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John Cameron Mitchell directed, starred in and co-wrote, with Stephen Trask, the musical film Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001), for which he received the Best Director Award at the[…]

The future of cinema in the age of 3-D blockbusters and digital downloads.

Question: How can films stay artistically vital in the coming rndecades?

John Cameron Mitchell:  We’re in a strange rnpocket of time where we don’t know how films, films haven’t yet been, rnthere’s no comprehensive way of delivering films digitally to rneveryone—i.e. all films on demand, quickly, easily, cheaply.  Movie rntheaters don’t have digital projection yet, which means there’s rnfinancial constraints for certain films that right now are doing well, rnbut because of the economics, doesn’t make sense to make prints for rnother theaters.  It’s just better to show them on demand, in the rntheater, on DVD, as the day and date situation, which means everything, rnyou know, you can see it in different forms all on the same day.  Which rnis what I see in HD Net and other companies are doing more, which may bern the future, looks like the future.

So right now, people aren’t, rncan’t quite figure out how to make money on the small films, you know, rnthere’s the fear that the product’s being devalued and people don’t feelrn like they have to pay for films the way they have for music over the rnlast few years, so that’s going to be very difficult to... you know, rnwill that change, will people... I think the only way it will change is rnif they figure out that technology immediately, and all the companies rnagreeing on a single way to deliver the films by broadband to people’s rnTV’s.

So, that kind of stuff is making, there’s probably a third rnthe number of the films being made, small films, all films, than there rnwere two years ago.  And they tend toward the giant, you know, 3D kind rnof thing, genre thing, Hollywood thing, or the other side, which is rnsmall films packed with stars, in a low budget, less than 10 million, rnand there’s also this opportunity for very cheap films to lead the way, rnperhaps in quality, but also in... economically, it’s like how they’re rndelivered.  So films made for less than half a million, you’ll see a lotrn more of.  You’ll see them over 100 million and less than a half a rnmillion and not as much in the middle.  Stars seem to be less important rnfor what people want to see now than they used to be.  They don’t rnguarantee grosses any more, which I think in a way is probably a relief,rn but it’s confusing for the studios, people aren’t sure of where to put rntheir money.

rnUnfortunately, it takes time for good filmmakers to develop, there’s notrn too many whose first films fully develop because you need so many rnskills, musical, actor, financial, visual, you know, it’s not just like rnwriting a song, you can have people who are, you know, prodigies, rnmusically, but in a way you have to have prodigies, people who can do rnall kinds of things in order to be a good director.  So, the first film rnisn’t always the best.  Once in a while you’ll have someone very unusualrn will come out, like Jonathan Caouette, who did "Tarnation," or you rnknow, Tarantino... when he, you know, "Reservoir Dogs," or someone who rnseems to have mastered it on their first go, and those are very, those rnare rare.  But it’s, you know, the David Lynches of the world and rnScorsese and such made a lot of shorts and made some early films that rnwere finding their way before they made their "Taxi Driver" or their, rnyou know, "Blue Velvet."

So, it’s easier to make films now, rntechnologically, financially, you know, the equipment is there for youngrn people to do it.  There is the Internet for distribution, but how do rnyou make money while you’re doing it, is the piece of the puzzle that’s rnstill to be figured out.
rnRecorded on May 3, 2010
rnInterviewed by Austin Allen