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How Can the Smallest-Scale Auteurs Thrive in the Modern Moviemaking World?

modern movie making from indie filmmakers
© Anna Barsukova

The world of filmmaking has evolved due to technology. Filmmakers like Francis Ford Coppola have been waiting for massive changes in the technological landscape to achieve their vision. You can trace it all the way back to the very beginnings of film and see that a movie is always bound by the limits of technology. But now, there is a greater surge in localized talent.

It’s always something that has been bubbling away in the background. The biggest change is that now we can create a large-scale movie with the production values on small devices. The movie Tangerine is a great example. While it’s something that we all played with as kids, and those great examples like Spielberg and his homemade 8mm epics, the fact is that now the access to technology combined with the internet means that anybody can be a full-scale auteur. Are the real small-scale indie filmmakers going to be a force to be reckoned with?

The Access to Resources

Whether somebody needs a video encoding guide or access to top-tier editing equipment, the fact is that with a tiny bit of money and some savvy, any budding filmmaker can access so much. This effectively renders the film school approach redundant in the modern age because of the volume of resources. This should mean that filmmakers now can have a great analytical eye and look at what has gone before them, which has its benefits and drawbacks.

While we all have the opportunity to access a treasure trove of resources to inform our filmmaking, it also means there’s much less scope in terms of storytelling. But this is where small-scale indie filmmakers can thrive. As long as they have a critical eye and understand how to best position themselves in an overly saturated world of moviemaking, it means that they can create a far more unique pathway. Ultimately, it depends on the goal of the filmmakers themselves.

Peter Jackson created a wealth of homemade movies that, of course, culminated in him being offered the largest independent movie franchise of all time. But for those who are looking for an authentic approach to storytelling, DIY filmmaking in the “no-budget era” is at the heart of any small-scale cinema. This empowers filmmakers to tell their own stories and thrives on innovation and a willingness to break the mold.

Should We Now Ignore Overbearing Marketing Executives?

If there is one piece of advice that carries in the filmmaking world, it’s that you use your education wisely because this is the only time you will get to experiment. As filmmakers like David Lynch may seem to be on the cutting edge of filmmaking, they still have an uphill battle when it comes to securing funding. This is something that those really brand-new filmmakers need to remember. Now we have the opportunity to put a movie online and for it to find an audience. The question is whether these new filmmakers are actually looking to create a career for themselves.

There is always that battle between art and commerce, and film directors like Tony Kaye, who made American History X, started out making commercials. But there have been countless examples of those who started in advertising and branched out into moviemaking. Ridley Scott, Alan Parker, and Michael Cimino, among a few of many, many filmmakers over the years.

The small-scale director plays a crucial role because they’re driven by passion and creativity rather than profit margins. This can be, of course, a very generic statement, but in the current climate with scriptwriters not getting their fair share and the parallels we can draw between indie filmmaking and musicians, namely access to technology and an ability to bypass the traditional contracts with large studios, we have to decide early on if we are willing to not play the moviemaking game as we see it.

Is Commerce Necessary for Creativity?

There are countless filmmakers who have not received their fair share of plaudits. There have been those who linger on the peripheries because they are determined to tell the stories that appeal to them. But commerce can certainly be a double-edged sword, especially within the film industry. While it may provide the necessary resources to create the movies we all know and love, on the other hand, profit can stifle creativity.

Those small-scale directors operate without commercial pressures. What the brand new filmmakers coming up from the outside can forget is that while they may have some form of support now, especially if they’ve had backing from a company like Sundance, this will not potentially translate into a livelihood. Any filmmaker needs to remember this, especially in the modern day, that there could be a potential big paycheck a few years down the line, but as there’s so much competition as well, everybody needs to tough it out. We need to now explore the uncharted territories and push the boundaries of storytelling.

The Shift Beyond Box Office Numbers

In a world where even Netflix is cutting back on their staff because they’re not earning, the brand new filmmakers need to ask themselves if they want to play the game or if they have been to do something they love and not get paid for it. Small-scale indie filmmakers can have a ripple effect by inspiring future filmmakers indirectly to challenge convention. But this is where that age-old notion of authenticity becomes so important.

The film world is now a larger and more diverse collection of underground filmmakers than ever because of improved connectivity and communication, which can enhance accessibility in every single way. Indie filmmakers are always going to be the unsung heroes, but it’s whether they decide if they want to start playing the game and move into more mainstream films. Perhaps the solution was best described by Ben Affleck in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back: “You’ve got to do the safe picture, then do the art picture.” This might invariably hold the key to establishing new voices in cinema while also propping up the industry.

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