Stay in tune with younger generations and be open to fresh perspectives while remaining true to a core remit were among tips meted out by top film execs on a Zurich Summit panel on Saturday, exploring how to future-proof independent film businesses in an era of rapid change.
“You need to listen to the younger people on your staff and to work with a generation where there is a different resonance to material from that we may have through the filter of working in the industry for the last 20-plus years,” said Anonymous Content president Robert Walak.
“That is something that is always in the back of my mind, how to feed and nurture that young audience.”
Walak was joined on the panel by CAA agent Sarah Schweitzman, Neon CEO & Founder Tom Quinn, Library Pictures Chief Executive David Taghioff and Amblin Partners president of production Jeb Brody.
“Maybe I am a little bit younger than everyone else on this stage, but from my perspective, the thing that is the most important is to be malleable and innovative and be willing to reinvent yourself every step of the way,” she said.
“The business is a living breathing thing that emulates the rest of society, so if we’re not focused on emerging voices and younger generations to tell those stories, you become inert and when you’re inert you cease to exist.”
Taghioff said his company Library Pictures, focused on financing local language content, mixed experience and openness to fresh and authentic perspectives to stay ahead of the game.
“If you leverage your experience when you’re going into foreign markets and working with local producers and local filmmakers to tell local stories, you can end up taking a very ethnocentric approach because you’re going into their market with your experiences from the West.”
He suggested leaning solely on personal experience risked imposing business practices, philosophies and approaches out of whack with the local way of doing things.
“You cannibalise the very thing you’re going into the market for. If we’re going to actually explore local language content, who am I to tell somebody in Indonesia, Turkey, or any other part of the world where I haven’t had that relevant experience what they should or shouldn’t be doing?
“That’s why when we talk about the future-proofing of our business. The very premise of Library is all with an eye towards relying on our partners in the market and not taking that ethnocentric approach, saying to them, we have certain expertise, but we don’t want to necessarily impose it on you or force it upon you.”
Amblin Partners’s Brody took a slightly more cautious stance, saying that while new voices were key for staying relevant they needed to be surrounded by experienced operators as they found their feet.
“Movies are incredibly difficult from a production perspective, incredibly massive undertakings. And as much as we are always seeking out new creative voices, we feel like we have to surround them with people who are going to help them get from point A to point B,” he said.
“Our philosophy is often finding those directors whose voices you believe in and you want to work with them, give them everything you can to help them get to the finish line.”
Entering the discussion from the perspective of a film distributor rather than as content creator or developer, Neon founder and CEO Tom Quinn said his future-proofing trip was remaining true to the founding remit of the company.
“I don’t know how to future-proof a business but I do know how to double down on the things that are easy to believe in,” he explained.
“From inception, Neon was created as a homage to the power of cinema. It’s as simple as that. We were agnostic, regardless of where it came from, what genre, what size, the aim was to simply stick to that.”
“The quality is covered as always, but I think even more important than quality is authenticity. Being true to who you are, doubling down on that, ignore the algorithm, stand out, and stick up for something that you believe in because I find that in the world that we live in, especially in our industry, so very few people are willing to stick it out and stand up for what they believe in.”