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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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Brian Newman & Sub-Genre Media

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Open Letter to Joseph Beyer

Joseph Beyer, formerly of Sundance, is now running the Traverse City Film Festival, founded by Michael Moore. Well hot-damn, that’s a cool person, going from one cool place (with some interim steps) to another. I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with Joe on some projects at Sundance, and he’s the real deal. Can’t wait to see what he does there. But while he figures out what to do, I will take this moment to give him a whacky idea, unsolicited and public, no less!
Dear Joe -
Congrats on the new job. You’ve got a lot on your plate, with some big ideas already announced, but what would life be without Brian Newman giving you some other idea to think about? Here’s an idea I just had today while thinking about Tribeca launching and you getting your new gig, and I think you’re just the guy to launch it.
Every year when film festivals send out their rejection letters – some of them on Fridays, which earns them a special place in Hell as far as I’m concerned, but that’s another article  - they always send a handful with genuine, heartfelt notes of regret, saying something like: “ you made it down to the very last cut, and we really wanted to program your film, but we just couldn’t find a place for it. Please send us your future work as we really do like you.”
When you get this letter as a filmmaker, you aren’t sure whether to slit your wrists or be proud, but being a filmmaker means being a glutton for punishment, so you take a deep breath and frame the damn letter (er, print out of the email) and hope they’ll like your next film.
And guess what – the festival programmers who send these letters really do mean it. They send lots of form letters to the rest of the rejects, and even some nice notes to others, but there’s always those 1 or 2 films they just couldn’t find a place for, but they wished they could.
I want to see those films. And I bet they’d sell out at any festival that programmed them and advertised them as such.
So here’s the idea, Joe, and only you have the connections, friendships and chutzpah to do it – contact every film festival programmer in the Film Festival Alliance and ask them to anonymously submit the one film they most wish they could have programmed. This can be computerized of course, and there will be overlap. Select the ten (or five, or even one) films mentioned the most, and program them as a special sidebar at the festival. Voilà!  A festival program that no one has ever done, that will sell-out fast, and that will put a smile on the face of some very lucky filmmakers.
Sincerely – yes, that’s a sincere idea - me

Stuff I'm Reading

Nobody’s Girl Friday: The Women Who Ran Hollywood. Ok, I haven’t read this yet, but it’s on my Goodreads list to read next, after reading this great review in the WSJ (paywall).  J.E. Smyth argues that contrary to popular myth, the studio era from the 20s-50s was “an important and empowering chapter in women’s employment in the film industry;” and that women held numerous jobs at all levels of the business. She also argues against the auteur theory (which is quite male centric) and in favor of the communal nature of filmmaking, and argues against the notion that “female employees did not support the networks of other women necessary for other women in the profession.” Sounds like a lot of myth-busting and potentially awesome re-visioning of the history of women in Hollywood, and it couldn’t come at a better time. I can’t wait to read it.
Netflix ain’t buyin’ docs – I think anyone who reads my blog knows that, and also reads IndieWire already, but just in case you missed it, check out Anthony Kaufman’s great little story on what’s happening in the doc marketplace now that Netflix and Amazon are sitting on the sidelines. My take: Good article, but methinks the interviewees are putting a positive spin on the sheer terror floating through their veins as the biggest buyers shift gears from acquisitions to original content. But it’s good news for the smaller buyers, and as long as the economy holds up (ahem…) doc producers will survive.
Jaron Lanier, we need to remake the internet. Jaron’s recent TED Talk made the rounds quite a bit, so this may be old news to many, but if not, check out the 14 minute talk over at TED, where he succinctly breaks down the not-novel, but timely idea that we need to rethink the business model of most of the web, where we get free stuff, supported by ads. As he points out to those who say, “who would ever pay,” well, Netflix has made a tidy profit on a subscription business, and it doesn’t take much imagination to think of how much better a social network could become if it was forced to get better/stronger/more-trustworthy, to keep adding subscribers.
Best quote was his next to last:
“We cannot have a society in which, if two people wish to communicate, the only way that can happen is if it’s financed by a third person who wishes to manipulate them”
The Internet Apologizes: NYMag has a surprisingly interesting long-read set of interviews with many net-founders on what’s gone wrong with the internet. It covers everything from advertising to click-bait to, well, Zuckerberg and even Lanier shows up again here. My take: We all knew the internet as we know it would get broken some-day, and that time has come. You mix the all-too-real toxic culture that has arisen on social media with the fact it may have elected Trump, scare the advertisers, awaken the politicians, and pretty soon everyone will conspire to ruin a pretty good thing.
Best quote in the article (that shows where we’re headed as well): “If email were being invented now and Mark Zuckerberg had concocted it, it would be a vertically integrated, proprietary thing that nobody could build on.”  Antonio García Martínez
Branded Content
Words Matter: P&G and Great Big Story made a pretty decent brand doc about the history of P&G adding sexual orientation to its diversity policy in the early 90’s becoming one of the first Fortune 500 companies to do so. This is a very brand centric doc, but in some ways, perfect branded content – it tells an awesome story of one employee leading the charge, starting in the 80’s when coming out in Cleveland was not an easy thing to do, and it was also intimately, and truthfully, tied to one of their products at the time, Peridex, which was primarily used by people with HIV/AIDS to help with symptoms of Thrush.  Employee Michael Chanak worked hard, at first alone and then with a few others to slowly convince the company that they had to walk the talk, and the film ends up being a great story because it doesn’t hide it’s branded origins at all – in fact, they’re central to its interest and power. (H/T to Brand StoryTelling)
Once again, I’m teaching a Branded Doc workshop at UnionDocs in early May, and we still have a few slots left.
Copyright © 2018 Brian Newman, All rights reserved.

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