Industry Beat

by Anthony Kaufman

  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • The Trump Effect

    When Moonlight won the Academy Award for Best Picture, writer-director Barry Jenkins and his team weren’t the only ones celebrating. For many filmmakers, the Moonlight triumph was both a victory for indies but also a rebuke against the racism, sexism and prejudice of Trump’s America. It was, perhaps, the entertainment industry’s biggest embrace of “the Resistance” yet. But the Trump regime isn’t just affecting awards shows and celebrity Twitter accounts. Financiers and producers speak about an uncertain marketplace, fueled by the wild vacillations of the Trump presidency, which has the ability to both hinder and bolster independent films. Yellow Bear…  Read more

    On Apr 13, 2017
    By on Apr 13, 2017Columns
  • Hits & Misses: The Theatrical Performance of the Sundance Class of ’16

    How do you measure success these days?  When more than two million people vote for you over the other guy and you still lose? When you receive no endorsements from a single major newspaper, your party’s leadership practically ignores you, and you still win? Or, perhaps, when your heralded Sundance acquisition earns a whopping $15.8 million at the box office, but you spend more than twice that in acquisition fees and prints and advertising costs to release it? (i.e., The Birth of a Nation). How about if your film isn’t released in theaters at all, but Netflix paid $5 million…  Read more

    On Jan 18, 2017
    By on Jan 18, 2017Columns
  • The Music Fades

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    On Oct 20, 2016
    By on Oct 20, 2016Columns
  • The Digital Lowdown

    Is online distribution a boon to independent filmmakers or a boatload of false promises? Given that streaming/downloading is the primary way that many audiences are now consuming content, this may be the most pressing and important question for today’s business-savvy independent filmmakers. But it’s difficult to discern the answer. For one reason, the digital distribution revolution is always evolving, and what was standard procedure three years ago is no longer the norm. A few years ago, everyone was talking about multiplatform day-and-date hits Margin Call, Arbitrage and Bachelorette — starry films that received huge grosses through simultaneous theatrical and digital…  Read more

    On Jul 25, 2016
    By on Jul 25, 2016Columns
  • Upstream and Downstream: 5 Observations about Independent Film Distribution at the 2016 Midpoint

    The following article appears in our Spring, 2016 print edition and is appearing from behind our paywall today for the first time. Will 2016 be remembered as the year that Amazon and Netflix gobbled up the indie film market? Probably. While the two online behemoths could always change their strategies in the next several months, the ramifications of their first quarter dominance stretched far and wide, sending shockwaves through the business. But there were other changes afoot, as well. Here are five industry trends that continue to linger long after Park City. 1. The Enduring Impact of Amazon and Netflix Okay, Amazon…  Read more

    On Jun 16, 2016
    By on Jun 16, 2016Columns
  • Hits & Misses: How Seven Films from Sundance 2015 Performed

    The health and identity of American independent cinema has always been difficult to gauge and define, but Sundance is our default arbiter and explainer. Of course, indie film exists far beyond the limits of Park City in January, but the festival gives the nebulous American indie sector a test sample — and as any scientist will tell you, that’s the first step in making an accurate hypothesis. So what can the films of Sundance 2015 clarify about the state of American indies, now and in the future? Some trends can be attributed to random cycles and one-time events, but there…  Read more

    On Jan 20, 2016
    By on Jan 20, 2016Columns
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