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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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  • Ron Merk

    Hi, Ted. Okay, this is going to sound like something we've all heard before, and like it's coming from a guy who's been around the film business for lots of years, and maybe a bit like our parents talking. As a filmmaker who's sat on film juries at festivals around the world, and attended tons of screenings of indie films, I've got to say one thing: We need to get back to the basics of storytelling, learn to hold the damned camera still for a few seconds so that we can watch the actors act. Yes, we also need to teach actors to act for the camera, to make choices and to communicate the characters' thoughts to the audience. That's right, we need to go "forward to the past." To break the rules of cinema, you need to know them. I've just watched too many films in the last ten years where it was clear that the filmmakers (and I use the term very lightly in their cases) didn't know a damned thing about the basics of cinema technique and editing, and especially what audiences need in order to be satisfied. The ancient Greeks figured it out. Exposition, rising action, climax and resolution, and preferably in that order, you young "innovators." We need to tell stories. Isn't that what filmmaking is really about? We need to tell interesting stories. By that I mean stories that have the widest appeal. No matter where we find an audience, whether it be in traditional venues or the Wild West of online sites, we need to remember the first rule of filmmaking: Never bore the audience. As well as the second rule of filmmaking: Try like hell not to confuse the audience. And that third, but really important rule of filmmaking: Make it fun, make it exciting, make it so good that people will talk about it and tell their friends to go and see it. Yeah, the traditional film business has gone upside down, and sure, we all need to figure out how to monetize our projects in the new world of media, but one thing remains the same. We need to start making better movies.
    One last comment, and it's for Ted. Love this site. It's a much needed reality check. Oh, yeah. Filmmakers need reality checks, too, because most do not live in the real world for very many of their waking hours. So let's wake up that creativity, mix it with a dose of discipline, and try to knock the socks off our audiences.

  • Nicholas Jayanty – CMO, Reversal Films/The Dark Agency

    Hey Ted! I agree that Truly Free Film may feel like it is lacking the impact of Indie Rock, but keep in mind our industry is finally hitting rock bottom, music fell apart in 2004-2005, and the artists regrouped and created it…Plus the only filmmakers I know rabidly indie enough to drive cross country in a van for four months on tour are the Range Life Guys…can you imagine marketing staff from SPC or TWC jumping in a van to go on a cross country journey, hang with college kids, stay out till 5 AM in every city, snow, rain, or dry heat with .17 cents in their pocket, leaving a slew of smiling photos in their wake…when you are ready to hit the road, I am right there with you sir!!! Lets do it!

  • pangofilms

    Who says indie rock isn't greying? I think most young people have had enough of indie rock bands. Personally, I don't need to hear another guitar indie band again, any more than I need to see another Sundance quirky character melodrama.

    I'm not sure that young people have the same ideas about selling out that people of the 80's did. The whole world has sold out, with predictable results. I don't think you've got it quite right, though. Filmmakers start by making a film that is indie, in every sense of the word, and then, if it is embraced, it becomes part of the mainstream and maybe their careers go mainstream too. I don't think it ever works when someone tries to sell out before they've even started.

    Having said that, I'm sure that there are plenty of young people out there who want to change the world. The best thing you can do for them is educate them and empower them. Make sure they know that what they are doing is appreciated and respected, if not by large audiences, then by the film community. A little encouragement goes a long way.

  • Self Helpless Movie

    Wow, I can't believe someone is finally talking about this! This was a huge part of the motivation for creating Self Helpless. We are four guys in our twenties who are equally at home watching "Kisses" or "Lovely By Surprise" and "Caddyshack". And there are TONS of people like us out there. We have often discussed our dissatisfaction with indie films insistence on making heavy, emotional, esoteric films that are so steeped in art that they are rendered inaccessible. Films like that can be great, but there needs to be more diversity out there.

