The Life of an Indie filmMaker…the 9th wonder of the world

LOVE THIS VIDEO, very encouraging. Often times in Naija we think we are the only ones that have difficulty financing, making and distributing our films. But the reality is , everyone that is not being financed by the studio system has all those same issues. Even for those financed by the studios, sometimes there is so much interference from the suits, that you cant make the movie you set out to make, and they take it off your hands in post pro and do what they want.

Ultimately, are you making films SOLEY for profit? Soley to make an obscene amount of money?

Or are you making films because you cant see yourself doing anything else but telling those stories, and you just enjoy that privilege and are satisfied with it paying the bills and allowing you to make another film, and the next , and the next.

Will you be satisfied with just enough people seeing it to make it profitable to finance the next film but not getting mainstream distribution or name recognition?

Your reasons for being in the business will determine how you deal with delay, rejection, not getting recognition and even affect the kind of films you make etc

There are many great indie filmMakers out there whose films never cross the shores of their country for one reason or the other, some that are only seen in selected theatres. Not everyone would become a household name. The sooner we learn that the sooner we can move on.

So for all Indie FilmMaker, hope you are as encouraged from this as i am, we may have our down times,be broke, discouraged and maybe even depressed at times, but the satisfaction of making our films and getting a great response, certainly beats doing a “secure” job and living the rest of our lives with “shoulda coulda”

Started from Nothing ..now we here – SPIKE LEE

STARTED FROM NOTHING – is a series of posts, dedicated to film makers(and movements) that without Bank loans,Studio finances, independently made films, some of which went on to be classics, but also became influential, not only in the country, but on Global cinema, an generations of film-makers directly inspired by them

These days he’s known more for his controversial statements, interviews and often outspoken/blunt views on matters rergarding race and issues concerning the African American community. Spike Lee is one of the most relevant and important voices in Black Cinema in the last 30 years . His biggest and most commercial film was INSIDE MAN, with regular collaborator Denzel Washington, who he also worked on with his best known film ,biopic Malcom X.

Lee started quite small. Four years after graduating NYU and with a few short films under his belt , Spike raised $175,000 to make his feature debut “She’s got to have it” ,Shot in 12 days in 1985, the film’s budget was so tight, there were no retakes of any scenes.

The debut is regards as a milestone in American Independent cinema, and it is definately a laarger Milestone for African American Cinema , as it was a film that portrayed African Americans in a very different way than they had ever been seen on screen. The New York Times wrote that the film

“ushered in the American independent film movement of the 1980s. It was also a groundbreaking film for African-American filmmakers and a welcome change in the representation of blacks in American cinema, depicting men and women of color not as pimps and whores, but as intelligent, upscale urbanites.

The film won “Award of the Youth” Foreign Film — Spike Lee (won) at Cannes 1986 festival

Lee went on to be one of the most thought provoking and social concioius film makers of his time, often tackling difficult issues that few others would touch. In his 20+ year career he has made films like Jungle Fever, Mo Better Blues, Do the Right Thing, He Got Game , Bamboozled ,The 25th Hour ,Summer of Sam, and also documentaries; Four Little Girls, When the Leeves Broke and so much more.

Whether one thinks of his views, no one can deny his ability as a film maker and the mark he has made as an African American director on the cinema landscape

Suicide of the crowd pleaser

So, the other day i decided to watch The Untouchables, the 1987 Brian DaPalma classic .  It was as good as i remembered, and Billy Drago as creepy as ever. After watching it , i went to imdb to check out some reviews . What i saw there shocked me,  there were numerous people that hated it and further went on to break down everything they thought was wrong with it. I was thinking, “come on people!!!!, this is a classic”. But as i read on, they weren’t just rants, they had THEIR valid reasons. 

At another time, i looked up Burn After Reading by The Coen Brothers, same thing. A large portion of the reviews stated their dislike for it, and many were from those that said they were Coen brothers fans, others just didnt think the film was any good. These are the same team that made; No Country for old Men,Fargo and The Big Lebowski, all cult favorites and critcally acclaimed.

Days later, i was watching one of my favorite TV shows NCIS. Having read great reviews years back, that loved the show as much as i did, i wanted to see new reviews since the show had passed it’s 10th season. The great reviews remained, but i came across several scathing ones, bashing the show for many of the same reasons that many of us love the show. I was like WOW, is it that you don’t get it, didnt give it a chance.How can you hate it for the very same reasons that it’s unique. This lead to a Eureka moment. When it comes to film making, YOU CAN’T PLEASE EVERYONE.

Trying to appeal to everyone is almost a sure way to fail,for the simple reason that everyone wants something different – Seth Godin

No matter how excellent the story,directing , cinematography and performances, there are people that either aren’t impressed or will find something to complain about, an equal amount will declare it’s the greatest thing they’ve ever seen.

Whether it be CocaCola or Apple , two of the biggest brands in the world, no brand, no product,no item has ever won everybody over. Look at something like PEACE, a world with no wars or fighting, and everyone holds hands in a big circle, with flowers around our necks as we sing, ‘Kumbaya’. Universally desired, right!! WRONG, How do you think arms dealers, gun manufacturers would take that when no one is buying their products, and they have to exchange their Buggati for a Fiat Punto? Similarly, no film or filmmaker can please everyone(as much as the studios would love that). Transformers made loads of money right? But there are people you cant pay to watch it or any other Michael Bay movie. Avatar broke box office records right? It was also one of the most ridiculed films of that year. The Godfather is one of the greatest films of all time , right, i bet you there are some people that would fall asleep in the first 15 minutes or start playing with their phone.

