Netflix is not entirely to blame for market woes in the independent sector, a panel of international sales agents said at the Entertainment Finance Forum presented by Winston Baker on Wednesday (27).
Despite frequent stories about the challenges of selling into the UK, Germany and France, Highland Film Group COO Delphine Perrier said the overall effect of market forces were the cause.
“Everything is changing around us and we’re going with the flow,” said Perrier. Sierra/Affinity president of sales and distribution Jonathan Kier noted the role of geopolitics.
“Turkey is in political upheaval,” said Kier. “Italy is in perpetual political upheaval. In the UK you have Brexit and in Russia the currency has collapsed.”
Netflix dominated the conversation, as the panellists said the streamer’s ability to come in and take all rights off the table was altering the way they deal with long-standing independent distribution partners. Nobody said it explicitly, but the clear implication was the situation was becoming complicated as traditional buyers struggled to compete.
Later in the day, panels on funding solutions and monetising the future of entertainment focused mostly on the need to make premium content and exploit the proliferation of platforms, while not overlooking the important of festivals as discovery platforms.
“A sales agent is the last person I talk to,” said producer Christopher Leggett of Delirio Films in a remark that would have raised eyebrows at the earlier panel of sales agents. “The idea is to let the market dictate how you finance [a project].”
Delirio Films arrived at Sundance last month with Shia LaBeouf starrer Honey Boy, and the documentaries Ask Dr Ruth, and Mike Wallace Is Here, fully aware that the route to distribution could differ on all three.
All three sold, however Leggett was under no illusion that festivals can be treacherous: difficult to get into, and hard to capture the attention of executives once inside. ”There are only a handful of festivals that drive sales (Sundance and Toronto). The riskiest thing is for independent filmmakers to rely on festivals.”
Each film required a plan and a back-up plan, he said, depending on its genre, budget, availability or otherwise of talent, and the experience level of the director.