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The American Film Market in the Times of COVID-19 with Jonathan Wolf
The pandemic has upended the film industries in a way we will be feeling for years to come. Not only are film festivals in limbo and scrambling to figure out how to move forward but film markets like Cannes and Berlin are as well. Today on the show we welcome back to the show Jonathan Wolf, Executive Vice President of the Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA®) and Managing Director of the American Film Market (AFM).
The American Film Market is the most efficient film acquisition, development, and networking event in the world. Unlike a film festival, AFM is a marketplace where production and distribution deals are closed. More than US$1 billion in deals are sealed every year — on both completed films and those in every stage of development and production.
Over 7,000 industry professionals from more than 70 countries converge in Santa Monica every November. They include acquisition and development executives, agents, attorneys, directors, distributors, festival directors, financiers, film commissioners, producers, writers, the world’s press, and all those who provide services to the motion picture industry.
At AFM, participants can discover the entire global catalog of available films and projects, attend 50+ world-class conferences, roundtables, and presentations, and connect with the independent film community’s decision-makers, all in one convenient location without the distraction of a film festival.
The American Film Market 2020 will go on during this crazy time but not how you might think. AFM will be conducted completely online.
- Industry offices – Connect with over 300 sales and production companies, and industry organizations from around the world.
- LocationEXPO – Meet Film Commissions with billions of dollars in production incentives that can quickly get films moving, and connect with facilities, service companies, and institutions.
- On-Demand Theatre – Discover hundreds of films from the world’s best producers – all on demand for convenient viewing.
- Stage 1 & Stage 2 – Over 200 speakers will participate in more than 70 live sessions – Conferences, Panels, Workshops, Conversations, and Presentations – all with on-demand replays.
- Networking Pavilion – AFM’s most interactive experience for attendees to meet. Over 50 video discussions, every hour offers endless opportunities to join small groups that share your vision, passion, and goals.
- MyAFM – The place to create a profile, discover other participants, send messages, and have Zoom meetings from inside the platform.
I’ll also be speaking at this year’s AFM with my good friend and film financing expert Franco Sama on November 10, 2021, at 2 pm PST.
Jonathan and I discuss how the distribution landscape will change in the coming months and years, how the theatrical exhibition business will bounce back, the explosion of streaming services, and how the AFM will look in the future.
Enjoy my conversation with Johnathan Wolf from the American Film Market.
LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE
- Attending AFM 2020
- How to Work with AFM
- How to Sell Your Film at the AFM (American Film Market) Workshop
- DONATE to Feed America to help with people affected by the Coronavirus
- Rise of the Filmtrepreneur®: How to Turn Your Indie Film into a Moneymaking Business (FREE AUDIOBOOK)
- $1 Closed Captions for Indie Filmmakers – Rev ($10 Off Your First Order)
- The Complete Indie Film Producing Workshop with Suzanne Lyons (COUPON CODE: IFHFILMPRODUCE)
- Shooting for the Mob (Based on the Incredible True Filmmaking Story) (FREE AUDIOBOOK)
REAL-WORLD STREAMING FILM EDUCATION
- Indie Film Hustle TV (Streaming Real-World Film Education)
- Hollywood Film School: Filmmaking & TV Directing Masterclass
- Filmmaker in a Box – Learn How to Make an Indie Film – 18 Hours+ of Lessons
- Storytelling Blueprint: Hero’s Two Journeys
- The Dialogue Series: 38 hours of Lessons from Top Hollywood Screenwriters
WATCH MICRO-BUDGET CASE STUDIES
- IFH Academy – Exclusive Filmmaking & Screenwriting Training
- FreeFilmBook.com (Download Your FREE Filmmaking Audio Book)
- Indie Film Hustle® Podcast
- Bulletproof Screenwriting® Podcast
- Filmtrepreneur™ Podcast
- Inside the Screenwriter’s Mind® Podcast
Alex Ferrari 2:18
Today on the show we have the head honcho of the American Film market Jonathan Wolf, and Jonathan has been a guest on the show many times before. But this was an extra special interview because when COVID hit I was really curious on how not only the Cannes Film market, but the AFM is going to kind of continue because obviously, a film market a convention, if you will, traditionally needs to be in person. And I was wondering how Jonathan and the team over at AFM was going to be able to handle this new reality that we all live in, which is COVID-19. And they've come up with a really interesting way of moving forward with its which is basically American film market online or AFM online, where they're trying to emulate emulate the exact same experience would have been better in some instances, experience you have at the AFM and we talk deep about what they're doing, how they're doing it, if it's going to work, let's see. But I also really wanted to pick Jonathan's brain about what is going on in our business what is going on on the film distribution side of the business, where he sees things moving forward because he has been in the film distribution space for decades now. And I was really interested to hear his thoughts about the theatrical experience, what's going to happen theatrically where the studio is going, where independents are going, how they're going to be able to make money, how distributors in general are reacting about what's going on in the business and so on. So this is a very lively and informative episode. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Jonathan Wolf. I like to welcome back to the show returning champion Jonathan Wolf, how you doing Jonathan?
Jonathan Wolf 4:08
Good Good to see ya Alex.
Alex Ferrari 4:10
Good man. I'm good. So anything happening Have you heard anything What's going on?
Jonathan Wolf 4:15
You know, sitting in the backyard having a margarita now and then just you know running out of chips
Alex Ferrari 4:22
That's the worst thing that's going on as your chips are running out. Right? Oh, God. It is, was this last week spoken. The world has changed in a in a once in a generation kind of way which we all know about, which is the the COVID pandemic that is happening and ravaging not only the world, but our small, little corner of the world, which is the film industry. And I know when it hit last year, excuse me, I kind of feel like it's last year when I hit earlier this year. It feels like more than a year. I feel like we've been I swear to God, I feel like this is like we've been doing this forever, but talk about fatigue Jesus. And I mean, I don't know how much more things could happen in 2020. I mean, I said the mall people haven't risen up yet. Atlantis hasn't come out of the ocean. The aliens haven't landed yet. And the meteor technically hasn't hit yet. So there's still that.
Jonathan Wolf 5:14
Well, there's turmoil on Washington, the hottest year on record in the planet. You know, we'll we'll make the trifecta
Alex Ferrari 5:21
I mean, there's there's so much I mean, there's just so many things you can't even comprehend but but this has been a very trying year, not only for, for in our industry for film filmmakers and from production, but from distribution has been thrown upside down. And of course, you you know, you running AFM has been have seen, basically have a front line, front row seat to what's going on, because you see what's happening. Yeah, with all of your other vendors and companies and things like that. So before we even get started, just for people who don't know who you are, can you just give a little quick update on who you are, sir.
Jonathan Wolf 5:55
Sure, Jonathan Wolk, Managing Director of the American Film market, which is run by the Independent Film and Television Alliance. And we're a trade group for Motion Picture and Television distributors, basically, the independence version of the Motion Picture Association, the MBA, we look after the interests globally, of film and television companies that that operate outside the studio is the independence. And of course, we have the American Film market, which is an usually an annual event in Santa Monica, not this year. But an annual event. That is the bookend camp, where the industries in Canada do business in the spring, it comes to Santa Monica and in Hollywood's backyard, essentially, to do business in the fall. And that's that's where we sit, we watch what the industry is going we try and serve them where we can either with research or advocacy or creating a film market where they can do business efficiently.
