Monday, October 14, 2013

A better Mouse Trap

I made a feature doc for the cost of camera, sound and editing equipment ($3K) . Of course I also invested 3 years of sweat. But more and more this is possible. As technology advances, it is happening. Look at Adobe Suite CC, available for a monthly fee; or the Flycam or MoVI, to easily add high end production value for cheap. Look at the success of social media and crowd funding to get funds independently even before shooting. This is all happening now. Build interest, gather an audience, fund the film. It is becoming more and more as cheap as music.

There are basically 10 or 15 film genres we ever hear of (Colin Brown, Filmonomics: Thinking in Genres; Hope for Film 10/11/2013). Why? Is it because people are only interested in these genres? Is it because filmmakers only want to work in these genres? No. It's because the tradition of a high budget studio [ec]centric market has dictated these few genres and discounts anything outside the "corporate norm." So filmmakers are convinced (wrongly so) that they must stick to these genres to be budgeted.

Compare this to music with 50 to 100 genres easily. Why? Because music is artist driven, not studio driven, and not budget driven. Five guys or girls get together in a garage and invent rock, or punk, or new wave or a new genre pretty much at least every generation.

Enter digital filmmaking giving filmmakers the same power that musicians always had. Musicians generate their own audience and followers; there own genre sometimes. Filmmakers are now doing the same with social media. Guess what happens next?

Bottom line: indie filmmakers need to spend a few years to generate their audience instead of trying to fit their polygonal genre-less peg into a corporate square genre hole.

All that filmmakers have to do is to ignore such generalized genre classifications and find their own audience. If they can't do that, then yes, they may need to go back and do something that will gain an audience. And in that case, I would agree, genre may be a starting point at the very onset of writing or re-writing. But not as the target for what the film will be. Audiences aren't looking for genre. They're looking for what moves them, and that goes back to human DNA. 

This genre model is based on what a corporate movie industry wants to invest in, not what audiences want to buy. The thinking is backwards and obsolete. Even if filmmakers fit into genres, they are better off with a lottery ticket in terms of making a living at this model, unless they are willing to succumb to corporate dictation, in which case they become just another wage slave working for the man.

As to Colin Brown's article on genre (here on Hope for Film or here on Slated), probably most indie films fit into the 12 listed genres and like DNA they can all be tied back to one of the few genres that the corporate film dictators so know and love.

The Colin Brown post lists the rules associated with those genres. Are you kidding me? Rules? Who is this guy? The genre police? And yet if you study those rules, you can see they are not really about adhering to a genre. They are more about finding an audience.

Forget genre. Just take all those rules and lump them together , and then use them to find your audience. This idea of having to label everything is moronic. It serves no purpose. You can't measure artistic endeavor with scientific methods, just as you can't effectively measure any abstract concept (like art, love, or God for example) with science (StoryAlity; Dr. JT Velikovsky). Velikovsky has been making these measurements for years and yet we're still in "the dark ages" in terms of understanding this scientifically, in Velikovsky's own words. What's the point of scientific research then?

I don't think the problem indie filmmakers face is that they work outside of established genres. The problem is the opposite. Filmmakers force their ideas into established genres based on fear generated by posts like Brown's. If musicians did that there would be no rock, no grunge, no new wave, no hip hop, no rap, no punk. And what would you call Madonna, Miley, or Gaga? EDM? That wouldn't exist either.

The successes of these artists is their originality, uniqueness, individuality, and pure balls to go against the grain. My point is that filmmakers have to grow a pair and do what musicians do. Filmmakers should strive to be rock stars, not corporate yes men. The reason they fail financially isn't because they don't fit into established markets. It is because they do fit into them and can't compete with studios. But they can't sell films if they don't have a following of people to sell to (regardless of genre or not), because if they did, they would not need the markets. The technology exists for filmmakers to sell direct and cut out the middle market.

In this fast paced world of evolving technology where things become obsolete within two years, I find it hard to attach much relevance to years of research, despite whatever doctorate scholars are involved. Any empirical data more than a year old is obsolete. Any data recorded now will be obsolete in a year.
This isn't about research and analysis. You can't research a moving target. This is about logic, common sense, and the historical precedent of a medium like music that's been successful in hundreds of genres, beginning at least 400 years ago with the classics. It's about art.  Is all modern art categorized into genres? Would you tell an artist that to be successful they have to create only inside a certain genre and by certain genre rules? That is deadly advice.

I'm on a project now, and really my only expense is paying people. So I can do this one scene at a time. But if I could find collaborators willing to sweat with me, without pay, this film would easily be done.

If you make a Facebook movie page and get 500K+ followers, not only will you get the attention of the traditional industry, you'll have an audience to sell to directly and to bypass the distribution middlemen. Forget Hulu. I can make $14 per DVD sale on Amazon. I would have to sell 77 rentals on Hulu to make the same amount. Even if I sell digital rentals directly, for $5 a pop, that's still 27 times my Hulu take. Direct sales from your own website is the way indie filmmakers can make out. But the audience is the crucial element, not the genre.

You may say millions come out to Hulu or iTunes. But they still will have to find your film when they get there among the thousands others. If you have to drive people to a website, why Hulu? Why not your own, where the take is 100%?

If you build a better mouse trap, the world will beat a path to your door (Ralph Waldo Emerson).

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