OPED: Future of Film Exhibition

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For: Renegade Cinema

It fucking baffles me everytime I encounter a filmmaker who expects any facet of the American film industry to give them any sort of due attention. Whether it’s a film festival, distributor or studio, by this point you’re nuts if you expect any one of them to give two shits about what you have to offer. You could be the greatest filmmaker to come along this century, but with the current state of the industry and considering the nature of those in power, none of what you have to offer matters unless you have the vision, energy and drive to make it matter on your own accord. This goes beyond having the ability to make a movie – but having the intellectual capacity to making a movie work as a sustainable business model is essential to the survival of film as a viable medium. What’s incredibly unsettling is the ease at which filmmakers are quick to change their careers when they stumble across these common obstructions and find that their careers aren’t panning out along the same lines as the storied filmmakers of the nineties. It goes without saying that filmmakers and cinephiles are pissed off at the current state of affairs but that’s no reason to walk off and get some lame backup degree. Committing yourself to a career you hate because it’s easier is for pussies. The future of film is going to rely almost entirely on the filmmaker being an inventive and innovative business person at every level and it’s important that you understand that it doesn’t stop with the completion of the film.

If you didn’t rest well this weekend, then you were probably unaware of the significance of the news that Quentin Tarantino has officially taken control of The New Beverly Cinema, an historic movie house located at 7165 Beverly Blvd in Los Angeles. Tarantino, who purchased the building in 2007, had previously relegated his duties to nothing more than that of an LA landlord and it would seem that, based on his most recent comments, this arrangement with the original owner of the business, the Torgan family, will remain in effect. Tarantino will, of course, make programming suggestions as his ownership of the house is clearly an extension of his power to keep film a relevant medium.

“As long as I’m alive, and as long as I’m rich, the New Beverly will be there, showing double features in 35mm.” -Quentin Tarantino

Filmmakers familiar with the story seem to have a sense of relief with the results and I’m no exception – except that I seem to be among the few who feel that this development is the way it was always supposed to go. Filmmakers with some level of wealth need to start buying up movie houses – it’s become the only way to keep things balanced in our favor. Acquiring an appropriate theatrical run is no longer guaranteed and the only way to ensure audiences have a chance to see a film the way the filmmaker intends for it to be experienced is by taking upon the duties of film exhibition themselves. This is important, especially with those of us who wish to continue seeing our work screened in the appropriate theatrical environment, rather than becoming “content” for online service providers. Filmmakers deserve the absolute best treatment for their work.

Filmmakers taking charge of the exhibition of their own work is the way it’s going to be and in an idealistic world, it’s how things should have always been. Cutting out the middle men from the equation allows the medium to thrive, whereas under the control of penny pinching bean counting corporate douchebags, we’re almost certainly bowing to the whims of exuberant and unrealistic financial expectations. The model of film creation and distribution in Hollywood allows only a very few to thrive, leaving the majority of creators to fend for themselves or abandon the industry altogether.

Tarantino’s interest in dabbling with film exhibition isn’t the only example of a filmmaker taking control of this end of the industry. After Hollywood began turning their backs on Kevin Smith, the director of the critically acclaimed film Chasing Amy and one of my all time favorites: Dogma, Smith took his work on the road, four-walling his feature film Red State and after a successful industry screening at a festival that shall remain nameless, took it upon himself to handle the distribution.

In New York, filmmaker Mark Blackman, the award winning director of the musical comedy Welcome to Harlem, is going balls to the wall with the creation of the Harlem Independent Theater (HIT), soon to open in uptown Manhattan. Blackman, disenchanted by the current state of the movie business and the lack of acceptable distribution opportunities, created the HIT in an effort to secure the future of film in the city that he loves.

Blackman’s idea for the future of film exhibition is that of a screening environment that is more social and filmmaker controlled. “It’s important that with our screen, we’re creating an opportunity for indie filmmakers to present their work to the community where they live and create” Blackman says of the project. The business model is simple in how it benefits the filmmaking community: with the ability to screen in theaters in the neighborhoods where filmmakers live and create, they are more likely to thrive and build their core fanbase. By rewriting the industry model and localising success, making a living out of filmmaking is within reach more now than it ever has been before. It’s just a matter of breaking away from the fairy tale expectations.

“Ten years ago you could make a movie” Blackman says, “get a deal, get a theatrical run, home video release and maybe find success as a filmmaker. Now we’re in a place where gear is so accessible and the internet is ten times pronounced that there is a flood of what the industry is now labeling “content” and it seems no one wants to be the one to deal with how to handle this.” And content in and of itself is a dirty word to many filmmakers. It’s not just being able to handle the enormous output of work, but finding an audience for the work that respects it enough to see it in a theatrical environment. The task begins at home, where the artist is creating and outlets to showcase these works are few and far between.

It’s hard to say where film exhibition will be ten years from now, but I’m in agreement with Blackman that film exhibition will be more localised and theaters willing to showcase this original work will be independently run. I don’t see AMC, Regal or any of the top five studios getting together to fix this cluster fuck of a problem they created with their tentpole business model and I don’t see fanboy audiences closing their wallets in protest of the films that are making it to theaters. Eventually we’re going to need to bring back quality stories from storytellers with original and important ideas.

