Although it seems that cuts at broadcasters are happening almost daily, the film festival scene has gone largely unnoticed. Two upcoming fests haven’t begun programming and are nowhere near final submission dates, but that doesn’t mean that the economy isn’t already concerning them.
Nancy Schafer, co-executive director of the Tribeca Film Festival, says that programming for this year’s fest won’t be effected just yet. ‘I don’t think this recession really hit people until this fall, so that means a lot of films were already in the can.’
While Hot docs director of programming Sean Farnel also hasn’t seen a downturn on this year’s submissions, he is concerned for what the downturn in the economy will mean over the next couple of years for Canadian documentary production. ‘Major budget slashing doesn’t bode well for those big documentary productions that we acquire, films like Up the Yangtze or Manufactured Landscapes,’ he says. ‘These are big international hits that require a lot of partners to come on board and pool money and those budgets are getting smaller and smaller, so you wonder if the smaller documentaries are going to be allowed to thrive. You need those kinds of tent pole films and they sort of carry the rest.’
Meanwhile, Schafer is looking forward to seeing what the studios will be spending on marketing. ‘Whether they be mini-major or major studios – to see how they’re going to market their films at the festival is still going to be interesting,’ she says, predicting that since marketing is necessary, those dollars are going to be a lot tighter this year.
Over at Hot Docs, Farnel says they’ll be keeping tabs on the number of submissions at the end of the year to determine the state of production, as well as looking at delegate attendance.
As for Tribeca’s newest endeavor, Tribeca Film Festival Doha, a film festival in Qatar in partnership with the Qatar Museums Authority, Schafer is optimistic that the economy will be sorted by next November for the inaugural event.
When asked for some advice on what docmakers can do to be savvy with their money, Farnel was upfront that filmmakers don’t need his advice on how to be frugal.
‘These are market conditions that, in a sense, they’re always dealing with. I think documentary producers should be giving advice to big corporations on how to manage budgets because these guys know more than anybody how to make the most of their budgets and how not to waste,’ he says.