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By Charles Peirce
It would seem, to the eyes of Hollywood, the high form of film has become the franchise. It satisfies the two poles of conventional business wisdom: limiting risk as it promises more of the same, maximizing profit as it entices investors with that self-same prospect. The Hobbit is stretched out to encompass three movies, hordes of young adult novels are on the horizon, and Bob Iger suggests Frozen will now be a franchise after its huge success, but it’s hard to imagine that wasn’t always the plan. Strangely, though, two of the pioneers of the form, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, both predict doom for what they helped create. And the recent failure of The Lone Ranger (and John Carter before that) suggest they might just be right. [...]
It is no longer the dawn. We are now officially in the new era of a Truly Free Film Culture.
Yes, the business of indie film is back. The rapidity, volume, and consistency of deals blossoming ($30M and counting!) at Sundance should give investors more confidence that you no longer have to rely just on foreign; the US acquisition climate seems quite robust again. Whew. But the good news does not end there.
Indie Film has been infected by a new breed that — like those that came before them — refuses to ask for permission. But unlike the earlier wave, their go-get-them attitude doesn’t stop at production, it extends into all the pillars of cinema — from discovery and participation on through production, distro, appreciation, and presentation. The content, the form, the plans of cinema are not only for re-examination, but the rules have been thrown out. Time to get out of the way, and let the fresh air disrupt the stale space. [...]
Today’s guest post is Pt 2 of 2 from 2010 Brave Thinker Of Indie Film Sheri Candler.
I have investigated some artists already building their communities (and sustaining themselves) and thought you should use them as examples to follow.
Examples of artists who have built a community web
In addition to the Grateful Dead, a group most all of you are aware of, there are examples of artists from many areas who have successfully built up a community around themselves and their work.
Kevin Smith is a great example. Smith says he can spend up to 9 hours a day online and started this back in 1995. He has never put his career only in filmmaking, saying he never expected THAT to last. Instead, his community has been introduced to a variety of his activities; a SModcast, comic books, stand up comedy, regular writing contributions to various magazines. Smith isn’t tied to only one avenue of revenue and in fact can make a living off many things outside of making films. He was able to pinpoint exactly what his fans liked about him early on and he reaches out to them continually. If I had to suggest something, I would ask him to allow a community aspect on his site so that fellow fans can contact each other.
Matthew Ebel is another example. [...]
Kevin Kelly’s articulation of survival on the long tail was one of the essential readings this year for anyone trying to figure out a new paradigm for Indie and Truly Free Filmmaking. It may be old hat out in blogland, but it is a concept that still hasn’t been discussed enough among indie filmmakers. It promotes the notion that:
A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author – in other words, anyone producing works of art – needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.
The key challenge is that you have to maintain direct contact with your 1,000 True Fans. They are giving you their support directly. Maybe they come to your house concerts, or they are buying your DVDs from your website, or they order your prints from Pictopia. As much as possible you retain the full amount of their support. You also benefit from the direct feedback and love.
The technologies of connection and small-time manufacturing make this circle possible. Blogs and RSS feeds trickle out news, and upcoming appearances or new works. Web sites host galleries of your past work, archives of biographical information, and catalogs of paraphernalia. Diskmakers, Blurb, rapid prototyping shops, Myspace, Facebook, and the entire digital domain all conspire to make duplication and dissemination in small quantities fast, cheap and easy. You don’t need a million fans to justify producing something new. A mere one thousand is sufficient.
… This small circle of diehard fans, which can provide you with a living, is surrounded by concentric circles of Lesser Fans.
I have frequently feared that it is the dream of stardom and wealth that fuels both the indie production cycle and film school enrollment lists. Maybe that is because the possibility of survival and being a true artist seemed so impossible. But that does not have to be so, if you invest some time and energy in building your own support system.
Young artists starting out in this digitally mediated world have another path other than stardom, a path made possible by the very technology that creates the long tail. Instead of trying to reach the narrow and unlikely peaks of platinum hits, bestseller blockbusters, and celebrity status, they can aim for direct connection with 1,000 True Fans. It’s a much saner destination to hope for. You make a living instead of a fortune. You are surrounded not by fad and fashionable infatuation, but by True Fans. And you are much more likely to actually arrive there.