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

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Come May...

February 23, 2022... later than usual

The word on the street, post Sundance and post Berlinale/EFM, is that Cannes/May is now the next big thing… or as Variety put it rather awkwardly today: “Many big art film purveyors may also be holding back their biggest 2023 plays for this year’s Cannes festival: distributors, knowing that, are reluctant to step up to the plate at Berlin. Cannes, however, should be a mother of all festivals, or bigger.” Bigger than your mama. Or than any of the earlier predicted times the market would open back up… which I’ve written about here about a dozen times.
I won’t bore you with all of the links – ok, I’m just too lazy, but I’ve written about how some sales agent, or some press person, has predicted the next festival as the place where things would start moving again too many times to count. At some point, someone, somewhere is gonna just admit the truth, which is… it ain’t ever getting better. Because it never has been, Never was. Ok, maybe that VHS revolution thing helped a bit, for a while, once upon a time. 
But the story of film has sadly been one ongoing tragedy over a long period of time, which is the definition of… comedy. Which is what we’ve been part of all along. And that’s ok, and funny and all that, so long as you never hoped for better. But as I read all of my compatriots’ newsletters, blog posts and social media fields, I start to realize that some folks thought there was an actual business here, or an artform that could lead to something bigger somehow. You might even believe I think that when you read my missives here. But as a gentle reminder, or news to the roughly 15K more of you reading me now versus earlier (wow, thank you), I was writing about the sorry state of this business at least as early as 2006(!), and here’s an example from 2008 that could almost have been written this week. 
What I said back then pretty much holds true today:
“…most of the filmmakers I know – they are passionate about making films, want an audience and would like to just make enough to live on. The suits are in it for the major profit, and for them the sky is falling – it actually fell a long time ago, but all that dumb money kept the eyes glazed enough not to notice it. So, from the rest of us to all of you just joining us – welcome to our party, it’s not making us any money, but some of us are still finding what we want and having fun. What we need now is gatekeepers, but not the old types that spent a lot of money to get us to see that which we could do without, or that think that unless a film can gross millions, it wasn’t worth being made. The new “gatekeepers” needed are those that can help us wade through the junk to find the gems, and these gatekeepers will probably be my friends (or maybe just my nephew) as often as some studio division head.” And I added this nugget which is still true: “Bottom line- very few people are doing well in the film business. Kinda like in America in general, but that’s another blog post. It’s about time that filmmakers wake up to this fact collectively, and come up with their own models. No one can afford to keep making films per the usual model.”
The more things change, the more they’re the same, right? 
But… this is not a negative post. The point here is – it’s never been worse. It’s never been better. It’s always a f-n slog. And you know what – that’s life. Granted, things right now are pretty bleak if you’re getting laid off, or not selling your movie that might have sold three years ago for 3X as much money, but… that’s also not new. 
At the same time as all of that doom and gloom – and the predictions from pundits that it all might change come May and Cannes – is the reality that we have more great stuff to watch than ever before. More ways to find it (see the TikTok link below). And more ways to talk about it. And how is that bad?
For those of you who’ve made it this far… thanks to all three of you … this is a lazy post. I know it. But I’ll be honest with you – I’m burned out. I even used StableDiffusion for the image above! This ongoing slog – since at least 2008 as mentioned above, and hinted at being longer – has been getting to me lately. And that signals a need for a break. Lucky me, I have one next week as I leave town for vacation and won’t be posting next week. My hope is that I’ll get a refresh and be back here – fightin’mad and full of the ol’ piss & vinegar, combined with some hopefully smart solutions….- by early March. Which is the new May, for me. Right as we go into SXSW, which was the new thing, before May/Cannes was designated as that by Variety today…again.

Stuff I'm Reading


Can TikTok Save Cinema? That's the question posed by Ellie Calnan in ScreenDaily this week. She takes a quick look at some recent film campaigns that were successful on the platform, as well as some of the cool new forms of discovery and criticism taking place there. It's worth a quick read, and finding Kirstin McCarlie's TikTok's on film (she's at @kmcrl1) was also a nice discovery - check her Rohmer one for example. (BN)

The US Film Industry is a "Disaster Zone"; Good for Europe: That was the word at the Berlinale this past week, according to Adi Hasak as quoted in Deadline, in this article on the state of the biz. Apparently, a lot of folks are feeling that the US market is in shambles (agreed), and with a looming writer's strike, an ascendant public media internationally, and an ongoing need for content, things might be looking up for those working outside of the US. One can only hope something good is coming out of all of this turmoil. (BN)

