At a recent film industry event I attended, I found myself picking up my jaw from the ground a lot. I ran into a number of individuals--all indie producers and content creators--who were hellbent on landing that "theatrical run" for their micro or modest projects. The relentless DIY-digital filmmaker inside me kept erupting with "Are you fucking nuts?" expletives. You see, I have a deep concern for my peers not seeing the big picture. Like any other independent artist, I would love to have all of my work tour the nation on big multiplex screens but we know that the current exhibition infrastructure is not built to program all of our work (whether their current programmed content is any good is an entirely different discussion), so why bother with waiting around and hoping to be "discovered"? We know the major film festival route is becoming a slimmer opportunity every year; since when do films that star Tinseltown marquee names earn the label of being "indie"? We also know that our current democratic state of indie moviemaking gives us the unique advantage of creating good-looking content that can go viral instantly. So why aren't more indie filmmakers just following the obvious yellow brick road to the new media industry (i.e. on demand services, mobile and tablet devices, streaming service platforms)?
In a (hopefully) eye-opening article from TheWrap titled "The New Indie Arthouse: Is It Moving Online?," writer Steve Pond points out:
"...If filmmakers still hold out dreams of showing at the arthouse down the street rather than the arthouse inside the computer, independent film and digital media consultant Mark Lipsky offered some cautionary words to TheWrap last year.
"Unless your film has been fully acquired by a well-capitalized distributor," he said, "then you’re not only kidding yourself about the value of traditional theatrical but you’re contributing to the delay in establishing a sensible, vital and self-sustaining film ‘nursery’ online where everyone gets a chance at life and the cream naturally rises to the top."
"Once that begins to happen, no one will ever remember wanting to scratch and claw and mortgage their way into brick and mortar cinemas."
When asked on Thursday if he felt that a true online "film nursery" was any closer, Lipsky told TheWrap that it was, but that progress been slow because industry leaders like Netflix and Amazon have not been forward-thinking enough. True innovation, he said, is "clearly not going to come from any of the existing players."
"But it will come," he said. "Later than sooner, perhaps, but yes, closer every day.""
The good thing about us being indie content creators is that we're not "existing players" in the bigger scheme of things. Thus, we find ourselves in the pivotal roles that can create some true innovation. Look: We're all online. Promotional platforms via social media pages like Facebook and Twitter are free. Now is the perfect time to become a "name" talent without ever having to go to Hollywood. Isn't it beautiful? Your work will speak for itself. Plus, it's easily sharable and available on the web.
So how can you be one of those lucky names that "naturally rises to the top"? The answer is in two parts. First, the simple fundamental of continuing to brand yourself via web 2.0 remains crucial. For some textbook background, I'll point you to a concept I utilize called "microcontent." A good breakdown comes in the piece "Web 2.0 Storytelling: Emergence Of A New Genre":
"Microcontent suggests that authors create small chunks of content, with each chunk conveying a primary idea or concept. These pieces are smaller than websites in terms of information architecture and are meant to be reused in multiple ways and places. They are also often much smaller than websites in terms of the amount of storage that each chunk takes up: blog posts, wiki edits, YouTube comments, and Picasa images are usually only a few thousand bytes. Some types of microcontent, ironically, can be quite large from a storage perspective but are self-contained—namely, audio (podcasts), video (for web platforms, such as YouTube), or embeddable Flash applets. Their uploading to the web is a simple matter for the user and does not require anything in the way of web design expertise."
In short, put your content, your ideas and YOUR VOICE out there on the web! The second part comes in being inspired by your peers. It may sound cheesy but any artist of value is really more like a sponge: they take in all forms of content that relates to what they're trying to create. Only from this reawakening of our artistic senses can we truly create something of meaning. Once this happens on a mass scale, we can attract new types of distributors--for online, on demand and tablet platforms--and can redefine our idea of "exhibition."
After all is said and done, we all need each other. If we're going to steer our independent industry into its rightful future as a new media industry, we need to come together and make this happen. With an open network, we can lead to open creativity.
We can have something really special.