Charles Rifkin, Jean Prewitt

Source: Screen file

Charles Rifkin and Jean Prewitt

At the American Film Market’s Global Perspective conference yesterday, Jean M Prewitt, president and CEO the Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA), urged the independent film industry to stay vigilant in the face of ongoing change in the market.

Asked what her message for 2019 would be, Prewitt said: “Hold your breath, change is coming so rapidly. Everyone has to buckle down and stay as flexible and courageous as we can.” 

Joining Prewitt was Charles H Rivkin, chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), who predicted that further market consolidation in the form of mega-mergers such as the Disney/Fox deal would have a big impact, adding that “overall it will be positive” for the industry. Rivkin pointed to planned OTT services from Disney and Time Warner and HBO owner AT&T as a likely boon for the business next year and beyond. “From my standpoint, it’s more opportunities, more slots, more programming, more creativity,” he said. “That’s a good thing [for the business as a whole].”

Prewitt was more cautious in her optimism about new platforms, suggesting consolidation could squeeze independent content creators. “People who build pipelines and networks want to control risk. Their risk-control mechanism is to try to own content,” she said. “That does not bode particularly well for people outside their system. We have concerns about that consolidation, and whether there will really be slots for people who are working outside the system, as most of our members do.”

Another key trend for 2019 will be the ongoing battle against piracy. “You’re going to see a dramatically bigger alliance to fight piracy around the world,” said Rivkin, noting heightened activity from ACE, the global alliance formed by the MPAA with 30 leading content creators including streamers Netflix and Amazon. Prewitt suggested that, while some platforms have practiced responsible behaviour to combat copyright infringement, others have not done that despite making vast profits. “We need to force them to take more responsibility,” she said. “The cost [of piracy] is the destruction of our local distribution. There’s no legal home entertainment marketplace anymore. It has inhibited countries around the world from investing in their own industries.”