Kentucker Audley is a Memphis-based independent filmmaker, actor, writer and curator. He released his first film, Open Five (which the New Yorker called “One of the Top 25 Films of the Year”), in 2010, and posted the follow-up, Open Five 2, to the Web (where you can watch it free of charge) just yesterday. Working beyond the realm of traditional film distribution and the hype-driven festival circuit, Kentucker has become an important voice in American independent cinema over the last few years. His website NoBudge, which launched last year, showcases an inspiring collection of “truly independent,” carefully curated films. After you’ve had a chance to read the below interview and check out his lists, we highly recommend you spend some time exploring the below-the-radar-but-seriously-deserving work he’s featuring.
Derick Rhodes/Listgeeks: Before we get to NoBudge, what’s the latest on Open Five 2, your current film?
Kentucker Audley: It was just released on NoBudge – it was made for the web. I love the idea of making a film and then it’s immediately available. It’s very time-consuming and expensive submitting to festivals, traveling with the film, and chasing down distributors. And usually it doesn’t amount to a significant boost in exposure, or financial gain.
LG: In the last few years, you’ve written/directed/acted/curated. If you could, would you spend the bulk of your time in one of these areas exclusively, or is doing a little of everything important to you/your process?
KA: I like mixing it up. They all play off each other – maintaining each makes me better at the others. Running the blog keeps me up on new films. Acting gets me out of my comfort zone. Writing and directing is how it all started, my first love, how I defined myself initially.
LG: How did No Budge come about?
KA: I remember searching iTunes one day and on the front page was “The Ryan Reynolds Collection,” featuring, you guessed it, all of Ryan Reynolds’ movies! Seeing that was like touching a hot stove. I had that same recoil. That’s a common problem trying to find movies online or VOD. Search any major platform and try to find a truly indie film without having having to wade through Total Recall or The Watch. It’s like having to walk through McDonalds to get to the farmers market. It kills the vibe. After a couple of these experiences, I started to think it was important to create a home for only small films, free from Hollywood eyesores. I had no web experience, but keeping it simple was fine, so I just started a Tumblr blog and began posting under-the-radar films.
LG: On the one hand, it seems like it’s nearly impossible for microbudget/small-scale films to get conventional/mainstream attention these days, and on the other, there’s tons of great work being made, and it couldn’t be easier to push movies to the Internet. Do you think we’re at the point where the traditional film industry is going to (finally) be disrupted in a serious way?
KA: Yes, exactly. It’s incredibly easy to make your film available across the world, but getting it seen outside your friends is difficult. There is an unprecedented amount of great new films being made independently – you can make a professional looking film for $1,000, and therefore don’t have to be accountable to investors. But inevitably it’s harder to find the good stuff. That’s why I think curation is increasingly important, and why I wouldn’t be surprised to see more and more hyper-focused distribution/curation “labels” pop up. But something like NoBudge is not competing with the industry. It exists below it, in spite of it, to help validify or classify personal cinema. The subset of films I program on NoBudge are like mixtapes – they have a raw quality, their edges are jagged. Maybe they are experiments, maybe they are imperfect, and probably that’s the point, and what makes them intriguing. I think the digital transition is starting to settle, and despite inevitable power shifts, the traditional Hollywood structures are still very much in place. But that’s not concerning because I’m not trying to disrupt – I’m trying to build something new.
LG: If you had to select 3-4 seriously low budget films (made, say, for less than $20,000) as essential viewing from the last few years, which films come to mind first?
KA: Joe Swanberg and Frank V. Ross are two names that immediately come to mind. All of their films are interesting and made for nothing. I have a soft spot for filmmakers who keep making tiny movies. In the old days, you made one movie, and if it wasn’t a springboard to a full-fledged film career, that was it – you didn’t get another chance. Now, films are so cheap to make that you can make movie after movie. Joe Swanberg is one of the bigger names in indie cinema and until this summer, he didn’t make a movie for more than $20,000. Frank’s latest movie, Tiger Tail in Blue, is essential viewing, I’d say. Just in the last year, movies like Richard’s Wedding, and Marvin Seth and Stanley are funny and great. The first film we had on the site – Wishful, Sinful – I would classify as essential.
LG: For people trying to find films like those you showcase . . . apart from visiting festivals or coming across a site like yours – what’s the best way to go about discovering quality work at this point, from your perspective?
KA: A boutique distribution label called Factory 25 is putting out great, small movies. And the website Hammer to Nail has smart writing and covers only indie films. But overall, it’s a tough landscape for audiences who want to see edgy movies. Your average arthouse theater won’t touch small, or self-released films. If you don’t live in New York or LA, there’s very little opportunity to be exposed theatrically to an eclectic view of indie cinema. If your idea of arthouse ends with Fox Searchlight or Focus Features, or Sony Pictures Classics, I think you owe it to yourself to dig a little deeper. Most opportunities to watch true indie films now are online.
LG: What advice would you give to aspiring filmmakers who want to try to make a career out being involved with making their own movies?
KA: I would say try it as a hobby first. Don’t expect to make money. If you find enough meaning in the process itself, without regard to audience response or financial gain, then keep doing it, and eventually maybe there’s a way to make it career-wise. It’s an incredibly rich endeavor in of itself I think.