Keeping up to date with industry commentators and the musings of well-placed insiders is one of the more enjoyable aspects of maintaining this blog. Reading widely around the subject has become a necessary habit, and it rarely becomes onerous.
The print-led trade press has always performed a valuable service in this regard, marshalling fact and opinion in digestible portions. But the internet- particularly web 2.0 platforms like Twitter, blogs and the like- puts readers/listeners/viewers in touch with developments in a more immediate and less filtered way.
Best of all, it’s possible (as suits your needs) to move seamlessly between eavesdropping and networking, between bearing mute witness to and actively participating in an ongoing conversation among the informed, the interested or the idly curious.
Quite how dynamic this free and fulsome exchange of film business information has become is evidenced by the blog roll in the right hand sidebar, which has grown enormously since this blog started, and continues to expand (although it is still only a fraction of what’s out there).
Anyway, I want to draw attention to some recent additions that make an excellent contribution to the ongoing conversation.
I’ll start with the most recent of recent additions, The A.K.A. Indie Film Blog. Author and industry consultant Jeremy Juuso kicked off this blog last month with a post about Cantor Fitzgerald’s movie futures market, the Cantor Exchange.
Juuso is author of Getting the Money: A Step-by-Step Guide for Writing Business Plans for Film, and I first strayed across his writings from a link on Ted Hope’s blog to a post on Baseline Research’s Research Wrap site about the box office chances of ‘self-released specialty films’ in the US.
It’s a canny and provocative analysis (witness Hope’s commentary), and the issues raised are absolutely pertinent at this time of shifting film distribution models.
As well as filing copy for Baseline Research, Juuso runs a consultancy whose web site hosts a marvellous array of freely accessible film data.
Throughout 2009 Juuso published monthly PDF reports listing independent and ‘independent-style’ films released theatrically in the US. Among the data included for each title are details of their theatrical release pattern and box office numbers, the involvement of above-the-line star talent, plus estimates of the budget and a summary of financing sources.
The information is derived from various online and public sources, and each title takes Juuso around 2-3 hours to research. ‘The goal’, as Juuso told me when I enquired about his approach, ‘is to paint a clearer picture for filmmakers and investors of just what kind of landscape they face when launching an indie film geared toward the US market.’
The result is a detailed release catalogue, of obvious benefit to anyone drafting a business plan or thinking of acting on one (or, for that matter, anyone trying to understand the way the contemporary indie sector operates in the US).
Screen Finance used to provide a similar service in the UK (for the price of a subscription), until it bit the dust last year (the bfi Library tells me the last issue of Screen Finance they hold is dated 17 December 2009, following Tim Adler’s departure to manage the London bureau of Nikki Finke’s Deadline Hollywood blog). In the absence of Screen Finance, I’d love to see Juuso’s approach replicated in the UK and Europe.
Alongside the monthly PDFs you can find The A.K.A. Report 2009, an overview of the US theatrical market based on analysis of summary data. And returning to where we began, the first post on Juuso’s A.K.A. blog lays bare the operation of the Cantor Exchange in lucid detail (check out entertainment attorney Roger Goff's blog for another view of the same). If, like me, you’re only dimly aware of terms like ‘going long’ and the ‘short position’ from coverage of the global banking crisis, Juuso’s post lifts the shroud on this arcane world and makes it comprehensible.
Now to a blog of a very different order. David Graham is CEO of Attentional, a television industry data provider and consultancy that supplies, among other things, BARB data to the UK Film Council, and is responsible for a number of film-related projects over the years including a study of the economic impact of the UK screen industries (with Cambridge Econometrics and Oliver & Ohlbaum Associates).
Graham’s newly launched blog, Building an Entertainment Powerhouse, takes a critical look at the current model for UK TV, setting out alternatives informed by a staunchly (but not unthinking) free market approach. There’s an engaging openness about the posts, and Graham has the advantage of working from hard data in crafting and elaborating his position. Check out, for example, his posts on the desirability of a European Pay-TV platform, and the growth of internet-based TV viewing and its implications for the licence fee. It’s still relatively early days, but this blog is definitely one to watch and will no doubt become more relevant if the general election goes David Cameron’s way tomorrow.
Over the coming weeks I plan to introduce other relevant industry blogs in a similar way, so if you have any suggestions for inclusion I’d be grateful to hear them. I’m particularly interested to learn about film business blogs from outside the UK and US.