Fukunaga On Working With Netflix. During a panel discussion at the Tribeca Film Festival, True Detective director, Cary Fukunaga opened up the process of shooting Beasts of No Nation and the anxiety that comes along with the film’s Netflix debut.
Fukunaga on pulling kids from the street to cast Beasts of No Nation,
[Abraham Attah] was essentially a street vendor before we shot this film… A month before production he went from knowing nothing about acting to turning into a kind of professional. It was astounding to watch. To cast, we gathered a bunch of kids we thought had potential and we’d do these theater workshops in a basement of a hotel. We’d try out scenes that were basically like the script and we’d improvise, see if these kids could play with a variety of emotions, actions that would take place in the story. In the end, I gave almost no direction to these kids when we were shooting, apart from blocking shots.
Fukunaga on being excited and nervous about Beast of No Nations Netflix release,
The exciting part about this release is that more people are going to see it than if it had a more traditional release. You have a film with basically no white people. The movie is a difficult subject. It could easily become one of those films that no one watches because it’s so serious. But with the force of Netflix behind it, it’ll be in people’s faces enough where people will give it a try. And I think once they start watching it, hopefully they’ll be consumed by it. The difficult part of defining yourself as a filmmaker is the concept of a day-and-date release really strikes the fear of God in your heart that people are actually going to still go to the cinema to watch the film. Because, of course, they could watch it for free on their laptops. But it was designed to be a film experienced in a group like this, collectively with strangers, in the dark. Netflix’s big thing is consumer choice. So as audiences start to make that choice, and if they continue to make that choice to just watch online, then the cinema experience will be reserved only for comic book movies. And that is, in a way, the biggest democratic challenge for an art form: you have to ask the audience to be aware of the fact that they are just as responsible for the death of cinema as the people who make it.
While many movie industry pundits are standing on hilltops, declaring the end is nigh, Fukunaga is taking an assertive and levelheaded approach to the changing entertainment industry landscape. Fukunaga and Netflix have raised the ire of several major movie theater chains by launching Beasts of No Nation on Netflix, a slap in the face of the standard 90-day exclusivity window. Fukunaga isn’t trying to set a precedent for film distribution so much as make sure that his film’s “difficult subject matter” reaches the largest possible audience.
Fukunaga raises an interesting point when he mentions that the audience must be aware of their accountability in the death of cinema. It’s kind of a chicken or the egg scenario. Are audiences choosing to avoid movie theaters until the release of films like The Avengers or are they avoiding theaters because Hollywood is hemorrhaging nothing but sequels, reboots and remakes to compete with The Avengers?
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