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Final Draft
Editor's Note


A few weeks ago on the blog I wrote about the argument that ad-supported online download and streaming platforms were the future for independent film, saying that I felt there was something wrong about relegating future indie media to the filler between bumper advertising. Well, let’s table that argument for the moment as a blog post by Noah Harlan reporting back from the Sundance Producers' Lab takes up the relevant issue of just how much money may flow back to filmmakers from such models. After listening to some of the leading players in the emerging field, Harlan does his own back-of-the-envelope calculation and determines that a low, mid-six-figure budgeted indie film would need between 800,000 and 3.3 million views to break even under the current revenue structure of these new sites.

Among his conclusions: “I think there is a real future out there but it's going to be a couple years at least until the industry coalesces enough to provide reliable revenue which can be shown to investors. This means that between the lack of data in the new models, the low revenue from the streams, the paucity of viewers in each portal, and the global credit situation we are going to see a tough road in the near-to-mid-term for indie financing, particularly the private equity model.”

Now let’s table that discussion for the moment because Harlan’s post has prompted a lively talkback where, like me, readers have objected to the suppositions of the Internet streaming model. Whereas my original post referenced the political artist Hans Haacke and talked about the ideological issues involved in independent media having to first screen in an ad-strewn environment, some of the readers who responded have brought up a less highfalutin concern: picture quality.

One reader wrote: “If I'm somebody who's put my time and effort into making a movie (and making it look good), then why would I only want it to be seen via an inferior quality platform? From my experience, even down-rezzing to SD DVD is an insult to the picture quality. Downloads offer not only poorer image, but poorer sound as well.
There's just too much emphasis being placed on online distribution. It should be seen as just another revenue stream. Not THE revenue stream. I would demand that any deal I make, whether I go theatrical or not, require DVD and Blu-ray distribution so that viewers can experience a higher quality version than is likely to be found through downloads/VOD.”

In the end, it’s all 1’s and 0’s so someday bandwidth capabilities will make this argument irrelevant, but the poster brings up a valid issue: in the current land-grab, gold-rush mentality, is the independent community turning away too quickly from other non-theatrical models, like somehow reinvigorating the direct-to-DVD market, that might be better for the films themselves? I called a producer’s rep colleague and asked him to comment, and, to paraphrase, he thought that the direct-to-DVD market was barren for films without stars. The buying patterns of the chains and big-box retailers and the renting habits of the average consumer were too ingrained. He said that digital delivery promised a “more democratic platform” where a consumer could be enticed to buy or rent a product in more creative ways.

I’m not drawing any conclusions here because one problem whenever there’s a discussion of independent film lies in the definition of such movies. Obviously, distribution platforms that may be right for a $50,000 film are not for a $500,000 or a $5 million one, even though all are grouped under the same “indie” categorization. Anyway, I urge you to check out the post and add a comment if you feel that we’re rushing either too quickly or too slowly towards a world of Internet distribution.

We’re also seeking comments on our message board to a posting I put up about the future of the boards. We’re planning to revamp them this fall with better categories and more active moderation by the editorial team. The easiest way to accomplish this will be by razing the existing boards and starting from scratch. This will wipe out messages and require you to re-register. If you have an opinion about this, please post it, and also let us know the kind of topics you’d like to see us devote specific sub-forums too.

See you next week.



Best,

Scott Macaualy
Editor

PATTI SMITH: DREAM OF LIFE
Directed by fashion photographer Steven Sebring, this doc on the life of the "Godmother of Punk" is a moving stream-of-consciousness tale that looks back on Smith's highs and lows but in an unconventional style that is filled with her music, poetry and includes a personal side of the artist that's rarely been seen. Filmed over 12 years on grainy 16mm film, there's no better look to highlight the life and work of one of music's greatest songwriters.

Read our interview with the director below.

 

ELEGY
Barcelona-born director Isabel Coixet (The Secret Life of Words) has a knack for pulling the heartstrings with touching works that attract name talent. Elegy is no different as it follows Ben Kingsley as an ageing professor who finds his life thrown into turmoil after falling for a vivacious young student played by Penelope Cruz. Based on U.S. writer Philip Roth's book, The Dying Animal, Elegy premiered at the Berlin Film Festival where it raised some brows over it's "sexual intensity."

 


This week on the blog, Jason Guerrasio reports on who's headlining this year's Independent Film Week, Scott Macaulay learns from Noah Harlan what went on at this year's Sundance Producers' Lab and catches up with some "25 New Faces" alumni (part 1, 2 & 3) (pictured left).

To read more posts from our blog, click here.

 

INDEPENDENT FILMMAKER CONFERENCE SEPTEMBER 2008
Six Days. Dozens of Panels. Daily Social Networking. The IFP Independent Filmmaker Conference is the place to gain practical knowledge from leading producers, funders, distributors, agents and buyers about issues facing today’s independent filmmakers and learn about new models and platforms that will impact your work tomorrow.

The 2008 Keynotes include writer-director Kevin Smith (Clerks, the upcoming Zack and Miri Make a Porno), Emmy nominated director-producer Robert Greenwald (Iraq for Sale, Outfoxed), and head of SnagFilms Rick Allen, along with panelists from A&E Films, Big Beach, BMI, B-Side, Cinetic Media, HBO, Likely Story, Magnolia Pictures, Maximum Films, Miramax, SAGIndie, Spout, SXSW, This is That Productions, and more!

Discounted Early Bird passes on sale now!

To purchase passes and stay current on the latest information log onto http://conference.ifp.org.


 

STEVEN SEBRING, PATTI SMITH: DREAM OF LIFE
By Nick Dawson

In 1995, Spin magazine commissioned Steven Sebring to shoot a session with Patti Smith, and the instant rapport between photographer and subject inspired Sebring to embark on a documentary about the legendary poetess of punk. Sebring filmed Smith intermittently over the course of 12 years for Patti Smith: Dream of Life, capturing both her high energy live shows and unguarded private moments that reveal the flipside to her onstage persona. Shot on 16mm and mostly in moody black-and-white, Sebring's film adopts an abstract, almost experimental style which is well-suited to capturing Smith's aesthetics. read more

 
Festival Deadlines

AUGUST
Sundance Film Festival
Submission Deadline: Aug. 18 (All Films), Sept. 5 (Final for Shorts), Sept. 8 (Final for Features)
Festival Dates: Jan. 15 - 25

Three Rivers Film Festival
Submission Deadline: Aug. 29 (Shorts), Sept. 5 (Features)
Festival Dates: Nov. 7-20

SEPTEMBER
Tropfest NY
Submission Deadline: Sept. 5
Festival Dates: Sept. 26

Victoria Independent Film Festival
Submission Deadline: Sept. 8 (Final)
Festival Dates: Nov. 13-20

Tribeca Film Festival
Submission Deadline: Sept. 15 (Opens), Nov. 14 (Early), Jan. 12 (Final)
Festival Dates: April 22-May 3

Find more festival deadlines here.







 


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