Don’t Dream It’s Over (July Digest)

By Rebecca Green

I’ve had the Crowded House song Don’t Dream It’s Over in my head for several days… 

A New York federal judge approved a motion from the U.S. Department of Justice to end the Paramount consent decrees which had dictated the movie industry’s licensing rules for over 70 years. The decree was enacted in 1948 and required the major studios to divest from vertical integration and ordered studios to sell off their theaters. What does this mean now? Without the decree in place, studios will be allowed to own theaters and play only their movies in the theaters they own. The decree also prevented ‘block booking’ which was a studio practice of bundling multiple films under one license giving theaters less control over what movies were programmed. These protections for theaters have now been thrown out the window and could have a major impact on the already shaky independent distribution landscape. 

In another monumental shift in distribution, Universal and AMC made a deal that allows movies to move to premium VOD just 17 days after its theatrical release compared to the previous 90 day window. The theatrical window has been shattered, and it’s a pretty good bet that it will never be patched back together. That means that the movie business will never look the same.

Hey now, hey now, don’t dream it’s over…

It was also announced that Sundance would be drastically reducing its footprint for the 2021 festival bringing it down from 10 to 7 days and reducing theater capacity to 25%. While this all sounds logical, should there actually be an in-person festival, the impact this will have on the sales process will be huge, as I predict agents and distributors will decide to stay home. One of the big benefits for filmmakers to premiere their film at a major festival is that distribution executives actually show up in a theater to see your film for the first time. Premiere your film anywhere else and you are setting up private screenings (if you’re lucky) and/or sending Vimeo links of your film. Anyone who has sold a film via links knows how tedious and painful the process has become. You never know when someone watches your film, or on what kind of screen, or with what kind of sound, and with plenty of distractions. If we start selling Sundance films via links, we will have set a new precedent that we may not be able to walk back from. I’m curious to know if Sundance is talking about setting up distributor screenings in NY and LA to help filmmakers navigate this hurdle? 

Hey now, hey now, don’t dream it’s over… 

In other news, CAA furloughed 275 Employees and let go of 90 agents & executives. IFP shut down the Made in NY Media Center. One-third of U.S. museums may not survive the year, 230,000 Californians employed in arts and entertainment have filed for unemployment and Sundance Institute cut 13% of their staff and consolidated labs

Director Oren Moverman says ‘Independent Cinema, as We Know It, Is Over,’ the Telluride Film Festival Director explains why they pulled the plug, and analyst Doug Creutz said it’s likely theaters will keep their doors closed until mid-2021 due to studios holding on to their biggest films until the ongoing pandemic truly subsides. Meanwhile, Netflix added 10million subscribers in Q2 alone.

Hey now, hey now, don’t dream it’s over…

However, our international peers have help on the way. The UK Government is restarting production by launching a $646M emergency Covid insurance fund, BFI launched a $625,000 bailout For U.K. Sales Companies, Sam Mendes and Netflix set up a 500K fund to support UK theater workers, and Wong Kar-Wai backed a $33-million plan to save the Hong Kong film industry. And to expand their production footprint, the U.K. is offering some high level Hollywood actors and crew exemption from quarantine rules and Australia is offering $280 million to Hollywood productions

The American Coalition for Independent Content Production (ACICP) has created a task force to push for federal aid for COVID-19 liability protection and unions are calling for greater federal aid for thousands unemployed in Hollywood, but perhaps the new world for U.S. filmmakers is international co-productions? In the 1990s, state film production incentives were born in response to the flight of movie productions to other countries such as Canada. Maybe if we take our productions elsewhere, the government will finally invest in our industry?

Hey now, hey now, don’t dream it’s over…

Not all these changes are bad. A shortened theatrical window could help indie films by maximizing marketing spend in a more focused time frame rather than over the course of many months and distributors had become too reliant on the Sundance stamp of approval, devaluing all other films. 

In all honesty, independent filmmakers have been struggling for the last decade. While more and more colleges added film programs, the likelihood of sustaining a career as an indie filmmaker plummeted. Yes, there are the few who jump from indie film to studio world, but those opportunities are few and far between and are mostly secured by white men. 

The big question at hand is whether or not we are going to stand in the street and watch the house burn down or start building a new, more structurally sound, foundation for independent filmmakers. How do we create a distribution model that eliminates excessive overhead that eats up our profit? How do we ensure that your career does not depend on winning a Sundance festival or lab golden ticket? How do we institutionalize fair labor practices when making low budget films? What does an ideal indie film eco-system look like to you? 

We don’t want to go back to the way things were, it wasn’t working. We shouldn’t be grasping on tight to what little remains in the hopes that ‘when this is all over’ we will be able to resume business as usual. If we do, we will come out the other side with a very narrow pipeline for independent films and very few voices being able to tell their stories.  

Don’t let them win
Hey now, hey now
Don’t let them win
Don’t let them win

Keep Going, 

In other news…


Can You Finance an Independent Film During a Pandemic?

California Announces New Tiered Coronavirus Testing Guidelines That May Impact Film And TV Production Restart

Hollywood Production Restart: A Look At the Hurdles In Studio-Union Negotiations As Series Gear Up For Shoots

IATSE Members Petition Union’s Leaders For Stronger COVID-19 Protocols On Commercials & Music Videos

Atlanta Production Ramp-Up Underway Despite Surge In COVID-19 Cases In Region


Every Film Festival and Market Still Happening in 2020, in Person and Online

Ready to Watch More Theatrical Releases From Home? How COVID-19 Could Spark a Tectonic Shift to Premium VOD

Metrograph Launches Digital Membership Program to Preserve ‘Communal Movie Watching’

Farewell for Now, Tenet. Here’s What We Learned From the Summer Movie Season That Never Was

What Happens to ‘Tenet’ Next May Change Hollywood Forever

Welcome to the Status Quo of the Streaming Wars

Apple Eyes New Streaming Strategy After Tom Hanks Drama Breaks Records

American Film Market Shifts To Online For 2020 Edition


UTA Closes Deal With WGA To Resume Writer Representation

The Documentary Future: A Call for Accountability

How to Build A Sex Scene

Dear Hollywood: It’s Time For An Intervention About The Hours We Work [Petition Inside]

TikTok and National Music Publishers Association Strike Multi-Year Deal

WME Will Call Assistants by Their Names

The BIPOC Organizations That Might Just Save Hollywood From Itself

Netflix Launches Variable-Speed Playback on Android Mobile App