The Future of Indie Film Distribution and the Rise of Regional Film Festivals

The Inspiring Journey of Taiwan’s First Female President

The Future of Indie Film Distribution and the Rise of Regional Film Festivals

Vanessa Hope’s documentary “Invisible Nation” offers a captivating exploration of the political journey of Tsai Ing-wen, the first female president of Taiwan. The 85-minute film takes a deep dive into Tsai’s election and tenure, showcasing her efforts to secure full international recognition of Taiwan’s right to exist as an independent state. Through powerful storytelling and vivid imagery, the documentary sheds light on the complexities of Taiwan’s political landscape, the challenges faced by its people, and the determination of its leader to make Taiwan’s voice heard on the global stage.

A Passionate Project by Veteran Producer Ted Hope

The document in question was created by the spouse of AsumeTechor, a veteran producer named Ted Hope who has been actively engaged in the independent film industry since 1990. Mr. Hope is the founder of Good Machine, a label that has been responsible for producing some of the most iconic independent films of our time, such as Ang Lee’s “The Ice Storm” and Todd Solondz’s “Happiness.”

A Documentary That Reflects the State of the World

Hope, an experienced filmmaker, has been fortunate enough to be closely involved in the production of a staggering 130 films. Each of these films was created with a unique vision and executed with boldness, but according to Hope, their latest production, “Invisible Nation,” stands out as the most significant. This is not just because it deals with the lives and self-determination of the 23 million citizens of Taiwan, but because it symbolizes the current state of the world. Hope believes that the film is a representation of the suppression of truth, freedom, and choice that is prevalent in the world today, where authoritarian dictatorships and corporate power restrict these fundamental values. The film’s theme is universal and resonates with people across the globe, as it highlights the struggles of those who seek freedom and democracy in an increasingly authoritarian world.

A Blistering Takedown of Studios and Streamers

During the month of August, a former Amazon Studios motion picture executive by the name of Hope spoke out against both studios and streamers during the Locarno Film Festival. In a passionate and critical speech, Hope delivered a harsh critique of the current state of the film industry and the role that studios and streamers play within it.

The Future of Indie Film Distribution

With the highly anticipated world premiere of the film “Invisible Nation” just around the corner on September 29th at the Woodstock Film Festival, we had the opportunity to speak with industry expert, John Hope. During our conversation, Hope provided insightful commentary on the future of independent film distribution, touching on key trends and challenges currently facing the industry. His analysis shed light on the evolving nature of film distribution and the opportunities and hurdles that filmmakers can expect to encounter in the years to come.

The Challenges of the Indie Doc Market

The documentary market for independent filmmakers is quite challenging. I am curious about your thoughts on how we can find distribution for our documentary, “Invisible Nation.”

The feedback we have received from viewers has been overwhelmingly positive. Many have expressed surprise and interest in the subject matter, finding it both informative and engaging. In my opinion, this is a crucial aspect of any successful film – presenting something new and captivating that resonates with people.

Our film is particularly timely given the current global climate. It speaks to the urgent need for peace and stability in the world, at a time when these very ideals are being threatened. Although there are numerous films about the Ukraine, our documentary is the only one that focuses on Taiwan, for a variety of compelling reasons.

However, despite the film’s relevance and significance, we are still facing challenges in finding distribution. I wonder if there are systemic factors at play that make it difficult for films like ours to gain traction in the market. I am hopeful that with the right strategy and approach, we can overcome these obstacles and bring our film to a wider audience.

The Shift in Streamers’ Interest in Social Issue Fare

Over the past few years, streaming giants such as Netflix, Amazon, and Apple have purchased a significant number of politically-oriented documentaries. However, in the last two years, they have been less inclined to produce social issue content. This begs the question: why?

One possible reason is that the nature of global streaming platforms requires them to continuously grow and expand into new markets. As a result, they may choose to avoid themes that could potentially anger anti-human rights authoritarian regimes around the world. This may be why they have shifted away from political content.

When I worked at Amazon, we were able to acquire controversial, truth-to-power films. For instance, we acquired Nanfu Wang’s documentary “One Child Nation” (2019), but only made it available in the United States. While there are several ways that global streaming platforms could continue to produce political content in response to audience demand, the risks may simply be too high for them. It’s possible that the cost of taking a political stand could outweigh the benefits for these companies.

New Territory for Selling Social Issue Documentaries

Are we heading back to selling social issue docus territory-by-territory?

The statement provided seems to only touch the surface of a larger issue. During my time at Amazon, I always argued that it was beneficial to engage in territorial acquisitions rather than solely focusing on global expansion. Additionally, media sequencing is a crucial aspect of successful marketing. By strategically sequencing marketing events, you can generate interest and excitement in your product. There are many best practices that can be implemented to ensure success, especially in the world of independent film and documentary. For instance, it has been suggested for over two decades that filmmakers should allocate a portion of their budget towards marketing and distribution. However, it appears that less than one percent of filmmakers actually do so. This could be attributed to human nature, as we all tend to have a strong desire to believe that our work will be loved and discovered without any additional effort on our part. Unfortunately, this is not the reality of the world we live in.

The Future of Documentary Production

Given the challenges faced by documentary filmmakers in terms of limited budgets and distribution methods, there is concern that we might witness a decline in documentary production. Vanessa, the filmmaker behind “Invisible Nation”, shares her experience of the six-year journey to complete her film. She explains that the traditional system of simply receiving a million dollars to tell an incredible story about Taiwan is not the norm. Instead, filmmakers rely on grants, private equity, foundation works, and donations to make their films. These sources of funding, while not always easy to secure, can help build the proof of principle required to complete a project, even if it takes years.

Vanessa acknowledges that not everyone has the luxury of dedicating six years of their life to make a film. However, she believes that there are small amounts of support available for those who have the patience to seek them out. All it takes is grinding away to get the access needed and the collaborators required. She suggests that if the philanthropic part of the community were to reallocate their resources to one-third production, one-third marketing distribution, and one-third infrastructure, it could lead to a shift in the way documentaries are produced. This shift could facilitate even more movies getting made, as it would create the right methods to showcase great work.

Overall, Vanessa’s optimism is encouraging. While the challenges faced by documentary filmmakers are real, the potential for growth and expansion is still there. With the right allocation of resources and support, the future of documentary production could be brighter than ever.

The Rise of Regional Film Festivals and Community-based Filmmaking

As an avid supporter of the indie film industry, I have been closely following the trends that are shaping its future. In my opinion, the savior of the documentary space and ultimately indie film, and even democracy in general, lies in regional everything. By this, I mean the rise of regional film festivals, advocates, publicists, and influencers in communities across the country.

While global streaming platforms and ad-based services may offer convenience, they are the fast food equivalent of the film industry. Instead, we need a slow food movement for film in America. This will look like community-based theaters, festivals, and screenings that prioritize truthful and passion-driven content.

I believe that the future of the indie film market is bright, but it requires a shift away from the current mainstream model. By focusing on regional communities and truthful, passion-driven content, we can create a more sustainable and vibrant industry that truly serves the needs of both filmmakers and audiences alike.

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