Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #747: Flying Away With Indie Films...

Today, two stories about indie film companies. One about hope, one about hopelessness...


After a long period of speculating over the future of NBC-Universal's "indie" division Focus Features, including rumors of it being shuttered or sold, its new owners, Comcast, are now saying that they're keeping the scrappy little company.

Good for them, because if there is one thing
I love to preach about it's the simple fact that independent film can become a viable business. In fact, the collapse of the indie film biz after the 90s boom can be directly attributable to the studios.

If you remember your film history, independent film, and independent film companies exploded in the 1990s. A sort of indie golden age boomed as films made outside the Hollywood system won critical praise, major awards, and even box office success. The big studios saw all this, screamed "Me too," and leaped in with both feet.

That's where things started to go wrong.

The major studios started buying up, or squeezing out indie film companies. One by one they either were absorbed by the corporate Borg Collective of the major studios, or driven out of business by their inability to match the acquisition bids of the majors at markets like Sundance, or their marketing clout at the multiplex.

However things weren't all that rosy for the majors who now all had indie divisions. The biggest problem was that most of them didn't have a clue as to what to do with them. The risk taking entrepreneurs who started the companies the majors absorbed were, with the exception of a handful of wily survivors, gone. In their place were studio bureaucrats who weren't about taking risks on originality and filling gaps in the movie-going pallet, they were all about playing it safe and following trends that everyone else was following.

Soon most of these "faux indie" divisions became dumping grounds for self-indulgent star service, or anything else their studio owners thought might get them an award or two. One by one these divisions fell, shuttered by their bosses, or sold off so they could become another person's problem. Only two remained, Fox Searchlight and Focus Features. Their secret was that they operated on the same philosophy that made the 90s indies film boom happen, taking carefully calculated risks on the sort of material that the big studios wouldn't touch because they honestly believed that there was an audience out there.

Now is the perfect time for an indie film renaissance. The technology to make films has never been cheaper, the ability to sell said films to niche audiences has never been easier for those who know what they're doing, and let's not forget the huge gaps in the market being left by the major studios.

I wish Focus luck, and I hope Comcast plays their cards right.


The Weinstein Company's attempt to sue Relativity Media out of arbitration has suffered a setback. The court ruled their lawsuit improper, and a violation of their arbitration agreement, and sent everyone back to arbitration to settle their disputes.

Their fights are to answer two questions about two movies.

Who screwed up the movie
Nine, the people who screwed up making the film, or the people who screwed up releasing the film?

Who gets to release the remake/reboot/regurgitation of the comic book movie/Goth cosplay inspiration
The Crow?

I have the answers, so they should have come to me.

You both screwed up the movie Nine. So just wash your hands and promise to never do it again.

Fighting over a remake of The Crow is like two dogs fighting over a broken fan belt. After all is said and done, the winner will end up with something that will probably do nothing to improve their life.

Who needs lawsuits and arbitration when they have me?


  1. Didn't any of the corporate bigwigs realize that as soon as they snatched up the indie studios, they killed them? It doesn't take a genius to realize that indie films don't work in the grand scheme of the Hollywood machine, as sad as that is.

  2. For whatever reason, Miramax wannabes have still done better than Dimension wannabes for the most part.