Here’s my next submission for the Two Week Film (#2wkfilm) Collective’s Roundtable Discussions.

The topic this week is What’s the Next Wave of Cinema: New Wave to Mumblecore to… ?

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1. Indie 3D

No one knows what the landscape is going to look like post-Avatar, but there will definitely be more 3D-capable screens than there are now, and some of those might just be in people’s homes. And those screens are going to be lonely without lots of content. Right now Hollywood claims that they don’t see 3D as a gimmick, yet they aren’t using it for dramas, comedies, thrillers, historical costume movies, Westerns, romcoms, avant-garde experiments and most of whatever other established genres you can name besides sci-fi and animation.

3D to me seems as natural an evolution for movies as from sepia to color. The technology exists at indie budgets and the void that needs filling will soon be very wide. I see an indie 3D tsunami on the horizon.

2. Mumblecore Revisited

Yeah, I know the premise of this roundtable is what comes after Mumblecore. But Mumblecore has yet to stumble into the mainstream. The Mumblecore filmmakers have yet to get big budgets and big stars. After seeing Humpday at Sundance, I think Mumblecore is on the precipice of breaking out of the dorm room and into the Zeitgeist.

(Side note: Will this actually be good for Mumblecore? Probably not. But a little bit of Mumblecore’s intelligence would be a welcome addition to mainstream movies.)

I had a pretty heated discussion with a friend who despises Mumblecore as a voice only of the white and over-priviledged. While I think that’s painting with a broad brush, I’m inclined to agree there are many characters we haven’t met in the hyper-articulate Mumblecore universe. I’m looking forward to a more poly-phonic group of trumpet-in-the-bathtub movies.

3. Trailer Before the Cart

Although Grindhouse didn’t singlehandedly revive the Grindhouse genre, the trailers sandwiched in the middle may have had an unintended effect. They showed just how much fun it was to see trailers for movies that didn’t even exist.

It seems like it would be obvious to Hollywood. On the t.v. side they already spend millions on pilots that are only focus-tested and never broadcast. Ponying up a few grand to shoot a demo trailer could be a good way to test a property. In the best case scenario, trailer-testing could lead to more original stories on screen. If a focus group of twenty-somethings in Vegas said they actually would see that quirky coming-of-age movie – the money would follow to make it and, more importantly, to properly market it.

Indies already do this to some extent. Many a hit fest short has become a hit fest feature. (Frozen River comes to mind.) If festivals accepted shorts that were more like trailers, and the audiences at fests were willing to pre-buy tickets to movies whose trailers they liked, some of these micro-finance ideas that have been dreamed up could start working. Which leads me to…

4. Viable Shorts

When Walt Disney was working on his first animated feature, Snow White, people said he was nuts. “No one will sit through that much cartoon. It’ll hurt your eyes,” they said.

But soon after, no one would sit through a short cartoon, and Disney binned the Silly Symphony series that had built the Hyperion Studio. Now, with YouTube et al., short-form content once again seems viable. The next Walt Disney may already be out there, making short after successful short, earning enough to build a studio. I don’t think this age will last – YouTube and Hulu will soon be something like channels on your t.v. – but the opportunity exists in the interim for filmmakers of moderate means to build those means to feature level via shorts.

5. Upbeat Musical Comedies

To look at what might be popular in this Great Depression, you could do worse than to look at the First Great Depression. It was laughter, uplifting tales of rags to riches and songs, always the songs and the dances. Where are the Golddiggers of 2009? Where is Rupert Murdoch’s Follies?

I’ve seen a bunch of indie musicals lately that are taking a fresh approach to the genre. They are getting close. The first person to crack the formula for big screen song and dance spectaculars is going to make more money than Mamma Mia!, High School Musical 3 and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog combined.

Conclusion

As much as new technologies and 9/11 have changed everything, I’m pretty certain that the next wave of cinema is going to have a similar shape to others that have come before. It’s the pulling of the tide, the cyclical nature of the ocean of ideas. The Second Coming of the Western, Neo-neorealism, Paleo-Neo-Neorealism — what stays the same is the storytelling at the heart of it. What’s the next wave of cinema? What it’s always been: good stories, well told.

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READ MORE:
Read the other contributions of the roundtable participants
The previous essay “A New Auteur Theory for an Age of Social Media” in the Film Criticism: Evolution and Importance In the Digital Age roundtable