So, big news, a bold English director who shoots the films he wants to, on his own terms, released another film last week.
Ben Wheatley is an interesting guy. He’s worked bastard hard to carve out a position for himself where he can shoot without prejudice, backed by actors who get it.
His films are not exactly mainstream but so what?
It all boils down to the notion of success.
For a director, the next job is the definition of success. Sure, win a few awards and that’s nice, but when the dust settles what truly defines success is the pickup, it’s the speed with which you launch into your next project.
Many’s the director who’s announced themselves with a bang only to falter on their sophomore effort.
Ben Wheatley is not one of these. He’s bounded confidently from one mad film to the next completely confident in his method and completely confident that his films will be taken seriously, on their own merit because they are so uniquely wrapped around his own peculiar vision.
He doesn’t have much money but, perversely, that gives him total control.
In many ways it’s reminiscent of Roger Corman in the sixties. He completely rewrote the rulebook on successful filmmaking. Shoot fast, shoot cheap, minimise risk and jump quickly onto the next project.
With A Field In England Wheatley launched the film simultaneously in cinemas, on Film 4 and on VOD. This has been heavily covered already in national press so Google it if you must.
This strategy was called ‘risky’. Bollocks. It wasn’t risky at all. Smart. Yes. Risky. Not at all.
A Field in England is not a mainstream film. It’s not going to woo the Fast and Furious demographic. It has limited commercial appeal and would have been destined to be one of those strange directors’ passion pieces that you pick up for £2 on amazon because you feel you ought to watch it. Let’s be honest.
By going ballsy on distribution he ensured people were talking about it. He ensured there was a crucial opportunity to tip people from ‘probably won’t’ to ‘why not’ in their decision over whether to watch it.
So, did it work?
Well, I wouldn’t go and see it in the cinema. I probably wouldn’t have paid £2 for it on Amazon. I have a young family and my options to commit to a film are soooooo limited these days I just can’t stomache anything avant garde when I do carve out 90 mins spare. I did, however, watch A Field In England on Film4 on Friday night.
So, yes, it did work. They managed to persuade a knackered, jaded, filmmaker father to sit down and watch it.
I just felt I’d regret it if I didn’t.
It doesn’t matter what I thought of the film. What matters is that the filmmaker won. The filmmaker can still win.
And that’s great fucking news.