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January 2 at 8:30am

The Really Good Things In Indie Film Biz 2011

By Ted Hope

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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  1. Strata1 / Jan 2 at 8:30am

    Hi, Ted. Most promising in 2012 from my POV was to learn that equity investors in independent film are not a dying breed. My company has seen a 32% increase in private equity financing from 2011 and I expect 2013 to be even better. As the economy improves, so does investor confidence/enthusiasm. The net worth of my investors has also increased and this is promising. Dwindling, however, are the smaller players, the unaccredited investors. Many, I suspect, have turned to crowd funding, or dropped out of the game altogether.

    On the downside, distribution is still a challenge in the $3M to $5M range. Few are buying, unless you happen to have a festival darling. It’s becoming harder to discern which festivals carry weight with so many cropping up, and harder to get the attention of larger festivals with so much in the pipeline, but I don’t have to tell you that. Competition for slots is stiff even in the mid-range. Making better films is still the formula, in my opinion, regardless of the budget. Here’s to 2013! May it be the year of resurgence for indie film as an investment opportunity.

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