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Author Topic:   Independent Film
indiedan
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posted November 12, 2008 01:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message
Indie Filmmakers Hit Hard By Economic Crisis

Although the major studios continue to maintain that they are likely to feel little impact from the current economic downturn, the outlook continues to grow bleaker for independent producers. Movie consultant Jeff Dowd, who found a buyer for the singularly successful The Blair Witch Project, told Bloomberg News that independent filmmakers "are having a harder time getting money at the $500,000, $1 million level than they were a year ago." He said he expects to see a significant drop in the number of independent movies next year, following more than a decade of growth. Bloomberg cited the case of producer-writer-director Neil Schulman, who used the equity in a second home in Nevada to finance his film, Lady Magdalene's, starring Nichelle Nichols of Star Trek fame. He has been unable to find a distributor for the film and now, with the collapse of the real estate market, he says that his equity in the home has been wiped out -- leaving Schulman with a hefty monthly payment to cover the debt he incurred in making his film.

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a
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posted March 03, 2009 01:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for a   Click Here to Email a     Edit/Delete Message
Best Places to Live in 2009

The 25 best cities in the U.S. to ride it out as an independent moviemaker this year

by MovieMaker Staff
http://www.moviemaker.com/ locations/article/top_25_movie_cities_2009_best_places_to_make_movies_live_20090218/


Recession. Gas prices. Cost of living. Food prices. Unemployment rate. Home values. Median salary. Sub prime crisis. Government bailout.

They’re familiar phrases we read in the paper, see splashed around the Internet and hear on the radio and television all day, everyday. What’s going to happen this year? Will things get better with the new administration? How will it all play out? And in the meantime, what’s a moviemaker to do? Maybe the most important thing, whether you’re just starting out or ready to make a change, is to identify the most effective place to live.

Each year MM surveys the country to find the areas you’ll be happiest to call home if you call yourself a moviemaker. This time we’re doing things a little differently—first, by opening up the playing field to 25 cities instead of 10 and, second, by focusing on those places that offer the perfect combination of employment opportunities, reasonable costs of living, strong quality of life, affordable home prices and, of course, financial incentives.

We arrived at the final list of 25 only after months of research, interviews and calculations which, in this fast-changing economy, were particularly challenging. We got there by using a formula into which we fed the following data: Cost of living, average salary, unemployment rate, job growth, median home price and crime rate. Next, we added in the number of film schools, festivals, movie-related vendors and local movie theaters. We then factored in the current production scene, i.e. production days, size of talent pool. Extra credit was given for cities doing something unique—like special “green” efforts. Finally, we tallied in the financial incentives for shooting in a particular area.

While incentives have always been an important part of our rankings, they were a more complicated matter in this year’s survey, as many cities are considering reducing or eliminating incentives in an effort to reflect these uncertain times. On the other hand, places such as Michigan, which recently announced the nation’s most aggressive incentive plan, found their way onto the list for the first time because of these cost benefits.

The end result is a list of 25 cities nationwide—some of them expected (Austin, Albuquerque), some of them surprising (Boise, Des Moines)—that offer moviemakers the best all-around chance of finding success with their art during these tough economic times.

Here, then, is MM’s ninth annual ranking of the country’s top movie cities:

1. Chicago, IL
2. Atlanta, GA
3. New York, NY
4. Shreveport, LA
5. Albuquerque, NM
6. Boston, MA
7. Stamford, CT
8. Memphis, TN
9. Milwaukee, WI
10. Austin, TX
11. Detroit, MI
12. Miami, FL
13. Seattle, WA
14. Portland, OR
15. Philadelphia, PA
16. Sedona, AZ
17. Salt Lake City, UT
18. Wilmington, NC
19. Boise, ID
20. Denver, CO
21. Bozeman, MT
22. Wichita, KS
23. San Diego, CA
24. Richmond, VA
25. Des Moines, IA

Honorable Mentions:

*San Antonio, TX

*Lexington, KY

*Sheridan, WY

*Baltimore, MD

*Portsmouth, NH

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indiedan
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posted March 09, 2009 08:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message
Roberts Takes On Indie Comedy

9 March 2009 5:05 AM, PDT

Hollywood actress Julia Roberts has thrown her weight behind a new movie project - taking on a producer role in an upcoming independent comedy.

The Oscar winner will produce Jesus Henry Christ, based on a Student Academy Award-winning short film.

The story revolves around a boy conceived in a laboratory petri dish and his subsequent search for his biological father.

The film will be directed by Dennis Lee, who helmed the original 2003 short, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Roberts, who also worked with Lee on upcoming movie Fireflies in the Garden, is not planning to star in the project - opting instead for a behind-the-scenes role.

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HollywoodProducer
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posted June 11, 2009 10:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for HollywoodProducer   Click Here to Email HollywoodProducer     Edit/Delete Message
Indie Filmmaking: 35 Tips From Experts

Some of them are obvious or secret or genius or lame. But they came out of the mouths of the experts at last weekend's "Produced By" Conference during panels devoted to the financing, production, and distribution of independent films and documentaries. Here are the 35 tips compiled by a DHD stringer:

1. Change the title of your indie film to begin with an “A” or a number to get higher placement on iTunes.

2. “Experiment and try new ways of getting your indie film out there.”

3. Clark Hallren, Managing Director of the Entertainment Industries Group for JP Morgan Securities warned, “Guys it’s tough. Phenomenal events that statistically cannot happen did happen: we’re at an interesting point in the business.”

4. Lisa Nitti of Greenberg Traurig offered a financing checklist and the necessary groundwork that indie producers must complete to have a shot at getting money: a preliminary financing plan, a solid budget and schedule, and an understanding of Hollywood guild requirements.

