Oscar-nominated producer Nicolas Chartier, whose Voltage Pictures was behind The Hurt Locker, has issued a stark warning that old models of financing independent films no longer work

Speaking at a panel exploring the future of independent film distribution (sponsored by Screen International), he said it has become increasingly difficult to pre-sell to the US. “Let’s face it, it’s not going to get better. The US is not going to pick up more and more movies,” he commented.

Chartier added that the challenge for distributors was to persuade European exhibitors, TV stations and video distributors that films can find a market, even if they have not been released in the US first.

“What’s important is not the movie in the US. It’s the movie working in France, the UK and Germany. That’s what I hope progressively we’re going to be able to do, because otherwise all these movies are going to stop being made,” Chartier said.

“Studios are reducing their volume of movies; 99% of the movies we’re making independently will never be released.”

His comments were echoed by Samuel Hadida, co-founder of Metropolitan Film-export, who added: “In this market, except the movies sold by Lionsgate or Summit, I believe 90% of the movies have no US distribution.”

Hadida revealed just how big a hole in film financing had been left by the collapse in the pre-sales market. “Before, it was counting 10%-15% [of a budget] on Japan. Today, it is zero. Before we were counting 20%-25% on America. Now, it’s zero. That is already 40% less into the financing of a movie.”

The upside, he said, was that production costs are coming down and top talent can be drafted into independent movies at a less punitive rate.