Nothing Changes If Nothing Changes & June 2020 Digest

By Rebecca Green

Nothing changes if nothing changes. It’s a phrase I come back to a lot in life. Right now it feel as though everything is changing yet nothing is changing. 

Tabitha Jackson, the new Director of the Sundance Film Festival, revealed her approach for the 2021 festival. When speaking to Robert Redford about 2021 he said to her, “I invite you to think not just outside the box, but as if the box never existed.” However, while the announcement was met with great fanfare, the ideas were lackluster. 

The announcement included “a grand partnership of communities” bringing Sundance to at least 20 independent and community cinemas across the U.S. and beyond. However, the tour concept isn’t new to Sundance, as they have held events around the globe and have a Shorts Tour. Happening right now, the Karlovy Vary Film Festival is hosting KVIFF at Your Cinema, that features 16 titles screening at 96 Czech movie theaters across the country. So while Sundance is testing a tour approach on a bigger scale than they have done before, the box still exists. 

What’s more worrisome to me than the box is the lack of transparency perpetuating the indie ecosystem. I realize festivals needed to course correct quickly, but Sundance has had more lead time than any of the other festivals, giving them the opportunity to address issues filmmakers have been raising over the last several months. There has been much debate amongst filmmakers about premiere status, geo-blocking, and revenue sharing but none of these issues were touched on in the Sundance announcement. Has Sundance been listening?

After reading the announcement, I immediately thought about regional festivals and whether or not they were asked if they will be impacted by Sundance coming to town. I texted a friend saying, “To a regional festival, it’s like Walmart coming to main street.” Little did I know that three days later, Tribeca would announce a partnership with Walmart to screen studio movies such as Back to the Future and The Lego Movie in 160 Walmart parking lots right after Tribeca announced the “suspension” of the Tribeca Film Institute. Why isn’t Tribeca programming independent films that need exposure? Why didn’t Tribeca offer this drive-in experience to the films that were to premiere at the 2020 festival? How do you close your institute that has been supporting filmmakers for decades and then immediately announce a partnership with a behemoth such as Walmart? 

Then just yesterday, Venice, Telluride, NYFF, and TIFF made an ambiguous statement saying they will be collaborating for the 2020 festivals with absolutely no detail of what that means. About this, Eric Kohn writes, “The joint festival statement represents an effort to tell various stakeholders, from media to studios to boardrooms likely convening on Zoom calls of their own, that they have to cross frenemy lines.” But what does this collaboration mean for filmmakers? 

For a moment, there was a small ray of hope in Ira Deutchman’s IndieWire piece, How Virtual Cinema Could Help Arthouses Secure Their Future in 7 Easy Steps. Now here was the kind of detailed plan that could bring us into the future that I’ve been waiting for. But that ray of sunshine was quickly snuffed out by a passive aggressive and cynical rebuttal by Kino Lorber’s Wendy Lidell who wrote, “We did not design our virtual cinema platform with the intention of capturing user data. To our surprise and delight, we did capture a list of cinephile email addresses, many of whom chose to opt-in to our house list.” Either she thinks filmmakers are stupid and believe this statement or they actually did not think about capturing data. In either scenario, we should all be worried about the future of distribution. 

These are the conversations filmmakers are having with me behind closed doors everyday. These are their frustrations. Filmmakers are not feeling heard and they are feeling left behind. Anxiety levels are rising as filmmakers attempt to chart their future with little to no information from the companies and institutions whose mission it is to support independent cinema and filmmakers. While Tabitha Jackson’s story about the Atacama Desert in Chile makes for good reading, what filmmakers need and deserve right now is transparency. 

Keep Going, 


‘The Safe Way Forward’ Joint Report from the DGA, SAG-AFTRA, IATSE, and Teamsters on COVID-19 Safety Guidelines to Provide Safe Workplaces in a Pre-Vaccine World
In the next major step toward the resumption of film and television production, the Directors Guild of America (DGA), International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) and the Basic Crafts, and Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) today released “The Safe Way Forward,” a Multi-Union Report on Covid-19 Safety Guidelines.

Cinematographers Guild Issues Safe Return To Work Protocols: No Liability Waivers, Shorter Workdays, Nondiscrimination Against Older Crew Members, More
The International Cinematographers Guild, IATSE Local 600, has released an 11-page set of protocols and recommendations for the safe return to work during the coronavirus pandemic, including a core principle that “no one should have to waive their rights or assume liability in order to go back to work.”

Georgia Senators Float Idea of Shrinking Film Tax Credit
The Georgia film tax credit, long one of the world’s most generous subsidies for the entertainment industry, could be on the chopping block as the state pares spending to respond to an unprecedented budget crisis.

The Show Can’t Go On … Without Insurance. Coverage for Film and Television Shrinks Amid COVID-19
The virus has made it nearly impossible for productions to get insurance, begging the question will this be a summer without blockbusters?

Movies and TV Can Start Shooting Again—If Anyone Can Figure Out How
Safety suggestions from producers and unions are vital, but implementing them will make productions more costly, time-consuming, and unpredictable. Ready to roll? Not so fast.

