Roger L. Simon

The Decline of the Movies Continued

Writing in Slate, Charles Taylor says quite succinctly something I have been thinking for some time:

Except for a few remaining truly independent distributors, the major studios’ specialty divisions-the arm that releases foreign films and what has been dubbed the “mid-size” movie (i.e., Lost in Translation, Sideways, et al.)-now virtually determine what audiences see of what we still think of as American independent movies. In other words, the studios nearly control the system that was supposed to represent an alternative to them. If an American indie movie doesn’t have a name filmmaker or stars who have taken a smaller paycheck to work on it, if it doesn’t create a buzz at Sundance (or is rejected by Sundance), its chances of getting a distribution deal are pretty much dead.

Taylor is writing about Kwik Stop, a movie I haven’t seen. But I certainly understand his point. 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.]

UPDATE: Ed Driscoll writes of the hopeful signs from new cheap and easy technologies. He’s right. But unfortunately, you still need distribution and, er, a good script.

MEANWHILE: When it comes to distribution, don’t mess with Treacher.