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Why so pessimist about distribution?

At a fundamental level of design and craft, an ideal "social object" film must still have merit and provide quality to the consumer (instead of relying on charity from the consumer), but it will also allow people to socially engage each other.

People are already allowed to socially engage each other. What the film needs to do is encourage social interactions that are memorable, enjoyable, and thus valuable to audience members - which should cause them to associate those qualities with the film itself.

I would argue that this is independent of quality (on the design/craft level), which is a perceptual mistake I think a lot of indie filmmakers make. "If only I had a better camera/bigger budget/real actors/whatever I don't have/etc then my film would be a success!" Meanwhile, Maru the cat has 228+ million views on youtube and is making someone a living and it has absolutely nothing to do with the equipment used, technical skills of the filmmaker, or quality of the end product.

Technical quality is for us - the filmmaker - as it reflects directly upon us. It doesn't necessarily reflect upon the audience in general, except possibly for that small subset of the audience who's primary concern is quality (other filmmakers, cinephiles/home theater enthusiasts, etc). Strive for better quality to satisfy yourself, but don't mistake that for what's going to bring in the audience.
 
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I would argue that this is independent of quality (on the design/craft level), which is a perceptual mistake I think a lot of indie filmmakers make. "If only I had a better camera/bigger budget/real actors/whatever I don't have/etc then my film would be a success!" Meanwhile, Maru the cat has 228+ million views on youtube and is making someone a living and it has absolutely nothing to do with the equipment used, technical skills of the filmmaker, or quality of the end product.

Technical quality is for us - the filmmaker - as it reflects directly upon us. It doesn't necessarily reflect upon the audience in general, except possibly for that small subset of the audience who's primary concern is quality (other filmmakers, cinephiles/home theater enthusiasts, etc). Strive for better quality to satisfy yourself, but don't mistake that for what's going to bring in the audience.

:bow:
 
Provide a product consumers want.

It's real simple economics.

Yep. But, like many many things that are simple - it's not particularly easy.

I think music is something that has both "personal object" and "social object" characteristics that easily allows people to enjoy any given song/performance both personally and socially with others.
It's pretty common for someone to sing or hum a bar or line from a song and someone else to complete the following - if not outright starting something of an impromptu duet, even if in faux mockery.
Whereas films tend to be more heavily weighted on the personal side and light on the social.
Films pretty infrequently, considering the abundance of them, provide lines that are quote-worthy or promote humorous reenactment.

I think this varies a lot - I mean few people go to the theater by themselves on a regular basis, it's a already a primarily social activity in many cases. Even sitting on the couch isn't always solitary viewing - especially compared to something like listening to your music in headphones as you walk down the street. In fact 'couch mode' is likely becoming more social than ever before - even if someone's sitting at home watching a film by themselves, these days the chances are that they're chatting with other people online, or at a minimum scanning facebook and posting occasionally.

The social aspect is there, the challenge is figuring out how to tap into it. On the 'couch' side there's a lot of buzz right now about the 'second screen' experience, but frankly I think it's misguided. It's the nokia ad - putting the focus on the tech rather than the people. The street finds it's own uses for things, and it doesn't need a branded megaphone to shout at the crowd - it's already talking to the people it wants to talk to with whatever it's got at hand. Once again, the tech doesn't matter.

So again, I think the fundamental starting point is to answer the question of why someone shares something like a film with someone else - or a song or funny picture or whatever. What is the driver of social actions?
 

sonnyboo

Pro Member
indiePRO
IOTM Winner
film must still have merit and provide quality to the consumer (instead of relying on charity from the consumer), but it will also allow people to socially engage each other.

The entire movement of independent film of the 1990's blows this theory away. If quality was a factor, then a movie like CLERKS would never have found the enormous success (and I'd even say Kevin Smith as a 'filmmaker' in that regard too).

SLACKER, BROTHERS McMULLEN, SHE'S GOTTA HAVE IT, LAWS OF GRAVITY, EL MARIACHI, and BLAIR WITCH PROJECT all have 'quality' issues, especially compared to the big Hollywood movies. Something beyond that reached the audiences, and to no small effort of the marketing of those films.
 

sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
There's also another side to this equation..

When I saw "The Man From Nowhere" last year, I raved about it on facebook for months. Best action thriller I've seen in over a decade. I put it in the sig for a movie forum that I frequent..

I don't think I managed to get a single person to watch the film.
 
IDOM & SonnyBoo, I apologize for failing to clarify that when I stated
At a fundamental level of design and craft, an ideal "social object" film must still have merit and provide quality to the consumer (instead of relying on charity from the consumer), but it will also allow people to socially engage each other.
that this was in reference to the quality of the story vs the technical execution of it's production, ie. the gearhead approach.

I've long admonished others here for thinking that they're going to "tech their way out of a cr@ppy film."

