Ted Hope on Creating A Sustainable Film Community
By Raven Patton
The Austin Film Society was honored late last year by the visit of Ted Hope, who was there to discuss an important matter concerning the creation of a sustainable film community. Ted Hope is an award winning film producer who has had widespread success with several production companies including Good Machine, which went on to become Focus Features, one of the most forward thinking production companies around, and his most recent production company, Double Hope, that he founded with his wife Vanessa Hope. Hope is also the executive director of the San Francisco Film Society.
What exactly does it mean to create a sustainable film community and why is it so important? According to Hope, we are a society that is oversaturated and distracted. At the dawn of the film industry, movies were scarce and controlled. Hope, a self-proclaimed chronic listmaker, says he made a list of four and five-star films that he wants to see before he dies. He stated that if he watched roughly 250 films per year, the list of films would actually reach 8.5 years past his life expectancy. This is a fantastic way of driving home the oversaturation issue. He warned about taking a cue from the music industry, which faced their struggles with sustainability first and urged that we restructure the film industry now before the problem persists.
Today, filmmakers can create films for niche markets whereas in the past, films were made for the masses. Hope says the answer is actually to become more collaborative and more prolific to solve the over saturation dilemma. This may seem to be contradictory, however, Hope argues that if artists are more collaborative, they will be able to produce more films for the community they want to reach. Hope believes that people are looking for themes they can connect to, not just artists. If the filmmaker can relate to people on a specific level then the community will embrace the filmmaker based a shared viewpoint.
When asked which filmmakers he believes has gotten this process right, Hope named Kevin Smith. While Smith is not Hope’s aesthetic, he believes that Smith was on the right track with building a loyal fan base united in his values, working directly with the fans and offering a variety of products other than films such as his podcasts, live events and television shows.
When asked about distribution and marketing, Hope expressed that he feels this is where film societies and nonprofits can play a key role. He believes there is a huge opportunity for societies to assist filmmakers with their distribution and marketing so that the artists are taken care of rather than large production companies and film studios. Thus allowing filmmakers to reach out to the community and to be directly involved in the sale and distribution of their films.
After the group discussion, I asked Hope if he could recall the moment he decided that this cause was something he wanted to spearhead. He recalled having given a speech five years ago to a filmmaker forum that was a rebuttal to a comment that the film industry was dying.
Hope said, "The business might be dying, but there has really never been a better time to be an artist when we have the possibility to tell any stories we want. We just have to take more responsibility of the films ourselves." In that moment, he realized that he was somewhat hypocritical and that he wasn’t doing that himself and decided that he needed to be more outgoing and transparent about the process.
He felt like in recognizing that the structure was broken, that he was being asked to fix it. That is when he took the first step by creating his blog, Hope for Film, where he still posts regularly. There, Hope is engaging with his community and connects with them about all things film as well as many other themes that connect them to him.
Raven Patton is a Development Apprentice for the Austin Film Society.