Independent film is what we live and breathe for at Raindance. There is nothing like the thrill of getting to watch a film from a new filmmaker, and be utterly transported by it. The privilege of supporting filmmakers on their journey is unparalleled. This is why Raindance is first and foremost a film school.
We have to be vigilant about the state of independent film, and the opportunities that are afforded to content creators. You can make a film with an iPhone, but so can everyone else now. You can put your film on the web, and get your work seen by the entire world, but so can everyone else now. Not just that, you also have to compete with the behemoths. And the giants of the internet, currently fighting the streaming wars, are only getting bigger. Yes, there is a David and Goliath dynamic emerging between DIY filmmakers and the establishment in its many forms. But even more interesting is that there is no just one Goliath, and all of them are fighting between themselves.
As far as traditional distribution into cinemas is concerned, the giants that exist today have been roughly the same, in a form or other, since the beginning of cinema: Warner Bros, Paramount, Disney, Universal, Fox and the likes… When it comes to streaming services, Netflix has the first-mover advantage in establishing itself as a force to reckon with. It was the first interface to move into original content creation, with House of Cards in 2013. Therefore, it was the first one to pose a threat to the established dominators of the entertainment market.
Amazon was quick to catch up. Facebook is gearing up, and Apple has already bought TV shows starring Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston and others… The arrival of not just competitors, but threats to the mode of consumption of the products -cinema versus streaming at home- meant that the giants had to re-think their strategies in a deeper level.
2019 will be the year of many changes, and extraordinary showdowns. In 2019, Disney and Warner are going to launch their streaming services in order to compete with Netflix. And let us remember that, in order to gauge the stakes of the battle ahead, Netflix currently accounts for a third of all internet traffic in the United States every evening. It is also rumoured that Apple will launch its SVOD (subscription video on demand) service this year in the North American territory. The increase in scripted content that occurred in 2018 in this market, which was mainly thanks to streaming services, is bound to overflow into 2019.
Independent film vs Goliath
Let us be clear that streaming services can be an opportunity for independent filmmakers. Those streamers need more content than anyone can binge in one sitting. Netflix has championed extremely original content. That means that there are more opportunities for the singular voices of the indie scene.
That is not the only reason for us to pay attention to what is happening at the top. The world has grown more and more polarised in the 21st century. Authoritarian regimes are on the rise in the Western world. Money, power, and decisions are concentrated in the hands of very few people. This applies to the entertainment industry as well as to our societies and the global economy.
In 2019, 40% of content creation will be in the hands of three companies: Disney, Comcast and WarnerMedia. That level of consolidation means that, despite the need for more content, the decisions are at the hand of very few people. One can hope that those companies will be aware of the changes that the entertainment industry has been undergoing, and be smart enough to brand it corporate social responsibility.
What that means is that independent filmmakers will need to know how to sail those waters. Not just that, they will need to know what they are bringing to the table, keep making their films with integrity, and keep working hard to be discovered.
This is the type of groundwork that our students have been doing and will continue to be doing in 2019. Our HND students have the opportunity to work on a feature film by the end of their studies. Our Postgraduate Degree students, in over 30 countries, go on a journey to find their voice and develop their own projects, which is unlike any other film school in the world. Our courses are taught by filmmakers wanting to share their experience and wisdom.
Come through our doors. Discover. Be discovered.