    Self Helpless is definitely a low-brow comedy. It is full of guns and drugs and mexicans and farting. But there is also some really original stuff in there. The plot is absurdly twisted as are most of the characters. And, the movie feels completely indie! It has excessively long flashbacks, homegrown animation, and plenty of classically comical motifs.

    I am not just trying to plug my movie. I really feel that there is room for people to start making more indie films that will appeal to a young audience. It is clear that internet basted, tech-reliant distribution is the future of indie. Young people are the most interweb-savvy customers out there. They are willing to go through twitter, and itunes, and blogger, and dig… just to follow, find, and support something they think is cool. “Trailer Park Boys, “Always Sunny”, “Flight of the Conchords”, the networks have it figured out, now we need to play catch up.

    We have based our entire release model for Self Helpless on our faith in the young indie audience. We are running a seven day bittorrent-only release. We WANT people to download the movie because we know they will support it. This is how you access the young indie audience: young filmmakers make great films directed at their peers, they provide the fans free access to the films, and they create quality merchandise that people will want to buy (instead of begging for donations).

  • ejstratt

    Thanks for the great post, Ted. As an "indie" film and "indie" rock fan and someone who has given a lot of thought to the media in general, this is all great food for thought. It seems that I have a lot swirling around my head after reading this post.

    I have to say, as a fan of both, there seems to be something missing when it comes to independent film. If I can buy a record/tape/CD from a band after seeing them play live, then why can't I buy a DVD from a filmmaker after a festival sceeening? In the indie rock days of the 1980s, if a recording existed, it was possible to buy it. (Although it may have involved a lot of searching through record bins or writing the label directly.) But with indie film, there seems to be an accessibility problem. Why can't I own a copy of the Nee Brother's The Last Romantic? When will I ever get a chance to see Frank Ross's Present Company? Or any of the films of Alejandro Adams?

    Also, with few exceptions (Adams is one of them), it's just so darn long between features for most filmmakers. It's hard to maintain momentum with an audience when it's two, three, or four years between features. If you are a first-time filmmaker and your feature resonates with a 16 year old somewhere, are you really going to make him wait until he is 20 before he sees something else from you?

    The last thing I have to say is I wish filmmakers would just drop the "you mush see my film on the big screen" attitude. Not having your DVDs or an online source available for personal use is like a rock band ONLY playing live and not having any CDs or MP3s available. Sure, nothing can duplicate the live or big screen experience, but there can still be a lot of enjoyment to be had from personal listening or viewing.

    I myself might be graying a bit, but I remember that feeling of discovering a new band or having a mail-order record waiting for me at my doorstep. This is the kind of excitment the indie film community must generate to build a loyal audience. I maybe just a fan, but from the outside looking in, it seems like an accessibility problem.

    I know that most people in film will say there is a reason for limited accessibility and that film is a whole different ball of wax. But why? Wasn't technology supposed to be the great equalizer?

  • Erik Esse, IFP Minnesota

    To answer your question: Yes! And I'd love to participate.

    When I think of what got me into indie films in my late teens and twenties, it wasn't films I thought of as "youth-oriented." In retrospect, there were a batch of American indie filmmakers that were focusing on twentysomethings: Linklater, Hartley, Stillman, etc., as well as filmmakers that had a vibe that seemed new and exciting, like Tarantino, Rodriguez, & Spike Lee.

    But really we'd see anything that came to our local art house because that's what we and our peers DID on weekends. We'd always see people we knew there. Indie films were an excellent topic of conversation and the go-to option for dates. We didn't need any participatory element to bring us there. What we were participating in was mingling with each other.

    Of course, that was in the ancient days of the mid-90's, before social media and on line dating. If theaters can again be a place for young people to fulfill some of their primary objectives- defining themselves, finding friends and mates- maybe we can get them back. That and making great art that helps us learn about ourselves and the world. Everybody wants that.

