Troy Lum has laid much of the blame for the virtual demise of mid-level theatrical films on the US majors’ blockbusters mentality.
Speaking during a panel session at the Cannes Film Festival, the MD of eOne Australia also complained that most scripts he reads lack emotional resonance.
“The middle ground all over the world has fallen out of the marketplace,” Lum said during a session on distribution in English-speaking markets moderated by the UK’s Film Council's Ben Luxford and Screen Australia’s Richard Harris.
“The films that were doing £2-5 million in the UK and Australia aren’t really there anymore. That’s unfortunate because that’s where the independent market sits.
“There has been a lack of respect of audiences from the studios just making shit, over and over again, so it meant there's a whole audience that wasn’t being served.
“That coincided with a great boost in TV drama, so we lost a big chunk of the audience that is being satisfied by TV.”
Lum said there is no point in producing independent films aimed at males aged 18-25, while young-skewing action films are suited only to DVD and day-date digital release.
He reiterated the widely held view that release windows in Australia no longer make any sense, observing, “We are still operating on an old model with new technology.”
Hussain Amarshi, co-founder and CEO of Canada’s Mongrel Media, had a positive message for attendees when he said: “The real visionary films always find a way into the market.”
Amarshi observed that people are watching more films than ever before across all forms of media including cinemas, Netflix, VOD and DVD.
Zak Brilliant, head of theatrical at the UK’s Icon Film Distribution, revealed that when he evaluates projects he has a list of actors whom he considers “no-nos.” He tactfully declined to name them.
Icon successfully released The Babadook, which was sold internationally by eOne, prompting Alex Hamilton, eOne’s UK MD to admit ruefully, “That’s one we missed.”
Lum told the audience he has one great arbiter in considering projects to acquire: emotional resonance.
“My advice to producers is to make films with emotional content, films that make you feel something.” he said. “Most of the stuff I read doesn’t even attempt to make you feel anything.”