Liberate Cinema Now……

I believe in the common man. I believe in their dreams, their hopes and the inherent collective goodness of the common man. I reject the notion that the public has to be spoon fed in order to comprehend concepts, ideals or ideas. I know that within man there exists a collective genius and a quest for constant discovery. The consensus that rises from the population is the force that shapes art, politics and philosophy. If given a free reign this collective can thrust the evolution of a society forward in a far more healthy and organic way than any government or corporate edict could ever dream of.

I believe that true free enterprise is the greatest promoter of art that the world has ever seen

When Bing Crosby and the Ampex Corporation saw the potential of magnetic tape. They decided to further develop and market this groundbreaking technology. Now to be frank they did steal it from the Nazis. This innovation saw the rise of garage record labels and the dissemination of that demon Rock and Roll. Record labels like Motown, Jazz, Chess, Atlantic and the amazing Stax came into being. They prospered and grew. For period of time these cultural petri dishes changed and shaped our society.

At some point they all were acquired by bigger labels.

The labels run by mavericks with little or no business sense often sowed the seeds of their own destruction while producing amazing music. A&M Records. Founded in 1962 by Herb Alpert and promoter Jerry Moss , A&M was initially the label and distributor for Alpert’s own Tijuana Brass hit recordings, but the label quickly began signing other artists. Over its 37-year run, A&M sold records from such artists as Sergio Mendes & Brazil ’66, The Carpenters, Carole King, Cat Stevens, Procol Harum, Peter Frampton, The Police and Sting as a solo artist, Styx, Bryan Adams, Amy Grant, Suzanne Vega and Sheryl Crow.

The punk rock/new music era brought about a turning point for independent labels, the do-it-yourself ethos of the time seeing the emergence of a plethora of independent labels. Many of the emerging UK labels ended up signing distribution deals with major labels to remain viable, but others retained their independence and the factor that came to define independent labels was their ability to gain physical distribution of their own product.

With the major labels effectively pushing the genuine indie labels out of the market, The Offspring’s 1994 album Smash is the highest selling independent record of all time. The album was certified six times platinum in the U.S and sold more than 12 million copies worldwide. That was the swan song of the independent music movement in many ways.

Technology liberated the music industry, then polarized distribution and industry perception killed it. At the core of what is killing any true resurgence of the music industry is the failure of the musicians and the industry as a whole to convey value on their product. The music industry and musicians themselves have marginalized the value of music by not acknowledging the powerful impact and influence, both good and bad, that music has on its listeners. We have heard musicians refute the influence of music and their ability to influence their fans. How many times have you heard an artist, shirk off the mantle of being a role model for their fans ? Musicians have been made to fear the power of the music that they make and therefore, therefore reducing the value of the product they are creating and selling. Musicians have for the past decade have failed to provide fans and potential fans a reason to buy.

Musicians need to connect with their fans and give them a reason to buy in order to have success now in the music industry. In order for musicians to connect with their fans and give them a reason to buy, musicians first need to understand the value that music has in the lives of their fans and in society as a whole. Unfortunately Tipper Gore and the rise of political correctness has take the wind of the heart of the musicians.

The same corporate entities that control music, control the movies. And they have made the same mistakes. Corporate American always take the path of least resistance, constantly living in fear or recrimination or controversy.

The consolidation of the media industry has been a corrupting and on a damaging trend for cinema as a whole. At one time independent distributors provided a means of entry into the film industry for the genuinely talented. Independents gave rise alternative voices and compelling visions of cinema. They provided access to a market and took risks. They engaged in free enterprise and they create both crap and art, but they shaped a market which spoke to the common man and engaged the common man. The studios, with their independent units also where much closer the market than they are today. They reacted faster and marketed faster.

Today, the cost of distribution has become overwhelming on paper. Radio spots, TV spots, print and the cost of the film prints all paint a picture which make the marketing of film overwhelming. The problem is that while there are costs involved, the real reason for marketing decisions rests in the fact that the media companies of which the movie studios are a part of, have to issue quarterly and annual reports because they are companies listed on one stock exchange or another. They exist in a tightly controlled environment, controlled by regulatory and market forces which create the antithesis of free enterprise. Because they are dealing with public funds, pension funds and hedge funds, every decision they make and every direction they head in is constantly reviewed and critiqued by herds of whining and truly un-knowledgeable stock analysts. Their funding comes at a great cost.

The media conglomerates have taken control over most forms of distribution. At the present both the Movie Studios and the MPAA are attempting a variety of approaches to control the internet. Like the war on drugs, the war on piracy has a dual purpose. I think in the minds of the studio the end game is to control the pipeline into the home. They have engaged Washington insider Chris Dodds to achieve this goal legislatively and in turn the MPAA are visiting most internet bandwidth providers and offering them a device to control video streaming on their network.

It truly is time that independent filmmakers begin to work collectively to control their own means of distribution. I feel that the efforts by the MPAA to control video streaming might not be as successful as they think. Video bandwidth is where the real cream exists in the internet business. The time is now for independents to rise. Outlets like Roku provide a promise of true market access and are providing access to market.

The window is short, there is much opportunity. Keeping in mind the adage “what is past is prologue” independents should taken a lesson from the past and build a relationship with the common man. I would encourage film fans to witness the actions and activities of filmmakers like Henrique Couto and Brett Kelly who are developing a market synergy that show the promise of laying a foundation of truly independent cinema. These pioneers are defining production and promotion on a localized level that is truly interesting. Within their activities lies the seeds for a re-generation of independent cinema

It is time for film. Cinema and movies to become the domain of the common man again. It is time to put fun and rebellion back into the movies. There is a place for the tent pole domain of the studios behemoth franchises, in fact the market would be doing studios a favor if it insisted on a renaissance of plot and story and move away from its current trend of cgi infused spectacles. Big Macs are okay once in awhile are okay, but a constant diet is dangerous. Ask Morgan Spurlock.

It’s time for us as consumers to declare cinema to be independent again. I yearn for the day when movies again regain their common touch.