The Only Logical Response For A Creative Person To This Age Of Abundance

I write today in honor of the Sundance Film Festival (which kicks off today) and if it wasn't for, I probably would have not been able to do what I love for so long.  Here's to new models that are designed with large heart and a complete commitment to the welfare & progress of the artist and their community.  Thank you, Mr. Redford, and may you continue to give rise to so many diverse creatures. I trust that by now all of you who read this blog understand that the Film Biz still functions on an antiquated model that has no applicability to today.  That is, the film industry was constructed around the concept of scarcity of content and control of that content -- and our life is nothing like that now.  Yes, there is still money to be made via the antiquated model, but it only benefits a very few beyond those that control it.  It survives because all industries are essentially designed to keep the jobs of those that have them.  So it goes.  But eventually, we all confront reality, and it often is not pretty.

I also trust that if you are reading this you also recognize that we live in the time of Grand Abundance of produced stories, total access to that content, and a general tendency to be thoroughly distracted from that content.  Looking at the state of film from this perspective can be pretty discouraging, but it is only a partial picture.  I state all of this again, in the hopes that we can soon walk together into the future I know can be before us.

I took to blogging & public speaking because I was frustrated that the film business leaders were only talking about the business aspects of our situation and were neglecting that this is a wonderful time to be a generative, creative person committed to the passion industries.  Over four year years ago, I gave this speech in the hopes of encouraging both artists and film industry leaders to look at things in a different way.  There's been some successes, but I would be lying to say that I am satisfied with what this has all lead to, but it is still certainly worth trying.  I want to make and help others make and appreciate creatively ambitious, emotionally true, appropriately complex stories that aspire us to best aspects of our expansive nature.

There has never been a better time to lead a creative life as a filmmaker.  The tools of production are cheaper and easier to use than ever before.  The tools of marketing, distribution, and financing are cheaper, easier, and more accessible than ever before.  The means of engagement with audiences and ultimate building of communities are more doable than we previously even imagined.  And information is accessible as never previously so enjoyed.  Audiences are growing accustomed to a great variety of story-telling approaches while also exploring more divers content.  I believe our behavior is growing less self-focused and more transparent.  From where I sit, it also appears we are growing less risk adverse and more process (vs. product) oriented.  All good things.  I am excited to be part of these times.

Yet I still get asked by filmmakers, people who already have committed their labor in service to what they love, as well as those that are considering such a mission: "What should I do?  How can I have a sustainable and creative life?"  In this incredible paradigm shift brought on by the twin towers of digital transformation and economic collapse, what is the logical response for a creative person who wants to both sustain & prosper?

In our time of grand abundance, atemporal & platform-agnostic complete access, & audience's intense distraction, the logical response for an artist who wants to sustain a creative life & reasonably profit from doing so, is to be completely ubiquitous and extremely prolific with their work, thus requiring radical collaboration, constant iteration, rapid prototyping,  deviation from singular generation, and overall commitment to innovation.

It's a mouthful, sure, but that's my answer.  Of course it would be better if I could avoid the friggin' entrepreneurial vernacular & jargon, but... can you kick it?  I will give it a plain speak pass soon.

Or perhaps you could say it for me?

 

When Will The Film Business Adjust To Reality?

I have given a few interviews around my new mission as the San Francisco Film Society's Executive Director.  I recently spoke to Cinesource and we discussed a bit about where we are now and where we could hopefully go.  It is always such a challenge because the existing businesses are invested in the status quo -- even when that is predicated on propping up a world that is no longer here.

I said: "The business of film has been oriented around the concepts of scarcity and control—where 50,000 titles can come out every year," Ted points out. "It would take nearly a century to [showcase] just a single year's output of films.” 

“The film industry has not been able to keep up with what the tech industry has brought to the forefront. The business has been stuck in ways of doing things that are not good for business. Transformations need to occur to create a sustainable investment class to continue to help filmmakers market to the new niches.” 

Hope would like to see business practices around scarcity make way for a “super abundance” of quality content, a super niche content world, where filmmakers can market freely to that special someone fascinated by their subject and style, although he admitted that engaging with communities is not a frictionless practice yet.

Read the whole interview here.

