I make no secret of being a champion of or cheerleader for the arts, and turning the spotlight on those whom I feel are a shining example of what it means to make investing your time in them worthwhile. Sure, sometimes it feels better to turn off your brain, and skip the intellectual. We all need a break from the rigors the world puts us through and sometimes Sharknado just seems easier than Schindler's List. However, if you feel like that's what it takes to be a patron of the movie arts, then may I be so bold as to suggest that you may be missing the point. Art isn't always about refined aesthetics, sweeping cinematography, and esoteric symbolism. Most times, it's about who's making the art, how much it consumes them as they get their hands dirty in the act of creation, and how much of their passion for what they're trying to express comes through in the end result.
With the advent of better and affordable film technology, more and more creators are realizing that there is no longer a need for the approval of studio money crunchers, and have set out in taking bold steps to reshape the landscape of not only what it means to produce a movie but also to be a member of an audience that has grown used to the same old thing.
So, in no particular order, I give you four indie films that just might change everything, including what you expect out of your viewing experience.
I don't want to brag, but when Oscar winning effects artist and co-owner of StudioADI Alec Gillis first launched his Kickstarter for Harbinger Down, I don't think there was a single fan that came out in support of it as heavily as I did. I've been a fan of his (and ADI co-owner Tom Woodruff, Jr) for as long as I can remember, and after the debacle of all of their effects getting painted over by CGI in The Thing prequel, I honestly thought that the art of practical effects were losing their battle. However, I was dead wrong. You can read more about that HERE.
Disheartened by the direction that many sequels to classic films were taking, Gillis decided to make a movie that took the studios to school on how our beloved monster movies are done. With the generous donations of the fans and Lance "I've been killed by a Terminator, Predator, and Alien" Henriksen as his star, he set to work to writing, shooting, and is now in post production for a movie that makes a statement on behalf of all who love the genre so strongly, that their show of support transcended mere enthusiasm, and became a movement in and of itself. Don't believe me?
Here's actor Will "Daredevil" Devokees setting himself on fire to draw attention for the film:
...and my own small contribution to the case, which I made with my daughters, and called Harbaby Down (a parody):
Okay, that was a little embarrassing. However, you get the point. There's a lot of passion behind this movie on all fronts, in ways that a big studio could never hope to achieve. Everyone from the fans (you should see the fan art) the producers, actors, crew, and media are getting behind this movie.
Lance Henriksen himself keeps making a point to keep coming back and talking about how much this movie means to him, and how he feels like it's the best movie he's been a part of in a long time.
FIRE CITY: INTERPRETER OF SIGNS
The other half of StudioADI is special effects wizard and long time suit performer Tom Woodruff, Jr. Although not an ADI produced film, Woodruff was called upon by producers Brian Lubocki and Michael Hayes to design and direct their feature film, combing their vision of a newly created demon lore, with a Film Noir atmosphere, to create the world of Fire City.
(Looks like the trailer got flagged, but we'll wait and see if it comes back. However, the it can also be seen at THIS LINK.)
Once again, the decision was made to fund the film through Kickstarter, and was met with overwhelming fan approval. However, it didn't come easy. Years were spent in preparation, with no big studios backing the production.
A short film was even made to test the concept, and the results were very promising.
HIS HEAVY HEART
Words cannot describe how excited for this film I feel, not only because it looks beautiful, due to the magic eye of photographer turned filmmaker Mitch Jenkins, but because of who penned the screenplay. Known best for reinventing such characters as Miracle Man, Captain Britain, & Swamp-Thing, revered for his groundbreaking graphic novels The Watchmen, V for Vendetta, & From Hell, and scrutinized for his more current books such as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen & the over the top work of pornography known as The Lost Girls, to say that Alan Moore (a modern bard in my humble opinion) has a distaste for the movies made out of his works would be an understatement of the first degree. He has gone so far as to state that he wants nothing to do with Hollywood, and that his name is to be removed from any works that come out of it. He even refuses to take their money, insisting that it instead go to all of his co-creators on the projects.
Moore seems to have no interest in showing the big studios how it's done, but rather showing the rest of us that anything is possible on an artist's own steam, and of course Moore and Jenkins went to Kickstarter to do it. Independent film is a new venture for him, but with his propensity for reshaping every medium he touches (Moore writes novels and has a band, too) into something mind blowing, His Heavy Heart may create a ripple effect that will be felt in the works of film makers to come, for years.
His Heavy Heart is in post production. There is no website for the film, but you'll want to go to www.electricomics.net to be a part of the revolution.
CIRCUS OF THE DEAD
This one looks disturbing... just a little.
From haunted attraction owner and director of the short film Doll Boy, Billy Pon (also known as Bloody Bill) comes a tale of terror and clowns, told in the grind house tradition, yet looks as if it transcended its original intent. Yes, the telltale nods to Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, and even Rob Zombie himself are all there, but what really shines through is the director's obvious passion and joy he takes in making the audience squirm in their seats.
I have to be honest with you; I don't do well with these kinds of movies. I can sit through any amount of shlock and gore that you throw at me, but when a director can pluck at the nerves of emotional peril like this movie promises to do, I find any excuse to run out the door. However, I'm in the minority, and I believe that there is an audience for this movie that's going to go nuts, just like they did at the Texas Frightmare Weekend in Dallas, when they see it. It's obvious that Pon is an extremely talented director, and I'm predicting right here and now that we're going to witness him have a long and successful career. Get in on this one now, hipsters!
Could these be the Four Horsemen of the Indie Apocalypse? Who can say? I think that they are all going to be very interesting though, and I'm happy to see that there are some filmmakers out there that understand that film is not just a business, but a journey, an investment of time that you can't get back, and an experience that they are asking the audience to come along with them on. I appreciate that they would want to make the effort to ensure that it'll be worth our while.
Which of these films are you most interested in?
Other articles by me:
Practical Effects Can't Make A Comeback, Because They Never Went Away