By Jane Applegate
Entertainment industry experts speaking at the first annual New York Film Conference on October 10, 2017 had some great news for attendees: It’s getting easier to sell your content directly to consumers, consumers are more open to watching films with subtitles and big digital platforms are spending billions on buying new content.
The production talent pool is also growing every year, according to John Hadity, executive vice president of EP Financial Solutions. Hadity, who is an expert on production tax incentives, said New York City is currently home to about 45 television shows. Hundreds of films, big and small, have also been shot here in recent years.
The experts had good news for independent content creators as well as filmmakers.
“A lot more creators are going right to consumers,” said Anjali Sud, CEO of Vimeo, the popular platform that allows members to easily upload and share video content. “We’re excited to see creators building real businesses.”
New tools and technology make it much easier to organize clips on your Vimeo page and track viewership—including analytics that let you see when viewers stop watching a clip. A few weeks ago, Sud said, Vimeo introduced a live streaming feature in response to popular demand. Sud said Vimeo’s top priority is ”providing seamless and affordable solutions.”
Although anyone can produce video content with a smartphone or digital camera and editing software, it’s still very tough to raise money to produce an independent film. However, soft money, deep-pocketed foreign investors and attractive tax credits all support independent film production, according to experts attending the one-day conference at the W Hotel in Union Square. About 120 people attended the meeting, which was sponsored by Light Iron (a post-production house), the law firm Hogan Lovells, Deadline.com, NYWIFT, China Film Insider, Film Fatales, BRIC, IFP and Women Independent Producers, among others.
On the negative side, Deborah Acoca, vice president of the entertainment industries group at East West Bank and other panelists, said international pre-sales—once the quickest way to finance an independent film—have significantly shrunk unless you have an A-list cast, great script and top director.
Finding a distributor or broadcast outlet is still extremely challenging, according to the experts. Despite the growing popularity of direct sales to consumers, screening a film at a film festival is still the best way to find a traditional distributor.
“There are very different reasons for premiering at a festival, but from an acquisition standpoint, we’re always looking for great content,” said Julie Dansker, vice president of sales and marketing at The Orchard.
Tom Cunha, founder and CEO of Brigade Marketing, advised attendees to not “go crazy about creating marketing” materials “because if you sell it (the film), the distributor will most likely change it all.”
Because making independent films and original content requires so much blood, sweat and tears, Rebecca Feinberg, head of development for Washington Square Films, said it’s important to ask yourself, “Why do you feel it’s important to share this story with the world?”
Washington Square founder and CEO Joshua Blum said the company, which has offices in New York and Los Angeles, supports its new film projects by producing commercials. Although people love a good documentary, Blum said despite the growing market for online content, it’s still tough to finance non-fiction films.
“If you want to make big movies, you need to be in L.A,” he said. “But if you have your own vision, New York is still more creative and diverse.”
Welcome to NYWIFT, Toby Perl Freilich! Toby is an Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaker and writer, focusing on cultural reporting. Her work explores all sorts of perspectives, from senators to artists, spanning across the world. She co-produced and co-directed Moynihan, a film about the late New York senator, policy expert, and public intellectual. She also directed, produced, and wrote Inventing Our Life: The Kibbutz Experiment, about one of the world's longest running and most successful experiments in radical, secular communal living. Right now, she is producing and directing I Make Maintenance Art: The Work of Mierle Laderman Ukeles about the pioneering ecofeminist and the first Artist in Residence at the New York City Department of Sanitation. Read about Toby’s inspiring past and future projects here!READ MORE
Welcome to NYWIFT, Melisa Ramos! Melisa is a filmmaker and professor from Puerto Rico, bringing 14 years of post-production and motion graphics experience to New York. Her first production, Puerto Rican Voices, a docu-series about the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Following Puerto Rican Voices, Melisa continued to share Puerto Rican and Latin American stories. In 2020, she directed and produced From Performers to Spectators, a doc-series showcasing New York City performers during lockdown. She is currently in production on Hoop Warrior, her first feature film. Read all about Melisa’s journey as an editor and artist here!READ MORE
Welcome to NYWIFT, Eileen Wolter! After working as a motion picture lit assistant at CAA, working on the Universal lot, and writing lots of coverage in LA, Eileen brings her creativity to us in New York! She holds a BA in Art History & Film from Vassar College, studied acting as The Atlantic Theater Company and The Actors Studio/The New School, and studied writing at UCLA, NYU, Sundance Collab, Stowe Story Labs, and NJ Play Lab. Eileen tells us about her fascinating family history, covering Fashion Week for Comedy Central in 1993, and attending SNL dress rehearsals.READ MORE
Welcome to NYWIFT, Jaya Mahajan! Originally from Mumbai, India, Jaya is a filmmaker with Executive Producer credits for documentaries and factual shows that have been on networks such as CNN, BBC, Discovery and the National Geographic Channel. She spent the initial part of her career as a business reporter and producer with CNBC and Bloomberg. More recently, she has been running an award-winning production company, creating films and documentaries and teaching journalism students in Malaysia and Singapore. Jaya recently moved to New York and is looking forward to focusing on projects that highlight and amplify traditionally underrepresented, diverse, and marginalized voices.READ MORE