Sundance Proves A Filmmaking Renaissance Is Happening In The Bay Area

What would Variety, Hollywood Reporter, IndieWire, The Wrap, MovieCityNews, Filmmaker Magazine & Deadline report if a single film company took the following awards at Sundance this year?

  1. Narrative Grand Jury Prize
  2. Audience Award For Narrative Film
  3. Best Directing of a Narrative Film
  4. Best Directing of a Documentary Film
  5. Special Jury Award For Documentary Film #1
  6. Special Jury Award For Documentary Film #2

I can't help but think they would announce the arrival of a powerhouse.

Well, allow me the pleasure of breaking such an announcement.  In case you missed it: a filmmaking renaissance is happening in The Bay Area.  All of the following films that premiered at Sundance and won an award there had a major Bay Area connection: Fruitvale, Afternoon Delight, Cutie and the Boxer, Inequality For All, and American Promise.

I don't know when was the last time a film won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at Sundance as Fruitvale did this year.  Not only is director Ryan Coogler from Oakland, not only was the story and subject from The Bay Area, not only was the film shot in The Bay Area, and not only was it mixed at Skywalker, but the San Francisco Film Society & The Kenneth Rainin Foundation granted the film $200,000.

If that wasn't enough to crow about, allow me the thrill of mentioning that this is the second year in a row that a film supported by the San Francisco Film Society & The Kenneth Rainin Foundation won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.  Yup, Beasts Of The Southern Wild received similar support last year as Fruitvale did this year.  Do we need non-profit support in order to make ambitious socially relevant cinema in America?  It sure damn looks that way, and if it is not necessary, it sure helps!  A market-driven entertainment economy encourages one thing; if we want diversity we must support our cultural institutions (and build new ones!).

But allow me to go on with the glory that this year's Sundance has bestowed upon the cities by The Bay...  I don't know when the last time a producer had both a documentary film and a narrative film in each of the Sundance competition.  I definitely don't think a producer who managed that feat ever won awards for both films (okay, I once had a film in each section, but only one of them one an award).  Winning an award for each of their films is exactly what 72 Productions accomplished with Afternoon Delight's Best Directing of a narrative film award (directed by Jill Soloway) and Inequality For All's U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award (directed by Jacob Kornbluth).  And did you know that 72 Productions' Jen Chaiken sits on the San Francisco Film Society's Board of Directors? And that the SFFS was Inequality For All's fiscal sponsor?  Surely you know that I4A's incredibly inspiring subject, Robert Reich, teaches and lives in Berkeley, and yup, that is in The Bay Area. I imagine your collective head is now reeling in wonder about what is happening here; I know I am impressed, verily.

Yes, it's true that the Directing Award at Sundance is one of the great honors.  Yes, the aforementioned Afternoon Delight won that award for Narrative, and Cutie and the Boxer, directed by Zachary Heinzerling, won for Documentary. The San Francisco Film Society's Doc Film Fund gave Cutie and the Boxer's $50,000...  That ain't chicken feed.  And that's a Bay Area connection for both sections' Directing Award.  It must be something in the water!

But The Bay Area's dominance continues on from there. It kind of takes your breathe away, doesn't it?  The other winner of a Special Jury Prize For Documentary Film, Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson's American Promise,  also received funding from The San Francisco Film Society. How great is it to give money  away to films that lift our culture up?  I suppose you don't know that feeling until you've done it, but know what?  You too can do it and I will tell you how below...

Yup. Five films.  Count 'em and tells what it all adds up to...

That is five films, six awards, at Sundance 2013 with Bay Area connections.  Pretty awesome.  In addition to all of that, the Bay Area was represented by other filmmakers at Sundance too; Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman were there with TWO films, one narrative, one doc: Lovelace and The Battle For AmFar. The list goes on and on and on.

