Indie stakes higher, AFM panelists agree

The commercialization of the specialized film industry, in which the ante has been upped for quality and budget, was the main topic for panelists at an AFM seminar Wednesday morning.

Moderated by American Film Marketing Assn. chairman Frederick Schneier, panel featured producers Jonathan Dana and Gary Hoffman, attorney Kenneth Kleinberg, October Films co-managing exec Amir Malin and financier Irene Romero, who concurred that making indie films for the arthouse market has become more complicated and less predictable than ever.

“The independent marketplace is so much in transition right now that none of us can define it,” Dana told more than 300 attendees at the Miramar Sheraton Hotel.

Look beyond Park City

Much of the focus was on the evolution of the Sundance Film Festival from an elite event of arthouse film-makers to a highly competitive commercial marketplace with a strong presence from major studios. While Sun-dance has become one of the premiere festivals, talented filmmakers need to look beyond Park City, said Malin.

“Many times the smaller the budget, the more difficult (the deal) is to put together,” Malin said.

“True quality has an opportunity to be recognized, so if it doesn’t make it at Sundance, there is an opportunity to be recognized by the critics, other exposures and different festivals,” Kleinberg said.

Distribs are key

Panelists said that soaring costs for prints and advertising have all but forced out serious pics budgeted under $2 million, while films such as “Secrets & Lies” and “Shine” need strong distribs to have a chance in the theatrical market.

Dana pointed to Oscar-nominated Russian-language film “Prisoner of the Mountains,” for which distributors have spent coin on TV time. He said the same pic a few years ago would have only been marketed in print.

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