Alex Ferrari 6:51
So So this thing called COVID, Sir, how has it affected the AFM this year, because normally, I would be getting ready to take my Uber down to
Jonathan Wolf 7:04
Let's see, you said we only have three hours, right. It's it's really been a sort of a double whammy, if you will. COVID has affected the film industry, in terms of the ability to to shoot the problem with insurance, the problem getting bonding, and all of this and at the same time, it's affected the event industry. hotels are closed, you can't go to sporting events. And of course, you can't go to markets and trade shows. So now we find ourselves operating a business that's affected by COVID trying to serve clients who are uniquely affected by cloth. Here's the auto industry, they're still making cars. They found they found a way to do that. But being on the set, the closeness of those who are working together code is has been devastating. And there there are companies that are making it work, but it's challenging and expensive. So where are we found ourselves serving? We have our own challenges and serving an industry that's facing its own challenges.
Alex Ferrari 8:03
So So AFM like you said, Normally we'd be going to Santa Monica like it's been from now since I don't know since Chaplin. I don't know when it started.
Jonathan Wolf 8:13
At one and the market got moved to Santa Monica 91 right. It's been 30 years.
Alex Ferrari 8:18
So it's been a It's been a while it's been a while that it's been going on. God I could only imagine what AFM would have been like in 1981 or 82,83 There must have been Oh,God
Jonathan Wolf 8:30
81 I wasn't there but in 81 they used what is now the W Hotel in Westwood.
Alex Ferrari 8:35
Jonathan Wolf 8:36
It was closed for what was back then a nine day get. And so, you know, industry evolves over what's almost half a century
Alex Ferrari 8:47
Jeezuuz. So okay, so now obviously we're not going to to the lows this year, the hotel. So how are you bringing AFM to the marketplace? Because I know I know you were keenly watching can when when Ken was going on because cam got pretty much buzzsaw by this because they were they were first up. So they were the guinea pig of a major market having to deal with not having a major market having to do a virtual version of it. And I've heard mixed reviews on the virtual on their end. So I want to know what you guys are doing and how do you see it playing out?
Jonathan Wolf 9:24
Well, first we're really grateful that can went first we learn from what they did, we saw what they did that we liked. We saw what they did that we thought we might want to do different and and so like I said, I'm grateful and and I would not have wanted to be in their shoes, because in addition to going first they were actually facing a moving target. They didn't know if they would go and then would they go in June then would June be on site or would it be digital then would the fit if the festival wasn't happening to the festival want to market to happen without a festival so within their stakeholders and their governance, if you will, they were constantly facing a moving target. That that made it even more difficult. For us. We made the decision in the first week of July, that we were going online. And so it gave us four months of planning. But it also gave the industry certainty as to what they would be doing and where they would be doing it. Because part of the frustration that can probably suffered from was all of the stakeholders who were waiting to decide what it is they were supposed to do, are they going to can they're not going to camp, what kind of on what's the date, there was just there was so much going on moving. And not that we're in a stable place in any of us in this world. But at least being able to establish our dates and what we were doing four months out, let everybody including us plan a bit. So that's that's the good news. Of course, the bad news is we're now online. And we're we serve a diverse audience. We have production and distribution companies that are looking for territorial buyers, of course, we have those buyers from all over the world, we have the production community producers and writers who have packages are looking looking to either connect with other creatives or connect with those who might be able to bring those films for we have production services, who come in Film Commission studio facilities, of course, the lawyers, the bankers, agents. And and so it's it's a really, it's a diverse group. And when they come usually to Santa Monica, they're all doing different things. Some are in session, some are in screening summer in meetings, somewhere in the lobby, connecting with others, trying to writers looking for producers, things like this. And we then looked and said, How do we put all of this together online, if we were a furniture trade show, it'd be real easy. Here's pictures of the couches, who wants to place an order, there's the company you go to, it's a very, it's a most trade shows or trade events are limited audiences are much more complex. And so it took us a lot of time, sort of to put those those pieces together. And I can walk you through sort of what we've done.
Alex Ferrari 12:01
Yeah, I'd love to, I'd love to hear I'm fascinated
Jonathan Wolf 12:04
With the pieces. The first thing we found we look for platforms, as you mentioned, can they use beyond sananda, they used other platforms that they licensed or modified from third parties. And none of us can create this stuff from scratch, we don't have the economics or the time to do that. So we looked a lot of platforms. And the first thing we saw on almost every platform, including the ones can use is you're navigating a website with with navigation bars and sub menus and drop downs. And as we would go through each one, it was sort of like being in a theater and someone turned on the lights, you the experience was really not there you are more aware of your surroundings than being engulfed in your experience. And so this really sent us on a path to make sure that we could do as much as possible to have the event engaging and not have you feel like you're sitting there with clicks and everything else and dropped down to menus and discovering how this website work. So the only way to do this for us was to bring in multiple different technology providers that that each were specialists in their areas. And then to build out ourselves where where that wasn't available. We're just taking off the pieces very briefly. And then you can let me know where you want to maybe dive into. For the companies who usually have space at the market. We created pages for them, where they could display their films where they could show videos, they could show their their team. And they could also say how they wanted to be contacted. Now one thing we learned from can was most of the buyers and sellers did not want to use the cam platform to communicate. They didn't want to click on and use that video discussion. They were okay in Skype, they were okay in zoom. They were okay in some other third party apps that are maybe specifically the film industry that they liked. But they didn't want to yet learn another platform. And so on going forward, we made the decision that for buyers and sellers we weren't going to put for the video platform that they would have their own way of connecting and meaning. So the first thing we've done is we've developed a series of pages where where the exhibitors can be found, you click on a logo of the company, you see everything that the company is doing. And we also did the same for the film Commission's and production facilities. But what we did was and and we'll get you an image that maybe you'll be able to put up on the screen later, we created a map, essentially a city map with eight buildings on it. And each of those buildings are interactive. So when you arrive at the AFM, you see a map with a buildings, you click on the industry offices and you're immediately in an environment where you're seeing all of the sales companies who are there and you can navigate through just by clicking on icons, seeing what they're doing and seeing how they want to be contacted. And it's the same thing for the film Commission's we set up a separate building called location Expo, click on that image and there you are Seeing seeing them as well. The only piece I'd say is somewhat traditional from a website standpoint, we created another building called my AFM. This is where participants come in and establish their profile, upload their image, talk about what they're doing, or their writers, their producers, directors, packages they may be bringing to the market, their social media links. This is where there's a little bit of a traditional, here's who I am. And I want the