View this email in your browser
Sub-Genre Media Newsletter:
Weekly musings on indie film, media, branded content and related items from Brian Newman.

In This Issue

Brian Newman & Sub-Genre Media


Past Newsletters


Keep Up With Brian:


Mission Critical

May 2, 2024

There’s a lot of change in the air. Festivals moving, leadership changing, consolidation, new business models being launched, etc. I could extend that list for paragraphs on end, while only focusing on the good things (leaving aside layoffs, consolidation, and the bad things), but if you ever read this newsletter, you should be up to speed on the pace of the changes facing our business. But without implying any comment on any specific organization/business here, I think a lot of the changes amount to “shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic” developments… cosmetic changes that won’t really make a difference. The ones that have a chance of making a difference will do so for one reason only – by re-focusing on their core mission. 
Everyone says that’s what they’re doing when they make a change – focusing on the mission. I’ve heard it quoted a lot this past month – “we’re getting back to our core mission” statements and yadda yadda. It’s easy to say, but much harder to accomplish. I know, because I’ve been tasked with doing that a few times when I was still running bigger (nonprofit) organizations, and I’ve both succeeded and failed in that endeavor, and somehow done both at the same time (but that’s another post).
Change can be drastic – a new leader, a new city, a new product, a fresh new series or film – but still not be transformative for a company (or nonprofit or individual). Real change, which we need right now in all facets of this industry, must be much more transformative. And the best way to do that is to double down on one’s core mission – why were you founded? Why do you exist? If you didn’t exist, what would be missing? Who do you serve, specifically? And most importantly, times have changed, the industry has changed, consumer/audience behavior has changed. So, what you’re doing to fulfill that core mission might seem the same, but it’s probably changed as well. How do you best accomplish that core mission today? The mission hasn’t changed, but the mechanisms to serve that mission likely have changed, dramatically. 
I’ll just give one broad example. A lot of film organizations were started in the 1970s and 1980s in different cities around the US because local filmmakers needed access to equipment. Broadly speaking, these organization’s had a similar mission – to help filmmakers in their region. Some, not all, of these organizations soon found that they needed a place to show their films, so they started a film festival – again, to support filmmakers in their region. Very quickly, they realized they could help these same filmmakers by showing indie films from other regions, but in theory this was still core to the mission because if you showed some films from the Pacific Northwest in the Southeast, and they reciprocated, it helped the careers of your local artists. Many of these same organizations did other things to help their local filmmakers – advocacy for policies, like government support of the arts, training programs for filmmakers, networking, and so on. 
It's important to note here that not every film festival started with this core mission – of serving filmmakers in their region. Some started to serve audiences. Some started just because some person wanted to show movies to their town. But a lot of the big ones started out with some version of that mission. And if you look around today… that mission is no longer being served in many of these places. It might be one small piece of the work they do, but most of that core mission has gotten mixed into a lot of things that are being done for donors, for a board member, for the “festival circuit,” for the press, for awards campaigns, for sponsors. And often, just to keep the lights on. In theory, staying open helps you serve your mission, but I think we can all agree that wasn’t the core mission.
If those same organizations were to start fresh today, from scratch, with the same mission – to serve filmmakers in their region, I doubt they would start a film festival, but if they did, it would likely look a lot different than the ones we have today. In a time where everyone has a camera in their pocket, can get any film online pretty quickly, and can learn how the business works online for free as well, the services needed are much different. One aspect remains the same – being able to screen in front of a community, and an event does help with that, so I am not arguing here that we get rid of film festivals. And before every fest complains to me that they’re still true to their core mission – I am aware that many great ones are doing just what they should be doing. I’m just using this as an example that I think most folks could agree on – that how we serve that kind of mission has changed today, and some places should double-down in their thinking of what that means. And you can apply that same line of thinking to other businesses in the film world. 
The mission is critical. Once you lose sight of it, everything gets lost. You start doing side projects to satisfy a funder, a customer, an audience member, a board member, a town/city, or a host of other people with other missions. Those might all be good missions, but they likely aren’t your mission. Obvious example – everyone has advice for Sundance right now (and this post isn’t intended for them, but it isn’t not intended for them either:), but most of that advice is skewed by what part of the business it’s coming from- an agent, a producer, a director, a fest programmer in another town – all of whom have different agendas and I think Sundance would do well to focus on their core mission and ignore all of us – even me, except that core message, to focus on the mission. Same for Hot Docs and a few other places. Same for your start-up. You get the point.
Anyway, if you’re reading this, and you think you have a mission, and you are facing some big changes, then ignore everyone’s advice unless it’s mission critical. Unless the advice, or the potential change somehow fits your core mission, don’t do it. But, as you face those decisions remember that mission is independent of a lot of other things -you can change leadership, locations, mediums and formats – hell, what was IRL can be virtual or handled by a bot, perhaps. It might even mean painful changes, but if that is better for your mission, those are the changes you need to make. 

