In the hands of a lesser filmmaker technology can be used to just to up the spectacle of the film without adding any texture or depth. The argument can be made that, yes, in a way the advancement of technology in film has made it easier for film makers to be lazy and lean on the effects to tell their story, for example, Michael Bay’s Transformers films. However there is a flip side to that coin, a director such as Christopher Nolan proves, especially with his last two films (2014’s Interstellar and 2017’s Dunkirk)and of course all his previous work, that he can properly use film technology to completely immerse the audience in the film whether he’s making you feel as if you’re in the silent vacuum of space or terrified as a boots on the ground soldier in WWII.
The kind of stories I’d like to tell if I had the chance to be a film maker who was allowed to do anything would probably be more quiet storytelling. I enjoy seeing the broad visual scope on screen but for me I like characters and dialogue and stillness, technology would not factor into it as much as your average blockbuster. Writer Taylor Sheridan’s last two films (2016’s Hell or High Water and 2017’s Wind River) are good examples of the type of stories I’d like to tell, minimal technological involvement aside from the obvious cameras and etc., and more about people trying to get by and sometimes causing a little trouble.
There are many ways to take a film in now with various streaming platforms, home releases etc. but nothing beats going to the theatre for me. Other unruly patrons aside, in the world we live in today where attention spans are shrinking its far more engaging to sit in a darkened room with a bunch of strangers and share a cinematic experience for two hours. Some of the best movie-going experiences I’ve had are in good comedies and good horrors because they both illicit strong reactions and you share them as a community of sorts. Because I am such an avid fan of the film community I follow film news and find out every bit of information about the movie and seen all the trailers before it is released which is good at times but more recently I’ve found that experiences where I steer clear of the information and essentially go in blind are a whole different type of exciting. Most recently with this year’s Get Out, I didn’t watch any trailers, read any plot summaries or anything, I knew who the director and cast were and that’s it and I had an amazing time. Then again, a lot can be said for fan experience films like Marvel or Star Wars where the news and marketing campaigns leading up to the release is part of the fun and the overall experience of the film. In the end, no matter if it’s an indie film or studio blockbuster, the movie theatre is where I want to see it because nothing beats sharing the experience of something new with people you don’t know, but you know they came to see it for the same reasons as you.
In looking at Indie Marketing Techniques I found myself thinking back on Income and Art which led me back to the hustle. Obviously there are avenues such as film festivals and such but there are two great styles of marketing that I love, the first being viral marketing. Viral marketing can be somewhat gimmicky if left in lesser hands but there are many examples of great viral marketing campaigns. These campaigns bring the audience in to the film, they involve them months and months before the film is even in theaters, one famous example of this is 1999’s The Blair Witch Project.
This film had the advantage of somewhat kicking off a new, unexplored genre of horror film making (that being the found-footage genre) but it didn’t fail to fool audiences with the lead up to the film and the film itself. Through the use of a simple website and sprinkling of a campfire like legend of the blair witch, the film had many people believing that this was real, thus adding to the frightening nature of the film and being one of the most memorable marketing campaigns of all time. There are several other examples of great viral marketing, most recently with 2016’s Deadpool, the film and character’s self-aware nature led to a hilarious slew of trailers and real world clips that no one could stay away from that film.
However reading about marketing got me thinking about the hustle and the famous story of how Steven Spielberg faked it til he made it and got himself an office at the Universal lot despite actually not working there. The story goes that he was invited to a friend’s set one day and the next day came back, the guard recognized him from the day before and let him through the gate and he continued to do this for months gradually finding an empty office and filling it with his writing equipment and strolling the lot gaining inspirations from watching other directors work in their films. The authenticity of this story is in question despite coming from the master’s mouth himself but it’s the idea of this story that I love. The pure desire to be around films that much that he hustled his way into a studio lot for months is the kind of drive that inspires me to work harder and push my own brand no matter what. Whether or not the story is true it shows the kind of perseverance and insanity it takes to become recognized in the film industry and I hope I have the testicular fortitude to take it to such lengths if ever I get the chance.
Reading about the history of the criticism of art in any form is always interesting to me because in this day and age the community of film criticism is a very passionate (sometimes too passionate) one. Where movie reviewers and critics stand today is a place where anything they say whether positive or negative, it will be criticized itself. With websites like IMDb, Metacritic and especially Rotten Tomatoes ruling the current film discussion landscape, it’s hard not to get involved and even more so if you are a student of film such as myself.
Over the past few years websites like Rotten Tomatoes have held more power than ever before and many a twitter war have been started over it. Firstly, from the war on critics, one of the big conspiracies of recent history is that film critics are being paid off by Marvel to carry the banner of their movies and stomp DC’s into the mud. Ideas such as this stem from the idea that film critics are the end all be all of opinion on films which is just not at all true, it also comes from the fact that not a lot of people understand the way that a site like Rotten Tomatoes aggregates their film score which is rather convoluted. In class this week we discussed whether or not critics are a necessity and many people (especially online) would say no, but for myself however I believe that people view the critical machine as one whole monster and put far too much weight on the tomatometer. Film criticism shouldn’t always end with you siding with a general consensus, you should find a critic or two or three who you share like-minded opinions with and follow them. Film is subjective and personal and so should be the way you seek out professional criticism towards it.
