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The Emergence of the Nano-Budget Art Film

By Kevin Shah · March 24, 2010

Independent filmmakers worldwide are presently deciding in huge numbers to invest in their own stories, embark on their own intimate character pieces, and make their own self-funded, fully viable feature films. Some are presently re-writing stories to be made (or refashioned) into original, honest and provocative passion projects that can go into production now – and relatively cheaply (with care). Filmmakers worldwide are realizing that they no longer need to wait for the financial backing of a production company or studio – but because they are in fact intending to make their film small and for the nouveau niche market – it only makes sense to D.I.Y. (And much to the dismay of those understandably wishing to continue to make an honest living from the old model – it’s happening all at once and everywhere).

Once just the realm of documentaries, making a movie with a small, fully mobile, tight-knight crew is the new way to make feature length narrative fictional films. The technology has allowed us to unite as filmmakers and artists (and collaborate on ideas), and it has allowed smaller cameras on set, more intimacy, better post-production work-flow, unlimited social media potential, and has given birth to young tech-saavy artists that are in fact the new breed of movie makers fueling this new kind of storytelling. We are presently witnessing more original and provocative ways that artists are getting their stories to their audiences – and this actually may be the most innovative and remarkable detail to the new world of cinema before us: creative marketing & self-distribution.

I imagine that discussions about film as art, entertainment or product will no longer be pertinent and will eventually fade away (as everything will soon be free and at our fingertips). After this, what (besides the numerous sensory pleasures provided by film) will matter to the world and our audiences more than an original, engaging, good story – honestly told?

Though such a new model is our inevitable future, it will bring perils with it too – as advertising and sponsorship will likely become the sole engine by which many new artists will drive their vehicles – compromising completely the art which they intended to express) but in our current times, it is the present reality that great independent films of today can’t be written or packaged to pedal around the market till someone “buys it” and greenlights it for production. Great independent films (today and those of tomorrow) will have to be made at low-cost, homegrown, self-marketed, and strategically and ingeniously promoted – all in conjunction & in collaboration with everyone involved in the production. The ready availability of the technology worldwide, and a deepening frustration with the content that is out there on the web (far from art) likely will be the necessary final push for those of us on the precipice of the plunge.

I can’t help but celebrate the emergence of a new generation of young artists willing to take the risk for the love of the project and not fame, fortune, or promises of financial return. When Sabi Pictures co-founder Zak Forsman and I were 12 we were already shooting movies on our VHS camcorders and cutting them using two VCR’s. I’m confident that the new breed of filmmakers arriving tomorrow have been shooting HD since grade school, and have a reel by the seventh grade. This is exciting. But the truly most exciting aspect of this creative revolution brought on by all the new liberties granted by current technology – is the emergence of a new cinematic art form from the old – a new kind of filmmaking that has shed itself from the costly constraints of the past. An entirely new process that is fashioned on social collaboration, problem solving, and sacrificing for the love of the project and working “in the moment” to learn from the experience and create something honest and original (and not solely to satisfy individualistic dreams, goals or ideals).

The new independent film is really “interdependent”.