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Left to Right: David Abel, Bill Lancaster, Tom Kemp, and Sam Slater

The College of Arts, Media and Design (CAMD)’s Department of Communication Studies hosted a panel discussion about the future of films and production, featuring Sam Slater, independent filmmaker; Tom Kemp, veteran actor; and David Abel, Pulitzer-winning documentarian and reporter for The Boston Globe. It was a full-house as these industry experts, moderated by Communication Studies faculty member Bill Lancaster, explored how streamlining platforms like Netflix and Amazon are changing the way films (specifically indie films) are made, distributed, and received.

The different backgrounds and work experience of the three guests made the panel discussion lively and multidimensional.

“Though all three of the panelists came from different worlds, each one has been affected by the changes in the way the film industry works,” said CAMD student Richard Petrilli, who is in the Media and Screen Studies program and attended the event. “It was interesting to hear from and speak with people working at different levels of the industry.”

Full house for Future of Film panel discussion.

Slater, who is a well-known producer, had a lot to offer on the feature film side of the industry. At one point, he even noted that these indie film productions may not exist in a few years as Netflix, Amazon, and Apple seek to create their own content rather than purchase indie content at film festivals. This is a trend that most people have started to notice as more and more original content from these streaming platforms skyrocket in popularity.

Kemp, who is an alumnus of Northeastern University, shared a very different perspective as an actor, especially his involvement and interactions with the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). When it comes to the future of film, Kemp talked about how in this time, in many ways, it is much easier to find jobs because there is so much more content being produced; there are far more outlets to publish and push out films to audiences. He lightheartedly admitted to the audience, though, that projects do tend to garner less revenue now, and joked residual checks are much smaller now than they used to be.

Abel, who has taught at Northeastern University in the past, described documentary filmmaking as a passion project, so naturally, this motivation makes the future – whatever that may be — slightly less influential and potentially unnerving. He kept it real with the audience and mentioned that unlike narrative films, they have rarely been profitable to begin with!

Panelists share their thoughts and experiences.

“Though there is certainly ambiguity around the future of film and production, it was eye-opening to know that we, as students, are not the only ones trying to predict how the production landscape will change,” concluded Richard. “In a way, the open-ended nature of the industry could truly be positive, as it means that all students aren’t going to have to follow the same concrete paths in order to move up in the industry, as would be the case in another field.”