The New Establishment 2012 top pick: Avi Federgreen

Federgreen recently started distribution shingle IndieCan Entertainment and River Valley Films, a production company focused on helping Alberta's struggling indie filmmakers.
Avi 2-1 undertook a social media campaign in the summer, asking the screen industry who is shaking things up and may be charting the industry’s new course. The New Establishment search was a smashing success–thanks to everyone who sent in names for Playback to consider! Herewith the top pick.

The buzz: Recently started innovative distribution shingle IndieCan Entertainment, and River Valley Films, a production company focused on helping Alberta’s struggling indie filmmakers.

How did IndieCan come to be?

I exec produced a movie called Moon Point. We tried to get funding, and we got turned down every time. We made the film for $75,000. I couldn’t get a distributor, couldn’t get a broadcaster, couldn’t get anything. So I said, ‘To heck with it, this is the launching pad for my own distribution company.’

What’s your mandate with IndieCan?

There aren’t enough distributors for the amount of content we’re making. The under $1.25 million films have the hardest time getting a distributor. I want to try to help that community. If other distributors can’t take these films and I like the film, I’ll do everything I can to help the filmmaker get the film out there.

How does the distribution strategy differ with Indiecan from that of other distribution indies or boutique players?

My philosophy for IndieCan is that conventional marketing distribution doesn’t work anymore. The internet drives audience.

[We also] need to find other ways of monetizing movies. You can’t just make a movie and assume that’s the only revenue stream. Do a soundtrack in conjunction with the movie, or get a book deal. Find other ways, which big American movies do, but we don’t really do with Canadian movies.

What kind of distribution are you looking for? Festivals, theatres, international?

We need to talk to exhibitors and encourage them to put our films in the theatres.  Exhibitors, of course, have obligations to big studios to save place for their films.  A lot of times, unfortunately, those studio films get first priority. There needs to be a percentage dedicated for Canadian films to be put in theatres.

What are some successes IndieCan has seen so far?

Since it started in November, I released Moon Point myself. It got a two-week run in February at the Yonge-Dundas theatre in Toronto. Then I played it in [cities across the country]. That garnered me a sale to Air Canada, a sale to TMN, and a DVD distribution deal.

After Moon Point I distributed a doc named Peace Out. It started winning at film festivals. It won the audience in Vancouver at VIFF. Then it came to Hot Docs and it won the special jury prize for Best Canadian Documentary. The moment it won at Hot Docs, I got it in [multiple theatres], and sold it to Air Canada and Super Channel.

Why did you start River Valley Films?

I was in Edmonton for the premiere of Score: A Hockey Musical in 2010 and talked to a number of filmmakers who are dying to make films, but don’t really have the opportunity. So I said, I really think I need to do something. When I opened up IndieCan I said, ‘Maybe now’s the time to make it happen.’

I called a friend of mine, Guy Lavallee. I said, ‘I want to develop projects in Alberta, written by Albertans, Directed by Albertans, shot in Alberta. What do you think?’ He said, ‘I love it.’ So we thought of a name, and we announced it the week before I went to premiere Moon Point in Edmonton.

At the Sunday afternoon screening of Moon Point I decided to hold a ‘pitchfest.’ I figured I’d get eight to 10 people to come pitch me. The session lasted five and a half hours. One filmmaker drove from Fort McMurray to Edmonton just to get five minutes with me. I thought, ‘This is a problem. Why are we in this position?’ And I was adamant that we were going to do something.

What types of projects are you looking for to produce through River Valley, if anything in particular?

It all starts at the idea. The script doesn’t have to be a home run, but if I see the potential in taking this great idea and making a great script, that can attract a great director, a great cast, money and an audience, then I’m in.

What can you say about River Valley’s progress since its launch?

We optioned a script called, The Folk Singer. We’re developing with the writer now. And hopefully we’ll get it into shape that we can shoot it either next year or the year after. We’re not going to take on tons of projects from the beginning, but we’re actively looking for feature film projects to develop and shoot in Alberta.

We’re also in negotiations on a second project out of the ‘pitchfest.’

What’s next for you?

I want to keep making movies that affect people. If I can keep making and distributing those films, then I’ll be happy as a clam.