The holiday season is upon us and I find that I am reminded nostalgically of films of the past.
Growing up dirt poor in the deserts of Washington State, my sister and I never had any notion that going to the movies was "to be expected," but, rather, it was a very rare treat that occurred only on special occasions, like a birthday or a holiday. As such, when I would get to go to a movie, I would enjoy every moment of the experience as though it were a fine wine—or, to use Washington parlance, "a fine COFFEE." As I savored the film, I would keep a recollection of the trailer in the back of my mind, checking off each scene from the trailer as it unfolded in the movie, because, I knew, so long as I still had scenes from the trailer that I hadn't seen, I still had more "movie" left to go. (As you can imagine, I was extremely enraged when some Hollywood films used scenes in the trailer that didn't make it into the feature film, as I suddenly had no way to gauge "how much" of a film I could look forward to at any given moment!)
With my deep seated love of films, I remember seeing the old standard It's A Wonderful Life on Public TV when I was about six or seven. Shortly after that the mass release of VHS players was making the idea of "re-watching" films a possibility for average citizens, and not just the wealthy elite who happened to have a private theater with personal copies of actual film reels of their favorite films. Not long after my family obtained a VCR from my uncle, I remember RC cola did a holiday promotion where, if you submitted enough UPC codes from boxes of their products, you'd get a VHS tape of It's A Wonderful Life. With the newness of these rewatchable films on tape, it was a very exciting offer and my mother and I enthusiastically completed the requirements so that we could get the tape in time for the Holidays.
Before long, Disney jumped on the bandwagon by releasing "Collector's Edition" tapes of their famous animated movies around the Holidays. That became the one time I could count on us getting a new film to add to our tiny VHS collection, as my father would purchase the new Disney film for our Christmas Eve fondue tradition. Each year our ritual continued until I went away to college, leading my mind to indelibly associate the new accessibility of films with the Holiday season.
It's strange to realize that only thirty or forty years ago, films used to not be accessible to the masses, at least not beyond a very targeted release. (Before the consumer video tape, Disney would release the same movies theatrically every few years, because that was the only way new people could be exposed to them.) Now we've evolved beyond VHS to DVD and BluRay, with loads of special collector's editions, to say nothing of "digital" distribution through things like Netflix and Amazon.com to allow people accessibility without requirement of "physicality" of content.
These things have not only permitted fans to to access the concept of "own"-ability and rewatchability on their terms, but they've allowed low-budget and no-budget filmmakers to access these same abilities in a way that permits us to compete on the same playing field as Hollywood. Yes, Hollywood still has more money for marketing and paid promotions, which can allow them an advantage in taking the high ground, but we're still able to get on the same field now. And with the assistance of social networking sites which can help put you in contact with fans of your genre or style, as well as "intelligent" fan filtering programs like those used in Netflix and Amazon.com, low-budget filmmakers have an ability to reach out and harness far more fans than ever before! With more choosy consumers, of course, print on demand services like CreateSpace and Zazzle permit filmmakers to create professional products and merchandise to go along with their release, permitting them to even more effectively compete!
In the end, these holiday remembrances remind us that, although nostalgia will often provide the roots for our love of film or our individual creative perspective, the present and future offer very exciting times ahead for us as filmmakers!
God Bless & Happy Holidays,