Lazy, Boring, and Spineless: A Look At American Indie Genre Filmmaking

by on December 6, 2012  •  In Articles

This is a tough message for me to send. I’m the kind of guy that looks for *potential* in things. The Dead Kennedys’ “California Uber Alles” is a poorly produced track, even for its time. And even then is among the best productions in the “classic” line-up’s repertoire. But beneath all that ear piercing treble is an awesome fucking song. One that people like me get adrenaline rushes from and over time, that shitty recording becomes part of the experience. You wouldn’t *want* to hear a big studio version of it with thunderous over-produced percussion and keyboard samples. At least I wouldn’t.

So when I see a flawed independent film, I take into account that it was likely made for (literally) 1/100 of the lowest budget Hollywood film this year *or less*. And like my precious punk albums such as Bad Brains, Minor Threat, and Black Flag, the shortcomings in the production become part of the experience.

But punk bands didn’t do this because it was “punk rock” to do so. Their recordings sounded like shit because pro-tools and all these inexpensive digital recording methods didn’t exist. And wouldn’t you know it, once there *was* a cheap way to produce music recordings, albums lost practically all of their value, while simultaneously having to sound *fucking golden* for anyone to even sit through a whole 2 minute song.

Sound familiar?

That’s where your industry is right now, independent filmmaker. People don’t *have to* pay for movies. And honestly, you’re lucky if they’ll watch it for free. The numbers are stacked against you as pointed out in my loving letter of outreach to the horror community, and you’ve yet to adapt. You’re trying to emulate an antiquated system and leaning on old-hat excuses for your shortcomings that simply don’t apply anymore.

YOU are helping to destroy any semblance of an independent scene by flooding the market with unreasonably sub-par product. You call yourself a filmmaker, when you’re really a hobbyist with nothing more to say in your art than “look, I’m a filmmaker”. It’s tired, rehashed shit that everyone’s seen in a million other movies (only better), and you walk around the conventions with some bullshit ego as if you deserve respect for being inept at your chosen vocation.

Would you call yourself a grave digger because you own a shovel and dug a 3-foot hole once? No! You need a fucking back-hoe, a trailer to transport it with, and a truck to pull that trailer. Then you have to learn how to operate your equipment.

With a *one-time investment* of less than $5,000 (depending on choices), you can purchase the gear to make professional looking and sounding movies from that point on. You only have to take that loan out ONCE for your own mobile MOVIE STUDIO. THEN, you need to actually take the time to learn your equipment. What is your job as a filmmaker if it isn’t to have some understanding of your equipment?

You’re being fucking lazy and laziness is not a budget constraint.

Speaking of budget constraints, how much would it cost for you to learn how to *direct* actors? To come up with an original idea? Put some spirit and depth into your characters?

And don’t blame your shitty actors! They don’t write their lines and the greatest actor in the world will perform shitty for a shitty director. It’s an actor’s job to TAKE DIRECTION. If you don’t understand the intricacies of invoking emotion yet, go out and get punched in the face, cheat on your wife, do something fucking horrible and find out what real pain and real emotion feels like. Go to a fucking retirement home and spend time with dying people. You have to get *SOME TASTE* of what you are asking your actors to commit to. And maybe even read a fucking book about eliciting raw emotion instead of just “Okay, now! Be scared! durp!”

For me, watching your cousin recite lines / scream and run in the woods is not entertainment. Regardless of how campy the situation, you should be able to get your actors to commit. What is your job as a filmmaker if it isn’t to make your actors *act*?

Your lack of empathy and understanding of the human condition is fucking boring. All stories run on conflict, and in order for conflict to be interesting, *we have to care about your characters*. This is the thankless vocation you’ve chosen for yourself.

But it’s 90% of the subject matter out there that kills me. Why are you making independent films about boring, Hollywood bullshit? Why are you working inside the imaginary confines of marketing thugs, censors, and an MPAA when those things are of no concern to you? Why are you even *thinking* about marketability when there is NO FUCKING MARKET!? There are so many aspects of life, death, and sexuality that have not been explored in American and Canadian Cinema. If you didn’t become a filmmaker to *explore* then what the fuck are you doing?

