Manohla Dargis argues for a new way to make — and more importantly, market, independent films:
I have wondered, on and off, how much of this can apply to an indie lit scene as well. There, you have two main attractions, much as you do in the music world: the artist and his creations. When an author appears somewhere live, though, it's usually for the sake of a book-signing or a round-table discussion.
Merchandising, though, is obvious. Few people with a fan's mindset are gonna pass up a T-shirt — and did I mention I've been considering trying to get plush toys made for some of my characters? No, seriously. It's just difficult and expensive, which is why it may have to come a lot later. T-shirts, though, are a snap, although even there you have to do some legwork to make sure you're not spending your money on something that's going to flake off after five washings.
Another key thing I'm trying to figure out how to work with, rather than against, is the way today's fans are more interactive than ever. You're the creator, sure, but they're creators in their own right, too.
Younger audiences might not be more active moviegoers than their grandparents (watching a film is never a passive experience), but they live in an interactive, media-saturated world. These days “everyone is his or her own media company,” Mr. Weiler wrote in Filmmaker Magazine. “With the push of a button they can publish, shoot or record and moments later it can be online for the world to see.” This audience, in other words, has its own D.I.Y. ethos, and sometimes can be part of a movie’s creative process.
The exact same thing applies to writing — doubly so in an age of fanfiction, blog comment threads that go OVER NINE THOUSAAAND, and you-name-it. (A big part of why one of the near-future projects I have is going to be a step in that direction, and where the bound and printed book part of the project is just one of many possible endpoints for it.) I'm a little unsure about how to embrace it, especially when the size of my fandom doesn't yet lend itself to such things, but it's getting less and less silly to think about these prospects early on.
It's that much easier for indie artists to seize this new-marketing stuff and run with it, because they have both that much more and that much less at stake. More, because they're preparing to inherit a media world that has been grabbed by its ankles and turned upside down and shaken vigorously until its pockets are emptied. If they go the "old" route, they stand to inherit less of an audience — and a less vibrant, interactive, creative, participatory one. And less, because they're starting out small much of the time and because technologies like POD and Facebook pages require very little startup investment. Anyone can dive in and start swimming. People with real talent prove themselves that much more swiftly, because the bar is universally lower.
Well, in theory, anyway. The competition's more often now about getting and keeping people's attention, not just producing the best work. It's hard not to make your mark when nobody even knows you're out there making it.