world to be able to discover me. And there they can if they want send messages, and have zoom meetings within that platform and invitations that that's it for you will be, quote, traditional online piece of this. But then what we we really started to focus on was how do we create the serendipity of a live event, where you're in an elevator and you bump into somebody, you would have not have sent a message to, you're sitting at a bar talking to someone, you're at a conference and the people sitting on either side of you that you haven't met before you open up a conversation, if what I've learned from participants of the AFM is beyond the education beyond the transactions, if they walk away having met three or four people, that they will continue to work within their meaningful relationships that will impact their career projects, the event was a success, it's all about face to face. And so we went looking for how to create a platform or to find a platform that would do this. And we're really excited about what we're doing. And another one of our buildings, which is called the networking building. When you arrive in this building, you see a floor plan plan of about 15 tables with chairs around each table, you can click on any table and actually have a seat at that table, you can mouse over the other tables, see who's sitting there and have a little pop up and you see their names and and who they are and their titles or what they're doing the object being to be able to have face to face meetings. But to do them in a way that is not appointment based, like you might see with zoom. And in this building this networking building, which has eight or nine floors, 15 tables or so on every floor, you click on a floor like an elevator and you're taken up to the next floor. All of these tables are labeled in terms of topics. So let's say on the eighth floor and table four, we have two topics for horror micro budget. And we've scheduled those tables to be horror micro budget at two, four and six in the afternoon. And we put that out on our schedule. So if if horror micro budget is something that interests you, and you don't know who else at the market has an interest in that as well, you can just drop in at that table is limited to only six people. And you can meet people who are interested in that topic. So we will have dozens and dozens between 50 and 60 tables with topics changing every hour. topics will be based on genre, some will be based on geography, you know, meetups, from from people coming from Russia, well doesn't mean that everybody from Russia knows each other, where we're from Germany, or everybody from Australia. So we'll You know, they're almost like scheduled meetups. So we have topics on genre, we have topics based on geography topics of producers looking for other producers to work with writers and producers looking to connect. And so you can constantly jump into these tables. And you know, if the conversation doesn't work, you jump off to to another table. There are also some private tables. So if you see your room is six, and you realize that you and one other person, maybe you just want to jump off to a different table, you can. And we're also allowing the participants to reserve or name their own table, which means during the market, let's say the Atlanta Producers Association wants to have a meet up the next day for in the afternoon. Sure, we'll reserve a table, it's like having a reserved table in a restaurant or a bar, the sign is up there, it's reserved. And they can jump into that table. Whenever whenever they like, this technology comes to us from a company called film operasi. It's it's new, it's only been used probably about eight or nine times, we're taking a little bit of a risk. It's well out of beta. But there's still things that are that need to be worked on. But the whole idea here is to drop into the networking building and seek out those that you want to meet. I guess the best analogy Alex would be if you were if you were walking into a networking party, and there were 500 people and their discussions going everywhere and you didn't know a single person. You could go from group to group, introduce yourself and spend two hours and never meet anybody that actually was right for you to connect with. Now imagine walking into that party. And magically there's a little bubble over every conversation right? what they're talking about. And you can go Prince documentary, not not for me. I'm going over there. They're talking about what I want to talk about. That's what these tables do. People drop in conversations are pre labeled, you know which ones to drop in on and who to meet. And everybody coming to a market wants to meet people, it isn't that you're you're dropping in and interrupting Sure, there's gonna be a conversation, just like standing walking into a group, party, you know, you just don't interrupt and blurt out, you know, you work your way into a discussion, it's going to be the same here. We're really excited about that the two other buildings that have our sessions, we're going to be running two screens, two stages, excuse me simultaneously. So we'll have about 70 or 74, sessions, running, you know, changing over every 90 minutes, they are in buildings that are similar to that networking building. So while you're sitting at a table waiting for a session to start, you're still able to meet the people who happened to be randomly placed next to you. But of course, once the session starts, then your screen is wiped. And you're seeing the speakers. So there's a little bit of that serendipity there, like walking into a ballroom and just just grabbing a seat, the same thing. Same thing will happen there.
Alex Ferrari 21:02
It sounds it sounds almost, I mean, almost heavenly. I mean, in all honesty, it sounds I mean, if everything gets pulled off correctly, I mean, this, this sounds wonderful, because it cuts through a lot of the time wasted in the physical kind of scenario. And I know you don't want to like hey, you know, we still want to do the physical eventually. We want to get back to that. But this is which which originally the next question, do you see a virtual component from this point on at AFM?
Jonathan Wolf 21:32
Yes. And let me back up to one thing you said, which was, we looked at the technology and said, How can we make it better than face to face as we know, there's certain things just as consumers we do where the technology is making things better? Are there other things that aren't as good, I'll give you an example. And the inside the lowest if you're a producer with a script, inside the lowest, you can go door to door, walking in to sales companies now some will turn you away, they're busy. Others, you may catch a moment have a meeting, that transaction based piece of the FM really isn't present for producers online. Because while you might get turned away, and an office, you've actually walked into the office, and you've had a chat with someone who said no, we're busy online, it's an email that may not be answered. Right. And so we had to turn our focus away from transaction and towards face to face. Even at Santa Monica, we find when we do post show surveys, those who come in with a very narrow transaction purpose are usually the ones that are the most unhappy. They only keep for one person, if somebody isn't interested in buying whatever they have their script, their production investing, they just go on to the next person. That's all they're there for. They're usually the ones who are most unhappy. Those who get the most out of the market realize they're there to learn and to connect and build relationships. Eventually, hopefully one leads to to whatever their you know, their primary goal is with their project or career. So we've looked at technology, one other piece, and then I'll come back to next year. There's also an on demand theater. You click on theater. Again, it's another building it says theater, you click on the theater, and you're taken off to our screening room, which presents I think we're up to about 180 or probably around 220 230 films. We're just like on Netflix, you're seeing the the the image of each film, and you're clicking on the films you want to see. And immediately starting the screening. One of the things candidate was they decided to have their films, screening based on appointment, meaning there is a defined time if it was 10am in London, who's gonna pay attention in London at 10am in New York, that 10am in LA, and you had put it on your schedule, it was appointment based screenings. And in talking to a lot of the sales companies, we found that the benefit of technology was I didn't have to be someplace at that moment.
Alex Ferrari 23:58
It's like it's versus Netflix versus old school terrestrial NBC.
