NYWIFT- brought to you by Budweiser?
Thank God for NY Women in Film and Television. If not we would all be heading for the bar.
The NYWIFT 'Film Financing day: Focus on Dramatic Features' was a grueling line up of guest speakers guiding indie producers through investment and distribution options in the midst of an economic crisis, making for a very depressing morning as it became clear that when it comes to making films, at least most films still have catering to help us feed ourselves, because aside from that– the money has run out. I had a vision – of watching a fine indie flick in the cinema, and the credits just stop rolling half way through. Make that 10% of the way through. Because according to one producer, we used to be able to go seeking one hundred thousand from an investor, now we're seeking ten.
The panel of producers tried hard to find some positive tips for an audience hungry for an answer on how to find the investment needed for their next feature film:
- “if you can get a name actor holding a can of Budweiser in their hand, you can add $30,000 to the bottom line”
- “make yourselves a 'movement'. Go to events (like this, that you are at right now?) and meet other people” just like WE did” (give yourselves a big group hug?)
- Ever thought about shooting in Kalizbekistan? There might be generous tax breaks and production incentives. (Or, better yet, try accounting for a career).
For the indie filmmakers out there, option 3 is the most highly recommended. Because to produce films now, you'll need to string together a long list of soft money production incentives and tax breaks, with the location of your film now the biggest potential money earner for your budget. Care to film in the outback of Australia? Sure its a new york gangsta flick. But just add a few kangaroos, (hey why not even an aboriginal score?) and maybe you score 50% of your budget back in incentives from Screen Australia.
It's the Australian system of film financing through government bodies. Now while the financial turmoil is forcing Australians to rethink the grant based dependencies of cinematic output, with all the added strings attached to our creativity, and turn to commercial investment to try to bring our profit margins back into the black, the US of A seems to be turning more to the Australian style of doing things on a wing and a prayer, and talking about co-productions as a way of doing anything at all...
Gone are the days when you could get a big advance from a distributor, taking your film on as an acquisition. They're now asking YOU for the money – suggesting you budget in the P&A, and their fees too, up front, because yes, distributors too are now another hired gun.
Welcome to the future of independent film. take another drink. You'll need it. But at least take it at the complimentary after-seminar drinks at events by NYWIFT, surrounded by fellow filmmakers, while there is some hope in sight. Thankfully Sony Pictures Classics, IFC and Overture Films were on hand, confirming that yes there are at least 3 distributors out there offering advances for distribution deals. And NYWIFT's conference presented the detailed information producers will need to navigate these stormy seas, and at least a realistic if bleak weather report. In the meantime, you'd better fill up on those fruit platters to make it through to the next NYWIFT event without a serious case of scurvy!