With the Golden Globes behind us and the Academy Awards ahead, we find ourself caught in the flurry that is award show season. While we can argue if these awards really have any cultural significance or if they’re just trophies to boost celebrity egos, I think we can agree that this time of year helps those of us in the video industry look a little closer at current trends. For years these award shows have been predictable beasts, but over the past few years we’ve seen some new tendencies emerge. Specifically, we’re talking about the popularity of independent film art. We draw from examples of the past, present and future to prove that the independent craze is the new “it” thing in Hollywood.
Take your mind back…way way back to a simpler time we’ll call 2009. The movie is Precious and you undoubtedly already remember the story. Originally made with $10 million and without a distributor, Precious made its name by winning awards at the Sundance Film Festival. It got the attention of many celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry who worked to get the film publicized and eventually picked up by Lionsgate. By the time Oscar season came around they had a slew of nominations including best picture, and won awards for best adapted screenplay and best supporting actress. Precious made its mark and the Academy certainly noticed.
The 2013 Oscar nominations were released a couple weeks ago and it was not surprising to see Beasts of the Southern Wild making an appearance in many categories. Similar to Precious, Beasts of the Southern Wild was made on a tiny budget…this time just $1.5 million dollars. They used amateurs and Louisiana locals to scrap together a cast and crew. It won awards at the Cannes Film Festival and Sundance before it was released in New York and Los Angeles. This month is was nominated for four Oscars, including best picture, best director, best actress and adapted screenplay.
We’re only 24 days into the new year, but there’s already a new movie on the scene that is following the same independent script. The movie is called Fruitvale and is the story of the police slaying of Oscar Gant. The independent sensation stars Michael B. Jordan of Friday Night Lights and The Wire fame and is directed by Ryan Coogler. Fruitvale has already won awards at Sundance, and its huge acclaim prompted a distribution bidding war that was eventually won by the Weinstein Company for $2.5 million. Jordan’s performance is already gathering Oscar buzz even though next year’s awards are over a year away.
What Does It All Mean?
With these three examples, it’s pretty easy to see that there is relevant new way to get your movie recognized by the Academy and major motion picture distributors. No longer do you need huge budgets and well known talent to create a hit. Instead, you need drive, enthusiasm and a great story to get your name heard. The money is made after the movie proves itself, rather than having a studio front millions of dollars up front. It may not be a revolutionary idea, or even one that is completely unique, but it is a way into the film industry that is making a revival in modern times.
And what does it mean for you as a video professional? It means there are no longer monetary excuses for subpar work. These movies are getting recognized for greatness on $1 million budgets. It’s all about the story and the passion behind a project that will get it recognized. That’s something that anyone can obtain.
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