Looking back at this year, I can say something I've often wanted to and now feel fully justified. The cinema is changing into one that has become more about personal choice than about unifying aesthetic and that can only be a good thing. From all of the angles of cast and crew that are so oft pointed to, the influx of masculine pictures, feminine pictures and the like have only helped to strengthen the possibilities, and this year has seen a healthy movement beyond the politics that govern such things.
Sure, we're still seeing the worst offenders from the mainstream, as usual with this facet of culture (it's unfair to refer to it as the mainstream, as there no longer is one mainstream, let's call it the commercial culture), its commercialism and commodification as its defining features. Commercial culture is producing films that feign understanding at the new cinema, but those who are paving the way see it clearly. They're not afraid to be action-oriented, as Fuller put it "you're not making a film, you're making a motion picture", the new pensive cinema doesn't need to slow it down to be thought-provoking. Also, we're not attached to technical and aesthetic standards at all. Many of 2015's best films were shot in the 4:3 aspect ratio .. some were shot on iPhone .. some were in black & white. You see what I'm saying, the films were in an array of visual choices and the movie-going culture accepted it with ease.
It feels like uncharted territory. These intangible ingredients in content can neither be measured nor quantified, but they are under the surface of all movements. Personally, back in 2006 when making my own shorts on the Sony 150, seeing a personal idol like Lynch employ it for Inland Empire was a huge boost. I owe a lot to the 5D for subsequent projects, and as much currently to the Blackmagic - the filmmaker's relationship to the camera exists as much as their relationship to the DP, the actors, the script, etc.
In the 1960's, the new wave (debatably the catalyst, yes) set a fire of experimentation across Europe as filmmakers riffed off of each other's ideas in a perfect storm of experimentation that drove the medium forward. How much of an impact did the climate of creativity have on the works of Fellini, Bunuel, Bergman, Antonioni and others? How did it affect American filmmakers who followed their work? A camera is just a camera, but cinema today feels new in an exciting way thanks to digital production, suddenly the old rules don't seem to matter anymore. Frances Ha may not be the second coming of cinema that convinces the nay-sayers that a new age is upon us, but as far as low-budget goes, it was a new model entirely. The crew worked for an egalitarian payment model where the Producers, DP, PA's, HMU, etc. were all payed the same (absurdly low) rate, with the rationale that it was a labor of love. Debate away as to whether or not this is robbery on the part of production, but in a very real sense it opens up creative potential to operate at such low cost.
Yes, this wave is akin to what happened to the music industry - Record labels have stuck to their model of mining for promising talent, pumping cash into making a polished product out of them, and marketing the shit out of their work, catching the majority of public attention. However, soundcloud et al have produced a digital underground in production and distribution that is leaps and bounds ahead of the industry on the creative level. Will it result in the death of industry and the rise of the independent artist? Or will the labels just borrow the innovation from the digital revolution and incorporate it into the product? We'll see. This digital cinema wave is digital in the sense of distribution as well. The model has been cracked and we won't know for many years whether the impact has been positive, negative or remained status quo.