Feature: When Did We All Stop Laughing?
When high quality digital recording cameras were introduced heavily into the consumer market around 2009 filmmakers were excited, it would be easier than ever to make our films! We wouldn’t have to convince a Hollywood power broker to option our scripts and let us direct them, we could take matters into our own hands, reinvent the indie market, and live off our art. Sounds like a dream, right? Well, not so much.
While digital cameras made it much easier to make a film, the dilemma all filmmakers face today is much more challenging than any other time in history. The reality is that we live in a world of over saturated content.
So, what to do? What do independent filmmakers do? How do we get seen? Well, the traditional route is the film festival one. Submit your movie to the festivals, such as TIFF, Sundance, Tribeca, or Venice, see if anyone wants it, then go from there, but what if you’re like me? What if you have a movie that doesn’t fall into that art house festival niche? Well, I don’t exactly know the answer to that, but I’m trying to crack the code by essentially marketing my own film. That film, “Kathryn Upside Down,” was made in a John Hughes revival format, but for a more modern audience.
I think it’s no secret that Hughes films are unfairly not celebrated as art. Hughes used the studio system to market his comedies, which, were by and large much easier to produce and distribute back then. Now they’re not, and the genre is on the downswing, even commercially; and we basically have the festival programmers and media to thank for not allowing new comedic voices to showcase this type of art. The fact that it is just so tossed aside is worrisome, why are we judging artists who have more commercial sensibilities unfairly? We are supposed to be the more open and accepting generation, aren’t we?
Generally speaking, people have a tendency to think comedies are dumb without understanding that they’re actually supposed to be somewhat dumb, laughing doesn’t make people dumb, people are supposed to laugh, they like to laugh, comedic films bring people joy and happiness and laughing. This doesn’t make them any less arty or smart than a dramatic film, but somehow someone back in the day decided to jump on the faux scholar-intellectual bandwagon and decide commercial grade comedies were beneath them.
Most comedians these days are starving artists, the old saying “funny is money” has faded away, and we are somehow now branded idiots for wanting to watch something light hearted because we just don’t “get” how to be smart. When the famous comedy discovery festival, the US Comedy Arts Festival, shuddered in 2008 it did incredible damage to comedians who want to produce feature films. There’s literally nowhere left to find this kind of talent, we’re all floating around undiscovered because a platform for our work doesn’t exist due to other people branding us dumb.
My theory is that this lack of showcasing comedy in festivals, where we have traditionally found new talent, has caused Gen Z and millennials to entertain themselves with funny apps and YouTube videos, so much so that funny YouTubers have replaced the traditional comedic film. YouTube in and of itself has made enormous gains in popularity over the last decade, it is almost mind boggling how the platform took off and entered into that crazy successful start-up stratosphere that only few reach; and it is only getting bigger, with new YouTubers amassing millions of followers popping up everyday.
YouTubers such as Shane Dawson, Logan and Jake Paul, Tana Mongeau, David Dobrik, and Pew Die Pie have millions of laughing followers amounting to millions of views, and all of their channels have a comedic slant. This takes up watch time that used to go to traditionally produced comedic film and TV content. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like watching their videos, I have to say. It’s hard not to laugh at David Dobrik’s vlogs or Tana Mongeau’s storytimes and I don’t think these types of video creators should go away, but there needs to be some media focus and responsibility to feature filmmakers, and platforms that allow these types of filmmakers to be funny in the way these apps and YouTube have allowed their creators to feature.
I haven’t cracked the code yet of how to make commercially viable indie comedy spread, I try new videos, uploads and apps everyday, and I have gained some traction. I’ll let you know, or better yet, I hope you find out when I get there, because we all really do deserve a break. People deserve to see more comedies, it’s time for them to be reborn, and it’s time for us to laugh again.
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