Hollywood – listen to the online indie buzz

Sometimes, you’ve got to wonder what they’re smoking in Hollywood. Trashy action films and endless period dramas mean lots of revenue and Academy Awards, but the diamonds in the rough, so lauded by the web, go ignored. Why should it be this way?

Image depicting the text "Views: 9999999999 (etc)", and beneath it, "Distribute now?", and the options "Yes" and "No".I love indie cinema. I say this unabashed, because I believe that it brings out some of the best and most creative souls in a celebration of what cinema should be, rather than what it has become – a tidal wave of overused ideas and endless dependence upon prior media for any new cinematic concept this millennium.

When I woke up on Sunday morning and found out that Indie Game: The Movie had indeed on the Sundance award for World Cinema Documentary Editing, I was very happy. To see a film go from an idea to a Kickstarter fund, to an actual documentary that found its way into one of the most important film festivals in the world, is a touching story, a Cinderella tale of cinema that I really enjoy telling people.

But to know that it will never grace the cinemas where I live is media-consumption sorrow at its utmost. In addition, it saddens me immensely to know that in order to distribute it to even a hundred thousand people, let alone millions, would take a marketing push equivalent to the Hollywood-pumped tripe that we have to suffer through every time the trailers come on at the local cinema. This goes for most flicks, and I’ll explain why.

Imagine cinema so original, so weird, or so niche that it opened a window into an entirely new world, or the same world, but from an angle you’d never considered it from before. This is what indie cinema does – the reason so much of it sees so little attention isn’t due to quality (let’s be honest, no budget would’ve saved films like —). It’s due, primarily, to the fact that it’s a jigsaw piece with sides that will never match the others in the generic blockbuster puzzle.

But the internet enables people to bring their film to a wider audience than filmmakers of as little as thirty years ago could ever have imagined. Being able to say that the trailer for your upcoming film has been seen by four million, and that on launch day they can download the entire thing for five dollars, is mind-blowing. I’ll stick with an American example, as comedian Louis CK paid costs of around $250,000 to produce and release his latest stand-up effort, priced at the aforementioned five bucks. Twelve days in, he’d made over a million dollars.

I know it’s a rare example, but the viral nature of the internet and the fact that people are, these days, willing to download films from the web legally and at a reasonable price, means that indie films are on the same platform as the big hitters, even if their advertising budgets might be different. To be able to offer film fans something a little different, something off the beaten track, is an incredible opportunity, and one that more and more people are taking filmmakers up on as we progress towards that rare point that superstars will be created of indie directors.

At this point, the wisest thing major Hollywood studios could do is watch the web – track the successful indie YouTube trailers, put feelers out on Twitter to test the waters, then swoop in and offer to distribute, if not help out with production costs. Not only does this encourage people to promote with the tools they have available, but it means that people will start seeing better cinema, and existing generic content producers will have to step it up a notch to compete with the quality cinema being churned out by the indie crowd.

I know that it means the films won’t technically be “indie” any more, but most people are indie because of a lack of connections, or funding – not because they want to do the whole thing independently. Some do, and more power to them – but if a more artistically switched-on Hollywood were to finally realise that true creativity is often found in those outside their tight circles, a lot of people would benefit, and so would we.

For one thing, it’d mean we could catch Indie Game: The Movie in the cinema, in addition to their HBO-backed-and-created series. I couldn’t complain about that.

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