IFTA Production Conference - The State of the Industry

There is good new about the business; there is bad news about the business.  

In this, the 11th annual IFTA (Independent Film and Television Alliance) production seminar, held September 29, 2009, at the InterContinental Hotel in Century City, we were presented with news about the independent production business from both those seeking alternative ways to produce content and those who have succeeded in the traditional ways.  

IFTA: Bill Mechanic

Bill Mechanic of Pandemonium LLC, who had once taken both Fox and Disney to great heights, keynoted the assembly, talking about the success and failure of the independents.  Movie consumption is down and the demographics have shifted but the traditional studios have not seen this.  He likens Hollywood to Detroit who continued to produce the big cars, despite the fact no one was buying them.  

IFTA: Nolan Gallagher, Steve Bickel

More films are being made now, however. They have gone from 150 in 1990 to 450 in 2008 but with what quality?  This over saturation of insignificant movies clogs our distribution channels and more such movies are coming out every day.  He predicts that times will get worse, especially considering the economic down turn we are experiencing.  

Having gone from being a studio exec to an independent producer, he sees that most independents are also ignorant of what the consumer wants.  Most of them have no idea of who they are making the films for or what the appeal is.  “They have no artistic integrity.”  

Tracy Mercer of Revelations Studio

The good news is that the business is here to stay but the products have to come up to speed.  It’s a game for the winners.  Those that do win today, will increase their winnings greater to any point they have had in the past.  

Two successive panels – one lead by Pierre David of Imagination Worldwide and made up with Mitchell Berman, Steve Bickel, Marc DeBovoise, Howard Frumes, Nolan Gallagher, Elizabeth Guider, Curt Marvis and Gustavo Montaudon talked about alternate ways to get the product out as in pay per TV ( Zillion TV) and VOD (Video on Demand) started by Nolan Gallagher’s company Gravitas Ventures.  The later reported that now it is pretty easy to get your material listed but soon print and advertisement will have to start a good eighteen months earlier for the word of mouth factor to kick in.  He expects that in the future there will be over 150 choices for people to decide on and if you don’t have a name recognition, you might not get chosen.  Another issue addressed was of distribution. Domestic distribution no longer exists as it has in the past and it is more difficult to pre sell movies and concepts than it ever was before.  At one time, you would expect to recoup losses through DVD sales but they have dried up and are not as lucrative as before especially since all the illegal downloads.  There are no more safety nets and we have to be more innovative in marketing.  Quoting from Roosevelt, Mitch Berman said, “Take a method and try it, and try it again and if it fails, try something else.”  

IFTA: Mark Burg, Paul Hertzberg, and Eric Schotz

The second panel was lead by Paul Hertzberg of CineTel Films.  They sell both features and television material to places like Lifetime. He stressed that you have to be passionate about your project but that passion is no longer the key to getting something made.  “The world of television is the only stable world where an independent can have a game plan since there are many new channels opening and they need content.”

IFTA: Stan Foster and Kristen Smith

On this panel were Kathy Morgan of KMI (a traditional sales company for films), Stan Foster of Stan Forster Pictures, Mark Berg of Evolution Entertainment (producer of the Saw franchise) ,Eric Schotz of LMNO Productions (reality tv), Gary Randall, Executive Producer of Saving Grace and Kristen Smith, screenwriter of House Bunny and Legally Blonde.   The theme of this panel, on contrast to the previous one, was optimism.  They stressed that good stories and good characters are the most important things a producer can have.  If you are entertained, then your audience will be, too.  

The essence of the two panels was that the producer has to find his niche and it will help raise him to the top.  True, our economy is a broken line right now but for those who can stick it out, the future is brighter. 

for more information about the IFTA call 310 446 1000

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