Samuel Brace wonders where the next great directors will come from…
We are in a dilemma. We are in a dilemma right now and it’s a pretty serious one. In fact the more I think about it, the more I pontificate on it, the more it depresses me and it should depress you too. We live in an age of homogenised cinema. Homogenous, bland and let’s face it, typically mediocre cinema. Great movies are a rare sight indeed as of 2015, big studio movies that look and feel different from each other are rarer still. Looking at the big tent pole movies and looking at the ‘Prestige Movie’ (the worst and most damaging genre in this history of anything ever), it’s becoming nigh impossible to find something that stands out, something that looks and feels different. Directors are losing control as of 2015, they are not being given the licence to make great movies, they are not being given the freedom to direct their movies. There are of course exceptions, leftovers from a dying age, legends from a more prosperous time, but as for the new age and for what’s to come, the future is very bleak indeed. And this leads me to the question; where will the next great directors come from?
How will Hollywood and the larger film establishment produce the next Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan, if the films that are being released have no use or interest in a creative visionary to direct their films? Where are the legends that inspire future generations of filmmakers going to come from if all that is required for tent pole films is a hired hand, someone to literally borrow the producers/investors wallet and point the cameras? The directors that we all look up to and revere today are products of a time when this most certainly wasn’t the case. The names just mentioned, though varying in age, all found their footing– perhaps with the exception of Nolan (but exceptions have to be made for the exceptional) — where the climate allowed them to have a vision, to be directors. Our current climate is very different indeed. Studios and Hollywood in general don’t want these types of directors anymore, and they will want them less and less because they don’t NEED to make great movies anymore, and they don’t need to make great movies anymore because we don’t want them. If an audience isn’t crying out for something different, a film that looks like a film and not a movie made for television, for something grand and opulent to devour in a cinematic cathedral, what need is there for a director to produce such things? If all that is required to appease the masses is a by the numbers presentation of filmed things, why hire or give licence to a man or woman to produce anything else?
Young and upcoming directors aren’t less talented than they were 10, 20, 30 years ago, but they will be very soon if we’re not careful. If things continue to head down the direction they are currently going, that talent and that desire to create will soon disappear. There will be no use for it, therefore there will be no stage in which to cultivate and develop it. There are — obviously — some very interesting films around, directed by obviously some very talented and passionate film makers, but this exists almost exclusively in smaller independent films. And when such a prospect gets plucked from obscurity to ‘direct’ a big studio number, all creative flare and passion is quickly sucked away. In today’s landscape there isn’t room for such traits. That’s not what is needed. That’s not what audiences have demanded. There used to be a scenario — and sometimes still is — where a director could use such a big push to then go on and direct more interesting and personal films, but this is becoming an almost impossible winning formula. These interesting and visionary films don’t make money and a director can’t be expected to make one of these films if they are not being paid well enough to do it. Therefore this is becoming a more infrequent route to go down. Any director that is remotely interesting and unique ends up staying in the safe confines of lucrative YA/Comic book adaptations. This is the environment where they can make a living and none of us can deny them of that. That is the smart thing to do. That’s not the director’s fault, that’s out fault for creating a world where film doesn’t matter, where the once great art form becomes lesser each and every year.
Films are being watched less and less in those luxurious temples called theatres, films are being watched more and more on small screens in our own homes, on our TV’s, tablets and our phones. Films aren’t being watched on the screens for which they were designed for, and more frequently are not being designed for the big and lavish environments that those screens can provide. When this happens the films themselves inevitably become smaller experiences, the visual flare becomes less than, the glory and magnitude of cinema fades away. Now, I like watching films at home, in bed, as much as everyone else. It’s easy, its cosy, it’s convenient. But this isn’t the way to exclusively consume your content. If this method of consumption continues to become the norm then the content will inevitably be affected. It will come to be designed for such an experience; it’s already becoming designed for such an experience. This is not what we want. I am telling you this is not what we want. No one is saying don’t watch films at home on your TV’s but for the love of god keep going to the cinema, keep on leaving your homes to appreciate the directors out there that provide the grandeur of film that is so important to our culture. If we fail to do this as a society then those great directors we mentioned earlier will be the last of a dying breed. The space for such people will no longer exist. By watching films like Interstellar on tablets or waiting to watch The Hateful Eight on our iPhones, we ourselves are directing the future of films and indeed the films themselves. We drive the market. We tell content providers what we want, and surely what we want is great movies directed by visionary filmmakers, directors that have something to say and are given the chance to say it. Don’t we want this? I refuse to believe we don’t.
Cinema is changing. It’s changing. There’s no doubt about it. Culture and the things we hold important change with the times. Film isn’t the first victim of such a shift but for a lover of the art, for someone that holds this medium in such esteem, I can’t help but fear this incipient downfall. The future could be very bleak indeed for this art form that so many of us love very much and for the future to be something brighter we need great directors behind the camera, puppeteering, pulling the strings and crafting visions designed in every frame of every shot to be presented on the grandest stage possible. For this to happen we need to identify the problem and once we’ve done that we need to take measures to counteract it. With a bellicose desire and our passion for film behind us perhaps it’s not too late to provide future generations with the inspirational content that so many of us grew up adoring. The problem here isn’t nebulous, by just opening our eyes we can see the direction we are going down. So let’s open our eyes and hope that studios, producers and financiers will hear our calls for premium content on the main stages of world cinema and that they give the future Scorseses, Spielbergs, Tarantinos and Nolans the chance to helm them. Great cinema that’s interesting and diverse isn’t incongruent with what is popular; at the very least it didn’t use to be so why does it have to be now? The next great directors are among us, they are here in the present. Let’s hope for a future where they have the stage to demonstrate as much.