  • Matt Morris

    To what extent is film limited by the feature film format? It's cheap and easy to download a 99 cent song or hear it for free on the radio, decide you like it, send it to a friend, they like it too, buy an album, and listen to it whenever you have the 3-4 minutes it takes to listen to a song. And maybe then you'll buy more albums and check out a show.

    Film works almost in reverse- we sell the "big show" (theatrical release) with trailer's and commercials that usually on their own aren't enough to let us know whether or not it will be worth paying $10 to see. Most people go by whether or not they recognize the actors or online reviews that pretty much spoil the plot of the film. Not only that, but it takes two hours of time to experience a film. And then it's much more difficult to share that experience with someone else. This is why there are lots of viral "clips" but not really any viral feature films (though Paranormal Activity is a good example). Youth culture has a need for immediacy, and technology is giving it to them, but film requires a little patience. It does, however, make me wonder why there isn't more interest from youth in short films (probably because no one has made a serious effort to market it, monetize it or come up with proper distribution) or some sort of underground of "indie" television.

    Perhaps films should be shown or made available to youthful audiences not as just something to do on a saturday night, but an event that, if missed out on, you won't be able to join in with your peers in discussing later on. Again, the midnight screenings of Paranormal Activity might be a good example of this.

    "Who really represents integrity in the film world? Who places their art or their audiences first?"
    Here's one to think about- Pixar! Now there's a company making quality art that the young and old can enjoy. Think about WALL-E and UP. A semi-silent film about a robot in a dystopian future sounds pretty indie to me. The marketing monsters behind Pixar helps, but ultimately it's about the quality of work, and I think they'd put out fantastic films at any budget level as long as the insistence on putting story first remained intact.

  • Anonymous

    Very glad to see you too are thinking about this issue in regards to the American independent filmmaking landscape. Looking at the work curated, programmed, acquired, and distributed through either the major American Festivals (Sundance, SXSW, Tribeca, New York, etc.) as well as by smaller boutique studios/distributors (Focus, Magnolia, Fox Searchlight, Sony Pictures Classics, IFC) its quite that there isn't the same commitment to "new blood" as you put it.

    There seem to be essentially two-types of films that receive the support of the aforementioned groups above: The "indie" i.e., Capital Q "Quirky", ironic and often self-concious/self-congratulatory takes on middle to upper middle class white American lives – ranging from the mumblecores to Fox Searchlight type movies (Little Miss Sunshine, Juno, Sideways, Away We Go). Movies that tend to be primarily about a group of people concerned almost exclusively with the reality of their own relatively privileged worlds and lives. Which is not to disparage those films, but when it comes to whom they speak for, by, and about they can hardly be held up as paradigms for inclusive storytelling.

    Even the mumblecores, despite being made by a group of young filmmakers, seem to be unhealthily focused on a myopic navel gazing so much so that they are incapable of recognizing that there isn't much "there" there. So even if this younger generation has more means though facebooks, twitters, blogs, etc. to stoke our digital narcissism, if there is one other thing that can be said about us it's that we are still a curious bunch. Curious about the world, new experiences, idea, cultures, etc. Unfortunately across the board none of this curiosity seems to be reflected in the storytelling. So why should younger audiences feel the need to participate?

    The idea of curiosity brings me to the OTHER type of film. The one that is cultivated through festival labs and film training programs both in North America and Europe. The well intentioned "Art" film with a capital A. Those that focus on under-represented/underprivileged groups with hopes to shine a light on the socio-economic/political hardships encountered by them. Focusing often on the working class, immigrants, and people of color they often seem like guilt trip projects. If there is one thing young people (privileged or underprivileged alike) probably won't respond to is being asked to feel guilty. Again, that is not to say that there aren't solid works that fit this mold, but for many of them you'd be hard pressed to describe them as "exciting". So with the myriad demands and distractions that exist, how do you compel one to participate?

