AFI Chair Alan Finney, is currently attending the 2011 Cannes Film Festival (11 – 22 May) as a producer and member of the Australian film contingent. As an industry insider since the 1960s, as a filmmaker, distributor and exhibitor, Finney has been to Cannes many times before. This year Alan is sending back snapshots, impressions and memories. In this second report, he catches up with some old friends and attends a forum debating the merits of Video on Demand (VOD) versus a traditional windows approach to distribution. You can catch the previous Cannes Report here or read on for the latest…
My favourite memory of Cannes is probably the launch of Muriel’s Wedding and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, back in 1994, and it was the exposure they got here, followed by terrific screenings back home that really kicked off their success.
Now there are so many Australians here which is terrific – producers, distributors and government film body representatives and a lot of “veteran friends” who still come to the festival to stay in touch with the worldwide industry. And of course, there are icons such as David Stratton and Margaret Pomeranz who are stars in their own right. It was also great to bump into Anthony LaPaglia in the street as we hadn’t worked together since Brilliant Lies, directed by the late and great Richard Franklin and based on the David Williamson play.
Overall there’s a really positive attitude to our home-grown product, and this is appropriate and necessary if we are to continue encouraging and supporting our filmmakers, both established and those preparing to get into the rough and tumble world of getting projects up onto the big or small screen.
There is a really interesting venue called The American Pavillion, and by registering for a not too heavy fee, you can mingle, buy things to eat and drink, use free Wifi and also attend information sessions such as one I did. The subject matter was ‘Indie Film Innovators: Keeping up with the New Thinking in Distribution’ (See participants below*). A wide range of topics were discussed including (naturally) the issue of day and date theatrical and Video on Demand (VOD) release strategies.
The panel were in fact split on this question, some seeing keeping [separate theatrical and DVD] windows as a necessary way to recoup the production investment and value the theatrical publicity which helps VOD and gives the release high profile.
Those in favour of day and date release argue that they have to be where their customers are and that their film should be on as many ‘monetised’ (the new buzzword) channels as possible. They believe that consumers are platform agnostic. They also see the impact of piracy which is encouraged if a film plays in limited locations in its theatrical life. The most sensible view seemed to be that the question of a window approach depends on the movie itself, and that this decision should be on a title by title basis.
A related subject discussed, of course, was social networking and the way it has changed how audiences learn about and become excited about films.
*Indie Film Innovators: Keeping up with New Thinking in Distribution. Participants: Jon Fougner (Facebook), Tim League (Alamo Drafthouse), Shawn Bercuson (PreScreen), David Fenkel (Oscilloscope), Berry Meyerowitz (Phase Four). Moderated by: Scott Macaulay (Editor-in-chief, Filmmaker Magazine).
Below: Alan’s Snapshots from The American Pavillion at Cannes