By Ted Hope | Thompson on Hollywood December 13, 2013 at 9:00AM
I have written about the good things in indie film. I have done it quite a bit. I have written about the bad things, and more than several times there too. I have written about the thinkers and doers who are shaping where we are (and will post that later this month). I have examined the cultural changes, the realities of our industry, and provided recommended best practices. I examined why it is sooo slow to change. I would like to help us find our path forward; what more can I do to help?
I tried to take action. I left the city of my youth (and many years well beyond that), and the practice that I had dedicated my labor to (i.e. producing films), on the hope that the support of an organization in a land of innovation could accelerate the pace of change for my industry and culture (taking the reigns of the San Francisco Film Society). Okay, so that wasn’t to be, and I have now resigned from that gig and again I am pushing new boulders up the mountain now. But where are we all headed? What will we see on the way? Will we miss the path before us? How can we shine a light so we don’t stumble and get crushed by our own labors?
Specifically, what really is on the horizon and what is the mirage? Where will the seeds that have already been planted bloom most glorious in our indie film evolution?
Can we actually future-cast indie film? And if so, how exact can we get? Francis Ford Coppola predicted Youtube, right? If we look at the options, observe the patterns, consume the inputs, and free ourselves from routine, we won’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.
Future-casting summons both our desires and fears -- giving voice to either might secure their position, or at least bring them one step closer. Should that alone scare us off from the process? I’d argue further-casting helps us arm ourselves against the negative, pointing us to what we have to actively fight harder against. Gifting that mindfulness is hopefully our collective windfall -- and if so, what’s the harm in a little daydreaming? So….
My predictions for the world of IndieFilm over the next 18 months:
1. Some Unknown Filmmaker Is Going To Get Rich Via Direct Distribution - Direct Distribution works. So far we have had the examples of those that had a pre-developed audience like Louis CK and those that had a clearly identified affinity group pop and do well. But we haven’t yet witnessed someone who made it on the strength of their story. It’s happened in music. It’s happened in book publishing. It will happen in film and it will happen this year. We have the tools. We have the talent. We have the helpers. And we have the desire for fresh original storytelling. Better get ready. I would make a subset of this (or vice versa) that Either 2014 or 2015 Is The Year That Direct Distribution Takes Off. I wrote about this in my “Really Good Things About The Indie Film Biz In 2013” Post.
2. Multi-territorial Short Term Limited Platform Licensing Will Start To Take Hold Internationally. Sure, long-term all-media individual territorial licensing will always apply to about 5 or 10 percent of the films generated globally annually, but what about the rest? The current practice of trying to apply that to all films makes little sense. Language and national boundaries make it difficult in Europe for a different process to take hold, but it will. It will start with cooperative ventures between VOD and digital partners, but eventually the boundaries will shatter. Similarly, rights holders will recognize that long term licenses for an emerging medium also makes little sense. When something is inevitable, change occurs -- although if we could accelerate, we’d all be better off.