of how the industry works, but until we fall flat on our faces, how do not know of a potential for revolution? One has to try to revolutionize. If you fail, but you tried your best, then you failed with something, dignity, satisfaction, or even a steady career directing commercials or TV.

    I don't think it's wrong to dream. While I'll agree that the dreamer in question needs to understand the business aspects of film, they have to hold on to that dream. But, dreams are worthless if you don't act on them, that's why I say, if you wanna make a film, then make it and try to get it into some festivals, or move out to L.A. and hang around some clubs, trying to befriend some local comedians and bands to get into the music video or funny-or-die scene. Your dreams only go as far as the dreamer is willing to go themselves.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Yeah, this was definitely a frustrated post that kinda went everywhere but I didn't mean it to be directed by you. I don't want to say though, that if we are going to dream, when need to come up with a realistic way of making those dreams happen. People just don't hand you a million dollars and say, "here, make your film." I also feel like a lot of student film makers, myself included, romanticized the 70's a bit too much and don't take into account the way things were then and how they transitioned through the 80s, the 90 indies wave, and then to now.

    To be clearer, my rant came from a conversation with an indie film producer I had while working on a job last week. We were sitting at a bar talking about what a day it had been and about the industry right now. He was the one saying you either work above the line or below it and that if you're going to make something happen, be practical about it.

    My main thing I took from this is that if you want to be an indie film maker, be one, but know that you won't sell your product unless you have a big name in it. That was pretty much what he said. So to say it's not entirely business related is a bit wishful thinking. Films are either becoming a niche hobby type activity or a high powered business deal, there's not really much of a middle ground. That's what we were really getting at. The reason our jobs are becoming hobby-ized is because there's no clear outlet to distribute anything anymore and in a guaranteed way you're going to make a profit. Marketing costs have sky rocketed since the 70s and plus we just don't watch movies the same way. It used to be you could put an indie film out in theaters for an 8 or 10 week run and it wouldn't start generating money till the 7th or 8th week, so theater operators would extend it to perhaps 15 or 16 weeks. This doesn't happen anymore. If you don't make all your money in the first or second weekends, you're not going to ever get a 7th or 8th weekend. I admire you're wantingness to dream big and be a "film maker" I have that same dream as well, but to make it all happen we need to think practical. We need to invent new ways of distributing films and making money off of them so we can keep making more films. Until we figure that out, we'll continue on being film-slaves.