No Going Back

Reader JD Cowan left a thoughtful and prophetic reply to yesterday's post on Hollywood remakes that I thought deserved a more extensive reply than I could give in the comments.

Here's JD:
This must be why only Pixar and Marvel get my movie dollars these days with the occasional Nolan film squeezed in.
We're a long way from the days of Terminator, Ghostbusters, Aliens, Highlander, The Goonies, Lethal Weapon, Blade Runner, and Die Hard. I'd say it's pretty clear that they're never coming back.

My initial comment
That's correct--as long as big studios call the shots.

The entrepreneurs who fled Edison's monopoly for an obscure patch of Southern California desert where they could make the movies they wanted have long since become they tyrants they once rebelled against.

Disintermediation offers hope, as it did with the music and publishing industries. On one hand, it's never been easier for a bunch of college kids to make a movie to 90s pro standards with a digital video camera and a copy of Final Cut. It's not uncommon for micro indies to get a hold of Red cams.

On the other hand, this type of guerrilla film making isn't positioned to undercut cinema's gatekeepers like indie authors did with publishing. Hollywood could probably survive on foreign receipts alone, even if Americans stopped seeing their movies altogether.

What we'll probably see is a truly independent indie film market (not those Sundance and Miramax scams) operating parallel to Hollywood. Even a shoestring film is far more expensive than writing a book. And while writers have Amazon, indie film makers don't have anything like it in terms of distribution.

I've had the pleasure of attending a local film festival that runs independent horror movies from around the world. Every year I see films there that are more imaginative and entertaining than anything Hollywood produces these days.

The main hurdle keeping these truly talented film makers from reaching wider audiences and earning a living from their art is a lack of funding and proper distribution. I thought that legacy publishing was clueless when it came to marketing and promotion.

Then a friend regaled me with the real-life horror story of trying to get funding to expand his short indie film into a feature. He found a group of investors who expressed interest in drumming up cash for the project--but they insisted that he pull the short version from festivals/his web site/etc.

You read that correctly. One of their conditions for promoting the film was a ban on showing the short that was made to promote the film.

The movie, which Tony is still trying to get made, is called A Chance in Hell. He wrote it out of frustration with so-called zombie Nazi movies that tantalize you with the prospect of Nazi zombies but only have either zombies or Nazis onscreen at one time.

Then he got help from the community: a WWII history buff with authentic period props and costumes, a business owner willing to let him shoot after hours in a Victorian-era watch factory, and a RED camera. Tony described A Chance in Hell as George Romero meets John Rambo.

You can sample the results in the official trailer below.

Now tell me you wouldn't want to see that made into a feature-length film.

JD is right. The big studios' glory days are gone, and there's no going back.

But if indie film makers can find an effective way to reach wide audiences, there might be a way forward.

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