June 2019 Digest

1 (1)My apologies on the radio silence from Dear Producer over the last several weeks. I have been juggling a few side hustle jobs to pay the bills and trying to find time to enjoy summer. In June I had the pleasure of being a Coach at the Creative Lab Hawaii Producers Immersive and this weekend I will be teaching a producing workshop for the Saul Zaentz Innovation Fund in Film and Media with fellow producer Avril Speaks. I was also invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences class of 2019, which is no doubt a career dream come true.

The delay in getting out my June digest is because I am still wrapping my head around the many conversations about why movies aren’t working. The annual box office is down nearly 9 percent in 2019. Some blame young people while others blame Netflix. Some point the finger at the lack of original content and others say there are just too many movies being made.   

I blame ourselves as independent filmmakers. We have yet to truly challenge independent distributors to do better by our films. We dream of Sundance premieres and being bought by a distributor. However, there has yet to be a distributor who has set themselves apart with a unique approach to distributing independent film in order to reach audiences. Yet we keep (reluctantly) handing over our films to distributors who we know are going to fail us and crossing our fingers.

Last week, Dylan Leiner, executive vice president of acquisitions and production at Sony Pictures Classics, spoke at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival about sustainability in the movie business. To be honest, everything he said infuriated me, specifically his comment that “filmmakers need to think outside the box and be entrepreneurial.” This coming from a distributor who has basically been following the same release strategy since the company was founded in 1992 and who doesn’t even have 10,000 followers on Instagram. (By comparison, A24 has 336k and was founded in 2012. And if you’re not following distributors on social, you’re not seeing how poorly they use the platforms compared to Netflix’s engagement with their audience.) 

As examples of filmmakers who think outside the box, Leiner references the Dogme movement in Denmark in 1995 and when Quentin Tarantino made Reservoir Dogs in 1992. As a frame of reference, in 1992, there were 250 features submitted to Sundance and in 2019 there were 4,018. When it comes to entrepreneurship, there is no comparison to be made between Tarantino circa 1992 and the filmmakers of 2019.

What is most telling is when Dylan references John Cameron Mitchell. He talks about how when Mitchell was unable to get a series going via traditional means, he reimagined it as a 10-episode musical podcast and found success. Exactly my point. The traditional means of distribution are failing original voices so we are taking our voices elsewhere.

I have so many more thoughts on all of this and want to elaborate more (and I will), but for the sake of finally getting this digest out, I’ll stop here and give you a moment to catch up on all the articles I’m referring to in case you missed them. 

In the meantime, if you are craving Dear Producer content, check out the Producers in Front of the Camera interview series that was filmed at SXSW 2019. We have five interviews live and are wrapping up post on the final 9 interviews so keep an eye out for them in coming weeks.

Keep Going,


Everything’s Flopping, and No One Is Happy
Hollywood is in a panic about a disastrous summer movie season. Is this the summer from hell, or is it just business as usual?

How Will Movies (As We Know Them) Survive the Next 10 Years?
24 major Hollywood figures peer into the future, including: Ava DuVernay (on audiences), Jason Blum (on producing), Octavia Spencer (on acting), Kumail Nanjiani (on comedy), Lena Waithe (on black filmmakers), J.J. Abrams (on blockbusters), Jon M. Chu (on diversity), Jessica Chastain (on dramas), Elizabeth Banks (on female filmmakers), Barry Jenkins (on the Oscars) and Joe and Anthony Russo (on two-hour narratives).

Here’s How Movie Theaters Will Survive the Next 10 Years: Exhibitors Speak Out
The New York Times gave a voice to Hollywood influencers to address moviegoing’s uncertain future, but nobody in exhibition. So we asked for their thoughts.

Box Office: Hollywood Is In Trouble Because We’re Seeing The Wrong Movies
In terms of dollar-to-dollar comparisons, audiences are vastly more likely to see the very films that are being blamed for the box office blues, which means, relatively speaking, they are both influencing the kind of movies Hollywood prioritizes and having a bad time at the movies.

Bob Berney Is Leaving Amazon Studios, Which Faces a Challenging Future
His decision comes as his contract ends — but Amazon Studios now operates in a world that’s very different than it was four years ago.

