Industry Beat

by Anthony Kaufman

  • The Music Fades

    With a name like Fortissimo Films, that could have been the company’s unofficial motto in its early years — fortissimo, of course, defined in music terms as an instruction to play notes with force. The 25-year-old international sales company boldly took on challenging arthouse cinema, from the likes of Wong Kar-wai, Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Jim Jarmusch, and championed them in global markets with a deafening level of commitment. But earlier this year, the sales company went silent, declaring bankruptcy and signaling not just the end of the respected arthouse giant, but as former Focus Features CEO James Schamus says, “the…  Read more

    On Oct 20, 2016
    By on Oct 20, 2016 Columns
  • The Digital Lowdown

    Is online distribution a boon to independent filmmakers or a boatload of false promises? Given that streaming/downloading is the primary way that many audiences are now consuming content, this may be the most pressing and important question for today’s business-savvy independent filmmakers. But it’s difficult to discern the answer. For one reason, the digital distribution revolution is always evolving, and what was standard procedure three years ago is no longer the norm. A few years ago, everyone was talking about multiplatform day-and-date hits Margin Call, Arbitrage and Bachelorette — starry films that received huge grosses through simultaneous theatrical and digital…  Read more

    On Jul 25, 2016
    By on Jul 25, 2016 Columns
  • Upstream and Downstream: 5 Observations about Independent Film Distribution at the 2016 Midpoint

    The following article appears in our Spring, 2016 print edition and is appearing from behind our paywall today for the first time. Will 2016 be remembered as the year that Amazon and Netflix gobbled up the indie film market? Probably. While the two online behemoths could always change their strategies in the next several months, the ramifications of their first quarter dominance stretched far and wide, sending shockwaves through the business. But there were other changes afoot, as well. Here are five industry trends that continue to linger long after Park City. 1. The Enduring Impact of Amazon and Netflix Okay, Amazon…  Read more

    On Jun 16, 2016
    By on Jun 16, 2016 Columns
  • Hits & Misses: How Seven Films from Sundance 2015 Performed

    The health and identity of American independent cinema has always been difficult to gauge and define, but Sundance is our default arbiter and explainer. Of course, indie film exists far beyond the limits of Park City in January, but the festival gives the nebulous American indie sector a test sample — and as any scientist will tell you, that’s the first step in making an accurate hypothesis. So what can the films of Sundance 2015 clarify about the state of American indies, now and in the future? Some trends can be attributed to random cycles and one-time events, but there…  Read more

    On Jan 20, 2016
    By on Jan 20, 2016 Columns
  • Is TV Killing Indie Film?

    Is TV usurping independent film? That was one of the main takeaways in a recent Filmmaker Magazine article written by producer Mike S. Ryan (“TV is Not the New Film”). With veteran producers, writers and directors heading to HBO, Netflix and Amazon in droves; with audiences affixed to the latest show recaps; and with film festival programmers dedicating more slots to episodic storytelling, it sure seems so. But if you talk to working indie-film professionals, the question appears to be slightly off the mark. Maybe we shouldn’t be asking whether long-form storytelling is supplanting indie film, but how it’s enabling…  Read more

    On Oct 28, 2015
    By on Oct 28, 2015 Columns
  • Theatrical 2.0

    Releasing movies in U.S. theaters isn’t going away anytime soon. But indie film distribution is experiencing a significant tipping of the scales. While theatrical distribution has always been an advertisement for foreign sales and ancillary platforms, like VHS and then DVD, a new wave of film companies are shifting the balance even further, where theatrical distribution is a means to a digital end. As Vincent Scordino, senior vice president of marketing at rising distributor Alchemy says, “Ancillary platforms have always been important to a film’s profitability, but now we’re talking about them more with the rise of iTunes and the…  Read more

    On Jul 23, 2015
    By on Jul 23, 2015 Columns
  • A Rising Tide?

    In a sure sign that the U.S. economy is improving, Wal-Mart employees and union actors in low-budget movies received an approximate 25 percent wage hike earlier this year. Across the country, companies like McDonald’s and many U.S. states are also raising workers’ pay. Such positive economic indicators should be cause for celebration, but for low-budget filmmakers, they signal a more expensive world in which to do business. As prolific producer Jay Van Hoy (The Witch) says, “It’s inflation, you know.” While inflationary expenses won’t severely impact medium-budgeted independent films, rising costs could imperil the vast number of micro-budget productions, which…  Read more

    On Apr 28, 2015
    By on Apr 28, 2015 Columns
  • Hits & Misses 2014

    Like the growing income gap in the United States, the indie film world has become increasingly divided between richer and poorer. While Sundance 2014 alumni such as Boyhood and A Most Wanted Man proved there’s still a spot for unique and well-crafted non-Hollywood crossovers in the popular culture (the films earned, respectively, more than $24 million and $17 million at the U.S. box office), the vast majority of last year’s festival titles had to scrappily pull together alternative distribution strategies in an ever-fragmenting entertainment universe, caught somewhere between the old and the new, ticket sales and downloads. As Roadside Attractions…  Read more

    On Jan 21, 2015
    By on Jan 21, 2015 Columns
  • Has the Cinematic Water Cooler Run Dry?

    Sex, lies and videotape; Pulp Fiction; The Blair Witch Project; Juno — they are now the stuff of indie film legend. Movies that came out of nowhere (although that’s not entirely true) and became not just crossover hits, but cultural phenomena, spawning think-pieces in The New York Times, TV talk-show fodder and conversations around the water cooler. Yes, they made money along the way, but we remember them as much for the zeitgeist they captured as their box office. These days, we can still point to the occasional breakout. This year, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood has benefited from that mysterious magical…  Read more

    On Oct 20, 2014
    By on Oct 20, 2014 Columns
  • The Last Mile

    In the battle between big telecoms and tech companies over the issue of net neutrality, independent filmmakers are inevitably going to be collateral damage. While the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) hasn’t yet gone forward with plans to allow Internet Service Providers to charge websites for faster service, the current proposals suggest that challenging times are ahead for media makers and companies who use the Web, with potentially higher costs and increased barriers to entry. As Jamie Wilkinson, CEO of digital distribution platform VHX questions, “As the market gets more crowded, will the prices be driven up?” Without the deep pockets…  Read more

    On Jul 17, 2014
    By on Jul 17, 2014 Columns
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