This past week, cinephiles around the world simultaneously cried out in horror as Warner Media announced it would be shutting down its streaming service Filmstruck on November 29th.
A service started by TCM in November, 2016, Filmstruck provided a vast array of classic, international, and independent films—not to mention the exclusive streaming hub of the Criterion Collection, the most influential name in world cinema curation.
This is not only a troubling announcement for avid movie-watchers, but also for aspiring filmmakers. Some of the industry’s most prominent and talented directors are very open about which films shaped the way they direct. Whether it be John Cassavetes’ influence on Barry Jenkins or the wide-reaching impact that directors like Andrei Tarkovsky and Ingmar Bergman have had on the world of cinema as a whole, their work has been nearly exclusively held in one place—Filmstruck. Rarely do you find one of these films streaming on Netflix or Amazon or Hulu.
We all benefit from having access to this database of film history. Some of the more prideful directors may not be willing to admit it, but every filmmaker has been influenced one way or another by someone else’s techniques and method.
Many young, aspiring filmmakers feel as if the only way to learn how to make a movie is through a prestigious film school, which is the furthest thing from the truth. There was a film school on Filmstruck—one that doesn’t cost $80,000, but, rather, $10.99 a month.
This isn’t a snobby argument that the films that we’re losing as a result of this decision are better than the Netflix Originals and Amazon Exclusives that are released every day (though, I feel they are—this is besides the point). But there is no denying that many of the films we will lose access to had an incontrovertible impact on modern cinema.
My fear is not that film lovers will resort to pirating—which will most certainly happen—but that a young, aspiring filmmaker may miss out on seeing a picture that inspires them and moves them towards greatness.
Would we be lucky enough to have a David Fincher without Alfred Hitchcock, or Alfonso Cuaron without Fellini? Not likely. Complete originality in film is overrated.
We can only hope that another company will recognize the noble cause of curating niche films, and are willing to cater to those who actively seek these films out. Come November 29th, there will be a lot of people downloading VPN services and learning how to torrent—not greedily out of want, but reluctantly and out of necessity.
Thanks, Warner Media.