Saturday, October 30, 2010

Where will the new filmmakers come from?

To date, 2010 has been a dismal year for film. Inception and The Social Network seem to be the only films people are talking about. The dinosaur of Hollywood seems determined to eat its tail with more comic book movies, remakes and endless horror franchises. But there is a generation of filmmakers ready to make good films--not arthouse filmmakers, but straight-down-the-line mainstream storytellers, who have proven their mettle with excellent short films made for nothing. And thanks to YouTube, these filmmakers do not have to traipse around the festival circuit or knock on every door in Southern California. Now the films are posted, and Hollywood is the one doing the knocking. Here are three examples. Let us hope they keep a grip on the skills and intuition that got them this far and ignore the focus groups and committees of note-writers who make American studio films so idiotic and unwatchable.

Panic Attack: Giant robots destroy the filmmakers hometown of Montevideo. The live action took a day or two; the animation three years of intense work on a laptop computer.

Pixels: Pixelated old-school video game icons take over New York (and the the world) in this new video for the French techno-pop band Naïve New Beaters. It was directed by a young Frenchman named Patrick Jean.

The Raven: A chase film and sci-fi thriller set in an alternate and futuristic Los Angeles, directed by Ricardo de Montreuil and made for $5,000.


  1. I've been following these videos for just over a year (starting with Panic Attack and spotting the others as they popped up). It's fascinating that the old rules included never posting your film online because that was grounds for disqualification from festivals, but now, films go viral online first and are invited to festivals.

    Hopefully these filmmakers will be able to translate their short films into features with solid stories.

    It's also very likely (I have two in the works) that you're going to see a lot of films popping up on YouTube with the same goals in mind now that we've seen the strategy work.

    Take Care,

  2. I've been saying it ad nauseum for two years and even tried to expose the Hoboken film festival for it, but the reason this has happened is because festivals and indies have basically become useless avenues for talent. They're more about nepotism and who has hired a publicist than the still mostly merit-driven philosophy behind Hollywood's gatekeeping system. They have a bottom line... to make films that make money. Within those parameters, you get everything from There Will Be Blood to Transformers and it all makes some kind of quasi-sense. The indie world, where it should always be about the best filmmaking and the best stories, has long since abandoned those lofty goals and I'm not the only one saying it anymore, thank God. I find it funny that on most indie film boards and blogs there's been almost zero discussion of the commitment to craft and genre these short films exude. Not to mention the fact that they've garnered very wide audiences and industry attention. Are they slight? Sure... but they are ENTERTAINING. Remember, the director behind Inception started with a 7k indie film that was film noir AND it was very entertaining, even to an average moviegoer not interested in independent film as a genre unto itself.

    The fact that we didn't see many great follow-up shorts (people attempting to get in the same door) this year points to the fact that there just aren't that many talented filmmakers out there to begin with. When you divide the number of success stories by the number of films being made right now (a cursory search of youtube, vimeo, dvxuser, and the plethora of technical blogs shows they are legion), the percentage is probably infinitesimally small.

    And yes, that conventional wisdom of not putting your film online helped whom? FILM FESTIVALS. I think many of these shorts would have died on the vine or not garnered anywhere near the attention they have if they simply plodded down the usual film festival trail of tears and disappointment. These people jumped over all the hurdles by just throwing their films online and letting the audience speak for them.

    I think the other problem is all this shiny new technology of cheap hd cameras and desktop editing and visual effects is the equivalent of cleaning the house and doing the laundry instead of sitting down and doing the truly difficult work for any filmmaker... writing a great script. And the pretty pictures are a substitute for the real reason we watch movies... people... the actors. It's an overall commitment to craft that should include all aspects, especially the tougher ones that I just mentioned.

    Sorry for the rant, but it seems that the only places noticing these success stories are blogs like yours, which show a true love of storytelling and cinema (so glad I stumbled across it) and screenwriting blogs. Having said that, I think the future of film festivals are the genre fests... festivals centering around comedy, sci-fi, and horror. The big festivals used to always have a break-out genre hit and that drove the independent system and then that all disappeared... poor selection practices and trumpeting films that weren't that great to begin with seem to be the culprit.

  3. I just wish Blogger had a "Like" button for comments. Thank you both for yours, and please keep visiting and commenting!