    Which finally brings me to the point of reference of movements like the French New Wave. Films like Godard's "Masculine Feminine" which though often homogenous in the sense of those represented, they still managed to actually have a spark, ideas, politics, LIFE… all the while exploring youth culture. Where else could you see a direct lift from seminal African-American agit-prop playwright Amiri Baraka and his play "Dutchman" in a film about jaded anti-war quasi activists that was full of sex, french pop & rock n' roll?

    The work is in finding ways to engage and challenge young audiences with stories that appeal to both the curiosity and narcissism that often shape our lives. With worlds that reflect the fact that quite a few of us no longer live in exclusively "lily white" or "under-represented" communities. That there is a great flow, exchange, and interaction in ideas, culture, and classes. That there are stories that can reflect the unique obstacles of growing and evolving in our ever more connected electronic/digital/virtual-online/multi-culti and multi-class world. Is it that the work is not being made? Or is it not being supported by the institutions that cultivate new work? Perhaps this may be a means to draw new blood into truly free film.

  • Jessica King

    As a high school film teacher, I know a lot about what young people expect from movies. While they are definitely trained by lack of exposure and education to seek Hollywood-style entertainment, they are open to more independent films. Typically two things get in the way of younger people seeking out indie-fare. One is that they simply don’t know about it. The second is that even indie films still cater to a certain, predominately white and affluent, audience. When I look at my students, the majority of them are not white, nor upper-middle class. They want to see more people like themselves and that is just not happening. (Seriously, they’ll always choose to watch a bad movie featuring people who look like them over a great one where the people don’t look like them.) While there are more indie options available that feature diverse casts representative of different class and ethnic backgrounds, true diversity is still lacking.

    Some might say that these things shouldn’t matter, but they do. They matter on a deep and personal level. It makes sense when one considers that ultimately many of us go to the cinema to see a good story, well told, a story that makes us think a little about what it means to be human.

    I’m currently exploring an off-shoot of this topic on my blog at http://www.kingisafink.com

  • Beo

    Ted the problem that you addressed just has to do with the evolution of what "indie film" is..and I would say it is the problem with Sundance vs. Slamdance. Sundance (as much good as they do and I love Cooper runnning it now) sucks the air out of the room yet Slamdance is what Sundance represents itself as. You know? and what both are missing the mark just as festivals across the country have. Festivals at one point were celebrations of story… now they are a celebration of what's "cool" decided by a clique and market. ya know?

    Indie film is alive and well with youth…it's just not recognizable to the many of the gray.

  • Lorie M

    I just want to point out that a key element of Austin's Alamo Drafthouse appeal and success is its original proprietors, Tim and Karrie League, and their core team of programmers /staff. Though they've successfully franchised their conceit of dining/drinking-with-a-movie cinemas throughout Texas now, mostly with first-run movies, the original Alamo Drafthouse, and its current incarnation (still programmed by them) in South Austin, are fan-forming, addictive, and so beloved because of their film programming.

    Yes, I can have a meal or snack with my movie, but it might be a special pasta dish conceived to be served while watching a particular Spaghetti Western, during a whole week of Spaghetti Western movies. Or, it might be 12 hours of viewing all three LOTR movies back to back, being served foods every time the Hobbits in the movie eat.

    The owners are cinephiles and movie fans, themselves, and I loved the Alamo Drafthouse b/c I'd see things there, old and new, challenging and timeless, that I wouldn't see at the local megaplex. I learned that I could trust their curating abilities.

    And, I gotta tell you, swallowing "The Planet of the Apes" remake was a whole lot easier while scoffing down chocolate cake with ice cream.

  • Mike Everleth

    I would assume "the youths" aren't going to see indie film because indie films aren't marketed to them. Didn't Ebert ask this question earlier in the year when he asked why weren't 16-year-olds flocking to "The Hurt Locker"?

    I'm 40 and, when it comes to TV, I mostly watch cable reality shows where movies I'm interested in seeing are advertised. On the off chance when I do watch a youthful channel like Spike or MTV, the movie ads are all different. For example, I had never seen an ad for "Ninja Assassin" in the weeks leading up to the release, then around the time of release, I flipped on Spike for a minute and an ad popped up for that film almost immediately. I would assume that films like "A Serious Man" and "(500) Days of Summer" don't get played on the "youth" cable channels or have ads run on the "youth" websites.

