Panelists at Friday’s American Film Market finance conference know all about taking risks.
In a panel titled “Current State of the Independent Film Business,” guests of the confab heard industryites including Ryan Kavanaugh, CEO of Relativity Media, speak about shifts in today’s indie scene, ranging from foreign financing to distribution.
Edward Borgerding, CEO of Abu Dhabi Media Co., joined Kavanaugh in the discussion, along with Morgan Rector, president of entertainment group Comerica Bank; Roy A. Salter, principal of the Salter Group; and Modi Wiczyk, co-CEO of Media Rights Capital.
Borgerding said distribution is the biggest challenge for most filmmakers, especially since finding an audience for specialty pics has become such a risky business.
“As much as we focus on making movies and how much they cost, the marketing is equally important,” Borgerding said. “So much about this business is who’s financing the risk and who’s carrying the can. The most important thing to me is that it’s a real partnership.”
Kavanaugh added that not only have audiences become more selective, so have buyers. He said this has led to what he deemed a surplus of product where projects have “to make both commercial and financial sense on a worldwide scale.”
Panelists questioned the overload of indie pics in the marketplace.
“Some people just want to get their movie made,” Salter said. “But sometimes it creates ridiculous chaos because it crowds other product.”
Still, Rector said, there are several “tailwind” factors that have benefited the indie scene, including exchange rates and tax incentives.
He described today’s market as a “ramp-up” period where more banks are entering the sector as possible financers.
Foreign investors also have stepped up.
Salter said there are several “deep-pocketed groups out of China,” as well as Middle East financing groups, that have become more active.
Wiczyk suggested buyers still take risks when investing, but that they be smart about it.