Is Our Indie Scene too Marketing Obsessed?
Too enthralled by the latest social media craze? Those are the questions posed by producer Mike Ryan (Junebug, Life During Wartime, 40 Shades of Blue) in his essay in the new issue of Filmmaker, which you can read online now.
From his piece:
Developing content and nurturing auteurs should be our top concern, not figuring out distribution models or revenue schemes. The whole purpose of independent film is to make films that aren’t prefabricated to hit a target audience of someone else’s devising. In fact, it’s that kind of market-centric thinking that puffed up the bubble with derivative films; it’s those goals that made indie go flaccid in the first place….
I worry that the traditional gatekeepers – the festival programmers, the critics and the producers – are starting to ignore the cultivation of true visionaries by wholeheartedly drinking this niche transmedia Kool-Aid. If gatekeepers start to agree that the only way to make indie film relevant again is through new forms of community outreach then there is a chance that films that alienate and aren’t crowd-sourced huggable will be passed by. I fear that in the rush to embrace new methods of promotion and distribution that worthy yet seemingly unpromotable films will be completely ignored. If festivals get behind day-and-date VOD or free YouTube multiplatform releasing then isn’t there a chance that these fests will pick films that best lend themselves to these new screening platforms? Films catering to easily distracted Web surfers and not contemplative theatergoers? Likewise, are there producers passing on strong work because it can’t be broken into Webisodes and streamed on YouTube?
Also in this issue is the latest in Lance Weiler’s “Culture Hacker” series. In this issue he writes about the very kind of creative app-making that Ryan’s piece would seem to argue against.
Mobile apps offer not only a direct channel to audiences but they carry your story to places where the audience will consume it. As stories travel they can harvest a variety of data such as: GPS coordinates, viewer preferences and/or contact info. This data can be filtered and used in a variety of ways to enhance a story. For instance, media (video, audio, photos) can be released to viewers when they reach a certain location, data can be used to connect audience members who share similar interests around a story, and characters can contact players directly via SMS, e-mail or even phone calls.
Do these articles represent contradictory ideologies, as one Twitter followed tweeted (while citing herself as “Team Weiler”)? Some people will probably feel they do. I— someone whose favorite directors are Tarkovsky and Antonioni but who also fondly remembers an entire summer lost to Zork — don’t. As I wrote in this month’s Editor’s Letter:
I don’t see my appreciation of both Lance’s quest to expand film practice beyond the screening room and Mike’s mission to make sure our rush towards new business models doesn’t stifle the web-disconnected auteur as contradictory at all. I know both these men and can attest that their positions come from passion, core belief, and hard-fought experience — not calculation and received wisdom. I will be attending the premiere of not only Lance’s film, when he makes it, but his app as soon as I can download it. And I can’t wait for the next Bela Tarr film that Mike has been involved with. The point is to allow film practice to bring us closer to our artistic desires, not farther away from them.
What do you think?