Shut In Cinema: How watching low and micro-budget indie films can help support the arts.

When I was little the cinema was my happy place. I appreciate that is likely the case for a great many of you, and I’m sure there are plenty of people reading this now that will have experienced similar things to me as a kid. I didn’t have the worst home-life, and I was a pretty spoilt, difficult child, but I was also a pretty unhappy one, and there was something about the escapism that cinema brought me that really helped me through some of my most difficult times.

I was always excited to go to the cinema. There were a great many times I bunked off school to go see a new movie, and often I would watch three films in a row. When the Unlimited Card was introduced by Cineworld (my local cinema at the time), I started going to see everything. Films I would have never shown an interest in were it not for the freedom the Unlimited Card offered up constantly surprised me. I can remember watching Bridge to Terabithia and weeping at the ending. I went to go seen X-Men 2 more times than I care to admit. I can remember laughing out loud at the use of comic sans font on the opening credits of The Bratz Movie.

Now, with the world on edge at the spread of COVID-19, and the likelihood of a lockdown growing every day, the cinema is something I long for. The communal experience of watching a film in a darkened room with a group of strangers, excitedly awaiting each twist and turn and development in the plot, chuckling as a group at the funny bits, sharing empathy at the sad, jumping out of our skins when the jump-scares come, is something that I’m going to greatly miss over the next few weeks… maybe even months.

It’s no secret that the arts are going to really struggle. Not just cinemas, but theatres, music venues and any other communal experience. But, streaming services are here for us all, to help us while away the hours cooped up in our homes, and it is with this point that I wanted to come back to something I spoke about a little while ago here on this blog.

With the advent of video on demand I had expected, perhaps a little hopefully, that we might see an increase in the audience for low-budget and micro-budget movies. The kinds of films I and my friends make, for example. The work of people far outside the mainstream of the studio system, whose movies are simply never going to receive a theatrical run but are ready to be discovered by an online audience.

That doesn’t seem to have happened, at least not to the scale I had imagined. But, since we’re all locked up in homes now, unable to go out and share our movie watching together, perhaps now is the time for the low and micro-budget film to find its audience?

My movie, Follow the Crows, for example, is available on Amazon Prime. And if you’re a little bored of watching the same films from the same studios repeatedly, maybe you could check it out and leave us a review. If you’re a Prime member, it’s free to watch, if you’re not, it’s available to rent cheaply, and I can assure you everyone involved would very much appreciate your support.

Of course, I understand that this isn’t a key concern for most audiences. But if you’re looking to broaden your viewing habits a little bit, and support those of us who are unable to continue working during the coming months at the same time, then these films from these kinds of filmmakers are ideal viewing.

I’m not going to lie; they won’t all be good. But you might just find, like I did when I was going to the cinema every waking minute, that there could be some surprises amongst them. You never know, maybe you’ll discover a new favourite!

During the coming weeks and months, the arts are going to be integral for all of us to be able to cope and get through the uncertainty. Supporting artists may not seem like an important part of all of this, but as you’re reading a book, listening to music, watching a film, or playing a game, remember that all of those things came from people who need your support to stay afloat.

So, next time you’re scrolling through Netflix or Amazon Prime or whatever streaming service you use, maybe go looking for something you wouldn’t normally give a second thought. It could just surprise you, and it might just really help out someone during this time.

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© Alex Secker 2018