Indies’ green piece

Exex serious but not downbeat on fiscal scene

When it comes to financing independent film, things are bad, but they’re not hopeless.

“Films are still selling. The market is different, not dire,” said Rena Ronson, co-head of William Morris Agency Independent.

And producers need to be more flexible and creative than ever, “looking at the world and getting informed,” opined Focus Intl. prexy David Linde.

The two were part of a panel that addressed concerns of a money-hungry audience at Variety’s Financing Independent Film Conference Monday.

But while the panelists were generally optimistic, anyone hoping to leave Cannes with their weight in $500 bills was in for some hard facts.

If you’re looking for funding, European TV is a “bad place,” said Cinetic Media prexy John Sloss, who also moderated.

It’s “an incredibly difficult market, with foreign distributors writing much smaller checks” sighed Amir Malin, CEO Artisan Entertainment, and “the go-go days of gap financing are gone,” reminded Jared Underwood, senior veep of Comerica Entertainment Group.

Robert Jones, head of Premiere Fund at the U.K.’s Film Council, described some of the local funds as having been “raped … pillaged.”

He added that “Producers need to know the sources of all money. It should go to people who work hard, prepare their projects and market them.”

Sloss stated, “They have to understand the marketplace and make a case as to why there’s an audience for their film.”

Underwood advised “turn every stone possible,” while Ronson sees the “game in accessing monies, not necessarily in sales ” — such as hard loans, soft loans, subsidies, credit cards, learning Canadian, dentists, even daddy if necessary.

Despite the current climate, the mood on the panel was upbeat. Jones forecast “some great films and filmmakers coming out,” while Echo Lake founder and managing partner Doug Mankoff is “now taking up the slack and we are also getting a better pick of producers.”

Said Underwood: “Only the best projects are getting made. Buyers want them. And we think the banking’s getting better than it was.”

Each panelist placed a slightly different emphasis on what she/he looks for in a project, but words and phrases such as “script,” “passion,” “ability to deliver,” featured heavily, with Jones, Mankoff and Ronson agreeing that directors, wannabe or otherwise, need to provide proof of ability. Jones and Focus’ Linde said they are willing to help produce shorts and pilots.

Sloss wrapped the session by advising filmmakers “to keep plugging away. Find people who know people who know people and don’t be scared to ask — especially for the money!”

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