Industry Beat

by Anthony Kaufman

  • 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, 2018 Columns
  • 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, 2018 Columns
  • 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, 2018 Columns
  • 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, 2017 Columns
  • 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, 2017 Columns
  • 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, 2017 Columns
  • 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, 2017 Columns
  • 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, 2017 Columns
  • The Music Fades

    With a name like Fortissimo Films, that could have been the company’s unofficial motto in its early years — fortissimo, of course, defined in music terms as an instruction to play notes with force. The 25-year-old international sales company boldly took on challenging arthouse cinema, from the likes of Wong Kar-wai, Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Jim Jarmusch, and championed them in global markets with a deafening level of commitment. But earlier this year, the sales company went silent, declaring bankruptcy and signaling not just the end of the respected arthouse giant, but as former Focus Features CEO James Schamus says, “the…  Read more

    On Oct 20, 2016
    By on Oct 20, 2016 Columns
  • 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, 2016 Columns
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