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December 15 at 2:15pm

Can Truly Free Film Appeal To Younger Audiences?

By Ted Hope

The Art House audience is graying at a rapid rate. Indie Film has lost its marketing muscle in a way that Indie Rock never has. New film audiences aren’t developing in the same way that they once was. Why aren’t we all doing more to recruit new participants?

Now mind you I am not providing statistics to back this statement up (do you really need to do that on that internet?). I admit I am just speaking from instinct, from standing in the center of the hurricane and trying to observe the weather. If we are going to have a sustainable industry, we have to consistently recruit new blood, both in terms of audience, staff, and creators — that’s just common sense, but the indie side of things has had a hard time of doing it.
What is it that new audiences want? What must the indie community do to engage them?
It is really surprising how few true indie films speak to a youth audience. In this country we’ve had Kevin Smith and NAPOLEON DYNAMITE, but nothing that was youth and also truly on the art spectrum like RUN LOLA RUN or the French New Wave (PARANORMAL ACTIVITY not withstanding…). Are we incapable of making the spirited yet formal work that defines a lot of alternative rock and roll? And if so, why is that?
You’d think with truly free film’s anti-corporate underpinnings that those who seek out authenticity would respond, but perhaps it is film culture’s historic precedent of the filmmaker’s ongoing pursuit for greater dollars. The examples of artists who forgo the monetary reward in favor of delivering the truth are all to rare, and thus audiences end up thinking that if the film itself isn’t about the sell, then the filmmaker’s career most likely is. Who really represents integrity in the film world? Who places their art or their audiences first? Is it the cost of production that forces 98% of the industry to focus first on commercial success? Is it the lack of support for the arts in the USA that makes media artists generally money-driven?
Maybe it’s not the content or the economic situation though, but the presentation that is more the turn-off for the newcomers? People often speak of the Alamo Draft House in Austin as the ultimate indie movie screen as it serves beer and food and has great clips that play before every film. It makes movie going feel like an event. And you can drink… alcohol. But me, I have never found movies to mix well with liquor — other substances, yes, but not the booze. It takes a specific type of film to appeal to a partying crowd. And a particular place that can recruit them. We have to give them more of a reason to leave the apartment than just watching a movie like they can at home. We have to return to really putting on a show.
Maybe it is the form in general. The way we have been making movies for the last 100 years appeals to only the singular pleasure of “being directed to”. What about the audience’s desire to participate? How come we have not found a way to encourage participation on a more widespread basis? Transmedia holds tremendous potential in its efforts to turn the presentation into an actual dialogue, although we still lack the defining work that goes beyond cross-platform to an actual back and forth, with both sides being equal creators.
Wouldn’t it be great to have a forum or think tank that really tackled these issues? That helped to lead the way?

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