The ever-cheerful Jean-Luc Godard gave a rare interview to The Guardian this week, wherein, among other things, he held forth on the state of the film industry. “Film is over,” he proclaimed. “It’s sad nobody is really exploring it. But what to do? And anyway, with mobile phones and everything, everyone is now an auteur.” It’s certainly an interesting time for film — while Hollywood is trying to keep people in cinemas by (re-)embracing 3D and avoiding anything that looks remotely like a new idea, indie filmmakers are exploring the possibilities of web-based distribution and new methods of filmmaking. And it’s not just indie directors doing so, either. Join us as we have a brief look at five prominent directors who’ve been pushing the technological envelope in direction, marketing, and/or distribution.
Ever the innovator, Godard himself is exploring the idea of working outside traditional film distribution channels, putting up a hyper-speed version of his new project Film Socialisme on YouTube the day before its release. He was also in the news last year for speaking out in support of a man accused of copyright violation for downloading songs via a file-sharing site — Godard donated €1,000 to the man’s defense fund, and told French magazine Les Inrockuptibles, “There is no such thing as intellectual property… Copyright really isn’t feasible. An author has no rights. I have no rights. I have only duties.”
Flavorpill favorite David Lynch was one of the first prominent directors to see the possibilities of the internet, launching his subscription-based website in the early 2000s and using it to release a series of internet-only projects, including a series of characteristically weird animations and a sitcom called Rabbits (which is about a dysfunctional family of, yes, rabbits). He’s also embraced digital film-making, shooting Inland Empire entirely on DV (“The quality is pretty terrible, but I like that”) and telling Wired back in 2006 that “film is heavy… it’s gone, just gone.”
Moore released his docu-polemic Slacker Uprising as a free download in 2008, making him one of the first prominent directors to release a feature-length project online. Moore noted on the film’s website that given that it was designed to encourage people to get out and vote in the 2008 presidential election, he wanted it to be distributed as widely as possible. He also made it clear that viewers “have my blanket permission to share the movie with your friends, to set up screenings in your communities or theaters, to show it on your campuses — all at no charge.”
After the Weinstein brothers declined to support a horror film inspired by the Westboro Baptist Church, Smith decided to distribute Red State himself. Unfortunately, he came to this decision after he’d already announced to the world via Twitter that he’d be selling off the rights to the highest bidder via a public auction at the Sundance Festival. His about-face didn’t amuse everyone who’d bought into what looks in retrospect awfully like one big publicity stunt — the whole business was thoroughly confusing and rather unedifying, and wasn’t really helped by Smith’s constant tweets about what was or wasn’t going to happen. Sometimes, internet marketing can blow up in your face.
Late last year, the director behind Léon and The Fifth Element launched a website called We Are Producteurs. The idea was to turn the decisions behind his next project over to the denizens of the web — users get to vote on the script that’ll be shot, then on casting, direction and various other aspects of the film. (It’s currently at the casting stage, and users are debating who’s going to play the role of a character called Dominique.) Apparently the first 10,000 subscribers also get their name in the credits of the film. If your French is up to the task, head over to the site and check it out.