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:


Time for a new job?

June 27, 2024

Over the past year, I’ve met with hundreds of indie filmmakers of one kind or another. Mainly producers and directors, but also folks in different aspects of this industry from grips to distributors, to festival programmers, and even to editors, lawyers and agents (who are typically bullet-proof). And the same thing keeps coming up – this is getting harder, this is getting impossible, this time feels different, and worse. Others have a better game face – they’re doing fine, but no one else they know is doing well, and they’re a little worried. But the more the wine flows, the more the anxiety shows. Doing this thing we love, broadly called films, is getting harder every day. The notion that it might just be cyclical, as it usually comes around, goes around, is becoming less tenable of a notion to hold in one’s head. 
No one wants to say the obvious, so here I go again… maybe it’s time to get a new job. Or, to try radically new directions within the business. But humor me for one moment on the extreme version, and don’t hate me for saying this, but if any of the above sounds familiar to you, and you’re finding yourself in that same boat, floating in a sea of anxiety over the fate of this business called film, maybe it’s time to just let it go. Let’s face it, audiences already did the same, which led to everything that’s happening. Netflix is not buying your film, or renewing your output deal, or sponsoring your festival for a reason, and it’s not any animosity towards anyone, it’s just business. And knowing where the audience already went.  Which is to TikTok, but that’s another post and not my point today.
The main reason that I want to get on my soapbox and tell people to consider another job is because the world needs you. They just don’t need that passion project you are having a hard time making or distributing or getting funded by donors/investors/sponsors. We need storytellers. We need people who know how to bring these stories to the masses or to their community. Or to use them to make some kind of change. Lord knows we need better storytellers on the Left, in politics, where we seem to have lost track of the script – despite many great accomplishments- and are letting others tell a story about us, instead of telling the story that needs to be told. But right now, most of these stories don’t need to be a feature film or series – they need to be on social media, or in the development of new models that can break us out of this rut. And those new models will rely on a good story as well. 
What we don’t need are a lot of people tilting at windmills when we could go nuclear. Meaning, why beat your head against the wall, when you could do something completely unexpected and new, which changes the paradigm. Look, I get it- we all want to support the dream. But humor me for a second more- I’ve always wanted to start a foundation that would finance you for not making your film. We have enough of them, and it’s gotten to the point that I truly believe most film funding is branded content now – to promote the funder as much as it is to fund the film. To be part of the logos on that award winner. But what if you took all of the folks who just barely missed the cut for your grant, and you told them – we’ll give you 50K or 100K or whatever – to not make this film, but do your other secret passion. The thing you’ve wanted to do, but hey, you went to film school, you got a film accepted to Sundance (or Cleveland) and this is your dream-ish. The -ish being crucial. Tell me the other part of that -ish and my fake foundation will give you money to do that thing instead. I bet we’d get a million awesome ideas, a lot less films that are great but not going to find an audience, and maybe (just maybe) change part of the world for more folks than we would have with that film. No one will do this grant program, but I remain convinced it would be a great use of funds, and change more lives than most film funding does (yes, there are a lot of exceptions). 

Making the big change can be hard to contemplate, but it can work. Trust me, as I've done it. That’s what I did ten years ago, when I switched from running nonprofits to working with brands to make and distribute films. I was burnt out on the nonprofit sector, and I could see back then that brands were part of the future – not really to “save film” as some people think, but instead to make sure quality films could reach their audience. Because brands know marketing, and don’t really need to work within the system - even if many of them are still trying to do that instead of embracing their strengths outside of the system (again, material for another post).
Now, the brand funded film space is getting crowded. I get calls and emails every day from people hoping that some brand will fund their film, and every day I hear a new business plan predicated on making great films by getting funds from brands. I work in this area, so I welcome the new attention, but… I think people need to be thinking about completely new paradigms as well.  We need a lot of new ideas.
Ok, now back to reality. Of course, I know very few people are going to quit their film dreams and move on to something else. Almost everyone I know in the film biz is also a fighter and is used to being scrappy. But I do think we all need to acknowledge that things probably aren’t going back to any sense of normal, and we need radical new thinking. We need to think about other ways to make films and get them to audiences – and to make it sustainable for everyone in the business. 
If you aren’t gonna quit your film career, and neither am I, what are the other areas we can explore and what are the other new paradigms?  What would be a truly radical new direction? I don’t know the answer to that question. I have some thoughts, and I put them out there weekly in this newsletter. But I think those are the questions everyone in this business should be asking – whether you are making films or getting them to an audience (as a distributor, festival, exhibitor, or other). What’s the career 180 you can make now, which would also change the sector for everyone. 
Maybe what we all need is a new job – not quitting film, but in building something new, since what’s old is clearly not working for almost anyone anymore. But we need to build these new jobs ourselves, and not wait for the powers that be in this thing we call a film industry to do it for us - because they've clearly failed in that mission. Onwards, to creating great new jobs.

