In today’s world of movies, it’s hard for Independent Filmmakers to find Directors to use as inspiration for their own work. When the number of theaters and weekly box office numbers are celebrated 52 times a year, an environment that fosters arthouse, non-mainstream, independent filmmaker work is close to nonexistent. This can be seen so easily when it comes to awards season. This is the only time when these types of films are brought to the forefront and everyone is looking at the nominations and thinking, “never heard of that”. What they have heard of are the latest blockbusters. I’m not saying that the awards shows are a benchmark for great films, but it is at least a different focus from every other week in movies. It’s the difference between the latest Transformers movie being celebrated and a film that only played at a small number of theaters during its run.
I remember looking forward to the latest Paul Thomas Anderson film, Punch Drunk Love, coming out. I looked online for where it was playing. I looked at 5 miles from my current location, 10 miles, 15 miles, until I finally found it about an hour away at a small theater. We are very lucky that we still have some great Directors like Spielberg and Scorsese that will play at an abundance of theaters. Tarantino and some others can now also be added to that list.
I understand this is not a new problem as many smaller productions have always been largely ignored in the theater, but I feel it has gotten worse. The focus is more on the visual side of movies instead of the story driven films. The focus is on the moments in films and not the scenes. The one quick shot of a superhero silhouette instead of a close-up of someone telling a story. Today’s society, with our smart phones, social media, and texting, live for the quick thrill instead of the drawn-out building of the story.
I’m not saying I do not enjoy blockbusters, but there needs to be better balance with thought provoking and arthouse or short films.
In today’s environment, aspiring independent filmmakers need to stop making movies, without first learning from what they have previously done. There is a wealth of information that can be had from previous endeavors. Why do we, as independent film makers not take this advice? We create film after film and get feedback from friends and family potentially, but never from peers that are doing the same thing. Think of the great feedback you could get from one or many others in the independent filmmaking area. A few small changes identified, and each film becomes progressively better. There is a famous quote from Winston Churchill that states, “Those who fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it”.
The reason this has come up is due to the many videos that can be found online. Within seconds, anyone can find a person whom has created 5 “films”, but each one is just as bad as the first. It does not seem like they are trying to get better. Maybe in some cases, they are not, but in most, it would be hard to believe they are not trying to improve with each venture. Say for example, they asked a peer filmmaker to watch their first video and the feedback was something like this; “It’s a great try, but you should really look at color correcting some scenes and spending some additional time on the audio.” It’s a simple piece of feedback, but that could lead to moviemaking gains like color correction and giving their second film a much more uniform and pleasing look. Additionally, maybe that person spent a lot more time on the camera use in the film and thought audio was not as important (it is). This small feedback would help them to re-evaluate that and work a little more on that aspect next time. This is just one small example on the first film. Now multiply this for each film that person makes going forward.
This seems like such an obvious activity, but it is obviously not done much. Again, friends and family feedback is great, but it can only take you so far. Rarely would they give feedback on the tone, color, sound, cinematography, etc. Unless your uncle is Spielberg or Scorsese. If so, ignore this article and go make more films and ask their thoughts (and tell us what they said). The real benefit is in asking others that are going through the same process, to exchange thoughts on each other’s work. This is how independent film making will continue to grow exponentially.
There are numerous places this type of constructive feedback from others in the same field can occur. The most common place is at film festivals. Submitted films are reviewed and awarded. This is a much more invasive approach than just getting informal feedback. Sometimes, people use sites such as Vimeo and Youtube to get feedback. Nine times out of 10, the feedback will come from people just watching the film and not from people that are also in the field.
A recommended activity is to look at online film festivals that include independent film reviews. This might be a much less invasive way to get feedback. There is also a great short films website called IndieFilmShare that forces people to review a film if they are submitting a film. These types of indie film websites are a great way to ensure the site is more focused on the constructive feedback side. It also increases the chances of people getting great feedback on how to improve their work so that they can progressively improve their craft. There are a number of films already there and the number will only increase as time goes by.