Sunday, September 30, 2012

Is social networking doing what it should be for indie films?

A few days ago I had a sudden realization. Discovering new independent music online is much easier than finding new independent films. I guess you could argue that my online experience might be different than other people’s, but I’d assume that concerning this issue, I probably fall into that part of the bell curve that holds the majority of people.

Maybe the phrasing of my realization needs to be tweaked a little bit. Maybe it’s not that finding cool, new, independent films is more difficult ( a Google search for “2012 indie films” gives me more results than I could handle), it just seems like while I have to search for new films I might want to check out, new music just sort of comes to me.

I think the main reason for this is because since MySpace, music has sort of just been built into social networking. Remember how you could post a playlist of your favorite songs that would actually play when someone visited your site? At times, MySpace seemed like it was more for finding and sharing bands than it was for sharing anything else. Facebook doesn’t have that feature, but every day my wall is full of music videos and quotes of song lyrics. Bands promote themselves on Facebook similarly to the way they did on MySpace, through event invites and wall shares and such. I just don’t see that happening for films. It doesn’t just appear before me. I have to go looking.

I think I know why. I might be really putting myself out there to get ridiculed, and I’m sure a lot of film enthusiasts will disagree with me, but if I go with my gut, I’d have to say that music is just more personal, more closely linked to a person’s identity. Just look at kids in middle school. They are defined by the music that they listen to. I think this carries on for a lot of us into adulthood as well. A Misfits t-shirt says a lot about a person.

Our social networking sites, our Twitters, our Facebooks, have become more than just “About Me” pages. In a weird way, they’ve become an extension of ourselves.

On one hand, this might make sense, but on the other, the fact that films aren’t coming to us as easy on social networking sites is really weird in a way. Films are a collective experience, music is a much more personal one.

Maybe it is just me, and maybe in a few weeks, a few days, I’ll retract this statement, but right now I feel like there’s a weird disconnect between what social networking should or can be doing for independent films, and what it is actually doing.

Friday, September 21, 2012

World Peace Day

Today is World Peace Day. I just watched the film Peace One Day at an event put together by Fostering Better Communities, a student organization at Florida International University. It's a great film, documenting what a person is capable of achieving if they have the determination and put in the work. Blogs, Twitter, and other social networks help make individual voices louder today than they have ever been. If you have some time in the next few days, this film is available on Netflix. There are also clips on Youtube. It's incredibly inspiring.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Film Fandom: The Avengers, The Master, and the Internet

I read this article on the AV Club a while back. The title of the piece asks “Are trailers spoilers? (And should movie-lovers avoid them?)” This post isn’t focused on answering that question, but rather on exploring a few other ideas that the poster brings up, starting in the fifth paragraph: “The Internet has changed the overall tone and approach of the entertainment media, pushing the discussion toward a more casual, fannish form at times—which is just fine, in measured doses.”

Fannish. That certainly describes the Internet buzz surrounding something like The Avengers or any of the other films that led up to it. In some cases, you could even call it fanatical. Never before have so many people walked the streets wearing Iron Man t-shirts, let alone recognized the name Tony Stark. The kind of buzz movies can create even before they are released, even before they start filming, can be staggering. /Film claims to have posted over 600 articles on The Dark Knight Rises since 2008, the year it’s predecessor hit theaters. Moreover, scientists (yes, real-life scientists) have told us that there is a “direct correlation” between a film’s Internet hype and it’s commercial success. Walking around Best Buy, you might have even noticed some DVDs emblazoned with Rotten Tomatoes stickers, highlighting a movie’s particularly high Tomatometer score. Blogs, social networks, and websites dedicated to film news have become a really important component of film culture. The more Internet hype, the more tickets are sold.

Looking at this year’s most successful films so far, it’s easy to see that most of the hype, and therefore most of the money, goes to superhero or comic book films and sequels. Only two out of ten of this year’s highest grossing films are not part of some sort of franchise. This isn’t the point where I go off on a rant about big movie studios churning out the same stories and characters over and over again. We all know that side of the argument, and sure, there’s some truth to it, but we don’t really need to go through it again. What I’ve been thinking about lately is how Internet buzz can affect films that people might be less likely to go see, films that might be or seem to be less accessible to the average viewer.

The Avengers (as if you didn't already know.)

Next weekend, P.T. Anderson’s new film, The Master, is getting a much wider release. It’s already been getting some fantastic reviews. However, it has also been labeled as a more “challenging film” for a more “serious audience." Now, The Avengers definitely wasn’t a challenging film for a serious audience. Just the numbers alone make it clear that it’s pretty accessible. These are two totally different films targeting entirely different audiences, and usually, bringing up The Master and The Avengers in the same sentence, even the same post, wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense, but in this case, I think it does.

Iron Man was released in 2008 and after that, the world knew that The Avengers was coming at some point. Much quieter reports and articles about The Master started as early as late 2009. After Iron Man, Marvel spent four years pumping out movies in anticipation for “the big one,” and Avengers hype grew exponentially. All the while, P.T. Anderson slowly and quietly gathered his cast and started making his film. In the middle of the frenzy, the films briefly crossed paths at least once in the form of a  /Film article

The Master

Reading this article, a person searching the web for whatever scraps of new Avengers information they could find was introduced to the existence of this P.T. Anderson guy, and this person had the opportunity to check out another film one the Avengers was involved in. In that moment, IronFan69 (that’s what I’ve decided to call this person) was exposed to a film they may not have ever heard of otherwise. Maybe IronFan69 sees this article, is feeling a little adventurous, and decides to go on a Google tangent. Maybe he realizes that P.T. Anderson made Boogie Nights, and IronFan69 really liked Boogie Nights when he caught it on Starz a while back and just wasn’t paying close attention when the directorial credit came along. After all, Anderson’s name isn’t always as closely attached to his films in the way some other directors’ are (Quentin Tarantino, James Cameron). Maybe in the future, IronFan69 will keep an eye out for more updates on The Master or on P.T. Anderson. Or maybe he won’t, but somebody might.

I’m sure that by now you’ve caught my drift. The Master has no chance at making the kind of money Avengers raked in. It’s just not possible, and the people involved in making it probably don’t expect it to. What I’m trying to get at is that the current state of film fandom, which definitely grants preferential treatment to superhero films and sequels, takes place online, and the Internet makes finding and stumbling upon information easier than ever, and it’s possible that more people know about and plan to see The Master now than normally would had word only been spread through more traditional means. I know that at times it may seem like the rampant hunger for comic book, sequel, and franchise movies that we see online has stinted the output of serious films for a serious audience (an idea that I plan to explore in future posts), but I think we’ve definitely seen some positive effects this has had on film culture as well.