    So, I agree with the commenter above who is a teacher who says kids just don't know about indie film because those films are not advertised to them. A smart studio could try running cheap ads on youth-friendly websites with great clips and images and such and see if that helps. Are Focus films advertised on sites like Facebook? I only see ads for stuff like "Old Dogs" on FB.

    Also, as a guy who runs a small film website with a decent youth film-dedicated audience, no studio or indie company would buy ads on my site because my audience is too low. They think advertising has to be on the big sites that they pay a shitload of money for. But why not buy ads across a host of small sites that have cheap ass rates and build up an "indie cred"? I dunno. They don't seem to do that as I never see those kinds of ads on the small films sites I read.

    I don't know if the solution to this problem is about the quality of films. I think it's the marketing where the problem lies. Studios and indie companies should probably get more involved with smaller websites that have a good youth audience in order to get that audience to go to their films. That would be a start.

  • eric susch

    Lots of good comments here but I'm suprised that no one has mentioned gaming. Many of today's games deliver a level of story content that you could only get in the past from films or TV. And games are more social now too. "What should we do tonight" could just as easily mean Rock Band or WoW instead of going to the movies.

    As far as engaging young people with inde film, that's a tough one. I think the most important thing is the movie needs to be ABOUT something, not just a hollow shell of a formula. What do young people care about? As the saying goes, I don't think anyone really knows. The only way to find out is for many pasionate (and competent) filmmakers to create their vision and see what resonates.

  • pangofilms

    I disagree with Mike E. that young people aren't being marketed certain films, esp. 500 Days of Summer. There's plenty of films, even Indie films, that are made by 20somethings for 20somethings. I mean, mumblecore is mostly 20somethings whining about their relationships – who else is that for?

    There are always going to be young people who are unhappy with the status quo and young people are generally more rebellious than us 40 year olds. You can encourage them to buy a camera and go off and make shit. Or you can encourage them to get educated, and empower them to do something that's really interesting and not like all the stuff that came before it.

  • Anonymous

    Films, like all creative works, are products of the culture in which they are birthed. We (Americans) are living in a grossly dumbed-down age. Mass media, which surely has educated and illuminated, has primarily dumbed-down and numbed minds.

    I believe most people in film genuinely think they are creating "spirited yet formal work" with "integrity." However, they themselves are dumbed-down, products of their culture. If you put cheap meat in the meat grinder, you end up with a cheap patty, no matter how fancy or spruced up the final burger.

    As it stands in America, the desire is there and the willingness to sacrifice is there. Countless filmmakers have currently chosen near poverty to make films. However, they are aimless, misguided and dumbed-down.

    Great art is often birthed by great cultural change. Either a major cultural shift must occur, which we cannot control, or leaders must rise and guide us.

    "Wouldn't it be great to have a forum or think tank that really tackled these issues? That helped lead the way?" No. We need more than blogs, magazine articles, and seminars. We need human contact, face-to-face discussion, camaraderie. We need lone voices in the wilderness where us dumbed-down souls can congregate and be taught, emboldened, and equipped.

    It will happen.

  • Eren Gulfidan

    I think attracting young audiences depend on many factors, including good story telling like Ron Merk suggests and the true diversity that Jessica King brings up. As much I agree to a certain point that context is important, the question at hand here has more to do with distribution. As we're all well aware, the internet and online technologies are offering filmmakers new possibilities in terms of finding and collaborating with their audiences. The important thing for a filmmaker at this point is not to get lost in the massive crowd of people and loads of information we see on Twitter or similar online platforms, but use these online technologies in such a way that they give the audience something to anticipate, take part in, and connect with.

