The world of cinema is changing more dramatically now than at any time in the past 50 years, Sundance Film Festival director Geoff Gilmore declared in a keynote speech Sunday at the Edinburgh Film Festival.
Looking at trends that will affect independent film, Gilmore said: “The good news is that more features were distributed last year in the U.S. than at anytime since the 1950s — that’s the bad news as well. It’s impossible to build word of mouth when there are films coming up behind yours. If your film doesn’t perform well on opening, it’s gone.”
He said fests continued to be an important platform for indie pics. But the problem of visibility was even more pronounced in Europe. In 2005, 700 features were made in the European Union with budgets totaling E1.5 billion ($2.02 billion). Of these, only 2% traveled outside their country of origin.
“The European producer gets paid when they deliver the film, not when they sell it,” he said. “In the U.S., you get paid when you sell it.”
He noted that the EU subsidy system and the U.S. entrepreneurial systems of film financing are beginning to converge. “Tax breaks in the U.S. are almost akin to subsidy systems in Europe, and private money has evolved and changed the European system,” he said.Gilmore acknowledged that distribution is the main problem for indies. The Internet offers opportunities, he said, but the problem is how to make a film stand out in the media clutter.
Looking at the industry from a U.S. perspective, he suggested that the next growth would come from international, where some are predicting as much as $30 billion total gross worldwide by the end of the decade.
“The international world is changing, and the co-production world is changing, partly because audiences are looking for something different,” he said. “Asian faces on Asian screens is a much more important evolution in terms of star power than a decade ago.”
Ultimately, the Hollywood majors will start to lose dominance, argued Gilmore. “The marketplace will open up. The types of films being made will broaden, and the nature of faces onscreen will show more breadth and spectrum,” he said.