In honor of Thanksgiving, film producer Ted Hope, who is stepping down as executive director of San Francisco Film Society at the end of this year, looks back at 2013 and takes stock of the independent film business. In a post on his blog Hope for Film, Hope lists over 30 "really good things" that happened in the indie film business in 2013. He's given us permission to republish 15 of them below but you can read all 30 reasons here.
We have plenty to be thankful for. Things are getting better -- at least in the Indie Film Biz they are… Or should I say Specialized Film Biz? Artist First Film Biz? Whatever this is, let's celebrate. We have plenty to be thankful for.
I have over 30 points to prove it to you. Granted I have something close to an equal number on the negative side too, but I will shield you from those for the time being. Besides, those negative things still to come are all just opportunities, right? So what is this cornucopia of things we have to be thankful for? Well…
1. The initial steps towards building a sustainable investor class have been taken. Impact Partners probably should get the credit for doing the necessary initial work: creating a community of socially minded investors, linking them through shared values and quality engagement, and educating them for the long hall. Now Sundance has launched their Catalyst group gathering, and Slated.com is doing awesome work aiding in the connecting serious investors with serious filmmakers (more on them later). Let's hope this is just the start of many such groups and the industry overall recognizing that smart money is far better than the dumb kind. I am making it a bit of a mission for me, and have some big plans ahead, all things willing…
2. The film biz is excited about entrepreneurial training for filmmakers. Under my guidance, SFFS launched A2E (Artist To Entrepreneur) at the SFIFF in April and I immediately had invites to travel to talk about the program and even to franchise it by many film support organizations. There's interest to carry this forward elsewhere. I hope to pilot this sort of concept one more time somewhere and then finally be able to evaluate spreading it. In the meantime, I am confident that there will be other similar iniatives springing up all over. Whether it is training filmmakers to budget their films through the entire process and not just to festival release, market their movies alongside producing them, or focus on long term community building and audience aggregation, we will help filmmakers become owner operators of their own creations as they navigate this paradigm shift from false scarcity and mass market to grand abundance and targeted niches.
3. The film community wants to pull its head out of the sand and confront reality. I got a great response to my post on 17 Things About The Film Biz That Should Significantly Alter Your Creative Practice. We have ignored the paradigm shift (see #2 above) and perhaps now we are willing to accept the truth and stop betting that a white knight will rescue us.
4. 2013 is the year that crowdfunding went mainstream. Say what you will about the celebrity factor but Veronica Mars, Zack Braff, Spike Lee, and others brought thousands more on to the platforms. It is not a zero sum game. Crowdfunding is an incredible asset to all artists' arsenal, and not just for financing, but for marketing, outreach, and true engagement.
5. 2013 is the year that crowd funding became crowd equity. Even with crowdfunding going mainstream, there are limits to the type of movies that can utilize it. Granting goods and services for donations limits the size of investments creators will receive. Granting people shares, utilizing investments over donations is another gamechanger. The JOBS Act has turned that game on, and here's hoping that investors turn on too.
6. Crowdfunding is evolving from a project focus to one centered around the artist. The move for fans to become funders and then to become PATRONS, is truly significant. Platforms like Patreon help advance this. Sure it is an old way -- didn’t DaVinci use the patron platform? -- but I don't know about you, but I want to make sure that the artists I admire are free to experiment and don’t have to pitch each new project to advance one step. It's exciting to see folks call for the emergence of a sustainable patron class. I am in!