There are tons and tons of quotes but no clear through-line in Anne Thompson‘s 9.26 Indiewire report about Friday’s Indie Crisis panel, organized by Rajendra Roy and Marian Koltai-Levine, at the Museum of Modern Art.
So let’s focus on the positive side. Sellers, Thompson reports, “struck a more positive note. There’s nothing to explain the shock in the specialty studio acquisitions market, said one lawyer. DVD rentals should compensate for the decrease in DVD sales. Theatrical numbers are robust, and pay deals, though receding slowly, still exist. Clearly, the irrational need to bid high at a festival has been replaced with a slower, more thoughtful approach based on checking out all the films and then deciding which ones to buy later on. The pattern of the past few festivals has become a slower trickle of smaller deals culminating after the festival.
Focus Features honcho James Schamus “downplayed the so-called crisis, insisting that basically, entitled white guys are not skimming as much money off movies as they used to. People were flipping companies. Over the past decade, distributors were contributing to insanely inflated buys. With the drop in DVDs, there are fewer resources on hand.
“‘There are plenty of good movies out there,’ he said. ‘I go to festivals and see movies that I hope will get acquired. There’s a renaissance creatively. But turning filmmakers into distributors seems like a mixed bag idea.'”
SPC, IFC and Magnolia, Thompson reminds, “are the ones buying movies. Some complaints were raised about how little the distribs pay now, and the fact that foreign filmmakers’ work is often subsidized, so they can afford these deals in a way that American indies cannot. IFC insisted that their filmmakers do, indeed, make money.
“One filmmaker argued that folks got spoiled by the studios, and should stop relying on them and reduce their scale. The magic left because people became part of the system. Reinvention is in order. Another filmmaker insisted that his film get a theatrical release rather than VOD. Engaging critics is key, he said, throwing a movie into the cultural mosh pit. No independent film will succeed without critical support. Critics are undervalued, he argued.
“Another doc producer said that audiences are gravitating to HBO and cable, which are often of higher quality than indie film. One producer said that selling films like product on the internet is the future: aligning with ad networks and social networks.”
Can I make a suggestion? Something that might not punch up indie business as much as lessen the downside? Indie producers, directors and distributors might want to ease up on movies about unshaven middle-aged child molesters. Just a thought.