So few of you are taking risks. On-camera sex happens way too seldom in indie cinema. Why? We’re all fucking. We got here by fucking. Porn is every god damn where you look, and people are still shy about fucking on-camera FOR ART!? Is it your shitty actors or are you afraid to make the demand on them in the first place?

It’s not about hardcore sex on film, it’s about *how deep* you are allowed to go into any subject matter you want. But you don’t, you stay at the shallow end of the pool with the Hollywood audiences. Only your shit lacks all the things that Hollywood movies use to gloss over their ineptitude. Namely, money.

Hollywood has to take this approach of cowardice and corporate worship with their product because there are MILLIONS upon MILLIONS of investor dollars at stake. They *need* a sure thing! But you? You’re just spineless.

Look, I love you. You fucking *KNOW* that I love you… And that’s why I’m telling you this.

Get your fucking acts together, filmmakers. We need you to stop dicking around. There is an (albeit small) audience for something different, but we need plenty of high quality product to create a self-sustaining ecosystem that allows a true market to emerge. We can’t just ride on the backs of two or three assholes that are good at getting their names out there.

It has NEVER been less expensive or *faster* to make high quality cinema than it is today. Which is a good thing, because it’s also never been tougher to sell a fucking movie.

So if you want to be a filmmaker, fine: Stop making excuses and start making films.

**NOTE: For examples of what’s *possible* in our scene, check out some cool Asian, French, and Spanish cinema. Pretty much anything non-English speaking. I don’t know why we’re so god damn boring. Go watch movies like “Bullet Ballet”, “Fat Girl”, “I Stand Alone”, “Visitor Q”… That shit is incredibly effective with very little. The sky is the fucking limit with cinema today, all you have to do is be proficient at your craft!**


Sylvester Stallone

I'm Sylvester Stallone. I was in the hit film "Tango & Cash" opposite Robert Z'Dar.

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  • Dustin Wayde Mills

    I am a filmmaker. I know this. Its all I do. I live and breathe it. Its my day job. I’m not sure where I fit into the equation presented in this article, but I can relate it to my world of no-budget horror filmmaking.

    In my short time as a filmmaker and convention goer I have seen 2 types of filmmakers. My vernacular for these people are “Jordans”: Egotistical blowhards who talk a lot, promote a lot, lie a lot, but generally have the shittiest films I have ever seen. Then you have “Bills”. Bills are filmmakers who attack every aspect of filmmaking in complete earnest. They work hard, they are honest, they are helpful, and even though their films may usually amount to crap on the surfece… you can see the hard work and just general unabashed gumption that went into it. I love Bills and I hate Jordans.

    The only aspect Of this article I find myself questioning is the idea of what basically boils down to controversy. I don’t think you have to be controversial or edgy in order to be different. Maybe thats not what you are saying, but I think forced “edginess” is the most obnoxious thing in the world. Sometimes it is not in an artist’s makeup to rock the boat, and usually its not in their audience’s either. I think all of it is valid as long as it is done in earnest.

  • Hanksta2

    You haven’t seen.”Chemical Peel”.

  • Pugsley

    James Balsamo, I think he’s talking to you…

  • Tony Wash

    David I emailed you a link to my World War 2 nazi zombie flick, “A Chance in Hell”.  Check it out.  It was made for under $10k, but looks good as hell and doesn’t suck ass.  It doesn’t have any hard core fucking in it, but there’s plenty of controversial concentration camp abuse.  If you never received the email, hit me up on FB and I’ll send it again.

  • Vladimir Druts

    No truer words have been spoken in a long long time. I can’t remember the last time I saw an original, interesting or well thought out and directed indie film. 

    Thank you, these are words of encouragement for me. I Just started in this God forsaken industry and time.

  • Bryanbrady666

    daves penis

  • Trevor

     ”Well, he’s not referring to me”-independent filmmaker