Where do we go from here?
It’s a question that we commonly ask ourselves. Whether we view it in the context of a career change, a relationship, or a thousand other things that relate to our lives, sometimes you have to take a minute and figure out what comes next.
And sometimes it’s not easy. Because while you’re pausing to reflect on one thing, life continues to swirl around you. So while you’re taking time to figure out what comes next in your career (Should you chuck it all and open that churro stand? The answer is yes.), your family obligations will continue. Everything else keeps going. We as human beings are not always that graceful at being able to prioritize and multi-task. Things do not move in a linear fashion. Layers upon layers get piled on, until you can barely recognize what it was you were originally looking at.
What does this esoteric rant have to do with anything? Well first, if you’re reading this at all, it means that you’ve come back (or you never left, and you’ve been waiting quite patiently) and Film Slate Magazine is open for business again. Thank you, my friends. It has been an interesting journey to get from there to here. Secondly, in the year that we’ve been away, the film industry has continued to evolve and change. While certain things have stayed the same, other things have spiraled away, leaving many scratching their heads.
1.) Executives are Picking the Projects and Not Filmmakers
We all know that the studios ain’t what they used to be. Films are made from the top down; we have release dates and marketing campaigns before we have directors attached or even a first draft screenplay. We know that there will be a new Marvel property (they’re often not films anymore) every year for the next nine years.
I will always rail against the senselessness of how major movies get made now. The comic book movies, the reboots, the endless sequels (franchises and offshoots included), movies based on nonfiction bestsellers…And I know what you’re going to say. So what? These are popcorn movies and you know what you’re getting when you plunk down that money for a ticket. And honestly, there have been some really good ones amidst the dreck. “The Avengers” was a very good flick, as was “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” But I can do without the pallid “Star Trek” clones and the insipid “G.I. Joe” turkeys. You sacrifice quality, variety and originality in favor of a $75 million opening weekend with a retread—not to mention the complete destruction of my childhood.
2.) The Art of Storytelling is Lost
The era of the studio-made medium sized movie is gone. A colleague and I were talking the other day and he told me for that kind of storytelling, TV was it. And of course, I know that. But as a movie lover, I’ll always want that elusive, self-contained two hour chunk of storytelling. I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many times in the last decade or so I’ve been discussing a particular movie with friends and the final word is, “There’s no way that would even get made nowadays.”
The best storytelling is on TV right now. And really, there are shows for every kind of taste spanning across HBO, Showtime, Starz, AMC, or any one of the thousands of FX networks. You want gangsters? Hipsters? Pirates? Elite anti-terrorist paramilitary units? Not a problem. And that’s not even mentioning the original series from Netflix or Amazon. And while I’m tiring of the occasionally oh-so-precious premises of some of these shows (so sue me—hipsters and Aaron Sorkin disciples get on my nerves), there is no shortage of production value, ambition, and talent—in front of and behind the camera.
3.) The Indie Film Market is Over-Saturated
The indie world has changed as well. Money and time tend to do that. I’ve talked to many producers over the years, and as the gatekeepers to the film world, it’s interesting to hear their stories about how the goalposts have moved in terms of budget, what projects they pick up, and what they consider to give the go ahead for a particular script. The medium sized movie has moved towards the indie world (and that is now more a loose genre moniker rather than a specific movement); the $10 to $30 million movies have found a new home. That in turn has made it even more difficult for the true low buck film to get a fair shake–in the traditional film world.
And when it comes to distribution, that’s a whole other kettle of fish. We watch movies in different ways now, and have the ability to find most anything at any time. The problem there is the drop of water in the ocean scenario. Sure, there’s probably more content than ever, and so the onus is on the viewer more than ever.
Filmmakers, especially on the indie side, have to figure out what platform to go with. There’s a lot of noise out there, and a lot of times, when that happens, people go back to the familiar. You rent the same things (presuming you still pay for the privilege), watch the same movies from your collection, or go with the safe bets and names that you know. If you’re reading this, then you’re probably among the more adventurous set, and you actively seek out new and possibly interesting movies and shows. Kudos, I say. We need more of us out there.
With all that being said, it’s a great time to be a filmmaker. Technology is cheap, sharing ideas and content is easier than ever, and (some) people will seek you out. And that’s what we’re hoping to do with the revamped, new and improved Film Slate. We want to cut through a lot of the noise and spotlight the people—and the movies—that move us to go that extra mile. That doesn’t mean we’ll abandon familiar names. We always strove for that balance, right from the beginning, and we’ll continue to do that. We just hope that we can be a vehicle for the people who are right there on the edge of obscurity and popularity. We want the focus (I’m not sure if that pun is intended or not) to be a little tighter.