TWILIGHT TIME'S NICK REDMAN (2011 / 2012) - Page 1

March 2012 marks the one-year anniversary of Twilight Time, one of several independent video labels whose goal is to release catalogue titles that have slipped under the radar of the major labels, such as 1952's My Cousin Rachel, and the relatively recent Fright Night (1985).

When the interviews for this label profile took place in late November of 2011, the home video business had already gone through several substantive changes from which there’s basically no going back: less classic films are being released by the major studios on DVD and Blu-ray, and the very nature of how these films are being release has started the move from the once bountiful seasonal boxed sets, themed actor & director collections, series, and tribute reissues, to an on-demand style of distribution.

This is an important stage in the ongoing evolution of film distribution, because from the debut of the videotape, studios have been wrestling with the issue of what constitutes an old film’s worth, if not the desire to maintain absolute ownership as titles slowly fall into the realm known as Public Domain: roughly 50 to 70 years after the "creation of publication," a work loses its copyrighted status and can be reproduced, distributed and sold by anyone, as there is no rights holder. (Copyright term limits have been extended in recent years in the United Stares and Europe, making the simplest definition of a copyrighted work rather tenuous.)

A film’s worth during the 1920s through the 1940s was ostensibly tied to its ability to make money through its first-run domestic and international release, and reissues. When television became a venue to sell packages of old film catalogues to TV during the 1940s and 1950s, classic movies were given a third life, and whole libraries of once-dead stock circulated domestically and internationally on the Idiot Box.

This proved useful, as studios realized the ongoing circulation of their product on the small screen ensured certain stars, genres, and series remained popular, if not familiar with new generations of movie fans. However, it became clear over time that viewing habits could no longer be fully controlled: if one could see old movies – any movies – for free on TV, why pay to see a movie in a theatre, with added travel, parking, and food costs?

Videotape democratized the process of viewing, renting, and taping classic films on a massive scale because the gear and the media (pre-recorded and blank) were available everywhere, and while initially viewed by studios as a threat to theatrical revenues, the formal genesis of home video spawned the biggest exploitation of catalogue material. From VHS to Beta, laserdisc to DVD, every kind of film from around the world seemed to exist on physical media whose only restrictions were, in the case of DVD, formal region coding, or TV standards like PAL, NTSC, and SECAM for older tape and disc-based formats

Studios still owned the bulk of their film catalogue, and there seemed to be no end to the venues where a single movie could live on; if not on tape or disc, then pay-per-view, pay TV, specialty cable channels, and syndication.

But by 2011, the profitability of older catalogue material – in terms of 15-20 year old films – had started to wane, and the standard distribution model of pressing tens of thousands of copies of a 1942 noir, a 1958 soap opera, a 1975 disaster film, or a 1982 drive-in horror film wasn’t logical. The solutions have included not releasing anything, only reissuing top-selling catalogue titles, licensing titles to independent labels, and self-distributing titles through online-only venues as streamed, digitally downloadable, or pressed on-demand DVD-Rs.

The current state of the industry is more unstable than it’s ever been because no one can see where it’ll settle for a while, and studios are attempting to meet demand of a consumer base whose behavioral methods of experiencing, acquiring, and archiving products is still changing. Exactly what films will remain popular is unknown; whether current interest in a specific range of catalogue titles will evaporate forever within a handful of years is unknown; and whether the concept of copyright will shift from something absolute towards degrees of limited ownership is unknown.

Twilight Time isn’t alone in recognizing the value of older films, their importance to film history, and a hungry fan base starving for new goodies, but the label represents an example of how classic films may end up surviving on a physical medium, and reaching an increasingly smaller / niche audience of classic film fans.

The first of this multi-part label profile begins with a discussion with Nick Redman, a veteran of the soundtrack business (including specialty labels Bay Cities, and later Fox Records), co-producer of the Oscar-Nominated documentary The Wild Bunch: An Album in Montage (1997), and now producer at Twilight Time, co-founded with Brian Jamieson, and whose titles are exclusively distributed by veteran online soundtrack merchant Screen Archives Entertainment.

At the end of this Q&A are several links towards related interviews & articles that expand on subjects, topics, and issues touched upon in this discussion.


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