Make. Movies. Dammit.

12:00 19 June in Musings, Rants and Raves
1 Comment

Ted Hope yesterday finally (and thankfully) posted his reaction in rant form to the pending implosion of our industry as predicted by Spielberg and Lucas. As Ted points out, the belief and proof of our broken industry is all around us. His rant (which should be read in its entirety) can be summed up by the final words of the title of his post: “Now What?”

I can answer that question with just three simple words: Make. Movies. Dammit.

I aim for my writing to be aimed at the intersection of art and commerce but for a second I’d like to talk directly to the filmmakers of our world: pick up a fucking camera. I don’t care if it’s your iPhone, a Red, a GoPro, or even 35mm. Pick up a camera and make movies dammit!

Ted speaks of the need of leaders to get up and do something to help facilitate the change and growth our industry desperately needs. The only person that can do this is you. YOU Mr. and Ms. Filmmaker. Not your Sales Agent, not your Distributor, not your Exhibitors, not even your Producers. You.

As I’ve said on my own blog and Brad Feld has said on his: there are leaders and feeders to every community. In the startup world they are the entrepreneurs. In film they are the filmmakers. The truth of the matter is that despite what you may think or feel, all ye filmmakers out there, the industry is in YOUR hands. To demonstrate this point there’s a question I posed to as many distributors as possible: what would happen if next year every filmmaker in the world decided to make really really terrible, unwatchable movies? The question is always met with a light chuckle but it would always tail off into a deep, pregnant silence. Some people would respond (and I’m not kidding here) with “We’d buy the best shitty movie out there.” But if anything they are further proving my point. The state of our industry lies in the hands of the content creators.

There’s a saying in film, whoever controls the content controls the industry. For years this has applied to the bookends of the process: development and distribution. However, the death of both of these leaves only one form of content left… the film itself. Outrageous! Are we actually to believe that we need to reform our beliefs to conform to the idea that people’s films need to be the driving force of our industry? What would a world such as this look like?

It’s quite simple actually. People would just make whatever the hell they want. There won’t be such a thing as “commercial viability.” There will just be filmmakers making films. This is a scary notion but allow me to further delve. Prior to the digital revolution of cinema the only way to get a film out in the world was to conform to the tastes of the people who had the capabilities to release your film. However, because there are infinite distribution sources ranging from Netflix to VHX to Facebook to even Buzzfeed or Tumblr or your own site there are no more guardians to distribution. There isn’t a set list of people you need to get into the room for your film to make money. There is only the billions of people using the Internet daily and every tool imaginable allowing you to capture and engage with your audience. It’s not easy (and it never will be) but it is POSSIBLE. And to speak to the business folk hanging out in the wings during this post, that’s where YOU come in to make sure these wild, imaginative, groundbreaking pieces of art are reaching the right, targeted audience through the specific distribution platform that said audience consumes content on.

During the Dogfish Accelerator application process there was a team that filled out maybe 70% of their application and then stopped and never submitted. On the final question they answered all they wrote was this:

For realsies dudes, we just makin’ films.

It was the most incredible thing anyone had written on their application. As my current life’s work demonstrates I want there to be a stronger focus on business and company development for indie films. But that is just infrastructure. Filmmakers aren’t supposed to make infrastructure, they’re supposed to make movies dammit. So the best thing for you to do is ignore all of us business folk fighting and screaming about what we’re all going to do when the apocalypse happens and go make a film about anything your pretty little heart desires. Go tell a story about kung-fu ninja motorcycle gangs. Go make a film about a priest who drops his Bible in the toilet. Go assemble a documentary about how The Shining is about the genocide of Native Americans. Just make movies dammit.

I’ll leave you with something that the great and powerful Emily Best (@emilybest) said yesterday in a meeting we were both at: “Filmmakers are much more willing to try something different in this industry than distributors are. They have much fewer things to fear.” Let the guys and gals in suits go back to the drawing board on the plethora of things plaguing this industry right now. The best thing you can do is stay true to your art, push boundaries and conventions, say fuck the man, and make movies dammit.

  • Brian D. Shields

    “To demonstrate this point there’s a question I posed to as many distributors as possible: what would happen if next year every filmmaker in the world decided to make really really terrible, unwatchable movies? The question is always met with a light chuckle but it would always tail off into a deep, pregnant silence.”

    The idea of the world’s filmmakers ‘going Galt’ brought a smile to my day. Thankfully, I like to believe that soon the best stories will be the only ones being told and the projects that a filmmaker absolutely needs to make in order to share their vision with the world will be matched with audiences who have been waiting patiently years for someone to tell that exact same story. Until that day…

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James Belfer - Founder & CEO

James founded Dogfish in 2009 to produce and invest in independent film (in which he made 6 films). He was named by Deadline Hollywood as one of 2012′s 10 Producers to Keep Watching. In 2013 he launched the Dogfish Accelerator program after an inspiring experience working for TechStars in Boulder, Colorado. He’s a Northwestern University graduate and received his MBA from NYU Stern in 2013. He currently is an Adjunct Professor at NYU Tisch School of the Arts where he teaches Strategies For Independent Producing. James aspires to be one of the world’s most renowned hermits. He tends to spend most of his free time in South Williamsburg watching cartoons and googling “best Texas BBQ in NYC.” He also runs a monthly meetup called A Presentation of the Deplorable, Bizarre, and Terrible in which he binge watches 10 films in a row that most of the world has never seen (most of the time for glaringly obvious reasons). As of July 2014 only 3 people have attended.