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Producer Jon Kilik Counters Steven Soderbergh State Of Cinema Comments In New Keynote Speech

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by Kevin Jagernauth
September 17, 2013 12:17 PM
5 Comments
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There's been a lot of hay made and thinkpieces written in response to comments over the past few months by industry heavyweights like George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, and Steven Soderbergh (in his infamous San Francisco International Film Festival address) on an industry—specifically a studio system—that is taking riskier investments in tentpoles rather than supporting visionary filmmakers or even making the kind of mid-budget, adult movies that were much more prevalent a decade or two ago. These observations caused no shortage of discussions, and get ready to have them again...

Producer Jon Kilik, who has been behind everything from current mega-blockbuster series "The Hunger Games" to auteur driven fare like Alejandro González Iñárritu's "Biutiful," Jim Jarmusch's "The Limits Of Control" and Spike Lee's "25th Hour," gave the keynote speech at the Independent Feature Project Market over the weekend and offered a compelling, reasoned response to Soderbergh's assessment of the state of filmmaking. The short version is: don't give up, because there are so many way for projects to get made now. The longer version—which you can read in full at Deadline—points out that this year alone there are plenty of smart, smaller films out there in the marketplace. 

Here are some excerpts from Kilik's speech: 

Many people have predicted the end of the film business. Or at least a cataclysmic shake up that destroys all modestly budgeted films of quality leaving us with only 4D motion control Blockbusters. These End-of-Days predictions have come before in our industry. The advent of Color was supposed to eventually doom Black and White—in which case we would have never had “Dr. Strangelove”, “Manhattan”, “Raging Bull”, or “Schindler’s List”. Or “She’s Gotta Have It”, “Stranger Than Paradise”, or “Pi”—giving birth to Spike Lee, Jim Jarmusch and Darren Aronofsky. Television was supposed to doom the theatrical experience—why would anyone want to go out to a movie when they can get it at home. Cable TV and DVD’s were supposed to do the same thing. Video on Demand and companies like Netflix were supposed to do it again.

It hasn’t happened—what has happened is that we now have more ways to make movies and more ways to get people to see them than ever before.

So my advice to us, all of us, from film students to Spielberg, Lucas and Soderbergh, all of us who make human movies that we care about, my advice is to ignore the prophecies, DON’T RETIRE, and keep on making films and showing films by any means available. Build and they will come.

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So it isn’t true that cinema is dead, it’s actually a very healthy industry and as Soderbergh pointed out, it’s one of the few American exports that continues to do very well. But we can’t ignore that one particular sector of the market is getting squeezed and must be protected—the midrange budget drama—movies about HUMAN BEINGS.

But despite that squeeze, many talented filmmakers, young and old, have overcome the challenge and made a large quantity of quality independent dramas that are coming out this year. I have never seen so many high quality films entering the main stream.

“Blue Jasmine”, “Fruitvale Station”, “Mud”, “The Butler”, “Inside Llewyn Davis”, “Gravity”, “Her”, “12 Years a Slave”, “Nebraska”, “American Hustle”, “Foxcatcher”, “Out of the Furnace”, “Captain Phillips”, “Rush”, “The Monuments Men”, “Prisoners”, “August: Osage County”, “Philomena”, “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”, “Saving Mr. Banks”, “Labor Day”, “All is Lost”.

I’m sure there are several more I’m missing. Has there ever been a better time for Independent Cinema? I can’t wait to see all of them. I’m predicting a great year.

Cinema will survive and adapt is the underlying theme, and again, you check out Kilik's full assessment at the link above. Thoughts? Is this the voice we need to hear? Or does is the sequel laden year of 2015 evidence of where the industry is truly going? Let us know below. 

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5 Comments

  • Ted Hope | September 19, 2013 9:56 AMReply

    We have to stop the irresponsible practice of encouraging people to “Just Do It”. . We are hurting creators and those that support them by sending them off into a ecosystem that can not reward them appropriately. We are not helping filmmakers to be prepared to maximize the life of their film, or sustain their own careers. It was once almost sufficient for leaders and support organizations to help filmmakers by making their movies better and giving them an opportunity to be seen — but I considered that now a dangerous act.

    My full response here: http://trulyfreefilm.hopeforfilm.com/2013/09/stop-believing-build-it-and-they-will-come.html

  • Nathan | September 18, 2013 7:16 AMReply

    Well put; there is always something interesting around the corner. Soderbergh has always struck me as a melodramatic malcontent.

  • Gordon C | September 17, 2013 2:39 PMReply

    Definitely a convincing counter-argument. But you can't help but wonder the discussions that players like Spielberg and Soderbergh have had (behind closed doors, cut off from public opinion) to drive them to these public sentiments. And that's the most alarming part.

    Yes, indie has found avenues to survive. Yes, the Butler is smashing it in the BO and Blue Jasmine (I think?) is one of Woody's greatest successes to date, but how many stories are being passed on? What films aren't being made or scripts aren't being produced because monies are dried up or invested in "sure fire" projects with name value?

    Enjoyed the read and I hope the debate burns on.

  • rabiman | September 17, 2013 1:07 PMReply

    I don't understand how Soderbergh can say he can't make a movie anymore when he made SEVEN movies in the last TWO years (2011-2013) and each one was a different genre: TWO medical thrillers, spy-action movie, biopic, AND a coming of age male-stripper dramedy (which btw, grossed over $100m). It seems to me like this is his most creative period of his career. WHY IS HE QUITTING?!

  • SomeDude | September 17, 2013 6:01 PM

    Ditto.

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