By: Max Gallow
An expensive pair of over-sized designer sunglasses, a pair of especially painful looking stilettos, and a dress that costs more than some people’s automobiles. On her arm, he is wearing a pristine pair of Ray-Bans, and a suit that probably costs almost as much as her dress. The hair, too, looks glamorous. You might expect her hair to look good; after all, she got it done for the premiere, and it matches the thick layer of foundation, the blush, the lipstick, and the dark eyeliner on her face. But his hair is a different story. His hair looks good in the same way that Richard Gere’s hair looks out of place in almost all of his roles. It’s cut and moussed perfectly, and it makes one wonder why a straight, (supposedly) masculine producer of schlocky Australian teensploitation spends hundreds of dollars on a haircut.
But what really jars about this scene is not the extravagantly wardrobed couple in question, or the other similarly extravagant people nearby. If I were standing by the red carpet outside Roy Thompson Hall for a Gala Premiere of a Hollywood film with real Hollywood stars, I would hardly be surprised. Instead, it all takes place in the main lobby of the AMC at Yonge and Dundas where swarms of volunteers in garish bright orange t-shirts, along with other average people, in jeans, t-shirts, and hoodies, waiting to see the film, which has no stars, and barely merits the two two-paragraph blurb reviews it received in either of Toronto’s alt-weekly newspapers.
But what this scene suggests is the sad truth that the independent film community is basically a third-world industry. Volunteers are asked to work for little reward, lowly publicist interns such as myself receive only an honorarium, and entertainment journalists sell their dignity and write puff pieces for less than enough to live on; but the select few, the producers, the executives, the buyers, and the sellers rake in 6 to 7 digit salaries for their services in an industry, independent film, in which the product is rarely profitable.
The film in question, a low budget Australian thriller about teenagers who do too many drugs and have too much sex, may never find a North American distributor. With its lack of stars, low profile, and weak reviews, it never really had a chance, beyond a low key DVD release, but the money was still found to fly in producers and talent from Sydney. The director can’t really be blamed. He’s a smart young artist who affably quizzed me on the Toronto music scene and expressed genuine admiration of local bands and artists like Fucked Up and PS I Love You. Although the movie isn’t very good, it’s still his baby, and he’ll do whatever he’s told by the folks that put up the money. Likewise, the cast can’t be blamed. A complementary trip to Toronto to schmooze and to advance their own careers. They’re a group of young people that will take anything their agent sends them.
And herein lies the dilemma, how does one break “independent cinema” away from those with money, away from those that waste money, away from those that don’t get that their careers, and the films they make, often with the help of tax credits and state subsidies, do not entitle them to their salaries. It might be nice to think that independent films exist despite their situations, despite small audiences and lack of funding, but after a few years interning at the Toronto International Film Festival, it becomes more obvious that the independent film industry may not be an industry of scarcity, but rather, one of inequity.
This article was originally published on our old website at https://thenewspaper.ca/the-arts/the-dirt-under-the-red-carpet/.