    As an online film distributor, I can say from personal experience that most independent filmmakers are not as involved in the P&A of their films as they should be. They spend all their energies on the production and expect people to somehow find out about their movie. I believe there is a little something in every story that a viewer can connect with if it is delivered in the right way. Motivating filmmakers to get into a "conversation" with their audience as early as before they start shooting their films and carrying out that conversation throughout the production and the distribution phase will help them to get to know their audience and see if their stories appeal to the younger audiences in question.

  • chubbco

    Hi Ted,

    Thanks for asking the question (and thanks for creating a forum where this and other questions can be asked).

    No question that movies (I don't mean branded entertainment experiences) have lost their place in the centrality of American culture, especially for the young.

    Some of that is the rise of gaming, sure, but a lot of it is the inevitable outcome of a couple of decades of respecting young people only as consumers.

    What movies were made for, by, or with kids under 25 by studios (or independents) over that time that didn't suck? You mention Napoleon Dynamite and Kevin Smith's work (Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, particulalrly were by and about being under-25). What else? A few, not much.

    If there's no reason to go to the theater to have an emotional (comedic, dramatic, it doesn't matter) experience that answers questions you have — about being a child of divorce, about how to figure out how to live or love, or about what happens you become intimate and it's all too much — whatever it is that you're living — if you lose the habit of seeing movies because the people that make them don't give two shits about you except for your ability to spend money — you stop going, except for the thrill rides or the exceptional rude boys.

    That's why I thought Judd Apatow was going to matter when I saw Knocked Up. That's why I think 500 Days of Summer is important. It was honest and funny and smart and generous and Joe Gordon Levitt is uniquely transparent in his emotion. And it grossed 32+MM$.

    I happened to have dinner last night with Gus Van Sant in Portland, where he's finishing a new film with Mis Wasikowska and Henry Hopper (Dennis's 19-ish son). Here's a studio (Columbia) making a teen drama with a director who understands AND RESPECTS human life. Good. Good to the point of astonishing.

    Maybe it's a dearth of scripts, maybe it's a ratings problem (if you make a picture about teenage life, chances are the MPAA will rate it "no teenagers allowed without their parents"), maybe it's a genreal cluelessness about how to market something other than a pixel war (I liked Iron Man until the third act became a quetion of whether the red special effects were going to be beaten by the blue special effects).

    But if we make movies that are entertaining, honest and worth time and money to a young audience, and use the new tools, tools that didn't exist even three years ago, to connect with and to that audience, we might be able to see movies matter to that audience again.

    Keep on keeping on. Good luck with SUPER. (As Oliver Stone once growled in response to the question "Mr Stone, how do you make a movie?", "Uhhh, kid, inch by motherfucking inch.")

    Cotty

  • Kamille

    Recently there has been a rise in indie film where I'm from, the Philippines. I've started watching indie films both local and foreign since high school, with the help of, pardon me for saying as we don't have that many resources, livestreaming/torrents and of course, the legal film festivals. I'm a senior in University now, and I do believe, atleast in my country, that indie film and its audiences have grown to be better and even younger. We have many film festivals for local and foreign films every year; audiences growing as the time goes on. For local films, we have them usually at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the biggest event called "Cinemalaya". For foreign films, embassies usually sponsor them with the help of some private institutions. They are usually offered for free at some malls and lines can fill up pretty much the whole floor. And yes, many of the people lining up are in fact considered young. Maybe you can ask help from some government offices and private institutions to help you out too. Festivities also accompany opening nights to invite more people to come. Some events we have bands playing, some good food, and just laid-back hanging out. It seems to be working for us back home, maybe it can help you too. :)

  • Alonso Mayo

    It's the ultimate fear… "What if I make a great movie and nobody watches it?" Well… Is it actually a great movie if nobody wants to see it? Or if just a very select film festival type audience wants to see it? Personally I didn't get into film to entertain film festivals so this is a very pressing concern.