Jonathan Wolf 24:03
And we know one of the one of the problems when you screen in Santa Monica, we have 29 auditoriums that every two hours are playing a different film, and sometimes only screen once. So you have 28 other films competing with you, plus the ability to meet with 400 companies in their offices. Our average screening at a market it's similar to Cannes and their physical market is about 28 to 30 people because everybody has so much to do. Now imagine that film being available in a theater in Santa Monica non stop in its own auditorium for five or six days, you know that everybody who wanted to see it would eventually so we didn't go to appointment based we went to on demand. And it's it's a different way to you know, it's using the technology we hope to to make the event better, but you're looking to you're asked about 2021 Now, we'll have to see is a 21 or 20 to 25. Who knows going on, I'd prefer you know, three quarters full and we're going to be optimistic. What what we know people will find from the online experience that they're having over the last six months, part of the next six is certain things they used to do outside of their home or office, they now can do inside. Whether it's ISIS consumers or people in business, less business travel more conversations like you and I are having now. There are a lot of participants at film markets, we have people from between 75 and 80 countries, but a lot of participants who can't go to every market every year, it's just not viable. You look at our buyer from let's say, a small country like Chile, the economics of going to Cannes, Berlin and AFM every year don't make sense. Now a buyer coming from, let's say the UK, where they're buying for a much bigger economy. So they're spending a lot more the travel is not that big a piece of their overall company budget. So we sometimes see at the AFM certain countries have only a once every two or three year visibility, or certain companies I should say from from smaller places, we also see something else, which is those who know they aren't coming. They aren't the most important participants, let's say your most important participants are big producers, or big buyers from Japan and the UK and Germany, they're going to give their meetings in the first two or three days. Those who who may be I don't want to say less important, but but don't tell your buyer from Greece again, or
Alex Ferrari 26:35
not as high profile, let's say
Jonathan Wolf 26:37
Right, not as high profile we find in Santa Monica, they may arrive a couple days later, we even tell our producers don't arrive to the fourth day. You know, most of the companies with offices, they're too busy with preset meetings don't come the first three days you're more relevant later. Well, what we're going to find is a lot of those companies are going to say great, not only will I not come late, I'm just not going to come at all, because the AFM is going to give me an online way to participate. The week after the film market is in Santa Monica. What we don't believe works is what people call hybrid events. Some are participating online at the same time, some are participating physically, that can work for a conference, you point the camera, some people in the audience and some people watching a TV, talk. That's all all talk shows operate. That part's easy. But when you look at the interaction, there isn't a company with an office, inside the Lowe's in Santa Monica, that's going to interrupt a meeting with someone standing in front of them for someone who just decided to randomly click and say let's talk on a computer. And vice verse. So what we're really looking at is that the market will continue. But some of those companies who couldn't participate at all, they could only travel once every two or three years, now we'll have an opportunity to continue to travel to participate in what would be a second week where all of the companies who have offices who came to the market, who were in the conferences, then back home, are able to log in, see additional sessions, as well as see all of the companies who are now back at their home office and ready to have follow up meetings with the companies who didn't travel in an organized way by the market with defined dates and defined hours. And now we're 14 months away from that 13 months, the world may change. But that's a that's we view this as really sequential rather than concurrent. That makes Actually Actually it makes a lot a lot of sense to do that. I mean, obviously this year will be completely virtual. So it's it's a completely kind of, I'm gonna interrupt you one there apologize for this. No one on our team is allowed to use the word virtual,
Alex Ferrari 28:52
what's the word we use?
Jonathan Wolf 28:53
We use the word online. Virtual look it up means almost not quite. There. We are an online market we are virtual is coming really more I understand virtual reality, but
Alex Ferrari 29:08
I got to figure it out. So Potato, potato, Potato, potato, Potato, potato, I get it. So it makes all the sense in the world to now open yourself up to an online component which this is where wizards would go. We were we all knew this is what this was gonna go. I mean AFM you know lash I mean, last year we I mean, I think this year was going to be less less actual days. Correct. we shorten the market by two days. Right? Right. So that is exactly and can as well and all major markets. We all knew this was coming. This is not a big surprise. COVID has just ramped everything up and sped everything up so fast. That now we're forced to do something that I didn't I don't think you had in your plans and online component this year. Did you pre COVID No, sir. Exactly, it wasn't something that was even in your mind. So I'm really interested to see how it works out for you guys how it works out for you personally AFM as on a business standpoint, because of there's a substantial I'm not sure. And I don't want to get into your economics but the cost differences between running a physical event versus running an online event, and, and what the ROI is, and all of that stuff. I know there will always be a physical component and I agree with you, I want to go to a film festival, I want to I don't want to go to Sundance online, like I want to go to Park City and enjoy that time I want to go to AFM and oh, I just bumped into somebody. And there's only so much you could do online to create that kind of serendipity that happens at an event like AFM. But I agree with you 100% that that because you have this online component. And even moving forward having the second week being an online only situation, we'll open up the AFM to a monstrous amount of of people that want to attend filmmakers buyers from around the world that would just could not afford to fly in. Because it didn't make financial sense to do so.
Jonathan Wolf 31:15
Yeah, that's how we feel that that will we'll engage an audience that couldn't otherwise participate and and hopefully grow into a new audience, that that could never, they could never go there. And so this is really a test for us. It's not only filling the void, that the that that would be there if we weren't doing a market this fall. But it's also understanding what pieces can work well in tandem with a physical market. Next, you
Alex Ferrari 31:43
Now, how do you see traditional film markets playing a part in film distribution moving forward? Because I mean, again, the game has changed so dramatically since 81. So when when AFM was born, to now I mean, even in the short time that I've been going over the last four or five years, I, I've seen a change in me. Can you imagine 2015 versus 2020? How much has the business changed in just those five years? So What part do you see for markets in general, but then at the AFM, you know, in the whole ecosystem of film distribution?
Jonathan Wolf 32:21
You know, that's one of those questions, you take a deep breath before, before you answer I think the first most important thing is, is fill markets provide an opportunity for exchanging information. And I just don't mean a producer sitting in a conference, but we will see buyers and sellers right refer to buyers. And you be clear, we're talking about territorial distributors, sometimes people producers will think of buyer as someone who's going to buy their script. When we talk about buyers in a film market. We're talking about territorial distributors that have online platforms, they have television networks, they have, you know, there's shooting to theaters, or even in shrink wrap and blu ray. We will have buyers and sellers participate solely for the purpose of marketplace intelligence, the company that isn't doesn't have a film ready at the moment will still have an office and still take a meeting with 100 buyers just to understand what's the marketplace like in Japan? What's working? How are the windows going? What because when they're deciding what to make or what what to invest in? That's a film that may not hit the marketplace for 18 months. They've got a guess. Right. And, you know, we talk you talk about the acceleration of change right now. That's the scary part. You know, you go back, you know, 2025 years ago, the world wasn't changing that much from one year together. Well, sci fi went up a little bit or went down a little bit.
Alex Ferrari 33:46
What are these VHS is what are these things?
Jonathan Wolf 33:48
Yeah. When I worked in distribution, we were able to forecast the value of second cycle syndication in Italy, we would go out that far as serious Wow, it's awesome. For me the ultimate value of a film would have because you could just see it all play out. And you know, most of that long tail has has melted completely, and that it's changing so quickly that companies need to be there. And if we're talking about senior executives, at platforms and distribution companies all over the world needing to travel for marketplace intelligence, you can imagine what producers and writers need to do to keep up with that to know what kind of content they should be pursuing that's going to you know, resonate in the marketplace. And so markets and trade fairs really in any industry, that it's so important, but in our industry, where the the pace of change is just going faster and faster. That's going to be the most important piece. People This is still a face to face business. When a director has a vision for a film, and you're a buyer and you're deciding whether to take a risk on that. territory by territory, you sometimes want to look that director in there in the eye, and really understand and ask questions, and you can do a point online. But there's something about being face to face. And, and developing that trust, that trust when when the salesperson says the film will be good is that trust factor, and that's done. That's best done face, face to face. So the markets, I see the markets continuing, just like they are, again, when we look at the film industry, litter, film marketing, we're very unique We are the product we have is very unique, the way we sell it is unique. The way it's financed, isn't unlike any other business in the world. But the fact is, there are trade fairs in 1000s of industries, from from CES, you know, to restaurants, to furniture, whatever it is, they all have a reason to get together. And so we also study what is going on in the trade fair world to see what best practices work and what the changes are there as well. So not only our own industry, but we have to layer in what what goes on in the event industry. Shorter market. Yes, an online component. Yes, but people are still getting,
Alex Ferrari 36:10
I can't wait for that. That online furniture market Got me? How do you how do you make that work? Like?
