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Now, of course, a lot of this behavior still exists. For vinyl record collectors it might be on eBay, and for moviegoers, many theaters, ranging from the Alamo Drafthouse to the IFC Center, regularly make moviegoing a special event.
But in the last two decades, the value of extreme convenience has also shaped our experience of the thing itself. The ease with which we can listen to or view things has become a fetish all its own. The iPod was the first example of this, and then, later, came video on demand and finally streaming. Like many Netflix subscribers, I bet, my DVDs from the company will sit unplayed while I’ll browse through the streaming offerings, often watching something I had no prior desire to see but getting off on the fact that I can see it instantly. Yeah, not all of Netflix’s library is available that way, but the fact that those unavailable titles can be ordered on DVD makes up for it.
If you’re not following me, consider the uproar this week as Netflix announced that it’s splitting its DVD and streaming services into two. If you want both, you’re going to pay 60% more. There has been a lot of talk about the economics of this, and whether or not this is Netflix’s move to kill the DVD business so they can shift more resources into streaming licenses. (As more people move to streaming-only, Netflix will buy fewer DVDs from the studios.) But there’s been little breakdown of the content available via both delivery methods. I’m tempted to say that one favors studio content and the other non-studio, but I’m not sure that’s right. I just checked and about half the movies I’ve produced are available on streaming and half not. However, what may be happening, and this comes via economics blogger Felix Salmon, is that Netflix is killing the much loved idea of the long tail. Salmon argues the Netflix move will mean fewer highbrow (read specialty, arthouse, independent) films on instant streaming. “The long-tail business model turned out not to be the salvation of Netflix after all; rather, all that matters is convenience,” he writes. “Netflix got its toehold in the market by being more convenient than Blockbuster; it’s now doing to its DVD business what it initially did to DVD-rental shops. The wonderful long-tail qualities turn out to have been an incidental benefit more than a core value proposition. The streaming service will be the main part of Netflix; the DVD service will be kept on by the arthouse long-tail lovers who don’t go to GreenCine.”
If he’s right, that means that the availability of our beloved arthouse back catalog, the films that don’t make it into Criterion’s pantheon, is dependent on the old world of shipping centers and physical goods. (Read his piece to get the whole argument.)
A while back I was a little skeptical about the future of smaller Netflix rivals like GreenCine and Fandor. But now I’m considering switching from Netflix to Hulu because of Hulu’s Criterion deal, and I will give these other services another look.
To bring this letter full circle, I think going forward filmmakers should figure out how to make their films as easily available to their audience as possible. As Salmon writes, audiences, conditioned by Netflix, are expecting it. But for some our films, the opposite approach -- making them scarce, event-oriented, and requiring legwork to find -- may still carry its own rewards.
One more thing: I’m moderating an evening with Miranda July tonight at the IFC Center. We’ll be screening and talking about Jane Campion’s early films. Say hello if you’re there.
See you next week.
INDUSTRY REGISTRATION OPEN FOR INDEPENDENT FILM WEEK For the past thirty-two years, Independent Film Week has been a one-of-a-kind event that has brought the international filmmaking community to New York City to celebrate, advocate, and introduce projects from both established filmmakers and new voices on the independent scene. Independent Film Week is a destination where the community of individuals involved with independent film can annually convene – from the filmmakers selected for their strong new projects to the individuals from companies, festivals and organizations aimed at helping the work get made and ultimately seen by public audiences. Industry registration is now open for this year’s Independent Film Week which will take place from September 18-22 at The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s new Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center. More info here.
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CONVENTO By Michael Tully
Built to house an abbot and 12 monks 400 years ago, the Portuguese monastery Sao Francisco had deteriorated into an unlivable state. But when the Zwanikken family relocated from Holland in 1980 to restore the beautiful but troubled structure, their hard work and dedication turned that once religious house into a happy home. Though their husband and father Kees is no longer with them, the surviving family members—dancer/artist/mother Geraldine, artist/son Christiaan, horse trainer/son Louis—continue to subsist on this mystical land, gardening, tending to animals, and making art. In describing his ever-deepening connection to Sao Francisco, Christian says, “You can use your imagination here.” While that’s certainly true, it’s unlikely that any other family would use it as expressively and life-affirmingly well as the Zwanikkens do. read more SALVATION BOULEVARD From director George Ratliff (Joshua, Hell House) comes this darkly-comic, star-studded feature. Salvation Boulevard follows Dan (Pierce Brosnan), a corrupt Pastor in a small mid-Western town, and Carl (Greg Kinnear), one of his wealthiest, most dedicated supporters. After Dan accidentally murders an atheist college professor (Ed Harris) who has challenged his ideals, he attempts to pin the murder on the ever-trusting Carl. Also starring Jennifer Connelly and Marisa Tomei, the film is packed with charm; especially from Brosnan, who turns in a surprisingly madcap performance. TABLOID For his 10th documentary feature Oscar-winner Errol Morris takes us inside one of the most bizarre tabloid stories of the ‘70s: the "Manacled Mormon." In 1977 former Miss Wyoming, Joyce McKinney, abducted a Mormon missionary in England and allegedly had her way with him in the countryside. Instant fodder for the British tabloids, McKinney's trial and aftermath (which included her escaping the UK in a disguise) took on a life of its own to the point where it's hard to find fact from fiction. Morris is in his glory here, picking away at the stories and theories of what happened (and didn't) between McKinney and her "sex slave" resulting in a hilarious exploration that's a far departure from the director's recent films. Read our interview with Morris. This week on the blog, writer Marc Maurino reflects on the sale of his screenplay, Inside the Machine, and a lively comments thread ensues; Jason Guerrasio highlights the Sundance Institute's 2011 Creative Producing Initiatives; and Scott Macaulay on the word-of-mouth campaign behind David Robert Mitchell's The Myth of the American Sleepover (pictured left).
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"THE SLEEPING BEAUTY," CATHERINE BREILLAT By Scott Macaulay
For many adults, The Sleeping Beauty, whether in Charles Perrault’s original telling or the Brothers Grimm’s, is the quintessential fairy tale. It has spawned countless retellings in the form of animated films, ballets, and children’s book adaptations. Now, iconoclastic director Catherine Breillat tackles the tale but on her own terms. For Breillat, The Sleeping Beauty is a doorway into the world of childhood fantasy in general as her young princess, cursed to die on her 16th birthday, travels through time and space, going on a series of adventures that underscore the fearlessness of a child’s imagination -- and the adult perils that lie ahead. read more JULY
MANHATTAN SHORT Film Festival
Late Deadline: July 15 Final Deadline: July 31
Festival Dates: September 25 - October 2
New York Film Festival
Regular Deadline: July 15
Late Deadline: July 22
Festival Dates: September 30 - October 16
Santa Fe Independent Film Festival
Regular Deadline: July 15
WAB Deadline: September 14
Festival Dates: October 19 - 23