Indie Flicks Part I

We All Fall Down isn’t a particularly good movie. It’s very earnest and well-intentioned and filled with an interesting mix of veteran actors (Helen Shaver won a Genie Award for her performance as a heroine-marinated prostitute, and Nicholas Campbell is solid as a fatherly figure for the film’s central pair of addicts) but it never really gels into a strong character piece, and not all of the supporting players are as assured as the film’s co-star/co-writer/director, Martin Cummins.

The film is worth a peek, but what’s more interesting is how the film made its journey from an idea Cummins was compelled to develop while he was working on an episode of Poltergeist: The Legacy. Partly autobiographical, the script was eventually refined to a point where enough people expressed keen interest, and production was possible, but after an appearance at the Austin Film Festival, like a number of Canadian films, the movie sort of vanished.

We All Fall Down did get a DVD release a few years ago – Critical Mass’ deal with Anchor Bay brings the film back into circulation with more intriguing cover art – but while watching the film with zero knowledge of its history or content, I noticed the cast looked kind of younger, and Helen Shaver’s first scene as a street walker reminded me of the actress’ appearance on Vancouver-based talk show, where she mentioned a film she was co-producing at the time – We All Fall Down.

Anchor Bay’s DVD ports over all the extras from the prior DVD release, including the behind-the-scenes featurette, wherein everyone adds their own bit of sprightly optimism, but what’s missing on the DVD is a postscript. After doing the film festival circuit, the film probably got some Pay TV play alongside the home video release, but more or less disappeared, and more than eight years later, there’s probably a few post-release tales of what happened to the cast and crew, and whether the film helped Cummins grow as an actor (he’s still very much active) and filmmaker.

The reason I’m curious is because there are many indie films made with passionate intentions that for various reasons – including product saturation and middling quality – get lost or disappear among the myriad titles on rental shelves, and We All Fall Down was made when 35mm film was still the only acceptable production and distribution format for theatres.

In 2000, digital still didn’t look as sleek and filmic as today, so shooting on film stock was a major hurdle that may have given Fall Down a formal look, but perhaps added more monetary stress on the production, and restricted the filmmakers’ freedom to spend more onset time improvising and developing scenes that were weak on the printed page.

Flash forward to 2007, and video (High Def) no longer renders a film cheap; the gear is good enough to craft beautiful images and allow a director to walk a fine balance between giving intimate scenes the realism of home video without the consumer format’s technical limitations.

Starting Out in the Evening is part of InDigEnt, a firm that specializes in high def productions with hard production schedules and budgets, and it’s a big leap in terms of making a film with a distribution model that ensures – to the best ability – that a film won’t get lost.

It helps that Starting Out is headlined by Frank Langella and Lili Taylor, and is built on the architecture of a very solid script, but whether Cummins’ film would’ve been better or reached a more precise target audience soon after completion is all academic, because his film feels like a rough and loose street production filmed in worn out City pockets, whereas Andrew Wagner’s Starting Out is about an author/teacher living in a swanky (and spacious) New York City apartment.

Stylistic apples and oranges, but the basic question is whether something along the lines of an InDigEnt model exists (check out the review of November for more info) or should exist in Canada. Then again, will it all be moot if five years from now anyone’s film will be available from a commercial or private website, and the only major distribution cost is setting up a technically proficient site that streams or torrents the film, and advertising the film on the web, since the print media’s impact continues to weaken.

Everything stems from a script, but when the film is in the can, there has to be venues for it to have a chance in the market, otherwise it can become a long journey, of which We All Fall Down is at least getting a second chance.



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