Indiewire has published a post-Cannes article about the future of cinema in the age of Netflix & Amazon that is worth a read because this is something that will be important for microbudget feature filmmakers.
It is worth checking out the article here.
I remember many years ago when HBO started to make original TV series. Ultimately it revolutionized television away from the very broad, network series, which targeted every possibly demographic by taking all the edges off and pitching it at, as I recall, a grade 8 level. After some great TV content in the early and mid-1970s - All In The Family and M*A*S*H* come to mind - we ended up with Fonzi "jumping the shark" on Happy Days.
But HBO was a cable subscription service. They didn't have to please conservative advertisers, just their subscribers. They were able to pitch their content at a much higher level.
Thus began the new golden age of television - Six Feet Under, Deadwood, and later Breaking Bad and now racy, edgy shows like Mr. Robot, Sense8, The OA and the excellent re-imagining of Westworld.
It's possible that the entry of Netflix - and now Amazon, led by indie film veteran Ted Hope - will push feature films in a similar direction. They are also not dependent upon conservative advertisers and have demonstrated at least some willingness to even challenge their subscribers with controversial content, such as Dear White People. And they are pouring cash into production and into purchasing feature films, including edgy indie films.
Why does this matter to microbudget filmmakers?
Before you run out and try to get Ted Hope on the phone to pitch him your idea, I suggest you hang back.
For most of us there is probably not going to be a direct, immediate relationship between the big debutante arrival of these two big players and microbudget filmmakers. They probably aren't going to fund your next feature film, especially if you don't have a track record, have no established or big name actors, etc.
And they may not even buy your film once it's completed, though their buying spree does make it more likely that you will be able to find a home for your feature film once it's completed. However, while I have no great insight into the business strategy of either company, even this may be a temporary blip as these behemoths compete to fill out their content library. There is a good chance that they will pull back in the not-too-distant future and focus on profit-making at the expense of risk-taking.
But even still, this bodes well for microbudget filmmakers. Why?
Because if they can normalize in the public's mind the idea of content that is unconventional, that isn't just super-hero movies and cop thrillers, it expands the space for the always unconventional nature of microbudget films. There is simply no way that we can compete with the next Marvel or DC comics adaptation, Spiderman retread, etc.
However, a well-crafted unconventional and/or controversial drama or even genre pic can fare well in a market that welcomes unconventional stories.
Now more than ever, I believe, microbudget filmmakers have to be bold and leave behind the idea of copying Hollywood film formulas (at 1/1,000,000th of the budget). Now more than ever we need to create unconventional stories built out of great scripts, immersed in a visual world that challenges the viewer while still being entertaining and approachable.
This is our time to seize the day and be bold.
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