Making Movies 20 Years Ago vs. Today: A World Of Difference

from the two-podcasts dept

I recently listened to two very (very) different podcasts, but which really highlighted something kind of amazing: it’s so much easier to make a movie today. We’re talking a completely different world. Of course, most of us knew that already, and it’s why we see things like many more movies being made today than ever before in the past. But between these two podcasts, what’s driven home is how much the old system relied on gatekeepers, and how little the new system needs such gatekeepers.

The first podcast was a recent episode of Kevin Smith & Scott Mosier’s Smodcast, in which Smith digs (deep) into his archives to find a ton of old voicemail recordings that give you a taste of the process of making his original film, Clerks and actually getting it picked up and shown in theaters (it comes after the discussion of the war against sharks at the beginning, which is entertaining too…). At first I just thought it was kind of awesome to get that kind of behind-the-scenes look (or, listen) to all the people that had to “appreciate” Clerks before it was picked up by Miramax and became that indie film classic it shall forever remain. It’s amazing to listen to all of those voicemails and go back 20 years and learn about what happened. But there are all sorts of people who have to get involved and become boosters of the film. Smith and Mosier were lucky that one influential guy caught the movie at their original showing in NY, and then he helped get a writeup by an influential reporter, who helped get others interested in the film, but each step of the way, a champion had to say “hey, you should send a tape to so-and-so.”

But then I thought about just how different the world is today. While people can go through gatekeepers, we see an entire new generation of filmmakers (and other content creators) who don’t need to hope that someone influential catches the flick in its only theater showing. They don’t have to find “the” guy who sold indie films to studios. They don’t have to find “the” reporter who writes about indie films. Yes, some of those things can help, but they can now use sites like YouTube and Vimeo to post the work (or snippets of it) online for free. They can use social media to build a following. They can use Kickstarter and TopSpin and other tools to make money. It’s an entirely different world.

And that point was driven home when I listened to the very next podcast in my playlist, from Alec Baldwin’s Here’s the Thing podcast, in which he interviews two documentary filmmakers who basically made (controversial) films on effectively no budget at all. While the types of movies are quite different from Clerks, listening to the two podcasts, one after the other, you realize that the documentary filmmakers probably wouldn’t even have attempted to make those films two decades ago.

It’s an amazing new world for creative arts, with tremendous new opportunity. Those who are complaining that things are worse these days seem to be living in an alternate reality. If things are “worse,” it’s only because there may be more competition for attention — which is a real challenge. But there’s so much more opportunity and so many fewer gatekeepers needed, that it’s difficult not to be excited for the kinds of creativity we’re seeing today and will inevitably see in the future.

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Comments on “Making Movies 20 Years Ago vs. Today: A World Of Difference”

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fogbugzd (profile) says:

The barriers to entering the music field started coming down years before the barriers started coming down for film. Ten years ago the RIAA had the funds to waste massive amounts on litigation and political contributions. Today they are just the poor sibling in relation to the MPAA. The MPAA could be in the same position in another ten years. That scares them.

The one way the RIAA is ahead of the MPAA in a positive way is that at least some people who work for the RIAA are recognizing that piracy is not the main thing that is killing them. A few people in the RIAA are struggling to come to grips with the new realities rather than setting up straw men. The MPAA might be able to save itself if it learned those lessons from the the few forward thinkers at the RIAA.

Michael says:

'Brand Names' in a world of human names

There is however something to be said for Youtube and other production areas getting caught up in everything using a ‘Real Name’; Google already knows my real name; the problem in a context like Youtube is that my real name is practically anonymous.

With a population of 300+ million in the US and many more English speakers globally the chances of anyone having a unique name are; vanishingly slim. That is, unless they intentionally rename themselves; and even then there’s only so much ‘natural’ namespace which can be exploited.

Worse are the cases; Pho whatever might be a good example. Find a local restaurant serving that style of food and chances are extreme that it’s name is in use somewhere else.

What’s needed is more than a name, it’s a true (not the buzzword of the day version) ‘web 2.0’ feature; a collection of data establishing a unique identify, even when the ‘name’ parts are the same. Including some context to help narrow down the choice to the correct one.

In the case of movies, often collaborative efforts, this lends it’s self to quite a few different aspects; existing stories/story universes, actors, directors, writers, production (editing/material/finance) groups, etc. Any one of these might be something a particular fan enjoys the work of.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

As far as quality, Hollywood’s last decade has been about the worst it’s ever been, but it’s been a golden age for documentary feature films – partly because it’s easier to get them made, and partly because it’s easier to get them seen. Some have even been huge box office successes, which is kind of unheard of for documentaries.

I can easily say that the best films I’ve seen in the last ten years have been documentaries. Then again maybe I’m just getting old and prefer reality over fantasy.

SujaOfJauhnral (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I can easily say that the best films I’ve seen in the last ten years have been documentaries. Then again maybe I’m just getting old and prefer reality over fantasy.

Nah, more like the ‘fantasy’ these days sucks rotten ass. Most of it is so bland and tasteless, it’s like they try to be mediocre on purpose.

Ninja (profile) says:

No really, a movie recorded with an iPhone is just not art. It takes several millions and Hollywood to make movies and we all know that. Anything else is trash. For God sake, we have Bollywood shit to show us how only the US do the good shit. Stop spreading FUD and lies Mike Piratey Masnick and begone with your horde of piracy apologist dogs from Techdirt. You are the scum of the world, freetards.


Gertie Cranker says:


I just completed the amazing 900-minute documentary, “The Story of Film” (, and spent some time with the director, Mark Cousins. Two points of knowledge come from that experience: (1) to think that Hollywood is the epicenter of making is uninformed, naive, and egotistically American, and (2) cinema no longer needs expensive equipment and commercial distribution systems. Currently, some wonderfully imaginative cinema is being created in the Philippines and in Singapore. And technology is fast changing the way we will access cinema: fast disappearing is the need to cluster together in commercial movie theaters to experience good movies.

cosmicrat says:

It is indeed an interesting time to live

Speaking as a unionized grip and lighting technician works (never in L.A.) on big budget studio projects, I can say I am pleased that the barriers to entry have been eased. I do worry a little about how it will affect my family wage job with health benefits, but I think the net benefits to society outweigh the needs of the relatively tiny percentage of us who are already established in the legacy industry.

nick (profile) says:

Yes, there is

even though this post is 7-year old, what it says still holds very much true. It’s like they are mass producing the movies these days. honestly, they did make some horrible ones in the 90s too, but there were so many with substance. All you see now is men and women toting capes, hammers, and shields. Good movies are still being made but they are so easily upstaged. Nevertheless, I watch a great deal of movies and plenty of them are available here

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