No, actually, maybe it’s a great time to be an indie filmmaker

Instead of the usual doom and gloom about the state of the film business and the declining fate of indie films and filmmakers, IndieWire had a guest article written by filmmaker Naomi McDougall Jones. Jones is the writer/producer/actress behind “Imagine I’m Beautiful”, an indie drama about a mentally ill woman. I have not seen the film, so I can’t comment on it, but, in the article Jones talks about how Hollywood’s increasing focus on high concept remake driven content is creating a vacuum for indie filmmakers. Ergo, it is a great time to be an indie filmmaker.

I am a cynical old bastard, but, as much as I want to break out the pom-poms and rah rah rah, I see some slight holes in Jones’ article.

First, Jones talks about how “Imagine” was made for (only) $80k. It will play 10 cities and be available on iTunes, Vimeo and unnamed ‘other platforms’. She then states “we stand a pretty darn good chance of recouping our investors’ money in full”. Um. $80k is not a lot of money. If you are doing theatrical and online in such a loud and proud manner then I think you shouldn’t be speculating whether you can make it back or not.

Second, like a lot of indie’s, Jones has a go at mainstream media, saying it is not satisfying (as many) customers as before. That may well be true. But, hundreds of millions of people are going to see these unsatisfying films. I do not subscribe to this theory that ‘the public are stupid’. In at least 10 cities the public will have a chance to choose between unsatisfying mainstream films and Jones’ picture. It’s disheartening, but, the majority will choose the mainstream. Even of those that hear about Jones’ picture will still choose the mainstream.

There is nothing wrong with making a mainstream, culturally non-nuanced film. Or having the occasional explosion. The average audience member does not want to be ‘challenged’. Until indie filmmakers accept this, embrace this, and still manage to make clever stories that can be filmed at their budget level yet entertain then there will be trouble.

Why do you THINK indie horror is the only genre that continuously banks the bucks? It delivers what the average horror audience wants.

I am not saying Jones’ film is bad. It’s probably pretty good and might appeal to US coastal audiences (the mentality of whom I probably share). And if I get a chance to see her film here in Japan I’ll watch it. And I wish her success. But success (financially) will only come when lots of people want to see a film.

Here’s her article.

Ryan Gosling wants $7m to be in your indie

Maybe it’s my mood, but, I find this article from the Hollywood Reporter a little depressing. It is all about the spiralling actors fees to be in indies.

To quote:

Five years ago, everything was great. Budgets were small, and actors wanted more interesting roles — so if you had a $3 million movie, they’d be willing to do it for $150,000 or $300,000. But many of those films had a hard time at the box office. As an industry, our reaction has been to make more commercial movies, the sort of movies the studios have abandoned.

What this means is that now there are lots of indie’s pushing up the rates and true indies, in this gone-mad world where anything under $2 million is called ‘micro budget’, are finding it harder and harder to attract top talent interested in ‘slumming’ it for a good cause.

This means we can’t get name talent, and without name talent you can’t get funding and without funding you might as well get a box of old dresses and put a show on in the barn.

Here’s the article that brought me down.

Keeping on top of your screenplay’s structure

Over at IndieFilmAcademy website Jason Buff looks to have taken a few minutes away from the golf course to give you some screenwriting tips.

I include this video here not because it is ground breaking or mind blowing, but because it is practical! It is basic advice that we need reminding about. Some of you will watch it and go ‘no, my screenplay is completely unique and wonderful, I don’t need to do this’. If so… I wish you luck. It is going to be a tough sell.

Anyway, enjoy. (And they seem to have lots of other good videos over at this site, so click around!)