5>50 – Who gets it in new distribution?

Recently I was honoured to be part of a list made by Brian Newman of 20 media people under the age of 40 whom he felt were leaders. What’s interesting to me is the frequency that I hear people who are young (on the list and otherwise) saying how older people “just don’t get it” and by virtue of their age, they will naturally be left behind in any digital revolution.

Even having crossed the big-3-oh-mark, I can feel a little anecdotal truth to the notion that the youth have a more natural, ingrained facility with technology and social media. However, I’ve also learned that the people who went before me usually know a lot more than me about the big picture and how people behave in general.

With that in mind, I thought I’d begin a list that I hope will be appended of leaders over 50 in film- who get that ineffable “it”. (I know that 50 is pretty young still, but gotta start somewhere). Sorry if these are the “usual suspects”- that’s why I need everyone else to bring this list up to 20 or more. And these are all lions in the industry- but with the kind of changes that we’re experiencing now, it’s interesting to try and predict who can roll with the digital world order.

Ira Deutchman- he does it all, producing, distribution, sales agent-ing, marketing, running a business- and still finds time to blog and twitter (@nyindieguy). He’s also raising the next generation of the film biz, quite literally. But Ira is accessible in the way that the new media promises everyone should be.

Richard Abromovitz- he does tend to be ubiquitous on various panels and festivals, for the simple reason that he and his company Abramorama have been involved successfully in a large percentage of the successful self-released films of the last few years. Last year’s Anvil was a good case in point- it hit on so many points, with sponsorship, promotion and social media working together (can I say “in concert”?)

Robert Greenwald- On the marketing side, filmmaker Robert Greenwald and Brave New Films have been a master at capturing the power of emerging social media to make a huge impact with issues like the Iraq war, health care, the economy, and other causes. He’s also adapted to new filmmaking technologies to get quick, inexpensive work out to social media sites.

Jonathan Sehring- The president of IFC Entertainment, Sehring is both blamed by some for the demise of the old school theatrical model and lauded for his irreverent and iconoclastic approach to distribution. IFC’s ‘buy more pay less’ model is not beloved by all filmmakers, but their approach to the marketplace is aggressive, flexible and innovative. He had a great quote in the NY Times last year:

I never hear anyone in the music industry say there are too many songs, no one in publishing says there are too many books, no gallery or museum says there are too many paintings, no one in fashion says there are too many designers — why too many movies? When my colleagues say this it sounds like the anti-immigration, protectionist rhetoric from the far right.

OK, so I didn’t really mean this to be five white dudes over 50.

How about Sheila Nevins- though many documentary filmmakers struggle with HBO’s unyielding lockdown on digital rights, Nevins and HBO are developing a digital strategy that will benefit the network and prolong the brand’s dominance. I’m not sure they “get it” in a filmmaker-friendly way, but without HBO, many great docs would not have been made- and Ms. Nevins’ great instincts are the essence of HBO’s success.

Still not extremely diverse- but 5 is a mere starting point. Who are your picks?


2 Comments to “5>50 – Who gets it in new distribution?”

  1. Brian Newman says:

    I (mostly) agree with this list. I thought of making my own >40 list, but it gets too political for me. Due to the nature of my previous job, I hung out with a lot of the >50 (usually greater than 80) set, many of whom were brilliant and inspired me every day. They also seem to get bruised more easily, however, when left off a list so I was worried about naming anyone and forgetting someone. Thus I won’t be naming any missing people here, but do think there’s lots of women and diverse people of all backgrounds deserving of the list. I do have to take issue with HBO – not Sheila herself, just HBO. While yes they are great for certain films, they can in no way be seen as leading anything in digital. I still advise certain filmmakers to work with them anyway, because they can reach a lot of people and do good work, but I don’t think they have thought much about the new models and I do think it will bite them eventually. In terms of leading the field generally, however, amen, they have.

  2. admin says:

    I vacillate between thinking they are head-in-the-sand and mildly evil and thinking they are very smart. Overall, HBO has managed to protect the brand pretty well by being ultraconservative on the digital front. It’s not really good news for filmmakers, today.