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in Filmmaking
on Jan 13, 2009

Geoff Gilmore asks himself and us all the right questions about change, independent film, and the evolution of film festival’s in this Indiewire First Person piece, launched on the eve of this year’s fest. I especially liked his riff near the end about stopping our natural tendency to “date” films based on their release date.

From the piece:

Theatrical admissions have trended downwards for a number of years and the importance of consumer preference and choice, of filmgoers seeing films when and how they want, is essential to success for the film industry in the future. The “long tail” of availability, the keeping of films in the market for longer periods of time is especially important for independent film. And that a film’s release is ordered by an antiquated theatrical universe is one of the fundamental obstacles facing the independent arena. Indeed why are films “seasonal” instead of “evergreen?” The practice of dating films, i.e. assigning a year of release, strikes me as a holdover from the marketing past. How and where films will be made available depends on the establishment of new outlets and new strategies. It simply makes no sense that most of the year’s quality films are all released against each other in a cutthroat fall campaign. In the future perhaps festival platforms could further serve to give films long-term visibility. At the very least new web venues, transformed marketing strategies and dynamic new concepts for consumption are at the core of making films available.

It’s true, we in the press are absolutely hardwired to the concept of the new, and of syncing our coverage of films to things like theatrical openings. But Gilmore is right — if the distribution ideas surrounding the Long Tail have any chance of catching on, then we must promote longer windows during which films are deemed relevant and discussion-worthy. This year we all witnessed critics wrestle with their “10 Best” lists and films like Silent Light, which had a protracted multi-year release spanning festival openings, museum screenings and limited theatrical. How can we — and, perhaps more importantly — how can filmmakers continue to recharge interest in their films among communities long and small during what may be much longer periods of “initial release”?

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