Monday, February 15, 2010

I have something to say: No one’s a Cobbler anymore.

“No one’s a cobbler anymore” he said, “you never hear someone say that today”
“Why would you want to?” she replied.
“I don’t know, just a sign of the times I guess”

This is a line from something I’ve been writing, and before today I did not realize the depth of that statement. Today I read an article informing me that the film Taxi Driver is going to be remade (possibly), and in part by the original director and actor no less. At first I found it difficult to articulate why that information upset me so much, but as I was trying to put my feelings into words, I thought about the above quote. Truth be told there are cobblers in the world, but very few, and due to mass production lines we no longer have use for them. To be a cobbler in the world today is a brave thing, no matter which way you spin it because you’ve said to hell with mass production and the way of the world. You clearly have to like shoes, you have to care about the way they’re put together and know how to keep them new, but lastly, and this is important, you’re aware that there are other people out there that have a pair of shoes they care about and don’t want to see them ruined or have to throw them away.

Is Martin Scorsese a cobbler? He is taking something old and making it new again after all, but is he a cobbler? The answer is No. Cobblers maintain and they stand apart from the status quo in being cobblers. If Scorsese was a cobbler he’d simply be doing a film transfer of the original print to maintain the film as it was originally made and preserve the cinematic qualities from fading. And you would certainly want to keep the leather of the shoe fresh, not slap on an older, decaying leather (older Robert DeNiro). Can it be justified that both are defying the status quo by being “brave enough” to remake a beautiful, classic film? No insult to either the actor or the director in terms of talent, and my goodness, its vast talent, but this remake signals the dominance of the status quo and solidifies the divide of filmmakers.

Many online news sources have comment sections at the bottom of each article and while trying to find as much information as I could about this possible herald of the end times I did not see a single optimistic or positive comment about this news, and believe me, as one to always needs a devil’s advocate for any thought I had, I looked. And reading them I realized that they’re all film related websites. Filmmakers and film junkies visit these sites regularly and comment regularly, but what will the mainstream think? Will the majority of moviegoers under the age of 20 even know this is a remake when they go to see it upon its release? Probably not.

Now I don’t have to see these remakes, I don’t have to pay money to enter the cinaplex and watch, and I won’t, but they’re still there. Other people will see them. One of them things I used to tell my students is that when you make the choice to do one thing, you make the choice NOT to do something else. So what is not being made in order to make these films? What is not being funded? If you look on the indie film blogs you’ll find the answers, they often post notes from filmmakers sharing their experiences with studios and the changes they wanted them to make to their projects in order to even consider just an option for funding. How many films like “Once” or “The Brothers Bloom” or “Wendy and Lucy” or “500 Days of Summer” or “Brick” aren’t being funded? Now some of these films don’t need to be made for a lot of money, and they aren’t, but for the price of just one “Scary Movie” you could make dozens of “Bricks”. You could breed difference and variety like you had a supply of miracle grow.

By now you’ve heard this argument before from someone you know, some filmmaker or fan out there who is bitter or angry, and they have a right to be, but the fact that this argument keeps being made says one thing; there has not been a change. The divide gets bigger and bigger and bigger. And out of bitterness and anger comes passion. Comes drive. These are the silver linings.

With every remake and sequel Hollywood pumps out they tighten their grasp on the market and re-enforce their system. They become less risky, make more cowardly moves, turn their backs on creative progress and keep our imaginations cyclical. But just as there are companies like Nike and Adidis, there are cobblers. There are filmmakers who make films outside of the studio system, or make them within, using studio money, but keep them original and bold. These are the cobblers. These are the filmmakers who make films for fans of originality. For fans of directing, fans of acting, fans of writing, of the lost art of cinematography, of production design and sound, of editing. These are my people. I don’t need to go into all the examples of indie filmmakers who have had the chance to direct a remake or take part in a franchise with a poorly written script or those who have decided to distribute their own films, but there are many. Perhaps one day I will make a film with studio money, or write a sequel to a sci-fi franchise, but if that day comes, I will use new leather, I will make sure the laces are tight, that the stitches are in the seams and that the SOUL is strong. And as long as there is an audience to watch these films and as long as there are peers who support each other in our efforts, I will make these films. I will cobble.

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