On the other hand, this means that fewer indie filmmakers will experience the exquisite feeling of screening their film in a movie theater. As far as we have come with on-demand movies, and as comfortable as most people have become with viewing films at home, the allure of the movie theater is still not lost on a majority of filmmakers. Playing in an actual cinema remains the ultimate dream, but the low costs and accessibility of VOD are so appealing to studios and distributors that this dream is even less likely to come true.
Not that most filmmakers are likely to complain if a VOD deal comes knocking on their film’s door. In this economy, an indie filmmaker with a walletful of maxed-out credit cards will be more than happy to take any opportunity to get their movie watched and their debts erased. Luckily, these opportunities abound, with Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, and others offering a multitude of channels through which a film could find an audience.
Unfortunately, these opportunities also eliminate the risk-taking that sparked the independent film scene into vibrant life. Would “Reservoir Dogs” have been given a chance on the big screen? Would “Sex, Lies, and Videotape” have been labeled a “small screen movie” and gone straight to iTunes? It’s hard to say, but one thing is certain right now: if you don’t have James Cameron’s cameras or Peter Jackson’s special FX units or the Fox Searchlight/Weinstein Company/Sony Pictures Classics logos on your poster, you’re going to have a difficult time getting your film on the big screen.
What does this mean for those of us who can appreciate the potential of VOD but ultimately still enjoy the rush of discovering indie films at the local arthouse? It means we should go, and go as often as we can.
-Stephen Jannise, AFF Film Program Director