“ Declaration Of IndiePenDance ™️
Continued ” © Cali Lili
(Note : I’ve edited this excerpt a bit as I think further about the many issues raised in the original letter but no big changes , only expansions on the scope )
Independent Artists are ‘First Responders’ to the Soul of Culture and an Endangered Species “
© by Cali Lili
I raised my hand a lot in grade school. Didn’t always know the answer but so pumped engaging on the questions. One day, I found myself in the hallway with the teacher explaining that my class-mates were bullying me because they were jealous. Jealous? Of me? “WHY would ANYONE be jealous of me?”
Raising my hand was a symptom of raising myself, surviving an abusive home, so my self esteem wasn’t always strong. I guess my hand raised in class was a plea to the multiverse, a signal for some lifeguard somewhere that I wanted to learn. To swim, not drown.
“Never stop raising your hand” my teacher said in a fervent, personal way. Even at that young age I understood someone must have laughed at her, tried to thwart her. She was warning me never to give in to the bullies as I would only betray myself. Her kindness and humanity, her warning about never limiting my own “possibility,” her willingness to be vulnerable yet strong were the underlying lessons.
CUT TO :
A few years later, I’ve been skipped grades and I’m the youngest kid in high school. Now I’m summoned to the principals’ office. Never been in any principals’ office, like, EVER. He’s yelling at me. My offense? I got accepted into early enrollment for University. I’m skipping the last years of high school, the diploma and the prom because University is offering me full scholarship. This principal guy is yelling at me because his school is “losing money” due to my leaving early. WTF.
CUT TO :
A few years later, I’m still raising my hand.
Dear Honorable Members of Congress,
Dear Honorable Executive Branch,
Everyone who cares about Art, Democracy, Civilization and Food,
Rescuing Independent Artists,
An Endangered Species,
Gentrification Of Culture
President Biden described America in one word : POSSIBILITY.
I’m addressing you because I believe we have succumbed to a dominance/superiority – supremacy – based bully culture thwarting our possibility. The rise of supremacists might be the symptom of that malady and we might find cures by addressing the underlying causes. Nourishing the body of our democracy instead of pushing ourselves beyond the native wellness of our inherent humanity.
DISTRIBUTION of Movies is Like BEEF … or Generally, FOOD
It may seem odd, but I’m referencing Senator Jon Testers’ Montana bill, protecting small meat producers from the monopoly of mega-distributors here. Obstruction & lack of fairness in distribution opportunities for independent artists is oddly similar to that of beef/food. This also reeks from our nations’ dependence on oil and victimization at the hands of conservative obstructionism including the supremacist misogyny, racism & homophobia on display in the current state of the so-called Supreme Court.
Like Ben Franklin, influenced by the “Enlightenment,” we can push back the Dark Ages by unlocking that forbidden door embracing the heart of our resistance, choosing disobedience over dogma, lest we become willing victims of so many contemporary “blue-beards.”
The parallels to distribution of film, music, arts, humanities & other cultural “products” (among our greatest “exports” like Democracy) could not be more pressing as we approach upcoming elections. Of course, the big-money-media dominance problem likely stems from an antitrust problem that maintains artificial hierarchies of false superiority, so deeply entrenched, for so long, in the highly influential cultural “media products” we all consume daily (and export too) which has infected our global cultural psyche, railroaded political discourse into a reality show circus and left us, the planet, where we are today.
I am trying to share what you may not know about the day to day details affecting the soul of an independent artists’ life, the vocation, the “calling” of culture-making. I’m trying to build a case for some possible solutions that might help us all.
I’m an independent artist who founded my own SustainableStudiO™️ where we make movies, music & publishing about social & climate justice themes with diverse crews. When a small independent filmmaker, like myself, used her meager savings along with some angel investments to make a tiny highly innovative movie & album with a diverse all female crew and then went “begging” to several film distributors, their response-echo was invariably :
“we (the distributors) do not accept unsolicited submissions
from producers we have not worked with in the past.”
So, these distributors are admitting, in writing, the insanity : that if a filmmaker like me, has not distributed a movie with them before, there is NO WAY to distribute my independently made, non-corporate film in any of the major American cinema or global marketplaces and get paid fairly in order to continue to do my own life’s work. The entertainment industry is arguably among our most lucrative ( for the few ) & exported sources of “American made product.” Or, is it ?
