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Hope for Film: Six Keys to the Current State of Indie Film

‘Independent film’ reconsidered: Battling the past, re-thinking the future.

TED HOPE

Ted Hope at Ebertfest (photo by Thompson McClellan, courtesy Roger Ebert Film Festival)

[Editor’s note: If we could redesign the film industry into the best possible system for the artists, the audience and the business, what would it look like? Starting today, Fandor CEO Ted Hope leads that very conversation, partnering with Reinventors and gathering influencers together for a six-part interactive web series called Reinvent Hollywood. In a separate-but-related effort, Keyframe presents four videos of Hope at this past year’s Roger Ebert Film Festival, on urgent issues facing the independent film industry.]

Last month’s Roger Ebert Film Festival featured a special panel discussion on “The State and Future of Independent Film.” Fandor CEO and longtime independent film producer Ted Hope appeared along with Sony Pictures Classics Co-President Michael Barker, filmmaker Vanessa Hope and Ebertfest’s Chaz Ebert and Nate Kohn. In the course of their conversation, Hope offered a wide-ranging array of experiences and insights spanning over twenty years in the field, while looking ahead at what factors may be shaping the course of independent film in the years to come. This is the first of a four-part video series highlighting Hope’s special perspective on the challenges and opportunities of indie filmmaking today.

In this first video, Hope explains how his recent experiences in film producing led him to decide that leading online streaming site Fandor was the most important role he could take at this point in his career. He makes six key observations on the current state of independent filmmaking that point to the most pressing issues that today’s filmmakers and industry players can’t ignore:

1. Independent film needs a better infrastructure. More people can make movies than ever before, and yet it’s become harder than ever to get people to see them.

2. It’s more difficult than ever before to actually earn a living creating. A big part of this is due to a culture of individualism that may actually be harmful to films and the film industry. A more collective or collaborative approach to production and distribution may yield better results.

3. We have an industry that is based on antiquated concepts that no longer apply to the world we’re living in. We live in a globalized, digital era of overabundance that is effectively devaluing the supply of new creative work, but many people in the film business still act as if they are still working in a pre-digital era of independent distribution.

4. The marketplace for today’s filmmaking talent is over-saturated. U.S. audiences see only one percent of the world’s supply of new films each year.

5.  Today’s filmmakers are also competing with the past. Access to past content is greater than ever. A person today can access more films from 1967 than someone in 1967 could.

6. Today’s content can give viewers more than just passive consumption. Filmmakers need to think of how their content can engage their audience in ways that other content cannot.

Creativity and innovation are required to conceive of new approaches to the making and distributing of independent films in order to connect them more effectively with viewers, give them a newfound sense of relevance and sustain creative talent in a world where in many ways it has become devalued.

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