    In film school you hear a lot about "your personal vision" and "telling personal stories"… And honestly it's begining to sound very tiring. I think you hit a point with "what does the audience want to see?" or "how does the audience want to experience it?" Participation and transmedia elements could be a key, but I think the biggest change is to start thinking about the audience first and start telling captivating stories that somebody actually wants to hear.

    Here's a start… What kind of indie film (or transmedia experience) would make you turn off the PS3 and go watch it?

  • The Sujewa

    Hey Ted,

    Off topic, but relevant to the larger picture; check out this NYT article on the site Etsy – for d.i.y. craftspeople & artists. such a site for d.i.y./real indie/truly free/etc. film might be very useful to a lot of us – a place to sell dvds & merch, build a community/networks off of that activity/also make $s of course:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/17/fashion/17etsy.html?_r=1&ref=style

    - Sujewa

  • Erin

    I can't help but think that a number of 'Mumblecore' films could've been better marketed. Maybe get a little more P&A, and put up online ads at Pitchfork and Stereogum. Hipster/Indie Rock scenesters are the real audience for 'Mumblecore' outside of the Festival Circuit.

  • Jon Jost

    Curmudge again. I think old anonymous up there has it right: art, whatever art it is, high, low, commercial or not, comes out of the culture it is in. Like artists themselves, its something organic, it happens or it doesn't, and not on anyone's command button. American culture has been on a downslide for a few decades – politically, culturally, across the board. The arts reflect this, including the filmic one. Dumbed down (purposefully), and played for suckers, most of America has played the game perfectly, and have bought into the Great Market Economy Religion, hence much of the content of this blog is about money, getting it, raising it, multiplying it (making a profit). On one of these threads someone in part responding to me said something like, "but all those filmmakers wanted an audience, and there was a producer who wanted to make a buck…" Which in some cases might be true, but there are some who I named, and among whom I'd include myself, who don't think about having an audience or making a buck – they think/feel first about the artmaking, and if the rest comes, so be it; and if it doesn't, so be it. Some I listed waited decades to get a nod from the hoity-toities of the art/film world (Nathaniel Dorsky, Leighton Pierce). I can guarantee if they had started out thinking about "the audience" they never would have made the films they've made. Me too. If you never heard of them (or me) it's because the work is simply not commercial, nor intended to be, nor is the end result tainted with a priori thought about "the audience" or "money." As soon as one begins with thoughts about "the audience" you are doing, as Ted says, "showbiz" and that might become art if it transcends itself, but usually not. It's a choice one makes, and the choice (whether conscious or not) determines what you end up making. In lively cultural times (not now) artists make what they make and the audience comes to them (French New Wave and off-shoots in Brazil, etc. for example). Or, as mentioned by Kamille, in the Philippines now there is a very active (not at all commercial) film scene, with many good interesting filmmakers, and a pocket world in which they are seen, appreciated, encouraged. Such things have happened here and there around the globe in patterns. But America now is not a likely place to look for it – maybe in another decade or two once things have really collapsed, perhaps the United States has fragmented into 3 or 4 different new nations, and the ossified dead culture now killing everything in sight has been sloughed off to let a new one emerge.
    Let's hope.
    Let's hope Ted is around to see it (pretty sure I won't be)

    http://www.jonjost.wordpress.com
    http://www.cinemaelectronica.wordpress.com

  • The Sujewa

    Mr. Jost,

    Great ideas, however, Amrica is a very surprising place (as we all discovered w/ Prez. Obama getting elected) – capable of quick changes – so, it wouldn't surprise me too much at all to find in the 2010's better versions of indie filmmaking production & distribution practices that were "workshopped" (attempted in various ways, perhaps not taking off fully) in '00-'09 (or even in earlier times, 1950's on). Anyway, either way, I think we are in for some great developments in indie film soon – either this is the best time for indie film or the worst time – both require epic responses from filmmakers – so – looking forward to seeing what we do in 2010 & beyond (i think some of it will be awesome).

