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Whitewater Films Roundtable: Indie Film & the Tech Effect

by Jeff Steele

Last week, Whitewater Films hosted its bi-monthly roundtable for independent filmmakers. I wasn’t able to attend, but my colleague, Pamela Ezell, FilmClosings.com’s executive editor, did. Here’s her report.

At the Whitewater roundtable for indie filmmakers, hosted by director-producer Rick Rosenthal (Mean Creek, Nearing Grace) – who grills a mean burger – panel moderator Sharon Waxman, web entrepreneur and founder of TheWrap.com, noted that we might be past the most recent “scorched earth” era in Hollywood. It certainly felt congenial in Whitewater’s backyard, eating salads, snacking on chips.

Whitewater’s mission is to help budding filmmakers, and it launched a bi-monthly roundtable to create community. (The Hollywood Reporter covered the first one; you can listen to a podcast.)

Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, and Skype keep us tethered to the minute details of everyday life, but, as Whitewater’s invitation points out,  “The Internet is not a substitute for real, in person, interaction and discussions about the ever-evolving face of independent film.”

And so we got together last week to talk about the impact of emerging technologies on independent film. The panelists included feature producers, such as Dave Koplan of Timbergrove Entertainment (Leaves of Grass, The Human Contract) and documentary filmmakers, like Harris Done (War Dogs of the Pacific, Trekkies).

Representing the emerging technologies were Tom Clary of Scoundrel FX, David Cole of LaserPacific, and Michael Cioni, CEO and co-founder of Lightiron Digital, who gets my vote for best unofficial spokesperson about what’s happening in the indie film community.

Michael talked about the “democratization of digital tools,” and made specific reference to the recent release of Adobe Creative Suite 5, saying, “For $1,200, you get Gladiator in a box.” The easy access and affordability of digital tools means that independent films are expected to look and feel like big budget mainstream movies.

In a world where every boom shadow, squeaky dolly, and crew reflection in a car window can be magically excised, there’s little tolerance for the shaky camera and bad audio of indie yesteryear.

The audience of producers and directors included Benjamin Epps and Peter Gail of Footprint Features, a smart group who met at Duke, created a theatre company and then moved on to producing movies. I say “smart” because they include the words “sales agents” and “distributors” in their mission statement – not something one sees every day. Footprint calls out United Artists and American Zoetrope on their website, and seems to embody exactly the kind of community Whitewater hopes to inspire.

While we waited in line at the barbeque, Ben told me about the low budget feature they’re shooting in Michigan to take advantage of the tax breaks. (“How can anyone not know about Michigan?” Ben asked. Don’t look at me. We’ve been trying to tell them.)

Whitewater has the right idea: connectivity is no substitute for community. I’m already looking forward to next time.

  • http://www.norestrictionsent.com John Paul Rice

    Nothing can substitute connecting in person. If you listen to the podcast, what you will hear is a good, pro-active and smart group of people. I would love to attend a future round table.

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    • Jeff Steele

      Amen to that.

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