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Filmonomic’s Colin Brown Wants More Transparency in Movie Biz

on Tuesday, Jun. 18th

The latest Filmonomics column by Colin Brown is out over at Slated, and is–as always–worth a gander.

Brown the current national focus on privacy as a cue to take up the issue of transparency in the film business.

Data transparency has never come easily to movie professionals. Instead of sharing information for the collective good, the tendency is to massage, manipulate and even muddy those figures for individual gain.

Spoiler alert: he thinks a more open approach would serve all filmmaker well.

Given the accelerated rate at which even celebrities are being lured into the crowdfunding scene you can be forgiven for thinking that openness is the new norm.

If only that were the case.

Even in today’s era of crowdsourcing and collaborative consumption many producers still feel reluctant to pursue a similarly open-book policy. Their fear is that too much information upfront will only jeopardize a lucrative financing or distribution deal down the road. But in preparing for that future payday, they run the greater risk of never getting their projects launched at all.

The notion of greater transparency with budgets raises the question: if a buyer knows how little a film cost to make, will they be tight with the purse strings when making distribution deals? Are we in danger of commoditizing the film industry?

The underlying assumption there is that we haven't already. The star system and the increased focused on foreign sales, as alchemically obtuse as those markets can be, has long pushed the business into being more akin to durable goods than gallery art.

This is the tension that drives the film industry as an industry. Suits think in terms of ROI and risk, creatives think in dramatic arcs and emotional impact.

At the ned of the day a savvy film buyer should be concerned about the size of the paying audience a given film can gather, not how many rivets were used in the construction of the beast.

Any distributor who picks up a film because it was "cheaper" to make over a film with a greater market potential is making a fool's bargain.

Thinking about films in terms of the auto market is a clunky metaphor, but one that has some utility. Through this prism production becomes the assembly line and distribution becomes the showroom. A car, after all, isn't worth what it cost to produce, it is worth what someone is willing to pay for it. Why would we imagine otherwise?

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