Stop Saying There Are No Coming Of Age Films About Black Girls [Opinion]
Nijla Mu’min screenwriter and director of JINN, which won the Grand Jury Award for Screenwriting at the 2018 South by Southwest Film Festival, wrote this op-ed about the lack of funding, distribution, and marketing for films about black girls and about the history of black joy in storytelling.

‘Fast Color’: The Gugu Mbatha-Raw Superhero Drama Deserved a Better Release
Why did this empowering story of a black woman with superpowers fail to find an audience?

Discovery Puts Squeeze On Unscripted Producers With New Series Financing Mechanism
With its 2017 acquisition of Scripps Networks, Discovery became the dominant player in the unscripted cable market with 19 networks, with all but OWN focused entirely on reality fare, and has put forward a new model for financing its series that has the unscripted producing community up in arms.

We Have Some Questions About Netflix’s Massive ‘Murder Mystery’ Viewership Numbers
Netflix says the new Jennifer Aniston-Adam Sandler comedy scored the biggest “opening weekend” for a Netflix flick, with 30-plus million “accounts.” How are they crunching that figure?

Netflix Is Nearing Subscriber Peak in the U.S., PwC Says
Netflix may not have much more room to grow in the United States — particularly as new rival streaming services from Disney and WarnerMedia are poised to hit the market, according to a new research report.

Kanopy: Not Just Like Netflix, and Not Free
Kanopy, a streaming service that had long catered quietly to the educational market, began to appear in late 2017 and early 2018 in stories in prominent news outlets with headlines that emphasized its role as a free streaming service. For all its benefits, though, Kanopy is not free, the library pays for the service. 

How New #MeToo Laws In New York and California Could Change Film and TV Production
Lawyer Nicole Page shares the warnings she has been issuing to her production clients as new laws hold employers responsible.

Male Film Critics Still Outnumber Female Nearly 2 to 1 and ‘Continue to Dominate’ Conversation
In its latest “Thumbs Down” report, the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film finds small changes towards parity.

Cinereach Bestows $50,000 Awards to 4 Independent Film Producers
The indie film company has selected Jessica Devaney (“Always in Season”), Alexandra Lazarowich (“Fast Horse”), Kishori Rajan (“Random Acts of Flyness”) and Jamund Washington (“Tramps”) as independent producers that have demonstrated vision and integrity, contributed to the film community as mentors and leaders, and enriched the culture through their films.


On Snapchat, Original Series Are Finding Return Viewers
‘Endless Summer,’ which returns for a second season June 15, drew 28 million viewers during its fall debut. “Serialized content is working,” says Snapchat senior director of content Sean Mills.

Tubi Surpasses 20 Million Monthly Active Users and Sets New Company Records for Revenue and Hours Streamed
Tubi the world’s largest free movie and television service announced record growth in the first half of 2019. The company has surpassed 20 million monthly active users and customers watched over 94 million hours of content during May.

Mailchimp Created an In-House Entertainment Studio That’s Working With WME, Vice and Others
Can Mailchimp — yes, the provider of email marketing and other services — produce a series as entertaining and engaging as anything on TV or Netflix?

WGA Data Shows Median And Maximum Pay for TV Pilot Scripts
As agent-less writers try to negotiate their own TV pilot deals with the help of their managers and attorneys, the WGA has put out a guide to the compensation they might expect for writing and producing those pilots. 

ABC & Fox Aim To “Bust The Pilot Cycle” As Broadcast Network Chiefs Debate Traditional Development Process
Broadcast network bosses have once again promised to “bust the pilot cycle” – five years after then-Fox topper Kevin Reilly infamously said ‘RIP’ to pilot season.

An Online Spreadsheet Revealed Museum Workers’ Salaries.
A Google spreadsheet titled “Arts + All Museums Salary Transparency 2019” began to circulate with staffers at museums, galleries, nonprofits, and artist’s studios anonymously providing information about their compensation. The spreadsheet brings an unprecedented level of transparency to the art field.

Tyler Perry’s Motivational BET Awards Speech Reveals Dark History Behind His Atlanta Studio
“The studio was once a Confederate Army base,” Perry said in an inspiring speech that emphasized the importance of owning your own business.

The Korean Film Archive Is Now Streaming Over 200 Movies for Free on YouTube
The Korean Film Archive has been quietly uploading classics for well over a year now, making its YouTube page an invaluable resource for cinephiles.