OPED: Future of Film Exhibition

Kevin-Smith
Standard

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.

FA Filmmaker Profile: Matthew Harrison

Standard
Courtesy October Films

Matthew Harrison and Kevin Corrigan.

Recently Film Anthropology flew out to Los Angeles to interview filmmaker, artist and television director Matthew Harrison, about his life and career. From his roots in the New York underground art scene to his achievements at some of the world’s most influential film festivals, Matt Harrison tells all. He talks about starting out shooting super 8 as a child and winning his first award at the New York Downtown Film Festival, which encouraged him to bring up his game and how he went on to win the jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival.

Matthew elaborates on working with Super 8, 16mm, his first union experience and how he came to work with Martin Scorsese on his feature studio picture Kicked In The Head.

Matthew’s film My Little Hollywood, which he shot in the mid-1990’s was recently completed and has spent the past year in the 2012 and 2013 festival circuit.

 

Direct Link URL: http://youtu.be/kZ-R3jufBss

Matthew’s Official Website: http://www.filmcrash.com/

About Filmmaker Profiles: This video is the first in a brand new incarnation of the Filmmaker Profiles series, a collection of interviews that Eric originally started at the Anthology Film Archives when he volunteered with the NewFilmmakers series.

Filmmaker Profile: Michael Rader

Standard

Man Vs UltramanMichael Rader is an artist in Brooklyn, who it turns out, has made a few experimental films. The most recent is MAN VERSUS ULTRAMAN, which I was introduced to by the 2012 Art of Brooklyn Film Festival.   In the main lobby of the festival where filmmakers had their movie posters up, Michael had his poster and the special thing about it was that he painted it himself and brought the canvas in and hung it up. Not a copy, not a Photoshopped Kinkos printed run off – but the actual painting. Right away I thought WOW – I have to include this guy in my profile series!

MAN VERSUS ULTRAMAN screened at the AOBFF on the one night I couldn’t actually make it to the festival so, as is common with films and filmmakers that intrigue me, I went ahead and looked for it on the NewFilmmakers WithoutABox submissions list – low and behold it was there. Around the same time I was keying it into the Fall program, I got an e-mail from the director of the festival – a forward from Michael, asking that the film be placed in the same program I had just listed it in.  What are the odds?

Now we have here, Michael’s Filmmaker Profile, filmed on location at his studio in Brooklyn, to promote his upcoming NewFilmmakers screening of MAN VERSUS ULTRAMAN. During the filming of the profile I found out that he had screened with us before, a Chaplin inspired film. Here is the story of both of those projects with clips from MAN VERSUS ULTRMAN. If you can make the 6PM program on Monday October 8th, , head on over to the Anthology Film Archives and join us!

Direct Link: http://youtu.be/uTUVM6Quqtk

Artwork from MAN VS ULTRAMAN will be on display at CHRISTOPHER HENRY GALLERY

November 8th through December 9th 2012.

Filmmaker Profile: Mark Blackman

Standard

I have here another MFF alumni, Mark Blackman, whom I met at his MFF screening of WELCOME TO HARLEM – his indie musical feature that picked up the Best Musical award from that festival and a variety of others.  I call it an award magnet.  A phenomenally orchestrated work, vibrant and fun, I had to program it into the Fall series and profile his work because it’s just flat out fantastic. Here’s what Mark had to say about WELCOME TO HARLEM:

Direct Link: