States of Independence
Dazed's ultimate guide to US creativity

Watch an episode of stoned slacker comedy High Maintainence

Get baked with cross-dressing lovebirds in this weed-obsessed webseries about a NYC dealer

As part of our new summer US project States of Independence we've invited our favourite 30 American curators, magazines, creatives and institutions to takeover Dazed for a day.

Tribeca – the film festival founded by Robert De Niro, among others – are parting the tide to make way for previously unheard voices in cinema through their film festival and Tribeca Film Institute. Today, they provide some insight into the future of film, expound on how they support artists year-round, and select some new talent to keep an eye on.

Directing duo Ben Sinclair & Katja Blichfeld know how to get shit done. Along with producer Russell Gregory, the husband-and-wife team created a LOLs New York webseries about a weed delivery man (called The Guy) as he parcels out mary jane to a rotating cast of funny characters. Each of the 13 episodes features a different set of characters looking for a bit of green in out-and-out Brooklyn. As part of Tribeca N.O.W., the webseries found a home amongst red-eyed audiences and Vimeo has promised to sink in some money for upcoming episodes. Here, the team behind the series muses on the benefits of a webseries and what it means to be an independent filmmaker.

What was the funniest moment making your episode "Rachel"?

Ben Sinclair: I don’t know if this was the funniest moment, but we had a good laugh when Dan was in those heels trying to walk across the room, take after take. 

Katja Blichfeld: Right? He was so committed. Also his ankles looked enviably dainty in those heels. 

What is this episode, "Rachel", about in your own words?

Ben Sinclair: "Rachel" is about a person who uses weed to deaden their anxiety about feeling inauthentic and ends up, in their own self-interest, trying out something that feels authentic to them and bringing it into the real world via The Guy. The resolution at the end is interesting because it’s not something that happens in the plot, it’s something that happens within the audience member.

What is the future of independent filmmaking (in your opinion)?

Ben Sinclair: Hopefully we’ll keep seeing the current trend of filmmakers taking things into their own hands and have a direct connection to the audience’s money. 

Katja Blichfeld: Self-distribution definitely plays a huge part in the future of independent filmmaking. Filmmakers are no longer limited to festivals as their only hope for gaining an audience. They can just go straight to the Internet, and make their own decisions about how to promote their work. 

Ben Sinclair: Yes, we’ll see post-film festival AA memberships decrease in the future.

“Be patient. Your time will come. Also, remember that limitations will force your hand towards creativity. “Plan Bs” and lucky accidents sometimes end up enhancing, or even defining your work, so go with the flow as much as you can” – Katja Blichfeld

What’s the easiest way to get a film made?

Katja Blichfeld: Work within the resources available to you, and scale your vision to those resources. 

Ben Sinclair: There are so many online tutorials about making films on a shoestring budget and, in general, so many resources available now that we’re past the time that you have to go to film school to become a filmmaker. And since the barrier to entry is lower than ever now, more people have resources to make films.

If you could give advice to a young filmmaker, what would it be?

Katja Blichfeld: Be patient. Your time will come if your work is good and you keep putting it out there. Also, remember that limitations will force your hand towards creativity. “Plan Bs” and lucky accidents sometimes end up enhancing, or even defining your work, so go with the flow as much as you can. 

Ben Sinclair: Yeah, be flexible. That’s number one. And be patient.

Still from "High Maintenance"
Still from "High Maintenance" Courtesy of Ben Sinclair & Katja Blichfeld

What does ‘independent film’ mean to you?

Ben Sinclair: Filmmaking motivated out of passion, not money.

Katja Blichfeld: Film that is free to cater to a very specific or limited audience.

What are the benefits to doing a web series as opposed to a feature film?

Ben Sinclair: The immediacy of turning out your product.  And with a web series, you don’t have to invest as deeply as a filmmaker. You can throw a bunch of shit at the wall and if it doesn’t work, you stop making episodes.

Katja Blichfeld: Also, you can play with form and length. With a web series, it doesn’t feel like the same set of expectations. People are willing to watch things with irregular run times.

Ben Sinclair: And you don’t have to secure as much financing.

Where do you think independent cinema will be in 5, 10 years time?

Katja Blichfeld: I think it will always be there. The studio system doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. Those guys want to dominate at the box office and have global reach and all that shit. 

Ben Sinclair: Right. It will still struggle but there will always be passionate people supporting it. 

Katja Blichfeld: The desire for good storytelling has always been there, and will continue to be. Now that filmmakers can self-distribute and crowd-source their financing, I think we’ll continue to see even more niche audiences feeling like they’re being catered to.  

Ben Sinclair: Still, I don’t think the internet will cause a proliferation in amazing independent films. I think David Lynch once said something like, "The pencil and paper didn’t create a great influx of novels." The people who are going to do it are going to do it because they can’t help themselves.

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