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CINEMA/VERITE: As the Colossus Collapses, the Indie Film Will Rise

June 9, 2016

Naomi wrote a guest article for Cinema/Verite about how indie filmmakers will be the ones to lead the film industry forward.

 

"I doubt this comes as news, but, in case you haven’t heard, the film industry is currently in a spectacular free fall.

 

Netflix and its preternaturally clever CEO are snatching audiences, en masse, to their subscription service and original content. Amazon is trying energetically to get in on their action. Illegal streaming and downloads are eating into profits as younger audiences increasingly expect to get their content for free. And new platforms and distribution models trying to combat all of this are popping up and dying at a hair-raising speed.

 

From everything I hear, our industry is experiencing a disaster of epic proportions. Personally, I couldn’t be more excited.

 

Hollywood, for reasons of both mental and structural constraint, has to make big money on their big bloated-budget films. It’s what they’re set up to do. So at a time when the only way to continue to recoup those kinds of costs is aiming for big international sales in as many markets as possible, they are doubling down on their increasingly cynical notion that films will succeed on a proven formula of factors (big stars, culturally non-specific content, explosions, etc.), rather than actual innovative storytelling. And I get it. It’s a major commercial enterprise for them. Risks at this stage would not be wise.

 

But, here’s the thing: I, as an audience member, am sick to death of that kind of “safe-bet” filmmaking. I am over being talked down to. I am bored with movies that I forget the moment I leave the theater.

 

In the desert of the multiplexes, I am starving for films that challenge me; that force me to rethink my perceptions and my place in the world. I ache for genuinely exciting films. And I can’t be the only one.

 

This, as far as I can see, presents independent film with a golden opportunity.

 

For reasons largely having to do with being first-time independent filmmakers and not knowing any better, my production team and I have spent the last three years making a film, Imagine I’m Beautiful, which is basically antithetical to all of Hollywood’s suppositions. It’s a bold and risky psychological drama about two complex female protagonists; it was written by a woman, directed by a woman, and produced by a team of three women; has no “name actors” in it; and does not contain a single explosion (not of a TNT variety, anyway).

 

It is a film that Hollywood would not have said “yes” to and which even a lot of the more established independent folks urged us to nudge it into a more conventional mould, understandably fearing that we were running a fool’s errand.

 

And 10 years ago—even 5 years ago, they probably would have been right.

 

Five years ago, the established distribution systems were still working just fine and people were making money. Five years ago, even Hollywood might have risked making a story like ours, because they could have afforded to. At that time, audiences could have had access to these kinds of films through traditional channels.

 

This year? Today? Not so much.

 

So, here’s where things get exciting: that film of ours that had “no audience”? We scraped together $80,000, from crowd-funding and a few heaven-sent investors, and made it ourselves. We played the festival circuit, taking home 12 awards (including 4 Best Pictures) and got picked up for theatrical and digital release by Candy Factory Distribution, a brand-new distribution company betting their farm on the idea that audiences are actually starving for different kinds of films.

 

Will we make millions? Definitely not. But we are likely to recoup and it’s looking good that we’ll get to make the next film, which, in this game, is saying everything I need to hear.

 

More significantly, as we’ve traveled with the film to cities on every corner of the continent, over and over we hear the same question from the audiences: why, oh why don’t we get to see more fresh and diverse films in theaters?

 

So while the behemoth end of our industry goes on fulfilling the adage that if you try to please everyone, you please no one, and lumbers after each latest trend, making increasingly predictable and uninspired fare, we in the indie film world can blaze nimbly forward in their wake and give their tired audiences something to be genuinely excited about.

 

Let’s make all the risky films that conventional wisdom says audiences don’t want. Let’s try new platform after new distribution model until we find the one or ten that get our content directly and effectively into audiences’ hungry hands.

 

Because if there was ever a time to throw ourselves off every available cliff, now is that time.

 

The game has been broken. And it’s indie filmmakers who will make the new one." 

 

Naomi McDougall Jones is the writer/producer/lead actress of the feature film, “Imagine I’m Beautiful,” made by Nine Lives Pictures and released by Candy Factory Distribution. It is now available on iTunes, Vimeo, and in cities near you. Find out more at www.imagineimbeautiful.com

 

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