In an important July 18th, 2012 post, media consultant Chris Dorr speaks some difficult truths to indie filmmakers.
Chris Dorr called his post "Filmmakers Need to Find a New Lens" to suggest to indie filmmakers - many of whom have been slow to adapt to the New World - that the tools they've been using are the wrong ones for the current situation.
In particular, both Chris Dorr and I have become advocates for using social media.
And you can't just use the new tools of social media without a deeper understanding of how the role of the audience has changed in the New world of film circulation.
In other words, it isn't enough to have a screening at a prestigious festival, or to build a successful Kickstarter campaign, or to have a Facebook page for your film. Filmmakers need to understand how concepts like "engagement" and "spreadable" have fundamentally changed what it means to be an indie filmmaker.
In his post, Chris Dorr implores indie filmmakers to shift the way they think about how their work will be received by the audience: Your audience is no longer simply "passive consumers who simply want to watch what you give them. The Internet has changed all that. Now people are powerful users who want to engage with and share media. Passivity has been thrown out the window."
I think Chris Dorr has hit on a fundamental problem in today's indie film culture - a problem that is perpetuated by many film educators who haven't adapted to the new realities of film marketing and circulation in the digital age.
Most of the film students I encounter still don't get it. Although all the film students I meet are personally web-savvy, the necessary mindset of the New World of film circulation hasn't dawned on many of them yet. They still see their job as simply creating compelling content. And many of their teachers are still focused exclusively on making good films. They know that making a good film is hard - and they operate from an Old World mindset (i.e., "goods films speak for themselves").
Many indie filmmakers and film educators still (erroneously) think that getting into a festival is the goal. After all, aren't festivals where someone else will discover your film and then do all the dirty work of selling it?
Those days are gone.
Here's how Chris Dorr puts it: "Do independent filmmakers really want to grab a new mindset, grapple with social tools and thereby really connect with people? Are they prepared to find a new lens through which to look at themselves and at their audience? In order for more to do so, they have to cast aside the mass media mindset. They have to not only look at their potential audience in a new way, they have to look at themselves in a new way. They have to get rid of their own passivity. Those filmmakers that take the leap and really work hard at it, have a chance to gather fans and create a sustainable business. But changing the fundamental way you think about the world and how you see the world and therefore how you act in the world is very hard to do. Most indie filmmakers, to date, are not doing so."