Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

AIVF: Gone. The Independent: Stayin’ Alive

Thursday, July 27th, 2006

I just received an email from AIVF, which answers some of my earlier questions about the fate of The Independent:

AIVF Closing Operations While Moving Forward with The Independent.

AIVF is closing its operations and will vacate its office space by the end of July. In June, a group of supporters gathered to explore the potential for a turnaround that would include hands-on management of the Independent magazine while also reinventing AIVF as a membership organization. Although the AIVF Board is grateful for these expressions of interest, we are not seeing sufficient capacity and resources in place to move ahead. Instead we are focusing on transitioning the Independent to new management and securing benefits for AIVF members through sister organizations.

In order to keep the Independent as an information resource and voice for the independent community, AIVF has approached potential successor organizations to take over publication—including a combination of print and expanded online resources. The AIVF will be reviewing proposals over the next month and we hope to have a concrete plan for transitioning the Independent in the fall.

“Americans’ tastes are really broad.”

Thursday, June 8th, 2006

The IFC Blog (which, by the way, you should read even if you don’t watch — or even get — IFC) writes today about an article in the NYT about Netflix. Sounds like a worthwhile read.

Here’s the quote that whetted my appetite:

Its return from oblivion is a nice illustration of a brainteaser I have been giving my friends since I visited Netflix in Silicon Valley last month. Out of the 60,000 titles in Netflix’s inventory, I ask, how many do you think are rented at least once on a typical day?

The most common answers have been around 1,000, which sounds reasonable enough. Americans tend to flock to the same small group of movies, just as they flock to the same candy bars and cars, right?

Well, the actual answer is 35,000 to 40,000. That’s right: every day, almost two of every three movies ever put onto DVD are rented by a Netflix customer. “Americans’ tastes are really broad,” says Reed Hastings, Netflix’s chief executive. So, while the studios spend their energy promoting bland blockbusters aimed at everyone, Netflix has been catering to what people really want — and helping to keep Hollywood profitable in the process.

I’ve believed this last bit for a long time, but I’ve only had anecdotal evidence to prove it (conversations with all sorts of non-film people, experiences on the festival circuit, etc.). It’s great to hear the CEO of a company confirm my intuition with some data.

See also: The Long Tail.

AIVF is (probably) dead. Long live independent film.

Friday, May 19th, 2006

In case you haven’t heard the news, AIVF is shutting its doors. In indieWire’s article on the subject AIVF’s interim executive director Lina Srivastava says, “(The organization has) kind of gone into moth balls to a certain extent.” Her choice of words suggests that the organization’s status is still indeterminate, but what’s indisputable is that the only two people left working for AIVF are Srivastava (who had always signed on to only an “interim” position with the organization) and Shana Liebman, editor of The Independent Film and Video Monthly. Hibernation? Coma? Death? I guess we’ll have to wait to find out.

In AIVF’s semi-annual member surveys I was always a vocal critic of its service and outreach to filmmakers based anywhere but New York, and Jim McKay made the case better than I ever could about how the organization, though it desperately needed to transform itself, had not done so.

But, after speaking with some staffers in February as news of their crisis leaked out, I argued for its survival because I believed that this could be the wake-up call the organization needed.

Pretty soon into its funding drive, though, I saw that AIVF wasn’t going to meet its (modest) goals, and I came to the conclusion that it’s probably better for the long term that the organization close shop, at least for a while, and possibly forever.

Now that that’s happened, we’re left with more questions:

Will The Independent Film and Video Monthly live on in some other way, and if so, what shape will it take?

Will AIVF ever have its “moth balls” dusted off? If so, by whom and under what circumstances?

And, perhaps most pressingly, what organizations will take this as a wake-up call and transform themselves? And which ones will be the next to collapse?

One small bit of hope:

As I wrote in a post midway through the AIVF funding crisis, the controversial Showtime-Smithsonian deal would be an interesting test case of what things might be like in a world without AIVF. One of AIVF’s strengths was as an advocate of the collective rights of independent filmmakers. Under normal circumstances AIVF would have led the charge against the licensing of America’s “attic” to a private corporation.

Happily, it appears as if the filmmakers that banded together (without the help of AIVF or, to the best of my knowledge, any other organization — see Brian’s comment below) have been at least partially successful in getting Congress to take notice.

Undiscovered Gems

Monday, April 24th, 2006

If you didn’t read indieWire’s press release about the Undiscovered Gems series, you should check it out. Basically, the series aims to be a mother to those motherless children of the independent film circuit — those independent films deserving of an audience that somehow never manage to secure a distributors. The initiative is a partnership between Emerging Pictures, the New York Times, IndieWire, Sundance Channel, and the California Film Institute.

The venues include:

Cinema Village (New York, NY)
Market Arcade Film and Arts Center (Buffalo, NY)
The Loft (Tucson, AZ)
Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center (San Rafael, CA)
Theatre N at Nemours (Wilmington, NC)
Cinema Paradiso (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)
The Duncan Theatre at Stage West (Lake Worth, FL)
Island Theatre (Martha’s Vineyard, MA)
Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center (Lincoln, NE)
Circle Cinema (Tulsa, OK)
Scranton Cultural Center (Scranton, PA)

Commentary: Because most of these venues aren’t in places that are “major markets”, releasing will be cheaper. This means more venues, more potential moviegoers — a good thing for audiences and filmmakers alike.

I am, however, deeply troubled about the contest aspect of the series. According to the press release, “an audience prize competition will provide the winning filmmaker a cash award of $50,000, theatrical release in New York, Los Angeles and at least five other U.S. cities during 2007, as well as an exclusive broadcast on Sundance Channel.”

It seems wildly unfair that audiences in a few select places essentially determine the viewing options for other audiences halfway across the country! Especially when those places are so culturally and geographically different! Just think — the good people of Los Angeles will have their moviegoing choices dictated by folks in cities like Tulsa and Scranton! What an outrage!

Oh wait. This already happens everyday. Just in reverse.

All joking aside, congrats to the “filmmakers whose undiscovered gems” will be distributed. And if you’re in a city with a venue listed above, enjoy the show.

Showtime/Smithsonian petition

Tuesday, April 18th, 2006

Scott Macaulay has an in-depth post about a coalition of filmmakers petitioning to stop Showtime‘s licensing of the Smithsonian’s archives.

Anthony Kaufman‘s blog has a copy of the petition for you to download, as well as a link to the NY Times article on the movement. I encourage you to get involved.

In addition to rooting for the petition drive to work, I’m also curious to see the effectiveness of the petitioning for other reasons. As I wrote a few weeks ago, this is exactly the sort of issue that a healthy AIVF would have been able to lobby against in years past. Now, with AIVF ailing, the petition drive is an interesting test case that might predict how well filmmakers might be able to organize, advocate, and change the system in a world without AIVF.