WGA & Producers Reach Tentative Deal On New Film & TV Contract, Averting Strike During Pandemic
After long and hard negotiations conducted remotely, the WGA and the AMPTP have secured a tentative overall deal that brings much-desired labor stability to an industry already hobbled by the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

Working in Silence: An Inside Look from a Parking Coordinator
Jon Johnson, Sr. has worked over three decades as a New York City parking coordinator on studio films like The Avengers, television shows like Sex and the City, and independents such as Happiness and Big Night. In a letter submitted to Filmmaker, he discusses the job of the parking PA, that position’s often estrangement from the rest of production, and systemic racism within the film production community.


Tribeca Film Institute’s Closure Should Worry All American Independent Filmmakers — Opinion
Producer Sara Archambault addresses the TFI closure and how the film community should respond to a major threat to its resources.

Cannes Is Open for (Virtual) Business — But Will Anyone Be Buying?
There will be no dealmaking on the Croisette this year, but global buyers and sellers are making an unprecedented attempt to get business done entirely online amid the COVID-19 lockdown. “This is obviously an experiment,” says one insider.

Indie Spirits Set for April 2021 After Oscars Date Shift
The Film Independent Spirit Awards, which has traditionally been held the day before the Oscars, has followed the Academy’s lead and are now planning to hold its ceremony on April 24, 2021.

As Awards Shows Move Up, Film Festivals Are Scrambling to Maintain Their Influence
The new Oscar dates have forced the entire film calendar to shift in a matter of days, while the fall festivals consider their options. Does February become the new December?

Film Academy Grants Agents Right to Vote for Oscars
Agents, who had long been classified as associate members without voting privileges, have prevailed in their decades-long quest to become full-fledged members.

Oscars: Future Films Must Meet Diversity And Inclusion Rules
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Friday announced a new initiative to expand diversity and inclusion within the filmmaking industry, as it faces renewed criticism over a lack of diverse representation on screen and behind the scenes.

The Oscars Blew It
In choosing to extend the eligibility window, the Oscars missed out on the chance to do something really special this year. And that would have been to not do anything at all. Not move any dates. Keep the eligibility period as usual. 


Peter Bart: Cinemas Confront Doomsday Scenarios As Studios Waffle On Release Dates
It seems like a distant memory — taking refuge in the welcoming comfort of a movie theater. And now it may become even more distant. Key players at the studios are worried that summer openings may simply not happen; further, that scores of movie theaters may not survive the year. 

AMC Theatres Reports “Going Concern” Doubt, Will Post Loss of Up to $2.4B on Impairment Charge
Cinema giant AMC Theatres disclosed Wednesday that it expects its first-quarter financials, which were during the second half of March hit by the shutdown of its circuit, to include a loss of up to $2.4 billion, driven by a big impairment charge amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Which Movies Will Audiences Deem “Mask Worthy”? Studios Strategize as Theaters Plan to Reopen
Amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, marketers are tasked with convincing viewers to head to theaters for Hollywood’s big-screen return: “Messaging is really tricky.”

Netflix Sees Rise In Users Watching International Shows During Coronavirus Pandemic
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has revealed that the company’s 183M subscribers have been indulging in more international content during the coronavirus lockdown.

Movie Theater Giants Sue New Jersey Over “Unconstitutional” COVID-19 Closures
AMC, Cinemark and Regal say that if churches are reopening, so must movie houses.

Are Streamers Muzzling Controversial Documentaries?
Half a dozen hot-button docs have been pulled from platforms or dropped by digital distributors in the past year, angering filmmakers and viewers: “People do not like to be told they cannot see a film.”

The Segregated Past of Drive-In Movie Theaters
It took the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and activists staging “drive-ins,” to integrate many outdoor movie venues that had separated audiences by race.

Do Movies Still Need Multiplexes?
The coronavirus-induced shutdown of movie theatres has exaggerated and accelerated a shift from theatrical to online releases which was already under way.


How a Right-Wing Movie Studio Enabled the ‘Harvey Weinstein’ of Indie Film
Cinestate producer Adam Donaghey (“A Ghost Story”) was arrested for raping a minor. But audio of him sexually harassing a crewmember has been making the rounds for years.

20 Rising Women Directors You Need to Know in 2020
From tentpole director Cathy Yan to Sundance breakout Radha Blank and more, put these female filmmakers on your radar right now.

Documentary Grant Writing: Producer and Director Alysa Nahmias On All You Need to Know
Alysa Nahmias is a director and producer whose films include the documentaries The New Bauhaus and Unfinished Spaces and Unrest, an Emmy-nominated documentary she produced that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2017 and is now on Netflix. Alysa spoke with MovieMaker about all that she’s learned about the grant application process.

Stephanie Allain on How Hollywood Can Fight Racism: “If You Do Nothing, You’re Not Part of the Solution”
The Oscar producer says the call to action to end racial injustice “should not just fall on black people or underrepresented communities. It is for everybody.”

Uppercasing ‘Black’
The Times will start using uppercase “Black” to describe people and cultures of African origin, both in the U.S. and elsewhere. Read more in this note from Dean Baquet and Phil Corbett.