Chris Evans and “Snowpiercer” are a perfect fit. Not only in that the steel-eyed American oozes the ideal blend of rebellious survivor and reluctant leader for Bong Joon-ho’s indie epic, but because the two actually reflect the best parts of one another. "Snowpiercer" is an ambitious indie in need of an talented, title-topping actor to boost its awareness, and Evans is both the man they need and someone who wants to make more movies just like this one.
Evans, who has stated he plans to leave acting behind in favor of directing as soon as he fulfills his Marvel contract, described "Snowpiercer" as a "learning" process. In modern independent filmmaking, that means knowing not only the technical artistry of direction, but the sometimes complicated business strategies of selling your film.
Perhaps it’s time he did consider release strategies. Evans recently directed "Before We Go," a $3 million indie starring himself and Alice Eve as a woman who gets lost in New York City after missing her train to Boston. The film will make its world premiere in a few months at the Toronto International Film Festival where Evans will most likely get offers from a number of distribution companies with various plans to optimize the film's grosses. Some, if not all of those plans will include a form of VOD rollout, and Evans will have to decide what strategy is best for his first feature behind the camera.
Movies aren’t as easy to market when you’re not wearing a superhero costume, and "Snowpiercer" provided Evans a unique insider angle on the movie business and where it’s heading, especially considering the film’s unprecedented VOD release just two weeks after its theatrical premiere. It was a much quicker than average turnaround, and perhaps a precedent-setting move given the film’s financial successes (depending on who you talk to).
"I just directed [for the first time] last year," Evans said. "There are so many elements of post-production and how a film is handled that I’m still learning. ["Snowpiercer"] seems like this is a pretty pioneering film in how VOD has kind of been accepted in the market. It sounds like this is doing pretty well, but it’s stuff [like this] that make you kind of realize how green you are. I’m learning with everybody else."
When pressed about his personal preferences regarding watching the film at home or in the theater, the smooth-talking thespian has a clear choice.
"I absolutely think the movie should be seen on the big screen," Evans said. "But I read something from Radius [TWC, the film’s distributor] that said a screen is a screen is a screen. You know? There’s a couple different ways to interpret that. Personally, I like going to movies. I like buying my ticket and sitting in the theater. And I guess that’s still available. It would be a shame if we lost that opportunity, so hopefully it doesn’t tip the scales too much."
So far, it’s unclear the impact "Snowpiercer" will have on other indies’ release schedules. Considering the film’s visual style, massive scope, and impressive action, its quick entry into the world of at-home viewing is even more telling than if a dialogue-driven, lower-budget indie had made the same transition. It feels like a movie meant to be seen in theaters, just as Evans prefers.
"But by the same token," Evans said, "I’ve had a lot of people contact me who’ve seen the movie not in a theater but still had positive things to say. So it’s a gray area in terms of what’s the best way to do this."
Indeed it is, with various outlets reporting the film as a successful, groundbreaking distribution model and others worrying about what Evans' mentioned briefly: that the film "tips the scales too much" in favor of at-home viewing when it was an ideal indie to be seen in theaters. If a film like "Snowpiercer" -- meaning one with an A-list name attached, plenty of marketable aspects, and thrilling, grand action pieces -- is going to head to people's homes early and profit, why would any other film risk a costly theatrical run?
It may be some time before we understand the cultural impact of Radius-TWC’s decision. Perhaps by then, Evans will have made a few similar decisions of his own.