As I sit home scrolling through social media and watching the news for consistent updates on this new “global pandemic”, I like most people, am trying to make sense of how it will directly affect my personal business as a filmmaker and a distributor.
As a global distributor with friends and colleagues all over the world, I’m in a slightly advantageous position to do my own due diligence about how the virus is really affecting the various corners of the world.
What I’m hearing from around the world
In the past 24 hours I’ve spoken with colleagues directly in Taiwan, China, Japan, Australia, Germany, Netherlands and the UK to get a real boots-on-the-ground sense for how the pandemic is really affecting people around the world.
The consensus seems to be the same worldwide – things are weird. But nobody seems overly concerned about the virus itself – more so the cancelling of events worldwide. It feels like several times a day I’m receiving messages from colleagues: “Did you hear Mip was cancelled?” “They just cancelled NAB.” “There’s no way Cannes won’t be cancelled.” “Our production is shut down.”
It’s easy to understand how people perceive this as the world coming to an end.
If they cancel the Cannes Film Festival that would be like cancelling the Oscars. It’s a $30m event with massive economic fallout on the region. The fact that the rest of the NBA season was cancelled in itself is mind-blowing and really drives home how big this thing really is.
BUT, I read an article this week that one of my friends posted on social media that completely changed my perspective on this…
Perception vs Reality
In this article, the writer points out that countries like Italy and S. Korea, which are perceived to have been hit the hardest by the virus based on their perspective social lockdowns, in reality are the countries that are likely to overcome the pandemic the fastest because they’re being so aggressive and proactive about taking control over it.
Based on media reports, we here in the US perceive Italy as a hotbed of Coronavirus outbreaks, when in reality we probably have an even higher concentration at home in the US but we don’t know it because we’re not testing as aggressively.
My point here is that the perception of what’s happening versus what’s really happening are not seemingly aligned.
All of these major events being cancelled are preventative, which is a good thing.
At the end of the day, sales agents like me don’t need to go to Cannes to do business. I’ve gone every year for most of the last decade. Trust me, more partying goes on than actual business. I am doing the same amount of deals I typically do.
Where I’m seeing the direct effect is in the turnaround. It’s taking longer for the usual business to transpire and for general communication because people are distracted – but the business forges on.
How does it affect Production & Content?
Production is a slightly different matter. Not being able to shoot is problematic and in the long term we could see a dip in available content.
If you’re a below-the-line crew member working on a show this fallout will be rough on you and your family. If you’re a content creator, however, there is a silver lining to this.
If in fact we see a decline in available content in the coming months or year, it will actually help balance out the market a bit. The last handful of years has seen a massive oversaturation of content in the market due to the tangibility and low cost of filmmaking.
This has made it increasingly more difficult to get a small movie to stand out – or more importantly – to make a small movie profitable. If less content is being produced temporarily and there is in fact a decrease in supply, then the demand for those smaller movies may level out to where the market was five or ten years ago – if we are lucky.
I will lose zero sleep over not going to the film market in Cannes this coming May. To me that’s like ten grand in my pocket.
The hope is that this wave of market and event cancellations will ultimately lead to a natural selection within the world of distribution.
Going to the film market in Cannes in 2021 where the market has balanced itself out in terms of supply and demand means that movies can start doing better, more appropriate and balanced distribution deals where everyone makes fair money. That’s something I look forward to possibly seeing.
This might be wishful thinking. There may actually be so much production happening that even a short-term decline won’t make a significant impact in the supply and demand balance.
But I’m not looking at all of the industry event cancellations as a necessarily bad thing. It’s a little jarring due to it being unprecedented, but in the long run we might see some solid benefits from it when the dust settles and Coronavirus evolves from a scare and a threat into a norm.