Jonathan Wolf 36:20
Have you sit on a couch and see.
Alex Ferrari 36:23
Exactly how do you sit on a couch and see how. So I wanted to ask you Well, first of all, I wanted to ask you a question, do you If I would have told you in February, if you and I would just have had an coffee in Santa Monica, talking about AFM coming up this year and was Hey, hey, Jonathan, you know what, but I think the entire theatrical side of the business is gonna shut down worldwide. And we're not going to have a blockbuster summer season for the first time since jaws was released in the 70s. You would have looked at me like I was absolutely insane. And walk the other way. Well, there are people that you're this flat, so. So, you know, so that the the theatrical side of our business has been devastated. It is. I mean, the studios are still trying to figure out what to do. Let alone the independence. I mean, I mean, you've got movies like Tennant, Wonder Woman, Black Widow, big Marvel sued is Milan, these kind of big tentpole films who are just trying to figure out what to do, let alone us, us, you know, small fries in the business. How do you I just want to hear your opinion, do you think that the magical experience is I don't I personally think it's dead. But it is on life support, and it will take a moment for it to come back to even remotely close. And I don't think we'll ever get back to where it was pre, pre COVID. Because there's just going to be less screens, there's going to be less everything because companies are going to go under and so on. What's your opinion on the whole theatrical side of our business?
Jonathan Wolf 38:02
Well, we all know that most businesses will come back in some form, it's not a matter of if but to what degree and what and what gets lost by this, you know, there's there are deferred things and there are things that are just lost forever. The business, the theatrical business will be better or less to use the right word, the exhibition business will return. You know, we've we've always you know, we're a communal species. We want to laugh and scream and cry together. I suppose you could go back to the cavemen sitting around a fire and somebody jumping up and telling something, everybody else laughing. You know, it's, it's, we want to do this as a group. The question is, when it comes back, I think your first question is, will there be as many screens we already saw, you know, independence, and I talked about independent exhibitors around the country being challenged as the business models have evolved. And a lot of the lower budget films, were just not seeking theatrical releases. And the studios were bypassing a lot of these independents to go straight to the big chains. This may accelerate some of that and, and hurt some of those smaller, smaller change. Setting aside because I don't know the economics of AMC and regal and, you know, will they keep all their locations and leases and things like that? We're taking assumption that most of their screens are still open and viable as we come out of the pandemic. Sure. We're gonna see everyone back in theaters, we're going to they're going to be watching films, I believe in crowded theaters now, whether it's eight months from now, or 18 months from now we'll have to see. The question is what is it that are they seeing and has this accelerated the move towards tentpoles? Where you only have really, you know, it's AMC the use of a phrase called the film buyer. The film buyer was with someone if we look back before the evolution of multiplexes. So going back from the 1920s So probably the early 80s, a film buyer would see a film and would make a decision on how long they were going to play and commit to a certain number of weeks. And if they were wrong, that theater was just empty. And they made a horrible decision, the biggest risk of exhibition was booking a film and then having the film tank. And so film buyers were really experts. Today, a lot of the exhibitors refer to their film buyers, as programmers, they're no longer in the buying business. They have screens to program the way Disney has multiple channels to program. I've got that film coming in, I'm going to drop it in the five screens gonna program in five screens, we'll see how it does, I'll pull it down to three after a few days. It doesn't do well. They're all programmers. And this is how they operate. And they operate best when they're programming, mega hits or giant blockbuster films, when you bring them a film that might fill the screen twice a day, it's a small film, and it probably won't, won't play well, except on the weekends. He has some try and squeeze it in to be good to the industry or to try to, you know, segment the community they might not otherwise reach. But but for the most part, they're going to ignore them more and more. And that's going to be a challenge. And this is where I hope when we look at exhibitors like Lemley that they come out of this. Okay, yeah. Because these kinds of companies that let you know for those who aren't in Southern California Lemley theaters, to terrific chain and people who really believe in film and and the creative process, Will those exhibitors still be there, because I don't have the faith that the larger chains will continue to serve the smaller films and so eventually, your multiplex will be just another version of Netflix, you'll see, you know, which which three or four big films happened to be on there. And so that's, that's my worry. But I think it'll be back. I think it'll be crowded, the popcorn business won't lie.
Alex Ferrari 41:59
Yeah, I agree with you. I think they will come back eventually, when that that moment will be I could be like you said eight months, 18 months or or longer? with it. But but this is on a business standpoint, is there a business model? That makes sense for a 300 million plus dollar film, including marketing PNA or $400 million dollars, which a lot of these temples like 200 million and make it 200 billion to market it? Is there a business model that makes sense without a theatrical? Like, because I know a lot of released on Disney plus, from what I understand it did. It did fairly well for it was a temple but it wasn't like, you know, it wasn't it wasn't wonderwoman It wasn't a Marvel movie. It wasn't James Bond. It wasn't something monsters, it was just, you know, a big a big Disney movie. You know, is there moving forward? I mean, you saw that article with Disney. Right? That they said they're restructuring their entire company for at&t Warner and following the others, right. So that's pretty much a huge shot across the bow of the theatrical business. Okay, we're gonna still do you guys. But we got Disney Plus, I mean, what I had a 60 million 70 million subscribers in less than a year. sanity?
Jonathan Wolf 43:20
Well, the film business has never been viewed by business people as a business. Television has been viewed as a business. Most businesses, you make a product, if it works, you just make more of the same product TV series. That's what that's been been like. Now, when I was growing up, ABC had movies of the week, Mo W. Well, they do this for 678 years. I don't know how long was and they stopped. They stopped. Why? Because they had to have a brand new marketing campaign every seven days for one of those films. They didn't have to do that for series, the series takes off you market that market the first few weeks, if the characters and storylines resonate, now you just have something that's now in orbit. And so the business world could relate to the television industry know you're going to go to film markets. You see, you see people in jeans, and you know, and leather jackets you go to you go to TV markets, and coat and tie. It's a totally, totally different vibe. And so what's happened is the film companies have become smaller and smaller pieces of these giant corporations that are businesses. These the film business has always been about two guys. Oh, it's the lady regime over at Fox. That means it's just one guy who's picking films. Or maybe it may be somebody else in a different studio. It's always been at the end of the day. Yes, you can say there's a committee and a few people look at the end of the day, most film studios have been about one or two people and their decisions. And if you ask Wall Street or the business world, is that a business to say no, I'm investing to people. And so so that that's the challenge of the film industry has always always Phase. And now these, these film companies are just small divisions with bottom line responsibility just like the guy running the other TV network, and I'm running the film stuff. So the way they make their decisions are totally different. Now, you mentioned very expensive Films on Demand. We need to separate that discussion between tvod where they're paying for something for each viewer, and svod.
Alex Ferrari 45:26
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.
Jonathan Wolf 45:37
You mentioned one film I'm sorry, the Disney film
Alex Ferrari 45:39
so so like, so like Milan, Milan was a p VOD, which is a new thing that is
Jonathan Wolf 45:44
Looking at Netflix with the Irishman. And right, and you compare the two,
Alex Ferrari 45:48
Two different business models.
