Is the entire indie film world going to hell? That's been the question vibrating through our community for the past several weeks, particularly after a Toronto International Film Festival that was light on sales and a summary paper issued by Anne Thompson, in which she labeled this year's TIFF an "indie bloodbath":
If nobody knew anything before, they know even less now. The one sure thing is that moviemakers will now PAY to get their films released. The few remaining distributors can sit back and wait for movies to drop in their laps, often with P & A funds attached. All hopes of a hot sale at a festivals were dashed this year."
And if you think filmmakers going to festivals have it bad, what about the festivals themselves? This year has seen an unprecedented upheaval, as five of the top 10 festivals for documentaries saw a change in leadership (Sundance, Silverdocs, Los Angeles, Tribeca and Full Frame) and a number of film festivals found themselves making news - Toronto over its choice of Tel Aviv for its City to City Spotlight, Los Angeles in its battle with the BANANAS!* filmmakers and lawyers from Dole, SF Jewish Film over its screening of RACHEL, Tokyo due to its rejection-then-capitulation/acceptance of THE COVE, not to mention the coup at the Denver Film Society. And what does it say about the New York Film Festival if most of NYC's indie film cognoscenti took the first flights out of town to be in Austin for Fantastic Fest, just as NYFF was opening?
Now we learn that CineVegas, one of the best regional festivals in the US, will not be back for its 2010 edition (although they state publicly that they will try to return sometime after that) and yesterday the news that filmmaker Roman Polanski was arrested in Switzerland as he was en route to receive a lifetime achievement award from the Zurich Film Festival.
Add to all this what any filmmaker on the festival circuit (including this one) can tell you with certainty - for many festivals, the days of largesse have passed. No travel, no accommodations, no screening fees. Oh yeah, and if you want more than a couple tickets to your film, you're going to have to pay for them.
Let that sink in for a moment.