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Counterpunch

Indies Haven't Taken Over Industry

March 24, 1997|HARVEY WEINSTEIN | Harvey Weinstein is co-chairman of Miramax Films, whose films received 20 Oscar nominations this year

Much of the media have reported the Oscar nominations as a contest of independents versus studios, instead of celebrating the achievements of the individual artists nominated. Many people have seen in this year's nominations evidence that the quality of studio films has declined and that the studios have abandoned serious, grown-up fare.

I believe that this was a great year for movies from all sources. From "Ransom" and "Independence Day"to "Courage Under Fire," "Jerry Maguire," "The Crucible," "The People vs. Larry Flynt," "Evita," "Mother," "Hamlet" and "Michael Collins," the studios have shown that they continue to make excellent films.

But this year's Oscar nominations do say something important about the industry and where it's going. It's not that there are fewer good studio films or that the studios have given up on serious fare; it's that the independents (most of which have studio backing) are now competing on a more level playing field, both at the box office and in the Oscar race.

If the independents can take a "Pulp Fiction," a "Fargo," a "Four Weddings and a Funeral" or a "Howard's End" and make them into commercial successes, it stands to reason that the academy would also take such films very seriously.

Over the last decade, the independents have expanded the audience for quality, challenging films and made it possible for those kinds of films to have commercial success. Our companies have moved art films out of a specialized ghetto and put them into the mainstream. This is good news for everyone in the business. It means more opportunities for technicians, art directors, grips, actors, directors, etc., to work on many different kinds of films and means that filmmakers within and outside the studio system can make films for many appetites.

The academy is now presented with an ever-expanding array of good choices. Since independent films cannot become successful without enthusiastic critical support, it makes sense that these films might do well at the Oscars. I really don't think that the academy looks to see whether a movie is from a studio or an independent before nominating it.

I'd like to think that the academy's embrace of so many independent films this year is most significant because it will further expand the moviegoing audience and thus will benefit the whole industry. As far as I'm concerned, it's not an indie versus studio world.

Everyone who works in the movie business, be it at a studio or an independent, or an independent affiliated with a studio, is part of the same film community. What unites us is our love and passion for all different kinds of movies.

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