Ode To Credits: “[When we went to the movies], my parents were practicing what now feels like a lost pastime.” Emma Kantor for “The New York Times” recalls her family’s post-movie ritual of staying for the credits. Back in the day, credits appeared at the beginning of the movie. But now, they’re left for the end, and often race across the screen in fonts too small and speeds too fast for the eye to trace.  “Our culture of on-demand binge-watching conditions us to race past the credits,” Kantor writes, “[we’re trained to take] for granted the collective creative efforts behind the movies and TV shows we so so voraciously consume.” She concludes, “[the] unsung collaborators… are an essential source of film magic [and] deserve their moment in the spotlight.” And hey… if not for the list of names, at least stay for the credit music :) (GSH)

Watch The Holly online, or in NYC at Cinema Village - while the Filmmaker is Hiding to Protect his Life: You read that right. Julian Rubinstein, the author of the book The Holly, and the film of the same name, sent out an email bulletin this week reporting that he's been put into the Colorado state protection program due to threats to his life, based on the extra news/buzz being raised by the release of his film. The book and the film (I've read and watched both), are a big expose of "why violence is rising in American cities, what is wrong with law enforcement’s approach to fighting gang and youth violence, and the connection between gentrification and violence." (in his words from his email note). Check out this Linktree to watch the film in person or online. (BN)
Branded Content
All Ways Black Cypher, Brought To Us By Penguin Random House and Milwaukee Artists: Check out Penguin Random House’s new short film, released as part of its All Ways Black initiative. Shot in the historic Milwaukee Public Library, the short features a cypher with the series curator Cree Myles and local Milwaukee artists Genesis Renji, Klassik, and Marli Amor. Myles said in a statement, “Black stories saved my life, and all I’m ever trying to do is pay that forward.” To that end, “All Ways Black is partnering with the nonprofit Little Free Library, which builds free libraries featuring Black authors all across the country (Sara Century, “Adweek”).” You can find the short video in-article. Enjoy! (GSH)

Goodbye Section 230... and with it, Free Speech?: Note - as of today (Feb 23), it looks like the Supreme Court is not going to be as drastic as we'd feared when Gabriel wrote this - but it's still worth checking out the article and video below to know the severity of what's being debated, as this will likely come up in Congress next (BN). ...  If you write or post something that’s illegal on the internet, you could be held liable for what you said, but usually, the websites that host your content wouldn’t. But the ruling of one Supreme Court case — Taamneh and Gonzales v. Google — could eviscerate Section 230, making websites legally accountable for all its users' posts. The result could change the internet forever. 1st Amendment lawyer Robert Corn-Revere writes: [Democrats and Republicans] want to increase the government’s ability to control perhaps the most influential communications medium that has ever existed—a rare instance of bipartisan agreement. Progressives advocate modifying or repealing Section 230 to incentivize—that is, coerce—privately owned platforms into restricting content progressives believe is wrong or harmful. Conservatives, on the other hand, advocate modifying or repealing Section 230 to make the companies more vulnerable to claims the content that conservatives like is being “unfairly” moderated.” And if Section 230 is destroyed, “the alternative will be to leave the future of freedom of speech in the hands of politicians. I shudder at the thought.” Check out Mike Masnick’s piece for “TechCrunch” and LegalEagle’s YouTube video for extremely helpful descriptions of the case at hand and its potential ramifications. (GSH)

2023 Is A Good Year For Independent Esports Journalism: Esports companies like Inven Global, publications like ESPN Esports and Upcomer, The Washington Post’s Launcher, and more, are suffering/seeing a decline in readership, while independent esports media and journalism is on the rise. Why? Larger publications “learned that the audience for hard-hitting truth-to-power esports journalism simply isn’t large enough to support an entire company,” writes Alexander Lee for “Digiday.” “It’s becoming increasingly clear that readers looking for the hard-hitting stuff can also go directly to independent media operations and newsletters.” With a growing audience, independent esports journalists see most of their profits through subscription fees, and because they’re independent (and since they work out of love for esports) “[they] don’t have shareholders breathing down [their] necks to be profitable, or to cut the losses. (Claire Farnworth, co-founder of Gamer Guides)” Alexander Lee has the story. (GSH)

GSH = Articles written by Sub-Genre's Gabriel Schillinger-Hyman, not Brian Newman (BN)
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