We Need To Make Indie Film Work For Investors!

It's pretty simple.  When people make money doing something, more money enters that system.  And it is pretty simple in the reverse: when some people make a bucketload and those that invested in it make virtually nothing, less money flows into the system.

If distributors don't pay creators their fair share of the profits, their won't be movies made. Or maybe the investors will get wise and stop selling the distributors the film.  After all we are at a time that you can really do it yourself (by doing it with others).  And to be clear, "fair share" doesn't mean paying them what contract swindles them out of -- it means paying them an ethical cut.  And that sure in hell ain't 12.8% of the profits -- which is what happened on one of the most successful indie films of recent times.

If there is one simple goal for the new year, every filmmaker should make sure their investors get paid what they deserve.  It is for all of our benefit.  If there is more money available for indie film investment, more movies will get made and hopefully they will be more diverse and ambitious.

It makes me furious when I hear of a film that generated tons of cash and very little flows back to those that support the work.  It makes everyone feel that the system is corrupt.   It makes investors think that they can't win.

Film distributors are supporters of our cultural institutions -- especially the specialized ones.  Wouldn't you be embarrassed if you released a film on DVD and it generated $139 Million Freaking Dollars and you only shared 12.88% of that tremendous wealth with the people who created the movie?  Wouldn't you expect that filmmakers would all be wearing t-shirts this year at Sundance that point out that 12.88% is not a fair profit share?

That is what happened with Napoleon Dynamite.  Read the shocking story here.


An X Prize For A Sustainable Cinema Culture Solution?

Contests can be serious drivers.  

Picture a world where the only movies are either: 1) Large Multi-National Media Corporations' Costume-clad Franchise Tentpoles; 2) Government Supported & Ordained Nationalist Culture Initiatives; 3) Micro0budget Amateur Hobbies.  Sucks, right?  No diverse talents reaching higher and further to help us recognize the full expansiveness of humankind (with the necessary budgets to support them).  Well, that world is the one we currently reside in.  Now picture where we may be ten years from now.  Truly sucks, right?

How do we prevent that?  How do we provide hope to a world of generative artists that they can support themselves doing what they love?  How do we demonstrate to the entrepreneurs and financial movers and shakers that you can earn a significant return from cultural investment and do well as well as doing good?  How do we eliminate the friction in the marketplace that leads producers to spend 50% of their time chasing money leads that never materialize?  How do we help audiences discover the stories that are relevant to and will resonate with them?  How do we facilitate audiences using these applicable stories to become communities that spur on further actions?

Maybe it's time the rewards got a bit more serious.

I am hopeful that I will be able to initiative a great deal of positive change from my Executive Director seat at the San Francisco Film Society -- but there are a lot of responsibilities and I can't always focus on the change that I want to be.  I know I need a great deal of support and I need the time to look for it.  Perhaps their can be some parallel tracks...

What about an X Prize for a sustainable cinema culture solution?

Lack Of Transparency Limits Film Investments

NY Magazine has run a clear analysis on why the attempt to establish Film Future markets failed.  Our business is so far from transparent, it is laughable to outsiders.  The article articulates how we have no clear & unbiased info on how well films perform and all reporting is done by the studios themselves.  To run a commodities market, the public would need something more transparent (like other countries have) and without it court cases would abound.

Such chaos would almost inevitably lead to a call for mandated government-agency oversight of Hollywood accounting, and that, to studio thinking, would be Armageddon—albeit an Armageddon that would be celebrated by everyone who has ever been promised a net-profits check that didn’t arrive. In the space of just a couple of days this month, a jury demanded Disney pay $270 million in damages for wrongfully withholding profits on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, another found that actor Don Johnson was owed $23 million by the producers of Nash Bridges, and Nikki Finke’s Deadline website posted a leaked balance sheet in which Warner Bros. appeared to demonstrate that the movie Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which grossed $938 million worldwide, is somehow $167 million in the red. Given that statistic, perhaps stockholders should inquire whether any studio movies ever realize a net profit, and if not, why the people who run those studios are still employed.

If we are ever going to have a sustainable investor base for our industry, we need to bring the reporting and accounting practices up to the standards of other industries.  It's time that we develop a list of best practices of what needs to be done to reach this goal.  I will add it to my To Do List in the meantime.