TIFF 2014: The Dawn of a New Era

18 Sep 2014 | Categories: news | Posted by: Kevin Youkhana

Industry Insiders Suggest the Future of Cinema is Complex, Yet Bright for Filmmakers

A Special Blog Report by Carmelo Giardina

Bob Berney of Picturehouse gives a keynote address on the state of film distribution at TIFF 2014

Bob Berney of Picturehouse gives a keynote address on the state of film distribution at TIFF 2014

The 39th running of the Toronto International Film Festival – better known now as TIFF – once again drew big films, big stars, and big deals throughout its traditional 10 days in September.

The likes of Pacino, Scorsese, Denzel, and Iron Man himself (Robert Downey, Jr.) all walked the red carpet promoting high profile pics including The Judge, The Imitation Game, The Equalizer, Foxcatcher, and hundreds more.

Films and their star power are always the main attraction for the public fest-goers, but for industry members, TIFF is an opportunity to network, pitch and sell projects, and learn more and more about a growing and feverishly competitive industry.

If there’s one thing TIFF 2014 made us industry members aware of, it’s that we are experiencing the dawn of a new era of film distribution. Digital platforms are advancing everywhere; new release models of independent films are being implemented and refined; all the while audiences continue to flock to theatres as well as explore other options like VOD/SVOD and multi-platform viewing.

So what do these latest trends and challenges in “digital distribution” mean for the release of our own (and your own) films? With all the content options out there, how can filmmakers ensure that audiences, partners, and peers discover and advocate for your film? As Bob Berney of Picturehouse succinctly put it; “Find a way to make your film stand out.”

Good advice. But how do we do that on cost-effective budgets?

That’s where social media branding opportunities come into play. Building viral campaigns, seeding the audience, and generating the elusive buzz is what Mr. Berney is talking about. Facebook and YouTube shouldn’t be the only game in town to really push your product onto someone. There’s a myriad of platforms out there designed to help find and hold onto your audience. Deciding on the right one(s) that work best may take some time and due diligence, but your film stands to gain in the end, and that should be worth the time and effort put into it.

As we found out towards the end of TIFF, Netflix and other forms of VOD/SVOD aren’t winning the movie-going experience war just yet. The folks at IMAX showed us during a 45 minute presentation, there’s a lot to look forward to in terms of new theatrical viewing experiences. Legendary filmmaker and visual effects pioneer, Douglas Trumbull seconded that motion in his own presentation, not only suggesting but actually proving that 3D technology is getting better, high frame-rate presentations are soon going to be more mainstream, and that laser projector technology is on the way sooner than we think!

The Hollywood Reporter's Matt Belloni moderates a panel discussion during TIFF 2014 on day and date release models.

The Hollywood Reporter’s Matt Belloni moderates a panel discussion during TIFF 2014 on day and date release models.

The future of cinema? Filmmaker extraordinaire Christopher Nolan (Dark Knight trilogy, Inception) described it best in a piece he wrote for the Wall Street Journal: “The cinema of the future will depend not just on grander presentation, but on the emergence of filmmakers inventive enough to command the focused attention of a crowd for hours.”

I couldn’t agree more.

If there’s one certainty in the film business today, it’s that the independent filmmaker (and there are many of us), who’s film may or may not find its way into a theatre upon its completion, is being given a lot more options for distribution (via global digital platforms) as long as there is a foreseeable audience for that particular work – and why shouldn’t there be? Isn’t there an audience for just about anything? The key is simply tapping into that audience, which may take some (or a lot of) time and effort depending on your film and/or your budget.

Bottom line: It’s a re-assuring prospect and we should all go back to being happy that we’re in the business of filmmaking again. We’re all being given the opportunity to have our works seen on a truly global scale, on multiple platforms, and thus compete in what is becoming a tentpole-dominated theatrical industry.

As French film producer Pierre-Ange le Pogam said ever so eloquently during a TIFF Industry panel:  “Just go out there and make your film!”

I’ll do just that, thank you!