Sunday, November 8, 2009

the State of the Film Industry

I spent the weekend in Portland, where I attended the What is Film? conference at the UO's Turnbull Center. I learned a lot about the global, national, and northwest film industries. The focus of the conference was on changes in the industry, especially of the technological variety.

Much of the discussion was focused on problems the industry faces "in the digital age," (keynote speaker Bryce Zabel joked during his presentation that "in the digital age" is now tacked onto the end of conference panels in much the same manor as "in bed" is tacked onto the end of cookie fortunes).

Funding problems for both Hollywood and independent film were a hot topic. Hollywood is having increasing problems as the move to digital formats makes piracy more common. For indies the greatest challenges are coming up with start up money and getting a film distributed in the first place. Today I heard about the tremendous jump in popularity Double Edge Films' new movie Ink experienced as the result of illegal file sharing. They are responding positively. Could this be the new marketing model for indie films or will this be damaging to them in the long run?

While funding and distribution problems are certainly daunting, I was most disheartened by how few of the filmmakers at the conference were women. All three of the keynote speakers were men, as were the majority of panelists. There were a lot of women on the academic panels, but almost none on the Friday panels that focused on working in the industry. In an area like the pacific northwest, known for its progressive values, I expected women to be better represented.

Friday night I checked out some short films (some of them quite good) that the Northwest Film Center showed as part of the Northwest Film and Video Festival. I was pleased to see that a number of the filmmakers, including Heather Harlow, director of best of show winner Nous Deux Encore, were women.

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