Indie Film Predictions: What's Next?

What I think is gonna happen based on what I see....

1. Post Mumblecore. Finally. Mumblecore is a low budget genre that's been bumming around for awhile now.  "Natural" settings instead of sets,  unprofessional actors, vernacular heavy, using sparse dialogue as the main impetus of the narrative as opposed to bouts of action. This season of film screener-ing I found a big return to the similar yet pre-mumblecore days, maybe even a return to the early Kevin Smith or early Richard Linklater days (a school of which is called "Slacavetes" after Linklater's famed Slacker). These films have near monologue-like deliveries of highly written (over written?) scripts and, like mumblecore, often take place in natural settings as a stylistic choice (& as a function of their low budgets). I watched three movies IN A ROW that happened to have overwritten, theater stage quality blocking, white boy leads on pseudo-intellectual quests for love and/or meaning.  The stylistic choice of leaning towards theater-like acting & theater-like dialogue in these films creates a barrier- an awareness of film and audience separation- a thing that I think has become so blurred in the reality tv generation and the ongoing accessibility of life though technology. It only makes sense that a return to a more staged and contrived feeling of reality would begin to seep back on the big screen when fiction film & tv have been so preoccupied with a "realness" lately...

2.  ...speaking of real: The New Doc. Documentary film has been flooding the film market more and more. There are a lot of reasons this is so; the (potentially) lower production needs, the availability of high quality cameras, and maybe even the inverse of what I said in No. 1... Documentaries are increasingly (and have been!) pushing what a documentary can be, fictionalizing & embellishing an idea of reality and breathing life into the drab old informational format with style (narrative, visual, sonic, editing etc.). Personally I feel like documentary filmmakers are taking the risks that the early days of independent fiction film did, pushing the limits caused by space & money to create unique visions that are spawning a whole new generation of artistic nonfiction filmmakers. Institutions & other outlets are recognizing this ongoing shift too and I think the genre is really headed into pure experimental territory where cinematic storytelling and art will seamlessly collide and eventual lead into mainstream productions. EXCITING! (Note: another awesome doc trend I've noticed is that the digitization of archival footage is rising and creeping into docs in more pronounced and interesting ways: no more will we need to rely on the Ken Burns effect!)

Ceremony Trailer from vince mckelvie on Vimeo.

3. ...speaking of art: Digital Filmmaking as Art. There have been a lot of little flourishes here and there of indie filmmakers using features of the digital camera to their advantage. I loooooove when someone artfully uses the autofocus to blur things in & out, creating the feeling of planes of depth like a lifesize diorama (similar to PT Anderson's 70mm work in The Master). Or using the autofocus to make a bed of video texture, or sometimes even an emotional underscore.  I saw a lot of this going on in film fest submissions this season and more often than not it was done quite well and quite intentionally! But it got me wondering...what else can a digital camera do? What other features can be brought out in the tool itself and alter the way images are made? I recently saw a short (posted below!)by a student in which they altered the code of a film to produce a color quality effect that was otherworldly and amazing (a thing I've been waiting for someone to do for awhile!)....and real auteurs, like Lars Von Trier, have been using the crazy bajillion frames per second Red One cameras to breathtaking results! Artists have been pushing the digifilm tools over the past decade & the quickly moving digi-effects used by big-budget Hollywood are quickly making new technology old and even more accessible. A weird crossover of technology between mainstream and counterculture is soon going to collide and create some seriously new results.

Here Comes the Night Time-Lapse from Claire Freehafer on Vimeo.

4. SOUND DESIGN!!!!  Like I said above, I am predicting a more artful use of technology and this isn't just limited to the visual. Better tools are leading to experimentation in sound too and I am waaaaaay excited! In my screening committee work the use of sound as a narrative, aesthetic, and emotional component was far beyond what I have seen before and it is amazing to see this area of film come back into style. When I think of it in long terms too, sound was really the last element to be added to the original film and it only makes sense that it is the newest forefront of experimentation!

Leviathan (trailer) from Cinema Guild on Vimeo.

5. Popularity of VOD making online criticism more important? I went on my mini-online critic rant earlier this year but....I was thinking about how more and more movies are simultaneously in theaters and on VOD and it's doing something interesting to the journalistic landscape: writers are all basically getting equal-ish access to the same work. It doesn't take one living in a major city or being affiliated with a major newspaper to see the latest, greatest, and, often, slighty-too-good-(or bad) for a mainstream theater work. Even though I get offered some screeners of to-be-released films (apart from the fest work of course) and I get invited to a few advanced screenings for journalists,  up until now there had been a huge limit on what I had viewing access of. But now, VOD, vimeo screeners, Withoutabox, and more (even bootlegs which I am not really for...) are leveling the playing field fir critics in a big way: anyone can basically see anything before an audience. The idea that the next influential critic could be a kid in Nebraska with high speed internet is really exciting to me & makes me feel like a proliferation of tastes, "credentials," experiences and more are on the verge of something big, something big that is going to guide more audiences to work that would never have met eyes in the past.

6. Emirates? Sooo...well, NYU opened up a campus in the United Arab Emirates & there is more money than they know what to do with there so it only makes sense that film production is the next expensive hobby of this region (did they already go through the art collecting phase?). The expanding film industry of UAE was definitely present in the productions of film fest submissions this year and...I don't know what that means exactly? Who knows how much film funding from the Emirates is being funneled into Hollywood already but the fact that a lot of indie-ish work is being produced is making me wonder if they'll be the new Greece of a few years back? I'm interested to see where this leads, it feels like there is a lot of potential when there is a lot of money in a region dipping it's toes into a new creative field and the culture is so unique & foreign that it is intriguing what might come out of it...only time will tell!




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