Technical execution or quality is nice and all, but it's the story that either provides "something" to the viewer or demands charity from them, as in "this preposterous story demands too much and just p!sses me off. I wanna or am going to rage-quit it!"

I've watched too many lo/no budget films that are just stupid. IDK even why the writer/director/producers spent time, effort, or money on them.
Technicals I can kinda forgive if not at least be understanding about.
To me there's no excuse for a stupid story.
There's no budget associated with a fundamentally stupid story, and we should not inflict these upon customers/consumers.

:)
 
I just don't understand all of this fuss about people not having any money! I mean, all you need is just 1 dollar! 1 stupid dollar and you can have millions! Now, I know that some people are greedy and don't want to spend that dollar but come on!
You just take a dollar, go to one of those gas stations and buy a lotto. Pick some numbers, and bam! You get an instant 100 mil!
Now, I never bought a a ticket myself because the gas station is a bit far away (about 60 miles from my house) but all I have to do is to walk there, buy a ticket for 1 dollar and bam! I see everyone winning at lotto at least once a month! Couldn't be that hard!
People are stupid and greedy..
 
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Of course, the next two lines of dialog go something like:
Code:
		INGENUE
	So... What are you reading there? 
	The 'Stingy Old Fart Times'?

		BYRONIC HERO
	Don't you have some Looney Tunes
	cartoons to go watch?

Followed by:
Code:
		INGENUE
	Your grandaughter's a cum whore,
	by the way.

		BYRONIC HERO
	Just like your mother is with me. 
	Maybe that's why you two love 
	birds make such a good pair. Now,
	skedaddle along.
 
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@ItDonnedOnMe @rayw
I think the "social object" has validity. But hasn't it been around for a very long time as something that prompts "word of mouth?" That excitement in the film's "something" (or whatever) is still what makes it worth relating and effects us humans as we have been for eons, in the heart, gut, and mind. I don't think we'll change soon to the conversation being more exciting than that "thing" it's about, but maybe I'm wrong... Perhaps it relates to simple survival instincts, to learn or gain something that gives us an edge on surviving, getting enough to eat another day. A long, long time ago, these somethings were probably pretty exciting! (sorry for the digression)

The difference now, as opposed to before television and cell phones, seems only to be that the medium has changed from predominately face-to-face, to greater distance-crossing methods of communication. It's possible now to relate our excitement to thousands if not millions of potential people/audiences in one internet conversation to "talk" about our film. Doesn't make it any easier, and getting a distributor is tied to that mass appeal. If you're an unknown filmmaker, any distributor would like to have better metrics on your mass appeal than to take a risk based on only their estimate of your film's earning potential. The internet has not only enabled more filmmakers, but their access to potential mass audiences, as well.

Bottom line is we filmmakers must strive to create stories that hook an audience and entertain them. And in this day and age of more stories (films, plays, news, product reviews, games, etc.) than ever going out to the masses, that's harder than ever.

Yet, I think we can be realistic about film distribution and "decommodify" our films, too: By creating stories that are personal, break or combine genres, twist conventions, turn clich├ęs on their heads, etc., NOT by repackaging what's already out there or following formulas. Yup, damn hard and I certainly have the bruises from banging my head against the wall to show for it :-D!

Really good thread. Thanks to everyone for their thoughts and experiences!
 
Couldn't agree more! And story is the one thing that doesn't cost money to create.
So why are so many of them so bad?

I see what you're saying, but gotta disagree. The difference is between a "story" and a "good story." Telling a good story is difficult and takes a lot of time and energy (perhaps away from your paying job or family), and getting it out to the masses (if that's what you want) takes resources, too.

So many stories may be bad because there are so many more "storytellers" than ever (at least in film), and we all won't be great at it.

Decades ago, stand-up comedians used to travel to out-of-the-way clubs to hone their material and learn how to entertain an audience, and few of them succeeded in hitting the big time. Perhaps that's what is happening to filmmakers today by way of the internet?....
 
I see what you're saying, but gotta disagree. The difference is between a "story" and a "good story." Telling a good story is difficult and takes a lot of time and energy (perhaps away from your paying job or family), and getting it out to the masses (if that's what you want) takes resources, too.

Just a comment here, I think that one needs to extra distinguish between a "good story" and a "good story well told". So often, there are really good stories that are horribly realized on paper and/or on screen.

I've had to work a few times with writer/directors that had a good story per se, but a lackluster interpretation of that story either on paper and/or visually.

Perhaps I'm misinterpreting your use of the word "story" for "script", but I do feel it's important to point out many good stories are mangled in bad scripts or bad interpretations of said stories.

That said, I think this thread has it right. If you make a story, script and movie that warrants something like action figures, or provides some other sort of audience involvement, that can be very beneficial. Examining your script with that sort of "after they've watched it, then what" mindset can help. How can you engage them after they've left the theatre, one way or another, is a great question for any indie filmmaker to ask.

CraigL
 
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