Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Are movies Speciating?

Speciation is the process whereby one species of animal or plant becomes two. It can happen, for example, when a physical barrier such as a mountain range or an ocean separates two populations and they start to evolve along different tracks. After a time they become so different from each other that they can no longer inter-breed.

Comparing ultra high budget movies such as Avatar to very low budget movie such as White Angel or Zombie Undead, we still find enough of an overlap to suggest that they have not speciated yet. But is that the direction they are travelling?

The barrier that separates them is money.

A low budget movie will struggle to even get a cinematic release. Avatar just made a billion dollars from the box office in 17 days. Low returns push low budget directors to very low budget and very low budget to 'zero' budget. Immense returns push the mega movie producers to ever bigger spectacle.

How many planets can we blow up this time?

The challenge, it seems to me, is for the makers of very low budget movies to find ways of generating an income stream. Otherwise they will become dependent on public arts funding, will become self-indulgent and will lose the creative edge that they potentially have at present.

That is the power of the low budget movie. The creative edge that comes from being able to take risks - risks you couldn't afford if your movie cost as much as Avatar.

1 comment:

Paul Lamb said...

I've always said that half the story is in the telling. I'm afraid that many slick, special effects-laden films are too much telling and not enough tale. On the other hand, low-budget films have to rely on the tale and find more subtle ways to enhance the telling.