Tag Archives: Independent Film

My Keynote at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival

Last week, I tweeted out that I had been asked to give a keynote speech at the Cannes Film Festival. In an attempt at humor, I made it sound as if it had been a last minute thing, when in fact I’ve known about it for months. The truth is that I had been approached to help set the stage for a full day event–one in which the MEDIA Program of the European Union would take stock of trends in the film business, with the goal of setting priorities for the future of the program. In any case, here it is. Thanks are due to Tara Roy, one of my Columbia students, who taped it for me. 

Ira Deutchman Keynote at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival from Ira Deutchman on Vimeo.

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Remembering Jonathan Demme

I heard the devastating news today that Jonathan Demme is no longer with us. I knew he had been ill, but the last time I saw him he looked like he was back to his normal self and seemed to be in quite good spirits. But then again, Jonathan always gave off the vibe of being in good spirits. I had the pleasure of working with him on two of his films, and then peripherally on two others, and in all that time he never treated me with anything but the utmost respect. 

Jonathan Demme (bottom) and me (top) at Sundance in the ’80s. I have no recollection who the other folks are.

I first met Jonathan shortly after the Cinecom team screened “Stop Making Sense” and we immediately decided we wanted to distribute it. The film had been financed by Warner Brother Records; from their perspective, it was merely a promotional film intended to broaden the appeal of Talking Heads. We saw the film differently, as Demme was already on our radar as someone we would love to work with. Yes, it was a great concert film, but the simplicity with which it captured a live performance and made it feel as immediate and exciting as if you were in the room–this was something new. This was pure cinema.

Jonathan was coming off of a few films that, while well received critically, had not exactly set the world on fire. Worse yet, he had just finished “Swing Shift,” a fairly big budget Hollywood movie he wasn’t all that pleased with, that tanked at the box office. The experience of “Stop Making Sense” seemed to him like a breath of fresh air at a time when his Hollywood stock was not exactly rising. Perhaps it was his publicity background kicking in, but he was unusually respectful of the work being done to market and distribute the film, and showered us with public praise when the film outperformed expectations.  (more…)

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The “Daily Buzz” at Sundance

The following is a podcast I took part in at Sundance as part of a program called “The Daily Buzz.” The other participamnts were:

Emily Best/SEED AND SPARK
Holly Herrick/AUSTIN FILM SOCIETY
Jim Brunzell/HAMMER TO NAIL
Ula Sniegowska/AFF POLAND
Tomris Laffly/FILM JOURNAL INTERNATIONAL

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Art House Convergence Acceptance Speech

This past Tuesday night, I was honored by the Art House Convergence with the first annual Spotlight Lifetime Achievement Award. Since then, I’ve been asked by many people who were there if I could post my acceptance speech. Thanks to the good folks at 4th Row Films, who were there to capture it, here it is. They even were so kind to insert the video that was made by Spotlight Cinema Network. Thanks to one and all.

Ira Deutchman speech – Lifetime Achievement Award from Ira Deutchman on Vimeo.

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Produced By Podcast

Here is a podcast I did with Kevyn Fairchild from the Producers Guild. The topic was “Roles and Future of Independent Film Producers”

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TCFF Panel on the 40th Anniversary of “Nashville”

Here is a panel that was hosted at this year’s Traverse City Film Festival on the career of Robert Altman in honor of the 40th Anniversary of “Nashville.” Panelists include Kathryn Altman, Ron Mann, Geraldine Chaplin, Michael Murphy & yours truly. It was moderated by Phil Hallman of the University of Michigan. Enjoy!


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Equality Now Panel at TCFF

Among the many panels and Q&As that I participated in at this year’s Traverse City Film Festival was one entitled, “Equality Now.” It was meant to be both a celebration of the Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriage and a discussion among the filmmakers who were involved with films that touched on LGBT issues. I was the moderator and the panel turned out to be quite illuminating (if I must say so myself) and even included some fireworks. Fortunately the panels were recorded for posterity, so here it is. I’ll post some others in the next few days…

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Amazon and the “Vegetable Story”

vegetablesIn the last few days, the folks at Amazon have been a lot more open about their plans to invest in and distribute traditional theatrical films, as well as continuing their successful forays into episodic television. The various interviews and the accompanying analyses underline that fact that for Amazon, the goal is to get consumers hooked on its ecosystem, which bundles content with everything from baby formula and toilet paper deliveries. It reminds me of a story I tell every year in my Business of Film class at Columbia, which goes as follows:

About 20 years ago, at the Cannes Film Festival, I visited the hotel suite of a major sales agent to see what their upcoming product lineup looked like. As I entered the suite, I was greeted by the CEO of the company, who had a grin on his face. He sat me down and told me the source of his bemusement. (more…)

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Guest Blog: Tori Baker on Exhibitor/Distributor Price Fixing

CinemaConFor those of us who follow the politics of theatrical distribution in the United States, the recent controversy about Disney’s required terms for showing “The Avengers” struck a chord. The dynamics between exhibitors and distributors have always been fraught, and this is only the most recent example. John Fithian, the head of the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO), has publicly pushed back at Disney’s latest demands, but as Tori Baker of the Salt Lake Film Society points out, this is an issue that affects all exhibitors, not just the big chains. Her open letter to the art house community on this subject is reprinted (with her permission) below.

I have just returned from CinemaCon a few weeks ago and I am astounded by the volume and “billions” talked about at every corner of that event, from studios, from executives, and from those operating the larger chain for-profit cinemas.  At one point someone used a great classic film as an example of something “lame” and proudly touted an action super-hero movie as “awesome.”

While the mission driven art house cinemas are not exactly playing on the same playing field, the issue of price fixing, as pointed out by John Fithian in his response to Disney, is a valid concern for us as well.  Unfortunately for all exhibitors, the reality is that if ANY studio changes their terms or makes other demands, the entire food chain of studios, mini-majors and indies end up following their lead. It reaches the independent film world very quickly.

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Watch My Movie from NOVAC

Here’s a cool video put together by the good folks at NOVAC in New Orleans. This is from a conference to years ago that they called “Watch My Movie,” and featured such notables as Gianna Chachere of the Hamptons International Film Festival, Andrew Mer of SnagFilms, Janine Saunders of the Workbook Project, Todd Sklar of Range Life Entertainment, Jolene Pinder of the New Orleans Film Society and Film Festival. Oh and yours truly.

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