This thought leads me to the current state of fandom and the average reviewer. We currently live in a 0 or 10 society which is to say everything either has to be the best thing ever or the worst thing ever and if you’re on the fence then either side will try to pull you over. There is no civil discussion anymore and people take it far too personally when you say that something they love is “fine”. Because we’re in this culture of ‘pick-a-side’ when it comes to film opinion it splits the film loving community in two and ruins the shared experience. We all need to take a step back, stop being so emotional and realize that as much as we may love them (and I do love them) in the end it is just a movie.
This week I read about income and art which essentially means I learned you have to either work hard if you want to get payed for what you do in the creative industries, be really good at what you do or both. However, in all honesty, reading about a topic such as this a a great grounding tool and good insight as to how pieces of creative work make their way into the public consciousness and how to; first, get projects off the ground and second, propel them forward into the community.
My area of the creative industries is film making, and in Australia the film industry is a speck in comparison to the U.S., with rare exceptions such as Crocodile Dundee or the Mad Max films, so to be an aspiring young film maker in this country is a fairly daunting task but to see all the options available of how to make money off of my films relaxes that stress a little. There are however some less likely ways that I would try fund my films such as starting my own production company which I obviously can’t do because I’m a broke university student and already $50,000 odd dollars down. However there are ways such as crowdfunding which can also help with the creative process because it involves putting your idea out there and you can gauge public interest on it by seeing how much money you actually receive from random crowdfunders. The film community in Brisbane is also beginning to grow and because I am now surrounded by fellow film makers there are also options like consulting or day job work. There are always short films and other various film related projects taking place in Brisbane and to network and be a part of those projects is an easier and more developmental avenue for me as it can help further my knowledge of the industry, how it works and how I work within it.
There were, of course, other more complicated ways of earning income that I read about but I am only just beginning to immerse myself in this world and am not well versed in the ins and outs of the industry as well as having barely networked among the community so these ways would be something to look in to as I further my exploration of the industry. But ultimately, to achieve income to create something only you may want can be a difficult thing so essentially I’ve got to pick up my hustle game.
The clip from ‘Apocalypse Now’ known as “the roach” scene presents characters in a trench, one manning a large gun and attempting to shoot down the enemy across what we assume is some sort of battlefield or no man’s land type situation, who we then learn is a lone man trapped under a pile of his deceased comrades calling out for help. In an attempt to silence him and not draw any more attention to their location they call a man known as “the roach” who fires off a grenade which impacts and we no longer hear the man’s cries. Meanwhile Martin Sheen is asking who the officer in command is while getting no response and who we assume to be his companion in this scene, mounts the wall of the trench and sits atop it while holding a puppy and a casually unaware look on his face hinting at his level of intelligence before Martin Sheen calls him back down by name. Just by watching this clip alone having not viewed the film in some time, a lot of assumptions are being made. Bordwell & Thompson speak to this when saying that viewers make assumptions and inferences about what’s being presented to understand film and the filmmakers steer us in certain ways in order to assist (Bordwell, 2013). The scene is complete chaos and in a way, sums up the film in a sense and its commentary on the Vietnam war, it is also well known that the making of the film was complete madness and has been said that anything that could’ve gone wrong, did.
Bordwell, D. & Thompson, K. (2013). “Narrative Form”. Film Art: An Introduction, (10th ed). New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 75
Clerks is a film by Kevin Smith that was first screened at the Sundance Film Festival in 1994. The film is a comedy about the people who run a small convenience store called the Quick Stop in suburban New Jersey. The two main characters are Randal and Dante who run the stores and have weird and interesting customer encounters as well as playing hockey on the roof of the store, going to a wake of a person they don’t know and a woman having sex with a dead guy in the convenience store bathroom.
The movie is Smith’s directorial debut and filmed in black and white, it went on to be the set-up film for Smith’s Viewaskewniverse (this being like the Marvel Cinematic Universe if it were comprised of indie comedies directed by Kevin Smith). The film looks at the life of counter clerks drawing from what seems like first-hand experience. It also has a very comfortable homemade feeling about it, you can tell by watching that the movie was written by people who are good friends and is almost a biopic of sorts of their day to day lives. Discussions in this film are full of pop culture references, hypothetical situations pitting fictional superheroes against one another and general banter between friends who hate their jobs and are just trying to pass the time.
Having had first-hand experience in customer service and working at a checkout, this film will definitely speak to anyone who has had to deal with a variety of quirky patrons. The movie does an excellent job of translating to the audience that working as a convenience store clerk is like stepping into another universe and getting to view society as it is because people who are shopping in a convenience store are always in an “in-between” moment of their life and have no need to put on a show for a clerk so you see them as they really are. It captures the art of people-watching in a unique way that had never been done before this film.
The mundane nature of the main characters’ jobs is the thing that drives the humour because we have all been there, in a situation where someone accidentally drop a drink from the fridge or the power goes out, which makes it easy to relate to and easy for us to find the comedy in it because it’s not currently happening to us. The experiences that Dante goes through in this film can be summed up in this quote from him “I’m stuck in a pit working for less than slave wages and dealing with every backward-assed fuck on the planet”.
The movie is a great satirical look and the everyday work life at what would seem like everybody’s first job. It also serves as inspiration to any up and coming filmmakers aspiring to be in the mainstream someday as Smith has built himself into a brand off the success of Clerks and the critical acclaim it received from Sundance in 1994. It certainly has influenced my film-making, writing and comedic style and I’m all the better for it (as I would have you believe).
Smith, K., & Mosier, S. (Producers), & Smith, K. (Director). (1994). Clerks [Motion picture]. United States: View Askew Productions & Miramax.