Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Opening Shot

On May 12, New York Times go-getter David Carr continued his paper's commitment to stating the obvious with a piece plunked on the front of that day's Arts section. The headline read: "New York: 'Little' Films Grow Big." Carr's article invoked a succession of small- to medium-sized indie distributors like Killer Films and ThinkFilm, as well as some of the more successful (and powerful) studio spin-offs like Sony Pictures Classics and Universal's boutique imprint Focus Features. The piece also quoted a curious sampling of local film pros, including director Danny Leiner (who, evidently, has relocated to Los Angeles) and even Robert De Niro.

In a nutshell, Carr's work described a film industry thriving in New York's gritty environs—something of a stratified community of movers and shakers for whom festival recognition and digital technology are revolutionary developments. Carr's guidebook New York cinema yields a maudlin gleam of promise and peril, juxtaposing phrases like, "The young crowd buzzed with the sort of anticipation that usually accompanies the opening of a new downtown club" (referring to a Tribeca screening of Leiner's The Great New Wonderful) with Earth-shattering revelations that "for many in this reinvented industry, the big dollars that represent a measure of success remain elusive."

In other words, New York cinema is a brilliant, brittle outlet of the world's greatest art form, fueled by that form's most possessed, articulate craftspeople. And we are largely broke. Of course, you already knew that. That's why you are here.

You knew that because New York is cinema. Where Hollywood purveys explosive, anonymous fantasy, New York City is its films' host. It behaves as a character, breathes its dialogue in crowds and horn blasts and the buzz that underlies even the most remote outer-borough silence. New York is unparalleled in its natural balance of kinesis, inertia and momentum; its cruelty represents the nuanced, world-weary big brother of impulsive Hollywood transgression. And Gotham's film industry lives in that tradition. From the art house to the red carpet, New York means it in the most genuine way imaginable.

The city's history comprises tales of untold numbers of Carr's "little" films, which got me thinking that maybe New York needs a place for its "little" filmmakers, filmgoers, distributors and theaters to get the closer look they deserve. Of course, this being a blog, it will be my closer look, but hopefully something a little more thorough and intellectually honest than that rag on 43rd Street—and anything else that purports to serve New York's discriminating film audiences.

And so you have The Reeler. The goal is to aggregate a set of observations, previews, reviews and profiles of everyone and everything happening in New York's film community. Yeah, it might be ambitious. After some consideration and conversation with folks around town, however, and in the bitter aftertaste of Carr's condescending bone-throw (which, in fairness, did shed at least some light on what is right about local film's impact abroad), it seemed to me as though I did not have a whole lot of choice. There is so much happening here, with such a fragmented set of resources documenting it in incomplete bursts, that I just thought, "What the hell." Now seems like the right time to fire something up that puts New York film in the perspective it deserves; to wit, as the capital of the most consistently great things happening in cinema.

This could take a while to get rolling, so I invite your comments, tips, hints, gossip (especially gossip), links, leads, feedback, editorial suggestions, photos, complaints, hyperbolic boasts, breathless press releases and whatever other variations on candor you feel like supplying. That will help the cause. Seeing as the emphasis is on New York film in general, I am not really inclined to exclude big studio stuff that is happening here, so let me know if Martin Scorsese and a caravan of trailers arrives on your block to shoot—I'll report it. By the same token, I am equally eager to hear from everyone plugging away at his or her no-budget short, editing in insomniac benders on diets of coffee and Pepperidge Farm Goldfish. I do not know how I feel about folks soliciting/proffering services here, but it would be a nice problem to have, I guess, and I will deal with it if/when it occurs.

So there. Maybe David Carr is good for something after all—The Reeler is open for business. Stay in touch.


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