Saturday 17 December 2011


Today I watched "Breaking Upwards", an Indie flick from 2009. They shot it for $15,000 in New York. The actors supplied their own make-up and costumes.

I love that! And they had great actors, including Olivia Thirlby from "Juno". Movies aren't about the studios anymore. There are niche audiences all around.

I was listening to a great podcast interview with comedian Chris Rock today. He was saying that the era of the mainstream is over, the best comics have their own niche audiences. We've seen it in music too since the mp3 took over.

The old timers are clinging on, packaging movies the old way, but things are changing. Films like "Breaking Upwards" are possible, we just need to believe it. "New Years Eve" was a surefire hit for the studios, but it flopped. And Scorcese's "Hugo 3D" was actually great, but also flopped. The marketing departments can't guarantee a hit any more.

A heartfelt film made for $1,000 is just as valid as a Hollywood blockbuster. Don't get me wrong, the indies can be just as shitty as the mainstream movies. "Breaking Upwards" only scores a '6' on IMDB and with good reason.

But what the movie stands for and the attitude of the team behind it far outlives the content. "The Puffy Chair" proved that films on zero-budgets can resonate. So did "Clerks", "Once" and "The Blair Witch Project."

I watched "Happythankyoumoreplease", another indie flick about white actors/writers who drink coffee and have no problems. This is the danger of indie flicks, too many people are just trying to remake "Garden State."

Life is about many things. "Breaking Upwards" and "Happythankyoumoreplease" were both about writers in New York, and it shows a real lack of imagination. It works when Woody does it, but that's because you can be a shoe maker in India and still relate, because what he did was universal. But some of these modern indies are about absolutely nothing at all.

There was a time when nothing-at-all was cool. But Kevin Smith nailed it and so did "Seinfeld". We need more to sustain us. That's why I really feel the time is ripe for an indie film revolution. We have the tools, and the talent is all around us. The films just need to be about more than coffee and hip soundtracks.

Too many people are waiting for the big break or joking around making zombie films that nobody is passionate about. The old paradigm of production and distribution made this the only way, but now the door is open. If your work resonates with people, you'll find them on Twitter and Facebook and they'll find you.

Ten true fans will go out and kill for you. Word of mouth rules everything. Even the studios offer sweeteners to bloggers and tweeters now, they want you to feel part of the club so you'll give them positive reviews.

But you don't need the studios. You don't even need that much money. Cinema is changing. Get a good story and you're golden. Find great actors and anything is possible.

We don't totally know how distribution is going to play out in the future. It changes every year. We used to hate the idea of people streaming our movies but now people's Mac screens are as big as the cinema.

So don't rule out anything.

Everything is changing, and the indies play a bigger role than people realise. For the first time in cinematic history, we have greater personal access to our audiences. It's like the Chris Rock thing I mentioned; niche audiences. You don't need the big break anymore, you just need to find the people who get you. That's what musicians and comedians do now, and film is starting to go the same way.

Care to share?

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