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Independent Films Offer Hope for Movie Industry, Says Prof. Gordon Walters

Independent Films Offer Hope for Movie Industry, Says Prof. Gordon Walters

February 2, 1987

gordon walters.jpgFebruary 2, 1987, Greencastle, Ind. - The big Hollywood studios, now owned by even larger Fortune 500 companies, are incapable of producing creative movies because bottom-line profits are the only consideration, says a DePauw University professor who studies film trends. Gordon Walters believes the industry's salvation is in independent, "little" movie directors working outside the mainstream, taking risks and producing films such as Something Wild, Blue Velvet and Elephant Man.

"A big studio today can't make a creative film because they're all owned by big corporations and the decision about what gets made is done by Harvard M.B.A.s who don't know anything about film-making," says Dr. Walters, a professor of French at DePauw who teaches courses in film study and whose film criticism has been published. Modern Hollywood is playing it safe by producing formula films that imitate previous hit movies and/or use "bankable" stars.

Popcorn Movie Ticket Film.jpg"One of the redeeming aspects today is the growth and productivity of the independents not associated with big studios," asserts the professor. "My hope for the future is that movies will be made by those who love movies and the art form."

Throughout history, "trashy" movies have been more the rule than the exception, Walters admits. "The ratio of art-to-trash is has always been about 10-to-1; for every movie that's worth it, there are 10 trashy ones," he declares.

What makes a modern movie "trashy"? Walters says it probably contains one or more of the following flaws:

  • Gratuitous violence and sex: The worst offenders are "slash" films, says the professor, citing Basket Case, The Evil Dead and I Spit on Your Grave as the worst of the worst. With gratuitous sex, the scenes are placed in films simply to arouse and add nothing either to the story or character development. "It's like they're saying 'Well, we're going to break here for the mandatory five minutes of sex,'" the professorEAST COLLEGE TOWER says.
  • Films designed to market stars: "Too many directors begin with a star and then go after a script to fit them," he states. "Out of Africa was a good example of the star system syndrome where script and story are sacrificed to promote popular stars."
  • Films that exploit a population segment: "This is the worst kind of formula film-making," Walters declares, and points to teen films as an example. "To make this film, all you need is some adolescents with adjustment problems, adults who are stupid, sex, drugs and rock music."
  • Sequels: Walters callst them a form of exploitation. "It's a sign that Hollywood responds to what we criticize most in television. The worst example is the Friday the 13th series."

Read more about Dr. Walters in this previous story.