I just returned from this year's Sundance Film Festival and I am more enthusiastic than ever about the economic potential of the independent film industry. While the number of film sales at Sundance seemed to be down a bit from some prior years, I am more excited by the people I met and the energy in the air.
In the hotel hallways and theater lobbies, there was almost constant chatter of new projects, better business models and great new ideas for marketing and distribution. In fact, the slightly slower sales activity seems to reflect a more businesslike and reasoned approach to the industry. Rather than getting caught up in the emotion of the moment and atmosphere, buyers are really thinking about how to make money with a film, and that bodes well for the long term health of the business.
What I like about the independent film business right now is that it gives investors and producers a chance to control their risk while still making excellent films with huge upside potential. There is hardly another business with a more favorable risk-reward equation. Of course, this only works if each film is approached with solid business fundamentals in mind. That doesn't mean that creativity needs to be sacrificed; it only means that the project needs to make sense on a business level, as well as creatively.
Advances in technology are allowing filmmakers to produce stunning movies for much less than in prior years. At the same time, the public is hungry for creative and edgy films coming from filmmakers who are not locked into the studio system. (This is very evident from this year's Oscar contenders and their performance at the box office.) Also, with exhibitioners now starting to take advantage of digital technology, distribution will become even more cost-effective; and online distribution and home theater systems are creating even more demand and economic potential for quality content.
This combination of factors could not be better. It is a great time to be in the independent film industry. I am personally experiencing the benefits in my own business and I think it only gets better for the foreseeable future.