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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 and Netflix’s capital-intensive competitive advantage is old news by now. Because of both companies’ massive libraries and reach, they drove up prices and escalated bidding wars. As tech journalist Sarah Lacy wrote at her news site, PandoDaily, “Because Amazon has built an ecommerce juggernaut that’s based on can’t-beat-’em low prices, it can afford to pay can’t-match-’em high prices when it comes to creative, talent and other new businesses.”
“They were a constant presence,” agrees Eric d’Arbeloff, co-president of Roadside Attractions about the tech giants’ role at Park City. “They kept people on their toes.”
But the new streaming bigwigs didn’t just keep distribution rivals on edge; they also drove many of the traditional competitors completely away from the negotiating table. Only the most moneyed players could stay in the game — i.e., Fox Searchlight winning worldwide rights for The Birth of a Nation. And while splitting up rights and joint acquisitions were common in the past, this year there were fewer and fewer such partnerships. As Preferred Content’s Kevin Iwashina explains, “There are fewer opportunities to stitch digital rights together because many digital platforms are now looking for limited exclusivity, if not full exclusivity.”
2. Going Global: The Rise of Worldwide Studio Home Entertainment Companies
But Amazon and Netflix weren’t the only ancillary-driven companies newly invigorated at Sundance. Paramount Home Video bought worldwide rights to a pair of buzzed-about titles, Andrew Neel’s Goat and Clea Duvall’s The Intervention. Universal Studios purchased Matthew Ross’ Frank & Lola and will look for a separate theatrical distributor to partner with on the release. Meanwhile, Stage 6 Films, a label of Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions, bought worldwide rights to Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women last April. Stage 6 acquires films and then offers them to other Sony divisions or to outside companies. In the case of Certain Women, IFC Films acquired domestic rights to the star-driven film after the festival, in March. (At press time, a domestic theatrical home for the other three films had not been announced.) In many of these cases, producers and sales agents saw a relatively safe way to cover their costs with global all-rights deals.
“It’s the new world,” admits Killer Content’s Christine Vachon, who produced or executive produced Goat and Frank & Lola, as well as Weiner-Dog (which sold to Amazon) and White Girl (which sold to Netflix). “There were some pure theatrical offers, but they weren‘t at a level that made sense financially,” she says. “For the financiers, they need to answer how quickly do they want to get their money out, or do they roll the dice? In these cases, every filmmaker was delighted with the result.”
“The home entertainment divisions of studios are now being competitive with the day-and-date theatrical releasing companies,” explains Iwashina, “[because] they’re all looking for a similar type of movie.” Iwashina helped orchestrate the Frank & Lola deal and adds, “It’s easier for studios to participate in the conversation now because the day-and-date film isn’t working in the way it used to.”
3. But Theatrical Isn’t Dead, Far from It
Because of the glut of VOD titles, both sellers and buyers suggest that theatrical distribution still remains a key component to the success of independent films. It might sound counterintuitive given the rise of Amazon and Netflix, but theatrical is still important.
“You need to establish awareness for your film — it’s a big thing,” maintains Magnolia Pictures’ Eamonn Bowles. Though he acknowledges Magnolia has a reputation for being a “VOD company,” he says straightforward theatrical releases are still key because the VOD market has been flooded with mediocre content. “That well has been poisoned by volume and really bad films,” he admits, “and I think it turned viewers off.”
Roadside’s d’Arbeloff says the talk at the markets — in Sundance and also at the European Film Market in February — was all about which screens movies should be released on. But being a theatrical distributor, he argues, “We’re still at a place where a theatrical release is a really great statement about curation, which creates value throughout the revenue streams.”
That being said, d’Arbeloff says Roadside had to work harder to convince filmmakers that their theatrical-specific strategy makes sense in the current marketplace. “We have to really sell what we’re going to bring to the table with the theatrical release,” he says. “From a filmmaker’s perspective, some of these ancillary deals can be quite lucrative. So they need to ask: ‘Do we take the money and run, or play for the upside?’”
As a testament to the old-fashioned theatrical release plan, d’Arbeloff points to Amazon’s commitment to the model with its traditional release (through Roadside) of Whit Stillman’s Love & Friendship. “It says they’re willing to read the marketplace and value that theatrical window for the right kind of film,” he says.
4. Different Models for the Rich and the Poor
Increasingly, Sundance resembles the stark economic stratification of the U.S. itself, with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. While Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation broke all Sundance records with Fox Searchlight’s $17.5 million worldwide acquisition of the film, there were a couple of other generous deals. Amazon paid $10 million for Manchester by the Sea and will contract with Roadside Attractions for a theatrical release. Netflix bought The Fundamentals of Caring for $7 million. But Sundance’s marketplace also saw plenty of movies being acquired for far more modest prices — and many, of course, not being acquired at all.
