PLEASE COMMODIFY ME
In a Brooklyn Rail piece titled “We Are All Scabs: Some Contradictions in U.S. Independent Film Culture,” Donal Foreman visits the IFP’s Independent Film Week and questions the debates over sustainability, marketing and audience-building that are rampant in our community. As we pursue DIY strategies, are we just implicitly and uncritically accepting the logic of the marketplace instead of conceptualizing more empowering, liberating structures?
The key grafs:
Whereas in previous times films were offered up to the distribution circuit to be either rejected or accepted as viable commodities, their makers are now being asked to lead that process of commodification themselves, to integrate it into their art and sometimes package themselves along with it. In a way, this “democratization” of the commodification process creates an opportunity for filmmakers to think more critically about how their work functions in, and serves, current social and economic arrangements—and ask how they might be able to interrupt and challenge these arrangements rather than feed them.
Simultaneous to the opening of Independent Film Week, Occupy Wall Street began its intervention in downtown Manhattan. Strangely enough, some of the same questions posed at Lincoln Center have been posed in this ongoing occupation. Questions like, “How can we spend more of our time doing what we love to do?” But while downtown the emphasis was how to free ourselves from monetized work, uptown it was how to turn our love into monetized work. And yet we all know that independent cinema wouldn’t exist without networks and affinities of cooperation, friendship, and trust—and new models of distribution do create new possibilities in this regard.