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July 29 at 8:26am

Is NYC “Permitted” To Support Indie Film?

Today’s guest post is from attorney Steven Beer.  Steven not only has posted for us before, but also delivered a great call to arms in Indiewire with proclamation of the Era Of Filmmaker Empowerment. Today’s touches upon some of the issues that I raised recently regarding how film incentives need to help low budget production.

Independent filmmakers and producers from New York are accustomed to change and challenges, and as of this week, they will have yet another hurdle to jump.  As of July 11, 2010, the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting, the MOFTB, has begun charging filmmakers a $300 fee for film permits.  Historically, New York City has not charged anything for film permits.  New York City has joined the ranks of other cities, such as Chicago, D.C., Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco, and Seattle, all of which charge fees for film permits.  When the proposed rule was announced in April, it generated mostly negative reactions; concerned filmmakers signed petitions against the rule, believing that the fee would diminish New York City’s claim to being the capital of the independent film world.  Some scoffed at the fee, unable to see how an extra $300 charge could affect a film budget.  While opinions may vary, the fee is certainly changing the climate for independent filmmakers, no matter how large their budgets might be.

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July 29 at 8:09am

Lack Of Transparency Limits Film Investments

NY Magazine has run a clear analysis on why the attempt to establish Film Future markets failed.  Our business is so far from transparent, it is laughable to outsiders.  The article articulates how we have no clear & unbiased info on how well films perform and all reporting is done by the studios themselves.  To run a commodities market, the public would need something more transparent (like other countries have) and without it court cases would abound.

Such chaos would almost inevitably lead to a call for mandated government-agency oversight of Hollywood accounting, and that, to studio thinking, would be Armageddon—albeit an Armageddon that would be celebrated by everyone who has ever been promised a net-profits check that didn’t arrive. In the space of just a couple of days this month, a jury demanded Disney pay $270 million in damages for wrongfully withholding profits on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, another found that actor Don Johnson was owed $23 million by the producers of Nash Bridges, and Nikki Finke’s Deadline website posted a leaked balance sheet in which Warner Bros. appeared to demonstrate that the movie Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which grossed $938 million worldwide, is somehow $167 million in the red. Given that statistic, perhaps stockholders should inquire whether any studio movies ever realize a net profit, and if not, why the people who run those studios are still employed.

If we are ever going to have a sustainable investor base for our industry, we need to bring the reporting and accounting practices up to the standards of other industries.  It’s time that we develop a list of best practices of what needs to be done to reach this goal.  I will add it to my To Do List in the meantime.

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July 11 at 7:47am

Sell Your Film As Art

The NY Times has an intriguing article on the owners of the copyright of “Kiss Of The Spider Woman” who have packaged the film, it’s rights, and various other support materials, and have hopes netting a windfall.

I have always wondered why more filmmakers don’t go the Matthew Barney route and focus first on selling to “collections” as opposed to audiences. The Spider Woman’s team’s approach of going at long after the initial run and sales cycle is another route altogether. As library values decline faster and faster, perhaps all that will be left in the way of hope for some pension-esque fund will be those wealthy patrons and their butterfly collections.

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