Sundance Recap

March 3, 2014


Steven Beer, Matthew Lefferts, Jake Levy and Kenneth Weinrib

FWRV panel discussions relating to independent filmmaking draw capacity crowds.

Franklin, Weinrib, Rudell & Vassallo attorneys Ken Weinrib, Steven Beer, Matt Lefferts and Jake Levy attended the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.  FWRV co-sponsored the New York Lounge along with other New York film businesses, where they hosted five panel discussions on cutting edge trends in independent film.  Crowds filled the Lounge to capacity for the panels, which were also live-streamed to remote audiences who tweeted questions.  Highlight discussion topics from the panels included:

 The New York Empowerment Town Hall on Friday January 17, moderated by Steven Beer:

  • Sundance community members stopped by the New York Lounge to share their goals for the festival and meet other participants.
  • New York film businesses and service providers introduced themselves to the Sundance community.

 The Audience Building panel on Saturday January 18, moderated by Steven Beer:

  • Social media should be a routine part of pre-production and production of an independent film.  Filmmakers must communicate with their audience at all times and carry the momentum they build through their film’s release.
  • For most producers crowd funding is primarily an audience building tool, not a means of fundraising.
  • Producers should think about the “hook” of their film from the beginning of development.

 The Distribution Trends panel on Sunday January 19, moderated by Matt Lefferts:

  • To find distribution, producers must be able to answer “Who is my audience?” and “Where do I find them?”
  • Some distributors advocate for filmmakers to be in touch with them early on in the filmmaking process; other distributors don’t want to be involved until a film is finished.
  • A producer’s goal should be to bring a large, engaged audience to distributors.
  • Good artwork and ancillary material is crucial for online distribution.

The Film Financing panel on Monday January 20, moderated by Steven Beer:

  • Tax incentives, donation-based crowd funding and sponsorships help complete independent film budgets.
  • Rules on equity-based crowd funding are still being developed; producers worry that these rules will be unwieldy and that equity-based crowd funding will not be a viable option for their productions. 

The Film Production panel on Tuesday January 21, moderated by Ken Weinrib (Jake Levy spoke as a panel member):

  • To keep costs down, engage the local community where shooting your film.
  • Hiring an experienced line producer is essential to properly manage the process.
  • Chain of title issues must be considered and production and E&O insurance secured.
  • Involve your lawyer during development to build a solid foundation for your film and head off potential problems. 

In addition to the panel discussions, musical artists including Neon Hitch, Michel Tolcher, Natalie Gelman, Peppina and Kris Gruen performed live each afternoon at the Cider House Sessions at the New York Lounge.