Noise In The Canyon

“The number one fact of the new low-budget cinema is that it is no longer impossible to get your film financed, but it is impossible to get anybody to see it,” says The Canyons director Paul Schrader in a new, Canyons-kowtowing issue of Film Comment. Both Kent Jones and Larry Gross give it little pats on the back. Oh, yeah? Then why didn’t The Canyons get into Sundance or South by Southwest? Why did Steven Soderbergh offer to recut it for Schrader, and why did Scharder turn him down? What about the likely bedrock truth of the matter?

The problem, says Schrader, is that “there are 10,000 people doing the same thing you’re doing, right now. And which one of those 10,000 films is anybody going to see? 15,000 films get submitted to Sundance, 100 or so get shown, eight get picked up, and two make money. Those are the economics.

“But Bret [Easton Ellis] and I have some cachet. We were in with four different sub-groups of interested people: people who are interested in me, people who are interested in Bret, people who are interested in Lindsay Lohan, and people who are interested in James Deen. Lindsay has four million [Twitter] followers, and James has half a million. Bret has 250,000. I went to the casino, I put it all on red, and it came up red. We got lucky with this one. We got lucky with James, we got lucky with Lindsay. We got lucky with the noise factor. When you’re pitching a movie, that’s the question they ask: is it going to make noise? Are you going to hear this above the din of the avalanche of film productions?

“And if the idea has noise, then they are interested in it. And this idea had noise. Some of it by design, some of it by luck. That’s why I went to Bret, because if it was the two of us together it was going to make noise.”

The Canyons will have a special Film Society of Lincoln Center screening at the Walter Reade on 7.29.

  • Correcting Jeff

    ” Oh, yeah? Then why didn’t The Canyons get into Sundance or South by Southwest? Why did Steven Soderbergh offer to recut it for Schrader, and why did Scharder turn him down?”

    I’m not saying The Canyons wasn’t crap, but that attitude is so insular, it’s cute. “How could anybody see a movie unless it played at a film festival I and the 5,000 people like me attend?!?”

    • Raising_Kaned

      The notion that you should just suddenly fork over all your footage to another active filmmaker is also pretty bizarre (is there any doubt Jeff would have even bothered mentioning this if it wasn’t SS?).

      Like you, I’m not saying The Canyons isn’t crap, but that specific action is not something that is generally taken. Maybe it’s ego-driven or whatever, but on a certain creative level it isn’t completely dissimilar from going through the entire birthing process, and then just giving the baby up for adoption (pardon the truly terrible analogy).

  • Ryan Adams

    “The number one fact of the new low-budget cinema is that it is no longer impossible to get your film financed, but it is impossible to get anybody to see it,” says The Canyons director Paul Schrader.

    “You can fool some of the people some of the time,” said somebody else, more cleverly and less pretentiously.

  • Ryan Adams

    The problem, says Schrader, is that “there are 10,000 people doing the same thing you’re doing, right now.

    Yep, that’s a problem alright. The solution would be to do something different.

    But it’s obviously a lot easier to “make noise.”

    • hupto

      That’s what my company has been trying to do for nearly a decade. But nobody wants “different,” either. They may SAY they do, but they lie. And they’re always wrong. Two decades ago, I went around pitching an idea called “Cease and Desist,” which was essentially “Lethal Weapon” with two women. (The title was a pun on their names, Cecilia and DeSisto.) I was told point blank by everyone–EVERYONE–that no man–or woman–would pay to see something like that. Cut to last week, and “The Heat” opened to huge numbers. And so it goes…

      • Raising_Kaned

        That sucks, man — at the very least, that’s a pretty great idea for title. Waaaayyyy better than The Heat…what is that, an NBA Finals game directed by Michael Mann?

  • Bobby Cooper

    Love Mr. Schrader dearly, but this feels like Jimmy Toback desperately pushing WHEN WILL I BE LOVED.

    • graig

      Ahh, WHEN WILL I BE LOVED isn’t half bad. Great Neve Campbell performance! She’s never been hotter.

