The economic recession may be ending but the independent film industry’s shakeout continues to roll, as we were recently reminded by Disney’s October decision to gut its Miramax division, cutting staff by more than 70%.
It won’t be the last to fall under the knife, industry insiders predict, pointing to Universal’s Focus Features as the next likely victim. “Very few people think Focus is going to survive,” says one industry executive who asked not to be named. It’s already been a bloodbath. Over the past 24 months the indie film industry responsible for recent Academy Award winners like Slumdog Millionaire, There Will Be Blood, and Juno has lost dozens of key players on both the front and back end of the production process.
Mark Gill, who served as president of Warner Independent Pictures and Miramax/LA and is now CEO of the indie film production and financing company The Film Department, estimates that of the 38 indie film financing firms the so-called front end that existed in 2007, only 11 remain. And they are mostly sitting on their hands. While Wall Street investment in independent movies totaled more than $2 billion between 2005 and 2007, according to Deutsche Bank, it has plummeted to practically nothing since then.