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Unpredictable Tides: Distributors Talk Streamers, Foreign-Language Films in the U.S., and the Changing Festival Acquisitions Environment

Bad Education

With Toronto wrapped, New York upcoming and Sundance on the horizon, the film festival season is here, and distributors — particularly the traditional arthouse distributors — are facing tougher competition than ever. While critics and audiences struggle to keep up with the sheer volume of buzz-worthy films, industry executives must contend with tectonic shifts in the marketplace, ensuring in the process that their release slates are kept full of strong pictures.  In this new environment, when a pay TV outlet likes HBO scoops the competition by paying near $20 million for Toronto’s hot title, Bad Education, traditional distributors are often left in the lurch. They can be outbid at festivals by the streamers while titles they might have acquired at…  Read more

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Outer Visions: Leo Goldsmith and Gregory Zinman on Serving as Ad Astra‘s Experimental Film Consultants

Brad Pitt in Ad Astra

It’s a rare thing for scholars to be asked to serve as advisors on studio films of any size, no matter the topic. (Hell, we’re usually not even asked to authenticate representations of academia itself.) So, it came as a pleasant surprise indeed for Brooklyn-based scholar and curator Leo Goldsmith and Georgia Tech film and media professor Gregory Zinman when they were asked by director James Gray to serve as advisors on his latest film, Ad Astra, scheduled for a September release by 20th Century Fox. Said to be a moody, existential science fiction film (Zinman and Goldsmith have read the script but are sworn to secrecy, and the film hasn’t screened at press time), Ad Astra posed certain challenges…  Read more

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“If You Really Want To Make Something You Get Creative”: Experimental Documentarians Talk About Thinking Outside The Box At IFP Week 2019

The Hottest August

Documentaries don’t have to play by the rules of fiction films. Take a non-fiction hit like Won’t You Be My Neighbor?: It doesn’t merely tell a linear story so much as jump around subjects, with Fred Rogers’ life as a basic foundation. (Compare/contrast with the forthcoming Tom Hanks-starrer A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, which zeroes in on one slice of his career.) But some documentaries go way out there. The IFP 2019 panel “Out of Bounds” rounded up four creatives — two filmmakers, one editor, and a producer tasked with helping people like them find funding and distribution — who push the boundaries of what constitutes a documentary, or even what constitutes a movie. Take Cameraperson. For her directorial…  Read more

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“My Advice Is To Basically Get Help”: Industry Experts Explain The Quirks And Nuances Of Tax Incentives

The tax credit panel at IFP Week 2019

If there’s one basic, all-encompassing piece of advice to take away from the IFP Week 2019 panel “Where Do We Go From Here?” concerning those crippling migraines known as tax incentives it’s this: Talk to someone. Even if you’re that rare filmmaker with a head for business, tax incentives (and grants, and rebates) can be mind-foggingly complicated. “Talk to someone” and variations on it are uttered again and again by the three panelists and their moderator, John Hadity, an industry veteran who knows as much about the subject as they do. “All the programs, they sound familiar,” Hadity said. “But they’re very nuanced, they’re very different, from one territory of the next.” On numerous occasions during the panel, Hadity suggested…  Read more

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“You Give The Other Artist You Work With Individual Space To Be Free”: Ira Sachs On Writing Frankie With Mauricio Zacharias

Isabelle Huppert in Frankie

Ira Sachs will get a lot of the credit for his latest film, Frankie, an ensemble drama with an all-star cast anchored by top-billed Isabelle Huppert, playing an international movie star whos been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Many will call it “Ira Sach’s Frankie” and single him out as its main creator. But just as the film isn’t only about Huppert’s character (Brendan Gleeson, Marisa Tomei, Greg Kinnear play her blended family), Frankie is not just about Sachs. Only one of his features, his 1996 debut The Delta, has been written solo. And four of the rest, Frankie included, have been a tag team effort with his co-writer, Mauricio Zacharias. The two came to IFP Week 2019 to talk about…  Read more

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Wavelength Productions Announces WAVE Grant to Support a First-Time Female Filmmaker of Color

Wavelength Productions, the 90% female-helmed production company whose credits include the 2019 Sundance titles Knock the House Down, Where’s My Roy Cohn and Selah and the Spades, announced today the WAVE grant “dedicated to supporting women of color in telling their own ‘great f**king story.'” The grant, which is accompanied by 40 hours of professional mentorship by the Wavelength team, will award $5,000 to a first-time female filmmaker of color to support her very first documentary or narrative film, which should run between six and 20 minutes. “At Wavelength Productions, we know that women have the power to not just break down barriers in this industry but to change the industry fundamentally, which is why we have always chosen to…  Read more

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“Certainly Show Business Has Made Me Very Angry At Times”: Kasi Lemmons Talks Directing Harriet At IFP Week 2019

Cynthia Erivo in Harriet (Photo: Glen Wilson / Focus Features)

When Kasi Lemmons got the job of directing Harriet, a biopic about the abolitionist Harriet Tubman, she didn’t get to choose her star: That was already done for her. Cynthia Erivo, the Tony- and Grammy-winning performer and scene-stealer of Steve McQueen’s Widows, had been cast a year before the acclaimed director and actress had come on. But it didn’t take long for her to agree with the casting. “As I was doing my research, I got this picture of his woman, who is tiny, and strong, and fast, and who uses her voice to communicate, and who is a formidable force of nature,” Lemmons told the crowd at IFP Week 2019, at a panel dedicated to her and Harriet, which…  Read more

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“I Think Everything is the Director’s Fault”: Steven Soderbergh on The Laundromat, LLCs and Systemic Corruption

Meryl Streep and Jeffrey Wright in The Laundromat

Ever the productive workhorse, Steven Soderbergh has released two movies on Netflix this year. The first: High Flying Bird, a sharply scripted drama set behind the scenes at the NBA that follows a canny sport agent whose end game is to shift the financial power from white owners to black players, i.e. to seize the means (or balls) of production. The second: The Laundromat, a Big Short-style anthology film about the Panama Papers leak that explains the proliferation of offshore bank accounts and tax havens, specifically those provided by the firm Mossack Fonseca, and follows the victims of these global financial crimes. Both films are the latest entries in Soderbergh’s anti-capitalist critiques, which accounts for most of his post-00s output,…  Read more

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