5. Foreign pre-sales are not as readily available as in years past.

6. Established indie producers with a successful track record have a somewhat easier time than newcomers in getting attention from international sales companies.

7. Genre always makes a difference. Forget costume dramas and spoofs.

8. “Indie producers must have names that mean something to TV worldwide; [before pre-sales can be made] international distributors need time to talk to TV folks who are covering 60%-70% of minimum guarantees,” said Edward Noeltner, President of Cinema Management Group.

9. The number of banks involved in indie film financing has constricted and greatly impacted funds available. Previous to the financial market meltdown, there were 30 to 35 players. That number has been cut by 2/3s.

10. At the core: financiers basically want a return on their investment. “I encourage indie producers to understand their film’s audience as much as they can. Understand what you mean when you pitch project. I want to support a film, but I care about capital and return on that capital. I just want to get my money back,” explained banker Hallren.

11. Risk tolerance by investors is at an all-time low. "We’re all in a back-to-basics environment,” advised Danny Mandel, Managing Director of Newbridge Film Capital. “We won't return to where we were; now investors are all about preservation of capital.”

12. Mandel predicted that by 2010 indieprods could see more capital available.

13. In indie producers favor: distributors will always need new product to fill pipelines.

14. At the Cannes Festival, Mandel met five international distributors who wanted a movie with "Wedding" in the title.

15. New financing models are having some success, says Danae Ringelmann, Co-Founder of IndieGoGo. She cited documentary producer Robert Greenwald as an example of a new paradigm: Greenwald needed $200,000 to finance his Iraq For Sale. He turned to his substantial email distribution list. Nine days and four emails later, he had raised $276,000. Think of it as “raising money Obama-style,” suggested Ringelmann.

16. Build a fan base for an indie film before it’s even made.

17. The disappearance of a number of local and regional film critics is a major concern because it makes it tough to launch an indie movie, noted Lawrence Bender, the Oscar-winning indie producer of Pulp Fiction, An Inconvenient Truth, and the upcoming Quentin Tarantino film Inglourious Basterds. So Bender said indie filmmakers must now be content with “tweets and the craziest things,” but not the critical insights of years past.

18. Roger Corman, the quintessential indie producer (Death Race 2000, Grand Theft Auto, Rock N' Roll High School) sees the Internet as a “ray of hope” for indie producers.

19. Corman envisions a day when distributors and theaters are gone and an ASCAP-type organization collects revenues for indie producers.

20. Concensus advice on how to get an indie film made: never give up.

21. Finding a documentary subject that’s worth a two to four year commitment comes down to “you know it when you see it,” related Marina Zenovich, Director/Producer/Co-Writer of Roman Polanski: Wanted And Desired, Director/Producer of Who Is Bernard Tapie?, Director/Producer of Independents Day Zenovich.

22. “Always good to get an idea from a financier,” quipped Davis Guggenheim, Director/Producer of It Might Get Loud, Gracie, and Director/Executive Producer of An Inconvenient Truth. Guggenheim was lucky enough to be pitched by financier Thomas Tull who asked, “Do you like the electric guitar?"

23. RJ Cutler, Filmmaker and President of Actual Reality Pictures (The September Issue, The War Room) noted that marketing and outreach for every documentary film is something of a riddle, but advised producers to investigate ancillary revenues. He pointed to Morgan Spurlock who had significant returns in the educational marketplace for his feature Super Size Me, which he cut down to an hour and created an accompanying curriculum and guide.

24. Before an indie film gets to the marketplace, producers must know who the audience is for the film, counseled Dennis Rice, Founder of Visio' Entertainment. “If you can’t market your film, you shouldn’t make it. If there’s no audience, you can’t get a return on investment.”

25. Once an indie producer knows who the film’s audience is, reaching them cost effectively is the next hurdle.

26. There’s no longer a one size fits all model for indie distribution; patterns and windows are changing as are the means of distribution. New strategies include video-on-demand, checkerboard release patterns, digital downloads via iTunes.

27. “There are at least 10 distribution structures out there, and new companies popping up,” offered Liesl Copland of William Morris Endeavor Entertainment's Global Finance and Distribution Group. Among the new companies she cited: Big Beach, End Game, and Zip Line. All have been smart about marketing spends, she says.

28. Indie producers need to move past the old distribution model and learn from experimentation.

29. Copland advised indie producers to think about own their own consumer habits when making movies in this kind of market “though clarity hasn’t surfaced in new revenue streams”.

30. Ted Mundorff, CEO of Landmark Theatres, sees VOD pre-release and then theatrical release is working for some indie titles like Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience. (Bubble ignited the trend. But Mundroff worries about cable companies saturating the market with titles.)

31. David Straus, Co-Founder and CEO of Withoutabox (a division of IMDb.com), implored indie producers to find ways to connect directly to audiences. “You don’t have to throw a ton of money to push a film to an audience; in an ideal world, the audience pulls film to them.”

32. Aggregating an audience is the lynchpin of this new world order. But is it something that impresses banks enough to lend money? Doubtful.

33. It’s not all doom and gloom despite the disappearance of studio-backed indie film divisions like Warner Independent.

34. There is opportunity for indie producers as long as they don’t get hung up on a 35mm theatrical film release. Ira Deutchman, CEO of Emerging Pictures, explained: “With digital, we can begin to play around with release patterns.”

35. Deutchman also recommended that indie producers “aggregate your communities.” He finds that his network of theaters does well with Jewish, gay-themed and French films as well as those that are spiritual and have "Wedding" in the title.

