September 15, 2019

How to make and sell a truly independent film - part 2

I think we can safely say that low-budget independent producers are stark raving mad. Why would any rational person develop an idea with little or no guarantee of the eventual commercial value, then beg, borrow and steal to find the cash to actually make the movie? As if that wasn’t tough enough, they go through the soul-destroying effort of trying to get the film to the big screen. All this while inevitably battling those talent egos, tight-ass cash flows, crew, location and filming problems—as well as the small issue of getting the investors’ money back.

They say the hardest thing about writing a novel is the first word. In the movies, it’s the roller coaster of emotion. Once the process starts, the producer invariably gets carried away on a wave of excitement, euphoria and expectation. The creative side is always the fun bit. The boring stuff happens a lot later, when you have to come and meet jaded distributors like us to try to help get your film made. But we never tire of the wonderful passion that exudes from an independent film producer.

A generational shift in audience tastes is also occurring. Exacerbated by an increasingly rapid paradigm shift in delivery systems and exhibition windows. coupled with the impact of the recession on the international sales and DVD market. the industry has now given rise to a new generation of more cost-­effective performers who can attract significant audiences but have yet to prove their long-standing or cross-­generational appeal like their forebears. Actors such as Zac Efron, Taylor Lautner, Emma Roberts, Robert Pattinson, Chris Pine, Kristen Stewart and Shia LeBeouf to name a few, populate the event cinema, franchise features, high concept comedies and TV spin-offs that are the new common currency of the international marketplace 

Network and especially pay-TV (the likes of HBO and Showtime) is no longer perceived as a 'ghetto' for actors, with both established and new artists routinely moving from one medium to the other. It has also become a fertile breeding ground for fledgling big screen talent and an invaluable 'incubator' (think High School Musician and promotional platform for many of these bright new things).

Yet for all the hype surrounding the new digital cinema and the oft-promised dawn of performance capture and synthetic actors - or ·synthespians· -box-office blockbusters such as Avatar and Robert Zemeckis' A Christmas Carol may still only represent the exception to the rule in relation to the bulk of future cinematic output for performers. The market is cyclical and the faces will change, as new generations of actors emerge to engage new audiences, existing stars will diminish In their appeal. But while buyers and audiences alike may show a seemingly inexhaustible appetite for high concept event pictures. in the end it's still the flesh and blood performers that elicit our greatest empathy, who still anchor and give credence to the significant majority of these projects. and who largely continue to put those derrieres on seats.

These new technologies do offer one significantly intriguing possibility: that is the notion of reviving performers who have passed away or are too old to perform in the roles that once guaranteed their box-office value. The King of the World himself, James Cameron, has already mooted the idea of using these new digital performance tools to performance-capture a digitally revived Clint Eastwood in his 1970's prime, taking on the mantle of Dirty Harry once again! On the basis of this  could we be looking at the possibility of future event pictures featuring digitally recreated avatars of box-office stars of the past effortlessly and convincingly interacting with the stars of today? Imagine Steve McQueen and Sam Worthington in Avatar 2. Cary Grant and George Clooney in Ocean's 14 or a 1960s-era Sean Connery and Daniel Craig as duelling Bonds? 

Personally we'll be holding out for the 'ultimate' comedy team-up of Adam Sandler and Charles Hawlrey but we accept that technology aside, we might be waiting a while for that! 

Whatever the future holds, it's clear that advanced digital tools will offer us potentially limitless opportunities for performance but, aesthetic and even moral considerations aside, like all matters related to the box-office, we the audience will ultimately decide what is successful and what is not.

Behind the scenes.