FilmStruck, the classic, indie, and arthouse film subscription service will shut down on November 29th, 2018. Enjoy it while you still can.
In a move disappointing to cinephiles everywhere, Turner and Warner Bros. Digital Networks have announced that they are ending the streaming service. Here is the full story from Variety.
"FilmStruck was too good to last. I see it sadly floating away from the charred wasteland that is 2018, Lorax style."
Another harsh take from Gizmodo: AT&T Is Killing One of The Internet's Last Good Things:
"There are movies on the service that are virtually impossible for the public to view any other way—no VHS release, no readily available spools of film, and only the slightest chance of a screening on TCM"
Motion pictures came into existence in the 1890's. We have over 100 years of films to examine, study, and learn from daily. Access to those films provided views with a wealth of knowledge. Having a subscription to FilmStruck was like Aladdin walking into the Cave of Wonders.
One of the greatest ways to learn about filmmaking has always been to study what came before, and what inspired people even before that. Countless of the greatest filmmakers look to the greats of the past for inspiration. In fact, it's easy to trace lines of influence. From John Ford to Orson Welles to Akira Kurosawa to Sergio Leone to Quentin Tarantino to maybe YOU. This is to say nothing of the lesser known classics and indies, which FilmStruck did such an excellent job bringing to the front.
With host introductions and supplemental material, FilmStruck helped round out the viewing experience, and learning opportunity for any interested viewer.
And it was just cool. Imagine being able to just find titles you had never heard of, things from the ether, that could help you solve the problems you were having in your own work. Had trouble pulling off a spy plot? The Third Man was there for that. Unsure how to show the devastating effects of war? Check out Closely Watched Trains. In the mood for some feminist film theory (always)? What about watching Meshes of the Afternoon by Maya Deren?
My own filmmaking knowledge and voice came mainly from an ability to access the movies I loved, and get more information about them through special features, and commentary tracks.
I can recall listening to the commentary track on Boogie Nights, where in meta fashion, writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson said (and I paraphrase) "You're listening to a guy who learned a lot about making movies from the commentary track on Bad Day at Black Rock."
While Boogie Nights remains in the cultural lexicon, John Sturges' thriller Bad Day at Black Rock is likely less accessible to current audiences. But that makes it no less powerful. It may not top any list but belongs on all of them, with the potential to help shape the point of view and craft of any aspiring filmmaker.
I'll never forget finding a VHS copy my dad made of John Ford's The Searchers, popping it in and watching it only to discover one of the most influential and gripping westerns ever made. At the time I was plenty familiar with Scorsese, Coppola, and Lucas. But until I saw The Searchers, I wasn't familiar with where they drew their inspiration. And Paul Schrader even used The Searchers as an outline for his 1979 movie, Hardcore.
My passion for learning through classic movies didn't end there. I scoured the internet for poor quality copies of Akira Kurosawa's earliest films. I wanted to know how his genius manifested itself at the beginning of his legendary career. What did he learn over time?
Could I watch his films and see how he developed his voice, and the visual grammar that would alter the entire medium?
I can't even recount all the great experiences I've had discovering movies through the Turner Classic Movies app, and then FilmStruck. Even for a lifelong cinephile like myself, there were constant discoveries, or chances to watch movies I'd known of but never gotten a copy of prior.
Classics, foreign films, and indies aren't just for film school, they are meant to be enjoyed. You don't have to look hard to uncover some that are in no curriculum, on no AFI's 100 greatest list, but will grab you and live in your mind forever.
The films that inhabited FilmStruck can take us places we'll never go, and times we'll never live in. They'll tell us stories we're familiar with, but in voices we've never heard.
If anything, the loss of FilmStruck reminds us of the value of owning copies of the great films we truly wish to have for repeat viewings and study. But it's hard to replace the magic of having a service that can help audiences discover new classics, foreign films, and indies that subverted conventions or defined them.
So I guess maybe I'll hold off on getting rid of the 200+ DVDs and Blu-rays I have sitting in boxes and tucked into various shelves and cabinets (AT&T will owe my wife an apology).
While FilmStruck still has a month left, let us know your favorite movies available on the service in the comments. Please include any harder to find movies as well!
Turner Classic Movies and Criterion Collection, both of which helped create the vast library FilmStruck utilized, still exist. So the films they collect, house, and preserve will continue to be made available to the public. We'll keep you updated on where you can stream all the best films to learn from.
FilmStruck... Come back!