I read a filmmaker magazine article online today that really inspired this post.
I'm a newer indie filmmaker, and while I haven't had the years of experience in the biz that some have had, I follow seasoned indie filmmakers/professionals, went to film school, create my own material, practice using the new social media tools, and I am indeed a movie goer, which makes me kinda qualified to respond to this. :)
I think developing content should be the main concern when you're developing content. The foundation of any good project has a solid script. I also think that audiences should be developed before the film is ever made, and here's why. If the person who seeks the extreme indie experience that (supposedly) most people won't 'click with' then that person's material should be able to be found, regardless of their appearance at a film festival or otherwise. In other words, creating audiences, and making the material accessible to them seems more relevant than being resistant to conformity (which I'm not suggesting you do!) or change. That way, the small pocketed audience can at least find it.
Who knows if we'll ever figure out a definitive, new, best distribution model for ourselves, or if we should, but if we do, what's so wrong with that? If I want to make movies for myself (and sometimes I do) then I can happily do that. But if I'm asking others (filmmakers) to join me on my ride, others that must eventually make some money to survive, and someone else to pay to see it, why would I thrive on a narrow audience? Just because someone in the indie world writes something that a lot of people (might) want to see, doesn't mean they're narrow or unauthentic, does it?
Just so this isn't misconstrued, I feel the need to elaborate a bit here... I do believe we should determine our audience before we make our movie. That doesn't mean an audience will dictate what I write as an artist. If I write something for myself then that's great! fine! wonderful! But if I write something that might appeal to a larger audience, perhaps I'll have a chance at selling it, or finding investors for it. Hell, if I were rich, I might want to make those lower concept movies all day! I mean, what's the point of making something that no one wants to see, unless of course I know that in advance, and I decide to make it anyway for my own satisfaction. It might even surprise the masses and take off - see a theater - but that would still be an exception, wouldn't it?
I think that the real reason people don't see innovation, isn't because it's not out there or appealing, but because they're subjected to so much garbage floating around, it's not hard to see the difference. While I'll agree that the non-mainstream should be embraced, in the same breath, I wonder what that really means, too. Does it mean acceptance of some sort? Or just among the artists who create it? Acceptance seems to be the opposite of what the true visionary (indie) operation suggests.
Who's to say that us indies can't make something authentic, that touches the masses, and hopes for a broader audience (so our hard work literally pays off in some capacity) no matter what the subject matter. If I write something that doesn't speak to a lot of people, should I not tweet about it? I think we're underestimating the involvement/response(s) from those whom it does/could speak to. Just because they're of a different flock, doesn't mean they don't want to be engaged that (social media) way.
In example, over the past two years, my Paranormal Productions team has been working on expanding our audience with our Aether Paranormal brand. I say brand, not because we aren't real paranormal investigators, but because that's what people see first. I'm not naive to the idea that those are not all necessarily our true fans, but they're interested in what we have to say, and I do see the growth, the slow commitment that others are displaying towards our team. More people are watching our (FREE) videos. We know that, while there's a select group, there's a huge attraction for those who are different and want to make that connection. So, they join us on twitter, facebook, myspace, youtube, vimeo, etc., and we're in control of our product. Eventually, we want to make money doing what we love, and have faith that our dedication to our brand will allow us to do so.
Similar ideas ring true for Lost In Sunshine. Lorie and I have been experimenting this past year with writing blogs 'in character,' creating contests, developing new LIS channels, and using our website to interact with our (growing) audience via our show.
In the end, indie artists have to do what feels right for them. But I urge those who are in the middle of this new world emergence to do everything they can to be heard, while remaining authentic, so they don't get lost in the shuffle.
The great part about social media tools are that they're free (for the most part). All it takes is time, and us indies are already used to legwork. A few more miles down the uncharted territory lane won't kill us. But it could help us... where before these options were obsolete. But the beauty is that we only create the space which we want to (co)exist.
If someone is going to gravitate towards our film's topic, I don't see how social media tools would hinder a genuine response. Perhaps it would generate a 'different' type of crowd, but who cares! Perhaps it will attract an unexpected one that just connects with it, or your followers will understand it/you better!
Perhaps it's less about trying to please the masses, and more about simply making ourselves available.
It's inspiring to talk about (what could be) groundbreaking material, and yes, it's sad that some solid material may not see daylight because of this new social media direction. I kinda feel, in my short lived filmmaking experience, that it's always been this way - if indies didn't have to figure this new age of development out, like the gatekeepers, there'd be something else. But it's also liberating to know that we, indie filmmakers, have the freedom and opportunity to exercise and experiment with our own film culture and social media tools to create our own unique path, rather than have it dictated for us.
Maybe we should just embrace 'what is' instead of worrying about what could be.
"This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the day the night, Thou canst then be false to any man." - Polonius in Shakespear's Hamlet
(thanks for this today, Kimberlie!)
Thanks for reading. With love,