“The only films you want to bring to the Sundance market are the top commercial titles — the Oscar films,” says one industry insider. “Otherwise, it‘s going to hurt the film. Because if you‘re not one of those top few commercial movies, the market drives the price down. The top films get more; the middle films get less; because once you hear no one is offering six figures, then you‘re not going to offer more than six figures.”
Not everyone agrees with this strategy, but for smaller arthouse films, the only way that distributors are going to buy them is by paying more modest advances. Take, for example, Ira Sachs’ sweet and subtle Sundance gem Little Men, which had its U.S. rights acquired by Magnolia after the festival. What’s the secret to making such a film work in today’s marketplace? “Don’t overpay for it,” explains Bowles.
5. Bypassing the Festival Marketplace?
As a result of Amazon, Netflix and worldwide studio ancillary divisions flexing their muscles, a lot of companies are being forced to get into projects earlier. “That’s why you’re seeing companies buying movies off promos,” said one distribution executive. “I’m now looking at scripts and pre-buys and casting a wider net.”
And that could be a good thing for filmmakers. “If you don’t have a bidding war kind of movie,” says the executive, “I don’t think it’s a bad idea to cherry-pick the best distributor and target them before the festivals, so you don’t get lost in the fray.”
On the other hand, producer Christine Vachon says even smaller movies do have a chance of shining at Sundance. “Sure, it’s a gamble at any film festival,” she says, “but the journalists at Sundance are looking for discoveries, so unlike some other bigger festivals, at least you’ve got a shot.”
Check this out on FilmmakerMagazine.com
There are roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. It’s a number that’s been steady for a couple of years and it’s one that we’ll, no doubt, keep hearing as the future of Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) plan remains unclear. But that number doesn’t tell you much. Abstracted into statistics, the lives of these people are brushed aside.
To counter that move, which allows many to disregard the suffering and fear that characterizes living in the United States as an undocumented immigrant, filmmakers have turned to cinema to flesh out these stories. Documentaries like Forbidden: Undocumented and Queer in Rural America, short docs like Free Like the Birds, and activist-driven videos like those produced by Welcome.us exemplify this very work.
As it turns out, Hollywood has been putting these stories on the silver and small screen for decades now. In fact, the Latino undocumented immigrant is a very familiar stock figure in American pop culture. It’s a character that could soon be an oddity considering the percentage of those unauthorized immigrants arriving from Latin American countries has slowed down significantly, while those from Asian countries has risen consistently in the past 15 years.
In the past, the narratives being told were pretty much always the same. As these 25 characters show, Hollywood has mostly tackled stories about undocumented workers as hilarious jokes to be milked or as melodramatic calls to action. In between though, and especially in the more recent examples, filmmakers and TV showrunners have begun exploring the vast diversity of experiences of those living undocumented in the United States.
You’ll find plenty of familiar faces below — hey there Catalina Sandino Moreno, we didn’t know you’d played so many undocumented characters! — a reminder that even our most talented have helped complicate what is often a stereotype on the page, and have instead helped humanize these stories whether in small supporting roles or in big screen outings hoping to make a change.
Check out the rest on Remezcla.com
Robots are smart enough to write now, which means it's only a matter of time before I'll lose my job. But for now, I might soon be able to enjoy "Impossible Things," the first feature-length movie written with artificial intelligence.
A company called Greenlight Essentials made an artificially intelligent robot that analyzes audience response data and writes stories based on what it thinks people will like.
With some help by the humans who made the AI, it wrote "Impossible Things," a horror movie about a family who moves to the middle of nowhere and start hearing creepy things around the house. The trailer gives a pretty good idea of the tone.
Now that they have a screenplay and a trailer, Greenlight Essentials wants to make a full-blown movie.
The greater promise of the AI behind "Impossible Things" is that it'll save the movie industry.
Greenlight Essentials says the AI can look at screenplays and, based on the box office results of other movies, figure out if that screenplay will be profitable if its filmed as a movie.
According to the company, 87% of films in the box office fail to break even, a claim I couldn't corroborate anywhere. Jack Zhang, the founder and CEO of Greenlight Essentials, told INSIDER he got to it by comparing the production budget and box office revenue of films. However, studios tend to obscure the profits for individual films beyond just box office performance. They generate revenue by selling films to international distributors, by putting them on video-on-demand services like Netflix, by selling them on DVD, and with various merchandising opportunities.
Greenlight's 87% figure doesn't take any of that into account.
Big studios already use data models to predict box office performance, of course.
They're famously wary about spending tons of money on expensive products that don't have a proven track record. That's why they make so many sequels.
Furthermore, large-scale data-driven screenplays have been tried as well, and it famously torpedoed Relativity Film into bankruptcy. So there are reasons to be wary.