Stuff I'm Reading


Goodbye Park City — Slamdance Moves To LA: Beginning a new chapter of its life in 2025, the annual Slamdance Film Festival will permanently move from its former home of Park City, Utah to Landmark Theatres Sunset and the DGA Theater Complex in West Hollywood. Slamdance President and Co-Founder Peter Baxter writes, “we’ve been trying very hard to make our festival accessible and inclusive…. A lot of audience members find going to film festivals quite expensive, and for filmmakers themselves, going to Park City is also a considerable expense.” “We felt that there was space for us in the Los Angeles melting pot to really contribute and to continue the mission of what Slamdance is all about — discovering filmmakers.” Slamdance 2025 runs Feb 20-26, and submissions open May 8, 2024.  Check out Mark Olsen’s piece for the LA Times for more info. (GSH) I've been speaking with these folks behind the scenes about this move for a bit now - as have many other alums - and I think this is fantastic. It's also completely independent of Sundance's own possible move, and LA needs a good festival, so this looks great to me. (BN)

TFC Distribution Days Virtual Conference: Last minute news here, but right now - on May 2 & 3, The Film Collaborative will present a two-day virtual conference on independent film distribution called TFC Distribution Days. The event will be presented in collaboration with Sundance Institute and Film Independent. It is sponsored by the Golden Globe Foundation, who has generously provided TFC ongoing support for all of our distribution-related educational initiatives. The event is virtual and free for all to attend. Learn more by giving TFC’s blog post/ “pre-conference primer” a read where you’ll get insights from Brian Newman and other industry experts. And hit this link to register for free now. (GSH)

Target To Ditch DVDs: DVD sales will take a big hit as Target decides to phase out physical media from its stores. “Moving forward, [Target will] offer select DVDs in stores when they are newly released or during key times throughout the year when they are more popular, like for gift giving during the holidays (Target Spokesperson).” Though DVDs will be available for purchase on Target’s website, who knows how broad its selection will be. And Target isn’t alone: Best Buy said it’d drop DVDs and Blu-Rays from its stores in 2024. As of now, physical games will still be sold at Target stores as well as online. Emma Roth for The Verge has the news. (GSH)

Branded Content

LVMH and Kering Duel For Hollywood: Two French billionaire moguls, Bernard Arnault and François-Henri Pinault, known for their dominance in the luxury industry, face off to expand their empires into Hollywood. In September of 2023, Pinault (chairman of Kering) bought a majority stake in the CAA talent agency, a move which raised speculation that its brands (like Saint Laurent, Gucci, Balenciaga…etc) could benefit from high profile celebrity / entertainment relationships. Just months later, Arnault (LVMH chairman) launched a studio called 22 Montaigne Entertainment, opening up possibilities for partnerships between luxury brands and brand films, TV, streaming, and podcast projects. “In front of the camera, fashion and film have been cozy for decades…. [but] what we’re seeing in real time is a collapsing of the traditional walls between entertainment and luxury—or, more bluntly, a disintegration of the space between storytelling and advertising (Christina Binkley, Robb Report).” Binkley also explains that Arnault and Pinault’s investments in Hollywood could also lead to partnerships between their rival companies, potentially resulting in unconventional projects that merge entertainment, luxury, and celebrity culture. Much more detail on what’s going on in the luxury brand-film/entertainment space here. (GSH) We've obviously been covering a lot of the films from these two entities and/or their brands in this newsletter, but this is a surprisingly good summary of the space from the Robb Report, and as I've seen others comment elsewhere - who knew they had such good reporting? I've only known them from when I wanted to check out the latest Lambo! (BN)


