Industry Beat

by Anthony Kaufman

  • Two white men, one wearing a red hoodie and one wearing a blue zip-up, gaze upward. Solutions Based: Who Should Save Independent Film?

    The Sundance Film Festival is a time for movie watching, deal making, talent scouting and, often, much soul searching about the state and future of the independent film industry. This year in particular there was no shortage of media coverage and conversations about distribution and the sustainability of the independent business. As Sundance CEO Joana Vicente told The Ringer’s “The Town” podcast, “Everyone is thinking about solutions… How can we help and figure out how all these films find a home, and what’s our role in the distribution exhibition piece?” For Sundance’s more commercial films—of which there were several this…  Read more

    On Mar 18, 2024
    By on Mar 18, 2024 Columns
  • A black teenage boy hunches over a scooter on a street. Hits & Misses: How Six Sundance 2023 Titles Performed in Distribution

    After nearly flatlining during the pandemic years, American independent film saw some signs of life in 2023. While optimists might call it a year of transition as the industry looks for new audiences and a new equilibrium, cynics see an unsustainable and contracting arthouse marketplace, with most producers and distributors increasingly unable to recoup. But, if you look at the fates of last year’s Sundance titles, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.  For all the doom and gloom about the acquisitions market (“No one is buying films!”), 10 out of 12 films in this year’s Dramatic Competition…  Read more

    On Dec 15, 2023
    By on Dec 15, 2023 Columns
  • The Summer Labs at Sundance Resort Paradigm Shift: The Current State of Development Labs

    When the Tribeca Film Institute (TFI) announced in spring 2020 that they would shutter, many in the independent film community were shocked. For 17 years, TFI had supported hundreds of filmmakers and projects, including underrepresented artists, through its Tribeca All Access program, as well as Latin American filmmakers and VR visionaries. At the time, TFI’s closure appeared to be the result of a unique case of pandemic skittishness combined with its parent organization’s increasingly for-profit ambitions. Rather than an outlier, it may have been a sign of things to come. Given the lingering effects of the COVID era and the…  Read more

    On Sep 20, 2023
    By on Sep 20, 2023 Columns
  • Edy Modica, Mekki Leeper, Susan Berger, Ross Kimball, and Ronald Gladden in Jury Duty Peak TV is Over—What Comes Next?

    Remember “Peak TV”? It was a good run, starting more than a decade ago with the launch of filmmaker-driven shows such as Lena Dunham’s Girls on HBO, David Fincher’s House of Cards on Netflix and Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake on Sundance Channel, not to mention episodic heavyweights like Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Mad Men and The Walking Dead, all of which supplied steady work for a plethora of indie writers and directors. But that party is over—or at least taking a break. If the corporate mergers and media layoffs of the past year weren’t enough of a…  Read more

    On Jun 27, 2023
    By on Jun 27, 2023 Columns
  • A masked Alexei Navalny waves as he boards a plane while passengers take photos and videos of him. Hit & Misses: The 2022 Releases of Six Recent Sundance Features

    In just three (admittedly, very momentous) years, the marketplace for independent films has completely changed. During previous turning points over the decades, executives would use words like “waves” or “cycles” to describe instances of upheaval, but what’s happening now is more like a comprehensive reset. In a recent online article titled “The Sky is Falling, Take Shelter,” producer Rebecca Green wrote, “This year is unlike anything I’ve seen in the 20 years I’ve been working in this business.”  If Sundance and its films are a barometer for the independent film industry, consider this comparison: The pre-pandemic class of Sundance 2019…  Read more

    On Dec 15, 2022
    By on Dec 15, 2022 Columns
  • Communication Breakdown: Has the Pandemic Produced a Culture of No-Reply?

    U know what I hate? Financiers who ghost u after expressing lots of interest, asking for this that & the other thing, mtg w/yr team. I understand financiers who are too busy to reply in 1st place. But what's up w/ones who suddenly go cold after being so hot? DO NOT GHOST ME.❌👻 — Mynette Louie (@mynette) March 3, 2022 On March 2, 2022, Mynette Louie, producer of award-winning films like The Tale and I Carry You with Me, tweeted out the above complaint, railing against what anecdotally appears to be a lamentable industrywide trend of financier ghosting. Filmmakers and…  Read more

    On Oct 11, 2022
    By on Oct 11, 2022 Columns
  • Ricky D'Ambrose's The Cathedral Strategic Reassessments: Arthouse Distributors and the Theatrical-vs.-Streaming Debate

    Less than a year ago, it seemed like the sky was falling for independent films being released in theaters. Netflix’s stock was hitting record highs, the core demographic of older metropolitan moviegoers were staying home, and the entertainment complex was pivoting to the new normal of their subscription streaming overlords. Their dominance may ultimately prevail, but a more delicate and intricately linked dance between theatrical and streaming appears to be the future of releasing films. As an insider notes, “I think it’s swinging back towards theatrical, even though the end-goal is still about making the streaming stand out.”  To name…  Read more

    On Jul 14, 2022
    By on Jul 14, 2022 Columns
  • Goodbye to the 14-Hour Day: The Entertainment Industry’s Shifting Work/Life Balance

    “[I]t’s as if our whole society is burned out.”—The New York Times Magazine, Feb. 20, 2022  During the ongoing “Great Resignation,” tens of millions of Americans—including those in the film industry—have quit their jobs. But the employment shifts in the entertainment business have as much to do with people leaving their work as with reassessing the ways in which they work. After months of pandemic-mandated pauses and soul-searching, phrases such as “work/life balance” and “self-care”—previously anathema to a culture of all-hours dealmaking and work—have finally arrived. If, as one executive says, “14-hour workdays, sleep deprivation and, too often, unhealthy meals” used…  Read more

    On Apr 14, 2022
    By on Apr 14, 2022 Columns
  • Together Together Hits and Misses, Pandemic Edition 2.0: Anthony Kaufman Breaks Down Six Sundance 2020 Films’ Theatrical Releases

    According to Box Office Mojo, our contemporary plague ended on June 14, 2021—the last day the label “COVID-19 Pandemic” was included on its daily box office reporting. But don’t tell that to anyone trying to release a film in the second half of 2021, as viral variants spread widely across America, plunging the hopes of many filmmakers and distributors. Welcome to Pandemic: Year 2. The merciless persistence of the coronavirus and its wide-ranging impact on theatrical moviegoing and home viewing habits became more entrenched over the past several months—with indies on the losing end of the stick. Struggling to gain…  Read more

    On Jan 18, 2022
    By on Jan 18, 2022 Columns
  • The COVID Challenge: Arthouses Adjust to a Reconfigured Landscape

    In the Heights, Black Widow, Respect and Candyman—not typical indie-film fare, but because of the pressures of the ongoing pandemic on theatrical moviegoing, these are just some of the films arthouses have booked over the past several months. Granted, the supply of new available films was massively down, and theaters have been desperate to get audiences back into seats, but COVID-related shifts in arthouse exhibition have been significant, myriad and potentially long-lasting. And none of it is good for indie filmmakers. For example, here’s something you probably don’t want to hear from your neighborhood indie venue: “We’re seriously considering playing…  Read more

    On Oct 11, 2021
    By on Oct 11, 2021 Columns
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