Declaration of Independents

Microcinema challenges the big-bucks movie industry

| May / June 2003

Gone are the days when you need deep-pocket investors just to get your short film made. With the rise of digital cinema, aspiring filmmakers?and the rest of us too?can finally afford to make our daydreams real. Armed with gear once available only to the industry elite, a new generation of filmmakers is revolutionizing the movies.
?The Editors

Anybody can afford to make a movie today. The moviemaking process has finally become egalitarian and populist. You can buy good video cameras, quality sound equipment, and effective editing systems for $10,000 or $5,000 or $1,000 or $500. Over the course of a few months or years, a poor reservation Indian kid can collect $1,000 worth of discarded aluminum cans from ditches and garbage cans, spend $500 on her equipment, and then spend the other $500 to make a movie about the sad beauty of aluminum cans and their relationship to Native American health, economics, and politics.

Of course, that Indian kid will only make her movie if somebody convinces her that a successful movie can be made for only $1,000. I could make a movie for $1,000, but who would see it? I wrote and directed a movie called The Business of Fancydancing for approximately $150,000 in cash and credit, and very few people have seen it. We played a Manhattan theater but received horrible reviews, and the movie bombed. We played three theaters in greater Los Angeles and received wonderful reviews, but the movie still bombed. What does this mean? I hate to say it, but it means I?m an irrelevant moviemaker. I?ve only proved how easily a small movie can disappear. I can?t convince that Indian kid to see my movie, let alone make her own.

So who can make the utterly convincing $1,000 movie? Well, I?m issuing a challenge to Sam Raimi, David Koepp, George Lucas, Jonathan Hales, M. Night Shyamalan, Chris Columbus, Joel Zwick, Nia Vardalos, Jay Roach, Mike Myers, Michael McCullers, Barry Sonnenfeld, Robert Gordon, Carlos Saldanha, Chris Wedge, Michael J. Wilson, Michael Berg, Peter Ackerman, Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens.

Who are those folks? They are writers and directors of the 10 top-grossing movies of 2002, and I challenge them all to write and direct $1,000 movies. Who would pay attention to a $1,000 movie made by George Lucas? Half the world. Who would pay attention to a $1,000 movie made by Mike Myers? The other half. Demographic hyperbole aside, I am simply asking these highly successful moviemakers to commit the populist and egalitarian act of making and distributing $1,000 movies.

Of course, I?m assuming these highly successful moviemakers are populist and egalitarian liberals because they work in Hollywood, one of the most liberal communities in the world. And because these filmmakers have varied, wonderful, and commercial talents, I?m also assuming they would make very good and very diverse $1,000 movies. Can you imagine how many Lord of the Rings fans would rush to a $1,000 movie made by Peter Jackson? His first film, Bad Taste, didn?t cost much more than $1,000, so he knows how to make a microbudget movie. After watching M. Night Shyamalan?s microbudget thriller, that reservation kid might begin collecting aluminum cans right in the theater lobby to finance her movie.

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