Zhang, to his credit, takes the destruction of Relativity very seriously. He wrote a post explaining the problems with how they ran their models and draws a distinction between them and Greenlight's artificial intelligence software: "All models are wrong, but some are useful, and that is the logic behind Greenlight Essentials’ software: to be useful. We do not make any assumptions to build models or simulate risks; rather, we only use real-world real data points to draw real conclusions."
Those conclusions mean taking fewer risks. The trailer for "Impossible Things" doesn't look like anything we haven't seen before. If the AI is able to write new screenplays based on data from successful movies, then the movies it writes will look like ones that already exist.
The real use for the AI will be for independent filmmakers.
Indie filmmakers don't have teams of data analysts at their disposal to figure out if a movie will make money, like big studios do. For a big studio, using this system just makes an already risk-averse company even more risk-averse.
For an independent project, having a computer program you can buy to help out changes the game. Plus, it'll actually help you write your movie instead of just telling you what works and what doesn't.
Check this out on BusinessInsider.com
by Steven ZeitchikLos Angeles Times
A movie awards season that's shaping up to be about diversity will get a fitting kickoff at this year's Toronto International Film Festival.
The early Oscar bellwether will feature a number of stories by and about underrepresented voices. Most notably that means women, with seven of its 19 galas directed by female filmmakers, a festival record.
Beginning Sept. 8, TIFF will also feature films by and about people of color, according to organizers, who announced the first round of films Tuesday. This includes the world premieres of “The Magnificent Seven,” Antoine’s Fuqua’s remake of the John Sturges classic that now stars Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke (and opens the festival); Mira Nair's Ugandan chess tale "Queen of Katwe" starring Lupita Nyong'o and David Oyelowo; George Nolfi's "Birth of the Dragon," about the origins of Bruce Lee, and "Barry," Vikram Gandhi's look at the formative Columbia University years of President Obama.
"The whole industry is talking about inclusion in a way it hasn't in a long time," Toronto artistic programmer Cameron Bailey said in an interview. "We never want to say '[diversity] is the goal' because I don't think that's the right way to do it. But we do want to make sure we're paying attention and maybe looking more deeply for stories that will help continue that conversation."
Toronto is one of North America's largest festivals and, with key post-Labor Day positioning, one of its most influential. The arrival of the festival marks the end of the summer tent-pole season and begins Hollywood's all-important fall moviegoing period.
This year, in addition to "Katwe," the female-directed films in the high-profile galas section include the French director Rebecca Zlotowski's "Planetarium," a supernatural picture starring Natalie Portman and Lily-Rose Depp set in 1930s France; Bronwen Hughes' "The Journey Is the Destination," about slain photojournalist Dan Eldon; “The Edge of Seventeen,” Kelly Fremon Craig’s teen dramedy that will close the fest; and Lone Scherfig’s "Their Finest," aptly about a World War II-era female screenwriter (Gemma Arterton) trying to get a movie made.
In the special-presentations category, Susan Johnson's teen-prodigy dramedy "Carrie Pilby" will make its world premiere; the film stars Bel Powley as a character who’s very much the opposite of her libertine heroine in breakout "The Diary of a Teenage Girl" and could earn comparisons to a past coming-of-age Toronto breakout, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”
Race will also make its presence felt in a host of period pictures, including a world premiere for Rob Reiner's "LBJ," which focuses in part on the 36th president's effort to pass the Civil Rights Act.
And Toronto will bring the reprise of two fact-based race-themed dramas likely to dominate the conversation this coming season: Nate Parker's "The Birth of a Nation," which premiered at Sundance, and Jeff Nichols' "Loving," which debuted at Cannes.
The presence of so many movies about and starring people of color will likely give the festival and the season that follows a different feel than last year, when the 20 acting Oscar nominees did not include any ethnic minorities.
Films about charged modern news events along the lines of last year's Toronto breakout "Spotlight" are also on the docket this year.
They include world premieres of Oliver Stone's much-anticipated "Snowden," starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the controversial National Security Agency contractor; "Denial," Mick Jackson's look at the fight between historian Deborah Lipstadt and Holocaust denier David Irving; and Pete Berg's "Deepwater Horizon," about the corporate intrigue behind the 2010 oil-spill disaster.
As usual at Toronto, splashy celeb-centric pictures will be in play. Among them are "Arrival," "Sicario" director Denis Villeneuve's foray into sci-fi with the help of Amy Adams (it is expected to be at Telluride); Ben Younger's boxing drama "Bleed for This" starring Miles Teller as the embattled former champion Vinny Pazienza (ditto); Tom Ford's sophomore film effort "Nocturnal Animals" starring Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal (a world premiere); and Venice opener "La La Land," in which Damien Chazelle directs a Los Angeles-set musical with Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone.
And celebrities of a different sort will reunite when Fred Willard, Parker Posey, Bob Balaban and the rest of Christopher Guest’s crew appear in the filmmaker’s “Mascots,” a world premiere about competition among a group of sports mascots. (They compete for the Gold Fluffy.)
