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Underground’s Future in Digital?

Over on SpoutBlog, Karina linked to a Salon article about the dismal state of independent film. I dunno, is there ever any article about indie film’s future that isn’t downbeat? Even positive pieces usually end up with some sort of “and all indie films could go away forever starting tomorrow” conclusion. You know what, someday they probably will go the way of that little spinning thing where you look through the peephole and you can see a horse running. I don’t think people want to pay even a nickel to see that anymore … even though it’s awesome. And yes I know it’s actually called a zoetrope … after I double-checked on Wikipedia.

Karina also dismisses any talk about watching films on iPods:

Ah, futurism. O’Herhir gives the impression that if the indie industry can’t figure out how to get anyone to see the legitimately good films that they have been distributing, their solution will be to basically scrap all that and start making content for the devices that they’re pretty sure kids are paying attention to instead

Only kids use iPods? Even in the Salon article O’Herhir includes a quote from Christine Vachon, whose produced some pretty good indie films, who talks about watching TV shows on her iPod and I know people who do that as well. And I must confess, I’m getting an iPod so I can watch video during my work commutes on public transportation instead of reading as I’ve done for the past 8 or so years. To hell with books.

But seriously, is an iPod Nano the best way to experience a film? Of course not. But I’m really jonesin’ for a portable video player so I can catch up on things I’ve been wanting to see but haven’t for whatever reason. For a long time I did question who in their right friggin’ mind would want to watch films on that tiny screen, but I’m starting to realize that I don’t really care about format for certain things. Of course there are films you really want and need that visceral impact of seeing it on a big screen, either in a theater or even just on TV or even my computer monitor, but I’m thinking there’s just random shit that I’ll enjoy. Films are about being entertaining — of course what I find “entertaining” is usually different than lots of other people — and if something doesn’t work on a tiny screen, then it probably didn’t work on a big one in the first place.

I’ll have to see how the iPod thing works out in reality. Maybe I’ll find out that watching video on it is irritating and maybe it is only really good for short podcasts and whatnot. But right now it doesn’t seem like such a bad idea for underground filmmakers to distribute their stuff in an iPod friendly format. No, it’s not the best way to get a film out there, but for viewers who want the option, why not accommodate? There are already download-to-DVD and DVD-on-demand production services like IndieFlix and IndiePix. Didn’t GreenCine do that at some point? Do they still?

I don’t think mp4’s are going to be the final nail in the indie film coffin, which I’ve heard has been coming for years. Someday something will be, but not this. And underground film, it’s probably for the better.

Late Update: Chuck agrees with me (sort of).