05 April 2010

DIY Footnote

OpenIndie is, like the local foods movement, about localism. Both "proposals" feature neighbors, friends, communities looking to each other and the resources they have to hand and "next door" to provide for their own needs (growing food for their own tables, asking theaters to screen the films they want to see). Except that OpenIndie is not a member of any given community, and yet it would have to be accepted by a local exhibitor as something he can trust, as "someone" whose word he can bank on. OpenIndie might say that they're simply telling me, the exhibitor, how many people of my community are saying they want to see a certain film play in my theater... but am I going to sacrifice a booking or even a single screening of something that Disney or Universal has "vetted" for me (i.e., deemed bankable) for the sake of something that my neighbors say they want to see (based only on the trailer) but might not actually show up for and if they do might not build up word of mouth about because the film actually has limited (or even little to no) appeal?

When you look at a locally-grown organic tomato, you pretty much know on the spot the wonderfulness you're going to have on your salad or in your sauce. But does a good trailer mean you're going to get a good film? Somebody asked the OpenIndie fellow if any films would be rejected for any reason. I don't remember what the fellow said in response. But I do think one of the problems that may beset OpenIndie is one of vetting, of allaying exhibitor anxieties (e.g., "Universal is saying this film is bankable, they're doing the marketing and the distributing; who around here is doing the marketing for this film, and how do I know it's a good investment?"). Even if the members of the community were petitioning the exhibitor directly (handing in signatures, picketing, or otherwise making a stink), this wouldn't be a compelling argument for considering a film competitive.

It all reminds me of the other incarnation of the "revolving online media showcase" I was "pitching" at DIY Day -- this "other incarnation" being a sort of Metacritic for the undistributed, with those found "most worthy" having their trailers/clips/press featured on the front page, the "worthy" being judged so by the critical elite (e.g., from NYT, LAT, Chicago, David Denny from the New Yorker, David Edelstein from Slate, Andrew O'Hehir from Salon, David Bianculli from NPR), the members of which "elite" would review one selected "nowhere" film/webseries/et al. on DVD or online per month for the love of their chosen medium, because they do in fact love and watch all sorts of movies/TV/etc., and like the journalists they are would be pleased to break the story about the "next big thing"... which is just the sort of thing The Industry is anxious about missing. Hollywood always cares about "art" at Oscar-time, Edward Jay Epstein has observed, and who judges what is "art" but the critics? Might critical acclaim from the greats for the undistributed become a new source of industry buzz, like "the boards"? This may not be a community-centered model, but it might nevertheless help the DIYer.

OK, time to start plowing!