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indiedan
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posted June 15, 2009 03:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message
Company To Revive Indie Film Production

15 June 2009 11:46 AM, PDT

At a time when financing is drying up and cutbacks are affecting all of the major players in Hollywood, a group of entertainment professionals has set up shop in New York with plans to finance and distribute 12 low-budget moves a year, the New York Times reported today (Monday). Their company, Df Indie Studios plans to focus on films with budgets of up to $10 million. It is led by CEO Mary E. Dickinson and company President Charlene Fisher, who, the Times said, have signed up an advisory group including Oscar-winning actress Tilda Swinton; NBC co-chairman Ben Silverman; Ira Deutchman, a longtime distribution expert and producer; and John Hadity, a former production executive at Miramax.

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indiedan
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posted July 13, 2009 08:32 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message
Banderas Warns Indie Filmmakers To Prepare For Tough Times

13 July 2009 1:06 AM, PDT

Antonio Banderas fears independent filmmakers are set for a struggle - because cash-strapped investors are refusing to gamble on risky movie projects.

The Spanish actor has just screened his directorial debut, El Camino de los Ingleses, at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival in the Czech Republic - and admits he had to fight for the cash to get the low-budget film off the ground.

Banderas, who has a film production company based in Malaga, Spain - blames the world economic crisis on the troubles lying in store for independent cinema, explaining, "The crisis has taken us by surprise and it is stabbing us in the back.

"It is very difficult to get a penny from a bank now. We are in a difficult situation."

But the actor/director, who was presented with the festival's President's Award on Saturday, insists he won't stop making indie films - he's currently seeking funding for a screenplay he has written about "the last king of the Arabs in the ninth century".

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HollywoodProducer
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posted August 20, 2009 09:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for HollywoodProducer   Click Here to Email HollywoodProducer     Edit/Delete Message
good story about the struggle of the independent producers (well, the Weinsteins)
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/16/business/media/16wein.html?_r=1

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indiedan
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posted September 29, 2009 04:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message
Indie Future: Mechanic Offers Answers
Thompson on Hollywood

Always one of the smarter players in Hollywood, ex-Fox studio chairman Bill Mechanic (now owner of the production company Pandemonium LLC) gave a keynote speech Tuesday morning on the future of the indies at the Independent Film & Television Alliance Production Conference. Is he looking for a job (there’s a big opening at Disney, where he used to run home video)? Maybe.

In any case, his analysis of what’s going on is strong. As always, Mechanic fights for the interesting, challenging and original over standard-issue formula fare:

It’s disrespectful if not downright dumb to think audiences can’t tell the difference between the original, which occasionally might even have some fresh faces, and the copy, which almost always is populated with retreads. It’s like thinking you can sell yesterday’s news under a different banner.

AND

While use of the internet and video games have dominated leisure time activities, movie consumption is down or flat over the same period. And, more to the point, you can see that there is a 21% drop in film going amongst the core target audience and a 24% drop in the next key category, 25-39 year olds.

And yes, these charts beg another question: if the audiences are shifting, why isn’t the product shifting as well. Name 5 mainstream films this year that successfully targeted an over-30 year audience. In that way, Hollywood in the broadest sense of the word is much like Detroit. It’s a manufacturer’s mentality that reigns, seemingly indifferent to the consumers it serves. Ignore whether the consumer likes our product as long as they buy it.

Market it and they will come.

The full text is on the jump.

I was asked to address you this morning with my observations on the present as well as the future state of Independent Production.

But before I begin, I have to relate the story of a close friend of mine, who’s a leading heart surgeon.

He said he’d recently been involved in a very trying and emotional six hour piece of open heart surgery where he and a team of people fought valiantly but unsuccessfully to save a patient.

Afterwards, my friend entered the Doctor’s locker room where one of his colleagues was staring absently into the void, clearly spent from the ordeal. He tried to cheer him up but the colleague turned to him and asked why he was not more distraught.

My friend answered with a smile:

At least we weren’t asked to save Independent Production.

Well, the truth be told, we may not be heart patients but we aren’t that far away. We have too many insignificant movies clogging our distribution channels. Tightening economic conditions are sending sharp pains through our systems. Our blood supply from heretofore vibrant markets such as DVD and TV seemingly have evaporated in front of our eyes.

The question we must as is if the condition is fatal.

In all candor I would say only to some.

Those who ignore the warning signs. Who don’t adjust to the threatening conditions. Those producers and distributors who pretend there is nothing wrong.

9 years ago, I was a healthy and occasionally happy studio executive. I had taken Fox over a 7 year period from a doormat to the #1 studio and before that had spent 9 years at Disney building a then-dormant minor player into a muscular and, for the first time in its history, a real force in the studio world. I left Fox with 5 of the Top 10 films in history and departed Disney with 19 of the Top 20 Videos ever and as the #1 International distributor.

I had fought with Rupert Murdoch over my desire to create a business for Fox in the world of animation. He felt no one could compete with Disney. Nevertheless I started up Fox Animation. ANASTASIA was a start, it made money. TITAN AE a misstep, and lost. Even though that is the nature of the business, that not everything works, he didn’t want to wait for ICE AGE to finish production. I didn’t have a foot out of the door before Fox tried to sell off the film. Luckily for them, they couldn’t get a deal done.

At the same time, Peter Chernin thought I was taking too much of a chance with X MEN. He called it my $70mm art film, since everyone knew that not only were comic book movies dead but you certainly couldn’t start one in a concentration camp. That wasn’t comic book fun. Maybe not, but most comic books are dark, so it was a question of being relevant, of being grounded.

Ironically, both films have lasted longer at Fox than I did and are now the most valuable franchises in the history of that studio, throwing off billions of dollars of profit.

