IDC Future of Indies part 002

The Future of Independent Film, Finding the Right Distributor

September 22, 2021 A DGA Independent Directors Committee Virtual Event

On September 22, the DGA Independent Directors Committee (IDC) hosted the panel discussion, The Future of Independent Film, Finding the Right Distributor. During a virtual conversation moderated by Independent Directors Committee Chair Kyle Patrick Alvarez (Crater), Directors Patrick Brice (There’s Someone Inside Your House), David Lowery (The Green Knight), Geeta Malik (India Sweets and Spices); IFC Films President Arianna Bocco, ARRAY’s President Tilane Jones and NEON’s EVP of Acquisitions and Production Jeff Deutchman discussed what distribution executives are looking for when selecting independent features for potential acquisition. They also covered the difficult decisions between choosing a traditional exhibition strategy, securing a streaming deal or a hybrid of the two that Directors may face in a rapidly evolving environment.

Alvarez opened the discussion by referencing Patty Jenkins’s recent remarks at CinemaCon about streaming services where she voiced her opinion that, “It’s not working as a model for establishing legendary greatness.”

“It brought up something really compelling about independent films, which of course I think are geared toward legendary greatness, but in a different way,” said Alvarez. “I find it’s our expectation of what it means when we make a movie. When we make an independent film, we have these multiple lives it lives. It goes to a film festival, then it goes to a distributor and it goes into theaters, and then it goes into cable release or streaming, and then it would go to DVD. You would have this sort of grand lifespan and instead, now we’re dealing with streamers, or even just digital distribution, that relies more on word of mouth and discovery, and less on gigantic marketing schemes.”

Brice spoke about how his first two movies found their audience. “[Creep] came out at South by SouthWest in 2014 and then didn’t get released on Netflix until 2015. When it did get released, it was actually released in the same week as The Overnight, my second feature, which was released theatrically. So, I had, within a week, my first and second films released at the same time. One on Netflix and one in movie theaters. Far more people ended up seeing Creep than ended up seeing The Overnight. It’s simply because it’s just a click on someone’s TV screen.”

Lowery recalled his different experiences with the releases of his films. “Pete’s Dragon opened on 3,000 screens, but most people who’ve seen it, saw it on Disney+. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints was a movie that was day-and-date and a traditional platform release where it was in New York and LA, and then added on from there. It maxed out at 100-something screens. As a filmmaker, the experience of putting that movie out was far more thorough than having a big Disney movie that plays on every screen in America because that movie opens and it’s just out there and it does how it does. With an independent film, regardless of whether it’s day-and-date or streaming or theatrical or a combination of any of those things, it requires a more nurturing approach.”

Malik touched on the subject of commercial viability. “The reason I got into filmmaking was to see faces like my own on screen. I like the idea of doing one for me, one for them. I hope I get to that stage at some point. As an independent filmmaker, I try not to think about the commercial viability of it, and now more than ever, it’s still important. The money is still important. It helps you get to the next stage of your career, but at the same time, there are these niche markets. You can find those smaller audiences for films that aren’t these huge, commercial juggernauts and that gives me a lot of hope.”

Bocco expressed her sorrow over the possible loss of the theatrical experience. “Film is a very social experience. If you’re not in the room, it hasn’t happened. I think one of the reasons a lot of people make films or get into film is to share that communal experience and you do that theatrically in the theater. It’s a really powerful experience. Part of what’s happening right now is that, especially in the last year and a half, we’re mourning the loss of having that communal, shared experience.”

On the subject of varying distribution models, Deutchman admitted, “It’s hard to expect people to remember your film 10, 20, 30 years down the line if they couldn’t pay attention to it to begin with. In addition to that, it’s about event-icization. Not just about whether it’s in theaters or streaming, but how much is the distributor spending, how creative is the distributor getting with their marketing, how much care is being put into it. That really isn’t about how the film is seen. Streamers manage to put films in the cultural conversation that way, but I think the key issue there is volume because as Netflix and many of the streamers are licensing and producing hundreds of movies a year, it’s simply impossible for them to give the same kind of a care and attention and resources to all of them.”

