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The Winds of Change

In the past, I’ve talked about the lowering prices of effects software, the better, cheaper digital equipment, and the rise of the Ultra-Indie movement, which is my passion and the passion of most of my readers. However, we cannot just look at the ways in which we are effected in these rapidly changing times…rather, we must look at the world of filmmaking in general. For if we see all the layers of filmmaking, we will get a greater perspective of the time in which we now live. I say this, for I am becoming ever more aware of the winds of change blowing harder in all areas of the film world.

For example, there are a lot of folks in Hollywood who are making crap that they have no passion for, because the tools they know how to use can’t be afforded outside the studio system, and the studio films that can afford the equipment and budget they need are designed to be as predictable as possible. This is because the studio system is owned, most recently, by six corporations, which include the likes of General Electric and Viacom, who are very interested in getting predictable returns on their investments. Film, however, doesn’t work like a safe investment. It’s not a mutual fund; it’s day-trading. You can’t tell what film is going to do well before it’s made, so it makes no sense to put boatloads of money into an investment that relies so heavily on the often changing tastes of the American people. However, for some reason, the corporations believe that increased budgets and increasing the number of special effect shots can somehow lessen the risk by making the end results more predictable. In reality, this has heightened the risk, as well as the expense of making films.

In fact, Hollywood movies have now grown so expensive to produce, that it is now not uncommon to see three studios owned by three different corporations pooling funds to release a single film. Rival studios must now team up to afford the cost, meaning that even more studios are effected when a film flops than ever before.

And when the films get mad, they’re only in the theater for a few weeks, rather than a few months. The last blockbuster that lasted longer than that was Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ two and half years ago, and that one didn’t even stay in theaters through the six month mark. DVD releases of films, even popular films, are now slated for three months after the theatrical distribution, rather than the six to twelve months of a few years back. In fact, the original microfilmmaker, Kevin Smith, recently stated, in An Evening with Kevin Smith 2, that “the theatrical release of a film is nothing more than the expensive advertising campaign studios use for your DVD release.”

Indeed, things are accelerating at a rate that is mind-blowing and historically unprecedented, yet feels somehow familiar. It feels as though the winds of change are whirling into a tornado that will tear down at least some of the institutions that many of us believed would never be torn down. I don’t know which institutions will collapse before these snarling winds, but if we are wise, we will keep our eyes open, for, in times of chaotic change, openings become available that are available at no other time.

Just something to think about.

God Bless,

Jeremy Hanke
Microfilmmaker Magazine

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