  • Glenn Kenny

    I presume you aren’t holding your breath for an invitation.

  • Raising_Kaned

    I really like Schrader — and he’s not exactly wrong about the “economics” of getting a film seen — but let’s be real here for a second: would he ever be where he is (i.e. still directing films in 2013) were it not for serving as Scorsese’s most trusted writing caddy during Marty’s most artistically fruitful period?

    That’s not to take away from his MASTERFUL screenplay of Taxi Driver (one of the best of all-time, bar-none) and the very good scripts he co-wrote for Raging Bull, Rolling Thunder, Last Temptation…, etc. Again, I really like the dude. But — as a director — when exactly has he been anything other than a very FRINGE player in the mainstream movie landscape? Maybe for about a couple years in the very early ’80s when he was briefly aligned with the zeitgeist for Gigolo or Nastassja Kinski or whatever, but that’s about IT.

    • Ray Quick

      Blue Collar. Hardcore. Gigolo. Cat People. Light of Day. AFFLICTION. AUTO FOCUS.

      Maybe there’s some spotty stuff like that EMBARRASSING Michael J Fox movie or that RIDICULOUS thing with Liotta and Prince Benson Fiennes…. But his heyday filmography is unimpeachable.

      • From a critical standpoint, totally. But he hasn’t been a guy who can SELL a movie for a while.

        • Raising_Kaned

          What Jesse said.

          I own most of Schrader’s stuff on video — one format or another. I even have an incredibly dorky paperback of his film writing that you would probably hate because all he does is examine “dull, non-American” movies that on the surface appear to have fuck-all to do with the trademark hair-trigger awesomeness of Taxi Driver or Hardcore (at least until you realize that the slow-burn builds of those flicks is a big part of what makes those climaxes so fucking explosive).

          So you really don’t have to sell me on his work, Lex. I am a fan.

          • GeorgeDAllen

            Schrader has more than enough awesome in the bank for me to seriously consider hauling my tail to NY. (Not to mention more than one attempt to re-watch his “Exorcist” joint in futile attempts to convince myself it’s not a disappointment)

            • Raising_Kaned

              Hahaha, Dominion! Oh, man…

              I have it on DVD, actually (I said I was a Schrader junkie!), and the best thing I can say about it is it’s better than The Beginning.

              And if you’ve ever seen that abomination, you will know that’s far from singing high praise.

  • Jeff

    Hmmm this is sort of odd. Schraeder sort of points out that his film has every advantage to be seen. It’s tough to feel anything for the guy, he chose to make a kitschy film with people who aren’t really famous anymore for their creativity. Ellis has been irrelevant for 20 yrs, Lohan has maybe a handful of good performances to her name and has spent far more time in the tabloids. Deen is a pornstar. No one is seeing the film probably because it sucks, every major festival would take a crack at it for the PR alone if it were good to interestingly mixed. What seems to be pissing a lot of graybeards off is that they thought they were above a certain level of filmmaking and right now it’s survival of the fittest/best.

    As far as the SS recut I can see not signing off on that as a filmmaker. Why would you relinquish authorship on a film you weren’t paid for if you had a long storied career.

  • Awardsdaily

    It doesn’t matter how much noise he makes, how many twitter followers she has – Bret Easton Ellis is a cunt and no one will go see this movie unless it’s to laugh at it.

    • Alan Burnett

      Yeah, Ellis is CLEARLY the problem with the film.

  • Jason T.

    If twitter followers meant eyes on the product, Conan O Brien would still be on the tonight show.

  • Brian Bouton

    “Lindsay has four million [Twitter] followers…” who follow her as part of the celebrity deathwatch crowd and wait for the next fucked up thing she will do. (This does not include forking over money to see her act.)

    “…and James has half a million [Twitter followers]” which amounts to a sizable gay and straight female crowd who are accustomed to seeing his penis in every role and won’t fork out $15 to see him have fake sex with Lohan who looks like a 38 year-old burnout.

    • Raising_Kaned

      Eggs Ackley.

