There is a notion that the passion and devotion of cinephiles involves exclusionism. In the same way that die-hard comic book fans or sci-fi geeks (term used endearingly!) are groups unto themselves, who test and screen civilians who dare to attempt to join their ranks, there is a growing disposition among the Independent Film audience which has been viewed as elitism.
As an independent film fan myself, I can envision where this notion is stemming from. Independent films don’t often draw wider audiences, as the commercial films do. Therefore persons who frequent independent films, and are avid followers of this genre, tend to speak a similar language. We can have conversations for hours on foreign, local and national independent films. We will discuss the story, what the filmmaker intended, how the message was received, how they performed at festivals, predict the potential awards, and so on, and son so. But are we elitist? Do we purposely exclude others, and turn our noses up at someone who has no interest in independent films, or is not as knowledgeable as we are with the genre?
Quite honestly I felt like I couldn’t be a good judge of my own behavior, and so I sought out my colleagues who eat, breath and sleep independent film.
Renowned Washington, DC metro area Actor, Writer, and Director Altorro Prince Black shared with me that he hadn’t thought about it much prior to my bringing it to his attention. “I could imagine so, yes. I’m sure that there are some who shun “Hollywood” movies for whatever reason, just like a friend I have who shuns “chain” restaurants—There will always be elitist thinking in any industry/sector, but I’ve never thought of indie film audiences as being elitist. Or maybe I just don’t hang out with those types of people.”
I certainly related to Altorro’s point of view. I hadn’t thought about it much myself till recently. However Writer, and Director Eulonda Kay Lea gave me much more to think about. She pointed out, “I felt more satisfied leaving films that I have seen at an independent theater versus some of ones I’ve gone to seen (at large chain theaters)”. The way Eulonda sees it, is that quality films focus on the story. In her opinion the large commercial theaters provide High Concept films which are centered on “a hook” to draw the crowd, and ultimately gain profits.
Eulonda also attributed the reason why it may appear that those who frequent independent films may seem exclusive is that, there are not many independent theaters, and they are not located in as widely commercial areas and in relatively close proximity to public transportation as their commercial counterparts. In another observation, Eulonda shared that she’s found the independent film audience to be diverse, although they tend to be among the highly educated. She continued to enlighten that Independent film audiences are open minded, and not drawn to a film by a big name director or the most talked about actor. She believes that, they have done the research about the project and are attracted to the story.
Eulonda left me with much to consider about the habits, and the make up of the independent film audience as per her observations.
I came away summing up that we are just a smaller group than the larger movie going audience, and the theaters available for our film preference are simply fewer. Besides independent films are not as widely promoted as commercial ones. Still, am I being naive? Do we independent film cinephiles indeed turn our noses up at the general public?
I just had to know what longtime New York actress, Nancy LeRoy had to say on the subject.
Nancy summed up her thoughts with; “I don’t care what “they” see, I care what I see. There is a a bit of a snobbish thing in that, but I think what I see is better than what “they” see.” Nancy said jovially. Nancy likened her movie preferences to her diet. She chooses to eat healthy food, and reject “junk-food”, and so as she is careful to make choices for her body, she is selective about what films she frequents. “People go to see these (commercial) movies for fun, and it’s harmless but I don’t want to see it.” Nancy agrees that her movie habits places her in the minority. However, she also believes that those delving in blockbuster films are experiencing a phase in their lives, and this doesn’t exclude them from adopting other tastes.
It is becoming more evident, that we are a separate group with separate movie viewing habits, possessing a view on the general film audience.
However actress, and independent film fan Stephanie Ray Glass contributed; “In reference to independent film, exclusionary behaviors can deter potential fans from exploring more independent creative works. A culture of fans who are inclusive and welcoming to newcomers could help independent filmmakers reach a broader audience, thereby achieving career longevity through success.”
Clearly this is an advantageous topic for discussion within the independent film culture. It is illuminating regardless of which side of the dialogue we die-hard fans believe we fall into.