February 2019 Digest

While you were distracted watching Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s Shallowperformance at the Oscars, what you should have been paying attention to are the negotiations between the WGA and the ATA. Why should you care if you’re not a writer? If you haven’t yet dealt with agency packaging departments, you will eventually, and these negations could drastically shift the way agents are allowed to package projects and collect fees. You can (and absolutely should) read the official WGA proposal here.

While Black Panther was a big winner Oscar night, movies featuring people of color don’t come around all that often partly because of how projects are put together. Chances are the people brokering those deals — and determining who gets in the door and what stories are told — are white. The New York Times spoke to seven black agents who speak candidly about the barriers they have faced, the isolation they have felt, and the changes they are beginning to see.

On the topic of diversity, the latest report from the San Diego University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film found female protagonists led 31 percent of the movies in 2018, but women still had only 35 percent of all the speaking parts. Sigh.

But the Sundance Film Festival made enormous strides this year in terms of diversity, with 40 percent of the 112 films selected having been directed (or co-directed) by a woman, 36 percent by a person of color, and 13 percent by an LGBTQ filmmaker. Sundance producers and directors discuss the obstacles, perceived and real, about hiring a diverse crew.

And while Sundance feels like it happened a decade ago, Brian Newman’s write-up, Five Sundance Takeaways, the death of Media is worth the read and echoes my sentiments on this year’s festival.

In the land of distribution, Annapurna Pictures and MGM have doubled down on their joint distribution venture, rebranding the operation as United Artists Releasing. MGM has long owned the UA label, which turned 100 in February.

And a year after Jennifer Salke took the job at Amazon, the former NBC Entertainment president is cementing her film strategy: a mix of theatrically distributed art house titles and blockbuster swings, along with other movies that will premiere directly on Prime Video. In total, Amazon Studios will release roughly 30 films annually

For the majority of us who were not invited to the Vanity Fair party, awards season can make you feel unworthy and unseen. However, the Vox article “How to Win An Oscarexplains that the campaign trail for the Academy Awards is expensive, exhausting, and not really about the movie.

Which makes me think of a question I saw posed on Film Twitter, “If distributors were not allowed to spend money on awards campaigns, what would the nominees and winners look like?”

If you ask me, the best part of the Oscar telecast was the new Nike commercial narrated by Serena Williams called Dream Crazier.

And speaking of tennis (which I am a big fan of), the Tennis Channel’s decision to produce the documentary “Strokes of Genuis” without Netflix’s support is a unique case study in media consolidation.

And in another unique distribution approach, why didn’t Surviving R. Kelly happen before Lifetime entered the picture? The answer is an undertaking that took over a year to develop.

And The Ringer goes back twenty years when an upstart animator named Mike Judge forever changed how we think about office culture, adulthood, red staplers, and Michael Bolton in “Follow the Path of Least Resistance: An Oral History of ‘Office Space.

If in the wake of awards season, you find your self working more in order to get to the Oscar stage faster, read about how the word ‘weekend’ did not even exist until the 1870s and how people fought hard for time off from work and how workism is making Americans miserable

And the most impactful thing I read in February was How to Not Feel Like a Failure in the Film Industrywhere writer-director Chris Osborn does some frank career self-assessment and envisions a system that is interdependent, not “indie.”

ALSO! I have added a DONATE page to the Dear producer website and will be fundraising during the month of March. You might not know this, but Dear Producer is 100% volunteer. Except for the contributing producers, I have been steering the ship solo and out of my own pocket. So be on the lookout in the coming weeks for more information on my 2019 goals for Dear Producer and how your donation will help me grow my mission to amplify the voices of producers. If you already love Dear Producer and don’t need convincing, be one of the first to DONATE now!

Keep Going,

Rebecca Green