If we added in all the films that did sound or mixed at Skywalker (Ain't Them Bodies Saints among others) or did that AND had a key crew person from the Bay Area, like World Cinema Grand Jury Prize Winner, A River Changes Course (with editor Chris Brown), our list could be even longer.  When you combine what is happening here and what is going down in Texas (Ain't Them Bodies Saints, Before Midnight, A Teacher, & Upstream Color), it sure seems like the regions are rising over the center.  And this may just be the wave before the flood...

That is not a rumbling you are feeling underground, that is the roar of a community's heart beating as one, and quite rapidly at that mind you.  You don't just have to be from Poland to have that flutter (if you watched the Awards, you will understand the reference).

I think it is now abundantly clear that if you love independent film, if you want diverse, ambitious film to prosper, you have to act now.  You must not delay.  You can either pack your bags and get the hell out of town and arrive in Fog City or one of it's many surrounding communities, or you can show your love for such cinema by helping to support the San Francisco Film Society.  Either one will do.  Just take some action.  The momentum will carry you forward.

I am investing my time, labor, & mind to help building a better infrastructure for such cinema through the SFFS.  But it takes more.  Money almost always helps.  Please consider doing what you can to keep this exciting time alive.  Join SFFS & become a member. Support SFFS here.  It takes more than a village if we are going to build it better.  We can only do it together.

The San Francisco International Film Festival is the longest running film festival in the Americas.  I hope to see you there this year  (April 25- May 9th); we have some great stuff planned for you.  The San Francisco Film Society was founded 56 years ago.  It was built by the passion and commitment of several key individuals.  We lost one of those individuals just as the Sundance Film Festival began this year.  George Gund's love and knowledge of cinema was as legendary as his great spirit and generosity.  I can not help but think of how wide his grin would be now in knowing the legacy his support has helped build.  Thank you, George.

 

SF Film Society (& 5 Others) Partner With Sundance #Artist Services

Sundance Institute Artist Services Program Expands Self-Distribution Opportunities
to Filmmakers Supported by Six Additional Organizations

The Bertha Foundation │ BRITDOC │ Cinereach │ Film Independent Independent Filmmaker Project │ San Francisco Film Society

Artist Services Announces Collaboration with REELHOUSE, VHX, VIMEO and TUGG, Offering Filmmakers Additional Platforms and Tools

Los Angeles, CA — Keri Putnam, Executive Director of Sundance Institute, today announced that the Institute’s Artist Services program – which provides Institute artists with exclusive opportunities for creative self-distribution, marketing and financing solutions for their work – has expanded to include selected films supported by one foundation and five nonprofit organizations. Additionally, these organizations will join with Sundance Institute in continuing to shape the program and the services it offers.

The Bertha Foundation, BRITDOC, Cinereach, Film Independent, the Independent Filmmaker Project and the San Francisco Film Society will each select films that they have supported to receive access to best- in-class digital distribution arrangements that have been negotiated by Sundance Institute Artist Services. These services are targeted for filmmakers who intend to pursue an independent release plan. In support of these filmmakers, the Institute will curate submitted films and work closely each organization, the filmmakers, and exclusive aggregation partner Cinedigm – New Video to develop independent distribution strategies. Furthermore, each organization will work with the Institute to expand educational opportunities to their alumni building on the model of the Artist Services Workshop that takes place each year during the Sundance Film Festival.

“Now more than ever filmmakers need to be creative and entrepreneurial in order to get their stories to audiences. Sundance Institute embraces cross-organizational collaboration in an effort to increase the collective impact on the field; it is in this spirit that we welcome the input of our colleagues to further help us shape the Artist Services program, “ said Putnam. ”Our hope is that it contributes to the long-term sustainability of independent film careers and a greater diversity of films reaching audiences each year.”

