I’m watching powerlessly as my spring break slowly slips through my fingers, but looking forward to attending this year’s SCMS conference out in Los Angeles and, soon afterwards, this year’s Full Frame festival. Would love to catch up with any readers who are attending one or both of these events. For now, though, I find myself increasingly intrigued by the launch of Paramount’s microbudget division, Insurge, which promises to produce and release films with budgets of less than $100,000.
Eugene Hernandez has the most thorough report on the launch, noting that the studio plans to make its own films rather than purchasing existing films that have played at festivals and that may be seeking distribution (the website Insurgepictures.com currently redirects to Paramount’s home page) . Given that there are many terrific films playing at festivals this is a little disappointing. In addition, Hernandez’s report suggests that Paramount plans to include a number of opportunities for fans to become involved–whether through voting for a cast member or choosing the film’s one sheet–while also promoting Insurge as seeking to “deconstruct the Hollywood system.” In this context, Ray DeRousse cites Insurge head Amy Powell who comments that Insurge wants to produce “movies that a big studio would never release because they’re too risky, too silly, and they don’t star Sandra Bullock.” The choice to define Insurge against Sandra Bullock, whose star reputation has been discussed in detail by Anne Petersen, is somewhat notable, given Bullock’s mainstream popularity, especially for older, female audiences.
Hernandez adds that Insurge plans to focus on youth-oriented features in genres such as horror, comedy, and animation, which potentially raises the question of how much these films will truly be an alternative to the mainstream. It is notable that Paramount plans for the movies to “serve as a low budget proving ground for new talent,” while also hoping “to release the movies theatrically,” making Insurge feel something like a crowdsourced version of Roger Corman’s New World Productions. Given the blurred boundaries between DIY, Indiewood, and art-house categories, I’ll be intrigued to see how this all plays out. Even if just one or two of the ten Insurge films turn out to be modest box office hits, a microbudget division would seem to be a worthwhile investment, and it might also contribute to a slightly more expansive definition of what counts as an independent film.