We Need a Thriving Artist Community Of Non-Billionaires
Distributor responses like these, were most devastating from so called (imposters) “indie” distributors who held out promise to those of us creating fresh projects unaware that status quo is already busy buying up all the possibilities while portraying themselves to the public as though they themselves are “indies,” thieving from actual independent artists like myself, as we scrape together pennies in spite of the “gentrification of culture.”
“Gentrification of Culture”
“ Independent Artists are ‘First Responders’ to the Soul of Culture
We represent the innocence,
the wilderness within. “ ©
Early on I recognized that my culture valued me as a “baby-maker” far more than it valued what I consider my “babies” : my works of art. Authentic independent artists need breathing room and respect, in the same way parents with young kids, senior citizens or students, are understood and valued in this culture. Yes this may seem a radical idea but guys, people have paid millions for the progeny of Van Gogh, Picasso, et. al … How about affording some grace for living artists? How about a similar tax structure for artists, like the great director John Huston initiated in Ireland?
Why are Corporate Entities allowed to appropriate / impersonate the important role of artists in culture? We have quietly slipped into an Entertainment Oligarchy where manufactured superiority rules. This “Dominance / Supremacist Fiscal Model” also reflects our dependence on the oil industry and victimhood to Conservative Obstructionism. This is us, in the fun-house fascist mirror we seem to find so fascinating. Lordy I hope we don’t find out for real. Popular culture tends to deride the “starving artist.” I’m asking us to consider, who is getting the last laugh and at what expense to democracy, freedom, civilization, the planet ?
Recently 60 minutes did a story about Wall Street taking over housing and making it almost impossible for people to own homes or pay rent in the 21st Century. The story aired on March 20, 2022. I’ve personally experienced the horrors of gentrification, when my own tiny sustainable, hand-built studio located in a sleepy little beach neighborhood was targeted by developers. We fought back. I’m asking us all to do the same.
Corporate talking heads blithely spout false equivalencies and casually endorse products like books, movies and other entertainment products on the so-called “news.” Our culture has long been indoctrinated into worshiping money and dominance, so we no longer show respect for authentic artists not “so-called-curated” by corporate gate-keepers. To me, that means we have lost respect for ourselves, doomed to be groomed in the worship of the corporation.
A compromised culture incubated, birthed, indoctrinated into gentrification
and “worshiping at the altar of wealth” will logically elevate notions like “superiority” and “dominance” at the expense of the necessary humanities that celebrate non-transactional human behaviors and values necessary to healthy culture and democracy. I am advocating for non-corporate, authentic independent artists but also for the simple concept of “truth.”
Who writes the A-List?
We need to support “artists for artist’s sake” which is to say “liberty” “freedom” and the “pursuit of happiness” for their own sake too. We need to secure “UNCURATED” yet remunerative spaces, for the artist in society. Europe and Canada maintain a healthy respect for artists, why can’t we?
Please help us all stay independent from the Cultural Industrial Complex, let’s create a “farmers’ market” for indie films & music. Let’s have an online space where seasoned directors & producers can directly communicate with newcomers like me. Let’s not limit our own possibilities, betray ourselves. Let us “raise our hands” in the global classroom, ask questions, not settle for the candidate, or the movie or album with the biggest budget, the loudest voice, the most cruel derision or worse, the indifference of apathy.
Big money media is so dominant over every screen, from big screens to cell-phones, that they are literally “authoring” – “dictating” not just our thoughts, but the very process of thinking. We need new common sense thinking and action addressing culture-making by independent artists – and also – the mechanics of why we need to vote for ourselves.
The independent artist, unowned, like a public servant who does not answer to big money, is never beholden to big money corporate conglomerates
and therefore represents the deep “infrastructure” of the soul of our nation,
without which, we collapse deeper into the transactional, corporate, oligarchical reality show culture that got us where we are today.
So Let’s make the possibility of a better tomorrow possible. “
Important Update For 2023 & beyond: Tech Security Matters For Fairness in the Digital Economy
Some of the needed legislation that the FTC , White House Office Of Technology and the Consumer Finance Bureau could help us with – involves unfair business practices employed online by both big & small competitors with access to nefarious technological techniques used to downgrade competitors’ SEO , things like “shadow-banning” or SEO hacking – techniques which can be employed by publicists or anyone with access to this tech to lower artists’ and other small business presence online.
This ties in with our need for national online security. Truly a national security issue that should not be left to each individual computer / phone user because frankly, we can’t keep up with it.
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