Stuff We're Reading

Hollywood Has Turned Its Back On Latin Audiences: “19 percent of the U.S. audience is Latin yet pathologically dismissed by Hollywood.” “Does the industry not like money anymore? (Richard Rushfield, The Ankler).” Rushfield’s entry is a response to a meeting he attended alongside “a good sample of the Hollywood Latino power structure… on how the entertainment community could seize the financial opportunity of the massive Latin market.” Attendees discussed their disproportionately intense day-to-day battles with marketing departments, algorithms, and budget cuts. “Can you imagine any other industry… saying, we’ll pass on that extra 19 percent of the consumer audience?” “In this sector, we’re apparently still in 1967… Couple that with the economic facts here, as laid out in the McKinsey study — how an industry that desperately needs at this moment to expand and reinvent itself walks away from perhaps the biggest pot sitting on the table because . . . because . . . it just is.” Rushfield’s takeaway: “So given that the opportunity seems so clear — as does the injustice — why the hell are we still just talking about this, or not even talking about this, in 2024?” (GSH)

Tribeca Festival Embraces AI With Sora Shorts: In keeping with their history of embracing new tech, Tribeca Festival and OpenAI screened a new series of short films created with Sora, the AI model used to generate hyper-realistic video with text prompts (still not available to the general public). The “Sora Shorts” series featured 5 commissioned films made in just 3 weeks and premiered at Tribeca earlier this month. Digiday’s Marty Swant writes that “some [viewers] raised concerns about IP issues and accused the festival of taking advantage of artists, but others online and in attendance praised the premiere with enthusiasm.” One of the Sora Shorts filmmakers, Michaela Ternasky-Holland, said collaborating with Sora was like “working with an infant with unlimited computing power.” She “likened current discussions [on AI filmmaking] to how documentary filmmakers used to not consider certain ethical issues when filming around the world (Swant),” and stated, “things need to get a little uncomfortable for people to find a new comfort with a new paradigm.” (GSH)

Netflix CEO On New Culture Memo & What It Means For the Future of Streaming: As Netflix updates its famous culture memo, editor-in-chief of The Verge Nilay Patel sits down to interview co-CEO of Netflix, Greg Peters. Key questions they cover are: (1) What’s the big-picture definition of Netflix? Is it a streaming company? Is it a TV company? Is it entertainment because it has games now?; (2) “Reed Hastings, the former CEO of Netflix, once famously said the company’s biggest competitor was sleep. This is a statement of purpose about the attention economy. Is that still the framework that you’re using?”; (3) How is Netflix competing with social media directly, especially as so many accounts on platforms like TikTok benefit from pirated content? (4) How does the introduction of ads change the culture of the company? (5) What’s the future of personalization of Netflix and other streaming platforms?; (6) “Are we… headed back toward a cable bundle but with Netflix at the center?” Head to this link to listen to the audio and/or read a lightly edited interview transcript. (GSH)

Raindance Film Fest Joins Forces With Legal Firm To Fund Films On Human Rights Cases: Raindance Film Festival, a U.K independent film fest partnered with international legal firm Guernica 37 Group (G37) to create a joint production company and documentary film fund to develop films based on human rights cases. Together, they aim to produce up to six docs and fact-based features using G37’s archive of justice and accountability cases, a partnership which represents a new direction for both orgs, connecting legal experts and filmmakers to tell untold stories. Naman Ramachandran for Variety has the news. Side note, we’re excited to announce that The Brown Dog, an animated short we’ve helped distribute for our client WeTransfer had its international premiere at Raindance on June 25th. (GSH)

Branded Content

Toys “R” Us Comes Out With (terrible) AI Film: Toys “R” Us is coming back from the dead — they declared bankruptcy in 2017 — with a one minute long Sora AI-generated “brand film” (note: they call it a “brand film,” but it’s really a commercial). The film features a very lifelike boy-version of Charles Lazarus (founder of Toys “R” Us) having a trippy dream at his father’s bike shop. Find more details and watch the video at Webb Wright’s article for The Drum. My take: It’s a terrible ad with terrible graphics, but it’s hard to tell whether it's the tech’s fault or Toys “R” Us entertainment arm’s lack of experience or resources in film. (GSH)

2024 Branded Storytellers To Watch
: The Gotham Film & Media Institute embraces branded entertainment with a new program called the 2024 Gotham Week Branded Storytellers to Watch. The program will include 10 creators and filmmakers with branded entertainment experience who’ll meet with brands later this year to develop branded storytelling opportunities. Note: Our own Brian Newman advised The Gotham Film & Media Institute on this program and served as a juror during their selection process. Learn more at Alex Weprin’s piece for The Hollywood Reporter. (GSH)


Breaking Moon News: China’s Chang’e 6 spacecraft returned to Earth on June 25th with the first-ever soil samples taken from the far side of the Moon. The sample is expected to help researchers better understand the moon’s unfamiliar terrain and shed light on early history of the Moon and our planet. Of course, the mission also represents a significant escalation of the global space race to establish a presence on the Moon. Note that NASA wants to send humans to the south pole of the Moon in 2026 as part of its Artemis III mission. (GSH)

GSH = Articles written by Sub-Genre's Gabriel Schillinger-Hyman, not Brian Newman (BN)
TMPL GYM POOL, Hell's Kitchen NYC
Once a month, I feature one of my favorite pools in the world, because I want to expand this newsletter a little bit outside pure industry news, and because swimming is a big  part of my travels to film fests and conferences, not just my day to day life.

This month, I'm featuring my local, daily swim pool - TMPL Gym in Hell's Kitchen. It's got a bit of a disco vibe in the lighting, but I go here because it's close to my home, and it's a 25 meter, salt water lap pool. I'm also featuring it this month because I was just able to dive back in this week, exactly one month from getting a left hip replacement. The surgeon cleared me to swim on Tuesday at Noon, and I was in the pool by 3pm, swimming a half mile to get back into the swim of things. Two weeks ago, I was using a cane at DC:DOX, and now I'm back to swimming - and I see running just around the corner.

TMPL is a little expensive, but I figure it's worth the cost due to how close it is, so I can swim almost daily, and because the salt water (with a little chlorine) is better on your skin. They also don't allow more than two swimmers per lane, so you don't have to circle swim, and if you avoid peak hours, you can often get a lane to yourself. If you live in NYC and swim, add it to your list. 
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.