The occasionally great Steven Soderbergh is a prolific producer of films, and he recently turned those talents to words at the San Francisco International Film Fest. Unlike a State of the Union this mostly adheres to doom and gloom, but it’s interesting to hear an insider’s take and with several of his films grossing in the millions last year alone this is about as close to the horse’s mouth as you can get.
There were a couple of points that I found particularly interesting in his speech:
Indie movie making has taken off in a big way now that the barriers to entry have come down quite a bit, but the studios are still making most of the money, infact a larger share. In addition to that, attendance is down over 10% over the decade while profit has been kept steady by gouging. I think there are clear paralleles in the music industry, where self promotion and recording are finally inexpensive and viable but the net effect is there are fewer people breaking few and fewer people caring as a nation. Soderbergh suggests this may be a side effect of our information intensive lifestyles but that strikes me as armchair philosophy. Maybe it’s true but it’s almost impossible to determine.
While recounting his struggles within the system he repeatedly says that the layers of bureaucracy have no knowledge or love of movies, yet have intensified their stranglehold on the system because they have managed to make it profitable and efficient. He also recounts a story about a little movie that broke Christopher Nolan’s career because some independent distribution company got thrown together and made it happen. So I suppose my question is, why is this guy so entrenched in the system which he thinks is strangling cinema? Why hasn’t Soderbergh and his movie friends entered into an enterprise for the purpose of setting up his stable of genius filmmakers and giving them loose constraints? Looper made $1oo million profit on a $30 million budget, so these things are possible. Just food for thought.