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Sub-Genre Media Newsletter:
Semi-frequent musings on indie film, media, branded content and related items from Brian Newman.

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Ira Retrospective

Ira Deutchman Retrospective in NYC

Columbia University’s Ira Deutchman: NY Indie Guy Retrospective
In the “hey all film festivals, please-copy this” department:
From the official release: On September 14-16 and 20-23, Columbia University’s Lenfest Center for the Arts will host a retrospective honoring the film producer and distributor Ira Deutchman, one of the essential figures in the history of American independent films.
Since 1975, Deutchman has been a leader in distributing, marketing, and producing the work of independent directors like John Cassavetes, Barbara Kopple, Joan Micklin Silver, John Sayles, and Steven Soderbergh. Deutchman is perhaps best known for his work founding and running the distribution companies Cinecom, Fine Line Features, and Emerging Pictures.
To find out about films and purchase tickets, go to
Films from the retrospective include both classics from the history of independent cinema and gems waiting for rediscovery. The celebration will also include panel discussions and an extensive exhibit covering Deutchman’s impact on cinema.
My take: When I first moved to NYC to try to break into the film business, I begged the only person I knew with any film connections to help me get some job interviews. That person was Cara White, who had co-founded the PR firm Clein + White, which was arguably the most important PR firm of that time in indie films, and she introduced me to three people, and one of them was Ira Deutchman, who was then running Redeemable Pictures.
I grew up traveling an hour from my home in Seminole, Florida to the little St. Pete Beach Theater (now closed, but there’s a movement to try to re-open it) to watch many indie/arthouse films that had the logos of the companies Ira had worked for/or run/founded on them, so that first intro was like being introduced to a bonafide celebrity for a film geek.
His tenure at Fine Line (1990-95) roughly overlapped with my time in undergraduate film school (89-93), and includes some of my favorite films, which were their own little film school: 1989’s "Sex, Lies, and Videotape" (Steven Soderbergh); 1990’s "Metropolitan" (Whit Stillman); 1991’s "My Own Private Idaho" (Gus Van Sant); 1992’s "The Player" (Robert Altman); 1993’s "Short Cuts" (Robert Altman) and you can’t not mention 1994’s "Hoop Dreams" (Steve James). And he worked on many more – too many to mention here.
While I’ve never asked Ira if he remembers this, he did take a phone call with me briefly, even though he had no openings, and that was pretty nice of him because I had very little experience and he was a busy guy. Over the years, I was lucky enough to have many more phone calls and conversations with Ira about the indie film business, and these all shaped my understanding of the field immensely. He taught me indirectly, by way of example: that indie film has always been a crazy business; to support work that you love; to give back to the community via teaching; and most importantly, to keep innovating, which he always did through the companies he launched, and he continues to do with the film work he’s producing/directing now (more news on that should come out soon).
When I’d complain about the state of independent film exhibition, he introduced me to the leaders of the Arthouse Convergence, so I could learn what was really going on there (a lot), and what else was possible. We’ve also brainstormed many distribution ideas together – and he’s helped me kill many a bad idea before it went too far. We’ve been on more than a few panels together at film fests, and I’ve listened to more than one of his keynotes, and he’s always one of the smartest folks in the room when it comes to thinking about the art and business of film.
If you are in/near NYC or can get here, the retrospective is a must-attend event. I especially recommend the “Conversation with” panel, where you can hear from him directly about the past, present and future of the industry. They also have 3 other panels scheduled on the current state of the field, Ira’s contributions to indie film, and the crisis in film preservation, that are all great events. Plus some of the best indie films of the past few decades will be screening, with many guest speakers.
This is a program that I truly hope inspires others to copy it – I’d love to see a smaller version of this film series and panels travel to Sundance and to regional film festivals near and far. So programmers/organizers: take note and copy away.

Stuff I'm Reading

In the who has extra money for this crap department, The Wrap bought VideoInk, and is turning it into The Wrap Pro.  This is so all kinds-of-expected-but-weird. My only hope is that the unnamed strategy here was an acqui-hire of their designers, because you couldn’t pay me to try to read The Wrap’s graphic design. Which is kinda sad, because in theory, I like what Sharon Waxman seems to want to build here with an in-depth news site, deeper dives via subscription and events to boot -  but without a much better user-case than “ some accounts-payable team will pay for this shit” strategy, I don’t see why I’d fork over any money for this instead of the other trades and existing paid subscriptions that overlap enough for in-depth news, like The Information. The problem in this space is that it’s hard to bite the hand that feeds you, and fewer in film media are willing to do this than in perhaps any other space in journalism/advertising (again, here, they are almost always the same).
I’m off to moderate the Points North Forum Pitch at the Camden Film Festival, for the umpteenth time: I’ve been doing this for who knows how many years now, and it’s become one of my favorite duties each year. I get to moderate a panel of about 15 film funders as they take pitches from six teams of documentary filmmakers who pitch for seven minutes and then get 12 minutes of feedback from the panel. Some people get money, most get made and all of them get great advice; and it’s one of the rare pitching forums that allows the general public to watch, making it quite a fun event all around. Besides that, the festival has awesome programming, a stellar team, a beautiful, destination town, and just might throw the best film festival parties, which is saying something since most festivals take their party programming as serious as their films.
Branded Content

Mattel has launched a film division: And they hired a great person to run it, Robbie Brenner, a producer of Dallas Buyer’s Club among many other things. But as Forbes reports, Mattel has been screwing up a foray into movies for a long time, and the company’s not doing so great. So this hail mary pass may not lead to a win anytime soon.
BrandStorytelling interviews Kari Kirschenbaum from Oath’s RYOT Studio about their work promoting MOTHER. (video link). She talks about how they worked with digital graffiti artist Insa to create a giant AR/interactive film poster and experience in London, which led to ancillary video content that was viewed over 57 Million times to help promote the movie. An older campaign, but a pretty cool activation.
Beer Lovers Rejoice: Heineken and NatGeo have a new short-form text and video piece about the discovery of what they call the “mother” yeast in Patagonia, and they’ve turned it into some beer and content. My take: I’m not a fan of the brand’s signature beer's taste, and am skeptical of branded science, but it’s a kinda cool little short about finding an undiscovered yeast – supposedly one of the missing links to the beginnings of all yeast  - and turning it into a beer, and it fits the NatGeo mission, so it’s a (little bit of a) win for both.

Nike's sales went up 31% after the Kaepernick Ad ran, says Time Magazine. As I said before, that was a smart move.
What I’m Reading: VR
Forbes looks into the future of VR in retail and consumer experiences. Visiting with LucasFilm’s ILMxLABs, they look at everything from the future of virtual pets, to re-visiting the place where you got engaged – all in service of hyper-consumerism. Some interesting stuff here, if we ever get past the current bad-360-video-land and into the future.
Copyright © 2018 Brian Newman, All rights reserved.

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