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IFP chief’s lessons in survival

Vicente talks about challenges facing today's filmmakers

Few people have an inside view of the indie film world like IFP executive director Joana Vicente. Since arriving in New York from her native Portugal in 1989, she’s produced or exec produced more than 40 features with her Open City Films partner and husband, Jason Kliot. Three years ago, she began leading the Independent Filmmaker Project, addressing the concerns of its 10,000 members. Vicente spoke with Gregg Goldstein from Berlin during the Trans Atlantic Partners producer networking program (run by IFP, Germany’s Erich Pommer Institut and Canada’s Strategic Partners) about the challenges facing filmmakers today.

Soft money and TV are inflating Euro indies.

“There are regional tax incentives everywhere in Europe, and there’s federal money supporting co-productions. And television, (has) to buy (a certain) amount of films (made locally). (It creates) these inflated budgets, and there’s not the same necessity to recoup the budget and pay money back, because a lot of it is soft money.

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“Fox example, IFP’s Trans Atlantic Partners brings together eight American, eight Canadian and eight European producers with projects that have international elements and could potentially become co-productions. The Europeans and Canadians have huge budgets — $8 million, $10 million, $14 million — and our American producers all came in with realistic budgets that are a million, $500,000, $350,000. Some of the European films are incredibly exciting, but (you think), ‘Wow, you have a second-time director, you don’t really have a major star and you have $10 million?’ But they’re different models.”

The global economic crisisis making financing less reliable.

“Some filmmakers are concerned about the stability of the funding. A number of programs throughout Europe have been cut; filmmakers don’t feel that their financing sources are as secure as they may have once hoped they were.

“There have been moments when you start hearing more people are funding films, and then, even though the funds might be there, maybe it’s getting harder to get that money. Then again, people are doing very successful crowdsourcing campaigns, and there are still so many organizations like Artists Public Domain (on which Vicente is a board member) and Cinereach, giving out small grants and money through foundations.”

Film’s basic business model mixes many platforms, rights.

“Filmmakers are thinking about different rights, the best VOD platforms, international sales, or an international festival strategy where they can make money just by getting projection fees. They have to be that much more creative about selling themselves as filmmakers, creating a brand and increasing their value.”

Know your financing scheme.

“Jason and I are still working on a number of projects, including ‘Devil’s Pool.’ In order to be eligible for European funding (the drama, centering on George Sand and Frederic Chopin, is set in France), we have to work with a European director; we couldn’t get any European financing with an American director, and that was a result of the climate in Europe during the crisis.”

Streaming model still elusive

“We don’t have ‘The Blair Witch Project’ of VOD (laughs). There just hasn’t been a model that’s been extremely successful, where we can say: ‘This is how it works, this is how much money is made, this is why, and this is how much we spend to get there.’ It’s all still a little confusing.”

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