IDC Future of Indies part 001

The Future of Independent Film, A Snapshot: The State of Indies in 2021

June 24, 2021 A DGA Independent Directors Committee Virtual Event

On June 24, the DGA Independent Directors Committee (IDC) hosted the inaugural event in their new series, The Future of Independent Film. The series was developed by the IDC Think Tank, which is comprised of IDC members Sean Baker, Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris and Karyn Kusama, IDC East member Dee Rees and DGA members Andrew Ahn and Chloé Zhao. In the first session, A Snapshot: The State of Indies in 2021, a panel comprised of Directors Miranda July (Kajillionaire), Natalie Morales (Language Lessons), Floria Sigismondi (The Silence of Mercy) and Travis Stevens (Jakob’s Wife) looked at case studies from recent feature films during a virtual conversation moderated by Kusama (Destroyer).

Following Kusama’s welcoming remarks, she engaged the panelists in a lively discussion that covered the challenges and triumphs of accomplishing projects at this unique moment in history as films of varying budget levels were still being made both pre- and post-pandemic and in some cases, even during it!

During the conversation, Morales spoke about casting decisions for Plan B, one of two films she directed during the pandemic. “It’s part of the fun of what we do. It is pressure-filled, but sometimes it makes the movie better. The actor that we used to have was great. The actor that we got, that replaced that one, made the movie incredible. They were great actors and we were all like, ‘Good. This is gonna make a really good movie.’ And then when we got this other person, it exploded in this way that really affected all of us. Not to be cheesy, but everything happened for a reason.”

July discussed releasing Kajillionaire during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We kept not being sure and month by month, we’re learning. This other movie did this and this. I kept shifting my expectations. It came out in September, and it did actually have a theatrical release. It was sort of an inverse. Usually, it would be New York and LA and then other cities from there. Instead it was all the small places that didn’t have a high COVID number. I think we all just became grateful for any good thing that did happen. I was quite moved by the people that got to see it opening weekend and by their surprise at getting to be the first [audience].”

Stevens commented on the role of the director as a storyteller. “I had read this book, Rewriting Indie Cinema by J.J. Murphy, which sort of tracks psycho-drama theater through the Cassavetes stuff, all the way through mumblecore. It was so inspiring to be like, ‘Our job as filmmakers is storytelling.’ The way we do that job doesn’t need to be defined by any particular means. We can use other ways to try to achieve the goal of what our job is.”

As the conversation shifted to the theatrical experience, Sigismondi added, “There’s something community-based or something energetically-based when you’re in the same room with a bunch of people and that’s all you’re doing. You’re not checking your phone. There’s something really beautiful about that experience and very different than watching it at home. But, I’m also of the mind of exploring and experimenting with different mediums so I’m all over the place.”

See video from this discussion in the gallery below.

Miranda JulyMiranda July
July’s directorial credits include the feature The Future, which she also wrote and starred in. She pulled the same triple duty on her second feature, Me and You and Everyone We Know, which won the Camera d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and a Special Jury Prize at Sundance. In 2020, she debuted her third feature film, Kajillionaire. July has been a DGA member since 2018 and also serves on the Independent Directors Committee.


Karyn KusamaKaryn Kusama (moderator)
In 1999, Kusama wrote and directed her first feature film, Girlfight, a film that won the Director’s Prize and shared the Grand Jury Prize at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival. Her other directorial credits include the features Aeon Flux, Jennifer’s Body, The Invitation, and Destroyer; episodes of series such as Billions, Halt and Catch Fire and The Man in the High Castle; and the short film, Her Only Living Son, as part of the anthology, XX. Kusama joined the DGA in 2004, is a member of the Independent Directors Committee and also serves on the Western Directors Council.
Natalie MoralesNatalie Morales
Morales is an actor, director, writer and activist whose directorial credits include the features Plan B, which premiered on Hulu in May 2021, and Language Lessons, which won the Audience Award at SXSW 2021. Morales also created, directed and stars in the “Funny or Die” series, James Joyce’s Love Letters, and has directed episodes of Room 104 and Mr. Student Body President. She has been a DGA member since 2017.
Floria SigismondiFloria Sigismondi
Currently in post-production on her feature The Silence of Mercy, Sigismondi’s other directorial credits include the features The Runaways and The Turning; episodes of American Gods, The Handmaid's Tale, Daredevil and Hemlock Grove; and numerous videos for a total of 84 productions. Sigismondi has been a DGA member since 2005.
Travis StevensTravis Stevens
Stevens’s directorial credits include the features Girl on the Third Floor, which premiered at SXSW and won the Fangoria Chainsaw Award for Best First Feature and Jakob’s Wife, which premiered at SXSW 2021 and was released in theaters, drive-ins and VOD. He also directed the documentary short Behind the Scenes of 'Summer's Blood' and the "Blood - Television" segment of Exquisite Shorts. Stevens has been a DGA member since 2018.

About the Independent Directors Committee:

Established in 1998 in Los Angeles, the Independent Directors Committee (IDC) is composed of directors actively working in independent film. The IDC East was created in 2002 in New York. Both branches seek to help the Guild develop policies, programs and activities that better serve the needs of DGA members who work in the independent and low budget film arenas, reach out to independent film directors who are not yet members of the Guild to raise their awareness of the benefits of DGA membership, and educate independent film producers about the DGA’s low budget agreements and encourage them to make use of those agreements.

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