Death to Indie Filmmakers!

A few weeks ago on Cinemaslave, I shared my outrage that actor Paul Sorvino is trying to build a major film studio in the Scranton area. (It’s been big news here for a while, and recently the New York Times picked up the story.) If he succeeds, then major studios will have the option of coming to the area to shoot their films at a substantial savings over what it costs to shoot in Los Angeles.

As I’m sure you all know, I’m horrified by this prospect, because it will essentially kill (affordable) indie filmmaking here. Once everyone in this area gets a whiff of big studio money, actors are going to demand SAG-scale salaries, while property owners will insist on inflated location fees to shoot at their establishments. No thanks; Scranton is only two hours from New York City, so there’s already enough of that crap within easy driving distance.

Listener reaction to that episode was polarized, with about half the audience agreeing with me, and half claiming I was overreacting. (One listener, Ken K, was so outraged by my opinions that he unsubscribed from the show.)

Well, for those of you who thought I was nuts, you can now see what I’ve been talking about. New York City is now in the process of trying to pass legislation that will severely curtail, if not outright kill, independent filmmaking in Manhattan, because the guilds and unions don’t like the idea of people working for free on no-budget films. If these new policies pass, film crews of more than two people (i.e., a cameraman and an actor) will be required to carry at least $1 million in insurance to use a tripod in public. Filmmakers will also not be able to shoot more than 30 minutes in public without obtaining additional permission from the film office *even if they are not inconveniencing anyone with their presence*.

A group of outraged filmmakers have responded with by creating this music video:

The song is a bit sillier than I’d have preferred for such a serious topic, but the implications are clear. I still maintain — as I always have — that “studio” filmmaking and “indie” filmmaking can not peacefully co-exist in the same city.



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