NBA’s New TV Rights Contracts Will Reveal What They Think About Streaming vs. Cable Markets: On Monday, the exclusive financial window between the NBA, ESPN, and TNT Sports will officially close, “allowing league commissioner Adam Silver and his top lieutenants to talk specific contract details with other potential partners, which, besides Amazon and NBC, could include Google/YouTube, Netflix and Apple (Timothy Geigner, TechDirt).” Geigner’s takeaways are (1) “the only reason cord-cutting hasn’t led the traditional cable television market into full capitulation has been television rights for live sports broadcasts,” and (2) “whatever arrangement the league comes up with, it’s going to be a fascinating view into how a major professional sports league thinks about the streaming and cable television markets.” More details in-article. (GSH)

Republicans Step Up Attacks on Public Media: Right now, it's NPR in the cross-hairs, per the NYT, but make no mistake, the Right is coming after all of public media. The claims are political bias, anti-DEI "woke-ness" and so on, but they've been itching to kill public media (PBS, ITVS, NPR and so on) for quite some time. There's an actual blueprint to kill them off the second T-man wins (which is happening, y'all) already in place. Folks better start getting active here, or we'll lose the last good thing we have left in the media sphere. (BN)

Pew Research Center & The Politics of Social Media
: Highlights from a recent Pew Research Center survey on Americans’ views of Tech Companies: (1) 78% of American adults believe social media companies have too much influence on politics with 84% of these being Republicans and 74% being Democrats; (2) This viewpoint has become 6% more popular since the last presidential election; (3) 71% of Republicans surveyed said big tech favors liberal perspectives, 50% of Democrats say tech companies support left and right wings equally, and 15% of adults say they support conservatives over liberals; (4) Just 16% of U.S. adults said tech companies should be regulated less than they are now (an increase from 2021 when Pew found that 9% of U.S. adults said tech companies should be regulated less). Conclusion: Americans on both sides of the aisle want more government oversight of the tech industry. Monica Anderson for Pew Research Center brings us the news (many more illuminating infographics in-article). (GSH)

GSH = Articles written by Sub-Genre's Gabriel Schillinger-Hyman, not Brian Newman (BN)
This week's pool is the most photographed pool in the world. This one's from me, when I visited last year, but look online and you'll find many better ones - I suggest starting here, at the website for the upcoming film THE POOL by Ian Darling - the definitive film on the best pool in the world. The film premiere's at the Sydney Film Festival in June, before playing more fests and soon hitting the whole world. We're consulting on it a little bit here at Sub-Genre, and any sponsors interested in the film should get in touch post haste. 
I was lucky enough to swim at Bondi last year (2023), when I was on the jury for the inaugural SXSW Sydney Film Festival. I visited a different pool every day while there, and will post photos of a few more in the coming weeks, because... man, Australia knows pools! Bondi is the real deal - built right into the rocks on the Southern end of Bondi beach and fed by the salt water in the ocean right next to it - and the waves overlapping it. That wave you see hitting the edge there is a small one, and at High Tide, those far lanes can get pretty rough, but it makes for an amazing experience. You are swimming in the ocean, but protected from the sharks, and it feels as if you're swimming laps right next to the surfers, who are literally just a stone's throw away. It's the best 50 meter swimming you can find, and when you're done, you can enjoy a cold one and good food upstairs at the Club, where there's also a pool deck, a gym and more. People seem to think it's exclusive, but there's a very cheap admission fee, which gets you access to the lockers and showers and the full facilities. As you'll see in the film mentioned above (when it comes to a town near you), there's also a strong community of swimmers, including a group that launches from the far edge into an open-water swim every morning (I didn't get to do that, but plan to in the future). The long flight to Sydney from the US is worth it if only to swim here. (BN)
Like This Newsletter? Subscribe & Past Issues
Copyright © 2024 Brian Newman, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.