But they also were, along with FIGHT CLUB, the leading reasons I was shown the door. My bosses couldn’t deal with the unconventional choices like those and others such as BRAVEHEART and THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY because the films weren’t pre-sold and thus seemed less predictable. This despite the fact that these unconventional movies guided Fox to the 5 best years in its history.

When I left, a few of the other Majors called to see if I were interested in running their shops. I thought instead it was time to do things on my own, to not work for companies that no longer wanted to be in the film business, that no longer thought enough about the future to not gum it up. Easier to raise money and worry only about making good movies which could make money.

Needless to say I was naïve. I thought raising money would be easy. I didn’t exactly foresee such things as the Silicon Valley bubble bursting, or the economic meltdown, or the Madof scandal. But then I guess the Captain of the Titanic thought the Atlantic was smooth sailing. And Batman thought the Joker would be a laugh.

When I first made the decision to go off on my own, Larry Gordon said to me something that I’ve never forgotten. He said running a studio is a great job but a terrible life. Producing is a great life but a terrible job.

9 years as an independent producer provides a great perspective. It also cause heart palpitations.

Here’s the one key thing I’ve learned: there is no such thing as an independent producer. There are only dependent producers.

Dependent on distributors, financiers, and bankers, and distribution channels that understand the needs of the market even less than the corporations that own the studios.

Which makes a truly independent producer even more truly dependent because the alternatives to the studio system are in many ways more difficult, not easier.

Perhaps even more than the studios, those with the controls over whether or not a movie gets made independent of the studios do so almost with less attention to the movie itself.

Part of that is due to outsiders who always seem to come into the business believing they can do better and yet rarely have an idea of what they are doing. Attorneys and financial analysts picking movies is a recipe for disaster. They can tell you all day long what hasn’t recently worked, but in truth, haven’t the experience or the knowledge to do anything different than has already been done.

That’s been the oddest lesson of this period for me. That the independent world, which should be aiming to do things better and different from the Studios, doesn’t have that as a mandate at all. If anything, the only thing that independent distributors and financiers look for is the SAME. Maybe costing a little less than the Majors, but they want what the Studios want, or in FIGHT CLUB speak, they want copies of a copy.

I now understand that unconventional choices like X MEN and ICE AGE would barely have a prayer getting made independently. Why? Because at the time, they didn’t look like anything else.

It’s disrespectful if not downright dumb to think audiences can’t tell the difference between the original, which occasionally might even have some fresh faces, and the copy, which almost always is populated with retreads. It’s like thinking you can sell yesterday’s news under a different banner.

The exception to the rule is DISTRICT 9, which didn’t try to compete with the Majors with special effects or stars or plot. Instead of feeling recycled, it was fresh and is now one of the year’s best and most successful pictures. But lot of credit has to go to Peter Jackson since it was undoubtedly his clout that got the film made.

Following the lead of the Majors, presumes that they know what they want. It presumes they have a fix on their audiences.

I would say that’s anything but true. Admissions are down over the past few years and, perhaps most troubling, the audience that Hollywood spends the majority of time focusing on, the under 25’s, are the ones finding other things to do.

Take a look at this shift over the past decade. While use of the internet and video games have dominated leisure time activities, movie consumption is down or flat over the same period. And, more to the point, you can see that there is a 21% drop in film going amongst the core target audience and a 24% drop in the next key category, 25-39 year olds.

And yes, these charts beg another question: if the audiences are shifting, why isn’t the product shifting as well. Name 5 mainstream films this year that successfully targeted an over-30 year audience.

In that way, Hollywood in the broadest sense of the word is much like Detroit. It’s a manufacturer’s mentality that reigns, seemingly indifferent to the consumers it serves. Ignore whether the consumer likes our product as long as they buy it.

Market it and they will come.

And don’t worry if they don’t come back. Accept 60% drop off rates as the norm, saying it’s all about wide openings.

3 years ago the Lakers all-but sold out every game even though they had a lousy team. Since Jerry Buss is a smart owner, he knew if he didn’t fix things, no shows would eventually turn into season ticket non-renewals. He did what he needed to do to make it the hottest ticket in town again and a no-show today is a no-no.

When was the last time you heard anyone either from a studio or an independent talking about improving their product, of creating positive buzz and expanding the audience?

Here’s one basic question to ask yourself: If the most popular film in history was TITANIC and it did so by weaving together interest in all demographic pockets as well as pulling in non-film goers, why in the last 12 years has no attempted to do the same?

TITANIC was #1 at the box office for 15 consecutive weeks. It not only spurred on record year in theatrical attendance, and had the biggest video in history, but also generated the biggest Oscar telecast in years. A good movie, like a good team in sports, makes everything around it better.

An independent couldn’t and shouldn’t make movies of that scale but it should make movies as individualistic and compelling. Certainly there are good examples among some of the smaller independent films—-SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE being an easy choice—that actually do stand out and succeed because of their quality and their uniqueness.

But as you can see from these next few charts, the independent world was no more concerned with the consumer than the studios. With the influx of hedge fund money, the past decade saw a glutting of product, again most of it with no idea of who it was for or how it could be sold. Whether some of these movies had artistic integrity or not, there is no question there was no audience appeal.

From the low water mark of 1990, there has been a 50% increase in the number of pictures and even since 2000, nearly a 25% increase. And most of the influx came from non-Majors, rising from 150 in 1990 to 450 in 2008. That, my friends, is insanity.

Remember that through this entire period, the only growth at the box office has been inflationary, which means more films were fighting for a share of a flat box office. Over approximately this same period, the biggest hits took even a greater share of the box office pie, meaning the independents, even with a vastly greater number of releases, are taking a dramatically smaller percentage of the available money.

