I recently hit my three-month mark in Digital Content Acquisitions here at The Orchard, and in the span of those jam-packed 90 days, our team has been working nonstop to seek out and close deals on top-tier cinematic fare for release on our myriad of digital channels.
Late summer is traditionally considered a slow period for film acquisitions thanks largely to a drought in major film festivals and a tendency for most film folk to take lengthy vacations—this is not so for The Orchard team. An increased demand for high-quality non-theatrical content (in addition to our dozen or so theatrical titles) means our small department has been hard at work during the summer months, combing through a wealth of submissions. Seeing as our film team has doubled in size within the course of several months, our strategy this year is to divide and conquer.
While half of our team is hard at work searching for The Orchard-quality theatrical titles at the major domestic and international festivals–including Toronto, Sundance, Berlin and Cannes–the other half (myself included) will focus on as many of the regional and genre festivals as we can manage.
October will be a particularly swamped month, as we scour three of the more renowned North American regional festivals—Vancouver, New Orleans and Chicago—for direct-to-digital content. While these regionals tend to have a lower profile than market-heavy festivals like Sundance, they remain the lifeblood of indie and arthouse cinema in the US and abroad. Their programs tend to be quite extensive; a mix of indie gems that have slipped through the cracks of bigger festivals to buzzy standouts—many of which have yet to secure distribution deals—making them an ideal spot to snap up quality content to release through our digital and ancillary channels. The generally low-key nature also provides a wonderful atmosphere in which to interface with filmmakers, producers and actors from around the world, largely free from sales-related pressures. With so many of the country’s venerated arthouse cinemas closing down or rejecting their indie routes, regional fests give filmmakers working outside of the Hollywood studio system a rare opportunity to screen their work for audiences hungrier for more sophisticated material.
Over the course of the coming year, we aim to journey to over a dozen of these large regional festivals around North America, including San Francisco, Cleveland, Montclair, Nashville and Seattle. Like the diverse cities that house them, each of these festivals boast a unique mission statement and a varying take on the current state of film. With any luck, our team will walk away from each with a handful of wonderful titles to add to The Orchard’s esteemed slate. Keep your fingers crossed as we embark on a yearlong expedition around the continent!