April 2019 Digest

Last week I was speaking with a producer who I have been mentoring for the last two years. We were discussing the distribution offers she had received on her film that had premiered at SXSW. I brought up how Amazon had just retooled the payment structure for its Prime Video Direct program, but despite the fact that I had just called this out in my March Digest, she was unaware of Amazon’s change.

I started these digests for Dear Producer because as I’ve been teaching more the last few years, whether it be college classes or producing labs, I’m always shocked at the lack of knowledge producers have about the business when information is available via the world wide web every single day. When I graduated college and started my first job in 2001, Facebook and Twitter and Variety online didn’t exist. If you didn’t work at a company that could afford the expensive Variety print subscription, you had to go read it at a newsstand. To stay in-the-know, every Sunday I got together with a group of other assistants for brunch to talk shop because that was how information was shared. But today? Now you can wake up in the morning, lay in bed, and learn all you need to know about the industry before you show up at the office.

So I asked myself, why can’t producers answer basic film 101 questions such as, ‘Which film won the Sundance U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize this year?’ Or ‘Who is the Head of Film at Netflix?’ Maybe it’s because of content overload I thought. I mean, look at the new redesign of Deadline. It’s a hot mess of information. Variety even has a section called “Dirt.” So I told myself, maybe if you curate all the ‘need to read articles’ in one place and make it easier for people to find the necessary information, people will be more informed. But even one of my own mentees isn’t paying attention when I’m putting it right in front of her each month. Why isn’t anyone reading?

I’ll ask you this, how do you plan to survive, let along succeed, if you are not educating yourself on the business? Talent will only get you so far. This is the film business with billions and billions of dollars being spent each year. Take a look at What the Media’s Most Powerful Executives Were Paid in 2018. And I’m not saying you have to be making Avengers kind of money, but unless you want filmmaking to be a hobby, and I have yet to meet the filmmaker who tells me that’s their plan, then you have to pay attention to the way the business works so you can find a way navigate to through and around the systems in place in order to create a career for yourself.

Indie filmmakers are quick to complain about how they are underpaid and how their films don’t turn a profit, but too many of those complaining aren’t studying the business and coming up with innovative ways to work around the archaic systems in place that are stifling diverse storytelling. Too many are instead making their art and then waiting for Media’s Most Powerful Executives to control their destiny. Your career is in your own hands. Education is power.

So the point of this rant is to say that, in the hopes that you actually read these digests, I’m going to simply lay out a list of links rather than spend time writing what I thought was a more engaging summary. There are many other newsletters that send the “what I’m reading” list so I was trying to do something different, but what I want is for you to read this information so let’s try it this way. Feel free to drop me a note at hello@dearproducer.com and let me know if you have a preference on how I share this info.

And please, I beg you, don’t just read the headlines, click on the links and read the articles

How First Reformed’s Success Actually Points to a Dark Future for Independent Film
Her Smell’s writer-director, Alex Ross Perry, breaks down the stark reality that film distribution today is an inequitable system that excludes almost everyone.

Wait, Why Does Netflix Want to Buy a Movie Theater?
In the latest chapter of Netflix versus Hollywood, the streaming platform is pulling a move ripped straight from the cinema history books.

Here’s Who Owns Everything in Big Media Today
The media landscape used to be straightforward: Content companies — studios — made stuff — TV shows and movies — and sold it to pay TV distributors, who sold it to consumers. Now things are up for grabs: Netflix buys stuff from the studios, but it’s making its own stuff, too, and it’s selling it directly to consumers.

Netflix Promises More Viewership Data As Part Of Greater “Transparency”, Ted Sarandos Says
“Over the next several months, we’re going to be rolling out more specific and granular data and reporting, Ted Sarandos said on Tuesday following the first quarter earnings report by the streamer. “First to our producers, then our members and, of course, to the press over time and be more fully transparent about what people are watching on Netflix around the world.

Here’s Who Apple Wants to Sign Up For Its TV+ Streaming Service
Social analytics platform BrandTotal released data about Apple’s social-media marketing strategy and found that for Apple TV+, Apple used Twitter exclusively to target younger, single men.

If You Want to Understand Disney+, Start by Thinking About Disneyland
Pop culture’s biggest storytelling engine will lease huge swaths of its family (or family-adjacent) library content to consumers for a priced-to-move $6.99 per month, with a modest assortment of original series tied to big brands such as Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic thrown in as an added sweetener.

Academy Board of Governors Changes Rules for 92nd Oscars — Without Spielberg
The Board of Governors continues to open up voting for nominations, and changed one category from foreign language to international feature.

How Do Producers Get Started? Full Frame’s 9th Annual A&E IndieFilms Speakeasy, “The Pathway to Producing”
Lineup included Jessica Hargrave (Ask Dr. Ruth), Carolyn Hepburn (One Child Nation), Jameka Autry (Ernie & Joe), and Esther Robinson (Memories of A Penitent Heart).

How to Ask for What You Need
A guide to getting over your fear of asking for support by The Void Academy.

To Find a Mentor, Think Like a Mentor
5 tips on how to find a mentor and nurture a relationship that could change your career.

Keep Going,

Rebecca Green