“You’ve Got to Pay Your Dues Before You Pay Your Rent”

Scott at the Filmmaker Magazine blog tipped me off to Range Life, Todd Sklar’s indie film roadshow, which is delivering four independent films to over twenty cities across the United States.  As Karina points out, the name of the film series alludes to the 1994 Pavement song, “Range Life,” which addresses the challenges on maintaining indie cred while bigger bands get all of the attention.  The tour, which is being documented via a video tour diary and filmmaker blogs, deliberately challenges some of the conventional wisdom of inie film distribution.

Instead of using a platfrom release starting in New York or Los Angeles, Sklar and his hardy band of filmmaking tour mates are taking the film to cities and college towns mostly in the midwest and along the Pacific coast.  It’s an interesting strategy, and Sklar’s tour diary suggests a energetic and witty style that would seem to work well in attracting the collegiate and “post graduate hipster” audience that the filmmakers are seeking (I guess I fall into the latter category, although I rarely get to sleep in anymore).  Sklar’s remarks in the interview do raise an interesting point about the role of festivals in promoting films, in that focusing solely on festivals may limit a film’s audience, although in the few festivals I’ve attended, I’ve actually had the opposite experience of being pleasantly surprised at the diversity of people who seem invested in seeing independent films and documentaries wherever they can find them.

As Karina adds, there are still a lot of questions about how these new distribution and promotional models can work.  I think it is worth asking, however, whether the binary oppoition between “indie rock” web cred and affirmation in the pages of The New York Times (or Village Voice, or whatever New York-based taste-making mag one might choose) holds up.  Obviously, these magazines can’t review everything, especially with fewer professional critics working the beat, but I think there is some risk in defining indie too narrowly.  No matter what, I think it is the experimentation, the attempt to imagine new forms of promotion and distribution, that matters here.

2 Comments »

  1. Kelley Baker Said,

    November 28, 2008 @ 7:56 pm

    What Todd Sklar is doing is nothing new. I’ve been touring the country for the last 5 years “punk rock” style showing my films and teaching work shops. Twice a year my dog Moses and I get in to my van. I just returned from my Fall Tour, 10 weeks, 16,000 miles.

    Filmmakers have been touring in this manner for years. We have been locked out of the normal distribution channels for years as our films don’t have Hollywood stars who are slumming.

    I have shown my films at art house theaters, media art centers, colleges and universities, hell I’ve even shown my films in bars. Where ever I can find an audience. I want to see more filmmakers out on the road booking and showing their films, touring is the best way to interact with your audience.

    As Real Independent Filmmakers we need to take that word back from Hollywood. You can appreciate Todd for what he is doing, but he is just one in a long line of filmmakers who have been influenced by the concept of DIY that the punk bands started.

    Kelley Baker
    http://www.angryfilmmaker.com

  2. Chuck Said,

    November 29, 2008 @ 12:36 am

    Kelley, I didn’t mean to imply that Sklar is doing something particularly new. In fact, it’s fair to say that DIY filmmakers have been doing such tours for a long time. In retrospect, what may be interesting about this particular project is the way that Sklar is narrating the tour. But you’re right to point out that my comments should have been clearer here.

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