Jonathan Wolf 45:50
Yes. And the subscription model is is really interesting, because the Netflix new were discovered what magazine publishers have known for a century, right? That there are one or two sections of the book that you like, you will maintain your subscription. And so what Netflix did in its growing years was made sure it had something for everyone. They had documentaries, they had lower budget they had, you know, every comedian, you could think of whatever it was, they had a little bit of everything, including a blockbuster, one, one that goes through four years ago, they went to Sundance and I think they spent 16 $17 million on a film. And the whole industry was writing articles, there's no chance that Netflix buying this film is going to get $17 million. And then four weeks later is an article that the amount of media coverage that Netflix got on mainstream media outside of the entertainment industry was valued at about $50 million, because they had spent so much and Netflix looks at this. And it's just like doing a premiere party, your primary purpose is just to get media coverage, they spent 17 on the film, and they got 50 million in coverage. Their goal was not for that film to break even or to have any kind of certain value in terms of eyeballs and downloads, it was to make sure that they are building their subscription business. And that's why you'll see them have an Irishman whether it's every few months, or wherever it is often enough that you say I can't miss Netflix, they're four or five and it because it'll never be on another platform. There. I'd be missing three or four blockbusters a year How could I do that more now, one a month now, there is my $9. And that is different than Milan, where they were looking and saying we're our Disney plus model is not ready to just drop this in is a value of a subscription. We need to do this on a transaction basis to pull in some revenue first. And so, you know, smarter people than me are struggling to see which model is going to work out what kind of films where does the consumer you know going to gravitate towards and it may be the kids films that all of a sudden the family instead of all the expenses going to the theater, you know, you can have six kids and have a have a movie afternoon and you're willing to pay $29 to have it at home and and do everything they're there.
Alex Ferrari 48:15
Well, I don't mean to interrupt you. But I just saw that I just saw a trailer for the new Pixar movie soul that's being released on Disney plus, on Christmas part of the subscription, not as PVOD. And they did the same thing with the last movie they the last Pixar movie they did. So I'm starting to see a pattern where like some of the bigger animated films make sense for the Disney plus because those don't they cost 100 million 100 million change generally to make one of those Pixar films. But Mulan like I'm curious to see one that I know Warner Brothers just said that Wonder Woman is going to be released on virtually on p VOD. And I know I think they're still talking about Black Widow which is the next big Marvel movie. Poor bond bond is just being bumped around. I mean, poor bond is just
Jonathan Wolf 49:05
MGM wanted to really sell itself somewhere. I was hoping to use this as you know, just some excitement.
Alex Ferrari 49:11
They can't like poor bonds just sitting on a shelf somewhere and it just like, okay, maybe next summer or maybe a lot of things are being pushed till next summer. But there's also so much real estate. Like there's only so many movies you can release on a day during the summer. So it's it's just an insane time but you made some very good points I hadn't really thought about before about the business models of television. The way you look at it as on a business standpoint, it makes all the sense in the world. I personally think that P VOD. I think that the model that Milan set up if you've got a Disney plus so we're talking universal that has peacock and Warner's who has HBO Max, I know Paramount's trying to do something who knows what will happen with that
Jonathan Wolf 49:53
Sunday with whether the Paramount plus for CBS or something and they'll they'll get,
Alex Ferrari 49:57
They'll get they'll they'll have some sort of avenue for it. Then the P VOD business model does make a lot of sense for like a Milan where they said they said they sold 9 million tickets at $30 a pop, well, they keep 100% of that. So we're talking 200. And whatever $70 million plus for opening weekend, it's not too shabby would they have made a billion worldwide. And they're still going theatrically overseas and they're still in, they're still selling it other other places as well. So it's just like, we're in the unknown. This is so unprecedented that nobody, like you said, people are much smarter than you and me, are having trouble figuring this all out.
Jonathan Wolf 50:37
And now they have, you know, when we're talking about the studio is not the independence. But then even when the world sort of settles down or back some sense of normalcy, they're still going to have choices. If you made a $300 million film or $200 million film 10 years ago, you are going out to the theaters, there was no chance you were going to what was called an unfairly an ancillary market to drop that film first, right. But now, when the film is done, you might look and say that, given the marketing cost of going out theatrically, and you're not quite as, as thrilled with maybe the results the film might get, that is going to play to a narrower core audience that really wants that particular thing. You can pivot, this is going to allow pivots both to tvod and svod. Well, we inside the industry might know, oh, we know why we're there moving here or there, the rest of world doesn't pay attention to that, you know, the rest of the world just sees this is where the film's available. And this is a benefit, I get either of my subscription or be able to buy it as a transaction. So they'll they'll be able to monetize each of these films more efficiently. And that's, again, 10 years ago, and I just use this as comparison, the average theatrical film only returned from the box office, about 60% of its marketing costs, the most theatrical films, theatrical was viewed as a loss leader to set up video and blu ray. And the other answer's no, I'm not talking about big blockbusters. But that middle middle range budget films, the average one just never covered their marketing costs. And so the fact that you hear Disney going out and getting what 30 times 9 million? Yeah. Somebody smiling over there.
Alex Ferrari 52:18
I mean, and that was first weekend. So I'm assuming it's still generating revenue. And they don't have to split that with the with the theater. So it's 100%. There's, I mean, the business model is sound. And I could, I mean, could an Avengers style film, go to P VOD, and make a billion dollars over the weekend? I mean, you know, the old mike tyson boxing matches used to pull in 250 $350 million in one night, if you remember.
Jonathan Wolf 52:46
But I look at someone and we're all different when we go to school, or when someone tells me there's a $300 million action? I want to see it in the theater. Yeah, I want to I'm paying $15 to see a $300 million piece of art. I will do that. Yes. And so so there's, it's it depends on just the environment you want to want to see it in?
Alex Ferrari 53:09
No, absolutely. And do you? Do you personally think that there is an option? Because I've been saying this a lot. And I think this is going to happen within the next 12 to 18 months, that one of these, these four companies is just going to come in and buy an AMC or regal or arclight and just put it under their banner and change their business model, which is Amazon, Facebook, Google or Apple who are so cash flush, that they can come in and buy. I don't think so again, okay,
Jonathan Wolf 53:38
This guy's opinion. But why take the risk, if any one of them came and basically said, we're going to do an exclusive for you. We're going to lease your theatres. For a while we're going to put everything yet the I hate to say this, the theater owners have never really been in the film business for the last 30 or 40 years. They get more revenue from the popcorn and everything else, if they can rent those theaters, at a better price than taking the risk of playing films. I think if you were an apple or something like that, and you want to see it just come and start leasing. You could just take over screens, own screens, you know, again, there was a time in the earlier part of our industry where certain studios only played certain exhibitors when I was in. You know, I grew up around Westwood Village where all the premieres were and and, you know, it's Orion as it as it grew. And this is in the late 70s, early 80s. I was yard, they actually had to convince United Artists to go build their their theaters to build a new multiplex, so that they could have a place to play their films, because each of the screens in Westwood was controlled solely by one studio. That screen will only play that studio most of the time. And so it's easy to come back to you know, the consent decree is gone. It's easy for the exhibitors to really cut the kinds of deals with studios. If the studio wants that there's just no reason to get into this, this world of, you know, minimum wage, ticket takers, leases and shopping malls. You know, they've got a lot of issues in the exhibition business that the studios may not want, including the people who are cleaning the theaters. And there's lots of stories about about how workers are sort of underpaid in this world. And it's just not what it's just not what the studios I don't see any of them wanting to get in this exhibition business interesting. owner and being being stuck with 30 year leases, they want to be nimble,
Alex Ferrari 55:39
Right? Yeah. When you have something like a p VOD situation like Milan, you're like, I just made a cool 300 million and I just click the button.
