Panel probes indies’ future

At an American Film Market seminar Monday morning, industry panelists agreed that this year’s bumper crop of non-studio pics has established a higher-than-ever profile for indie filmmakers, but they generally agreed it would take several sustained years of similar achievements to establish the independents as a real competitor to the Hollywood majors.

Helmers Allison Anders, Ridley Scott and Michael Oblowitz, along with New Times film critic Peter Rainer, producer Charles Roven and Time magazine critic Richard Schickel, discussed “The Year of the Independents: Hiccup or Trend?” to kick off AFM’s annual seminar series. The panel was moderated by Steven Gaydos, Variety’s managing editor of special reports.

“I see films coming into the mainstream market that wouldn’t have gotten a glimmer seven years ago,” said Ridley Scott, director of “Blade Runner,” “Alien” and “Thelma and Louise.” “We have to get a way to get the $15 million, $17 million and $37 million films out there. There’s definitely a market.”

Panelists also stated that budget doesn’t define an film as an independent. “Because it’s better-lensed doesn’t mean it’s not an indie,” Scott later told Daily Variety. “I don’t see why an indie has to be scruffy.”

Oblowitz said the themes, not the budgets, make an indie. “They are not about whether they are independents,” he said. Oblowitz told Daily Variety that “People want to make movies … (and often) there’s no other way to make it but as an indie,” he said, referring to the lack of studio risk-taking compared to 25 years ago.

“Studio heads love these movies, but they are caught in their own business cycle,” producer Roven said. “They are looking for their own grand slam homerun.”

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