Sundance Panel Discussion: Carr, Dodd, Fithian & Vachon! O my!

After getting an early morning wait list ticket for a film I went to the Filmmaker Lodge on Main street in downtown Park City where, throughout the fest, panels and Q&As are held covering the spectrum of all things filmmaking. I missed the very beginning so I am not sure what the exact topic of conversation was supposed to be but Christine Vachon (indie-film producer extraordinaire), former Senator Christopher Dodd (now head of the MPAA), John Fithian (President CEO lobbyist of the National Association of Theatre Owners) under the mediation of David Carr (NY Times staff writer/star of the doc Page One) took to the stage discussing the state of distribution, SOPA and where the film industry is headed.

There wasn't much real solution discussed but hearing these different views on where indie film sits was truly eye opening. Dodd asserted that $58billion dollars has been lost due to illegal downloads, an audience member acting as a symbol for this drastic shift whose indie film was on the right path to distribution but, after it leaked on the internet, has been excessively downloaded leading to a devastating loss of revenue. In fact, the audience seemed more in tune with the realities of the current film distribution landscape: one man suggesting that we lower the price point of film going (a bloated industry across the board) to begin a new feeling of responsibility to the audience and another audience member spoke of his organization, Arthouse Convergence, who have created a coalition of alternative venues for indie films making programming and filmmaker accessibility better (a thing we here at Nervousfilms have obviously looked toward in our own distribution with Gravity). Christine Vachon, speaking as a producer/fosterer of talent definitely spoke the most clearly on the current issues asserting that "TV is embracing risks" (evident in her recent support of Todd Haynes Mildred Pierce miniseries) and that online production/distribution is a reality that we can use  for better content & profit (she is working on a project with Michael Eisner's online production company). David Carr also heartily discussed his own brushes with illegal downloading, fearing that without theaters his job will become obsolete and people will not looks towards reviewers for answers in a more democratic, online sea of self distributed work. Overall, this panel pronounced the disconnect between the artists/filmmakers/creatives and those responsible for displaying/supporting their work, culminating in a really tough question: how do we all remain relevant and fed in the changing landscape of cinema?

All of these topics were especially fitting since I was told to stop taking pictures during the event since I did not have a special purple press pass (which I filled out paperwork for but never received!) yet was surrounded by hi-quality camera phones snapping away to no end! The accessibility of content, of media, of technology is moving at a pace that the film/entertainment industry cannot keep up with, a pace that will eventually lead to a complete overhaul of the system, a change in the way we value creative expression in film...a change that is all to welcome in a theater landscape of predominantly multimillion dollar crap! (Dodd & Vachon pictured at top, Carr at bottom- hastily taken before I was reprimanded!)



Donna K. lives in the Midwest and on the internet. Mostly she writes about her interest in the offline world.