Panel Debates ‘Shifting Landscape’ of Independent Film

FishbowlLA was in attendance Thursday as Whitewater Films kicked off its third year of bi-monthly back patio panels in Santa Monica with a sunny lunch hour discussion of “The Shifting Landscape of Independent Film.” Manning the barbecue as usual was company founder Rick Rosenthal, while Indiewire editor-in-chief Dana Harris returned for another rotating stint as panel moderator.

Dustin Smith, vp of acquisitions and business affairs for Roadside Attractions, kept things lively with a number of jokes and direct exchanges with the other panelists. He recalled for example that by flying in Jennifer Lawrence from London for a Q&A, he was able to keep Winter’s Bone screening at the Arclight Cinemas Hollywood for a critical early third week. He also had lots to say about the state of “S-VOD” dealmaking with Netlifx; as the streaming service focuses more on episodic TV assets, he recently encountered his first outright rights renewal rejection (Goodbye Solo).

Deborah McIntosh, a member of William Morris Endeavor’s global finance and distribution group, addressed the exciting new distribution arm of client Tim League, co-founder of Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse. She also touched on the agency’s imminent plans to release an independent feature exclusively on Facebook.

The other panelists were Winter’s Bone producer Alix Madigan-York, entertainment lawyer-producer Shelley Surpin and producer Lacey Leavitt. As an added bonus, FishbowlLA shared its canopied table with veteran casting director Ronnie Yeskel, who helped shape the Quentin Tarantino classics Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction.

A great time was had by all. At the outset of the discussion, Harris asked panelists to quickly reveal their best and worst professional moments from the previous year. For the disappointments category, Smith touched on Project Nim. Although the chimpanzee documentary was the best reviewed 2011 indie on Rotten Tomatoes, it flopped in theaters.

@hollywoodspin Richard Horgan is co-editor of Fishbowl.