Thanks to its place on the calendar, Toronto strongly sets the Oscar agenda to follow. A number of films with awards hopes could see their fates determined by their receptions north of the border.
“Queen of Katwe,” from Disney, will be a title to watch given its presence of past award-season favorites, “Magnificent Seven” will quickly establish whether its big names and well-known title position it for awards. And whether “La La Land” — directed by “Whiplash” filmmaker Chazelle — could be as much a darling of voters as it is Gos-heads will be determined when the film completes its likely Venice-Telluride-Toronto trifecta.
Though he downplayed the idea that Toronto measures its success by how many films it springboards to Oscars, Bailey said the festival does take its mission for prestige fare seriously.
“We have a great spot on the calendar,” he said. “We’re lucky to be placed in the fall, at a point when audiences want substantial, high-quality films after the summer popcorn season.” That this summer’s popcorn has tasted stale to some viewers will up the anticipation for, and pressure on, the 2016 Toronto slate.
Tastemaker eyes will be particularly trained on the Hollywood companies Participant Media and Open Road, which last year rode an exceedingly strong “Spotlight” screening — it was the first in which the real-life journalists appeared — all the way to the best-picture podium.
This year, Participant brings “Denial,” “Deepwater” and Spanish genre master J.A. Bayona’s English-language “A Monster Calls” to Toronto; Open Road has “Snowden” and “Bleed for This.”
Meanwhile, a number of other wild cards will be thrown into the mix. They include Marc Forster's thriller “All I See Is You,” which involves Bangkok, blindness and Blake Lively an Ewan McGregor’s directorial debut, “American Pastoral.” Lionsgate’s fall release stars McGregor and Jennifer Connelly and may be the first time Uzo Aduba and Philip Roth are combined in one film.
Not on Tuesday's list are buzzy movies from two Oscar-winning directors: Martin Scorsese's Catholic-missionary tale "Silence" and Ang Lee's 3-D U.S. soldier drama, "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk."
Over the past nine best picture winners, eight have played Toronto. But the fest has faced increased competition from several festivals, including Telluride preceding it and New York that follows.
Two years ago, organizers enacted a policy in which films that play Telluride won't be eligible for a spot in the first four days of the fest, a policy that remains in place this year. Last year distributors behind what would be two of the bigger seasonal breakouts, "Room" and eventual best picture winner "Spotlight," opted to screen at Telluride and take a post-weekend slot.
Meanwhile, some films, such as Steven Spielberg's "Bridge of Spies," choose to sit out all early fests so as not to peak too soon; "Spies” debuted at New York in October.
"The weekend means a lot but so do the other slots, which you saw from 'Spotlight' and 'Room’ last year," TIFF’s Bailey said, noting their warm receptions. "I don't think there's a formula anymore for a movie to go on to award success. We just want to program the best films and bring the public, the media and the industry together in a way I don't think you see at any other festival."
Check this out on latimes.com
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In Search of the American Dream directed by NALIPster Baldemar Rodriguez will premiere on August 26 at 5:00 p.m. at the Laemmle Music Hall in Los Angeles.
In Search of the American Dream is a riveting story of five children and their adult brother as they desperately race across Texas after their undocumented parents are arrested.
Now that their parent’s deportation is imminent Child Protective Services threatens to separate the family. The children are forced to abandon the only home they’ve ever known, while on the run a routine traffic stop goes terribly wrong, and now they are not only running from CPS, but also from the law.
Tickets are on sale now! Show your support to our talented NALIPsters.
Discount Code: "DreamLA” $9 for Friday and Saturday Night and $7 all other times “DreamLA"
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by Emily Buder
Which path should a film graduate follow?
As Todd Solondz recently related to us, film school is a paradox. It can be superfluous—it's too expensive, and equivalent experience can be accrued on set—but it is also the nexus of many successful filmmakers' careers.
For those who did decide to take the plunge, the decisions to be made after graduation can be daunting. There are many varied paths to choose within the industry, and none with a prescribed trajectory to follow.
To help create a framework for the recent film school graduate's decision-making process, MovieMaker Magazine identified some possible careers—VR innovator, indie auteur, commercial director, festival director, agent, TV showrunner, studio head, cult arthouse owner, adult film producer—and assembled a flowchart.
Of course, these don't represent the full spectrum of opportunities in the film industry—documentarians, distributors, producers, editors, and cinematographers are absent, to name a few. But the flowchart does offer some valuable insight into the factors that should (and will) influence the directionality of a career in the film industry. Differing motivations, such as the drive for money, original expression, social justice, or wide-reaching audiences, will set film graduates on distinct career paths.
Credit: MovieMaker Magazine
Check this out on nofilmschool.com