  • Raising_Kaned

    “But Bret [Easton Ellis] and I have some cachet. We were in with four different sub-groups of interested people: people who are interested in me, people who are interested in Bret, people who are interested in Lindsay Lohan, and people who are interested in James Deen. Lindsay has four million [Twitter] followers, and James has half a million. Bret has 250,000.”

    Schrader sounds incredibly old here. Does he not realize that following someone on Twitter only requires the click of a mouse button, and not laying down $12 (or whatever), or a two-hour investment of time? Most of Lindsay’s followers probably don’t even realize or that she’s in this (or anything, for that matter), let alone care. Isn’t “James Deen” a porn guy? I have never really heard of the asshole — his “fan base” probably consists predominantly of gay dudes hoping for Twitpics of his cock so they can rub one out before bed at 2AM.

    BEE certainly had his day (see avatar), but I’ve become more and more convinced over the years that he’s one of those writers that seemingly lacks any awareness of what made him “relevant” or even “influential” in the first place. He was very much a product of his time — which is to say that he’s very much not a product of this time, except to sit back and examine his very curious work in a time capsule/scientific method sorta way.

    Some “cachet.”

    • Totally. I think the box office totals of any Kristen Stewart indie proves how little people really give a shit if a giant star steps outside their zone of mass fame. And most of Lindsay’s “fans” follow her to get glimpses of the train-wreck. It’s not like they’re sitting on their computers all giddy about Lindsay hooking up with the mastermind behind Auto-Focus. Her fans are there for the lifestyle, not the “thespian craft.”

      • Ray Quick

        It’s true of K-Stew, whose “indies” make like INVERSE MONEY…. but isn’t this kind of true of the ENTIRE indie scene today? Unless something really really breaks out (and it’s usually an in-betweener by Searchlight or Focus)…. it seems like the bloggerati spend untold ink on little movies with “hot” It stars, and they never ever go anywhere. Think how many magazine spreads (yay) and interviews and red carpets Emma Watson did the last few months for Bling Ring, or how the name “Duplass” gets thrown around on film sites like we’re talking about Lucas, or how something like “On the Road” or “Carlos” from IFC doesn’t have the budget to book more than 5 arthouses, but they spend half a goddamn year fetting all the cool stars and doing runway shows and a zillion interviews…

        And time and again, ALL these movies are met with absolute and total indifference, even from coastal elites.

        • Absolutely. I only mention K-Stew specifically because her fan base is so GIANT and fervent but it means jack shit when it comes to Welcome to the Riley’s or On the Road’s ticket sales. The only way an indie breaks out is with great reviews and weird, zeitgeist-y luck.

          I’m sure Lindsay’ll appear in some photo spread for Vanity Fair or whatever talking about how “I need to focus” and “I’m not like how I’m perceived” and then The Canyons’ll make 39 bucks on 2 screens. It’s such a bizarre system.

        • HarryWarden

          Speaking of The Bling Ring, why did it perform so much worse than Spring Breakers did. Coppola seems more commercial than anything the director of Trash Humpers would release yet SB did a lot better than TBB, even when it was in limited release.

          • jesse

            Spring Breakers was better-positioned to be marketed as the movie both SB and Bling Ring wanted to be marketed as (and kinda-sorta what SB the movie itself wanted to be? I was a little unclear on that because I found that movie so muddled). There’s a lot more flash and color in Spring Breakers even though Bling RIng was plenty flashy on the Coppola scale.

            I think there’s also a first-dibs factor; Spring Breakers made its money just a few months earlier and whatever teenagers or whoever they tricked into seeing that movie to get it beyond the $5 million “arthouse hit” money weren’t going to go back for a de facto sequel.

            Loved Bling Ring, though, and I wish it had done better.

            • myownhausfrau

              Can I humbly point out that unlike Bling Ring, Spring Breakers was full of nubiles in bikinis, or is that too crass?

              • jesse

                Not too crass — I’m just reluctant to ever ascribe a movie’s financial success to a sex factor because it seems like it happens so rarely.

