For years I've been hearing and reading about a film guy in New York causing trouble and raising a ruckus in the indie scene. I finally had a chance to meet Ira Deutchman at Cannes and ask him about his newest endeavor; a fascinating digital distribution model.
You're known for wearing a lot of hats, what's your focus these days? what brought you to Cannes?
My focus is split between Emerging Pictures, and my academic career at Columbia. They are related in the sense that I’ve always been both a student and teacher, with a primary field of study that includes the use of new technologies for distribution and marketing of independent films.
Would call your company a distributor?
Yes, but not a traditional one. We distribute only alternative product, which includes strands of indie and international films, like series and mini-festivals.
How did you get that started? Where did the idea come from?
In terms of Emerging, for me it began in my post-Fine Line days when I found myself disillusioned by the distribution environments I was seeing. It didn’t seem like anyone had any imagination. I met up with Barry Rebo, who I had known for many years as a pioneer in HD technologies. He introduced me to high quality digital projection, and it got me fired up about the possibilities this technology created.
What's the response been so far?
It was very slow going in the early years…lots of resistance to change by both distributors and exhibitors. Now there is no more resistance. The chance to digital is seen as a fait accompli, so suddenly we are visionaries for having gotten there first.
So what's the ultimate goal with the network?
To create a cost-effective was of getting non-mainstream product into a theatrical environment.
Has there been any studio backlash? The digital print fee guys must be furious.
Nah…we’re small potatoes. A slightly festering pimple on their asses.
What was your biggest success so far?
The operas and ballets have been enormously successful. I’m also very proud of the work we did on the premiere of the Joffrey Ballet documentary, which we did with the Film Society of Lincoln Center.
Have have you learned from some of the more difficult releases that is making your network better?
Not to play Iraq war documentaries or Mumblecore movie.
Any advice or anecdotes for filmmakers?
Adjust your expectations and reduce your budgets.
See a previous article on Ira Deutchman at Sydney's Buzz.
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Written by Zack Coffman. Follow Zack's film marketing tips and adventures @choppertown on Twitter.