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How to save indie film? Form bands, not labs.

How to save indie film? Form bands, not labs. (photo)

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Ted Hope, the major indie producer behind “Happiness,” “American Splendor,” “Adventureland” and many others, is a worrier — he wants new distribution models and new ideas for independent film, and he wants them now. This week he’s got a provocative guest post on his blog from Caitlin McCarthy, a screenwriter and inner-city public high school teacher with her own ideas about how to right the world.

The post is titled “How to save indie film,” and for McCarthy, the way to do that is to bring in what she refers to as “under-represented people” and “working class youth.” She writes that “Only recently (the last century or so) has the working class been able to pursue the arts… The film community needs to create labs and grants that are specifically designed for under-represented people (race and gender), as well as labs and grants that are awarded on merit… It seems to me that filmmaking is a mostly closed business right now, filled with ‘secret handshakes’ that folks from the outside don’t understand.” In conclusion, “don’t expect working class youth in the US to seek you out, as they don’t know where to go.”

McCarthy’s right about some things — independent film is still pretty white, and, given the amount of money to be made, much friendlier to those who have some sort of financial cushion. But the affirmative action-esque model she’s proposing we expand has never proven itself relevant — it just creates a tendency toward institutional sameness, with, say, Sundance labs churning out Sundancey movies, not nurturing radical new voices that’ll finally reach that large swath of the population so far indifferent to indie output.

If we’ve learned anything from the mumblecore movement, it’s that you can force change from the outside. When like-minded people with similar interests band together, set up their own artistic groups and screening circuit — assuming the work’s good — the spiraling momentum will eventually force the larger establishment to take notice.

And the key word here is definitely “band.” The analogy for how the new generation of independent artists will come up isn’t anywhere close to the world of Sundance labs, with their frequent emphasis on “correct” screenwriting tied in to the grants; it’s like starting a band. You get the people together, you find like-minded souls who can book you (or a sound-proofed basement next to tolerant neighbors) and you wait and see if you get the attention you deserve.

Will they make a bunch of money and join the industry McCarthy is so (understandably) worried about integrating? Maybe, maybe not. But we don’t need the “working class youth” to “seek out” industry patrons; in this hard world, like everyone else, they’d do better to start their own infrastructures, then get enough clout to become their own patrons, then get the grants. It’ll be tough, but definitely more rewarding.

[Photo: “Mutual Appreciation,” Goodbye Cruel Releasing, 2005]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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