Welcome to the winter 2024 issue of Filmmaker. If my editor’s letter last issue felt tentative in places, that was because, as I noted, the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes were underway, and I, like many, had given up predicting when they would end. Happily, as we now go to press, both strikes have been resolved, although the SAG-AFTRA membership vote, 78% in favor, evidenced some opposition to the contract’s AI provisions, which grapple with issues around artificial intelligence and “synthetic performers”—concepts that might have seemed like science fiction just a few years ago and are now very real issues in labor negotiations.
All of which is to say that even with the strikes over, disruptive change is affecting all aspects of the film business, making the present moment a time for both activism as well as learning. Our regular columnist Holly Willis writes about the latter in her Extra Curricular column as she discusses her work building a new class, “AI and Creativity,” at USC—a place where students can “think, make, critique and—eventually—help teach others.” AI is part of Emergence columnist Deniz Tortum’s regular beat, and this issue he meditates on how the VR work at this year’s Venice Biennale speaks to the ways in which human experiences are sliced and diced into “instances,” making us all live in our own parallel worlds. Anthony Kaufman explores the future by way of returning to the recent past in his Industry Beat column. As he does each winter, Kaufman diagnoses the state of independent film distribution through case studies of the previous year’s theatrical releases—a sobering report that, particularly in his takeaways from the makers of King Coal, illuminates possible future pathways. Pair this with Darren Hughes’s account of his launching, with Paul Harrill, of FILM FEST KNOX, a new regional festival, and begin imagining alternative distribution models less beholden to the A-list festivals and coastal markets.
Our cover film this quarter is The Taste of Things, Tran Anh Hung’s sumptuous story of love expressed through the art of French cooking. We are fortunate to have as Hung’s interviewer the great documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman, whose own recent Menus-Plaisirs—Les Troisgros, capturing as it does the rhythms and customs of a family-owned Michelin-starred restaurant in central France, is perfect companion viewing. Writer-director Lulu Wang interviews Andrew Haigh about his eerily beautiful ghost story of sorts, All of Us Strangers. And we also have two articles recapping 2023 in cinematography. Vadim Rizov returns with his survey of the year’s 35mm productions, while David Leitner provides a characteristically deep dive into the year’s major tech advancements. Finally, speaking of Holly Willis, we also reprint her cover story from our spring 1994 edition detailing the making (and Sundance dealmaking) of Rose Troche’s lesbian microbudget classic, Go Fish, which I can’t wait to see next month at Sundance in its newly restored edition.
See you next year.