Positive News for Filmmakers at the New York Film Conference

By Jane Applegate

Entertainment industry experts speaking at the first annual New York Film Conference on October 10, 2017 had some great news for attendees: It’s getting easier to sell your content directly to consumers, consumers are more open to watching films with subtitles and big digital platforms are spending billions on buying new content.

Netflix recently announced its plans to invest $6 billion—yes, billion with a ‘b’—on original content for its growing global platform.

The production talent pool is also growing every year, according to John Hadity, executive vice president of EP Financial Solutions. Hadity, who is an expert on production tax incentives, said New York City is currently home to about 45 television shows.  Hundreds of films, big and small, have also been shot here in recent years.

The experts had good news for independent content creators as well as filmmakers.

“A lot more creators are going right to consumers,” said Anjali Sud, CEO of Vimeo, the popular platform that allows members to easily upload and share video content. “We’re excited to see creators building real businesses.”

New tools and technology make it much easier to organize clips on your Vimeo page and track viewership—including analytics that let you see when viewers stop watching a clip. A few weeks ago, Sud said, Vimeo introduced a live streaming feature in response to popular demand. Sud said Vimeo’s top priority is ”providing seamless and affordable solutions.”

Although anyone can produce video content with a smartphone or digital camera and editing software, it’s still very tough to raise money to produce an independent film. However, soft money, deep-pocketed foreign investors and attractive tax credits all support independent film production, according to experts attending the one-day conference at the W Hotel in Union Square. About 120 people attended the meeting, which was sponsored by Light Iron (a post-production house), the law firm Hogan Lovells, Deadline.com, NYWIFT, China Film Insider, Film Fatales, BRIC, IFP and Women Independent Producers, among others.

On the negative side, Deborah Acoca, vice president of the entertainment industries group at East West Bank and other panelists, said international pre-sales—once the quickest way to finance an independent film—have significantly shrunk unless you have an A-list cast, great script and top director.

Finding a distributor or broadcast outlet is still extremely challenging, according to the experts. Despite the growing popularity of direct sales to consumers, screening a film at a film festival is still the best way to find a traditional distributor.

“There are very different reasons for premiering at a festival, but from an acquisition standpoint, we’re always looking for great content,” said Julie Dansker, vice president of sales and marketing at The Orchard.

Tom Cunha, founder and CEO of Brigade Marketing, advised attendees to not “go crazy about creating marketing” materials “because if you sell it (the film), the distributor will most likely change it all.”

Because making independent films and original content requires so much blood, sweat and tears, Rebecca Feinberg, head of development for Washington Square Films, said it’s important to ask yourself, “Why do you feel it’s important to share this story with the world?”

Washington Square founder and CEO Joshua Blum said the company, which has offices in New York and Los Angeles, supports its new film projects by producing commercials. Although people love a good documentary, Blum said despite the growing market for online content, it’s still tough to finance non-fiction films.

“If you want to make big movies, you need to be in L.A,” he said. “But if you have your own vision, New York is still more creative and diverse.”

 

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