“I think with the increase of everything being online, we’re going to see an increase of people looking for social gathering” says HIP’s Director of Community Outreach, Eleanor Luken, “it’s hard to view watching movies on the internet as the future.” Blackman and Luken see HIT as serving a big need for the community and are working hard to ensure that access to the venue for both filmmakers and film buffs are affordable and that the business model is innovative and allows for a diverse program.

The reality is that the finance stooges that run Hollywood failed miserably to usher the film industry into the 21st century and if we’re going to continue to exhibit our work where and how we intend, we’re going to have to take the reigns ourselves. I know it sucks, but putting something good into the world and ensuring its presented appropriately isn’t always the most enjoyable thing as any seasoned indie filmmaker can attest to. Welcome to independent cinema, where we have to do everything ourselves. We’re indie filmmakers, we should be used to taking on the whole load: write the script, find the funding, take care of all management and human resources issues – our crews hate us, our cast puts up with us up until they can get those lousy Law & Order callbacks and yes: we even have to take care of distribution and exhibition… all by our lonely selves. Take a queue from some of these cats: fuck the industry and release your work to the public on your terms and get the work seen the way you originally intended to have it seen.

When the New Beverly Cinema re-opens in October and when the HIT eventually opens in uptown Manhattan and when the next four-wall tour comes rolling into your town, rest assured you’ll be witnessing the execution of the securing of the future of the new American Film Industry and yes, old Hollywood will be left behind and just maybe, we’ll see a lot more filmmakers succeeding. You are the film industry.

This OPED was written for Renegade Cinema on September 7, 2014.

Screening Schedule for Phnom Pehn International Film Festival

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PPIFF has announced the screening schedule for this years film festival and I’m ecstatic to announce that Caroline of Virginia will be receiving two screenings – that’s right TWO screenings at the event this year! The screening will take place at the Flicks on Sunday the 14th in the 4PM slot and again on Thursday the 18th in the 6:30 slot.

These are two excellent time slots and I’m excited to be a part of this film festival. If you’re in Phnom Pehn this month, please stop by the Flicks and check it out.

-E

PPIFF Schedule

Ten Years A New Yorker

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This Labor Day weekend marks the completion of my first ten years living and working in New York City. When I originally conceived the idea of moving to New York it was to immerse myself into the indie film community and gain experiences I wouldn’t have otherwise had while living in my home state of Maine. At the time I left, I was miserable and although I had some level of support for what I wanted to do, I had gotten a taste of life in a world class city and wanted more. My year living in Vancouver was enough for me to know that operating out of a large city was where I wanted and needed to be.

Dubbed “The Project”, I began putting together an elaborate plan of money saving, back and forth trips to the city and networking, all of which would make my transition as smooth as possible. Ultimately my goal was to spend a decade acquiring knowledge and experiences that would improve my writing and storytelling abilities. Obviously I was putting a romantic twist on the whole thing (and have since realized how naive I was for thinking it would be anything but smooth). The fact of the matter is that the transition from Maine to New York was incredibly painful and chock full of back stabbery of all sorts but that’s okay, because it was all part of the gamut of experiences I had been seeking. Experiences to seed my work. Many of the naysayers didn’t understand this and most still don’t. The support sector was always smaller than the group with apathy and seems to shrink as I grow older. But that’s okay too. I made it and am continuing forward with the next phase of my plan.

In 2011 I began working on a project with the intention of debuting it just in time for my ten year anniversary and that project, which was picture locked this past spring, is finally finished with a score from the talented David Obaniyi. It’s called Steinway Street and it’s the autobiographical telling of my first year as a New Yorker, including the moments leading up to my move. The film is largely told with still photographs and the central character is simply known as “The Photographer”. In the film, life isn’t easy for the Photographer and the central character is put through many trials to test his resolve. Will he stay in the great world city or go back to his safe hometown with his tail between his legs? Of course we know what happened here – I lasted as long as I vowed to and have no plans of moving off anytime soon. In fact, I’ve got many projects lined up that will keep me operating in the Big Apple for many more years to come.

I have no plans yet for Steinway Street, but in the meantime you can check out this trailer. It’s an art house film through and through. Hope you dig and WOO HOO!!! to ten years! May the naysayers bugger off. :)

Eric M. Norcross / Writer/Filmmaker – “The Photographer”

It Happened One Night at A World of Film

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A new article I wrote for A World of Film, this time I tackle the Frank Capra classic “It Happened One Night” – among the earliest of “road trip” movies.

[reblogged from A World of Film]

… The atmosphere on set was tense as Gable and Colbert disapproved of the material, citing the script aslow quality. It is purported that when Gable first arrived to set, he told Capra, “Let’s get this over with”, making it clear how unhappy he was to have been loaned out for this “inferior” project. Gable and Colbert took a liking to one another through their common dissatisfaction with the script and only lightened after Capra suggested that Gable play occasional pranks on her.

Although she got along well with Gable, Colbert continued to demonstrate her displeasure while on set. She is said to have had many tantrums, largely motivated by her deep seeded hatred towards Capra. She balked at the idea of hiking up her skirt to entice passing drivers to give her a ride, citing that it was “beneath her”. Capra responded by introducing Colbert to her double, a chorus girl. Upon seeing her legs, a disgruntled Colbert changed her mind and agreed to do the scene without a double. Knowing that Colbert was perfect for the part, Capra took it all in stride, believing that the headache would pay off in the long run…. (read more at A World of Film)

[reblogged from A World of Film]