Is Hollywood really that scared? There has to be a reason that we see remake after remake at the box office – whether it’s Total Recall, Spiderman, Judge Dredd (although most fans of the comic deny the existence of the Stallone disaster) or even the expected Batman reboot, there seem to be less new ideas than ever before. Not that remakes are a new idea, of course. Here Comes Mr Jordan, based on a play and made in 1941, was remade in 1978 with Warren Beatty, as a porno in 1994, and in 2001 with Chris Rock. No, the problem is that it seems to be speeding up. While Hollywood has traditionally been seen as a snake that eats its own tail, It’s now almost at the head.
So what does this mean for the independent filmmaker? Well, as the tentpole releases become even more homogeneous, cinema footfalls will dwindle. After all, why pay through the nose to see a dozen similar versions of the same story? And while more money is funnelled into these “blockbusters” as a desperate attempt to bring more spectacle to the screen, the smaller production budgets will fall. As the gaps between independent and studio budgets shrink, the biggest difference will be in marketing. There’s no way indie films can compete with the big boys in that arena. However, there are other avenues these days. The Internet is a remarkable tool for marketing, if it’s used properly. Once you get to the screen, the difference is negligible.
For one thing, image quality isn’t the barrier it used to be. The new buzz is around 4K, a higher definition format used for years in CGI, and now being adopted for screenings. It could be seen as an attempt to push professional film production out of the bedroom, but if so, it’s doomed to failure; the speed at which new technology progresses means that already there are 4k cameras available for less than £3000. Production design, too, is something which can be matched on a fraction of the budget. With a little ingenuity, that is, and special effects are achievable on home computers if you can wait long enough. As for a great screenplay, that’s free.
Of course, talent is still an issue. In order to achieve the marketability of a studio film, you need names, the bigger the better. So, if you want to make a commercial film, that’s where the money has to go. People.