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in Filmmaking
on Oct 17, 2008

In this week’s newsletter I mentioned that I’m trying to put together some thoughts on how the looming recession and current credit crunch will affect independent film production. It’s a bigger issue than just that, however, as these economic troubles are hitting at the same time as the industry — both Hollywood and indie — is rethinking the business model that underpins the feature film business. (If you don’t currently get the newsletter, you can subscribe by typing in your email address at right.)

I received the following response from Jane Kosek which raises a lot of good points about our current rush to DIY models, and I’m reprinting it with permission:

This is Jane Kosek of Wonder Entertainment. In addition to feeling the crunch on the investing side, we are also feeling the crunch on the sales side. Many more films are being considered tough sells in this downturned market. There is an overall reticence from sales agents to officially take on titles before knowing their premiere status, expressly because there are fewer outlets for sales. This means less support is out there for independent producers to establish a launch for their films. It also means that even high quality, entertaining films may not have a chance of seeing the light of day. And that is tragic when you think of all of the investment of time, energy and money that goes into each film that is created and the amount of talent that is going unnoticed because their achievements are being shelved due to lack of outlets to audiences. It was already a struggle to get an independent film made and released. This bad economy is compounding the situation.

The side effects to all of this is that the already-drowning and overstretched producers need to officially take on yet another hat in the process — that of sales agent and distributor. It’s good to know there is something we can do should we be shut out of or mishandled by the traditional arenas, but what is being overlooked is the amount of stress and work this adds to an already-overworked independent producer. Of course, we indie producers are up for the challenge as you can’t enter this business without a spirit of wanting to be involved in every aspect of filmmaking, but, at some point, we producers are going to be crushed — both mentally and physically — under the pressure of being all things to all people.

What I think is interesting is that not many people discuss how each film is like starting a small business. You have an idea, you find investors, you build your product, you sell it. In traditional business set ups, you are told to delegate and build a strong team beneath you. That is how you survive. This is because one person cannot do it all. There is a reason why people specialize. It’s more effective to focus on one task and do it well. It’s well known that as soon as you take on too much, you spread yourself too thin and are not effective at any of the tasks you are doing. Too much multitasking is dangerous. My opinion would be to fix the traditional arenas. Build a real foundation of support for the already struggling filmmakers so they don’t have to “do it all.” And I also feel that the mentoring in this business needs real change. It’s nearly nonexistent. It’s often every man for himself. As you can see, I can go on… Like the economy, we need change!

Thanks for featuring the daily struggles we independent filmmakers experience. It’s nice to have a community with which to commiserate.

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