Jonathan Wolf 55:48
Don't need it's just it's just too easy for them to go and, you know, write a check and control something for a while.
Alex Ferrari 55:55
Okay, that's, that's an interesting point of view. I like that. I appreciate that. Now, is there a business model moving forward, that filmmakers can use? Like how can a filmmakers package their films? So it's more appetizing for international buyers? Because I know that's a big question I get asked all the time.
Jonathan Wolf 56:11
I'm the the key thing about we talked about the the topic of pre sales. And I know you've you've probably talked about this many, many times, and those listening, I hope we should know you know a lot about what pre sale means, which is the buyers around the world of buying the film before it's made, and that the the producer distributor can then take those promises those contracts and go use it with a bank to finance the film, when you're buying a film that hasn't been made, you're taking two risks. One, of course, is is you know, with the film work in my country, for the price that I'm paying is the right value. But the other is, will the film be good. And if the film's finished, you can make your own determination film has been made, you're taking that secondary risk. And so the buyers internationally still today, and this has been true for 3040 years, the buyers still today, if they're looking at pre buying, they're going to pre be more apt to buy pre buy genres that are not dependent on a good execution. Now, what do I mean by a good execution? If you're making Expendables 44, you just sort of know what you're going to get if you're making the greenbook. Fabulous film, but when you read the script, it's all based on the skill of the director,
Alex Ferrari 57:27
and actors and the writer.
Jonathan Wolf 57:29
And the writers. And you're looking at this and say it could it could be great broke Brokeback Mountain, I could go back aways. But But there, there are lots of films that when you look at the script, he said, this is dependent on execution. Well, john, was there less dependent on execution, action, adventure, comedy that's not about about the words, but more about the site, the site gags, horror, thriller, erotic, they're very, very genres, they're less dependent on execution. And so if a producer and writer if their goal is to sell something, you know, you look at artists, and some artists will say, Well, I paint for myself, I paint the same Lake every week, and I give it to my to my grandkids, that's, well, if you're an artist, and you're making it for yourself, then you don't need to listen to anything I'm talking about. But if the purpose is to sell something, you want to head towards genres, that there's less risk and execution, and that the marketplace seems to be interested in. Now, right now, the marketplace is less interested in horror, horror is taking a little bit of a dip. Why? Because there's so many just frightening things that are going on around our lives right now, on television, and everywhere else, that romantic comedies are doing much better a day. And if you look, you looked in the 1930s, the height of the depression, this is where we see all these films about the ultra rich, and there are problems. And many of them are romantic comedies. And it's somewhat similar right now, Hallmark is doing swell with all these types of films. So if you're a filmmaker looking to sell something, you want to look to sell something that buyers have, and production companies have less fear about, about the execution. And that at least that's one piece that helps obviously, you want to have a story that fits that people want to know how it ends.
Alex Ferrari 59:25
Right, exactly. And then of course, if you have if you have cast that is bankable, depending overseas who they are, that always helps anytime you can have cast
Jonathan Wolf 59:34
Cast or any type of embedded IP, whether the IP is is could be a true story based story based on someone else's life. Whatever that is. The cast is when you talk about paying, you know certain cast more than others it's usually not because they're a better actor or actress. It's because their name recognition gives you marketing value, and I You can do the same thing. It's what? What's that one, one book, one of the things that that that independence can do is to write a script that has one huge terrific role for a man or a woman, that if you look at a sharlee, stirone, and monster, this is a film that, that while its budget keeps going up, it was better for you know, as time goes on, it's about a $4 million film. But she looked at the script, and this had a rule of a lifetime. in it. ensembles are the toughest things to do, because you don't have the budget to get anybody writing a film, that's got one absolutely terrific role, you've got a good chance, if it's a great story of finding someone that says, Yeah, I'll take a risk on that film. It just it's a role of a lifetime, being single roles. The last thing you want to do is ensemble coming of age stories about small town us. And this is the one problem with writers, writers, those who teach writing, say write about what you know. And then all we see is high school and college, you know, Midwest coming of age stories with an ensemble cast, that are are tough to make an even tougher to say, don't focus on ensemble try and stay within a specific genre. Those would that that is less dependent on on execution, those would be two pieces of advice.
Alex Ferrari 1:01:25
That's a great, great pieces of advice. And I have to ask you, how many COVID Films do you think are going to be at AFM this? And how many of them will be promptly rejected?
Jonathan Wolf 1:01:39
You know, people watch some of these films about diseases and things like that in March. And they were saying, you know, but people run from them again, like they're running from or now, the real question is, is films before the camera? What year is the film taking place in? Are we going to be shooting 2019 for the next three years? Because we're surely not shooting 2020 and most films, you're not going to see people walking around with masks on, they're not going to date the film as being in this 12 or 18 month bubble. So we have to look and see what What year are they shooting? And we may be living in 2019 for the next three years.
Alex Ferrari 1:02:22
Yeah, that's a great point. It's a grip. Yeah. Like I was just watching the show that came back on and they are hitting COVID. Like straight on there. Like you know, it's taking place now. Our characters are going through it. There's masks, they're making jokes of it. A series a sitcom. Yeah, it's a sitcom series. Yeah, not a movie, a sitcom series. And that's,
Jonathan Wolf 1:02:39
I want to stay topical, you want to stay current? And of course, we all see this. But when you get into features, and you want that feature to have a long life
Alex Ferrari 1:02:47
Yeah, you can't make it like, it's like a 911 movie or Vietnam movie like those. They are specific about a certain thing. Like I was always I tell people as well, like, how many 911 movies were there. And it didn't happen while 911 like a month after 911? Like it took a while Vietnam films didn't happen in in the 70s. Generally, I mean, late 70s. With no Deer Hunter was probably the earliest one. But But it took until the A took a while before people got comfortable to even start talking about it again.
Jonathan Wolf 1:03:17
I don't know. If you see a feature film with people with masks on, it means that part of the storyline has to do with COVID. Otherwise, they're shooting 2019.
Alex Ferrari 1:03:28
Right, exactly. And I've had so many filmmakers like, Hey, I'm going to be the first one to make a COVID horror movie. I'm like, don't do that. Nobody wants that. We have no, please. Nobody wants to watch that. I don't care if it's amazing. You'll never get anyone to see it. So please, anyone listening don't don't make a COVID based film, make a film that has a story that might have some people wearing masks and dealing with it. That's fine. But even then I like you're right, it gets stuck in this bubble. I do expect someone to do love in the time of COVID. I was waiting for that. I think we're all waiting. We're all waiting for that. But yes. And last question I have for you, Jonathan, where do you see film district? How do you see the film distribution landscape changing in the next 12 months? 12 to 18 months? Because it's changing almost on a monthly basis at this point?