Let me get out the rest of the bad news, though I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. The next 2-3 years will be even worse, not because of the flood of new releases, since that is already abating, but rather due to the effect the over saturation has had combined with the economic downturn.

New money is going to be hard, if not impossible to find. Ad sales are down, so TV networks around the world, other than cable, aren’t buying. Add in a confused video market, and it’s going to be tough.

To my mind, the next few years will be about survival.

If it’s any consolation, it will be harder on the Studios than the independents. Not only is it harder for big companies to change, to adapt, but there are legacy issues in terms of personnel. And within the next few years, their big market advantage, the bricks and mortar of their distribution operations, will become a disadvantage in the democratic age of digital. I would assume at least 2 of the Majors to be sold or consolidated by the middle of the decade.

Before I turn to why I don’t think this is all fatal—and in fact, might be a boon—let me address one more item, video. I get asked a lot if the problems are systemic. My answer is not necessarily. That we would reach a point of maturation in DVD is natural and logical, but too much of the downturn is completely self-imposed.

Like much of the bad decision making that has helped take a lot of the profit out of the business, the air was let out of the tires by the studios themselves. No top management of a studio really cared what was going on over the past few years other than was their budget being met.

No one asked whether their units should be pushing Blu-Ray in the face of an economic melt-down or even whether or not Blu-Ray was going to be the next big ap to the general consumer. They simply accepted the idea that they could resell their libraries at higher prices.

So no one asked what impact dropping the price on their existing DVD’s would have. I mean if I can buy TITANIC for under $5 in some stores, why am I so eager then to rush out to pay $30 or so when it’s released on Blu Ray? Is the quality difference that great? How many formats are yet to come?

No one asked what buying great movies at cheap prices would do to new releases, which may not be as great. Give a consumer with less expendable dollars a choice between LEGALLY BLONDE for $5 or ALL ABOUT STEVE for $20 or $30, which do I want to buy?

Simply said, the studios have destroyed the price-value relationship in video, particularly when low priced rental alternatives have sprung up everywhere.

And then add in the absolute flooding of TV product from the beginning of time into the market, and you have the conditions that have absolutely killed video as the key profit center of new movies.

Ok, so in the face of all this, why can I say this is all good news? Because a lot of waste is going to be cleared from the marketplace. Excess product will go away, the people who don’t take the business seriously will go away. Hopefully those who make crummy movies will also go away, but that may just be a personal wish.

In 1984, I went with Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg to Disney as perhaps the 4th employee of the new regime. Disney at the time was barely a film producer much less a major distributor. Before we could execute the plans to transform that company into one of the Majors, I was asked to prepare the presentation to the Board of Directors. A lot of capital was at stake.

The numbers, like some of those we’ve discussed today, were overwhelmingly negative. In truth, the film business has never been an easy one to master. More companies fail than succeed. But what I presented, and this is still one of the absolute truths of the industry, was that it was only a bad business on average. If you expect to be an average performer in this world, you can expect to fail.

Those without the ambition or the brains to figure their way through these tough economic conditions are going to be the heart patients who cannot be saved. No one has a birthright in this business.

It is a game for winners. And those who win today will win to an even greater extent than at almost any point in the past. The flattening of the box office is only true on a macro level. For the individual film, the sky is the limit. Even though there’s more piracy of the hit picture than any other, it’s still that same hit picture that can score giant revenues in all the ancillary streams.

Those who will win will be smart about what they make and how they sell their films. They will hopefully make good films but perhaps even more key they will make unique films that stand out, which means they will not have to compete against the bulk of the films for talent. They won’t look like all the other films so they won’t have to spend as much money marketing them.

It’s not that the buyers aren’t there. Consumers, TV outlets, Retailers and, yes, even Pirates want what works.

Don’t believe me? Ask Summit about TWILIGHT. Ask Searchlight about SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. Ask Screen Gems about DISTRICT 9. Ask Focus about CORALINE.

Let me conclude by saying that the challenges are great. Technological innovations often hurt before they help, it takes resources to fight the sense of entitlement that breeds piracy, it takes skill and experience to know what FDR really meant when he said: We have nothing to fear but fear itself.

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indiedan
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posted October 08, 2009 02:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message
Times Get Tougher For Indie Film Producers

The Walt Disney Co.'s decision to drastically cut back its Miramax specialty division has come as a heavy blow to the already hammered independent film industry, Daily Variety indicated today (Thursday), noting that Miramax's staff will be cut by almost 75 percent and that it will change focus from being a company that acquires "genre" movies to one that produces or co-produces such fare itself. However, the trade publication observed, some industry observers sees Miramax's restructuring as a prelude to the complete elimination of the division -- a repeat of what occurred at Paramount with the recent demise of Paramount Vantage. Variety noted that independent film producers now have less chance of finding distributors. "People are behaving really badly," one sales agent told the publication. "They're basically saying, 'We'll pay you whenever we want too pay you, no matter what the contract says. ... There were 20 places to distribute your film before, and now there are 10.'"

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indiedan
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posted November 02, 2009 10:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message
Miramax's Battsek is Out: More Contraction in Specialty Films
Posted By: Julia Boorstin | CNBC Correspondent

Here's yet another piece of news in the ongoing decline of the movie studios' "specialty" film business: the head of Disney's Miramax Films is being pushed out of the company.

This isn't a huge surprise: earlier this month Disney laid off 70 percent of Miramax's employees and cut the number of movies it'll release to just two a year. This represents Disney (and the rest of Hollywood's) shift away from riskier Oscar-bait that targeted an adult audience. Instead the studios are focusing on big-budget "tentpole" films that are increasingly based on existing brands and franchises, hoping to attract the younger demographic that shows up en masse at the theater.

