Gregg Goldstein has written a piece for the Hollywood Reporter that has also been circulating on Reuters entitled “Print reviews less of a sure thing for small films” that has done quite a bit of inspiring, particularly when it dips out of print and questions the legitimacy of online criticism and the part it plays in the promotion / exposure of indie films. So to quote a bit from the piece and comment:

“Reviews from established media outlets are the only reason many low-budget films make it to theaters today, because they trigger word-of-mouth, feature articles and DVD-ready quotes vital to the indies’ true profit source: home video.

But as more and more indie films have flooded the market (up from 501 in 2006 to 530 last year), they are overwhelming critics.”

What is interesting about this is that 1.) it mentions the idea of established media outlets as they pertain to print being important to a film making the theater, whether it be newspapers or magazines and 2.) it gives a quantifiable number towards the number of indie films getting to theaters. Now, for perspective, Film Threat has been online for a little over 10 years now, covering mainstream and indie films alike (though, in all honesty, I think we focus more on the little guys and, quite rightly, I have no problem with that). Over that time span, we have amassed almost 11,000 film reviews. Doing quick math, that’s about 1,100 reviews a year. On top of that, I would say that the number of indie films made / reviews prior to 2002, when DV filmmaking really started to take off, were less than that average, probably closer to half that (meaning in recent years, we’ve seen closer to double that per year). Why do I mention this?

Because there’s an article being circulated around the internet about how indie films don’t get the proper viewing or exposure because there’s too many coming out per year while a well-established outlet like ours (Film Threat is 23 f*****g years old people) is not only covering that number, but at least twice that many per year. Am I feeling like there’s a lack of respect being tossed around. F**K YES. Oh, and before someone mentions that this is about print and we’re online, the article focuses on the internet soon enough:

“To some extent, the Internet has taken up the slack, although the flood of online opinions don’t necessarily carry the same weight as a well-established print critic. ‘We’re not at a point where Internet writers have the credibility of established media with proven records and editors,’ says Urman.”

This quote comes from Thinkfilm’s Mark Urman and… no, we’re not the New York Times, but we were the first word in indie film in the 90s and we’re still carrying that indie film torch, plus we’re not alone. IndieWire’s been more than pulling their weight for a while now, and considering how I see that site everywhere I turn (even on Yahoo), I like to think that the internet has more than enough credible, established media. Hell, I see the internet, for the most part, as being more credible than half the blurb-hungry quote-w****s I see in print and on TV commercials daily.
As an added example of established credibility (regardless of my personal opinion on this one) every time a film story is written about online journalism, two people wind up being mentioned and/or quoted, and those two people are David Poland and Jeffrey Wells. And, like clockwork, they get their due, again, in this piece:

“Movie City News blogger David Poland partly agrees. ‘For indie releases in New York, this is mostly true, because they — and in a less significant way, (indies) in L.A. — are the only arena of theatrical release still driven by newspaper quotes. It has nothing to do with Web critics’ credibility or proven records. It has a lot to do with a market that tends to be older and comforted by the familiar.'”

David’s got a point, this article should’ve been re-titled “indie films in New York not getting their due exposure; the comfort of inertia,” but even that floors me because isn’t IFC headquartered there? They’ve got a whole cinema center, plus TV exposure, plus the focus of the before-mentioned IndieWire and… the problem is not the lack of exposure in print so much as it is the lack of the audience in taking advantage of the numerous outlets available to them for this film appreciation. It is comfort, it is inertia, it is the belief that if the Village Voice or New York Times doesn’t say something then it’s not worth hearing about and… we’ve come too far to still be that ignorant.

“Blogger Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere begs to differ with Urman’s take on things. ‘People who support indie movies tend to be more Internet-fluent, and there are maybe eight or 10 online critics who genuinely matter and are, in the parlance of the trade, ‘conversation starters.’ Due respect, but insisting that review quotes are still about print critics is generational hubris.'”

Here, I agree with Wells. The folks most likely to appreciate the indie films in the first place are probably savvy enough to also already be online checking film out. Of course, I do wonder who Jeff’s 8 or 10 online critics who genuinely matter are (you figure he put himself and Poland on that list, so we’re looking at 6 or 8 now), but that’s a different story altogether. I do appreciate Jeff pointing out that this credibility gap between print and online is ridiculous, and not only that, but unimportant to those that actually follow the types of films being under-served by print. Then again, if the folks who’ll appreciate those films are online anyway, why does print matter? That audience doesn’t care, right Lou Lumineck of the New York Post:

“Or perhaps Darwinian principles will win out, and the indie world will have to learn how to live without some of the print attention it has relied on in the past. “The only complaints we’ve gotten (on not running some reviews) are from publicists and distributors,” says the Post’s Lumenick. “Not a single one from readers.”

And maybe that’s it right there. If the audience doesn’t want it, print won’t deliver it. I know that an audience exists for indie film; I am a part of that audience. I don’t think that audience is waiting or needing to be pandered to by the print promotion and corporation w****s anymore, though. Like Wells said, they’re online already. Like Poland said, it’s not about credibility. And like I say, they better be f*****g reading Film Threat!

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  1. Phil Hall says:

    Oh, why don’t just come out and be honest? The small films don’t have the $$$ to run big ads, and the newspapers respond accordingly by giving them teeny-weeny reviews. There may be some Iranian movie playing in a crummy art house cinema, but unless its distributor ponies up the bucks for ads, the lion’s share of the coverage will go to big budget (and heavily promoted) s**t like “Drillbit Taylor” or whatever mierde du jour is on screen.

  2. It’s a double edged sword.

    While online critics ARE getting more credibility, it’s hard to find it because EVERYONE has a blog or website where they review movies, where as print critics were rare because not everyone was printed, BUT now they’re losing the slack they always had.

    It’s a vicious cycle.

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