The Independent Viewer: A Phoenix Rising from the Ashes

As an independent filmmaker myself, let me offer a heart felt thank you to all indie film viewers.

Filmmakers get a lot of attention. But the filmmaker is only half of the equation. Without people to view her film, the indie filmmaker is a lonely vacuum of aimless passion. A film is only as good as its audience. If a tree falls in a forest . . . who cares? Thousands of independent films are made a year . . . who cares? Well, some of y’all do care. We know this because you show up at film festivals and find our films on obscure streaming websites. Our viewers give we filmmakers the courage to make daring films.

The viewers are the true heroes who give lifeblood to the cinematic organism and allow it to spread its wings and fly.

But this is not only a letter of thanks. This is a taxonomy of a new species of film viewer—the cinematic phoenix.

What do I mean by “phoenix?” Let me give a little context: For the first century of film, viewers were completely passive beings. The only films to see were the ones playing at the local theater. Viewers would pay for tickets and then “sit back, relax and enjoy the show.” With the emergence of television (gee, an even more passive medium), the film industry had to work a little harder to get people in theaters. “A film is only as good as its marketing,” jaded film professors now tell their students.

The problem with most indie films is that there is no marketing budget. Most indie films depend on word of mouth to get seen. In other words, they depend on their viewers to find them.

That’s were this new phoenix begins to flap its wings and blow life into the cinematic equation. The indie film viewer is one who searches for good films. Unlike multiplex viewers who must coaxed with spectacular effects and predictable story lines, the indie film viewer defines his own filmic taste by going to film festivals and scouring indie film blogs for films that will challenge and inspire him.

The indie film viewer is someone who views film as culture, not merely as entertainment (but that’s certainly not to say he doesn’t enjoy a little entertainment to boot). He watches film to make himself feel more human, not to distract himself from life. By viewing films, he becomes an active agent of his culture.

Cinema is one of the greatest cultural achievement of modernity. Hollywood, in its current epoch, has lost vision of that achievement. It’s up to we independents to carry on the tradition of great filmmaking. But we filmmakers can't do it.

From the ashes of this cinematic Dark Age (which I wrote about in my last blog) a new cultural creature is awakening. It is the new phoenix of cinema—the indie film viewer!

So thank you to all y’all who support independent film. Let us soar out of the ashes into a new world of our own, independent creation!