The business of film
The business of film

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The business of film

2.2 The future

Charles Moore is adamant that the industry is about to experience real change. He foresees a very difficult future for the independent producer. In this activity, you'll hear his views and see whether you agree.

Activity 2 The future of independent film

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

Watch this video clip. Do you agree with Charles’ view about the future for independent features? And do you agree with his analysis of the power game in film today? Note down your thoughts in the box below.

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Transcript: Video 6 Charles Moore talks about the future for independent production

CHARLES MOORE
I think at this particular point in time, where it is a tipping point in the independent film world, the independent film world has struggled for a number of years because it's not a cheap proposition, making these films. It's certainly not a cheap proposition distributing these films, and spend- because the marketing expenses are high. The digital world I think makes it easier to get small films noticed, because it's easier to directly focus on your particular community that you're aiming for. Whereas in the old days, it was more difficult maybe to reach the audience.
 But I do think if you look at the weekend grosses, it's very difficult for independent films to sort of break out unless they have a particular commercial storyline, or particular cast members, and I think for that reason talent, whether it's directing or acting talent, has become very important in the independent film world. I think it's very hard for an independent film with very, very unknown talent, or certainly, an unknown film talent, maybe some of them, obviously, have TV talent, but very hard for those films to make any money, and therefore the result of that is it's very hard for those films to be financed.
 In the UK, it's very different in countries like Scandinavia and France where there is a huge amount of public money that can go into these films, and even organisations like Film4, who have been fantastic at developing young talent, they still are, and there is more of a commercial bias there.
End transcript: Video 6 Charles Moore talks about the future for independent production
Video 6 Charles Moore talks about the future for independent production
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Described image
Figure 4 Mobile devices have impacted film viewing and distribution

Now consider distribution. As you have learned, the windows system shifts a little in timing as technology changes but remains essentially intact.

The cinema is still seen as the first release window and can make or break a film financially. The success of film in subsequent windows for most major independent releases is dependent on success at the box office, even if the box office itself is not profitable.

But is the film industry you have learned about on this course changing?

Activity 3 The future of distribution

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

What do you think will happen to distribution in the future? How could the market for independent film change? Note down your thoughts in the box below. The discussion will then present some thoughts from a few of the course contributors.

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Discussion

Ben Roberts from the British Film Institute and Ollie Madden join Charles in considering what the future holds for film distribution and what the appetite is for feature films among audiences bombarded by so much choice.

Download this video clip.Video player: Video 7 Ben Roberts, Ollie Madden and Charles Moore consider what the future holds for film distribution
Skip transcript: Video 7 Ben Roberts, Ollie Madden and Charles Moore consider what the future holds for film distribution

Transcript: Video 7 Ben Roberts, Ollie Madden and Charles Moore consider what the future holds for film distribution

BEN ROBERTS
The ongoing challenges are where's the money coming from? Where is the private investment coming from? Audiences have lots of claims on their time. So audiences for film can now stay at home and watch lots of box set TV. They can play games to their heart's content. They can actually spend the two hours they would have done watching a film on Facebook. So there are lots of challenges for eyeballs, which was previously reserved for film. So that's the challenge. But I think the responsibility of the film industry is to respond to what audiences are doing, and recognise that there's a certain amount of evolution that needs to happen to stay healthy.
CHARLES MOORE
I think when Netflix, and then Amazon, first came on the scene, I would have thought that the independent production community would have maybe suspected that they were going to just be another studio, effectively. And that they were just going to join the ranks of the Foxes and Paramounts, and it wouldn't be of great interest to them on a day to day basis, unless they happen to have a big project like a studio-type project. But as time has- not a lot of time, but as time has gone on over the last couple of years, I suppose two things. One is that Netflix and Amazon are a disruptive force.
 And I mean that in a good way, because it's shaken up the industry in a way that I think needed to be shaken up. There are all sorts of, I think, problems in the industry related to windowing, which restricts the ability of films, I think, to maximise revenues, because exhibitors insist on certain time periods before DVD release, et cetera, et cetera. So audiences who potentially would want to see a DVD on the back of certain marketing that's gone on have to wait four months before the DVD comes out. Netflix and Amazon are shaking that world up in a big way and making, in Netfix's case, high-budget productions with a very limited theatrical release and then going straight to their platform.
It will be very interesting to see how that pans out. They're not just making the big budget, but they're making very interesting independent-type projects.
OLLIE MADDEN
 Predicting the future of independent film is one of those things that I believe will go on forever and ever, because I believe there is a long and healthy future for independent film. I think audiences are always going to want to experience films communally, to go out and have that movie experience that you can't generate at home. And I think there are stories that genuinely benefit from being told in a closed-ended way. We're in an era where serialised television is stronger and more creatively exciting than it's ever been. And you're seeing films replicating that, particularly the big-budget studio franchises that are starting to have serialised elements, in terms of what Marvel is doing or DC are doing.
 But I still think there's a huge market and appetite- and always will be- for often adult-oriented dramas and genre films that are more closed-ended stories. And I believe that if the quality of the films are high enough, if they're innovative enough, if they provoke thought and provoke a cultural discussion in the way that really only film can, in that very specific way, I think that those kinds of films will always be around. There will always be a market for them. We may have to adjust the way they're made, the price they're made at, the way you reach audiences and market to audiences. But I don't think film and the cinematic experience is going away.
In fact, I think it's going to continue to thrive.
End transcript: Video 7 Ben Roberts, Ollie Madden and Charles Moore consider what the future holds for film distribution
Video 7 Ben Roberts, Ollie Madden and Charles Moore consider what the future holds for film distribution
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There are a lot of potential future changes to the market for feature films and the value chain, resulting from digital technology innovations and convergence:

  • the continued growth of internet downloads and video-on-demand
  • the digitisation of the whole film-making process making possible ultra low budget film-making as well as extraordinary visual effects
  • the digitisation of cinema screens, which reduces physical distribution costs and makes possible the cinema release of niche films and back catalogue as well as alternative content such as live opera and TV premieres
  • the short-circuiting of the value chain, by producers’ theoretical ability to market and distribute their films directly to the consumer – though attracting audiences is still an issue
  • the increasing role in distribution and production of internet-based retail players like Netflix, Amazon and Apple/iTunes.

The harder question is how all this change will impact on the value chain. While people may pay to view their films in different ways, it has been suggested by some that the basic economics of the film industry may not be substantially altered by these changes.

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