Lord Puttnam calls for greater release flexibility, clarification of VPF model, launches educational website.

Lord Puttnam has called for greater flexibility around film releasing to bolster the distribution of independent films in the UK.

During his annual industry keynote in London Film Distributors’ Association president Lord Puttnam highlighted three areas where he thought greater flexibility was required.

The first addressed the ongoing dissatisfaction among many distributors with the current VPF model:

“If the demand exists for a film’s run to extend to more cinemas, there is something rather ludicrous in penalising such a release with repeated digital fees on the odd occasion when a DCP happens to cross to a cinema with a different digital deployment company. This seems to me utterly counter-intuitive and, ironically, restricts the number of choices audiences might otherwise enjoy,” lamented Puttnam.

“This point was identified in Lord (Chris) Smith’s Film Policy Review, published 15 months ago and accepted by the Government. Hopefully a rigorous review of progress will be initiated later in the year.”

Former producer and Columbia head Puttnam also called for more experimentation and flexibility around release windows: “Surely the time has come to allow sufficient modern-day flexibility for rights-holders to fashion the most appropriate individual release strategies, because no single uniform plan can possibly suit every film. Ultimately no one gains from excessive dark periods between platforms, when films cease to be available – legitimately, at least!

“There is – crucially – no evidence of flexible windows causing any discernible reduction in cinema-going. In fact most of the available evidence suggests that the reverse is true: People in the US, where a little more flexibility prevails, remain the world’s biggest spenders on film, at around $80 per head. And in 2012, US exhibitors collected their own record-high box-office of $10.8 billion in ticket sales alone.”

Finally, Puttnam called on Europe to respect territorial boundaries when it came to independent releases: “Europe will remain beyond doubt a more culturally sophisticated and competitive market if distributors retain the option to release their acquisitions country by country. All sorts of different conditions and customs apply across the nations of the EU, and in the intellectual property sector, territoriality and local taste are vital trading assets. It may well be right for some films to open simultaneously across markets, but others scream for a far more nuanced approach.”

Puttnam also announced that The Film Distributors’ Association is to launch an educational website designed to explain the film distribution business.

To be published at launchingfilms.info, the site will comprise a substantial new explanation of how film distribution works, in about 12,000 words, displayed in illustrated, searchable and downloadable chunks and video content comprising panel discussions with film distributors and agencies.

FDA president Lord Puttnam said: “It’s a classic outreach initiative – a commitment to the film distribution sector and its candidate employees of tomorrow – that I very much welcome.

“Available free, the guide will broaden the horizons of teenagers and students by deconstructing an increasingly dynamic sector of business – in this case, the business of releasing films in the UK – and encouraging them to consider their possible role within it.

“The guide will aim to empower students to make confident choices about their own future careers, which will in turn be that little bit better informed.”