It has been over six months since Steven Spielberg and George Lucas talked about the impending doom of the current studio system. Now, another Hollywood heavyweight, director Martin Scorsese offers his opinion on cinema's current and future state in an open letter to his daughter, originally published in the Italian magazine l'Espresso. Scorsese's take on the future of filmmaking is that, yes, it's surely changing, but it's still bright and promising thanks to something that has become more the rule than the exception: low-budget filmmaking.
Many wrote off Spielberg and Lucas back in June, but as more and more veterans of the screen come forward to offer their own insight, it's becoming more clear. Our industry is changing. There's no denying it.
While some may focus on the seemingly negative aspects of the change -- the imploding studio system, $50 theater tickets, a complete reconfiguration of the industry (which may not be a bad thing), Scorsese's letter offers hope for the future of cinema, and that hope seems to be low-budget filmmakers.
Scorsese worked at a time when making a quality picture meant getting studio funding, which often meant studios maintained creative control. A smart filmmaker knew how to play the game -- find a way to satisfy their creative freedom as well as the investment of the studio. Cinema is a business after all. Scorsese offers the observation that filmmakers of the 60s and 70s (and beyond) had to work hard to not only finish their films, but protect to them as well, having to hurdle over every inconvenient and unpredictable obstacle that stood in their way. Scorsese says:
I suppose we realized, on some level, that we might face a time when every inconvenient or unpredictable element in the moviemaking process would be minimized, maybe even eliminated. The most unpredictable element of all? Cinema. And the people who make it.
The director names several filmmakers that he believes are "exceptions to the overall trend in moviemaking" -- Wes Anderson, Richard Linklater, David Fincher, Alexander Payne, the Coen Brothers, James Gray, and Paul Thomas Anderson. However, if we're talking about the people who have shown up to make cinema in the last couple of decades, the people who are beginning to change the current paradigm by using what little is at their disposal to create the films they're passionate about, well -- that sounds a lot like the low-budget filmmaker. That sounds like a bright future for not only we filmmakers, but for the future of cinema as well. Scorsese says:
Why is the future so bright? Because for the very first time in the history of the art form, movies really can be made for very little money. This was unheard of when I was growing up, and extremely low budget movies have always been the exception rather than the rule. Now, it’s the reverse. You can get beautiful images with affordable cameras. You can record sound. You can edit and mix and color-correct at home. This has all come to pass.
It's still too early to really know what's going to happen to this wonderful thing we call cinema -- to its industry as well as to its artists. Speculation abounds, so all we can really do (and, for the most part, have been doing) is keep making films -- and if you're not making films, Scorsese has a word of caution for you:
In the past, because making movies was so expensive, we had to protect against exhaustion and compromise. In the future, you’ll have to steel yourself against something else: the temptation to go with the flow, and allow the movie to drift and float away.
Be sure to read Scorsese's full letter here.
Did Scorsese's observations on the future of cinema strike a chord with you? Where do you see cinema in the next 5 years? 10 years? 30 years? Let us know in the comments below.