Perhaps you’re thinking: “Filmmaking has always been interdependent.”
Well, if you are, congrats. You’re smarter than me.
But I can’t speak for you. I can only speak for myself, and I — am excited.
Let me explain.
Independence Today: It’s Exhausting
I know it doesn’t work the same way for everyone, but I don’t think I am alone in having stumbled into independent film, first, because I love film, and second…because I’m (fiercely) independent. To a fault, sometimes.
Once, when I was in college, I was talking to a friend who I was trying to get to date me, who was smart enough to avoid that chore but kind enough to remain friends with me anyway. I remember, once, saying to her:
“Sometimes, I feel like my life is just a never-ending series of tiny rebellions.”
To which, she replied: “That sounds pretty accurate.”
I bring this up for a specific reason. The pattern is exhausting. Especially, now, in a world where true rebellion has been both quashed and yet at the same time mostly proven by history to be (arguably) less effective in result as it is in promise (there are, of course, major exceptions). It makes less sense to always be acting contrarily, from moment to moment, than it does to simply just turn around and walk in another direction. Or to do this subtly, quietly, over time.
That needs some unpacking, I know.
That Doesn’t Mean The Independent Voice Isn’t Still Necessary
Here’s my point — there always should be a challenge to the status quo. I hope we can all agree on this, even if we may differ in defining that status. I’m definitely not here to argue against rebellion and/or independence. But, as I have said here before, I do believe the time has come — for filmmakers, for artists, for people — to fight smarter, not harder.
So, instead of fighting alone, as I believe some smart and talented people are beginning to see — we need people to fight with us, and us with them.
I hone in on filmmaking as an example, now, because it has the convenience of being my primary vocation while at the same time providing a good embodying example as a result of its truly collaborative nature.
Why Indie/Interdependent Filmmakers Are Primed to Lead
I have been over this before. So have others. Here’s the gist, quickly:
Technology has been democratized.
I’m not going to summarize what this means. It should be clear by now. Basically, anyone can do anything they have a talent for, so long as they put in the work, over time, and are strategic about it. I’m living proof. My career studying film, in official terms, lasted six hours. I made my first film by studying a bit and diving in. It wasn’t perfect but it lit the flame and taught me a lot about the craft and myself. Oh, and I had a lot of help.
Knowledge has been democratized.
By the way, help protect net neutrality. It’s important. Here’s why.
Like I said, I got into this by studying and diving in. Most of what I learned, I learned on the internet. Countless others have done the same. This is important, in terms of independent spirit, in my opinion, for one primary reason. Film school — filmmaking in general — is often for the wealthier among our population.
Again, there are exceptions. But there used to be far more of them. This is mostly a product of our increasingly unequal, increasingly bifurcated society (the “Haves” and “Those Getting By”).
I won’t go into what’s happened to what used to be the lower class, because this is meant to be a hopeful essay. But that doesn’t mean they don’t exist, and that we are artists in particular don’t owe the less fortunate a greater chance to exercise their voice. Even free access to democratized knowledge can’t help someone who spends every waking moment treading water. Anyway. End digression. Another story for another day.
The benefit of democratized knowledge is that those of us who are able and willing to rebel, to be truly independent (and it’s not easy, by a stretch) are at least able to try to make art. Though, increasingly, even to do this we have to do it together.
Need fulfillment is becoming “localized”
When I say that indie film is dead, obviously I’m exaggerating a little. In certain ways, actually, it’s never been easier to be an auteur (speaking purely on a technical basis) . However.
It’s also never been easier to convince oneself that this is easy, and to get in over the head only to realize it too late.
We’re getting too many mediocre films.
But there seems to be a trend emerging, that’s to me appears a match of circumstance to need. People are, slowly, working together — more often.
Mediocrity breeds boredom and cynicism that causes audiences to understandably jump ship. Even bold material that people argue over, in terms of its innate quality, is better than a lot of what we were getting up until recently.
But film collaboratives. Teams of filmmakers swapping roles and supporting each other across the years. Startups extending an hand from the tech sphere to ours, to the mutual benefit of each party. Locally made films, for and by locals, within neighborhoods and states. Niche documentaries supported via crowdfunding by those whose story spurred their genesis. We’re starting to take more risks in terms of trusting others. Those risks are starting to pay off.
This does not seem, to me, a replacement of indie film as we have known it. It seems an evolution of it, a birth of a new thing that’s like the old thing, and which may even exist in parallel to it for a long time to come, but is also necessarily a little more solid. Again, it’s more solid because we need it to be, to help us navigate a still consistently confusing time. Interdependent filmmaking is about rising to the moment.
It hasn’t been an easy transition for me. I used to be, and still often am, a loner. But I’m learning. I’ve started taking those risks. Asking for help. Offering it. It needs to be done.
If we’re going to survive, if we’re going to try to leave a mark on the world to make it even just a little more our own — we have to depend on one another. At least a little.
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