              • hupto

                Not to mention nubiles out of their bikinis. It’s basically a T&A show with arthouse pretensions. Coppola’s film presumably is nudity-free. Plus there’s also the Didn’t-I-Just-See-This factor that hurt AFTER EARTH and WHITE HOUSE DOWN.

  • Ray Quick

    I’m sorry, I know this is a Soder-Zone, but why on earth would a MAESTRO like Paul Schrader offer up his movie to another director? And what’s it any of Soderbergh’s business anyway? I don’t know the backstory and maybe they’re thick as thieves, but if I made BLUE COLLAR and AUTO FOCUS and CAT PEOPLE and LIGHT SLEEPER and maybe especially HARDCORE, I’d be telling the esteemed director of FULL FRONTAL that “I know a thing or two about a thing or two” (TM De Niro) and he can fuck right on off.

    BEE is one sad case, though, and that BRUTALIZES me to admit, because talk about someone whose voice and interests and smarm and superficiality were a huge inspiration to me, someone who was a GOD…. But, Christ, ironically it was his Twitter that turned off that guy forever…. what a bitter know-it-all naysayer, endlessly ripping everything to shit with this hateful superiority, a prickliness that seems ironic for a guy who would’ve banged anything with skin in 1987.

    • Eloi Wrath

      I dunno, I enjoy BEE’s Twitter more than his recent books. Seems to be doing some performance art level trolling that manages to wind everyone up, but also has some semi-interesting thoughts on movies. I laughed a lot when he tweeted ideas for American Psycho 2, including Bateman being a big Coldplay fan.

      • Raising_Kaned

        I’m obviously not on Twitter, so does Ellis just sort of pretend that AP2 doesn’t actually exist (which is probably the most logical reaction to that flick, come to think of it)?

        • Eloi Wrath

          Yeah, he was talking about an actual sequel with Patrick Bateman, not the Mila Kunis slasher thing. It was quite funny.

          He’s quite aware of the reaction he’s getting all the time and he manages to wind up quite a few people suckered into his trolling (see Sasha Stone on this thread, for one).

    • jesse

      Granted, I haven’t accomplished as much as Schrader and never will, but if I had a low-budget movie that maybe was threatening to not work out and Soderbergh offered to edit it I would be ALL ABOUT IT.

      Maybe because dorks like me would be WAY more into seeing this movie if Soderbergh cut it.

      Granted, though, that’s true of almost anything. I got super excited when I heard Soderbergh did second unit on The Hunger Games. Until I then realized I’d be tortured by thinking about a Soderbergh-directed Hunger Games the whole movie.

    • Samnyc11

      In reply to Ray Quick..Schrader called Soderbergh up and asked for the help. That’s the story. Schrader asked him for help. Soderbergh screened the movie and offered to help. and then Schrader trashed him in an interview for his offer of help (after asking him for help) and it’s not like Soderbergh doesn’t have enough sh&t going on on his own. So maybe that back-and-forth gives you some insight into where Schrader’s head is at right now. (and in a ps) Soderbergh does recut/edit jobs all the time on films .. as favors to friends (usually better friends than someone like Schrader) or as a ‘favor’ or ‘save’ for a studio that’s found themselves in trouble with a film in post.

  • Here’s the problem – the promotional trailers for THE CANYONS made the film look like purposeful trashy cinema, like something Robert Rodriguez makes that nobody ever watches. The internet sniffs that stuff out all day long.

    More people will watch BIRDEMIC or THE ROOM because those were ACCIDENTALLY trashy.

    • jesse

      To be fair, The Canyons people would be ECSTATIC were that movie to make as much as Rodriguez’s lowest-grossing faux-grindhouse movies. And the internet crowd is exactly the limited-ish audience that seems to get excited for intentional B-movies like Machete or what-not. It’s mainstream audiences that never really seem all that into the winking-B-movie aesthetic (Machete is a relatively successful one; think of Shoot ‘Em Up doing sub-Rodriguez business).

