In previous articles, I briefly mentioned something called “The Indie Renaissance.” I promised I would go more in-depth in a future article. This is that article.
The Indie Renaissance is the idea that in the recent future, the industry for independent films is going to expand massively. There are a few reasons why I believe this will happen soon.
The first is the availability of distribution platforms. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Roku, AppleTV. These are all platforms that are used to distribute films and TV series. Most of these have, or are planning on having, series or films exclusive to their platform. With these distribution methods, there are three categories of media: The first are common media that can be found in almost all of these distribution platforms. For example, a popular TV show that hasn’t aired in three or four years. This show will be found on most, if not all, of these distribution platforms. The second form of media is more obscure shows or films. A 90s show that only a certain generation will remember fondly. A foreign film that was made by a metalworker. These shows and films are far from mainstream, and you might not find it on the default platform you own. You’ll have to look around. The third category is original content exclusive to that platform. This includes House of Cards, Marco Polo, the last season of Arrested Development. This is an evolved form of the Premium Channel system: Someone who has cable would pay a premium in order to have access to HBO, Starz, and SHOTIME. Funnily enough, this year, HBO is premiering an online subscription service.
The advantage that the online system has is that these platforms are directly accessed by the consumer. Previously, the cable provider was the middle man. HBO would talk to the cable provider, such as Comcast, or DirecTV, in order to have HBO on those services, and gain an audience. Now, HBO doesn’t have to think about what the cable providers would prohibit, or what politics they have to maneuver past; HBO is going directly to the customer, and whoever wants it, can get it. And HBO can produce whatever content they want. There’s no filter of cable providers, no federal rating organization; Literally the only thing that determines what kind of content HBO makes is the audience that watches it. The Internet audience is ENORMOUS. The amount of niche markets in any form of entertainment online will tell you that no matter how weird, obscure, or different the subject matter, someone, probably a lot of people, will watch it. The platform being directly accessed by the consumer will make for many, large niche audiences. This will create a demand for a large amount of diverse filmmakers of all genres on these platforms, Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO, Amazon. These platforms are going to be a massively important in the next five years, and instrumental in implementing the Indie Renaissance. However, there is another way that the industry is going to expand.
The second reason I think the industry is going to expand massively is because of sites like YouTube. YouTube is one of the biggest destinations on the Internet. 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. There are millions and millions of viewers, and visitors of YouTube every day. The greatest thing about YouTube is also the worst thing for the niche audience of cine-philes and filmmakers: The diversity of Content Creators and the content they make. Whether it be parodies, vloggers, bedroom singers, or re-editors of popular videos that make tributes, there is no end to the billion dollar industry that is YouTube. But maybe there should be. As a cinephile and filmmaker online, there’s no real destination. There are a few short films on YouTube, but they’re a pain to find among the cat videos, parodies, ripped scenes from movies, interviews, and various other things that you don’t want to see. The user base of letterboxd, a film reviewing website and accompanying app, the traffic of film and filmmaking related websites, and the subscriber count of the film related channels on YouTube all seem to be clear signs of the large, untapped resource and user base that is made up of cinephiles and filmmakers. There’s really no destination for these people, that want to see short films, NOT “videos,” original content, and new filmmakers and good filmmaking. It’s 2015 and people are realizing YouTube is not the place to go for filmmaking. Soon, someone, with a lot of money, will make this website, this destination for film lovers and filmmakers. It’s an inevitability. (Unless YouTube suddenly makes an incredible filtering and categorizing system for all of it’s content) When this destination is created, then another, more niche version of YouTube will likely emerge, and the YouTubers will be replaced on this site by “Whatever the title of the site is”ers. These filmmakers will embark on this site and the Internet will, like it always does, produce incredible people and incredible artists. Then, cinephiles and filmmakers will go to THAT site, both as audience members and as content creators.
The third reason that I believe this will happen soon is because of the easy networking that exists nowadays. Nearly everyone, and certainly people that use the Internet on a daily basis, have Facebook. Facebook allows people to connect like never before. The connection to a community is now easier than ever before. Specifically, connection to a filmmaking community. Besides finding pages for local filmmaking groups, companies, and studios, Facebook Groups are also incredibly useful. No matter what city you live in, I can almost guarantee that there is a Facebook Group for “[Your City] Filmmaking.” You don’t have to go to meetings, you don’t have to know someone who knows someone, you just have to be in the group, and message someone to see if they’re willing to help you out. And at least some of them will. You can meet people, know people, and talk to people about your projects, and being involved in your projects, now, easier, and faster, than ever. There’s no reason you couldn’t be doing it right now.
My fourth, and final reason that I feel this Indie Renaissance is coming is the most important. Filmmaking, and arguably all art, is a storytelling medium. By extension, all filmmakers are storytellers. Every storyteller, either consciously, or subconsciously, is constantly influenced by the world around them. A lot of prominent filmmakers have stated that the main reason they wanted to make films is because no one was telling the kinds of stories they want to tell. Often when I talk to older people about social media, and the Internet, they say something along the lines of “It just makes the world smaller.” No, it doesn’t. You can visit places you’d never go with Google Images, listen to music you never would have heard naturally in your environment. You can be inspired so much more easily now than ever before. The more inspired you are, the more stories you want to tell. And inspiration is around ever corner on the Internet.
Prepare yourselves. You could be Michaelangelo, or Rembrandt, or hell, you could even be Leonardo. With the right mindset, and the right tools - which are clearly here already - you could make some unforgettable art.