Celebrating 17 Years of Film.Biz.Fans.
by Eugene Hernandez
July 1, 2009 6:56 AM
3 Comments
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Are we fighting to preserve a business or an artform? Introducing iW's cinemadaily.

Last week I posted, on Twitter and Facebook, that I was "contemplating the increasingly striking tension between art and industry." That comment came after a lengthy email exchange with a good friend who was reacting to the recent James Stern keynote speech at the Los Angeles Film Festival. The remarks struck my friend, a New York indie filmmaker, as being too focused on the business of movies. Must filmmakers really ponder profits and the marketplace, my friend wondered? "NO!" he exclaimed in the email, reacting to a recent spate of iW articles about the business side of indie filmmaking.

Do painters or writers or musicians create only when there might be a market for their work? If not, then why should filmmakers? How does all of this talk about saving the industry for indie filmmakers preserve personal filmmaking? "Seriously," he continued, "This shit makes me want to quit."

After a moment of defensiveness, I conceded that at indieWIRE we're *trying* to be an umbrella that can contain numerous perspectives, points-of-view, and ideologies that are increasingly at odds. But, as I later posted in that Twitter and Facebook post, it's hard to see some of these impulses find common ground.

"That makes two of us," reacted Peter Sollett, director of "Raising Victor Vargas" and "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist." "I have to hope some very very good rebellion will come from all this," Allison Anders, director of "Gas Food Lodging" and "Mi Vida Loca," responded a few minutes later on Facebook.

"Now it's art or industry - the and has been taken away," declared Lesli Klainberg from Orchard Films and NewFest.

Words like James Stern's recent speech, or comments from an LA fest panel about indie financing seem primarily aimed at making movies more profitable for investors rather than pushing the boundaries of personal cinema. In this economically challenging time, with people in the film business losing their jobs every day, many American companies seem to be cutting back and often taking fewer risks. Yet, in Cannes this year we saw a steady stream of seemingly unmarketable international films, many of which found (or will soon find) a home in this country.

"Are we fighting to preserve a business or an artform," I later wondered.

Well, we'll certainly continue to explore both art and commerce here at iW, but yesterday the issue came up again. So today, we're aiming to reiterate our support for art.

A new idea

I'd heard rumors about impending changes at IFC.com but when David Hudson announced his immediate departure from The Daily at IFC.com yesterday, it really hit home. Over six years, at GreenCine Daily and then IFC Daily, Hudson wrote an essential column, filtering news, perspectives and insights on cinema. His links were vital and have had a big impact on me, and on indieWIRE, over the years.

David vows to return and in a recent email exchange he assured me that he is close to settling on a new online home and hopes to be back later this summer, hopefully in about a month or so. But, David's departure -- however brief -- is worrisome because he filled such an important daily role. In short, David Hudson's absence is bad for film culture.

So, responding to his abrupt shift online, today at indieWIRE we're launching a new column. It's called cinemadaily and it's aimed at offering a regular, aggregated snapshot of what's happening in film. We'll attempt to pick up the slack in some small way, to do some of what David did by surveying the landscape of cinema on a daily basis (from an art rather than commerce perspective). And, we'll add our own twist. We understand it won't won't be the same as David's work and will surely evolve. This is an experiment, but it needs to be done.

Today's first installment, written by our own Andy Lauer. We start by simply taking a look at some striking new movies opening in theaters today.

To make cinemadaily work, it's crucial to me that we engage our readers in the process. Please send along your feedback, ideas or links to cinemadaily AT indiewire DOT com or find us on Twitter: @iWcinemadaily. What is happening in cinema in your city or neighborhood? If you find a link, or have written something, that you think we should take a look at please share it with us (and tell us why its important), we'll try to include as many as we can as we develop this new idea.

And, as always, thanks for reading and responding.

Eugene Hernandez is the Editor-in-Chief & Co-Founder of indieWIRE and can be reached on his blog, through Facebook or via Twitter: @eug.

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3 Comments

  • figa | July 3, 2009 1:00 AMReply

    In trying not to sound too fatalist and just plain redundant, I remind all that filmmaking in America is not considered art, it's not sponsored or funded by cultural institutions as it should be, and is completely ignored by the government (unless it's part of some major conglomerate, tied-in with some ridiculous promotional campaign with a fast food restaurant chain). It's just plain industry, run by accountants and lawyers.

    Unlike just about any other country in the world, it's not seen as a vital cultural need, a creative outlet, a way of living and expressing oneself. Change must come from the top (I have high hopes for Barack), and from within the community. New support must be created. Otherwise, we should all start planing on relocating.

  • jambajim | July 2, 2009 4:39 AMReply

    The questions though--and it comes down to simple numbers--are (1) how much were the seemingly unmarketable films at Cannes bought for in terms of North American release, (2) how were they financed (through private equity, tax breaks, state subsidized programs and foundations), and (3) the sustainability of making these types of films without state support (i.e. wherein private investors are footing the bill as is the case with most US films).

    Given who bought the majority of the films for Stateside release, I can hardly think the acquisition paradigm is one that's sustainable for US "personal" style indies that command both a a high-six figure to mid-seven figure budget based in private investment.

    Perhaps the budgets--and expectations for all involved--need to come down.

  • dchin | July 2, 2009 1:29 AMReply

    To me, this is a case of too little, too late. In the past decade, discussions of "independent" films have always focussed on marketability, theatrical release, etc. That's fine, but in that same decade, i have found that there's been no interest in maintaining a dialogue with avantgarde filmmakers, with anything that remains resolutely noncommercial. In all the posts on IndieWire, there has been little about the changes in new media production and presentation, the place of art galleries in new media exhibition, the changes that organizations such as Electronic Arts Intermix or the Film-Makers Cooperative have attempted to address, etc.

    The fact that the "art" of film and media is struggling and has continued to struggle since the 1920s (Dmitri Kirsanoff, Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler, etc.) and that the split has become more pronounced as "independent" narrative films have taken the place of the "A" quality studio productions (the tradition-of-quality literary adaptations that were the specialty of directors such as Wyler, Stevens, Huston) and the studios pour their resources into "action-adventure". But there remain few advocates for the "art" of film. (Not only that, but those of us who are advocates for, not "art cinema" - the designation now used to describe the art-house "foreign" films that played in the US in the 1950s and 1960s - but what used to be called "experimental" or "avant-garde" film, have found that there are few outlets interested in having this work discussed, analyzed, or even promoted. And during the period when the "independent" film scene was evolving, when the IFP was in its infancy, when foundations were trying to help fund noncommercial media, there were opportunities for experimental media, and these opportunities have been severely curtailed in the past decade, as "independent" film has been defined as its own industry.)