2013 Berlin Film Festival Day 5: The state of the industry & Computer Chess Review
A couple of days ago, I mentioned the comments of my professor regarding his feelings on the feature of movie theaters. Today, I heard a few of his concerns confirmed by a panel of distributors. The Berlinale Talent Campus is a wonderful additive to the festival, and professionals of the industry do a spectacular job discussing the ins and outs of independent film—from conception to production to distribution. In the digital age of and the death of the DVD market, distributors of both big budget and art house films are not entirely sure where the future lies, but with more independent film makers working on a digital platform—thanks to the presence and availability of DSLR cameras—there are more than enough options to compensate the death of DVD, such as Netflix and iTunes.
A general consensus among the panel was that although the technology is moving ever further, the tactics of distribution are returning to a state not unlike that of the 1980’s. They were not able to elaborate on this idea a whole lot, and I am not very familiar with distribution of the 80’s, but what I got out of the discussion is that traditional cinema—as in going to a theater—is here to stay. What’s more, thanks to digital projection, the technologies surrounding VOD, and the ability to digitally transfer films across the world, it is likely more art and independent films will make their way to general audiences. For many of us out there—including yours truly—the loss of celluloid projection feels like a loss of aesthetic, and sometimes the imperfections of a film reel that has been played too many times and is covered in scratches is half the fun, and if I wanted a digital picture I would watch from home. This will likely be the decision we will actually make for ourselves very soon.
The fact is—as much as some of us might not like to hear it—this industry is all about money and film is expensive; so much so that it deters certain distributors from purchasing films because the possibilities of breaking even are less when the cost of distribution includes the hundreds of thousands of dollars it takes to make print reels. With digital projection, the return of investment is higher, meaning more films are purchased, and we are now able to see more movies on the big screen than ever before. International distribution means import taxes, and when a movie is contained on in a digital file that has next to no physical value—as opposed to film—the taxes are removed from the equation, meaning more foreign films will make their way to the screen. The point is, the digital age likely has more to offer the art than to detract from it; and as such, we can expect to see a rise in foreign and independent distribution around the world.
Computer Chess (Capsule review)
One of the more anticipated films of the festival–and for me, certainly one of the most–is a film by Andrew Bujalski called Computer Chess. What made this film so great was the tremendous callback it makes to independent film prior to the DSLR era, when not everyone had access to the “film look,” and made due with whatever they could get their hands on. In the case of Computer Chess, the decision to not go after the coveted film feel was most made likely for aesthetics, but was enjoyable none the less in this quirky comedy about computer programming in the early 80’s.
COMING UP: Things continue to progress here in Berlin, and I find myself becoming more and more engaged, as well as inspired. I took some time between screenings to stop in at the European Film Market, and I hope to make it back for a better look tomorrow. This is such a great opportunity to learn anything and everything about the independent film industry, and because the Film Market is present, towards the end of the week there will be a few screenings of newly remastered Hollywood Classics that the distributors are hoping to have re-released. Hopefully I will find time to make it to a couple of these screenings and see some of my favorite old movies on the big screen. Until then, I will continue enjoying the regular program with a Dutch film with southern American flair called The Broken Circle Breakdown, and my first look this festival at some Queer Programming with the Panorama presentation of Concussion.