Monday, 10 October 2011

Write the theme tune, sing the theme tune... - Elen Caldecott

As people who know me well will know, films come a very close second to books on my list of 'things I'd rather be doing'. I go to the cinema usually once a week and will also watch a couple on LoveFilm or on TV too.

Last week's cinema expedition was something different to the norm. I went to see Red State by Kevin Smith. When I say 'by' Kevin Smith, that's pretty much exactly what I mean - written by, directed by, distributed by...that Kevin Smith. Even the funding for the film was raised by Kevin Smith from private donors. Once the film was made, most of his marketing was done via podcasts, personal appearances and literally schleping the film from city to city - at least in the US. This film is more the vision of one person than any I've seen in the cinema outside a short film festival.

This kind of one-man-band of filmmaking is a close equivalent to serious self-publishing. Like buying a self-published book for cold hard cash, I went to a cinema, paid the standard fee, bought popcorn, watched ads and trailers and then saw a product that came to me pretty directly from the mind of its creator. It was free of influence of studios, focus groups, distributors etc. All the people who are usually accused of forcing directors to churn out guff like Final Destination 5 (my own personal title-stuffed-with-irony favourite). The publishing parallel to those people might be the bookchains who don't like a book's cover, or the marketing dept who don't like the main character's ethnicity. The people that are usually the subject of irate rants on writers' forums.

So, what was a 'self-published' film like?
Well, quite good.

I had thought about posting the trailer here...but it's 18-rated and so it could get me into trouble. It's on YouTube if you want a look. In a nutshell, three boys get kidnapped by a family of fundamentalist Christians and are punished for their perceived sins. Like I say, it's an 18. In the hands of a studio it would probably have been a shlock-horror, perhaps with a bit of torture porn thrown in. In the hands of a single-voice director, it is something less polished, but also strangely satisfying. Kevin Smith actually has something to say and he uses the actors as mouthpieces for his idea. Admittedly, there are over-long speeches and it's disconcerting not to have a clear hero. But it was also very refreshing indeed.

Auteurs aren't new, of course. But for most of my cinema-going life, they've been the stuff of myth. I'm much more used to studio-productions. Just as I've been used to publisher-led fiction. I wonder, will we find that the self-publishing revolution that's taking place around us will lead to auteurs making their mark in our industry too?
Elen's Facebook Page


Savita Kalhan said...

I've just watched the trailer and it is FRIGHTENING. I'd like to see the film, but would I have the stomach to watch it? I'm not sure, but I think I would give it a go. Without the backing of a major studio, life as a director has got to be as hard as that of a self-published writer. A few make it, the others struggle - and it's much more expensive to make a film than print books. Good luck to him!

Liz Kessler said...

This is really interesting. Have to confess I'm a big bag of pick 'n mix and a trashy mainstream film kind of girl, but I do love to hear about people - whether in books or movies or whatever - overcoming the big guys in the system to get their creative efforts out to the public. So good on him!