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As I reported from Jeonju, I saw some good “indie” films, among them BALLAST.  It was a very nice film, which still is vivid for me.  At the time I saw it the filmmaker, Lance Hammer, whom I met there, said he’d be giving a go at self-distribution, despite good notices from Sundance etc.  It’ll open soon at the Film Forum in NYC, which, sadly, is probably a kiss of death.

Here’s an NYT article on DIY distribution, or more about the collapse of any kind of meaningful “indie” distribution in the US (and most other places too).  Of course one might make a long essay about how curious it is that as means of delivery/distribution multiply, rather than getting a wider range, capitalism clamps down and you can watch Batman XX , or some other bloated Hwd film, but, god forbid, a foreign one, or an indie that doesn’t have stars, well fukdatman.  Of the films mentioned in this article most sound accessible, even “easy,” but most likely they’ll get their week or two in marginal cinemas, an audience of 10 or 50 thousand, and the makers won’t see a dime, even after all their DIY distribution work.  Long gone are the days when your quirky (but easy to take) indie film might pick up a Miramax 3 million deal.

So if you’re looking to get rich making your little indie film, dream on.  On the other hand, if you can psyche yourself up for the coming depression (of among other things, your income), you might consider the route I took:  modest little films that cost $100 or $1000 or even $2000, no pay, and if you luck out, you get in a handful of festivals, one of which might fly you to where ever and put you up 3 nights, from which if you are fantastically lucky you might pick up some kind of TV sale where you will actually see a little money, and then you can peddle DVDs and pick up anything from a few thousand to maybe 20K.  Doesn’t exactly sound like a living.  Unless, perhaps, you have ten of these over time, and you are frugal, etc.

Today I got a note from Australia letting me know that All the Vermeers, Sure Fire, and Speaking Directly can all be seen on the net.  I suspect there’s others too.  Of course I don’t get a penny….

4 Comments

  1. Why do think Film Forum represents a kiss of death? What shows there is reasonably well-publicized, critics all love to hustle their asses on down there, and the theater does have a dedicated contingent who show up. It’s better than the Pioneer Pizza theater over on Avenue A. Now that is truly a ghetto situation. Film Forum is definitely several rungs up the latter. It’s not a bad venue at all for Mr Hammer, and between you & me it’s probably more than he expected. I’d like to shake his hand for choosing to say,”No, thank you” to the boutique distributors who showed some interest in his work but little interest in financial fairness. Takes balls, man. I really want to see thsi film.

    Have you caught Kelly Reichert’s “Wendy and Lucy”?

    http://www.ifc.com/film/indie-eye/2008/05/cannes-08-wendy-and-lucy.php

    Did you see her last, “Old Joy”? Slow and funky, it took its time getting to wherever it was it felt it had to go, like an old blues. If Reichert and Hammer actually manage to sustain themselves creating work such as this, without having to whore themselves out to shoot cellphone commercials to make rent, good for them.

    Maybe I shouldn’t hate too hard on commercials as a rent-making proposition. Errol Morris shoots them and shoots them well. He’s got a bunch on his website. The thing is, you can see that he’s pretty friggin’ choosey about whom he works for. He’s obviously not about to accept cash from some source that may eventually compromise his lefty integrity.

  2. Oh, yeah. Hit this: http://www.joebageant.com/joe/2008/07/life-in-the-pos.html#more

    And get back to me.

  3. I guess I should confess that the once boss of Film Forum, for reasons I do not know, took a dislike to me, and hence my films, and though she showed many a film that others would characterize as being of kin with mine, she never showed one of mine. However, that said, I said “kiss of death” because if the Forum is the only place you can get screened in NYC, it probably means you’ll be down to 5 other cinemas in the USA left to go. Of course if you are at Pioneer, you just shot your wad, period.

    I have never seen any K Reichert film. I heard of Old Joy (and read somewhere that someone thought it influenced by yrs trly). I think I saw a clip, which is usually not good for me, like trailers, almost a sure way to get me not to see a film. Alas. The new one of hers sounds again like in my ballpark. Doubt it’ll get to Korea….

  4. Of trailers. Jon, you’re probably predisposed to hate him, but Oliver Stone’s “W.” has got a trailer. In this case the trailer may just be enough, but what there is is funny as hell. If stone does this as an acerbic comedy rather than his usual reliance on Wagner-like tragedy, this shit could be laugh-out-loud hilarious.


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