An Independent Filmmaker's Call to Arms: the State of Indie Films and Why I am Offering Inbetween for Free!!

First and foremost the right for people to enjoy art is one of the most basic human privileges bestowed upon us at birth. While it costs money to make an album or shoot a film, the middle men and big companies are often so overcome by greed that they create unnecessary barriers between the artist and the public in order to skim off a percentage that is often far higher than what the artist makes himself. This is like a tax that you the consumer and we the artists have to pay. I don't dispute the importance of having professionals help the artist and consumer bridge the gulf that naturally exists between them, but as in many things it is a question of degree.

The last few years have seen an alarming crisis in independent film making caused largely by the fact that Hollywood studios wanted to muscle out independent film makers and take over their market by opening faux independent studios that make faux independent films (like Broke Back Mountain). This quickly created a scenario where even the most "independent" of the festivals decided that indie films had to have multi million dollar budgets and big stars attached to them in order to secure a viewing slot. After all, isn't an indie film with, say, Brad Pit in it by definition better than one without? Or so the argument goes. The problem here is that Hollywood studios are like any corporation and avoid risk at all costs, and this usually means originality and new unproven actors or directors. As a result the film world has witnessed a remarkable shrinkage in originality the last few years. Anything that is new or different is avoided like the plague and extremely talented actors and artists are being passed over just so overpaid established actors that have become name brands like "Tide" or "Bold" can make yet another few million by staring in a so-called "indie" film. While I love many of Hollywood's great achievements as much as anyone else, these films should not enjoy success at the expense of films made outside the system, which have always offered something different and unique that the mainstream has never been able to replicate. Indie filmmakers don't try to compete with films like "Die Hard" so why should Hollywood try and compete with us?

As a result of all this, the whole support structure that the independent film maker used to rely on has now followed suit so now it is virtually impossible for any film without a huge budget and a list of stars to be seen anywhere. To make matters worse, producers reps and distributors are starting to prey on indie filmmakers, asking tens of thousands of dollars on the vague promise that their film might see the light of day, when everyone knows that as soon as the money is handed over and the contract is signed they won't lift a finger to promote it and even if they did they would find some way to keep all of the proceeds such that the filmmaker got nothing in return. Even resources like "Film Threat" that used to claim they would review any film sent to them, have introduced a rigorous selection process that excludes any film without a guaranteed viewership (ie only films that have distribution assured). This is truly harrowing as the indie filmmaker used to depend on such reviews to HELP him secure distribution in the first place! I am sure they are inundated with a lot of bad films and have their reasons to justify such a change of policy, but it still puts every indie director in the world in a bad position. While such anti-creative climates have existed before (in the 1940s Maya Deren had to rent cinemas at a huge financial loss to get people to see her films), with the wealth of internet resources and on-line distribution opportunities currently available such a scenario is unacceptable to you the viewer and we the artists.

So what can we do about it? While Inbetween has faired extremely well at some smaller festivals, securing multiple nominations and garnering excellent feedback, and has even been offered a few very one-sided distribution deals that would likely result in the distributor getting any proceeds from the film sale and me the artist doing all the promotion, I decided that it is more important that the world get a chance to see it and enjoy it, even if I don't make any money on it. This is also a great way of getting back at Hollywood. If all of us indie filmmakers start offering our films for free then it will undercut Hollywood (like they undercut us by muscling in on our territory) and its one-sided support mechanism by forcing them to lower their prices (I'm sorry, but the price of most DVDs are just ridiculous). It also undercuts all the film festivals that have closed their doors on us and gives the viewer a choice – do I want to pay loads of money to attend festival X or would I rather watch even more original and exciting films at home for free? In short, such a move gives some of the power back to you the viewer and us the independents! Sure, this has been done before in other mediums (most notably with Radiohead and their last album) but in the film world such a gesture is even more important because there are far fewer ways that an underground film can be seen than there are ways that a band can get their music out to the masses. While nobody wants to go on losing money forever and even the lowest budget indie films cost money that their financers would love to get back, I really see no alternative given the dire state of affairs. It gives all those hard working indie actors and directors a chance to show their stuff, while also putting pressure on the big guys. Why pay a lot of money to see a faux indie film when you can see a real indie film for free?

So, I propose that for at least one year anyone in the world who considers themselves an indie filmmaker offers their product on the web FOR FREE. The revenues lost to Hollywood by loss of viewership would be substantial, while the indie filmmakers, whose films - however great they may be - would likely never make any money anyway (largely due to Hollywood horning in on our territory) would lose nothing more than they already have.

Having said that, for anyone that falls in love with Inbetween (as many of you might!) when this chill out period is over you will be able order a professionally packaged DVD for 25.00 USD from theflyingacorn@gmail.com and I will immediately send you a Paypal invoice. That way we both win (in the end)!

So download and enjoy, and let's hope other indie filmmakers follow suit so all those "suits" can start feeling nervous again! By the way, the film is split into four parts of roughly 45 minutes each for greater downloading and viewing ease.

Watch/Download Inbetween Now!
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
 
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