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Indie Film Producer Jon Kilik Challenges Spielberg, Lucas and Soderbergh in IFP Speech

Indie Film Producer Jon Kilik Challenges Spielberg, Lucas and Soderbergh in IFP Speech

Independent film producer Jon Kilik is having a busy year, with “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” Bennett Miller’s “Foxcatcher” and Spike Lee’s “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth” all coming out in November and December. In a keynote speech at an IFP (Independent Filmmaker Project) conference on September 15 in NYC, the prolific producer of past films like “Babel” and “Inside Man” delivered controversial remarks regarding the current state of film. 

This has been a topic of much debate in talks given by Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Steven Soderbergh, who’ve all discussed an imminent “implosion” in the film industry, or an “assault” upon cinema by studios. (Check out Soderbergh’s SFIFF talk from earlier this year here.) A roundup of highlights from Kilik’s challenging remarks below.

According to these great titans, CINEMA is in danger of disappearing from the theaters and MOVIES are to be relegated to a lurid sensational experience akin to a theme park ride or Las Vegas Dinner Theater.

The advent of Color was supposed to eventually doom Black and White… Television was supposed to doom the theatrical experience … Cable TV and DVDss were supposed to do the same thing.  Video on Demand and companies like Netflix were supposed to do it again. It hasn’t happened–what has happened is that we now have more ways to make movies and more ways to get people to see them than ever before.  

So my advice to us, all of us, from film students to Spielberg, Lucas and Soderbergh, all of us who make human movies that we care about, my advice is to ignore the prophecies, don’t retire, and keep on making films and showing films by any means available.   Build and they will come.

On social media’s place in the industry:

Social Media finds like-minded individuals and bonds them together in the formation of these communities.  That’s another word for an “audience”.  And in this way, there may be more opportunity for independent film than there ever has been in its history.  All of this sets the stage for a renaissance in Independent Filmmaking.  Instead of being on its last legs I would argue that the Independent Film is about to spring to life.

Why all the doom and gloom about the film industry:

Yes it’s true that movies have become a crass commercial commodity at times and studios have crowded these spectacles into theaters at a disproportional rate.  But it’s also true that sensitive, brave, personal, and courageous work is being done everyday.  For every tent pole being built pixel by pixel in a Hollywood Laboratory, there is a young filmmaker like Benh Zeitlin going into the bathtub of New Orleans with a small cast and crew and a 16MM camera to create a uniquely personal vision.

For every sequel that’s being churned out, there is something new and original fighting to be born.  It’s never been harder and it’s never been easier.  I guess it’s been like that all along.  

On the importance of voice and story:

I’m a film producer but I know not to value a movie based on budget.  Story is what is important.  In whatever form you choose to tell yours, you have the opportunity to challenge the status quo, provoke thought, shine a light on an event, a condition, a time and a place, give a voice to those who have none, or simply make a love story, a comedy or a genre film.  Tell your story.  The work will outlive the format.

On the future:

Film has a 100-year history of adapting to the changes and challenges brought on by new technology.  This will always get figured out.  The ease of being able to reach people will only increase.

So it isn’t true that cinema is dead, it’s actually a very healthy industry and as Soderbergh pointed out, it’s one of the few American exports that continues to do very well.  But we can’t ignore that one particular sector of the market is getting squeezed and must be protected — the midrange budget drama — movies about human beings.

On a banner 2013:

Many talented filmmakers, young and old, have overcome the challenge and made a large quantity of quality independent dramas that are coming out this year.  I have never seen so many high quality films entering the main stream. “Blue Jasmine,” “Fruitvale Station,” “Mud,” “The Butler,” “Inside Llewyn Davis,” “Gravity,” “Her,” “12 Years a Slave”…

Thank you to all the distributors who bring these films to the theaters.  All distributors both independent and major studios for continuing to finance and distribute movies about the human condition.  For supporting handmade films by auteur filmmakers.  Stay strong, stay committed, and we will continue to partner with you to grow the great history of American Independent Cinema.

Studio executives are not our enemy.  Especially today with more women and growing diversity.  I have found execs — to a person — as hardworking and courageous as their filmmaker counterparts.  They are passionate and educated in film history and often put their job on the line to help a filmmaker get what he or she needs.  

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