... as tough as it is to get any movie made, it’s even more difficult to produce and distribute genuinely original, nongeneric, non-groupthink work, which is one reason the big studios are now largely in the recycling business (“Iron Man 3” and the regurgitated like). American independent cinema is a confusing, contradictory and maybe useless designation. Who, after all, is independent? Yet it used to seem like both a refuge and a promise, a place where art and industry were on equal terms.
There was a comment on Twitter the other day — can't find the reference now, sorry — that the best measure of what constitutes "indie" vs. "corporate" in most any realm is how the artist and his work is treated. An indie comics publisher, for instance, lets the artist keep his work; a corporate comics outfit has him essentially sign the work over to them. Book publishers, thankfully, don't do this unless you're talking about work-for-hire for the likes of a major franchise.
Underneath everything else, there's an attitude towards the artist that manifests itself in such things. If you think of the artist as a person, an individual, you're less likely to construct your business around treating him with contempt.
Another quote from that piece also caught my eye: "The impulse to make a film has far outrun the impulse to go out and watch in a theater." Self-publishing is the same — now that everyone and their brother (me included) is an author, there's a flabbergasting amount of writing out there. And because editorial oversight doesn't exist in such spaces, or is a token force at best, the vast majority of such work is the sort of thing that would have never made it through the door in the first place. The reader is forced to take on the job of curation, and often a good deal more. (If there's one consistent experience I've had when reading self-published books, it's the impulse to red-pencil everything.)
The one advantage I can think of to such an arrangement is it does allow a person with that much more independent of a voice and a vision to find the audience they deserve. But it doesn't make the process of finding such work easy, and it still shifts the burden to the reader — and shifts it to such an unfair degree it's no wonder tools like Goodreads are coming forward as ways to sift the needles out of that particular haystack. Such sifting should be an elective, not a requirement.
Plus, the number of other readers I know whose tastes I trust to be relatively free of humbug is vanishingly small. Small enough that I'd just as soon call them critics and be done with it. It's a more honest description of what they do. It's why once, when I was asked what I wanted most from publishing these days, I said "Edmund Wilson."
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Other Lives Of The Mind