      I think it’s dangerous to say “more people” will watch Birdemic. I mean, probably more people will have seen Birdemic by the end of the Canyons’ run, but there’s this weird internet myopia where we assume “everyone” has seen some trash-movie classic (although Birdemic isn’t even trashy; really, it barely counts as a movie) and it’s, you know, fewer people in total than watch reruns of a second-tier CBS procedural in a week.

  • roland1824

    If you can’t get people out to see your movie today, there’s usually a problem somewhere, be it in the story, the execution, the promotion, the delivery. He makes it sound like there’s all these goddamned Citizen Kanes out there undiscovered just waiting to be “seen”.

  • Sumo-Pop

    The Canyons might be shitty and Schrader might be right. Both things can be true.

  • MovieSquad
  • graig
  • Jason T.

    I love these ads with Mads in them, Wells. I love that he has completely made Hannibal his own and i actually forget the guys who’ve played him before.

    • Raising_Kaned

      I can maybe see forgetting the guys Mads has played before — but you’re just tossing out Brian Cox or Tony Hopkins like that?

      He’s really good, but I don’t think he’s THAT good.

      • Eloi Wrath

        It’s such a different performance, and at an entirely different place in Hannibal’s “career,” that it’s hard to directly compare them. Mads plays him while still keeping his horrifying secret under wraps. The other two were full-psycho. It’ll be interesting to see what happens if/when the big “reveal” arrives on the TV show. Mikkelsen is great, though.

        • Alan Burnett

          Oh man, the final shot in the season is a brilliant performance/writing choice: THAT’s the moment in which we finally see the real Hannibal. There are so few TV shows or films that have the patience to just wait and slowly unpackage its characters. In later seasons, I suspect we’ll be getting more of that smug, nastily superior aspect to his personality. Frankly, the entire episode features some brilliant choices from its actors, including Dancy. He could have played the sequence in which he sees Hannibal for who he is simply angry or shocked, but he gives the sequence real poignancy with his raw, unaffected, disorientated body language that shows just how damaged Will Graham is as a result of the series’ events. Mikkelsen, too, is so interesting in that sequence. Like always. he gives a variety of subtle emotions under his cool façade, masking Hannibal’s fear as the psychiatrist attempts to control Graham. The Best Actor Emmy race is usually competitive but I honestly feel that this year will be the most competitive in years and I hope either actor gets a nod for their performances. They’re both terrific.

        • Raising_Kaned

          Yeah, that’s fair. And acting for a TV series is (obviously) different than a movie. You need to keep it reigned in to sustain the longevity (and believability) of the show. I can grow weary of that waiting game at times, though — I guess that’s why I generally tend to enjoy movies over television as a medium.

          Mads is doing a great job, for sure, though…I didn’t mean to imply otherwise.

      • Alan Burnett

        No, he meant the guys who played Mads Mikkelsen before, dummy.

  • JLC



  • otto

    The problem is systemic.

    There are few venues equipped to show high-quality, truly “independent” films that are shot on digital and 4K. Some audience would presumably be there, for no reason other than as a backlash to the muck that is playing at the large cineplexes, but how many theaters have high-quality digital projectors? Few. So 4K needs to be transferred to film, marketed, and then these films must be distributed, all of which hyper-inflate expenses.

    These expenses cause distributors to hedge by going for “name” actors to stick on the marquee. And so you get directors talking about making “noise” rather than making a film that is subtle or truly independent or alternative. (Honestly, these days film students Bergman & Kieslowski would be relegated to careers as baristas). The festivals follow suit. Sundance doesn’t count, as its integrity was long-ago eclipsed by its desire to show films with name actors and no explosions and to annoint them “independent.”

    In Utopian Filmland, small moviehouses with good digital projectors would spring up and partner with independent directors, bypassing the “film” medium and industry alltogether.

  • shane smith

    The market will either embrace or reject your product. BotSW is a classic example that small films that resonate can still break through.

    • otto

      Of course the market will embrace or reject your product. That proposition is elliptical. The question is, or should be, whether the market is efficient – efficiency in cinema meaning that barriers to entry are not too high so as to allow deserving “great films” – of any and all costs- to be seen. And the way the system is set up now, the barriers to entry are too high,