Having trashed World 2.0 and the swell of material that comes with it in a series of articles on Project X and the Age of YouTube, let me now take a moment to pay tribute to the enthusiasm this new age of filmmaking generates.
The fact is that the world is better off for the ease and accessibility of filmmaking equipment and talent. Our standards may have fallen with the expansion of production freedom and the rise of the amateur filmmaker, but this is a temporary side-effect. Among the scores of people (of varying qualifications) who are currently taking inspiration from the swell of independent productions, there are a few who actually know what they’re doing.
These individuals are the cream of the new crop. They will one day excel because the opportunity afforded to them by the new technology is exactly what they were waiting for. They can be their own actors and producers. Gone are the days of Cary Grant, Vivien Leigh, and John Frankenheimer – polished professionals performing on behalf of the big studios – and in comes the unrefined beauty of 2.0 auteurs who write, act in, produce, and direct their films. In comes the self-made super-hero, the rising star in the digital wilderness. Forget Jackass, Borat, and Fear Factor (the unsavory first steps in this new wave), and welcome the wonder of the hungry and foolish, a phrase Steve Jobs once used to refer to those who always make a difference.
The flood of unpolished everyday-ness we are faced with right now also serves another purpose. There are enough excellent films among these to serve as a stark reminder to the studio executives that quality is not restricted to big-budget films. A glitzy production may go a long way, but an inspiring, original, fresh script delivered by fresh talent goes even further, even if the production leaves us wanting. It is the content that matters, now more than ever, because we have been saturated by sleek-looking slop that says little. We are ready once again for films that value content over appearance.
The amateurs know this. That is why they are working away so diligently and with such enthusiasm at their new craft. They are waiting for the studios to drop the ball, to not respond to the growing appetite and leave an opening into which they can insert independent films and see them launched into mainstream success. Alternatively, they ask the studios for funding, which the execs are happy to provide in order to stay in touch with what is hot and happening. Filmmaking, after all, is a business as much as it is an art form, and the savvy executives can will not pass over obvious talent, no matter how unknown. They did it with Alfred Hitchcock, Howard Hawks, and Joseph L. Mankievicz in the classical era, and they did it again with Darren Aronofsky, Cameron Crowe, and Robert Rodriguez in the nineties. They’ll do it once more in the digital age of World 2.0.
There you have it: the merits of freedom and authorship in the motion picture world. They give fledgling talent a platform from which to launch their work and a sky in which to shine.
Below are the trailers of four indie films. The first two are landmark features from the nineties, whose directors eventually became prominent filmmakers. The third and fourth are recent films.
The first is El Mariachi, Robert Rodriguez’s 1992 feature debut about a wandering mariachi and the trouble that awaits him in a remote town in Mexico.
The second is Pi, Darren Aronofsky’s 1998 feature debut about a man in search of a pattern in the stock market–the key to an embedded code which reveals the deepest secrets of the universe.
The third is Martha Marcy May Marlene, Sean Durkin’s 2011 feature debut about a woman trying to come to terms with life after escaping a cult, the influence of which is shown through flashbacks.
The fourth is Hunger (2008), the directorial debut of Steve McQueen, which chronicles the 1981 no-wash protest and hunger strike led by Bobby Sands on behalf of imprisoned members of the IRA.