Jonathan Wolf 1:04:21
It you know we've almost covered it. It's It's when we talk about film distribution. We just talked about all the channels from exhibition to all of the VOD transactions subscription audience based if it was advertising based, if if I see any bubble that sort of is under the radar. It's an A VOD advertising, supported VOD, where there's a lot more going on. And we're finding a lot of independent films are getting traction on a VOD platforms that are doing a good job of programming based on certain genres and what what you might they're just not taking one of everything like a Netflix. They're very specific. They're most of them are free. And so I think there's a growth sort of, because it's almost coming back to traditional advertising supported television, but it's on demand. And so, for independent film, I see a VOD as I should say lower budget independent film, a VOD is an interesting area. But from a studio standpoint, we're just going to see more of it looking at as programming. The one, the one piece that I struggle with a little bit, you know, we've been an organization that has always supported the entrepreneur. And when we look at production right now, if you're an actor, a set designer, a director or a writer, this is really a terrific time. There's more being shot right now, in hours of television, setting aside COVID. For a minute, we're just having more of an impact on features and anything else because of the insurance issue. But what we have in this country 475 narrative TV series, I mean, the amount of filmed entertainment is huge. But what is happening is we've gone away from the entrepreneur producer, who would work hard on their own, find a writer, put something together, and then have an ownership piece in that film. And if it was successful, something to live on to the next film. writers and directors and actors have residuals, they have an ongoing piece of what goes on with their film. But now more and more, we've seen first Netflix, it's a straight buyout, and the producer has given a check, and they're done forever. Now, we've seen Disney going the same way with Yes, there are a few bonuses you get into a festival, if you hit a certain number, we'll give you a bonus but but you have no right to see any of the economics, there's no such thing as profit and loss and studio accounting anymore. And so what this is chipping away at is it's chipping away at the entrepreneur, the risk taker who saw a project and champion or all the way through, we're now back to corporate people who are looking to see what they're going to write the check for. And so when we talk about what's the future distribution, we got to go back to say, what is it that they're distributing, because the content may determine what's going out. And part of my worry a little bit what we want to watch for and support are the entrepreneurs, the companies that are bubbling up that that are still providing rewards to those who can bring great stories forward.
Alex Ferrari 1:07:32
That's a that's a great great analysis. I mean, it is changing so rapidly, the the the economics for being a filmmaker has before you like the days I was telling people the other day, like the days of friends, and the residual checks or Seinfeld that's gone like that. That is that that is gone. Those you know that they make $20 million a year still off of friends, you know, every year is not going to be a thing. Post Big Bang Theory, like it's any new shows today, especially if you go to a streaming platform, who is not going to keep has there? I mean, I don't even know if there's I mean, Netflix is oldest show is maybe six seasons. They don't they don't keep it around that long.
Jonathan Wolf 1:08:14
They don't need to because they found out to maintain the subscriptions. It's all about what's new. And and so Netflix if you produce for them a first season, if you want the second season, they usually bring it in house. And then they look and say Do they really need a third season? If they drop it, they won't lose any subscriptions. But something quote new will bring in new subscriptions.
Alex Ferrari 1:08:37
It's just a different way of it's just a different business model. It's I think the biggest problem filmmakers have and producers have is a lot of them are producing content based off of early 2000s, mid 90s information that like what we just talked about is the new world. That is what what the world is today. But I just talked to filmmakers. I'm sure you do too. And producers who still think that they're like, you know, they're still a DVD market. They're still like a monster like that the game has changed and it's and it seems to be changing now so rapidly. Like last year, this time, the game was broken, put COVID aside. He was still different like a bond would I remember last year when we you guys had I think your first a VOD panel or one of the first a VOD panels up there. And like you know this Eva thing is gonna pick and that was that that was the key word the year before that was Ott was everyone was talking about before that was like s VOD. Like every year there's this new catchphrase this year is obviously COVID.
Jonathan Wolf 1:09:42
Technology the pace of change is accelerating COVID has accelerated that that technology change but when I look and I see that I've got an Alexa and I can ask Alexa. What time is it? This is like somebody driving a Model T Ford 100 years ago are saying Look at this radio. Let's see if I can tune it move the antenna. We're just, we're just at the very beginning, we we think with our iPhones, we're all we're all cool and stuff like this look, well, you literally, the iPhones like 10 years old, can you imagine 10 years after a car was invented? Were 1915. You know? And so this is this, we're in 1950. And from a technology standpoint, from an entertainment standpoint, and what what I'm really curious about is, is this, what new art forms are actually going to come forward? Motion Picture is an art form came after the technology was developed, records, long play records, 33, LP only came forward, or sorry, the art form started making a 440 minute or 15 minute album only came for when you could get 40 or 50 minutes on a vinyl record. And so each of these televisions same thing, the technology came first. And then artists determine how to use that technology to entertain us and then create business. And what I'm really curious about, here we are in 1929 2020, where's this technology taking us? What are these art forms that we can't even imagine? Today? We're seeing everybody struggle with the business side of change. But somewhere behind this, you know, it's too bad that QB didn't work. But I give them props for trying, you know, and what's that next art form? How are we going to entertain next?
Alex Ferrari 1:11:35
We're a belly where's all that content going? Like they had full blown shows like someone's gonna have to buy that right?
Jonathan Wolf 1:11:41
All those 10 minute segments, put them back together, and they're gonna have some films. You know what, when I read it, too, is they're they're out now peddling the content and seeing where it'll end. It's going to be piece by piece problem.
Alex Ferrari 1:11:53
Yeah, me because they have major stars in major shows that they had a fire as far as kwibi. So, yeah, quip is a whole other conversation. That's a whole other thing. But, Jonathan, I want to thank you so much for being on the show. And and I love talking to you every every time we sit down and talk it's it's great because it's your wealth of information. And for anybody who's interested in signing up for the AFM, the online that virtual, the online AFM 2020, where to where do they go?
Jonathan Wolf 1:12:23
Alex Ferrari 1:12:25
Thank you. Thank you again, Jonathan, so much for, thanks, my friend. I want to thank Jonathan for coming on the show and dropping the knowledge bombs that he did on the tribe today. Thank you so much, Jonathan, if you want to be a part of the AFM this year, and possibly the first time because if you're around the world, you now don't have to travel to Los Angeles to Santa Monica. To be at the AFM. You can do it anywhere in the world who you are. And if you're interested in heading over there, all you got to do is go to the show notes at indiefilmhustle.com/415. And you'll get links to everything we spoke about in this episode, including how to register for the AFM which is coming up next week. Thank you again for listening guys. I am hope I hope you enjoyed your extra episode that I posted for you this week yesterday's about Mandalorian technology that is going to be a game changer for independent filmmakers. If you've not checked that out. You got to listen to that episode at indie film hustle.com four slash 414. Thanks so much for listening, guys. As always, keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive. Stay safe out there. And I'll talk to you soon.
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