Author Archives: Ira Deutchman

The New Professionalism – A Flight Toward Quality

Filmmaker MagazineThis article was originally published in the Winter 2013 issue of Filmmaker Magazine.

Over the last decade, as the tools of filmmaking became less expensive and more generally accessible, there was much excitement about what came to be known as the “democratization” of filmmaking.  Suddenly, one didn’t have to be rich or the relative of a studio executive to get a movie made.  In addition, web sites such as YouTube and others opened up distribution to the masses, creating a new paradigm that was dubbed “user-generated content.”

All of this sounded great on the surface, but like other seemingly positive advances—remember the “thousand channel universe” or the “long tail theory?”—there are always unintended consequences. While it was true that more people were making “movies” than ever, I would characterize the change not as democratization, but rather as “amateurization.” These market forces—an oversupply of product and seemingly endless channels of accessible distribution—caused the bottom to drop out of the professional marketplace. Content in all its forms was being commoditized. Why should distribution channels pay for content when it could be provided for free? If audiences could be attracted by offering them quantity, why worry about quality? In other words, the so-called democratization of filmmaking was ensuring that no one could make a living at it. (more…)

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Before You Finalize Your Oscar Predictions…

oscarI should start this by saying that I hate Oscar prognostications. It’s a ridiculous exercise that only feeds the massive publicity machine that the studios and mini-majors do their best to manipulate. When I come across yet another column that offers up daily updates on the “race,” I tend to cross my eyes and turn the (sometimes virtual) page.

The one and only time that I start paying attention is when I’m preparing to participate in various Oscar pools, which by the way, I almost never win. I know who I voted for, of course. But I also know that my votes are likely to be way outside the mainstream, and therefore offer no clues as to what the majority of Academy members will do. I find myself guessing differently with each pool that I enter.

That said, I’m probably the worst person to turn to for advice about filling in your Oscar pool choices. But I’m going to do so nonetheless. (more…)

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2013 Art House Convergence Kickoff

Photo Courtesy of Chuck Foxen

Photo Courtesy of Chuck Foxen

Russ Collins, the intrepid leader of the Art House Convergence, a yearly conference of mission-driven community art houses across the country, gave the following kickoff speech for this year’s get-together. Read it and be inspired!

Welcome Address by Russ Collins, Director, Art House Convergence

January 15, 2013 – for the Art House Convergence conference, Zermatt Resort, Midway, Utah

Welcome to the Art House Convergence. Welcome as we celebrate the Brave New American Art House. Thank you for taking the time and trouble to gather here in Utah with colleagues and friends and, with strangers who will soon be friends, to execute the mission of the Art House Convergence.

The mission of the Art House Convergence is to increase the quantity and quality of Art House cinemas in North America. We hope you will help us pursue this mission by: 1) constantly improving your own Art House; 2) helping colleagues make their Art Houses better places for audiences to experience cinema art and 3) working to make all Art Houses serve as highly effective community cultural centers. (more…)

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Social Networking Panel at TIFF12

This was a fun and informative panel at this past year’s Toronto International Film Festival, in which Christine Vachon, Cinedigm’s Jeff Reichert and BOND Strategy and Influence’s Marc Schiller discussed social networking strategies for independent film marketing. By the way, I was the moderator.

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Columbia Giving Day. Join in the Fun and Help Support Our Students.

Columbia University has designated October 24th as “Giving Day.” It has set up a competition among all the schools that make up the University, backing it with up to $400,000 in matching funds. All of the funds will go to student support.

In case you didn’t know, attending an MFA program at a major university like Columbia is a very expensive proposition, made even more so by the fact that our film students create their own productions while they are learning their craft. Students in Columbia’s Film Program make an enormous commitment to attend, in the belief that what we offer is well worth the price. We owe it to them to do whatever we can to ease that burden.

Let me just say that competing with the Business School or the Law School to raise money seems quixotic at best. But I’m a Cubs fan. What can I say? To quote a certain current President, every small contribution matters. As little as $10 can make a difference. Can you help us out?

All you have to do is go to:

https://givingday.columbia.edu/

Just make sure you click on “School of the Arts” (It’s the very last school in the drop down list). Then on the next page, designate “Film” as the fund you want to support.

Let’s show those other schools that people still care about the arts enough to support them.

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Gateway to Cinema – Digital Distribution Case Study

Here’s a video of a panel discussion that took place at the Cannes Film Festival this past May, at the UK Film Center. It’s a fascinating look at the various initiaves that are taking place to reinvent the theatrical experience by virtue of digital technologies. It’s a subject that, as you all know, is dear to my heart. And yes, I’m on the panel.

Gateway to Cinema-goers: A Digital Distribution Case Study from UK Film Centre on Vimeo.

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Video from Cannes Film Festival 1987

John Tilley sent me this great video he took with his brand new camcorder at the Cannes Film Festival in 1987. I edited it down, and added names for everyone John and I could identify. There are a lot of familiar faces if you’ve been in the film business long enough to remember that far back. Check it out. Maybe you are in there somewhere.

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More bad news about VPFs…or is it?

I ran into an exhibitor friend at the Toronto Film Festival (who shall remain nameless) and he went off about how unhappy he was about having signed a VPF deal in order to convert his theaters to Hollywood’s version of digital projection equipment. We talked about all the various implications of the deal, which I’ve outlined in a previous post. But he brought up another angle that I hadn’t realized before.

In order to be eligible for a VPF deal, an exhibitor has to guarantee a certain number of “turns” per screen per year. A “turn” is when you dump the film you are playing and bring in a new one, which then requires the distributor of that new film to pay a VPF fee. The more “turns” the more your equipment has been subsidized. (more…)

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Getting Ready for your premiere at TIFF

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to be the keynote speaker at the Filmmakers Bootcamp, an annual event at the TIFF Lightbox to prepare the Canadian filmmakers for their experience at the Toronto Film Festival. Given the nature of the event, I decided to emphasize practical advice about making the most of the experience. Since the audience was limited to Canadian filmmakers, the good folks at TIFF recorded the session and have made it available on line. Here it is in its entirety, with the hope that it might be of help to others of you who might be navigating Toronto for the first time.


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A Song to Cinema

With all the bad news floating around about movie theaters going out of business, this video, courtesy of the Traverse City Film Festival, stands as a reminder of why we need to preserve the theatrical experience. Kudos to The Treefort Collective for a great job creating the video, and for putting me in a starring role alongside Wim Wenders!

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