My time at the Sundance Producers Summit is nearing a close, and it’s been a great weekend. Busy, productive, occasionally fun but ultimately work. Lots of fruitful discussion and meetings, coming from all corners of the indie film production and distribution business. Distributors here include Tom Quinn from Magnolia, Jonathan Sehring from IFC, David Fenkel from Oscillscope, Chris Hyams from Bside, and Lynne Kirby from Sundance Channel. Agents/reps/lawyers here include Josh Braun from Submarine, Winnie Lau from Fortissimo, Liesl Copland from William Morris Endeavor, David Flynn from UTA, Micah Green from CAA, and attorney Craig Emmanuel. And, then, there are the established producers/advisers like Jay Van Hoy, Mary Jane Skalski, Dan Cogan, Paul Mezey, Lynette Howell, and more. I think the attendees are getting something out of it all, in an environment that’s part conference and part boot camp. Lots of exciting projects in development here, and I can’t wait to see them get made. The staff from Sundance has been very supportive of all attendees, and I think we’re all getting some quality moments over the weekend.
One big take-away from discussions that I think is especially worth sharing, is the very constructive observation that arthouse filmmakers must recognize that they aren’t just competing against themselves anymore. The marketplace used to be solely about the arthouse crowd making decisions based on what new releases were opening in specialty theaters. Now, consumers can get TV content that is just as good (and sometimes better) than what’s currently screening at arthouse theaters. Mad Men, True Blood, Big Love, Weeds, Lost, 24, 30 Rock, The Office, Breaking Bad, and the list goes on. Many of these shows overlap with the arthouse crowd, and that’s not even including the older shows people try to catch-up with on DVD (e.g. The Wire). So, the point for independent producers? When planning your feature projects, don’t simply look at the theaters for comparisons and contrasts. Because, frankly, most of your arthouse audience is too busy watching TV.