    - Sujewa

  • Anonymous

    Alas, formally accomplished narrative work at feature length cannot be achieved within the formal constraints and rudiments of indie rock; and not many would look to Run Lola, Run, for inspiration.

    What Ted hopes for here is a marketing paradigm — it cannot serve as a way to make films.

  • Anonymous

    Art has never been about the viewer in a literal sense, and if young people today need to see themselves on screen to respond, then the age of art film, and art in general, is over.

    Anyone who has ever viewed the classics in a room full of under 30s can only leave the theater dismayed. The inappropriate laughter, the contempt for material which doesn't evince post-modernist irony and offer up smirking knowingness — well, one dose of such an audience is quite enough.

    Make films for these people, and you might as well be making commercials.

  • brian

    Truly free film 1st post

    Can Truly Free Film Appeal To Younger Audiences?
    “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? ”

    Dunno about art house but it seems to me indie film has exploded and indie rock is a relatively marginal sub genre as far as music and under 25’s go.
    go to the mega clubs and even small venues and there are a multitude of genres of music, indie rock being among them. brooklyn is a good example of this whole multi genre, non genre, cross genre, this “other” type of music.

    as far as getting under 25′s into see smaller indie non mall films it can be done. some friends and i have done it as did another guy we know in a mid sized city of 1m ppl. we had an old warehouse and bought out goodwill of all their furniture for $500, plus to be fair we were in a space that had tons of movie props/furniture etc.

    it wasn’t amc but we showed films and had bands and dj’s and around 100 or so ppl most nites sometimes more. the films were completely varied and we had different genres .we used big name films to attract ppl to what we were doing and to other films we thought were cool.

    all in all it was $10 and we had 2 or 3 kegs of free beer and popcorn and sometimes on “big” film nites we had free food. u can pay a film club license fee per film or work something out w/ the filmmaker if its new. its not much but if we could do it most anyone can.

    micro cinemas and creating a social setting/place by which small groups of ppl, friends, families, organizations etc can watch a film would be a great way to get younger ppl, or anyone, off their couch and into a similarly comforting atmosphere to watch an indie film. not regimented theater seating but actual furniture and w/ ppl they know and friends of friends etc.
    bit like those karaoke bars u can rent rooms and choose the music.

    this has gone on a bit much so i’ll say this and i think it’s a salient point re youth, music and film. having music, cool music, and that’s another topic, but have the music of whatever audience you’re seeking and they will seek out your film and praise you for being cool enough to put >> insert band here…….in your film and your film rocks.of course you can have more than one band or even genre and cast a wider net. i’m a bit perplexed at what some filmmakers consider “good” soundtrack music. there are a LOT of content creators, but relatively few authentic, engaging films.
    music, especially well placed music or sounds in films that appeal to “younger” audiences can make an otherwise average film or scene more exciting and/or emotionally engaging to anyone including younger more excitable viewers. i’m around under 25′s fairly often and can tell u short attention spans are a fact of life, whatever the cause. even over 25′s have shorter attention spans or are impatient in seeking emotional, intellectual staisfaction. this can be used to a filmmakers advantage. timing is important but basically, if you tease them, even border on boring them just a bit, you have a chance to excite them almost instantly and turn their opinion from… meh, this is kinda boring, to..WHOA that was pretty f’in cool, wasn’t expecting that, now i’m getting interested.kinda like music can change and a song that was about to get the next button pushed suddenly becomes one of your favs…and u end up not disliking or being bored by the first part so much.music and film, audio and visual. just as much attention needs to be paid to what is heard in a film.younger ppl will be more attracted to a film w/ cool music/sound than the same film w/o imho. good article, thanks!

  • http://www.gidthemovie.net Abraham

    Good comments here, but in the end you just have to make the movie and see where it falls. So, here we go.

  • C.

    F**K the market. Make your own films your own way in whatever way you have to. It's not so important for your soul to have an audience as it is for your soul to give and grow

    C

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