There's a term used in the investment world called "The Law of Large Numbers." It means that the bigger a company grows, the harder it is to sustain a high rate of growth. You heard the term a lot when Apple was on a tear, cresting $700/share, as some analysts said the company's growth had to slow down. I mean, it's just math: at some point there are not enough people on the planet to allow a company to grow 50% year over year. Everyone will own an iPhone -- or a phone of an Apple competitor.
But I've been thinking that independent film is subject to its own Laws of Large Numbers. We all know, for example, that Sundance had something like 12,000 submissions this year, an all-time record. But the festival has not grown accordingly; it's just more competitive now. What's more, Sundance remains the best place to sell an American independent film. The ranks of festivals that are also viable sales platforms hasn't swelled much since Tribeca's launch just over a decade ago. Filmmakers often rail against "gatekeepers," but I'd argue that we need more of them. There are too many films to filter through the ones we have.
That doesn't mean that I think festivals like Sundance should grow. Festivals -- and magazines -- have their own identities, and those identities are tied to of scale. A Sundance with the top 10% of those 12,000 films would be an unwieldy, insufferable beast. And would that even get at the problem?
Here's another Law of Large Numbers: venture capitalist Mark Suster borrows a page from Clayton Christenson as he writes about the viral video phenomenon, "Harlem Shake," over at TechCrunch. He sees "Harlem Shake" as an example of entertainment industry disruption. If you've been living under an internet rock, "Harlem Shake" began as a song by Baaeur, was performed in a silly skit by Filthy Frank that is now up to 15 million YouTube views, and was amplified into a viral sensation by Maker Studios, who had their whole office perform it one afternoon. (That video is now up to 18 million views.) Now, people all over the world are uploading their own versions. Let's do a conservative estimate and say the whole thing has attracted 50 million views. At two minutes a video, that's 190 years of viewing! And all in about three weeks.
Sure, "Harlem Shake" is a silly fad, like the internet version of the Hula Hoop. But there's a difference. People weren't making their own Hula Hoops. They are making their own "Harlem Shake"s. For Suster, that means that investment money should flow towards participatory content. He concludes by imagining a new business model:
You create a narrative episodic show and do the first four episodes to get the story arc and characters going. On the fifth episode the audience gets to create its version of the next show. You look at submissions and pick the best one. You reshoot that episode with a higher budget and your original cast but that producer now gets a financial take in the show or gets to participate in the production or whatever. Then you move on to the sixth show with new submissions.
You need to build a platform that allows submissions, workflow, multiple story flows, awards, producer profiles and the like. It can't just be videos on YouTube but I'll bet that YouTube is the distribution platform.
Here's the thing - if well done I think you could see the "Harlem Shake" effect where many people want to have a go at participating on the production. Most won't be of the quality that you want but you now have tons of material and inspiration for your show and you own all of the submitted IP. You share financial results and/or fame as the incentive to participate. It's American Idol for makers.
The Law of Large Numbers. See you next week.Best,
Upcoming at IFP
Apply Now to IFP's Premiere International Producing Program, Trans Atlantic Partners
IFP is thrilled to announce that our Trans Atlantic Partners (TAP) program is now accepting applications for 2013! TAP, which is presented by the Erich Pommer Institut (Potsdam/Germany), Strategic Partners (Halifax/Canada) and IFP (New York/USA), is a three-module intensive training and networking program for established film producers from Europe, Canada and the US. Featuring one-on-one meetings with key industry professionals, as well as networking opportunities, the program's goal is to encourage production through the discovery of new international partners and projects throughout Europe, Canada and the United States. Recent IFP U.S. alumni producers include Ryan Zacharias (Matt Porterfield's I Used to Be Darker - 2013 Sundance & Berlin), Alex Johnes (Eugene Jarecki's The House I Live In - 2012 Sundance Grand Jury Prize Winner), Susan Lewis (George Tillman Jr's The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete - 2013 Sundance), Nekisa Cooper (Focus Features, Pariah), Guneet Monga (Gangs of Wasseypur and Peddlers - 2013 Toronto) and Ron Simons (Blue Caprice - 2013 Sundance and the Tony Award-winning revival of Porgy and Bess on Broadway).
The deadline to apply is March 25, 2013. For more information and to apply today, go here.
