Love Streams:
Where indie films go

by Bill Mousoulis

Advice to indie filmmakers:

Opening Night

Grand unveiling, of your wondrous film! High Hopes. Great Expectations. Glittering Prizes! Strategy, dream, marketing. Even if "just" an "experimental" film. And for those in the narrative sphere, the universe is your limit! Which festival? That one's not big enough! Rocket to Russia! Shoot for the stars! Night boat to Cairo! Swim in those revenue streams! Don't forget to book your seat though ... ha! - a mere formality! Will you get a guernsey? Ha! - I will be the Captain! Opening Weekend. Box office records. The critics love it! Bold, innovative, entertaining! Your best work yet! You sit on your balcony, wine in hand, and quietly reflect to yourself, the joy, the wonder, the magic. The adrenaline flows. Friends congratulate you. Your phone rings. Emails flood in. You can't keep up with the Facebook messages. You employ a publicist. And a PA. Your $5,000 indie feature is making a million bucks. Just as you planned!

Too Late Blues

You miss out on an A-list festival. You struggle to adjust your strategy. Film associates seem lukewarm on your film, after seeing it. They don't offer you much feedback. The audience claps politely. The Opening Weekend is not strong, and the distributor mumbles about reducing its run. Did you not prepare adequately? Did you leave something too late? What went wrong? You start to feel the blues. You shrug. The glass is half-empty. You are bewildered, and exhausted, from the effort. Keep your chin up! But your dignity drops, as do the emails and messages. You thought that this would be the one, the breakthrough, the one that would make everyone sit up and notice. You had a great feeling about this one. But it peters out, it trickles, it splutters, the revenue streams dry up. It's not even a "critics' favourite"! You could always count on that, when everything else would go belly-up. You hit the bottle.


Time passes. Your film's profile, its spotlight, slowly fades to black. But with no end credits, to put a sense of closure on your cherished project. It streams on a platform, but the new releases pile up above it, pushing it down down down. You shut down the film's website, a seeminly unnecessary overhead as no vibe is now around your film. You watch other films, from associates and from strangers, hit the spotlight. You are in the shadows. Not only is your film in the shadows, but you too are in the shadows, feeling tired and hollow, no warm afterglow to keep you company. Glass empty. Friends remind you of your achievement, tell you to feel a sense of pride, but all you feel is the dead present, with its ghosts. You are at the centre of the universe in such moments, in a small black hole, into your heart. You get on with other things, and a new project, forgetting about your film. It is gone!

Love Streams

Proustian images come to you. Memories. A feeling of fulfilment. But also a new desire. To get that damn film out of its closet! To take it off the shelf! To transfer it from its hard drive! To dust it down, resolve it up, and present it anew! Hey peeps, this is something I did 20 years ago. Yes, some of you were still in nappies back then, but I did this, and it's pretty cool. Let the dogs run free! Heraclitus says that no one thing can flow down the river twice, well what does he know?? Everything flows, constantly, in these love streams of the world! You re-release your work, on YouTube, for free. What do you need money for? You figure that it's best people see the film, at no cost. It's an old film, it's for the air we breathe, not for the distributors' financial reports. Culture cannot be calculated. Culture is for the earth, it's a seed, it sprouts and grows, tall and magnificent. Let the dogs run free!

Pop your eyes out!


In this age we are living in, online streaming is crucial, especially for the alternative filmmaker (be they "indie", or experimental, or documentary, or essay, or cross-media, or whatever alien form they choose). Cinema or TV releases (who remembers the days when indie shorts in Australia used to support features in the cinemas and play on SBS?) are out of the question. And, increasingly, film festivals are out of the question, as, despite the increase in their number, they are being dominated by (high) budgeted films, and a sheer glut of films just generally. DVDs and Blu-Rays? As we know, they are now shifting to the margins, as TV set ups and computers can't take the discs any more.

The internet revolution has been happening 20 years now, but things take time, as they say. Especially for the indie sphere, as it is still beholden to the mainstream - it seeks to be accepted by the mainstream, or, psychologically, to "infiltrate" the mainstream (same thing as "accepted by", really). Of course, there are always two "alternatives" in life, the alternative that is self-sufficient, and the alternative that is part of the mainstream. I believe that many indie filmmakers struggle with this conundrum, they seriously have an "identity problem".

For me, life is about "bottom lines". I do not want to situate myself or any other filmmakers in an identity spectrum, or talk about demographics (niche audiences, blah blah). A film is a film is a film. Ron Brown at OzFlix says that he wants "every Australian film" on his platform, including indie films. That OzFlix should eventually be known as the Australian-content Netflix. It's an immense dream and I applaud him. If I may seem like an "anarchist" to some people, I have nothing against alternative Australian films being on OzFlix, and being accessible to users at a small cost. There are overheads to running a streaming platform, so it's not even about "profit", and I would rather have OzFlix in existence than not, if it has some good films on its roster.

But I am also very much for alternative films to be uploaded to YouTube or Vimeo for free, especially older titles. I have compiled the Online Indie Australian Cinema to simply make access of these titles easier, so the user can see a list of names of indie filmmakers all in the one spot, as one of the main issues for non-mainstream art is always a lack of lists, registers, resources. The 100 or so filmmakers represented (so far) are pretty much the obvious ones, so there are many more that can be added.

Whilst some filmmakers (like Ben Speth, Mark La Rosa, Michael Lee, Andrew Walsh, Leo Berkeley) are very generous with their work, placing almost all of it online for free, others are more reticent. Also, there are many filmmakers, obviously the pre-digital ones, who probably don't have digital files of their works anyway. Which is the first issue that is crucial, that of digitisation, or also restoration to HD levels. The second issue is the issue of distribution, or internat upload.

My main advice to filmmakers here: don't expect the Archive, or anyone else, to restore and preserve your work for you. DIY. Take the steps, make the expense, and digitise your work. You spent thousands and thousands to make the film, and you don't want to spend one more thousand to restore it and have it exist for future film lovers to watch? If you're that concerned, put it on OzFlix and make the thousand back!

The point is to have the film in existence. All films are worthy of being in existence. There is an audience for every film. Every little experimental or student film is a creation that its maker slaved over. There is something there, with every film.

Why can't I, or anyone else, at this very moment, see any film from the following people for free on YouTube or Vimeo? Anna Kannava, Ray Argall, Brian McKenzie, Paul Winkler, Arthur & Corinne Cantrill, James Clayden, John Cumming, John Hughes, Giorgio Mangiamele. At least one of their films, even a short one, should be free. And the list of Super 8 filmmakers from the '80s who don't have any of their work online is very sad: Nick Ostrovskis, Moira Joseph, Jo Hampton, Marcus Bergner, Matthew Rees, Irene Proebsting & Barry Brown, Gary O'Keefe, Sandra Munro, Ian Kerr, Perry Laird, Mark Freeman, Jim Bridges.

Time to get the films out of the cupboards, people!


Bill Mousoulis is a Greek-Australian independent filmmaker, film critic, and programmer.

Published January 5, 2019. © Bill Mousoulis 2019.