Industry Beat

by Anthony Kaufman

  • Madeline Brewster in Cam (courtesy of Netflix) Crisis of Representation: Why Independent Filmmakers Still Need Agents and Managers

    “If you want to work in Hollywood, you must have representation,” says one industry veteran. That’s been a longstanding rule in the entertainment business for the past several decades. Despite the battle between the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and Hollywood’s big talent agencies over packaging fees, and the thousands of writers who subsequently fired their agents, and even amidst the plethora of new outlets and disruptive distribution technologies, independent filmmakers are still largely subject to the traditional forms of gatekeeping. (And directors haven’t had to fire their agents—at least, not yet.) So, that leaves emerging filmmakers still dependent on…  Read more

    On Jun 19, 2019
    By on Jun 19, 2019Columns
  • Chris Galust and Lauren “Lolo” Spencer in Give Me Liberty, courtesy of Sundance Institute Digital Haves and Have-Nots: Disappearing SVOD Deals and Independent Film

    Subscription streaming services are dominating the independent film marketplace—in more ways than you think.  Yes, Amazon dropped nearly $50 million at Sundance to buy several movies, and Netflix spent another $25 million in the days and weeks that followed. Beyond inflating acquisition costs over industry norms, the outsized influence of the over-the-top new media giants are affecting all sectors of the distribution business. Some industry veterans suggest this isn’t so different from previous bullish markets when well-heeled specialty divisions like the Weinstein Company or Fox Searchlight drove up prices. “Sundance has been competitive for years, so I’m not sure it’s…  Read more

    On Mar 14, 2019
    By on Mar 14, 2019Columns
  • Minding the Gap Can Critics’s Awards and Top Ten Mentions Boost Revenues for Independent Films?

    Do critics matter? Maybe. But do critics’ top ten lists matter? There’s little doubt within the industry that an Academy Award nomination (or win) can provide an extraordinary boost to a film’s profile, especially smaller independent films who need the long tail of awards recognition more than most. Think of last year’s The Florida Project or Faces Places. But what about all those year-end numerical rankings and lists, proffered by that dwindling professional entity known as the film critic? He’s no Oscar, but when the New York Times’ A.O. Scott puts your little film at the top of his year-end…  Read more

    On Jan 14, 2019
    By on Jan 14, 2019Columns
  • Milly Shapiro, Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne and Alex Wolff in Hereditary (Photo by James Minchin, courtesy of A24) Sundance Hits and Misses: How MoviePass, Politics and Streaming Boosted the Indie Theatrical Box Office of 2018

    It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. After theatrical box office numbers for indies looked hopeless last year, 2018 proved all the doomsayers wrong. That’s thanks to such non-Hollywood hits as Hereditary, a Sundance Midnight entry partially financed and released by A24, which grossed more than $44 million in the United States and $35 million internationally. And it’s thanks to Searching, a Screen Gems acquisition out of the NEXT section, which grossed $26 million domestically and another $42 million abroad. Even Sundance’s 16-film Dramatic Competition — which offers a decent test sample of the overall truly indie marketplace — saw…  Read more

    On Dec 17, 2018
    By on Dec 17, 2018Columns
  • Chameleon Street, courtesy of Atlas Industries. Checkpoints: Independent Film’s Gatekeeper Problem

    The good news: Film festivals and film-support organizations in the United States have never been more vocal in their support of underrepresented filmmakers. At Sundance 2018, the number of films made by women (37%) and people of color (more than 30 projects) was at an all-time high. And other events are following suit. But the bad news is that the independent film business’s gatekeepers—the programmers and critics who have the power to make or break these films in the marketplace—remain an #IndustrySoWhiteandMale.  To be sure, there have been gains in these areas. This May, Sundance hired Kim Yutani as its…  Read more

    On Sep 17, 2018
    By on Sep 17, 2018Columns
  • Haley Lu Richardson and Rory Culkin in Columbus (Photo by Elisha Christian/Courtesy of Superlative Film/Depth of Field) Wide Open or Ajar: Theatrical Windows in the VOD Age

    It used to be so simple: Release a movie in theaters and, several months later, it would come to your local video store. Nowadays, each and every film’s release pattern and chosen distribution platforms are—or, at least, should be—idiosyncratic, unique, and specifically tailored. “The first thing you have to ask yourself,” distribution consultant Michael Tuckman says, “is who is your audience, and work backwards from there to figure out what windowing you’re going to do.” If the target audience is a young demographic who spend most of their time on devices, then, according to The Orchard’s Paul Davidson, “a SVOD…  Read more

    On Jun 11, 2018
    By on Jun 11, 2018Columns
  • The Miseducation of Cameron Post, courtesy of Sundance Institute Was 2018 the Year of the Woman at the Sundance Film Festival?

    After the Sundance Film Festival’s awards ceremony, when female directors swept all the top categories, the response was ecstatic. “Women dominated Sundance,” cried the headlines. Social media blew up with congratulatory hashtags #womeninfilm and #femalefilmmakerfriday. “It felt like a revolutionary moment,” says Celine Rattray, who produced Sara Colangelo’s directing-award winner The Kindergarten Teacher. At the festival’s opening press conference, Robert Redford’s most memorable line was: “The role of men right now is to listen.” But did the film industry hear that? More than two weeks after Sundance concluded, five of the festival’s female-led jury winners had still not closed distribution…  Read more

    On Mar 8, 2018
    By on Mar 8, 2018Columns
  • Elizabeth Olsen and Aubrey Plaza in Ingrid Goes West, courtesy of Neon Hits and Misses: Anthony Kaufman Surveys the Sundance Class of ’17

    The headlines said it all: “Hollywood Faces  August Death March,” “Bummer Summer” and “Beleaguered Box Office.” OK, Hollywood had a tough year, but does that necessarily apply to independent films? Well, as the saying goes, a receding tide sinks all boats. And so it was in 2017: If people were going out to fewer movies and streaming more episodic content at home, it affected both indie films and tentpoles. But if we look back at the films that premiered at Sundance 2017, there are a few instances to inspire hope: The Big Sick, of course, was the big one; Wind…  Read more

    On Dec 14, 2017
    By on Dec 14, 2017Columns
  • Andrew Harpending in Poison (Photo courtesy of Zeitgeist Films) No New Waves

    I love movements, manifestos, new waves and artistic revolutions. While studying film in New York City in the early 1990s, I was inspired by the French New Wave, enamored by Italian Neorealism and provoked by the New German Cinema. But something exciting was also happening in the United States at that time: There was the Black New Wave, the New Queer Cinema. Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs was about to open in theaters, ushering in, for better or for worse, a flurry of low-budget, testosterone-fueled crime dramas. A few years later, my mind was blown by Lars von Trier’s The Idiots,…  Read more

    On Sep 14, 2017
    By on Sep 14, 2017Columns
  • Everybody's Nuts (Photo courtesy of Fabian Euresti) Credit Risk: Student Debt’s Impact on Post-University Film Careers

    “My credit isn’t what it used to be,” admits Fabian Euresti, who graduated from the film directing program at California Institute of the Arts in 2010. A child of farm laborers in the San Joaquin Valley, Euresti made shorts, including 2010’s Everybody’s Nuts, that have played at prestigious film festivals in Europe (Vienna, Oberhausen, Tampere) and the U.S. (Los Angeles, Full Frame), but he’s currently got more than $100,000 in student debt and remains without a steady job to pay it down. “Knowing what I know now,” says Euresti, “I would have been more diligent in procuring grants and scholarships…  Read more

    On Jun 16, 2017
    By on Jun 16, 2017Columns
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