MAR DEL PLATA – An an illustration of talent’s diaspora from conventional movies, legendary helmer-scribe Paul Schrader (“Taxi Driver,” “American Gigolo”) is prepping a 10-episode web-series, “Life on the Other Side,” each seg 10-minutes long, inspired by the episodic structure of “La Dolce Vita,” Schrader confirmed at Argentina’s Mar del Plata Festival.
Giving a Tuesday evening master-class, as president of the main Mar del Plata jury, Schrader delivered a trenchant analysis of the tectonic shifts which, however exciting, are also decimating trad U.S. movie business.
“I thought I would never say this, but when I was a young guy, I thought that the only place where I would be making movies was the United States. It had the most freedom, most money, was the top community. I look at the world now, and I don’t know if the U.S. is the best place to make pictures,” Schrader admitted.
The imbroglio surrounding his latest films will hardly have dissuaded him of this notion. Sitting in front of a poster of “The Dying Light,” featuring Nicolas Cage, Anton Yelchin, and exec producer Nicolas Refn and Schrader himself wearing T-Shirts with non-disparagement clauses, Schrader explained he could say nothing about that film given the disparagement clause. Starring Cage and Yelchin, “Light” will be released in the U.S. on VOD Dec. 5 by Grindstone. Movie has been cut and mixed by its producers without Schrader’s approval.
Barring such significant silence, Schrader was highly articulate, however, about the state of the U.S. movie industry after the first century of cinema.
“I don’t think anything about cinema in the last 100 years applies anymore. Not how we make films, not how we watch them, finance them, or pay for them.”
Several trends are at work. “These days talent in the U.S. is migrating to television and the Internet.
Schrader himself is a case in point. “Life on the Other Side” will be seen as a film at festivals but in episodes on the web, he explained.
“The whole notion of projecting images in a dark room for an audience is a twentieth century one.” On “Life,” we pitched to a number of people, and one asked: ‘When will the film be ready?’ By next summer, we said. ‘We can’t tell you how we will distribute films by next summer,’ he replied,” Schrader recounted.
“This is the best of times and the worst of times,” Schrader said.
“On one hand, piracy is destroying big-budget films. We haven’t yet experienced the full force of piracy in film. In the music industry, the shift from bricks and mortar to digital took 75% of the money off the table. Music can survive because it doesn’t take a lot of money to make music,” he said.
“But how can you make big-period spectacles when piracy is rampant? In film, we’re not there yet, but we’re getting closer and closer to that day when the ship hits the iceberg.” “On the other, there is near anarchy where everybody can make a film on their phones but they’re usually not the kind of films that people want to steal.”
The two scariest words in current motion pictures, Schrader argued: are “revenue collection.”
One result: Serious films are not being made any more in the U.S., “We’re not making ‘The Godfather,’ we’re not making ‘Chinatown.’ These films are not enough to get people out of their homes. That absence is now being taken care of by longform TV drama,” Schrader concluded, citing Viggo Mortensen starrer “The Two Faces of January,” “a classic expensive period thriller,” in Schrader’s description, as an exception.
The directorial debut of “Drive” scribe Hossein Amini, “Two Faces” was, significantly, not an American film, being produced by London’s Working Title and financed by Euro film-TV group Studiocanal.