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|INDIE PRODUCTION CRIES FOR COIN|
|Written by Gary Tufel|
|Monday, 09 February 2009 14:44|
The bad economic situation, domestically and worldwide, seemingly permeates every sector. How bad is it for independent film production? Are filmmakers having more trouble than ever finding financing for their films? And are the tough economic times causing independent film audiences to dwindle?
Frankly, it doesn’t look good. As early as last June, Mark Gill of The Film Department, formerly of Warner Independent and Miramax, told a film financing panel at the [[Los Angeles Film Festival]] that for indies the sky was, indeed, falling. And that was months before the economy began its major swan dive.
Today, Ted Braun, writer-director of the critically acclaimed documentary Darfur Now and assistant professor at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, offers even less solace. He says there’s even less money available today for independent film financing – and fewer indie films being made. The major studios’ independent film divisions are contracting and some, such as Warner Independent, have closed.
“Independent filmmakers are in search of capital, but it’s much harder to get banks and other lending institutions to loan money. Venture capital financing has also dried up significantly,” Braun says.
“I know a couple of companies that have simply stopped producing films. They want to acquire productions but they can’t afford to engage in development because of the long-term wait for return on their investments,” Braun says. He notes that at the recent [[Sundance Film Festival]], dealing was relatively quiet but some acquisition business was being done. Some Middle Eastern money has gotten involved but they, too, can’t wait for years to see their investments pay off. So for now, Braun says, acquisitions and quick-trigger production are the only areas in independent filmmaking with some vitality.
However, he says, people are continuing to go to movies, and film was one of the few industries cited at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, as healthy. Braun said world leaders recognize film as an area of economic vitality, so smart people still see opportunity there.
He also notes that this reduced production will probably allow the people and companies responsible for marketing and distribution to do a better job of finding audiences for those pictures already in the pipeline. “In that sense better films may well get seen by more people, making more money for everyone all around. But I suspect the continuing pressures of the dire economic situation will force people to reconsider the ways in which independent films are financed and released. It's hard to say whether this will ultimately help the business. Hollywood cinema thrived in the '30s during the Great Depression. But it is worth noting that since the [[French New Wave]] of the '60s almost every explosion of new talent in world cinema - including American independent cinema - has coincided with an increase in financing opportunities for new filmmakers,” Braun says.