How Streaming, Local Content is Transforming the Indie Film Market – The Hollywood Reporter

Independent producers, distributors and financiers gathering (virtually) for the 2021 AFM face an indie marketplace that has seen “complete and utter disruption” over the last few years, as traditional models for bankrolling and profiting from independent movies has been upended.

Speaking at the AFM opening session, titled “The Independent Film Ecosphere — Present and Future,”veteran sales executive Brian O’Shea, CEO of The Exchange, noted that new streaming technology has “liquidated or completely eradicated a big revenue stream for filmmakers and for distributors and financiers” by wiping out downstream exploitation in traditional home video and television. “AVOD [advertising video on demand] is becoming…basically what basic cable was,” said O’Shea, who noted that the online revolution “becomes opportunity” if producers and financiers can be more closely involved with filmmakers in developing and creating content.

“Because as this disruption happens, both historically but also looking forward, the control center comes closer and closer to the creators, and we want to be closer and closer to them and complement their business, but with us ourselves becoming creators as well,” he noted.

Liesl Copland, executive vp of content and platform strategy at Participant, pointed to the transformative impact of the major streamers — from Netflix, Amazon Prime and AppleTV+ to newcomers HBO Max, Peacock, Paramount+ and others — in shaping the kind of indie films that get made and what sort of financing is possible for them.

“It’s not really about ‘what format is it? Film or episodic? Or a genre?’ It’s about ‘Is it subscriber acquisition or subscriber retention content’?” she noted. “And I think we have to blend that into our thinking when we’re dealing with the streamers, and then I think what the big problem becomes — they don’t have to recoup because they’re a revenue line and their cost bases and their revenue bases are two different things — and they don’t get revenue per film.”

Copland called the impact of the streamers a “tsunami” that the indie business will be dealing with for years, adding that the impact of the COVID pandemic, which collapsed traditional theatrical windows worldwide, is likely to be permanent. –

“I do think that we’ll wake up from COVID and the windows will have forever been changed,” she said.

In terms of what content the global market wants right now, Jonathan Kier, the former Sierra/Affinity executive who recently launched Upgrade Productions, a shingle devoted to local-language productions worldwide, pointed to the success of non-English-language series such as Netflix’s Korean megahit Squid Game.

“My mother is obsessed with Turkish soap operas and my brother is watching German series – these are things that were not available two years ago,” Kier said. “This all goes back to data — as it turns out, there is an audience there — and a lot of the sort of traditional gatekeepers, which were broadcasters around the world, who would say to me ‘No, we don’t want this film, we don’t want this project,’ they were wrong, it turns out. The audience is there. That’s why I think this is creating a lot of opportunities.”

When it comes to English-language product, however, the trend is towards going big.

“The bigger, the better,” said Brian O’Shea, when asked about what works in the current indie marketplace. “The action, special FX, sci-fi, the visual mediums, because people are engaged in that, especially with new technology differing their attention to bite-sized moments. You have to constantly keep people engaged and the best way to do that is having spectacle events that you don’t see anywhere else.”

The 2021 American Film Market runs through Friday.

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