Back in February, a satirical petition was started by Kentucker Audley in response to some recent articles that essentially stated we have an overabundance of cheap films, and it's devaluing the entire market. Audley, a filmmaker himself, and the creator of the website NoBudge, which promotes lesser-known indie films, decided that something needed to be done, and he started a "petition" asking 5,000 people to sign and promise to stop making their "mediocre" indie films. That "petition" has now failed, and Audley had some serious words to say about why he started it and how he feels about independent film in general.
To provide some context, I created the petition as a response to two recent articles: one from Manohla Dargis in the New York Times calling for distributors to buy less films at Sundance '14 in order to prevent critics and audiences from being overwhelmed by mediocre movies. And second: one from Beanie Barnes at Salon classifying the indie film industry as the new Walmart, wherein an overabundance of cheap films have created an oversupply and devalued the product. They endorse radical proposals: make less films, distribute less films.
But since neither author offered concrete solutions how to achieve this, I decided to take the reigns by asking indie filmmakers if they would volunteer their way out of the industry.
This caused quite a stir on both the comments of this website, as well as on our Facebook page. Even though we stated that it was satirical in nature, many still came out in support of filmmakers and indie films, calling Audley all sorts of names. I suppose it's encouraging that there are so many people who appreciate independent film, and want to see it continue and thrive. There are more films being made now than there ever have been in the history of cinema, but we're getting so many more people contributing their voice that would never have had a shot even ten years ago thanks to the artificial barriers of entering the industry.
We are in a transition period in cinema, and nobody has quite figured out the best way forward in terms of distribution and curation. The worst thing that could happen would be to discourage new filmmakers from entering the industry, and to stop people from making work they want to make. Audley says it best here though:
All jokes aside, I love indie films & I would never urge anyone to stop making them. I started NoBudge in 2011 as a fan wanting to share films I loved & that's what I'll continue to do. We don't curate films here based on commercial potential, but instead on personality, authenticity, heart, vulnerability, weirdness, etc, etc. If your film doesn't fit in the industry, maybe it'll fit with us. If not, there are countless burgeoning internet distributors and self-release platforms launching all the time. Some won't last, some films will never make money, some audiences will feel overwhelmed by the glut, some critics will be disappointed by the films they review, and none of these are reasons why any aspiring filmmaker should decide not to make a film.
Nobody is going to get it 100% right their first time around, and for most people it takes a whole career to develop their unique voice. Discouraging most people from making films would surely be the end of cinema as we know it, because those at the top of the film industry didn't come out of nowhere -- they likely started making low-budget films. Had they been discouraged from adding their voice, we may not have some of the terrific filmmakers and films we have today.