Trouble in Texas

The South by Southwest conference (an ever-growing media convention in Austin, TX) has been quite an influential festival in regard to indie films since the 90’s. Yet despite the rise in popularity, and the “buzz” that successful indie films get at this festival, not all go on in further fame and profit. Challenges face these Texas indie filmmakers, though not just at SXSW, or just to Texas films. One of the challenges mentioned in our reading that could happen to any indie auteur is the tricky balance of having a meaningful, artistic indie film, but simultaneously keep a commercial Hollywood mind so that it would sell for wide distribution.

For example, Austin-based writer/director Bryan Poyser created The Bounceback which was very successful at the many film festivals it was shown at. Nevertheless, his movie has still not been picked up by a distributor because companies “feared the cast was not starry enough to attract large audiences”. This may be the only unwanted “indie” part of the movie. From just watching the trailer below, it seems to have elements that would grant a wide audience appeal. There is a wide array of characters, sex/desire is a big theme throughout, and its message doesn’t look to be extremely “artsy” (overtly controversial or confusing). We have seen these elements in the popular and successful indie films that are risqué (sex, lies and videotape; Secretary). And in more recent rom-coms like Juno—a movie with a quirky feel that seems similar to the “Keep Austin Weird” setting of The Bounceback.

We’ve learned how difficult it is to keep on the fine line of Hollywood profitability and indie’s unique, influential style within an independent film. Many indie filmmakers want to be out of the celebrity spotlight, putting their creation first, but they also need motivation- both with money and notability- to continue producing. Take Soderbergh for example: his paradoxical status with his films kept him a known filmmaker, with known films, but didn’t make him necessarily “Hollywood famous”. This is one challenge indie filmmakers must deal with, if they want to stay inherently “indie”. While the chasm between purely Hollywood and completely indie is closing (indie films are becoming more mainstream, popular, and accessible to more audiences), it still exists. And it’s sometimes leaving indie filmmakers without the monetary achievement they deserve. (Let’s hope DIY distribution gets these wonderful indie filmmakers the chance for the profits and popularity they want and need!)

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One thought on “Trouble in Texas

  1. I like your post! While I was reading it, I thought of the lecture tonight. Wes Anderson and Soderbergh are both well known indie filmmakers but Anderson seems to be more successful. Most likely because he’s seen as the ultimate indie film maker. Maybe it’s harder for indie filmmakers to be picked up and thus earn more recognition because society thinks they’ve seen the best of what indie movies have to offer. Incoming films have to be a mix of everything the distribution company wants (in Anderson’s case, they want the same quirky style but in a different quirky place) and what indie film goers want, and that is hard to do. Anderson is more successful because Soderbergh is kind of a mixed bag, but clearly has more talent (in my opinion). Distribution companies seem to take less risks, which is understandable, but boring.

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