The film industry is going through a tremendous change right now. As Hollywood leans more and more towards quarter billion dollar star vehicles like The Lone Ranger with seemingly no real interest in creating smaller films, and with theaters showing little interest in giving smaller films a chance to catch on at the box office, a director who wants to work on a smaller project seems to have little choice but to work outside of the confines of the Hollywood system in order to create a film on their own terms. Of course, this goes both ways, all ways, in fact, and many directors have been pushed to work outside of the industry that they came up in in order to create the films they wanted to make.
Here are a few filmmakers who have turned their back on the system in order to follow their visions:
David O. Selznick
Selznick is most well known for working as a producer on classics like The Third Man and Gone With the Wind, but in the early 1950′s, he went to Italy to explore another approach to film. Terminal Station would be the result, a neo-realist movie involving a love affair between an Italian man and an American woman. So how was it? Well, star Montgomery Clift called it “a big fat failure” after Selznick cut the film down to just over an hour. However, both this version and the original 89 minute cut were released on the Criterion Collection and the film has been remade for television, so there have been bigger, fatter failures.
From Do the Right Thing to He Got Game, (available on GetDirectTV.org) controversial filmmaker Spike Lee may know how to ruffle feathers, but you can’t knock his ability behind the camera. He is currently, as of the time of this writing, pushing a Kickstarter campaign hoping to raise one and a quarter million dollars for his next film, according to Gawker. The film promises to be a more low-key, independent themed production than his upcoming action movie Oldboy, starring Josh Brolin. As The Smoking Gun explains, the public’s response has been lukewarm, maybe because a $30 million mansion-owning director asking for money via Kickstarter comes off as a bit ludicrous. Either way, we’ll have to wait and see how the movie turns out, if it turns out.
Nichols has gone in the opposite direction of the other two on this list, moving on from the low key indie films Shotgun Stories and Take Shelter to direct Mud, a Dickensian crime story starring Matthew McConaughey. With a budget of more than $10 million, Nichols upped the ante from his recent $5 million Take Shelter and the low budget Shotgun Stories. Although Take Shelter would only make back a little more than half of its budget, Mud actually earned back two and a half times its production budget and went into competition at Cannes, which means that we can probably expect even bigger films from Nichols in the future.
Adaptation is a key to survival in the wilderness, and in the film industry. A director who can work a six-figure budget into a marketable movie just as well as an eight-figure budget will never go hungry in film.