As Chief Operating Officer of Tribeca Enterprises, the company that, among other things, runs the Tribeca Film Festival, I have the privilege of working across many different areas of independent film. As we start off 2012, I wanted to take a moment to lay out what I think are some of the brightest and biggest trends to watch for -- things that are going to affect independent film audiences and filmmakers in the year ahead:
1. The Number of Films Made Will Continue to Grow, Meaning More Choices for Audiences
Over the last five years, the number of films submitted to film festivals has continued to grow dramatically. At the Tribeca Film Festival, we have seen the number of feature films submitted grow more than 40 percent over the last five years. For their 2012 edition, Sundance received 4,042 submissions. Clearly, this means festival organizers have a bigger and tougher job every year, reviewing more films and selecting from this pool 100 or so films to showcase. But it also means there are more filmmakers making films each year, and that ultimately means more films for audiences to watch and enjoy.
2. More Movies Playing in Theaters and at Home at the Same Time
Over the past few years, a number of distributors -- including IFC, Magnolia and Tribeca -- have begun bringing films onto VOD at the same time they are playing in the theater. In 2011, the number and quality of films released "day and date" on screens and VOD exploded, led by Margin Call, a film about the financial crisis. Margin Call was embraced by audiences on new platforms, while still playing on close to 200 screens nationwide. Expect to see more films made available in your living room at the same time they are in the theater in 2012.
3. The Movie Theater Experience Just May Get Better!
Don't believe me? Ask people who live in parts of Texas, Colorado, Virginia or Brooklyn, NY. In these communities, companies like Alamo Drafthouse and Nitehawk Cinema are trying to reinvent the movie-going experience, adding customized pre-shows and unique programming, and offering food and drink service while you watch the film. Alamo has announced plans to expand to NY and LA in 2012.
4. Audiences Can Now Help Films Get Made
One of the most exciting developments in 2011 was the growth of new platforms like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, which allow audiences to help contribute to filmmakers and other artists' passion projects, while getting some cool perks at the same time. Over $100 million has been pledged through Kickstarter -- by over 1 million people -- since it launched in 2009. These people have helped to fund more than 3,000 film projects: the platforms are making it possible for filmmakers to make films with the help of audience members who are inspired by their stories and love the idea of being part of the filmmaking process. I just made my first Kickstarter donation this week to The Iran Job and imagine many others will be making their first throughout 2012.
5. Stars Break Out in Indie Films
2011 was another year of watching breakout performances by actors in independent films -- Michael Fassbender (Shame), Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene) and Felicity Jones (Like Crazy) to name a few. Many of these films premiered at major festivals. So trying to get a ticket to Toronto, Park City or Tribeca in 2012 might just be the best way to be the first to see performance that will take home an Oscar in 2013.
6. Documentaries Continue their Ascent
Probably the best development in 2011 was the continued ascent of documentaries in America, thanks to filmmakers like Asif Kapadia, Tiffany Shlain, Alma Har'el, Morgan Spurlock and Werner Herzog. Over the past year, audiences have come out in force for films like Buck, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, and Bill Cunningham New York and these films captured imaginations. Expect 2012 to be the same, as the potential and promise of documentaries continue to grow.