This is the latest in a long string of consolidation/elimination of the other studios' specialty divisions. When Time Warner consolidated its New Line into its Warner Brothers studio in 2008 it shut down Warner Independent Pictures and Picturehouse. Paramount Vantage was dramatically scaled down and consolidated into its parent studio in June 2008. Universal Studios' Focus Features is rumored to be the next specialty division headed for some major cuts, as the parent studio just underwent some major reorganization. Fox Searchlight, 20th Century Fox's specialty studio has fared better than some of the others thanks to hits like "Juno."

Here's the statement released today from Rich Ross, the newly appointed chairman of "The Walt Disney Studios.” With the change in direction at Miramax, we have reached a mutual agreement with Daniel Battsek that he will leave his post as president, effective January 2010. During his 18 years of service, he has brought some very prestigious and award-winning films to the Studio from Calendar Girls to The Queen to No Country for Old Men. We wish Daniel the very best on his future endeavors."

Miramax is shutting down its New York office and opening a small office on Disney's lot. Not only is It'll be a huge cultural shift to for the remaining few folks at Miramax to leave the labels long-time New York home. Miramax was founded by the Weinstein brothers in 1979 and acquired by Disney in 1993)Miramax's Battsek is Out: More contraction in Specialty Films

Here's yet another piece of news in the ongoing decline of the movie studios' "specialty" film business: the head of Disney's Miramax Films is being pushed out of the company. This isn't a huge surprise: earlier this month Disney laid off 70 percent of Miramax's employees and cut the number of movies it'll release to just two a year. This represents Disney (and the rest of Hollywood's) shift away from riskier Oscar-bait, that targeted an adult audience. Instead the studios are focusing on big-budget "tentpole" films that are increasingly based on existing brands and franchises, hoping to attract the younger demographic that shows up en masse at the theater.

This is the latest in a long string of consolidation/elimination of the other studios' specialty divisions. When Time Warner consolidated its New Line into its Warner Brothers studio in 2008 it shut down Warner Independent Pictures and Picturehouse. Paramount Vantage was dramatically scaled down and consolidated into its parent studio in June 2008. Universal Studios' Focus Features is rumored to be the next specialty division headed for some major cuts, as the parent studio just underwent some major reorganization. Fox Searchlight, 20th Century Fox's specialty studio has fared better than some of the others thanks to hits like "Juno."

Here's the statement released today from Rich Ross, the newly-appointed chairman of "The Walt Disney Studios:
"With the change in direction at Miramax, we have reached a mutual agreement with Daniel Battsek that he will leave his post as president, effective January 2010. During his 18 years of service, he has brought some very prestigious and award-winning films to the Studio from Calendar Girls to The Queen to No Country for Old Men. We wish Daniel the very best on his future endeavors."

Miramax is shutting down its New York office and opening a small office on Disney's lot. Not only is It'll be a huge cultural shift to for the remaining few folks at Miramax to leave the labels long-time New York home. Miramax was founded by the Weinstein brothers in 1979 and acquired by Disney in 1993)

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opus_125
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From:Portland, Oregon
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posted January 21, 2010 05:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for opus_125   Click Here to Email opus_125     Edit/Delete Message
Robert Redford: Indie cinema isn't dead yet
By Grace Wong for CNN

(CNN) -- The Internet will help independent cinema survive despite a dip in the industry, says Robert Redford.

The outlook for small-budget films looks the way it always has -- "kind of grim," Redford told CNN ahead of the start of Sundance, the indie film festival he started a just over a quarter of a century ago to champion filmmakers.

"There's always the bleak view for independent film but it does manage to survive," said the veteran actor and filmmaker. Redford said technology is changing the media equation and will help independent films reach wider audiences.

Sundance, now in its 26th year, grew out of Redford's own experience making indie movies like "The Candidate" and "Ordinary People" and a desire, he said, to tell riskier stories.

Over the years, the festival which is held annually among the ski slopes of Park City, Utah, has helped launch films from "sex, lies, and videotape" to "Little Miss Sunshine" into the mainstream.

A veritable who's who of hip Hollywood directors have also launched their careers at Sundance: Steven Soderbergh, Quentin Tarantino, the Coen brothers, Paul Thomas Anderson, Wes Anderson.

Last year's breakout hit was "Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire," winner of both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award. It went on to score big at the box office, picked up an Golden Globe last week and has been tipped for Oscar success in March.

Speaking from his home in California's Napa Valley, Redford demurs from predicting what films will break out at this year's festival, which starts Thursday.

He does so out of fairness to the filmmakers and also because "I can get clobbered," he said, if something doesn't happen as forecast.

But he added: "There has always been and there always will be a breakout film. No one can quite predict it. I like the fact that Sundance is unpredictable."

Over the years the festival has become a celebrity destination known for its party scene. Sundance became a place "where you get a swag bag," Redford conceded.

But he insists that the festival has never strayed from its independent beginnings.

The ongoing economic downturn has hit the movie business on all fronts, with specialty divisions, which cater to the indie market, taking a particularly heavy beating.

Art house subsidiaries of Hollywood studios such as Warner Brothers' Picturehouse and Warner Independent Pictures and Paramount Vantage have all closed in recent years. (Warner Brothers, like CNN, is owned by Time Warner.)

People say there's no future for independent film because it doesn't really work in the marketplace, Redford said.

"But the fact is that there's new distribution on the horizon, and that's the Internet."

Films are already being self-distributed online, and while it may be difficult now, it will become easier for filmmakers in the future, he said.

