War Is Over (or what I learned at the IFP Filmmaker Conference yesterday)

by rania
September 23, 2009 9:39 AM
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"The wall between distributors and filmmakers is coming down," said panelist Paola Freccero, president of distribution for B Side Entertainment at The State of Distribution– The Current & Future Indie Model. "The days of the big bad distributor taking advantage of the naive filmmaker is over-- OK, some distributors are evil," she admitted, "but others are looking for alignment with filmmakers."

Concurring, Mark Urman, president and owner of Paladin, said that he and filmmakers "are on the same side of the table now."

"We agree on everything," he added.

I was struck by these words yesterday, when moderator and FILMMAKER editor, Scott Macaulay, requested some "good news" from the panelists, on the state of distribution.

A few of years ago, when I was working in film distribution, the dirty little secret was that distributors and filmmakers pretty much hated each other. "I'd like to put all our filmmakers in a room with a wet cat," one highly placed acquisitions exec confided to me then.

Distributors saw independent directors as outsized in their egos, with blockbuster demands. Filmmakers felt that their work was being used as a tool for distributors to build empires off their backs. There was hostility on both sides. It was war every step of the way.

Now, it looks like economics and technology are turning the relationship into a love fest.

Necessarily, filmmakers are contributing money and financial risk to their releases, as well as an expertise in marketing (particularly online) to their niche. The dialogue is open. There is transparency and partnership. And decisions are made jointly, at least in some companies.

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