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The Really Good Things In Indie Film Biz 2011

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by Ted Hope
January 2, 2012 8:30 AM
6 Comments
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2011 was a bit of a year of experimentation for me -- and I imagine it was for all others who state they are in the Film Business. How could it not be? Evolve or die it seems, doesn't it?

I didn't produce a movie this past year, but I did premiere three. I managed to blog on a regular basis, and offer up my "column" as a soapbox for many others, hoping it would inspire more action and change from the community at large (the results still remain to be seen). I also did a lot of public speaking and consulting all over the world in 2011, telling myself that all of this was part of my personal attempt to move things forward towards a vibrant, diverse, and ambitious culture open to all who are willing to take responsibility for it. I taught at NYU for the same reasons, but remain unclear as to the results of any of these endeavors. Maybe it was more of a survival tactic or some sort of self-justification. After all, what I really want to do is... make films. It's what I think I am particularly good at, particularly when the broadest definition of both "making" and "films" is applied (i.e. the discovery, contextualizing, and deployment) -- yet as much as I try to keep a broad perspective, I am still a bit confounded as to why it is so damn hard to get good work made or even appreciated.

People still seem to love movies, even those folks who have not committed their labor and life to the manufacture and appreciation of them. Yet they really aren't going to them any more. And the people who earn their livelihood from the industry that facilitates flicks don't profess the concern that permeates my being. Oh well. Maybe it's just their ability to see the bright side. I see it too. And I know there's a great deal to be thankful for. I have a lot of resolutions for the new year and one of them is to focus less on what is wrong and more on what makes life worth living.

Today, being the day that the film business returns to work, it seems fitting to focus on the positive. If I had more time to give, I'd rough out more of each of these ideas, but alas, this ain't that world. So perhaps you could fill in these paragraphs below and we can write the final version together. 2012 will be the year of collaboration (won't it?).

1. 2011 Was The Year That Crowdfunding Took Off
     1. Entrepreneur Access to Capital Act (H.R.2930) was passed by the House of Representatives earlier this November.
     2. Films readily surpassed their goals.
     3. Many exceeded $100K
2. The Rise Of The Artist Entrepreneur
     1. And media starts to notice
3. Festivals Recognize That Serving The Filmmaker Means More Than Showing Their Film
     1. Sundance's Artist Services
     2. Tribeca Is A Distributor (Profit motive aside)
4. Micro Went Macro
     1. MMMM, Another Earth, Like Crazy, Take Shelter, Weekend, Bill Cunningham
          1. Films made for pennies reach significant audiences in US & get real attention
5. The Community Theaters Triumph & The Art House Convergence Is An Institution
     1. Theaters are more than just a movie house, but a community center
     2. Value of movie attendance is beyond entertainment
     3. Art House Convergence will have over 250 bookers of indie theaters 
6. The Conversation Of The Future Of Film Takes Hold 
     1. Tribeca, NYU, Columbia w Lance Weiler
7. VOD Starts To Deliver Real Numbers
     1. Margin Call makes $4M VOD while Day & Date
          1. With simultaneous web streaming in addition to cable
8. Direct Distribution Is A Viable Alternative
     1. Kevin Smith, Eddie BurnsLouis CK, Producers Distro Agency
9. Filmmakers don't rely on Theatrical
     1. Ed Burns skips theatrical on both Nice Guy Johnny & Newlyweds
          1. AND: makes a real profit
     2. Kevin Smith's road show
10. Art Film Sensibilities Embrace Horror Genre
     1. Martha Marcy May Marlene, We Need To Talk About Kevin, The Skin I Live In, The Innkeepers, and others I have not yet seen.
11. Plethora of Platforms
     1. 34 and counting
     2. Personalized VOD Players: Distrify, DIY, Dynamo
12. Cord Cutting becomes common place
     1. Levels the playing field for indies as Cable providers rarely acquired truly indie content
13. Tax Credits & Film Incentives are not going away (as we recognize they are job/revenue stimulus)
     1. http://www.michigan.gov/snyder/0,4668,7-277-57577_57657-267901--,00.html
     2. New York State's production at high levels
14. Tons of new films stars with tremendous talent have not only arrived on the scene, but have been noticed.
15. The Dominance of the feature film form is starting to end...

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6 Comments

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  • hank | January 2, 2012 8:23 PMReply

    Great post troublemaker.

  • Christopher J. Boghosian | January 2, 2012 3:45 PMReply

    "15. The Dominance of the feature film form is starting to end..."

    It's funny you saved this for last, Ted! I keep hearing this from you, as if you are hoping it will happen(?) It really will be interesting to see what happens to the "feature."

    And I love this: "I have a lot of resolutions for the new year and one of them is to focus less on what is wrong and more on what makes life worth living." Well put; something I definitely will be living by this year as well!

  • ANONYMOUS | January 2, 2012 4:41 PM

    @Chris

    Ted is just telling the truth. The internet takes no prisoners: Adapt or Die.

  • Josh Welsh | January 2, 2012 10:35 AMReply

    This is a great summary, Ted, and when you look at them all together, it feels really encouraging. If I could add another item:

    16. Growing non-profit financial support of independent films.
    Notable 2011 films whose budgets included substantial amounts of grant money include Pariah, On the Ice, Circumstance. Also notable is that these films were supported by multiple institutions (e.g., Sundance, Film Independent, TriBeCa, San Francisco Film Society, Cinereach, etc).

  • Christopher J. Boghosian | January 2, 2012 3:47 PM

    Great point, Josh. I'd like to add Fractured Atlas to your list, who fiscally sponsored my recent (and first!) feature film, GIRLFRIEND 19.

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