The House of Tomorrow, Independent Filmmaking, and the Struggle to Reach Young Audiences


Ivan Lacroix

Members of the Bronx Science Film Production Club work collaboratively.

Any objective third party would probably expect ‘The House of Tomorrow,’ a new indie film written and directed by Peter Livolsi, to appeal to a teenage audience.

The charming coming-of-age story stars Asa Butterfield as sixteen-year-old Sebastian, who rebels against his sheltered life in a futuristic dome when he’s introduced to punk music. The film is based on a 2010 Young Adult novel of the same name, and is Livolsi’s debut film as a director.

Despite the films seemingly near-perfect appeal for younger audiences, almost all attendees at recent Manhattan screening appeared to be older adults.

Considering the film features such young characters and is adapted from a young adult novel of the same name, ‘The House of Tomorrow’ serves as a particularly telling example of a larger trend in the independent film scene — the notable absence of a teen audience.

It is easy to forget how unique the cultural opportunities available in New York City really are, especially for native New Yorkers, but they can and should be taken advantage of by students as well as seasoned cinephiles. Engaging the next generation of audiences is essential to preserving vitality in the independent film scene. Young people taking interest in films without expensive, widespread releases or marketing campaigns is essential the future of indie filmmaking is uncertain.

Seeing filmmakers do really amazing work on a shoestring budget is empowering.

Students who take an interest in filmmaking are no stranger to the importance of independent film. Co-founder of the Film Production Club, Serena Wu ’19, says that indie movies inspire her in her own endeavors. “It’s one thing to see movies get made with a billion dollars or something, but you don’t really need all of that. For a student interested in production, seeing filmmakers do really amazing work on a shoestring budget is empowering.”

Bronx Science students find themselves uniquely situated in one of the most diverse, thriving artistic cities in the world. There’s an incredible array of theaters steeped in cinematic history where even the smallest movies can invariably find a home. New York also hosts film festivals throughout the year, including the Tribeca Film Festival in May, and NYU Tisch produces more than 5,000 student films each year.

However, indie audiences seem to be greying quickly, and New York art-house cinemas rarely see any high school students in attendance. Media is now more readily available for streaming (or pirating) than ever online, and giving up the time required for a trip to the theatre can be difficult to justify with a Bronx Science workload.

There are tricky preconceptions to content with when trying to draw in teenagers. “I just don’t feel like arty theaters are always accessible to students,” explained Lakhsmi Chatterjee ’18. “They can sometimes come off as kind of pretentious.”

‘The House of Tomorrow’ is exactly the kind of movie that can serve as a gateway for young adults to the indie scene. Short and sweet with a runtime of 85 minutes, it is a fresh alternative to blockbuster teen flicks that embodies some of the very best of what the contemporary independent sector has to offer students.

‘The House of Tomorrow’ opens at the Village East Cinema on April 27, 2017.