William Friedkin discussed his future in a recent interview as The French Connection recently marked its 50th anniversary.
Friedkin’s comments about his future came while discussing the Oscar-winning film with NBC News. The NBC interview alone is worth it for his comments on shooting the film. He would not make some of the same decisions today. Of course, Friedkin also touches on his filmmaking future as well as the future of cinema. It’s possible that the pandemic already put us in this unfortunate direction but it ought to serve as a warning to everybody. I cannot stress this enough. When an Oscar-winning filmmaker says that the theatrical experience is going away, audiences should listen.
Upon being asked if he’s followed contemporary film culture, let alone seen anything noteworthy or decent, Friedkin did not mince words:
The theater experience is going away. There will be some theatrical releases, but the ones that will be most likely to survive are the big, bloated Marvel films and action films. They’re very successful. But your average little, meaningful film may not ever get to a theater.
I see that they opened the film Dune in theaters and on streaming. That’s a major change. I know a distributor, a very popular guy who has a great company. He told me that, within two years, we will go from 30,000 screens [in the U.S.] to under 1,000 screens.
I haven’t made that many films. I think, in a career that’s over 60 years, I don’t think I’ve made 20 films. If I can’t see a film in my mind’s eye, I won’t do the film. I turned down [Robert Altman’s] M*A*S*H because I couldn’t see it in my mind’s eye.
This should scare everyone. Filmmakers are already fighting for the 30,000 screens we have. What happens should we drop under 1,000 screens? It’ll mean the death of independent film as we know it. Cinema will certainly not be the same. The cinematic experience should be more than the big-budget spectacles. It’s bad enough we’re living in an era where indie films are fighting for screen time.
Because of films opening day-and-date, it appears Friedkin’s directing career is over. The Oscar-winning filmmaker’s response about directing again:
I don’t know. I’m not sure. I don’t have the motivation that I once had. I’m not excited to make a film that’s going to open on a streaming service.
When an Oscar-winning filmmaker gives you this sort of response, that tells you everything about where we’re headed as a culture. Least we forget how Wonder Woman filmmaker Patty Jenkins recently referred to streaming movies as “fake movies.”
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