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IFTA Posts Record Membership Growth

35 companies join as independent sector builds abroad and U.S. and overseas members looks for advocacy, guidance

The Independent Film & Television Alliance has just seen its biggest membership growth in the last 20 years, with 35 companies from 21 countries joining over the last year.

New members at IFTA, which organizes the American Film Market and lobbies for the global independent sector, include Stuart Ford’s AGC Studios, Jeff Skoll’s Participant Media, New York’s Visit Films and some 15 other U.S companies, mainly world sales agents.

But the record IFTA growth is a global phenomenon, and a sign of the times. One driver: the steady growth of film and TV production outside the U.S. and its international distribution ambitions, led by China.

Years back, Chinese films were principally sold for international out of Hong Kong. Now IFTA members include several mainland China-based companies, such as CMC Pictures, which sold milestone blockbuster “Wolf Warriors II,” and sponsored last year’s American Film Market bags.

Other new Chinese IFTA members include animation giant Fantawild, producer of “Boonie Bears” and Yi Animation Inc, as Chinese companies harbor ambitions of creating family entertainment brands not just for China but the world.

China is not alone, however. Also joining IFTA ranks are AAA Entertainment, an African film sales agent, and TBA Studios, a top Philippine production house.

As production globalizes, however, so does the need for global advocacy and guidance, given the disruption of long-standing business models by the eruption of global video platforms and integration of the major studios, broadcasters, and cable companies, said an IFTA press statement.

“Our member companies are seeking a strong advocate for their interests and a community in which common concerns can be shared and solutions can be developed,” said IFTA president and CEO Jean Prewitt.

“IFTA is the only global organization that meets that need,” she added.

Over the last three years, Prewitt has been one of the leading voices in the industry push-back against much of the European Commission’s project for Digital Single Market, articulating clearly its often byzantine issues but large dangers to the industry, politicians and journalists alike. IFTA also serves as a one-stop shop for guidance to business practices, trends and norms.

The need for advocacy does not look to go away any time in the near future. Apart from concern about how Digital Single Market rulings finally play out, the biggest issues for the next few months look likely include intermediary liability and platform accountability with respect to illegal content online and access to content protection tools, Prewitt said, as well as promoting marketplace opportunities for independents, including spotlighting barriers potentially arising from vertical integration between content supply and distribution outlets.

IFTA has its work cut out.

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