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Ray Pride

By Ray Pride

How can filmmakers make a living?: a conversation

At Springboard Media, Brian Newman starts a conversation about the role of film festivals in distributing independent filmmaking: “Today, too few independent films reach a broad audience, and despite some signs to the contrary, the situation is worsening. Outside of a few successful instances, truly independent work by exciting makers remains largely in the realm of film festivals, limited theatrical runs and institutional sales, brief (if any) exposure on cable or broadcast television and the extremely rare success on home video.bling.jpg In spite of—and often because of—recent developments, including the DVD, the distribution system for independent media remains in crisis, with few films successfully reaching a broad audience… It has become obvious that the market for a diversity of voices has grown over the past several years, as evidenced by the success of blogs and the recent success of several documentaries. American audiences hunger for diverse, interesting work and are connecting with it in new ways. At first confined to major cities, film festivals of one form or another began to pop up in towns across the U.S. (and internationally) more than 30 years ago. These smaller, less internationally recognized film festivals have become the de facto art house circuit, often screening works in conjunction with local film societies. General audiences have prospered culturally by having more access to a wider range of films than ever before. Unfortunately, this type of exhibition leaves the filmmakers well-traveled but none the richer for their efforts… What if the same filmmaker could sell copies of their film at the festival? What if filmmakers handed out postcards to the audience, with a website where they could buy or rent the film and recommend it to a friend?

What if they did this in every city they visited and mentioned the website every time they were interviewed? One can imagine a small success for a filmmaker who took this approach. Why do so few filmmakers and/or distributors do so? Because it doesn’t fit the model of the release window — a model that only works for a small number of films. Additionally, few filmmakers want to put their energies behind distribution of their film — generally, they want to make another film. Many distributors work with festivals as publicity for a theatrical release, or sometimes to allow filmmakers to satisfy their desire to connect with audiences before an institutional release on DVD. Almost none have made a concerted effort to use these festival screenings as nontheatrical tours of work, to help spur DVD sales. Even fewer filmmakers have taken this strategy, with most hoping that a festival tour will help them find a distributor, instead of helping them find an audience.” [More provocative thoughts, as well as a chance to join the conversation, at the link.]

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“I think [technology has[ its made my life faster, it’s made the ability to succeed easier. But has that made my life better? Is it better now than it was in the eighties or seventies? I don’t think we are happier. Maybe because I’m 55, I really am asking these questions… I really want to do meaningful things! This is also the time that I really want to focus on directing. I think that I will act less and less. I’ve been doing it for 52 years. It’s a long time to do one thing and I feel like there are a lot of stories that I got out of my system that I don’t need to tell anymore. I don’t need to ever do The Accused again! That is never going to happen again! You hit these milestones as an actor, and then you say, ‘Now what? Now what do I have to say?'”
~ Jodie Foster

“If there’s one rule Hollywood has metaphysically proven in its century of experimentation, it’s that there’s no amount of money you can’t squander in the quest for hits.

“Netflix has spent the past couple years attempting to brute-force jailbreak this law. Its counter-theory has seemed to be, sure, a billion dollars doesn’t guarantee quality but how about three billion dollars? How about five billion dollars? Seven?

“This week’s latest cinematic opus to run across no-man’s-land into the machine-gun emplacements has been the Jared Leto yakuza movie ‘The Outsider.’ Once again, debuting on Netflix, another thing called a movie that at one glance doesn’t look like any kind of movie anyone has ever seen before, outside of off-prime time screenings at the AFM.

“If you’re working at a normal studio, you have one or two of these total misfires in a year and people start calling for your head. How many is Netflix going on? Fifteen? Twenty? This quarter? Any normal company would be getting murdered over results like that.”
~ Richard Rushfield