How VOD Changes The Whole Film Landscape

It a big question (how VOD is changing the film landscape), but we already see the answers starting to unfold. As the lovers of cinema recognize they can access anything anywhere anytime, and the captains of industry in the culture strands accept their business is one of infinite choice, everyone becomes more desperate for the curators and filters that help connect us with what we will enjoy most.

Film culture diversifies further into various event programing that includes both blockbusters and traditional geo-specific festivals, and all the various forms of electronic transmission, both in a solitary passive viewing mode, and in a more social active form.

This all access world of super-abundance will increase the value of alternative forms, beyond the feature film, whether they are to maintain engagement or deliver a more immersive experience. I think it can't help but lead artists and those who support them to recognize the value in maintaining ownership of their work and opting for short term licenses to specific platforms.

This is part of an interview I gave OnDemand Weekly upon accepting the Executive Director position at The San Francisco Film Society.  Read all of it right here.

Indie Film: How It Started & Where It Is Headed

I was on the radio in New Zealand in support of Big Screen Symposium a couple of weeks back. It was a very good interview, if I do say so myself.  The interviewer knew his stuff and I had enough coffee to be pretty sharp. Check it out:

http://podcast.radionz.co.nz/atm/atm-20120906-2000-at_the_movies_for_6_september_2012-048.mp3

I start at around the 12:20 mark.  And dig the deep tones of my nasal honk...

Podcast: Everything I Know About Producing (A Start)

Courtesy of Screen Australia, you can now have access to everything I know about producing.  I gave two days of lectures in Sydney at the end of August, and the mic ran into a recording device.  It's just audio so you don't get to see my colorful outfits or all the nifty slides I never prepared, but it is the next best thing to being there.

You can get them here.

Episode 1: Grasping The New Paradigm

Episode 2: A New Business Model For Indie Film

You can also download them from the iTunes store here.

But I have to warn you: the lectures were each 6 hours long.  Screen Australia have done us the courtesy of keeping each one to around 30 minutes.  We did not want the liability of blowing your mind.  You will have to come to a class sometime for that privilege.

Does The World Need Another Decent Movie?

By Julien Favre With the world economy on the brink, the current environment has rarely been so tough for independent filmmakers. To get our films made and, even more so, to see them sold and/or distributed, is getting incredibly challenging. Foreign sales estimates for low budget independent films are a tenth of what they used to be pre-2008, and let's not be fooled by the numbers. We will be happy if we sell at all, even for symbolic numbers. From a filmmaker's perspective, we have entered a dichotomous world: a shrinking pool of independent films do well; most don't make any significant business. It is now as if there is only room for one indie hit per year. If you are not that film that everybody wants, you barely exist and your business footprint will be close to zero.

Now, you can look at this situation in two different ways. One way is to adjust to the market and give it what it wants, or can economically bare. This means making genre films that still have somewhat of a market and will recoup as long as they are technically sound and are made for the right price. You can also continue to make "art house" films (for lack of a better word) as long as you don't spend more than $80,000 making them, since this is what you can realistically hope to net from world wide sales if the film turns out okay and has a decent festival run.

But the other way to look at these dire market conditions is to ask ourselves: does the world really need another decent film? The elephant in the room is that most films are bad or average. Back when the economy was strong and there was a theatrical and DVD market for indie films, decent films used to do well enough to justify the venture from a business standpoint, but not anymore.

Even if no filmmaker or producer sets out to make yet another average film, we would be lying to ourselves if we were claiming that we never went in production on a film knowing full well that the script needed another pass, or praying that an average director would turn a good script into a great film, or that we would be able to cut around bad performance.

But the reality is that there is no room for average films anymore. There isn't even much room for good movies unless they are backed by heavyweight distributors. We can lament about how unfair, how scandalous it is that our labour-of-love films don't sell and nobody sees themt. Or we can accept the reality of the market and raise the bar of what we produce.

A month or so ago, someone asked me WHY i was a producer. I am so used to people asking me WHAT a producer is, but I was taken aback by this very simple question, and I didn't know what to say. Producing is so much part of me that I cannot contemplate doing anything else, but that doesn't answer the question.

