Indiewire has an interesting roundup of the panel’s going on this week at Sundance.  Here’s an excerpt.

Assessing the Fallen Sky: Heavy Hitters Talk Biz; And 25 Years of Indie

by Brian Brooks (Updated 1 day ago)

Assessing the Fallen Sky: Heavy Hitters Talk Biz; And 25 Years of Indie

Gregg Araki, Steven Soderberg, Barbara Kopple and Tom DiCillo at the Sundance Film Festival. Photo by Brian Brooks/indieWIRE

The state of the industry and the future of independent film were the topics for the pair of showcase Sundance Film Festival panel disucssions earlier this week.

Sundance director Geoffery Gilmore himself took the reins for one event in Park City that some had already been buzzing about before the festival even got underway – and it wasn’t even a film. Given the title, “The Panic Button: Push or Ponder” a powerhouse of independent film execs joined a panel to discuss the ascent, descent and present state of independent film. Referencing a speech by former Warner Independent chief made last Spring (and published in indieWIRE) “The sky fell,” opens the panel’s description in the Sundance catalog.

Joining Gilmore were Gill (now of The Film-Department), producer Ted Hope, Sony Classics’ co-prez Michael Barker, IFC Enterntainment prez Jonathan Sehring, Focus chief James Schamus and Peter Broderick of Paradigm Consulting.

Hope, who has produced such landmark films as “21 Grams,” “American Splendor,” “The Devil and Daniel Johnson,” and this year’s Sundance title, “Adventureland” lamented straightaway the demise of film criticism, saying the loss of discussion was a threat to independent film which has traditionally depended on critics who champion specialty fare.

“I’ve felt that what makes an art film an art film is the ability to talk about [them], and [this is under threat] because we’ve lost so many critics and college art societies.” Continuing, Hope said, “We need to change some of these models in order to engage the community.”

Mark Gill, conscious of some of the backlash that was the talk of the indie film industry in early summer acknowledged he had ruffled some feathers. “I was the person who was called an asshole for saying, ‘The sky is falling…’ The sky did fall. [Many] distributors have closed [since June] and many others are only pretending to be open.”

“I think though the speech was accurate, it was dangerous because it just feel like we should close up shop and go home,” countered SPC co-prez Michael Barker. “There are silver linings here. The theatrical box office [recently] is thriving, but the loss of criticism is a loss, though I see hope in the quality of some blogs such as Karina Longworth’s (Spout).”

James Schamus chimed in, noting the lack of diversity on the panel (there was one non-white person and no women) and prophesized that a panel discussing the future of indie film would look much different and said the hefty payouts (and prices) of recent Sundances were an anomaly.

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