Anne Lai, Producer in Residence of Sundance Institute Feature Film Program
Tuesday, July 26th, 2011
As we all know, the challenges in making independent films have always been there and will continue to be there. It wouldn’t be independent if it were easy. In many ways, the burden lies squarely on the producer’s shoulders – how to nurture great material, how to piece together financing, how to inspire a army of contributors along every step of the way, and how to get the film made (and made well) and out into the world. This last one – finding distribution – has become more and more complicated and confusing to navigate.
It has always been the producer’s role to seek and evaluate all of the best options for their film – how best to support their director’s vision? How best to execute that on a limited budget? How best to provide a full post production process on a shoestring? And this is all before getting the film completed, let alone noticed and sold. While there may have been a golden era (or cyclical mini-golden eras) for theatrical and all rights sales in the past, recent years have become much less uniform and easy for indie distribution. But now, with the emergence and expansion of digital platforms, the game has begun to change in an exciting way.
We just returned from this year’s Creative Producing Summit and Labs where, over the course of a week, we dive into the nuts and bolts of the current indie marketplace and look deeply at how a creative producer can do their best work and continue to grow that body of work. Like all of our Labs, the Creative Producing Lab marks the beginning of a relationship with new Fellows and their specific feature projects. Through working with lab advisors, year-round mentors, and our staff on both creative and strategic fronts, the support extends throughout the life of the project. We firmly believe that it takes many points of contact for any project to find its best way forward. Whether through granting, guidance, connecting to potential partners, or feedback, we continually look for ways to empower the producer to seek their way forward with as much inspiration and knowledge possible.
While we’ve been able to provide different types of ongoing support from development, through each stage of production, and to a festival run, we’re thrilled to see the emergence of our newest initiative, Artist Services. It builds upon the core programs of the Institute, helping to bridge the continuum of support from nurturing development to finding an audience. In the same way that our support is tailored for each project that comes through a Lab, Artist Services will provide that same kind of specific support for a film’s digital distribution. In addition to not only providing different avenues and options (there’s that word, again) for a film, Artist Services will more importantly help provide guidance in that process. It’s thrilling to me to see this new initiative finally come to fruition.