the Walking Dead Producer Gale Anne Hurd has urged the US and European countries to enter into formal co-production agreements in support of indie films and TV shows.
“There are no co-production deals between the US and European countries, so many of us have worked with countries that have them, like Canada and the UK,” Hurd said at the Audio-Visual Producers Summit in Italy. “That’s what I did: put those pieces together. Can we work today to find legitimate co-production deals between the US and European countries?”
The founder of Valhalla Entertainment and terminator The producer revealed that last year she “fought for a year” to get distribution for her latest film project, amid a tough indie production market. “Everyone turned us down, but we still progressed because we had supportive financiers who believed in the project and now we’re in distribution,” said the veteran film and television producer.
Her comments came during the opening session of the Audio-Visual Producers Summit in Trieste yesterday afternoon, which was also attended by Disney Italy and Turkey Country Manager Daniel Frigo. Little Miss Sunshine Producer Albert Berger, former President of the Producers Guild Gary Lucchesi, Shelby Stone, Luca Bernabei, CEO of Lux Video, and Luca Baebareschi, founder of Elseo Entertainment.
Indie projects are currently in the spotlight after SAG-AFTRA granted waivers or waivers to a number of them this week, including religious TV dramas The chosen ones and A24 films Holy Maria And Death of the unicorn. This assumes that they are “truly” independent projects, not affiliated with the AMPTP in any way, and that their producers agree to be retrospectively bound by the terms of the contract that eventually ended with the AMPTP upon the settlement of the strike be agreed.
Several international production sources we’ve heard here in Italy and Europe over the past few days are focusing on how to attract independent US partners for indie projects that could meet these guidelines. Many projects are hampered by SAG-AFTRA’s Global Rule One, which prevents many actors with SAG cards from working on non-union productions around the world, but some producers have found that the opportunity to get work is only brief while the US settles its labor problems. We’re hearing that the number of meetings between major European and American content creators has skyrocketed since the actors’ strike began.
During the AVP summit session, Hurd said she hoped the eventual agreement between the writers’ and actors’ unions and the AMPTP “doesn’t make TV and film smaller and shut out the artistic vision” – essentially resulting in conditions that projects with Big budgets continue to polarize indie productions.
Lucchesi, former President of the Producers Guild and current Chair of the International Committee, later offered a novel solution to the LA labor strikes. “No one asks if producers could be a good voice broker for WGA and SAG,” he said. Many producers were agents and held tight [senior] positions and know how to talk to people. Ultimately we are problem solvers – every day we try to solve the problem.
challenge for indies
Elsewhere during the AVP Summit session, several panelists praised the standard of new indie films such as After sun and Oscar winners Everything Everywhere at oncebut warned that in a world of “vertical integration,” many would find it impossible to pull through.
“The problem is that most artful films don’t get a chance to see in theaters and the marketing is poor,” said Hollywood producer Berger. “Covid has broken the habit of people [of going to the cinema] and streamers have filled the gap for this more mature, dramatic material.”
He called for more local cinemas that cater to local movie fans. “We need directors and actors to be where they can,” he said. “We need to start a conversation about these films again. I hope that through this kind of dialogue we can find new ways to bring it back to theaters.”
Disney’s Frigo countered that he’s “never seen better marketing than today, whether it’s blockbusters or indie films,” adding, “It’s just never been more competitive and it’s tough for everyone.”
Frigo urged the Italian industry to focus on drafting policies for streamer content quotas and to be careful to create “an oversupply” of content.
Hurd said many international films are simply not available to most consumers. “Film festivals have caught up, but unless you’re in a city with a big festival, you’re denied that opportunity, and many don’t even get exposure through streaming,” she added.
Berger, CEO of Bona Fide Productions, said his company’s recent features were created outside of the studio system, but warned that it’s “getting harder and harder because it’s difficult to get a foothold in the distribution system.”
He suggested that international partnerships were the solution. “It’s not easy to advertise to an independent audience. We really need to rethink what we’re doing and we need to reinvent the way these films are marketed. The wonderful thing about the market is that internationality is so important. We can find ways to work together – God knows we’re always looking for ways to get out of LA.”
The first panellists were at the AVP Summit in Trieste, which is taking place for the second time in north-eastern Italy. Executives from CAA, Kinetic Content, and Fifth Season take the stage in the next two sagas. The Italian offshoots of Netflix and Prime Video as well as the pubcaster RAI are also present.
The AVP Summit is organized by Cinecittà for the Directorate General for Cinema and Audiovisual (DGCA) of the Ministry of Culture, in collaboration with APA and with the support of MiC and MAECI Italian Commercial Agency, Friuli Venezia Giulia Region and Promo Turismo FVG and FVG Film Commission. The Motion Picture Association and the Producers Guild of America also helped with the organization, as did CNC and Unifrance from France.