Glenn’s Popular Mechanics article on the rise of independent filmmaking on the web has a lot of good optimistic things to say, but I have to admit to some ambivalence about the implied possible demise of the studio system. [You? After your experiences with those swine?-ed. I know what you mean.]
My problem comes down to this: I am not convinced people working independently out of their garages – no matter how cheap the equipment – will ever be able to produce movies of the quality of Lawrence of Arabia, The Seven Samurai, Some Like It Hot, etc., etc. – the movies I love that made me want to write film.
Some things still cost (big) money – actors, sets, designers, directors, even writers. In other words, the filmmakers and, most importantly, their time. Seven Samurai took over half a year to shoot – and I don’t know how many people – and it shows. Sorry, but I prefer that to the Blair Witch Project, which I could watch for about ten minutes without getting bored and thinking I was getting my brains drilled. I know others may feel differently and, yes, many works of genius can be made on a shoestring, but the next Citizen Kane? I doubt it.
I am concerned here that this new form of easy access filmmaking will drive out studio production to such an extent that the story-telling films we grew up with will become even rarer than they are now – and at this point they barely exist. Of course here I am writing against myself because the studio system today is dreadful, not even a distant parody of the old days. Still, those isolated moments when good films are made take money. The Harvey Weinsteins of the world, whatever you think of them, are willing to risk big dollars on a film because they might make a return. Take away major distribution from them and they can’t. We are in a strange time. And I guess I want to say it’s not necessarily artistic nirvana.
I imagine new forms and arrangements will emerge, but until then I am most optimistic about animation. As technology improves, the new generation of Miyazakis will be able to sit at their computers and create their masterpieces pretty much all by themselves. For the rest of us who still rely on live actors, it’s not so simple.
UPDATE: On the other hand, if all movies were animations, we would be liberated from narcissistic blowhards like this. [Hey, but he’s a talented “narcissistic blowhard.”-ed. Yes, he is.]