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The Pendulum Swings...Not Far Enough Back

I would love to be a screenwriter and write movies.  Unlike most people looking to break into the biz, though, I not only had realistic expectations, but I wanted them to be realistic.  I figured I would be writing genre flicks, like what Roger Corman does.  I would have been perfectly happy doing that, making scale but writing several scripts a year and seeing my stuff at the video store.  I didn't have to be some screenwriter lunching with the Power Elite, I wanted to be the Bruce Campbell of screenwriting.

The problem is, I embarked on my campaign at the worst possible time.  Miramax had figured out how to make a run at being a successful company.  They had a boutique approach.  They went to Sundance, acquired films for a song (because they were low budget, it was almost impossible for the filmmakers and Miramax to make money), and released them.  Box office didn't have to be super to be profitable, and there were so many awards pouring in, everyone wanted in on the act.

Suddenly, indie movies were mainstream.  You had major stars making personal artistic visions and crowding out the true indies.  Genre flicks moved to cable to survive, and taking flyers on new talent was not done anymore.  You had a staff you knew could deliver within the narrowly defined landscape.  Anyone looking to go with video (i.e. Troma) had to make sure their stuff had the appeal needed to justify the expense.  The days of making movies for home video crowds were over thanks to the major studios turning home video into another marketing business and crowding those without a bankroll out.  Check out the book Down And Dirty Pictures to a forensic examination of the trend.

Time marches on.  At first, people thought the blockbuster movies couldn't get any bigger.  Then came the super hero movie craze.  They are now crowding the mainstream indies out of theaters.  And unlike genre films, the avenues for home video and cable are far more limited (there's a kajillion channels, on cable and regular UHF, that love to fill their schedules with cheezy flicks.  Mainstream indies have IFC, Sundance, and that's about it).

Proof that mainstream indies are almost dead came in the form of Miramax.  Miramax had a slate of three movies per year to aim for the indie crowd.  They were Adventureland, The Boys Are Back, and Extract.  They all underperformed (a Mike Judge movie that almost no one knew about and buried on the last summer weekend?  Did they learn nothing from Idiocracy?).  The Weinstein Company, by the by, isn't doing that much better, with Inglorious Basterds just barely keeping them in the black.  Daniel Battsek, president of Miramax, is stepping down.  Remaining employees at Miramax are being moved from New York to Burbank.  The writing is on the wall -- Miramax is going to be assimilated into Disney.  The pioneer of the brave new world is history.

Miramax, to its credit, did look for new and unusual talent, from Kevin Smith to Robert Rodriguez.  It just would have been nice if things kept moving in a direction to allow other indies to get their shot at success.

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