NSI Features First – Chilling with Producer Martin Katz

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Take cover ’cause I’m droppin’ knowledge bombs.

We had a mind blowing discussion today with Canadian Producer Martin Katz from Prospero Pictures. Katz (pronounced Kaits) is most known for his Producing work with David Cronenberg. He’s also been a long-time advocate of new media content and has his fingers firmly on the pulse of the industry, in Canada and around the world. Our chat focused on the state of the film production industry in Canada and what the landscape is like for new and emerging filmmakers.

Martin Katz

Martin Katz – Prospero Pictures

Consider this: we’re living in a world where Television is carving more and more out of the Feature Film market. TV is getting so insanely good these days, (think Game of Thrones, True Detective, or Breaking Bad) that audiences are finding it harder and harder to justify a $100 night out at the movies (after dinner, tickets, popcorn, parking, babysitter…). Piracy is making the problem even worse.

Getting audiences to go to the theatre is THE problem distributors are facing right now. And this problem isn’t getting better.

Not only that, but content creators are turning to the TV series model as an outlet to tell better stories. They have more time to flesh out their characters, develop deeper arcs and more engaging content. Simply put: Breaking Bad COULD NOT have been a movie. (It also means shorter days and a steadier paycheque).

This Summer: He’s Breaking Bad…Again…

So where does that put Feature Films? And more personally, where does that put emerging filmmakers like Matt and I? Do we jump ship and start focusing solely on TV?

No. But we have to be strategic. We have to always consider what’s selling, and why.

For now, the trick is in the spectacle. Audiences want to go to the theatre for the experience, not just the movie. A movie is a contained 90-120-minute story, designed for the amount of time people will stay comfortable in a seat. We have to use the most of that time to satisfy the audience’s craving for things you can’t enjoy at home.

I’m not saying you need a $300M blockbuster to get people to the theatre. We as filmmakers need to treat our story as an opportunity for a breath of fresh air for our audiences. We need to give them a great reason to get off their couches, turn off their phones, pay way too much for popcorn and sit in a dark room for 2-hours next to a smelly dude eating nachos (guilty as charged). That reason can be a big star, a great premise, spectacular reviews, a big secret (a la Cloverfield) etc.

Good news: there’s still a place for cinematic Movie Theatre movies. There’s a place for the 2-hour dramas that have a great festival run then make money on iTunes and Netflix. Features are far from comatose, they’re just sleepy. And this industry changes on a dime, so features could be the next big thing.

So what about the Collective Experience? A comedy is funnier when you’re in a full theatre of people laughing. Martin’s thoughts: the collective experience is important, but they used to say that about the great sound record players produced. iPods are tinny and sound like crap, but NOBODY CARES. So is the Collective Experience turning into a thing only our kids’ parents care about?

Only time will tell.

Today’s Top Tips:

  • When you’re developing your movie, ask yourself: will audiences pay to see this? I mean strangers, not mom. (Hi mom how’s my blog? Great right?)
  • Timing is everything in this industry. You can have a movie in the works for YEARS, but then your “futuristic dystopian world about riots against corrupt bankers” movie comes out 6 months after Occupy Wall Street and it feels like old news (reference to Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis).
  • Don’t write a script based on what the industry is looking for right now. By the time your script is ready, they’ll have moved on to the next hot thing.
  • In the development phase, you’re crafting a product. That product isn’t your movie yet. At this phase, you’re selling a project, a director, a star, a screenplay. The more elements you can attach to your “product”, the more saleable it will be.
  • How to choose a medium: weigh the project you’re working on with how you’re going to get it seen, and how effective that medium will be to TELL YOUR STORY. (Story first, remember?)

If you have ANY questions please drop them in the comments or get in touch on Social Media.


About the Author:

Scott Westby is a Writer, Director and Producer in Calgary's film industry. He's a 2008 graduate of SAIT's Film & VIdeo Production Program, and has years of experience in strategic marketing and content creation for traditional and new media. A Taco/Slurpee enthusiast and a hater of mushrooms.
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  1. Mom  March 26, 2014

    Best blogging ever!!


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