Backing for independent filmmakers comes and goes, said Redford. "There is no constant support for independent film. It's evanescent."

"Sundance has never gone Hollywood. Hollywood came to us, but it's never been about Hollywood. It will always be a festival for independent filmmakers," Redford said.

The festival's mission of promoting original storytelling has not changed, but it has grown and adapted to transformations in the world landscape.

As globalization broke down borders and boundaries in the 1990s, Sundance was able to reach out to the international community and bring their stories to the festival, according to Redford.

In doing so, Sundance is "using film as cultural exchange," he said. "In all these films, the narratives are very powerful. They tell you a lot about the culture."

The festival is committed to screening a diversity of films. At Sundance, "all the films are very different. You're going to have a choice," Redford said.

Films from Russia, Iran, Greenland, Estonia and Cambodia are among those featured in the world cinema feature and documentary categories this year.

While he is a vocal and influential advocate of the arts, Redford, 73, has not been distracted from his craft.

He recently finished editing "The Conspirator," about the trial that follows Abraham Lincoln's assassination.

Redford, who turned to theater performance after starting out as an artist, said he can't imagine pursuing anything but a creative career.

"I can't help it. That's what I was meant to do. You follow your heart, your instincts, your intuition.

"Art is essential. I'm fine to be in that category whatever happens to be happening to it."

Agnes Teh contributed to this report.

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DavidChang
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From:Toluca Lake, California
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posted April 29, 2010 10:02 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for DavidChang   Click Here to Email DavidChang     Edit/Delete Message
A Rebuilding Phase for Independent Film
By MICHAEL CIEPLY

Only five years ago, the center of the still thriving independent film universe lay behind the green doors of a converted TriBeCa warehouse from which the Weinstein brothers, Bob and Harvey, ran Miramax Films.

With their possible deal — negotiations continued through last week — to join investors in reacquiring Miramax, which they left in 2005, the Weinsteins are again in the middle of something.

But it is not the business they once ruled.

For more than a decade, the indie film movement centered in New York flourished, at times almost eclipsing the output of the mainstream Hollywood studios in terms of impact and accolades. But the financial collapse and the credit crisis had a deep impact on all of the movie world, which has responded with fewer expensive releases and safer bets.

And that new austerity has decimated the indie film business, ending with the collapse or downsizing of distributors like New Line Cinema, Picturehouse, Warner Independent Pictures, ThinkFilm and Miramax, all in the last few years.

“The world is different now,” Richard Abramowitz, a new-wave film distributor, said last week. While he expressed regard for the Weinsteins, he said of the possible Miramax purchase, “I don’t see it as the kind of game-changer it might have been a few years ago. And I’ll probably get chased down the street for saying that.”

There are, however, signs of life. The struggling indie scene is getting a boost from fleet-footed, penny-pinching guerrilla operations that are trying to resuscitate the business by spending less on production, much less on marketing and embracing all forms of distribution, including the local art house and the laptop.

A result has been a flush of energy reminiscent of early days in the 1990s dot-com boom, with a touch of old-fashioned indie-film spirit thrown in.

“It reminds me of the early years of Miramax, where you had to be disciplined,” Harvey Weinstein said. He declined in an interview on Friday to discuss his attempt to buy Miramax in partnership with the investor Ronald W. Burkle.

Indie experiments are being closely watched in the business because what happens in Hollywood often first happens in New York City. While many in Los Angeles continue to struggle with the studio system and the emerging intricacies of 3-D, New York has locked on a different challenge: how to wring even the tiniest profit from that enormous investment in smaller movies.

According to Mr. Weinstein and others, the New York-centered independent film world faltered largely because companies, flush with cash from a DVD boom that has since played out, put too much money behind too many films for an audience that was never large enough to absorb them in theaters.

At his own Weinstein Company, said Mr. Weinstein, the best model for an era of diminished expectations is “A Single Man.”

That film, written and directed by Tom Ford, took in only $9 million at the domestic box office. But the Weinstein Company acquired the rights for far less and held its promotions in check, rather than spending heavily to chase an audience, and Oscars, as it might have done only two or three years ago. Mr. Weinstein said the film would yield a return both for his company and for its producers.

Independent distributors that survived the great shakeout include Focus Features, a Universal Studios unit that is anchored in Manhattan, and Sony Pictures Classics, a specialty film label based in New York that has consistently released about 20 movies a year with a staff of just 25. Along with the survivors, there are some newly established companies, like Apparition.

For many of these companies, austerity is a given, and that means looking at digital distribution.

At Tribeca Enterprises, a sponsor of its namesake festival, the chief creative officer, Geoffrey Gilmore, in March joined the company’s co-founder Jane Rosenthal and others to announce a new distribution unit focused on video-on-demand — where the dollars are small, but the potential audience is vast.

Already, Rainbow Media, which operates IFC Entertainment, is feeding about 120 films a year to cable television systems, while perhaps 50 of those movies are shown in one or more theaters. The company, led by Joshua Sapan, also operates an independent theater complex.

Producers cannot recoup their investment from the marginal payout from on-demand showings, but a run on IFC’s channels or those of other services brings recognition that helps increasingly entrepreneurial filmmakers make money on DVDs — from foreign release, sales to airlines and, often, at screenings for political, religious or other groups, often with appearances by the writer, director and cast.

“The business is coming back smarter,” said Marian Koltai-Levine, a veteran of Fine Line and Picturehouse, who is now a marketing and distribution adviser through Zipline Entertainment. Zipline is one of the so-called garage companies run by alumni of the studios.

