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The Sky Is Not Falling: Liberating Independent Film And Video From A Prehistoric Value System // submit a post -- nelson@nelsoncarvajal.com

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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Our Cinematic Post-Postmodern New (Media) Wave

This past weekend I wrote of the newly revitalized underground cinema as being a palpable gateway to the "New Cinema" (Regardless, the New Cinema is organic, ever-changing). That said, I still think it's essential for us independent filmmakers and content creators to start addressing the void in our immediate industry, our immediate culture. That void comes in the misguided collective mindset that ours is a failing or unfulfilled industry. Anyone who entered in the independent cinema game should NOT be surprised when they soon realize that overnight financial gains aren't a realistic feat. We become independent filmmakers because we are first artists. Those who think otherwise should read Ted Hope's powerful post, "A 'Career' In Indie Film? Better Have That Second Job Lined Up..."

In times of struggle and uncertainty--key words for our independent film realm--there lies great potential for reinvention, risk and (hopefully) reward. What I still find puzzling is that so many "independent" filmmakers insist on trying to play the role of the Hollywood filmmaker. They aim to make that ONE debut magnum opus. They waste lots of money they don't have. They waste lots of time they don't have. And ultimately, they scratch their head when their film doesn't get into Sundance--but that other film starring Woody Harrelson does.

This is our time to thrive creatively. This is our time to create challenging, counter pieces of cinema. Remember, counter cinema is always a reaction to the current culture (thus, the similarity to "counter culture"). If our current mainstream culture pushes for bloated 3D movies, skewed gatekeepers and star-crazy film festivals, why not offer DIFFERENT types of cinema to an untapped reservoir of eager viewers? We have no excuse anymore. Our distribution platform is Vimeo. It's YouTube. 

It's online.

This can be our New Media Wave; our stamp on the cinema. The thing about underground, radical cinema is that it's easily sharable both online and offline (those who don't believe in the physical culture should read the step-by-step manifesto).

Let's stop writing off these "different" types of cinema as just being viral fodder or out-of-reach niche content. If we can embrace these types of stories we can learn about new voices, new fundamentals and new visions. Maybe by challenging the typical "film school" rhetoric that so many find hard to shake off, we can lower our guards and find the courage to carry our industry to that sustainable stage of productivity we all strive for.


I've included four works below. Two of the works are from established, universally recognized filmmakers. The other two (including my own) are from this new crop of filmmakers. But all of them are uncompromising and singular in their execution.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Social Filmmaking: Casting The Viewer, The Individual

Our current era of independent filmmaking/exhibition/distribution has introduced alternate methods of delivery for the new media content creator. That is to say, the new indie filmmaker has to tell a story with much more frequency, sometimes over longer periods of time. Before, a filmmaker would just make the film and then hope the finished product connects with some sort of audience for fiscal gain (ticket sales, studio deals, yada, yada, yada). But Web 2.0 and the social media revolution have (thankfully) lifted Oz's curtain. Therefore, a revived need for (daily) content has really put filmmakers on the spot. The good news is, is that filmmakers have more power in actually choosing their audience than ever before. The bad news is that this daily content (an active Twitter feed, updated YouTube channels, blogs, etc.) is often free content and therefore returns no immediate revenue for the artist. But don't fret.

A post in Filmmaker Magazine--"The Microbudget Conversation: Art and Poverty"--really puts it in perspective:

"Throughout history there have been connections between oppositional art movements and reduced resources. There have been artists for whom a rhetoric of poverty — or, perhaps more accurately, a rejection of the conventions associated with making art in more accepted (and usually more expensive) ways — has enabled empowering forms of self-definition."

Thus, we find ourselves in a culture of "free content." The slogan has shifted from "Content is king" to "Free content is king." This is who we are. This is what we have to work with. Think about that.

This free content, again, has value for you the artist because it is defining who you are. And after you have developed your online voice--your online presence, your industry significance!--you can then identify your true audience. Audiences gravitate towards points of interest and the more clear, prominent (and I believe "distinct") you are as an independent filmmaker, the easier it will be to pinpoint your group of followers and provide them a direct feed. Think of the audience's points of interests as eventual points of purchase for the filmmaker. Sooner or later, these loyal fans will be there to help kickstart that passion of project of yours or will even be there to pay for a download your completed film project. They'll be there and they'll support because they will care about your work. Because you showed them your passion and perseverance.

Right now, a lot of indie filmmakers are doing a good job of presenting themselves online (active social media pages, articles in the press) but what is needed next is something I like to call "Social Filmmaking." I believe social filmmaking could be a force to be reckoned with. Imagine how specific and unique future pieces of film will be with artists deeply connected to their audiences. Much more intimate projects. A cinematic rhetoric between artist and audience that is so dynamic, no two films will ever be alike. 

Basically, as "starving" artists we need to keep reinventing ourselves, our industry. Maybe by developing more intertwined relationships with our core audiences, we can elevate our content and thus engage each other to produce more valid pieces of work. Flight of fancy? Maybe. A more productive state of mind than sulking over not being financed by Hollywood? Definitely.

Frank Rose, author of "The Art of Immersion: How the Digital Generation Is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the Way We Tell Stories," recently said in an interview:

"We've spent the last hundred-plus years with a strict delineation between author and audience--you read a book, you watch a movie, and that's it. You're a consumer. We came to think of this as the natural order of things, but in fact it was just a function of the limitations of our technology. Mass media, which is the only media we've ever known until now, had no mechanism for participation and only very limited, after-the-fact mechanisms for feedback. But there was nothing natural about that [...] Before culture became a consumable, it was something people shared. The problem is, that was so long ago we've forgotten how to do it.

Let's share our stories with more viewers, by actually targeting our REAL viewers. But first thing is first: Go out there and cast your audience. Make sure they're perfect for the part.