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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

IFC is happy with First Take. Are such initiatives the revenue & awareness generating future for real indie filmmakers?

When IFC's First Take was introduced about a year and a half ago, it was one of several new indie film distribution experiments that were probably being tried to see if the then (and still) relatively broken indie film distribution system can be fixed, and probably better yet, made profitable. With the acceptance of digital production by the indie film industry & audiences post-Dogme 95, the number of independent films being produced each year sharply increased in this first decade of the 2000's while at the same time distributors who made the 1990's indie film boom happen moved away from acquiring low budget real indie features. About a year and a half after the introduction of the program, IFC seems to be very happy with the status of their First Take initiative. Check out this indieWIRE article for a detailed look.

Here is a significant sentence from the indieWIRE article: " "The growth of this service [known as IFC In Theaters on national cable systems] from zero to forty million in about a year is pretty much unparalleled," Rainbow spokesperson Matthew Frankel told indieWIRE this afternoon, citing the widespread availability of IFC First Take's films to subscribers of DirecTV, Comcast, and Time Warner Cable, beyond just Rainbow parent Cablevision." Read the whole article here.

First Take and similar programs might be the new option for wide distribution for real indie films (low budget indie films by relatively unknown filmmakers, indie fims without many or any "stars"; basically indie film as we knew it before Pulp Fiction type Hollywood "indie" projects). Perhaps a combination (based on whichever options are appropriate for a given project) of film festival play, self-distribution - theatrical & DVD -(which, unless you have hundreds of thousands of dollars to pour into a self-distribution project, only achieves a very limited amount of success compared to the 40 million customers that have First Take access) and options such as First Take (theatrical play & cable TV availability) or programs that offer simultaneous theatrical, cable & DVD release of a film - such as 2929 Entertainment's "Day and Date" releasing, might make it possible for real independent filmmakers to build their careers by making their work available to a large number of potential customers.

Of course availability alone is not enough, much publicity work & awareness building is required to inform all those who are able to buy a movie through their cable TV that a movie that they might like is available. Perhaps this is where the web -blogs and YouTube, MySpaceTV, etc.- plays a crucial role; as a relatively inexpensive advertising platform with wide reach. Maybe companies such as IFC will experiment with advertising campaigns in all media (print, TV, radio, web) as films are released through First Take type programs to see if doing so will make the films more profitable (this is probably already being done, I just haven't followed how widely First Take titles are being advertised, something to look into).

Download and revenue figures for their First Take movies have not yet been shared with the public by IFC. Perhaps in the future we will be able to find out exactly how useful, $s wise, the program has become to indie filmmakers.

- Sujewa

1 comment:

ScripTeach said...

Dead-on! How much ARE filmmakers seeing from these new distribution ventures? Everyone is talking about all the new opportunities the new technologies and approaches are offering, but in the end, if a DIY success like FOUR EYED MONSTERS is still in the red, where and how are filmmakers going receive the money they need to survive and make more films?

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