Hollywood needs to offer audiences more diversity in movies if the industry is to stay in business, several key independent film executives asserted at Saturday's Produced By Conference.
"The marketplace is more receptive to diverse content," said "Mudbound" producer Charles King at the event on the Paramount lot in Los Angeles. He appeared on a panel titled "Financing Your Film: How to Find the Right Partners" at the Paramount Theatre.
"Mudbound" wound up receiving four Oscar nominations in a major triumph for streaming service Netflix, which has profoundly disrupted the movie business. King, who also produced "Fences," praised Netflix's awards season campaign as "above and beyond."
He noted that Netflix presented an offer for "Mudbound" at the Sundance Film Festival that far exceeded the others, including a commitment for an Academy Award campaign. "To be honest, they were an incredible partner," King said.
Panelist Bill Mechanic, nominated for a Best Picture Oscar last year for the independently financed "Hacksaw Ridge," said that the industry has to recognize that consumers' tastes are shifting rapidly.
"The audience isn't going away; what millennials are doing is being more discriminating," he said. "Content on streaming services is far better."
And the public still wants to see movies in movie theaters, according to Hyde Park chief Ashok Amritraj. He pointed to Jordan Peele's "Get Out" as a title that generated intense interest and underlined the need for producers to be closely involved.
"'Get Out' kind of struck a chord," he added. "The execution was perfect. Producing a film has gotten to be much more important."
Jessica Lacy, head of the international and independent film department at ICM Partners, said that agencies are having to adjust quickly to the changing landsape. She noted that smaller distributors like A24 and Bleecker Street will have to expand production and move into TV to survive and added that those studios along with Lionsgate and Global Roard are still seeking independently financed films.
"I put together 'I Am Not Your Negro' and 'The Florida Project' and I don't want to stop putting together those kind of projects," she added.
Lacy asserted that Netflix is complicating the indie business because it is now focused on producing original films on its own or buying big-budget films like "Bright," starring Will Smith.
Lacy also noted that her agency has decided not to invest in productions, unlike CAA, WME and UTA. That trio has come under fire from the Writers Guild of America in recent over the perceived conflict of interest in serving as a producer and representing writers on the project.
"We have chosen to stay in the business of representing artists," Lacy said.
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