No matter how great a film is, there are some that cant be bothered with it, and even some films considered bad, have those that will  loyally defend it. A film-Maker that wants to please EVERYONE is going to compromise so much that it just becomes another commitee made film, and he looses a lot of the people that could have supported it.

Now, there are those with unique voices that dont even try to please everyone, and those that do love them, adore them for that, and are very loyal. People like Wes Anderson,David Lynch,Woody Allen, The Coen Brothers, Spike Lee, Darren Aronvsky dont make films that appeal to manstream crowds. Their films are true films of auteurs , which dont have the same appeal as popcorn movies would.

Nollywood has proven,  that no matter how many critics , doubters,naysayers it has , there is a VERY strong core audience that LOVE it and help to keep buidling it’s brand and even as it has begun to diversify a little, converting some naysayers into keenly interested viewers,it NEVER forgets it’s CORE AUDIENCE, the fans that made it what it is today, and that is why it will continue to stay a beloved brand.

As a creative person(writer,singer,artist,film-maker) not everyone will love your work, no matter how great it actually is, 100% acceptance should not be the aim because doing that will water down whatever uniqueness your work may have. Find your core audience(like Tyler Perry has) Aim for those that will line up around the block in the rain to watch your movie, buy your book, album, tickets to your show, and be happy and excited when they get it, even if that might just be 35%.

PS- Would like to know your views on this, please leave a comment and feel free to share . Thanks

FilmMaking:Between a Niche & a Hard Place

Nollywood is one of those topics that polarizes people. From those inside the industry,the fans that buy and watch and those that hold it in disdain and completely dismiss it. It’s almost impossible to come across it and not have some sort of opinion on it.

For many new generation film makers the fascination by millions of fans leaves them…, well fascinated albeit through a route of bewilderment. If the average fan is asked why they love it, many can’t quite describe exactly why but they do.

I too pondered and try to asses why,one day EUREKA !!! A moment of clarity.

Nollywood has carved out a distinct niche and seized hold of a demographic similar to the way, Blaxploitation,Grindhouse and Roger Corman movies did in the 70’s and 80’s. The way Tyler Perry has done in the Noughties.

So let’s take a look at the whole niche factor. First let’s take the Vampire craze that’s been on for the past few years or at least revamped and grown in popularity in the past decade as seen in the Twilight films, and tv predecessors Buffy,Angel and now True Blood and Vampire Diaries.

Fans of the Twilight series are far& wide and very faithful to the series.They blog about it, buy the books, watch the movies,Choose loyalties to characters (Team Jacob,Team Edward) and some go as far as filing their canines to look vampiric. No doubting it , they love vampires but it is svery unlikely that those same fans would find Bramstocker’s,or John Carpenter vampire movies appealing. Nor will they rush out to buy a DVD of “From Dusk Till Dawn”,”Fright Night” or “30 Days of Night”. So when writing a vampire film, do you have both audience in mind? Or do you just chose one and stick with that tone.

When speaking demographic let’s take two directors .Spike Lee and Tyler Perry. Both make films that are targetted at a mostly black demographic,both experience different levels of succes. But it is very unlikely that those that follow Spike’s entire body of work, will rush to the cinemas to check out Tyler’s latest release. Both writer/directors with very different appeal to the demographic they target. Spike is a highly respected auteur and can be considered an authority when it comes to cinema. Perry!! Errr not so much, but few people have built a fan base a quickly as he did. Since Perrry has had more financial success in the past ten years than Spike in about 30 years, does that mean Spike should make the same kind of films that Perry does?

Let’s look at the action genre. There are many directors succesful in this genre. John McTiernan,(Die Hard,Predator),John Woo(Killer,Hard Target,Face Off),Luc Besson(Leon,Fifth Element,Taxi) and maybe the most commercially succesful action director is Michael Bay. Though fans of the genre, there are many John Woo fans that will never go to see a Michael Bay film. In fact as much as Bay may be a box office King, there are many that hold no love or respect for him as a film maker and will never go see a film of his.

When it comes to Indie films, you either love em or leave em.

Indie films usually only appeal to Cinephiles. Those that have a deep love for all things cinema and search for as much divesity as they can find. These are usually the same fans that go out to find great foreign language film as opposed to those that can’t be bothered to watch anything not in english,and actually completely write them off without even watching.

Indie films have a certain niche,and they know it. They are usually low key and mellow, with character driven stories starring usually non A list actors. Since there isn’t an explosion,gun fight or car chase in it, some people will never have an interest in it.

Films like “Lost in Translation”,”Little Miss sunshine”,”500 Days of Summer” amongst others have won awards,and critical acclaim, but have no appeal to the average bubble gum ,pop corn viewer, even though they star some pretty big names that they’d watch in a bigger budget more mainstream movie.

Woody Allen has an audience that have faithfully followed his work for many years,but there are also those that won’t even give him a chance due to the kind of characters he creates and stories he writes which aren’t so mainstream.

He may not be a film maker but I found it profound when brand expert and former Ad Agency Deutsch Inc CEO Donny Deutsch said

“Who says universal acceptance is the answer to anything? Show me one product one person one idea that appeals to everybody. You can’t.-DONNY DEUTSCH

Bottomline!!!, You can’t make a film for EVERYONE, the film will suffer in some parts as you spread it thin trying to cover all bases.

Find your target audience that likes what you love to create and stick with them, deliver a kick ass movie and make loyal fans out of them. As Donny Deutsch also said “It’s better to have 35% of the people really charged up about you and the rest hate you than to have 100% not care”.