Friday, March 25, 2005

"Independent" Film?

It's been a busy week for me. But it's Friday so I want to post something. I'm not going to say anything about Terri Schaivo - I've said all I can say about that issue, and anyone wanting to read more about her can go to just about anywhere else in media-land. Instead, I'll bring up the issue of independent film. Remember the American "independent" film company, producing great little movies outside of Hollywood and free from at least some of the constraints of the Hollywood machine? (Think back to 1989's "Sex, Lies, and Videotape," and move forward from there.) Well, truly independent film distributors are fast dying out, and now, even more, when we talk about the "independent" film sector in the States we really do have to put quotes around the key word.

The latest blow to independent film comes with the announcement that HBO and New Line Films - both units of Time-Warner - are to buy Newmarket Films "for an undisclosed price." Newmarket, a distribution company that championed such films as "Whale Rider" (brought over from New Zealand), "Monster" and "The Passion of the Christ," will now join a long list of originally independent "indies" that have been bought up by the big Hollywood studios and the media TNCs (TransNational Corporations) that own them. The list includes New Line itself - originally an independent horror/schlock distributor - as well as Caravan Pictures and Miramax (owned by Disney); and Castle Rock (owned by Viacom). Such "indies" - as well as specially created "independent" distributors such as News Corporation's Fox Searchlight - are designed to give smaller, specialty, and limited-appeal movies the patina of indie coolness, while still being under the ultimate control of the corporation that owns it. That means that in movies, as elsewhere in the media, more and more channels of communication (and particularly distribution, the key to any movie's success) are owned by fewer and fewer entities. Even MGM, the last of the independent old-line studios, has been bought by Sony corporation.

This raises a interesting question. "The Passion" was distributed by Newmarket Films even when it was completely shunned by mainstream studios. Would the "new" Newmarket, as a wholly owned subsidiary of Time Warner, have been as daring?


Post a Comment

<< Home