When Spielberg and Lucas warn us about an inevitable implosion of Hollywood, it’s kind of hard to imagine a world in which Tom Hanks’ latest project won’t release in theaters only. Then you see an independent film like the one above that manages to do what a $250 million dollar picture does. I’m sure I’m not the only one who enjoys this film more than Man of Steel.
Consider the costs of guerrilla filmmaking these days: you can get a decent DSLR that records at 1080p and 24 frames per second for around $800, including a wide angle lens that replicates the look of film better than a prosumer camcorder that cost more than twice as much only a few years ago. Adobe After Effects (in which you composite your special effects) is surprisingly simple to use and can be had for under a thousand bucks. Need a flying saucer? Model it in Blender, which is 100% free and a lot more powerful than the CGI programs Hollywood used in the beginning. After that, a decent movie can be made on sweat equity alone just as long as you’re good at educating yourself… and who isn’t in the Google era?
So how cheap is all this going to be in ten years? Twenty? How much will a 4k resolution camera be in a decade if it isn’t standard in our phones? I have a feeling the next generation of kids will be making high school movies entirely in mobile apps and devices. When your neighbor’s kid—someone you actually know in person as opposed to an inaccessible celebrity—releases his latest homage to Leone, there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to see it. Granted, there will always be professionals in the industry, but I can’t even remember the last time I paid to see Tom Cruise on the big screen.
There are a lot of analysts who will tell you Hollywood isn’t going to implode anytime soon. I, too, think Spielberg and Lucas may be jumping the gun a little, but its days are certainly numbered. We’ve been hearing a lot about rising ticket prices, the annoying television commercials that play before the movie you paid money for, and the insanely high turnover for executives in Hollywood. Movie theaters have responded by ripping out the clunky old seats we all remember from our childhood and replacing them with leather, electronic reclining chairs. Does new furniture really make anyone want to go see a movie?
I kind of prefer the old days before multiplexes, when armrests didn’t raise and the film was actually film. (Not long ago I got duped into paying for a DVD projected at the drive-in.) When movies are projected at 48 frames per second, which makes them look more like a soap opera than an actual film, you can see where the theaters are going wrong: they think we want an experience more like the one we get at home. We don’t. Unfortunately for them, it looks like more and more people don’t want the traditional experience either. I do want that traditional experience, but everyday it gets easier to replicate at home where the popcorn tastes a hell of a lot better, no kids are allowed, and if I catch you texting I’m not going to be polite about it.
Soon, the only place the traditional theater experience will exist is in homes. It’s incredibly sad to see it go—I love movies and the fact they haven’t changed all that much in over a hundred years—but you have to admit change is pretty exciting.