The air of anti-climax at today’s Venice Film Festival press conference for Paul Schrader’s The Canyons was palpable.

The film’s notorious star Lindsay Lohan failed to show. In her absence, the press conference room on the 3rd Floor of Venice’s Casino was far from full.

Director Schrader began the press conference by declaring himself  “a free man” after 16 months working with Lohan. He praised the American star’s performance (“this is her first really hard kind of straight role as opposed to romantic comedy and she stepped up to the mark”) but acknowledged it had been “an exhausting process” working with her.

Schrader also elaborated on the problems facing the film industry in the digital era. The Canyons, a sexually explicit thriller made on a tiny budget and aimed at an online audience, opens with footage of derelict cinemas.

“The film business is undergoing a systemic change,” the US director suggested.

He revealed that in the very first email he sent to writer Bret Easton Ellis about collaborating on The Canyons, he wrote “let’s make cinema for the post-theatrical era. I sensed that we were moving out of the theatrical era…and into the multi-platform era. I wanted to make it very clear to the audience that this film was made for VOD, it was made for multi-platforms because the movie theatres are closed.”

The Canyons has received very mixed notices in the US where it has polarised opinion.

Box Office Mojo reported that, as of Aug 25, the film (distributed by IFC) has made $49,494 from its US cinema release. However, it has also been reported that The Canyons, made for $150,000 according to its producers, is in profit thanks to its VOD performance.

No reason was given for Lohan’s non-appearance at the press conference. However, her co-star James Deen, a major name in the adult industry, was in Venice.

“It has been an educational ride seeing how everything works on this side of the industry,” the porn actor reflected on his first mainstream role.

“People have issues with honesty it seems. I have been spoiled by being part of this film because Bret (Easton Ellis), Paul (Schrader) and (producer) Braxton (Pope) all have a different form of thinking or so it seems from everyone else I’ve met in the mainstream industry…there are a lot of horrible human beings in the mainstream world.”