It’s award season…go and see a great independent film…

It’s award season…go and see a great independent film…

Little films win big awards…reminding us yet again that quality is not about money, it’s not about huge effects and franchises or building ‘brands’.

Characters are what we care about and stories that are relevant to us, to our experiences and our lives. That doesn’t mean that all we want to see are films about going to the grocery store, or doing our taxes. What it does mean is that films that are character driven, that move through people’s lives as we discover, as they do, their purpose at the moment we are with them, these are the most compelling, the most memorable and in the end the most meaningful.

Frankly these stories could take place in our back garden, in ancient Rome or in a rocket to the moon, it’s really only the ‘why’ that sets them apart.

What does this mean for us very, very independent filmmakers?

I’ve certainly seen a couple of films this year that I could have made a much better job of in several different ways. I have also seen films that I have sat through with my eyes wide and my mouth open…which is the best audience reaction you can get from me!

We are all artists and as such we should learn from and be inspired by each other. Watching the best, and even sometimes the worst films can be both eye opening and reassuring.

Writers read other writers, painters study other painters and filmmakers should see films…

Quintin Tarantino famously said, “I didn’t go to film school I went to films.”

So do yourself a huge favor and make a point of tracking down these strong, small and important independent films. I know it’s not always easy to find them, ridiculously enough.

Some years I have missed films that end up getting many, many nominations purely because they are shown at only a few screens across the city for only a few days…in LA, supposedly the center of the filmmaking universe…distributers!!!

But it’s worth the effort, even in this cold and damp LA winter…

Netflix will be carrying a surprising amount of these worthwhile films, especially if they were released earlier in the year.

Particular favorite films of mine this year are, both big and small:

The Revenant, Macbeth, Listen Up Philip, Brooklyn, Diary of a Teenage Girl, Anomalisa, Mad Max Fury Road, Carol, Star Wars, Episode VII, It Follows, The Martian, What We Do in the Shadows, Sicario, Suffragette, Ex Machina, Tangerine, Kurt Cobain:Montage of Heck, Going Clear, Room, Truth, Spotlight, Joy.

It’s award season of course, and we are all a buzz predicting and comparing and lamenting on how disappointing one film was or spectacular another. If you are anything like me, and have a wide variety of cinematic interests, you will get as excited at the Golden Globe and Oscar nominations as you do at the Independent Spirit Awards. It’s all glorious fluff of course, and political pandering and PR maneuvering, but it’s still a bit wonderful all the same.

I have my screeners trickling in, and invitations to screenings and events rattle around my inbox either directly or via friends and it’s all very lovely and slightly stressful making sure I see everything I wanted or needed to see to feel up to date and qualified to make my predictions.

Who can see everything?!

And I have a terrible memory, so it’s the films that I remember vividly and that flash upon my mind in unexpected moments that mean the most, and that doesn’t always mean they struck me that way when I first saw them. Art is like that isn’t it…creeping up on you when you least expect it…impacting us in ways we didn’t quite expect?

Cinema of every kind and at every level can move us and change us and remind us that we are all much more alike than we are not. An important thing to keep in mind in these days of polarizing and divisive rhetoric and shockingly complacent anger at every key click.

Forget all that rubbish and go and see a film…sit quietly in your seat…lean back, open your eyes and ears and let go…be changed, be touched, be human.


Samantha Simmonds-Ronceros
Author: Samantha Simmonds-Ronceros

Samantha Simmonds-Ronceros is a Theatre and Food Writer and Filmmaker living in Los Angeles.