About 18 months ago, I wrote this blog:
Be sure to read both of the comments attached to it, to my mind, they constitute a part of the blog itself. I was idly flicking through Twitter this evening when I noticed the ‘who to follow’ box was recommending that I follow the star of that blog – award-winning, competent low-end TV director Phil Hawkins. That award-winning name hadn’t crossed my mind for a very long time so I was naturally tempted to see what he was up to now.
I was surprised to find that he has now made a new feature film. I was less surprised to find out that it sounds dire.
Here’s the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/user/beingsoldthemovie
The selling points seem to be that it was filmed in 2 days and that it stars Lesley Joseph (that’s the skanky one from Birds of a Feather), 80’s gameshow host Roy Walker and Gordon Burns from another 80’s gameshow. If it were a film about 80’s gameshows, this would all be exciting news. It isn’t, though, it’s a film about a man who sells himself on ebay or something. None of us are ever going to see this film, so I won’t waste time mocking the award-winning talents of its creator but it makes me think strongly about the future of independent film.
Last weekend, I spoke, via the internet at the world’s first crowd funding summit. I’d been asked to because my documentary raised a lot of money very quickly through the crowdfunding website indiegogo.com (we still need money – feel free to check it out at http://www.indiegogo.com/anyone-can-play-guitar ) I’ve been amazed by the experience, I’d made the film completely independently and was struggling to pre-sell it to afford to finish it. I wasn’t sure if the film would ever see the light of day. Between indiegogo, Twitter, Facebook and the lovely people at Popbitch, news of it went viral and we raised over $18k in a matter of weeks. The publicity that accompanied it has got us major press coverage coming up and even talk of sales and sponsorship.
The summit was fascinating and the upshot that I took from it was this: We’re heading for a new era in film. A real Renaissance. The playing field is finally becoming level. With the advent of the Macbook Pro and Canon 7d (and equivalent products out there) you can now OWN the technical equipment that can get a film into the cinema for less than five thousand pounds. This means that anybody can now make a film. The only constraints are your imagination and talent because the new cameras shoot beautifully and there is very little you can’t do on your home computer with a bit of work and application.
Here’s the problem. A mainstream audience will always struggle to understand the idea behind an indie film. No stars, no budget, looks cheap and nasty. That’s their general response. To lead the charge, we need some well-made, smart, sassy flicks which show that honest and from-the-heart home-made films have so much more and different to offer than their multi-million-dollar counterparts. Films like Being Sold (yeah, I know I haven’t seen it but you just saw the trailer too so shut up) are going to be detrimental and damaging if considered part of the advance guard.
Here’s the thing, when someone tells you they made a feature film in two days, your response should be this ‘I will never watch that film, you stupid, stupid man’. I’ll tell you why. Feature films take a long time to make. Your big budget Hollywood film will usually shoot for somewhere between 6 weeks and 3 months. Why? Because it takes time. It takes time to set up shots, to get the performances right, to light the scenes. Indie films do shoot quicker – because they have to – on average maybe 3 or 4 weeks for a 90 minute film.
Now, I don’t doubt that it’s physically possible to shoot a feature film in 2 days. Since I got my 7d, I’ve done a couple of music videos with no crew – lighting, directing and camera operating by myself and it has been a much faster process with no huge loss in quality. These shoots were for 3 minute videos and they still each took a day. If somebody tells you they have made a feature film in 2 days, that to me is like telling you they’ve built a house over the weekend or safety-checked an airplane in 5 minutes. Technically, logistically it can be done. But why rush it except in a misguided attempt to show off? Technically and logistically you could make a 90 minute film in 90 minutes. But it’s going to be shit. If someone tells me they can make me a club sandwich in 3 seconds, I’m not going to be impressed because who needs a 3 second club sandwich? Why not take ten minutes and bring me a sandwich that I’d actually want to eat? Why shoot a feature film in 2 days? Why not take a week? Why not take a fortnight? If a story is worth telling, it’s worth taking a little time over, surely?
Well, it’s a gimmick, isn’t it? Many indie filmmakers feel they need a hook and I’m sure this 2-day thing is a good story and will garner Hawkins a lot of press (they’re desperate for content these days) but it won’t translate. I doubt there is anyone in the country (except those who know the award-winning man) who would put their hands in their pockets to sit through a rush-job film starring a handful of ex-gameshow hosts and Terry Christian.
Thank God, then, for Gareth Edwards and his $15k film Monsters which is doing great box office business right now. Challenging films with an infinitely higher budget on the strengths of passion and premise alone. There are a lot of indie films about to come down the pike, with online distribution and sales, the notion of quality control will disappear fast (like bands and myspace, I guess) there are going to be some real rough diamonds appearing and at the end of the day, story and vision will be what we engage with.
The egalitarian developments of the technical side will allow those with something to say but an inability to negotiate the industry to finally get their voices heard. It will also expose those who have nothing to say but crave the kudos of being an award-winning director.
So, get your hack radars well tuned, get your minds and wallets open and buckle up because it’s going to be a really exciting ride.