Ed Driscoll

So What's The Solution?

Given how bad current Hollywood product is, and how out of touch most of its creators are, what’s the solution?

Sadly, for the most part, it’s not independent movies. Roger L. Simon writes:

The vaunted American independent film movement is close to dead in the water while studio filmmaking is at its most mundane. Alternative film distribution on the internet has not kicked in in any serious way. We are not at a high point in the history of the cinema, to say the least. The subject of yesterday’s discussion — that film stars mouth off excessively about politics — is only, at best, a minor aspect of this decline. Actors and writers were doing that when movies were great too (the 1930s and 40s). Much more important is the rise of other distractions – computer games, cable television, even blogging. [No, not that.-ed. Okay.]

I’ve spent the last week and a half learning Adobe’s Premiere Elements video editing and DVD authoring program (which streets for a hundred bucks or less) for a magazine article, and having a blast editing some of my old videotapes. And finding myself having to fight off the “Hey kids, let’s put on a show!” urge. (“OK, I can’t afford 12 Angry Men. Maybe six and three quarters!”)

35 years ago, Stanley Kubrick was asked “If you were nineteen and starting out again, would you go to film school?” He replied:

The best education in film is to make one. I would advise any neophyte director to try to make a film by himself. A three-minute short will teach him a lot. I know that all the things I did at the beginning were, in microcosm, the things I’m doing now as a director and producer. There are a lot of noncreative aspects to filmmaking which have to be overcome, and you will experience them all when you make even the simplest film: business, organization, taxes, etc., etc. It is rare to be able to have an uncluttered, artistic environment when you make a film, and being able to accept this is essential.

The point to stress is that anyone seriously interested in making a film should find as much money as he can as quickly as he can and go out and do it. And this is no longer as difficult as it once was. When I began making movies as an independent in the early 1950s I received a fair amount of publicity because I was something of a freak in an industry dominated by a handful of huge studios. Everyone was amazed that it could be done at all. But anyone can make a movie who has a little knowledge of cameras and tape recorders, a lot of ambition and — hopefully — talent. It’s gotten down to the pencil and paper level. We’re really on the threshold of a revolutionary new era in film.

To the best of my (admittedly limited) knowledge on the subject, Roger’s absolutely right when he says, “Alternative film distribution on the internet has not kicked in in any serious way”. But paradoxically, the technology to make alternative films–or at least alternative videos–has never been more sophisticated.

On Christmas Eve of 2002, James Lileks linked to the efforts of a group of ultra-hard core Trekkies who made their own Shatner-style Star Trek episode. Their first effort was admittedly crude. And their clunky handling of dialogue actually highlights the skills of Shatner, Nimoy and company back in ’66. But check out the digital effects in the teaser to its sequel! Admittedly, they’re not as over the top mindblowing as the digital effects in The Matrix or Revenge of the Sith, but they’re certainly professional and more than serviceable for telling the story.

And if anything, home recording technology is even more sophisticated than video’s current state of the art.

The irony is that technology itself isn’t as critical to telling a story as many people think. Historically, most low and medium budget movies have consisted mostly of people talking, since that’s always been far cheaper to shoot than films that require huge special effects budgets. And some films consisting of little more than actors talking can be enormously compelling (the afore mentioned 12 Angry Men, Woody Allen’s best films, Hitchcock’s Rope and Dial M For Murder all come immediately to mind).

So who’s the young writer/director who’s going to master the technology that’s readily available to make the proverbial good independent Internet-distributed movie? (That doesn’t involve the United Federation of Planets?)