The digital revolution has presented independent filmmakers with a conundrum: now it’s easy to make your film, but hard to get people to see it, said a panel of artists and experts at TheWrap’s annual industry panel at the Sundance Film Festival.
“If your goal is to just make something and to get people to see it, you will succeed at that goal. But if your goal is to make something and make money at people seeing it, that’s where there becomes a challenge,” said Miranda Bailey, producer of “The Diary of a Teenage Girl,” which screened in competition at the festival and sold to Sony Pictures Classics. Watch video above and see photos:
Director Chloe Zhao, whose film “Songs My Brother Taught Me” is also screening in competition, countered: “The way I make my films – I rely on technology completely,” she said. “I’m so excited where we are today. I think filmmaking should not be for (the) elite. It should be for everybody.”
TheWrap’s Industry Panel addressed the state of indie filmmaking in the digital age and featured Zhao, Bailey, along with Bryan Besser, co-founder of the agency Verve; Kristen Konvitz, who runs the film vertical for crowd-funder Indiegogo; and Josh Kline, Head of Media and Entertainment at Box. Wrap Editor in Chief Sharon Waxman moderated the conversation to a packed room at the Emerge space by Bang and Olufson, with support from UCLA’s School of Theatre, Film and Television.
Zhao’s film takes place on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, and she said that low-cost film production has been a critical innovation – even if distribution remains a challenge.
“I understand the fear that there’s too many movies out there – but that’s ok,” she said. “The kid on a reservation should have the ability to make a film. Hoping someone out there will figure out how that distribution is going to work.
But the way technology has evolved – I’m from Communist China, now I’m on an Indian reservation – so I honestly think it’s a gift that we have.”
Kline agreed, since Box’s service Box’s service has dramatically lowered the cost for filmmakers using it for their dailies.
“Whether you’re at an agency and you need to collaborate with your writers and producers and directors that you represent, or whether you’re producing a movie and you’ve got people around the world working on it, what you have is the ability to share all of this important information in a cloud environment that’s secure, and you know it’s going to be there,” he said.
Unlike Google and Netflix, the traditional film industry still lacks the tools to effectively wield data to help make films aimed at the biggest possible audience, panelists said. One company making inroads on that is Indiegogo, said Konvitz, which provides filmmakers with the data about those who’ve contributed to their fund-raising campaigns, which can be used in marketing decisions.
The crowd-funding platform is also working on the distribution problem. A new initiative they announced at Sundance involves providing matching funds up to $1,000,000 for campaigns on Indiegogo in exchange for a 60-day window to stream at Vimeo On Demand. The first project to participate in the new partnership is Malcom Carter’s “The Connected Universe,” a documentary on the interconnectivity of everything.
Bryan Besser, a partner at Verve, said that social media has become a de facto is step in the development of marketing campaigns.
“You get asked when you’re in these situations, ‘What about this person, who has 6 million Twitter followers, and will be able to blast that all over the place? How will that monetize and how much will that be key in driving and bringing in a different audience?”
He added: “It’s a little bit of a weird thing these days. Sometimes it’s a positive.”