What a crazy two decades since I started Raindance - way way back in the days of celluloid in 1992. Now, of course, celluloid isn't the only thing to go. Most of how we make, watch and consume entertainment has changed beyond recognition in the past two decades.
Here are 7 Key trends that independent Filmmakers and Screenwriters need to embrace in order to stay afloat in the next year:
1. Foreign producers Will Race To The UK To Take Advantage Of UK Tax Wrappers
Changes in the UK's Tax Incentives has resulted in a stream of foreign producers heading to London to raise money. In 2013 this will turn into a flood. These producers, with quality projects, will be seeking UK co-producers making an ideal opportunity for some filmmakers.
2. Government Film Funding Quangos Lose Their Grip
Important as film funding from the likes of the now-demised UK Film Council, and the current British Film Institute has been, new and alternative funding sources have made the politically sensitive and chaotic reliance of these civil-servant run quangos a thing of the past. As beneficial and important as these government bodies are, a new breed of filmmaker has emerged where the economics of profit and loss take front row over the merits of the film's socio-politico's correctness. They are using equity finance and alternative funding such as crowd funding.
Some will applaud this new breed of filmmaker. Others will decry how a nation's voice could so easily be lost to the commercial hub-bub. Pray that a balance will be gained and maintained.
3. Equity Finance Becomes Viable
As civic funding becomes less dominant (along with it's old-school film industry standard practices), 2013 will see a rise in private equity stakes in movies. This will have a huge impact on the industry for several reasons:
- advantageous UK Tax Incentives can largely de-risk film investment for UK based investors
- lower budgets (generally) means less money spent on film potentially impacting on pay
- producers will learn to become very cost-effective and put money on the screen
- traditional industry finance models will prove obsolete leaving more control in the hands of the producers
- filmmakers using equity only finance will (generally) see a greater ROI than civic funded projects which could see more movies made for less money but greater revenue
- lower budget films can also mean more profitable films
Trans-media producers now have several different routes to funding. At this year's British Independent Film Awards, contenders such as Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet, City Slacker and Love Tomorrow were funded from diverse and completely different sources including civic funding, private equity and crowd sourcing.
4.Trans Media Comes Of Age
Investors and distributors will place increasing importance on a project's trans-media elements. As social media strategies become ever more dynamic and relevant to modern audiences, so too trans-media projects will be easier to distribute, and by nature, be able to generate more revenue.
Increased web usage has spawned different types of trans-media projects. From Alternate Reality Games like San Francisco's '90's Dreadnaught, to Blair Witch Project, Year Zero, (a transmedia project by Nine Inch Nails). and the innovative ReGenesis from Canada.
My publisher, Focal Press is a 60 year old publishing concern that many argue has one of the best collection of film and media books around. When sales of books started to plummet thanks to on-line plundering and the rise of Kindle and eBooks, I started to wonder what would happen to this staid, Oxford and Boston based concern.
Have no fear, Focal Press has leapt firmly across the book and print gap and are now offering a series of 'enhanced' books which you purchase online - like an eBook - then click on several different tutorials and other film assets that are hosted in the iCloud.
The new breed of film producer will embrace the new storytelling possibilities offered by new distribution technology and focus on how these new distribution possibilities impact on storytelling and of course, monetisation.
5. Self Distribution
Why buy from the supermarket when you can buy from the content creator direct? The problem that filmmakers have is how to let the world know where their stand is and where you can buy thier products.
Pioneering Canadian cult filmmaker Lee Demarbres demonstrated Film Self Distribution 101 with his hilarious romp, Jesus Christ Vasmpire Hunter. By touring small towns and cities armed with posters, a copy of his film and a lot of shoe leather, he was able to turn his stylish no-budget comedy into a profit centre.
Films dealing with music might have an upper hand. Movies like the Raindance his Once or 2011's Music from The Big House give smart exhibition hooks: movie + a gig, thereby doubling potential audiences and revenue.
Read: Film Distribution Basics
6. Social Media Becomes Mandatory
Many of the pre-production, production and distribution windows of a film project are increasingly reliant on a strong and smart social media presence. Crowd sourcing, production publicity and self-distribution are all as successful as the social media programmes instigated by the filmmaker.
7. Dumbing Down of Senses
I was cutting through Soho the day before Christmas when I spotted Reuban, the projectionist of the Soho Screening Rooms. We stopped for a natter about the state of the world. He told me that fewer and fewer production companies are using his preview theatre for rushes, deferring to the 50 inch flat screen in their editing suites. when they see the finished film at his place, they come up and say that his projector must be faulty because there were a lot of soft spots in the movie. "Nope" - is always the reply - the fault is with your eyes and the lower resolution of your editor's flat screen.
This highlights the way our senses are becoming number and dumber. Witness the difference between a MP3 download from the net against the full res/full resolution track.
As we become ever more bombarded by sound and movies, our senses become accustomed to lower res versions and in a generation or two we may become, quite literally, blind and deaf.
While mobile movies are rightly used to show us scenes from Syria and Libya, it should be remembered that these images are for a quick reference only. I am of the generation that found the Zagruber images of the Kennedy assassination disturbingly low res.
Part of a filmmakers job is to continually educate about sound and vision.
Finally. Want Global? Tell Local
The trick of filmmaking next year is to win over a global audience. The question is, how?
Tamil film-maker Anurag Kashyap says: "If you want to get a global audience, tell them a local story" This sentiment that would find resonance with independent film-makers of today.
To which I would add from my own script analysis and teaching over the past 20 years: make the story local, but universal.
The biggest single trend affecting filmmakers is the way the Internet is changing, and for the worse. No one seems to be talking about this, and no one seems to be doing anything about this.
I am no different either - I don't know how to fight this headless monster, or to grab hold and turn this into a cause like the Occupy Wall St Movement, or the so-called Arab Spring. But someone needs to.
Let me explain:
There are currently 3 types of Internet services:
- the free Internet that we have grown to love,
- the private Internet such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, where private companies have the right to bar admission and censors (as iMovies has barred controversial movies from their shop
- a new Internet funded by brands. In this instance, ISP's who receive money from brands and give a fraction of this money to each of their customers who will show their ads on their websites.
Nothing wrong in this so far. except the ISPs have the ability to censor your web sites. Brands are very right wing outfits, and if the ISP they have heaped wads of cash on decide your left leaning website (or movie)is potentially embarrassing to the brand, the ISPs have the power and ability to make your website run 5 times slower than a right wing website. This is a cruelly similar programme to the refuted Great Firewall of China.
Then there is S.O.P.A
The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) was introduced in Congress by Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) and a bipartisan group of 12 initial co-sponsors. The bill expands the ability of U.S. law enforcement and copyright holders to fight online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods.
On the face of it, stopping piracy and counterfeit goods is a good thing. The realities of this bill are however, far more onerous. The Bill gives the American law-enforcement agencies such far reaching powers that companies like Youtube and Vimeo, to name just two, may be forced to close down - so great is the threat that they might accidentally be hosting a piece of uncleared content. Civil liberty champions in the States are rightly worried that should this bill be passed, it will be open to abuse.
And what impact would this have on our hard-won right to free speech?
All of which leaves me pretty much at the end of this article. Please do let me know if there is anything I have missed out by using the feedback button below. Your comments will come directly to me.