With a major evolution taking place in how and where people view film, from changes in television, to direct access via the Internet, filmmakers face a changing landscape in terms of producing and marketing.
A workshop entitled ‘A Brave New World’ tried to shed some light on the future at the Yorkton Film Festival Saturday.
Valerie Creighton, President and CEO of Canada Media Fund, said there are hurdles filmmakers must overcome, but that is part of the business.
“In spite of what’s happening around us I think there’s tremendous opportunity,” she said, adding it has never been a risk-free industry.
One of those opportunities is in creating direct links with an audience in ways never before possible.
“Independent producers can connect direct with audiences,” said Creighton.
John Gill with the National Screen Institute agreed.
“There’s an opportunity you’ve never had before -- access to who your audience is,” he said.
Gill said in spite of challenges filmmakers also enjoy some amazing times, noting when he started in the industry in 1981 the rental of a camera to go out and start shooting was huge. The ability to create today is far higher, he added.
“It seems like a pretty good environment to come into,” he offered.
Mark Bishop with MarbleMedia went as far as to suggest the next five to seven years will “probably be the gold age of our industry.”
Tom Perlmutter with the National Film Board said filmmakers ultimately have to embrace change and adapt.
“Change can actually liberate you,” he said.
Creighton said in the past the assumption has been “the broadcaster is the proxy for the viewer” in terms of what the public wants to watch. She said there was an assumption broadcasters would only buy product viewers wanted because that would generate the greatest viewership and thus generate the most money.
However, direct access to viewers through Internet connections is showing film overlooked by traditional broadcasters can still attract audiences, said Creighton.
One example of that is how the National Film Board has created a website where their vast backlist of film can be downloaded for free, or purchased. Perlmutter said the site has been highly successful in finding a market for older films.
Creighton said in terms of Canadian film “there is a whole whack of content out there,” suggesting once a broadcaster is done with its run on a film “the content kind of goes into the netherlands somewhere.”
Bringing access to all that past content to one online site is a project that is currently being talked about.
“Who says there’s not a market for all the past episodes of Beachcombers,” said Creighton.
Perlmutter said there is a market which can help fund future films.
“I think there’s an incredible locked-up value in all this backlist stuff,” he said.
Creighton said Canada resonates with viewers in this country, and is increasingly recognize abroad too.
“People are kind of interested in Canada, who we are and what we see,” she said, pointing to there being 25 Canadian films at the Cannes Film Festival this year.
Bishop said the film sector is experiencing rapid change.
“I think there’s no time more challenging to be a producer than right now,” he offered.
The biggest change is filmmakers must now walk out from behind the camera and be creative in how they do financing and marketing.
“You’re really looking at the business model,” he said, adding in the past filmmakers have been just that film creators.
Bishop though said the current environment does create new avenues to explore too.
“I see tremendous opportunity,” he said. “(But), I see a lot of work ahead of us.”
Gill was quick to pick up on the need for filmmakers to be more business savvy.
“… It’s how to make a really solid business case,” he said.
In terms of business, Bishop said filmmakers have to realize “funding models have to change.”
While broadcast television remains very important in terms of marketing film, Creighton noting “broadcast television triggers funding,” it is no longer the only viable market, or only source of funding the industry needs to look at.
That said Creighton said television remains a viable market for film.
“Of course television’s alive and well,” she said. “In fact audiences are growing.”
When it comes to new funding sources, Gill said the toughest part can be to get “traditional partners to play nice.” He said the traditional funders (broadcasters) are not used to sharing rights and other aspects of film once it is complete.
But it has to happen offered Creighton who said she believes filmmakers “have got to get more and more people (funders) into the pot,” these days to pay the bills. But she too added “rights can be an issue.”
Bishop said the key to marketing today is getting it to the audience in the format they want.
“It needs to be available wherever the audience wants to access it,” he said, adding that is not always easy as it requires having “to play with all these different portals.”
Where people watch film does make a difference to marketing, said Bishop.
“Audiences are very different depending on demographics and depending on device,” he said, adding filmmakers need to “think about how the audience is consuming the content.”
In some instances the problems filmmakers face, in terms of financing whether through government or the private sector, comes as a result of not doing a good job of informing the world about what they actually do.
“I don’t think we as an industry are doing a very stellar job on telling what it is we do,” said Creighton.
The Canadian film industry produces content with “goes around the world” but people often don’t recognize shows they watch as Canadian.
Yet television shows such as Republic of Doyle, Heartland and Rookie Blue are popular here in Canada and abroad.
“We haven’t brought the good news story home. It doesn’t resonate with the public, or politicians,” said Creighton.
Perlmutter said even in a changing world the key to success comes from developing unique stories in unique ways.
“Get out there and do things nobody else is doing,” he said.
Creighton agreed in part, suggesting it comes down to “sticking with the story and the idea, and finally finding its way to an audience.”
In that respect good film can come from anywhere, reasoned Creighton.
“Nobody has a monopoly on a good idea,” she said.