Things, they are a changing. But, as is a common theme within these posts, do they really ever change that much? Whilst offering some reflection on a few stories in the news today I think it is worthwhile remembering that great story has the power to change and with tenacity and vision those stories can make it out into the world to have real impact, despite mediums adapting and governments changing intentions.
David Cameron is reported to be suggesting that we, in Britain, should move towards financing more box office successes. Now, of course, on paper this makes perfect sense. Make films which are good and that people around the world want to see. Who would not have an interest in sharing their story?
The big story however has been the subtext,'Do what people want, make lots of money, sacrifice narrative'.
Of course, that is an interpretation and perhaps a very harsh and ill-founded one. If you look closely at the quotes he also says,'Our role, and that of the British Film Institute, should be to support the sector in becoming even more dynamic and entrepreneurial, helping UK producers to make commercially successful pictures that rival the quality and impact of the best international productions'. On the face of it, I doubt anybody would disagree with this sentiment but what is most problematic so far is not only what was said, but what was therefore unsaid, ignored.
Whilst it would obviously be great if we always made brilliant, challenging box office successes in Britain, the reality is that brilliant and challenging could give way in the race for box office success. We are not suggesting success and money must always be equated with poor cinema, no, but that we want a full spectrum of story and some films will not, and should not have to, produce great profits to be considered valuable.
As Ben Blaine puts it;
"There is a market in this country for independent film, for the intelligent, the unexpected, the delightful and the original. What we need is a better system that enables filmmakers to reach that audience. What we need is less interference from bumbling toffs who clearly don’t know what the hell they’re talking about."
Another point, brilliantly made by Raindance, is this
"Smaller budgeted films, with no stars, films like Shame and Kill List can actually be more profitable in terms of return on investment than their bigger budgeted star driven vehicles. And they are less risky too. Isn't it the smaller, indie, films that need these subsisdies? New voices and boundary pushing ideas are internationally recognised elements of British films, and form a huge part of their appeal."
How can we predict box office success anyway? Did we know that The Kings Speech would be such an international hit, was it known even before it started shooting? This is a film which is cited as being a recent example of exactly the kind of box office success Mr. Cameron would hope for. It is a wonderful film, but one which may well have missed the boat had the only purpose of producing it been to get bums on seats. There have been a raft of wonderful tweets today parodying this sentiment under the hashtag #fundablefilms
'Romeo and Juliet V Alien V Predator'
'The Madness of George of the Jungle'
To name just a couple!
Surely though the clearest message is that you can't fund Box Office success. You can only fund great stories, bold voices and tenacious filmmakers. If you try to predict what the public want on purely financial terms then you end up with X FACTOR:THE MOVIE. There is a ready made audience to go and see that film and, as I said, it has it's place in the full spectrum of story. That's all we ever ask. To get the full spectrum. And to value story and it's power, over purely financial gains.
Also in the indie film news today, a great article by Chris Jones a filmmaker who we are constantly impressed by, most regularly for his film making philosophy and lessons to his pro-active attitude towards achieving your goals.
Here are Chris' thoughts on the BIG changes facing indie filmmaking in 2012
1. Kodak may go bankrupt in 2012
It’s been widely reported that Kodak is looking at filing for Chapter 11 in the USA. This is basically a way of going bankrupt in a graceful manner, or putting it another way ‘Chapter 11 protects companies from their creditors while they try to reorganise financially…’ Kodak have not gone yet, and I am sure the brand will endure, but I am also sure that there is no real money left in making film stock for movies
2. The internet has finally matured in 2012
It appears that there are no barriers to entry now. If you want a blog, website or social media presence, you can have one. You can have pretty much free too. No tech skills are needed. You may need an eye for the aesthetic, an ear for good writing and determination to succeed, but as a film maker, you should already have that in bucket loads.
3. NetFlix moves into the UK and DOES NOT support DVD in 2012
As far as American distribution giant NetFlix is concerned, DVD is dead. NetFlix has just muscled into the UK market to give monopolised Love Film a run for their money. And NetFlix ONLY offer online download. Countless other small indicators in distribution tell us that we are moving to a completely online world, and I suspect that this year will see a significant move in that direction.
4. The World Financial Crisis grows in 2012
Whether it’s the Eurozone crisis, the threat or new recession or the endless ripples from the banking collapse, money has become ever more elusive. Paradoxically, this is good news from indies as makes us work harder on our scripts, weeds out overpaid time wasters and radically shakes things up (and boy do they need it!) I say it again, this is GOOD for us all. It may not feel it right now, but remember, cream floats.
5. DSLR will be replaced by ‘proper’ digital cine cameras in 2012
Finally, cameras that have been designed to shoot moving images, instead of stills cameras that have been modified to shoot video, are starting to proliferate. Potentially, this puts a ‘designed and fit for purpose’ movie camera into the hands of any determined film maker.
6. The battle for online distribution heats up in 2012
Historically, when a new technology comes to market, there are usually a number of innovators who eventually merge / buy out / collaborate, to create a single ‘killer solution’. Right now Apple, Distrify, Dynamo Player and many others are all vying for the crown of online distribution. The next year will be fascinating to see who ends up at the feast table and who is left out in the cold.
7. Collaboration, knowledge and sharing in 2012
The culture of sharing knowledge now dominates. Don’t know it? Ask on Twitter. Need a crew? Post on Facebook or other sites. Want to test a camera? Don’t bother, someone has already done it and uploaded to Vimeo (and probably done a brilliant job too). Your project is now only limited by your idea, your ability to execute and your enduring tenacity.
So, just as one man suggests a funding stream may be about to dry up for some of the more original British storytellers, another proposes the many opportunities which will be granted to independent filmmakers over the next 12 months.
It certainly looks like 2012 is going to be an eventful year and we want to be a major part of it. Let's send a message to anybody who thinks independent films with bold voices, but without guaranteed box office success written in, are unworthy of funding in the most positive way. By making something amazing!
"Your success or failure is limited only by your taking massive action. It’s simply a decision. Something you choose to do, or not to do."