New In Theaters
Alex Karpovsky is a prolific indie director, producer, editor, writer and actor (perhaps most widely known for his role as Ray on Lena Dunham's hit HBO show, Girls). His fourth and fifth films as a director are being screened in a double-billing tomorrow at Film Society of Lincoln Center. Made concurrently, Red Flag and Rubberneck are very different in genre and tone. Rubberneck is a slow-boiling thriller, but Red Flag sees the director navigating a semi-autobiographical road-trip comedy. He plays a filmmaker named Alex Karpovsky who is touring the South in support of his film after being dumped by his girlfriend. Largely consisting of improv grounded by a 30-page outline, the film stars Onur Tukel, Jennifer Prediger and Caroline White alongside Karpovsky.
Read Miriam Bale's interview with Karpovsky here.
With its seeds sown by a two-part article written by Elizabeth Kolbert for New Yorker, Jenny Deller's Future Weather meshes the fears of global warming with the domestic tribulations of an independent and neglected daughter and her dreamer mother. When her mother (Marin Ireland) leaves their trailer in pursuit of the pipedream of a Hollywood career, Laudurée (Perla Haney-Jardine) continues her environmental fascination and ecological experiments unabated. But when Greta (Amy Madigan), Laudurée's alcoholic grandmother with plans to move to Florida with her boyfriend, steps in to take care of the girl, the two women's situations become even more complicated. Future Weather was a 2011 IFP Narrative Lab project and screens at reRun Theater in Brooklyn starting March 1.
Read Sarah Salovaara's interview with Deller here.
Enduring beyond superficial comparison's to Taken, Ruba Nadda's Inescapable is a frenetic thriller that is steeped in the difficulties of repressive culture and the fear and paranoia that lies just below the surface. Alexander Siddig plays Adib Abdul-Kareem, a computer operations manager at a Toronto bank. With his job, a loving wife and two beautiful daughters, Adib's life seems perfect. But the Syrian expat's shady past comes back to haunt him when his elder daughter disappears during her trip to Damascus. Along with help from an ex-lover (Marisa Tomei), a Canadian diplomat (Joshua Jackson) and a former colleague in Syrian military intelligence (Oded Fehr), Adib must exhume what has been buried for 30 years and return to his hometown in search of his daughter.
Read Brandon Harris's interview with Nadda here.
This Week on FilmmakerThis week on the blog, Randy Astle explores interactivity in film via Alexis Kirke's new short, many worlds, Scott Macaulay shares seven DON'Ts for promoting your film online, Nick Dawson presents an exclusive behind-the-scenes featurette from David Riker's The Girl (pictured left), and Sara Kaye Larson reflects on crowdfunding campaigns.
To read more, click here.
Newest Web Article
Ruba Nadda on InescapableBy Brandon Harris
In Canadian writer/director Ruba Nadda's elegant and oddly topical thriller Inescapable, Adib Abdul-Kareem (Alexander Siddig) is a computer operations manager at a Toronto bank who fled Syria some 30 years ago. Married to a Canadian with whom he's fathered two pretty teenage girls, he's kept his checkered past a secret from his family the whole time, but after the disappearance of the older of his two daughters (Jay Anstey) during a clandestine visit to Syria in order to find out where her father is from, Adib heads to Damascus despite the possibility of repercussions for long ago sins.
With combative ex-flame Fatima (Marisa Tomei) in tow, Adib receives a visa through bribery and begins a desperate search for his daughter that involves the mostly unhelpful assistance of a Canadian diplomat (Joshua Jackson) and a former colleague in the Syrian military intelligence service (Oded Fehr), as well as a few bullets whizzing past his head. As the red herrings mount, including Israeli espionage and an oddball pedophile ring, Adib finds it increasingly impossible to keep the past from rearing its ugly head.Read more
Festival DeadlinesNew Orleans Film Festival
Earlybird Deadline: February 24
Regular Deadline: April 7
Late Deadline: May 5
Extended Deadline: June 23
Festival Dates: October 10 - 17
Edinburgh International Film Festival
New Extended Deadline: February 25
Festival Dates: June 19 - 30
Brooklyn Film Festival
Regular Deadline: February 22
Late Deadline: March 8
WAB Extended Deadline: March 15
Festival Dates: May 31 - June 9