With the addition of new partners Tugg, Reelhouse, VHX, and Vimeo, Sundance Institute is expanding its suite of digital platforms and tools offered by Artist Services. Current partners include ten digital retailers as well as Kickstarter , GoWatchIt, and Topspin Media. Tugg is a web-platform that allows fans to create screening events at their local theater. Direct-to-fan platforms Reelhouse, VHX and Vimeo, like longtime Artist Services collaborator Topspin Media, will work with Sundance Institute and its interested supported filmmakers to develop opportunities to sell their films and merchandise directly to end users. All four new partners will participate in the annual Artist Services Workshop on Monday, January 21, at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

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Since the Artist Services program launched in January 2011, more than $3.2 million has been raised for nearly 100 Institute artists’ projects via Kickstarter and more than 40 films are now accessible by the public on a variety of platforms and storefronts.

The exclusive aggregation partner for distribution participating in the Artist Services program is Cinedigm – New Video. The Artist Services initiative is made possible by The Bertha Foundation. These deals were brokered via pro bono legal services generously provided by law firm O’Melveny & Myers LLP, which has built the legal framework for the Artist Services program and participating filmmakers since its inception.

Sundance Institute

Founded by Robert Redford in 1981, Sundance Institute is a global, nonprofit cultural organization dedicated to nurturing artistic expression in film and theatre, and to supporting intercultural dialogue between artists and audiences. The Institute promotes independent storytelling to unite, inform, and inspire, regardless of geopolitical, social, religious, or cultural differences. Internationally recognized for its annual Sundance Film Festival and its artistic development programs for directors, screenwriters, producers, film composers, playwrights, and theatre artists, Sundance Institute has nurtured such projects as Born Into Brothels, Trouble the Water, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Amreeka, An Inconvenient Truth, Spring Awakening, Light in the Piazza, and Angels in America. Join Sundance Institute on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

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QUOTES FROM COLLABORATING ORGANIZATIONS

The Bertha Foundation

“The Bertha Foundation has been a proud supporter of the Artist Services initiative since it began,” said Rebecca Lichtenfeld of Bertha Philanthropies. “It not only gives films the much-deserved opportunity to reach broader audiences but it also offer resources for the filmmaker and producers that assist with their distribution strategies. We are looking forward to this next phase of the initiative and the support it will provide Bertha Foundation film grantees among others.” http://www.berthafoundation.org/

BritDocs

"Wow. Thank you, Sundance Institute.” remarked Jess Search, CEO Britdoc Foundation, “BRITDOC is delighted to be joining Artist Services and to be able to get some films we love to audiences who will love them also. Artist Services is just the kind of smart distribution intervention that independent filmmakers, independent organizations like ours and independent audiences need. Kudos to Sundance Institute for having put it together and we look forward to being part of the innovations to come." http://britdoc.org/

Cinereach

Philipp Engelhorn, Founder & Executive Director, Cinereach, stated, "Artist Services is a tremendous resource for producers who are committed to releasing their films with the same independent spirit it took to create them. We're thrilled that Sundance Institute has opened this door for filmmakers, and look forward to being part of the dedicated family of organizations coming together to offer collective support."

Film Independent

Josh Welsh, Co-President Film Independent, commented, "At a time when the biggest challenge isn't so much making your film as it is getting it out into the world in a meaningful way, the Artist Services program provides a great opportunity for us to continue supporting the filmmakers we work with in our Labs and at the Los Angeles Film Festival, and to help them fully reach their audiences." http://www.filmindependent.org/

Independent Filmmaker Project

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Executive Director, IFP, Joana Vicente said, “It’s been exciting to see how Artist Services has flourished in the past year, and to see how many projects are reaping its benefits. IFP is thrilled to be collaborating with Sundance Institute on this initiative, as Artist Services is the perfect platform for what we have been doing for years: supporting filmmakers’ marketing and distribution efforts, ensuring that great independent work reaches and connects with audiences.” http://www.ifp.org/

San Francisco Film Society,
Ted Hope, Executive Director of the San Francisco Film Society, said, "The Sundance Institute Artist Services program is the most robust set of options for any filmmaker recognizing the full responsibility of independence. It’s an incredible privilege for SFFS to be invited to help guide filmmakers and their work into this new era." www.sffs.org/