Found-Footage?! Let’s just give it a rest.

Rants & Raves is an opportunity for writers to express opinions, wax poetic and share thoughts about entertainment, politics, life, or whatever else they feel like talking about. These are strictly writer opinions and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of INFLUX Magazine, but rather provide an outlet to express one’s ideas.

by Martin Hafer

When I started writing for Influx Magazine, I was asked to review a found-footage film — a genre I’d successfully avoided like the plague. After watching the low budget catastrophe (that will remain unnamed to protect the guilty), I knew my initial distaste was very much warranted. For the uninitiated; the idea is that what you’re seeing is supposedly filmed by individuals with their own home-video camera or occasionally a film crew–and these people have since disappeared, leaving only the “footage” left to be “found,” and the resulting film, hopefully, gives some indication of what happened them. This concept worked amazingly well with The Blair Witch Project, and, although that movie cost a measly $60,000 to make, domestically it earned over $140 million [link]–making it among the most successful found-footage film of all time.  Not surprisingly, it spurred on a sequel (that no one seemed to particularly like) and many imitators. Too few of them have been any good, with Troll Hunter being among the exceptions.

Unfortunately, there is a downside to all this. It seems that for every Blair Witch or Troll Hunter, there are many hundreds, or more, of imitations that are NOT the least bit interesting or innovative.  Heck, most of them are just terrible.  Much of the problem is the same as what happened when Raiders of the Lost Ark debuted.  Suddenly, you had several Indiana Jones-like TV shows…which came and went very quickly.  What made the original so enjoyable was its innovation and freshness—and copies of copies of copies says anything but innovation.

So why are there so many found-footage films?  It’s the cost to make them, of course.  These are among the cheapest films to make because all you really need is a simple handy-cam, webcam or cellphone, and you don’t necessarily need to use professional actors, so costs are minimal.  But just because you can make such a film, doesn’t mean you should!  After all, the films all have lousy camerawork–as is the intention.  For me, they just give a headache and induce motion sickness!  And, a majority of them seem to feature some supernatural creature, be it a monster, aliens or whatever.  Many times, to save even more money, you don’t even get to see a clear picture of what we’re meant to find scary.

So here is the crux of my rant; young filmmakers, if you want to get noticed (and being noticed means earning the big bucks), try something original.  Remember that word? And I don’t mean an original zombie movie!! With a bazillion found-footage efforts in the last couple decades, there just isn’t much real money to be made. And how can you possibly expect to make a name for yourself if you’re all basically making the same movie?!  Making yet another tired found-footage film is just a cliché by now … and a sad one at that.