Mr. Abramowitz’s company, Abramorama, handles about 20 films a year, on marketing and budgets that are counted more often in tens of thousands of dollars than in tens of millions. Ten days ago, he helped the Producers Distribution Agency, a new company started by John Sloss, the past master at placing films like “Napoleon Dynamite” and “Tadpole” to older-style indies like Miramax, to bypass the big players by releasing a movie, “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” directly to a handful of theaters.

The film, an eccentric documentary by the elusive street artist Banksy, took in about $391,000 in its first 10 days. Much of that was attracted by a low-cost Web campaign that drew young viewers so new to indie film that a disproportionate number arrived on Friday evening, thinking the movie, like a Banksy prank, was a one-night event.

The attention surrounding the opening was enough to mark “Exit” as a potential winner. The trick will be to expand the theater audience without spending heavily on newspaper ads, a major expense for indie films in the past.

Producers who routinely spent $12 million on a film five years ago are now being advised by Mr. Sloss and others to keep their budgets to a third of that.

Thus, “East Fifth Bliss,” a romance directed by Michael Knowles, spent last week shooting in New York, with a budget of less than $2 million, a substantial boost from the state’s tax incentive program, and a cast that includes Lucy Liu (“Charlie’s Angels”) and Michael C. Hall (“Six Feet Under”).

For Sri Rao, a one-time Booz Allen Hamilton business consultant who now writes, produces and hopes to direct films from his base in New York and another in Philadelphia, a scaled-down indie world is simply a better place for low-cost operators like him to thrive.

“The independent film landscape is so different than it was, this is not the heyday of the ’90s,” said Mr. Rao. His Sri & Company has made a pair of Bollywood-style films, the second of which, “Badmaash Company,” is scheduled for release by Yash Raj Films of India next month.

Mr. Rao’s company is lean enough that it has no office at all unless a film is in production.

“It’s an overhead-free world,” he said.

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DavidChang
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posted April 30, 2010 01:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for DavidChang   Click Here to Email DavidChang     Edit/Delete Message
??

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indiedan
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posted September 16, 2010 08:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message
Indie films are back because they are getting the critical acclaim and they will pick up awards and they will end up being the most profitable. I think there is a shift in the audience desire for these movies.

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indiedan
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posted October 20, 2010 05:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message
Ed Burns, “Nice Guy Johnny” and a New Way of Distributing Films

By MONTE BURKE

Back in July, I wrote a story about producer/director/actor Ed Burns and his somewhat revolutionary (and risky) distribution plans for his latest film, “Nice Guy Johnny.” The film premieres on October 26th, but it will be anything but a traditional opening.

As detailed in the story, Burns–an indie filmmaker to the core–decided to forgo the traditional theatrical release. Instead, the film will be released in three formats simultaneously: ITunes, video-on-demand and DVD.

Burns has his reasons for giving this method a shot. The playing field for true indie films has shifted considerably in the last decade. Backing money from hedge-funders has dried up. Indie studios like Picturehouse and Warner Independent have shut down. Marketing costs have risen considerably. (Burns can make a film for $1 million, then spend five times that amount trying to get the word out for a theatrical release. It’s tough going when an indie has to compete with the latest Robert Pattinson movie with a $40 million marketing budget.)

“I haven’t made money on a studio release since [1996’s] ‘She’s the One,’” Burns told me. “I’ve had trouble getting them out to an audience.”

Burns dipped his toe into these new distribution waters with 2007’s “Purple Violets” which was released on ITunes. With “Nice Guy,” he’s cannonballed into the pool.

I went to a screening of the movie last night at the Tribeca Cinemas, just steps from Burns’ apartment, which he shares with his wife, the super model Christy Turlington, and two young children.

“Nice Guy Johnny” is a romantic comedy about a young man who believes he can please his demanding fiancée only by giving up his dream job as a sports radio talk show host for a more serious vocation. The film, like most of Burns’, is all Eddie: He wrote it, directed it, acted in it and produced it.

And it’s a remarkable film, especially given its circumstances. Burns did the entire film on a budget of $25,000. He used virtually unknown actors (the one notable exception being Burns himself, of course), who did their own hair and makeup. It was filmed in just ten days, shot by three people with a digital camera. Burns used his parents’ house in Long Island for part of the set.

Actor Matt Bush plays Johnny Rizzo, the lead character. Rizzo is a sports radio deejay, something he always wanted to be. But, pushed by his fiancée, he believes he must apply for a boring sales job that he distinctly does not want. He’s faced with a choice between his passion and what he perceives to be his duty. Bush makes for a likable lead.

Kerry Bishé plays the winning female lead, a free-spirit who represents, both in reality and in metaphor, Johnny’s opportunity to take “the road less traveled by”. Bishé, blithe and lithe, seems like a young Cameron Diaz in the making. And then there’s Burns, who plays Johnny’s would-be-corrupting uncle, an incorrigible bachelor who tries to get Johnny to loosen up and not be afraid to chase his own dreams. Burns’ character is hilarious in his oafishness, and he nearly steals his own movie. (Side note: Burns is such an underrated actor; thankfully, he has a few acting gigs on the horizon, most notably with “Man on a Ledge,” starring Sam Worthington.)

After the screening, Burns talked about the inspiration for the movie. Last year, he was presented with an opportunity to direct big-budget studio films, something he said was tempting because of the huge money. He nearly signed on for a studio romantic comedy but backed out at the last minute. “I just realized that’s just not me,” he said. That experience­–of nearly giving up on a dream for a bigger paycheck–formed the basis of the script for “Nice Guy.”

With the new distribution methods for his movie, Burns himself has taken his own “road less traveled by,” perhaps blazing a trail for not only himself, but an entire generation of indie filmmakers.

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