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
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
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
Where Have the Low-Budget Movies Gone?
While streamer-backed productions promise a golden future for a lucky few, for most independent filmmakers these days, it’s more challenging to subsist by making the sort of professionally budgeted, less than $3 million films that used to be hallmarks of the sector. One significant reason, according to producers, is that it’s much more difficult to shoot a nonunion film. IATSE has become a more dominant force in the independent industry, which has consequently expanded budgets well above that number. “I don’t think you can do a union movie for less than $3 million,” says one producer. Although some nonunion shows… Read more
As the Calendar Rolls Around: Producers and Sellers on the Pandemic-Altered ’21 Festival Season.
For more than 40 years, there was a certainty to the film festival calendar—a comfort in knowing that, since 1978, when the Berlin International Film Festival moved to February, followed by Cannes in May, and Venice in the fall, there were three distinct seasons for producers, sales agents and buyers to meet, see films and make deals. But in 2021, things are different, of course. While the inflection points of the business cycle—winter, summer, fall—remain somewhat in place, the ongoing pandemic has scrambled the dates, formats and plans for hundreds of film events, upending launch strategies and causing potential logjams… Read more
Sundance Hits and Misses, Pandemic Edition
Yes, 2020 sucked. The worst year of our lives finally came to an end, and most independent films and filmmakers, like just about everything and everyone else, suffered. Grand Jury Prize winners were delayed, critics’ favorites were lost and buzzworthy breakouts, briefly the talk of Park City, remained in limbo, waiting for some nebulous future release date when movie theaters might re-open and vaccinated audiences might attend them. Normally, you could look back at a year’s worth of top Sundance titles, examine what became of them in distribution—as Filmmaker usually does—and glean some takeaways about the state of the marketplace.… Read more
The Clock is Ticking: Filmmakers on Surviving Through the Pandemic
Time may be running out for independent filmmakers. Sure, even as the pandemic has completely disrupted their entire workflows and business models, they’re a scrappy and resourceful bunch. Like restaurants pivoting to drive-thru, delivery and take-out to outlast our current infectious plague, filmmakers are moving forward in myriad ways, whether in post-production on already completed films, developing new scripts or trying to produce new films self-insured by funders with scaled-down crews and robust coronavirus prevention measures in place. But survival is tricky right now and dogged perseverance may only work for so long. To stay afloat, for example, one New… Read more
Can You Finance an Independent Film During a Pandemic?
In the middle of the global pandemic and one of the worst economic downturns in a century, Maven Pictures’ Celine Rattray, a producer of Driveways, The Kindergarten Teacher and American Honey, had several projects interrupted. But in early April, a timely new project—in which the crew and cast could work remotely from their own homes—was suddenly greenlit. She spoke to a private equity investor who she believed would be a good fit for the film, budgeted at six figures, and the financier agreed to fully fund it during their phone call. “The deal closed in a couple days,” says Rattray.… Read more
Two or Three Things They Know About You: Marketing Independent Film with Behavioral Data
Dear filmmakers, surveillance capitalism is your friend. Like every other thing we purchase nowadays, movies have been subsumed into the new digital economy, where behavioral data, influence campaigns and social media marketing are an integral part of doing business. Morally, you might have a problem with Mark Zuckerberg’s corporate practices, but there’s no getting around the fact that Facebook and Instagram hold some of the most powerful tools to reach people and manipulate their decision-making—including their choice of which movie to see on a given weekend. “It’s definitely been a help for smaller filmmakers,” says Stephen Metzger, director of marketing… Read more
Hits & Misses 2019: Surveying the Success of the Sundance Film Festival’s Theatrical Releases
The times, they keep a-changin’. In its immediate aftermath, the story out of Sundance 2019 was its bounteous acquisition market and record-setting sales numbers—from New Line’s $15 million purchase of Blinded by the Light to Amazon Studios’ $27 million splurge on Late Night and Brittany Runs a Marathon. By the summer, a different narrative began to emerge. While these top acquisition titles earned millions of dollars at the box office, they all still under-performed in theatrical release. Then, Amazon Studios’ veteran head of theatrical distribution Bob Berney left the company, a departure that potentially signaled shifting priorities at what had… Read more