America’s next Wal-Mart: The indie film industry

By Beanie Barnes The indie film industry is cannibalizing itself. Manohla Dargis is right – there are too many films in the ecosystem. And this oversupply didn’t just happen. John Sloss warned back in 2007 that the industry’s problem was not a shortage of films, but a shortage of eyeballs (Mark Gill issued a related warning in 2008). But the industry’s response to this warning has been to make more films. This is creating an economically valueless cycle where unprecedented “cheap” money is flowing into the industry and films are being made at their highest rate ever. Meanwhile the percentage of indie films (let’s say films made for less than $5 million outside of the studio system) that are financially successful has not increased, and the amount of money people make from these films has actually decreased. Many in the industry still refuse to acknowledge that film is subject to the economic laws of supply and demand. The hard truth is that it is, and ignoring that fact won’t make it go away. All industries have to adapt to stay relevant and viable, and film is no exception. That is especially true in the U.S. where, unlike some other countries, the government doesn’t fund production as a cultural initiative. And if the challenges in the industry are not addressed, everyone in it stands to lose. While money has continued to flow into production these days, the majority of it goes to feeding crews, renting equipment, securing locations, color-correcting, etc. The sad reality is that (as Ted Hope recently pointed out) money isn’t flowing to the back end of indie films anymore, and the people who work on indie films are almost always underpaid, if they are even paid at all. But diminishing pay is only one component of a much larger overall problem. Read the entire article here:

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