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My Big Fat Greek Collapse: New York’s Independent Film Community Goes From Boom to Bust

My Big Fat Greek Collapse: New York's Independent Film Community Goes From Boom to Bust

For the Village Voice, I’ve written one of those big summation pieces about the state of independent film. Looking back at the decade, the article is very much linked to my 2002 story, “Ghost in the Machine: Mourning has risen for independent film,” which looked at the situation during the early years of the decade when indies were being co-opted by huge corporations. What hath that buying spree wrought? Well, as the new article states: “Financial and technological shifts have disemboweled the indie industry that corporations and investors had spent the decade puffing up.”

After talking to about a dozen representatives from the industry, there were a number of quotes that I couldn’t fit into the print story. So here, for your reading enjoyment, are few of my other favorite observations that didn’t make the final draft:

Eamonn Bowles: “The biggest thing that I miss is the way audiences have turned: Things that are purely cinematic – like an exciting new director – are not a compelling financial thing anymore. The marketplace has not responded to a great new director or if it’s just incredibly good filmmaking. That aspect as an element of marketing doesn’t have value anymore.”

Ted Hope, on “Crouching, Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” “Here is a film that works worldwide, but the experts in the agency business and in the studio business, all dismissed it initially, and said go off and make your little film. And then it completely captures the imagination and shows how people aren’t restricted to demographics. Whether it was Crouching Tiger or Fahrenheit or Passion or Blair Witch or Paranormal Activity, people thought those films were theirs, and they made things happen. We think of cinema as a product rather than a community experience. That’s what we’re finally waking up to. And that’s where the change is going to come from.”

David Fenkel: “Just because DVD sales are down doesn’t mean you’re screwed. You just buy the movie for cheaper. Producers and financiers aren’t screwed; they just shouldn’t pay that much money to make a movie. Everyone has to make an honest assessment of what’s really viable.”

Antonio Campos: “Even if the label “independent film” dies because it’s just not bankable anymore, or at least not bankable in the way it was years ago, the spirit of independent film won’t die. DIY cinema, Auteur Cinema, Art-house, low-budget, maverick cinema, outsider cinema–whatever it is, it’s just a label. And even without a label, filmmakers will find a way to tell the story they want to tell. And hopefully people will watch it. And I think they will. And with the community of filmmakers growing in the US every year, maybe we’ll figure out a way to become more tight-knit and help each other more. The fact is that it’s getting easier and easier to form connections and develop communities with people not only all over the country but all over the world.”

Mark Urman: “There’s a liberation. A lot of the things that we’ve spent our creative capital, ego and money on were these vainglorious image-related things fueled by the studio specialty divisions–all the Oscar stuff, and we’re going to sit at the grown-ups table. That lost a lot of people a lot of money and sealed the fate of some of these companies. Now I’m releasing a film for awards consideration, but I’m doing it in a very sober way, It’s amazing how much money you don’t have to spend. There are still some companies throwing a lot of money around. And they’re going to be sorry. They can win and they’re still going to be sorry. It’s really become a game where if you win you lose. I know for a fact and I’ve been through it.”

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