Jones spoke about her passion in bringing films to communities. “Even though they are on Netflix, I still constantly book these small, independent films all over the world, all over the country. Those are organizations or theaters that want to have an audience in a theater, even though it is already streaming because, unfortunately, not every community has a local theater where they can easily go to it. So, we have to lean on those organizations to bring that film to that community, specifically for the films that we distribute.”


See video from this discussion in the gallery below.


Kyle Patrick AlvarezDirector Kyle Patrick Alvarez (moderator)
Alvarez’s directorial credits include the features The Stanford Prison Experiment, C.O.G. and Easier with Practice; and episodes of 13 Reasons Why, Counterpart and Tales of the City. He recently directed and executive produced every episode of season 2 of the Amazon series, Homecoming, and is currently in post-production on the Disney feature, Crater, a Stand by Me-inspired film that takes place on the moon. Alvarez has been a DGA member since 2016 and Chairs the Independent Directors Committee. 

Patrick BriceDirector Patrick Brice
Brice’s directorial credits include the feature Creep, which he also co-wrote and starred in. His second feature as writer and director, The Overnight, premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. In 2021, he will debut his fifth feature film, There’s Someone Inside Your House on Netflix. He’s also directed multiple episodes of HBO’s Room 104. Brice has been a DGA member since 2016. 
David LoweryDirector David Lowery
Lowery’sdirectorial credits include the features Ain’t Them Bodies SaintsPete’s DragonA Ghost StoryThe Old Man & the GunThe Green Knight and the forthcoming Peter Pan & Wendy; and episodes of Rectify and Strange Angel, and the docu-series, Breakthrough. Loweryhas been a DGA member since 2014. 
Geeta MalikDirector Geeta Malik
Malik’s directorial credits include the feature Troublemaker and the short films ShamelessBeastApu’s Revenge and Aunty Gs; and she was a collaborating director on the documentary short, The MY HERO Project Global Exchange. Her second feature, India Sweets and Spices, premiered at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival and will be released theatrically by Bleecker Street in November of 2021. Malik has been a DGA member since 2019. 
Arianna BoccoArianna BoccoPresident IFC Films
Prior to becoming the President of IFC Films, Bocco spent over a decade overseeing acquisitions for IFC Films and IFC Midnight, the multi-platform film distribution label owned and operated by AMC Networks, Inc. Throughout her tenure, she has acquired 800+ films for the company, including some of the most revered independent films of the last decade. Bocco is a member of AMPAS and BAFTA NY, currently serving as the Board Vice Chair. 
Jeff Deutchman Jeff DeutchmanEVP of Acquisitions and Production for NEON
Prior to his work at NEON, Deutchman held senior positions at IFC Films and Paramount Pictures. He has championed and acquired an array of culturally indelible films from all over the world, including Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite, Craig Gillespie’s I, Tonya and Julia Ducaurnau’s Titane. He also serves as an executive producer on NEON’s productions, which have included Alex Gibney’s Totally Under Control, Pablo Larrain’s Spencer and Brandon Cronenberg’s upcoming Infinity Pool
Tilane Jones Tilane Jones, President ARRAY
Jones has worked with award-winning filmmaker Ava DuVernay for thirteen years. In 2019, she was appointed President of ARRAY, leading ARRAY Alliance and The ARRAY Creative Campus. She continues to oversee ARRAY Releasing, the company’s film distribution arm, where she has been responsible for the acquisition, booking and marketing of the collective’s 30+ independent films by filmmakers of color and women of all kinds. 

About the Series:

The Future of Independent Film was developed by the IDC Think Tank, which is comprised of IDC Chair Kyle Patrick Alvarez, IDC East Co-Chair Mary Harron, IDC members Sean Baker, Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris and Karyn Kusama, IDC East member Dee Rees and DGA members Andrew Ahn and Chloé Zhao.

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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IDC Future of Indies part 001
A DGA Independent Directors Committee Virtual Event