Friday, December 07, 2007

Unraveling Independent Film Distribution

Check out notes from the American Cinamatheque Panel - Unraveling Independent Film Distribution at the Film Panel Notetaker.

Here's how it starts:

"Unraveling Independent Film Distribution
American Cinematheque - Aero Theatre
Los Angeles
December 4, 2007

Panelists:
(BA) Bob Aaronson (Red Envelope Entertainment (REE), a Netflix Company)
(GG) Gary Garfinkel (Senior Vice President - Content Strategy & Acquisition, Showtime Networks)
(BS) Barry Schuler (Managing Director, DFJ Growth, Former Chairman & CEO, AOL, Inc.)
(DS) David Shultz (President, Vitagraph Films LLC (Theatrical)
(TS) Ted Sarandos (Chief Content Officer, Netflix)
(MC) Mike McClellan (VP Film Buyer for Landmark Theaters Corp)
Moderator:
(MG) Margot Gerber (American Cinematheque PR Director)

(MG) How do you decide which festivals to attend, what you watch and what you distribute?

(GG) – I attend Sundance, Toronto, Cannes, and AFM primarily. Showtime is generally more likely to buy from AFM as this market provides more genre driven films. We attend film festivals to get out there and meet the filmmakers and network but these festivals are not really where we acquire films.

(BS) I am not so much in the biz of acquisitions. My background is tech based and so driven by a move for change. My interest is in looking at how to make films that embrace new technology. The arena of distribution has ‘devolved’ as it is not taking advantage of new distribution opportunities and connecting with online communities out there. We need to take advantage of the rich ways currently available to build audiences.

(TS) – We go to Sundance, Toronto Cannes etc. We view the catalogues and decide beforehand what to watch. We feel that film festivals have become similar to the TV pilot system – where a pilot is shown to 16 people and if they don’t like it, the pilot is tossed. When I started Red Envelope it was not to continue the old distribution model but to change it. When we go to festivals we are unlikely to be involved in the bidding for a film. Mostly we are there to network and to buy and sell some films but mainly it is about meeting the filmmaker.

(BA) – Half of the films acquired by Red Envelope will be docs or a third foreign language. We go to the right festival for us – Hot Docs, Silverdocs etc. The festival is used as a filter to know that film has been seen and liked by an audience. A filmmaker should not just hold out for Sundance there are a lot more specific smaller festivals that will help you better find an audience.

(MM) - The big three – Cannes, Sundance and Toronto as well as AFM. We go to preview films and see how they do. We are also are there somewhat as consultants to say if we think the film will have an audience and how it will view. We may also help a film get distribution if we feel that it can. We have different entities and so avenues to engage on this level including Magnolia Pictures.

(DS) – Cannes, Sundance, Berlin and Toronto. We buy film rights including foreign films. We have also picked up films prior to their big debut at festivals like Sundance."

Read the rest here. Good (& probably useful to filmmakers) stuff.

- Sujewa

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