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"You'll Never Work In This Town Again!"--And Why That Really Shouldn't Bother You


There was a time when the movie theatre--a temple for the cinema--was a physically domineering social hub for people; up until the 1960s filmgoers would catch up on their world news via short subject newsreels that preceded the movie and sometimes even congregated at after-parties to discuss or argue over that night's feature film. These days, with dark auditoriums glowing with mobile phones and tablet devices, that's a hard concept to grasp. Still, it's nothing to be disheartened by. The moviegoing "social hub" has migrated from the offline experience to the online experience and that's okay. Besides, most people get their world news from YouTube anyway.

I start with this point because there (again) exists some misguided fear--disgust, even--driven by culturally-disconnected gurus and so-called media "experts." Is it really an earth-shattering revelation that new generations of moviegoers expect more technically savvy films, up-to-date news feeds and exciting, dynamic ways to interact with movies/content? In the morosely titled "Millennials seem to have little use for old movies," Neal Gabler writes of today's young moviegoing crowd and their supposed disdain for the classics. Gabler: "They find old movies hopelessly passé — technically primitive, politically incorrect, narratively dull, slowly paced. In short, old-fashioned." Sure, I'm willing to agree that the moviegoer who plans his entire week around the midnight premiere of Fast and Furious doesn't really give a shit about a restored print of Jacques Tati's Playtime. But that has ALWAYS been the case. Before Millennials were born, there just as many moviegoers who did not know who Andrei Arsenyevich Tarkovsky was. 

Broad summations that paint a weakening neo-moviegoing culture are dangerous. They're dangerous to up and coming independent filmmakers, content creators, producers, screenwriters and actors. It's like a dagger to one's artistic and moral life. As if it wasn't hard enough for struggling artists to make films AND eat, these influential gatekeeping pundits and gee-whiz sociological Cineastes are all but encouraging a white flag in the air that says one thing: Don't even bother.

I say the opposite. 

Post after post, I encourage my readers (aspiring filmmakers to be sure) to embrace the changes in the new media landscape as they come along (at lightning fast speed). Consider the above example. If we're to believe that EVERY person born from this point on will be glued to their iPad, curating their own social media feed and will only look forward to new and future films...well, then LEVERAGE THAT!!! If we're to approach the movie theatre/social hub/offline vs. social media platform/social hub/online example, I'd say us indie filmmakers/content creators have the upper hand. If the theatrical model is becoming less appealing for people and more viewers are turning their heads six inches down toward their mobile device, I say bring it on. Do you really want to compete with the current, hard to break into theatrical exhibition system? I'd recommend you take your chances with Vimeo. (Note: Unless you're an Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker whose name alone can draw a tidal wave of attention.)

All signs point to a new, undefined, scary and exhilarating independent frontier. Don't be discouraged by the bitter industry players who used to have a handle on things. They're on their way out.

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