But I realized after the fact that the WHY question is fundamental, and even more so considering the difficulties the indie film world is facing today. Since we are certainly not doing it for the money (and in most cases unfortunately not even for our investors' money), then why are we doing it? Not for the hours, obviously. Producing is not the healthiest or stress-free occupation. And from a human standpoint, it is rarely satisfying either. As a function of what we do, we are at the receiving end of all grievances and rarely get any recognition when things do go well because, you know, all is normal then…

So why are we doing it?

Because there is nothing like the experience of watching an amazing film and being devastated, blown away, changed by it. For me, it started with Akira Kurosawa's Ran. I remember being unable to speak for the rest of the day, and trying to find a way to merge with that world, keep it alive in my head, escape in it.

So deep down, this is what has been driving me: I want to hurt the audience with beauty, emotionally wreck the viewers by exposing them to true art. This is the WHY. This is why I want to make movies. But I guess this is very easy to lose sight of this as we struggle with the reality of the business, and making a living, and deal with the pressure of "producing something" to justify being a producer.

In an oft-quoted letter to his friend Oskar Pollak, Franz Kafka wrote: "I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we are reading doesn't wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for? ...we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us."

Of course, creating truly great art is incredibly difficult, and depends on so many factors, most of them beyond our control as producers. It is likely beyond most producers' or filmmakers' ability actually. There are plenty of competent people, but true talent is scarce. And even with the best intentions, the highest artistic integrity, there is never any guarantee of success.

But our responsibility, more than ever, is to try, to be intransigeant with content, to look at our slate with a cold heart and ask ourselves: does this movie really need to be made? And why? Would I honestly go see it if I wasn't the producer? It is so hard to get something made that making something, anything, seems like an achievement in itself. But it is not good enough, not anymore.

And in answering these questions, let's be honest. If what we read is not truly great, not really original, not inspired, if the demo-reel we are watching is average, if the ending doesn't quite work, let's keep working, let's keep writing, let's keep looking for the right creative partners and the right elements.

So rather than lament the lack of opportunities, our response as producers to these dire times should be to try and make better films, make great films, not just good ones. Films that will get seen, and distributed, regardless of the market conditions, the weather, venus' transit or what other movie is being released that week.

There is no room for good anymore, but simply making good movies is not why we got into this anyways, so maybe this is our opportunity to become who we always wanted to be, and do what we always aspired to: make films that break the frozen sea inside.

Julien Favre is a producer at DViant Films, an independent film company based in Los Angeles and Toronto. The company's latest release, Martin Donovan's Collaborator, opens at the Egyptian in Los Angeles this Friday.

COLLABORATOR opens theatrically in Los Angeles tomorrow (Friday, July 20th) for a limited one week run.  Screening times here.

As of this writing COLLABORATOR is 82% "Fresh" at Rotten Tomatoes.

How To Watch Collaborator:

The Entertainment Economy Is Completely Different Than It Was

Make no mistake: The Entertainment Economy can no longer be predicated on scarcity or control -- as it has been for the last 110 years.  We need to rebuild it around concept of super-abundance & access.

"YouTubers Upload 72 Hours of Video Every Minute"  That's up from 48 hours a year ago.  At what age do we reach Saturation Point?  I already have: I have identified every film I would like to see -- if I am able to maintain my maximum rate of consumption -- to carry me 5 years past my life expectancy.  The very nature of technology indicates that in less than ten years, a twenty year old cinephile will have done the same.  I expect that to happen much sooner though.  Audiences will have no "need" for the new.  We have so many cute animals and children doing silly things after all.  Who really needs an ambitious and relevant cinema?  So why do anything to preserve it (let alone advance it)?  Let's just bury our heads and try to hold onto what is left of our jobs.  Right?

I am glad there are those that know otherwise.

One Way To Deal With The Intersection Of SuperAbundance & Economic Collapse

I must confess I have developed a Standard Operating Response (SOR) to deal with the fact of my ever growing (& groaning) To Read / To Watch List and my ever dwindling pay check.

"Thanks, but right now we have to concentrate full time on paying work or our own projects. Good luck with it."

I hope it doesn't bum the recipients out, but it is a reality.