Indie Update: Sundance, Oscar, Selma, SAG-AFTRA and PDMs – Top Filmmaking Reads from the Past Week

New on the blog: a weekly indie update featuring top indie filmmaking and/or film industry articles that I have read during the previous week. This last week was FULL of good ones. I’ve got 3 that are specific to independent filmmaking and 3 related to the Academy Awards because Oscar was all over the place last week.

Oscars

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Here’s my Top 3 for Independent Filmmakers:

  • Sundance By The Numbers from Cultural Weekly – This article is full of informative infographics and helpful data. Like, for instance, that the estimated average budget for narrative indie films at Sundance is $1.7 million and the average budget for docs is $400,000. So before, you rush off and prioritize a Sundance submission because 4 out of 5 films accepted to Sundance will get a distribution deal, look at those other numbers as well and consider if your film is really likely to be one of the (roughly) 79 acceptances (for a narrative feature) out of the 2,300 submitted. Sundance may be the festival for you, but it is costly to submit and the odds are NOT in your favor. You may be better served by focusing on niche festivals specifically appropriate to your film. Every year, countless filmmakers throw money down the drain by submitting to the wrong festivals. I know this not only as a filmmaker, but also as a filmmaker who ran a film festival for 7 years and truly saw this first hand. I shared a bit about making the most of film festivals and festival selection in my self-distribution article last year.
  • Producers, Re-Work Your Budgets: SAG-AFTRA Ups Low-Budget Contracts 25% – This Filmmaker Magazine article tells you how much more you need to pay actors now. So, if you’ve got a SAG-AFTRA Low-Budget project in the works make sure you’re up to speed on these changes. It will affect your budget and you don’t want to be caught off-guard. Getting your budget right matters.
  • Attention, Filmmakers: Here’s the Most Important Person on Set You Don’t Know About – This Indiewire article by Emily Best of Seed and Spark highlights the valuable role of the PMD. Don’t know what a PMD is? It’s the Producer of Marketing and Distribution. Still don’t know what a PMD is or why you need one? Click over to Indiewire and find out now. A good PMD can make a big difference for your film — find one for your next project or learn how to be one. You’ll be glad you did.

Now, let’s move on to Oscar. Oh, Oscar…The amount of articles I read about the Oscars snubbing Ava DuVernay, David Oyelowo and Bradford Young were too numerous to count or keep track of, not to mention the plethora of tweets regarding The Lego Movie being snubbed as well. For me, personally, I found myself not very surprised by the ways in which Selma was left out this year and had long ago written off the Academy Awards because of the vast political and economic forces that determine a film’s relevance and success in accordance with the Academy. Bearing that in mind, here’s 3 responses to Oscar that I truly appreciated reading last week:

  • How Much Does an Oscar Campaign Cost? from Stephen Fellows – He breaks down the millions of dollars that go into an Oscar campaign along with the importance of screeners and timing, and, of course, he also includes the fateful breakdown of the Academy (Oscar voters are 94% white, 77% male and have a median age of 62.), which reminds us all of how far the entertainment industry has to go in terms of fair representation and true diversity. It also reminded me of why I discount that idea that I *must* watch all of the Oscar nominated films or that somehow those films are the films that will be most relevant to me. However, if I were a white male over 60, I’d assume that the films the Academy chooses to recognize are probably films I would like to see. Since I’m not, well, I take the nominations with a grain of salt (actually, I take them with a whole VAT of salt).
  • Why Ava DuVernay’s ‘Selma’ Oscar Snub Matters by Scott Mendelson – I was a bit surprised (and glad) to see this piece in Forbes magazine rather than in an industry magazine. Scott is infuriated by the exclusion of DeVernay and highlights the ways in which the over-emphasis in relation to the representation of LBJ in the film became, essentially, a smear campaign: “It’s a sad reflection of a year when a number of good, great, and lousy fictionalized true-life biopics about allegedly great or somewhat interesting white men are well-represented while one of the very best-reviewed movies of the year went with hardly a single relevant nomination…” It is sad, indeed.
  • My Thoughts On This Year’s Oscar Nominations – I don’t recall  how I stumbled across Julia Van Valkenberg’s blog, catch all, but I’m glad I did. What made her article stand out for me was her understanding of the need for films that foster empathy. DuVernay shared in an interview about ‘Selma’ of her commitment to humanizing all of the key characters in her film, reflecting her commitment to empathy and understanding, and Julia got it. She gets the value and desperate need for media that reflects the world we live in. It’s something I wish more people understood: “…empathy is one of the most important characteristics of any thriving community. We as Americans and human beings desperately need to understand those who are different from us, and movies have the chance to do that. By making movies that matter, our society can change. By including women and people of color in front of and behind the camera, we can change the world. Lets have our movies and television shows actually represent our country and all of the people who call it home.”

And, last, but not least, I have to wrap this post up with my favorite quote of the past week regarding this whole issue of Oscar snubs and ‘Selma.’ That quote was from Spike Lee, who knows Oscar snubs first-hand. (In 1990 “Driving Miss Daisy’ won the Best Picture Oscar). Here’s Spike’s advice for Ava:“Nobody’s talking about motherfuckin’ ‘Driving Miss Daisy.’ That film is not being taught in film schools all across the world like ‘Do the Right Thing’ is. Nobody’s discussing Driving Miss Motherfuckin’ Daisy. So if I saw Ava today I’d say, ‘You know what? F*ck ’em. You made a very good film, so feel good about that and start working on the next one.”

I think that’s good advice for all of us who are “outsiders” when it comes to Hollywood — Make our films. Get s*** done. Make a good film and then move on and make the next one.

Now, I’d love to know what your “top reads” were this past week. Share them with me, so I can add them to my Film Articles and Resources Pinboard, which has over 600 filmmaking articles pinned, and if you’re not already following Sheri Candler and Emily Best on Twitter, go follow them now. Many of the best filmmaking articles I read each week are shared by the two of them. I also recommend that you follow them both on Facebook via Sheri Candler Marketing and Publicity and Seed and Spark, and, of course, I hope you’re also following me (IndieJenFischer) on Twitter too, where I share lots of indie filmmaking articles and tips. Let’s connect and make independent filmmaking a stronger community and industry.

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2 thoughts on “Indie Update: Sundance, Oscar, Selma, SAG-AFTRA and PDMs – Top Filmmaking Reads from the Past Week

  1. Pingback: 5 Simple Filmmaking Tips Inspired by Advice for Writers | Think Ten Media Group - The Blog

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