Independent Films Are ‘Alive and Well’ Because of Digital Platforms, Indie Experts Say


Independent film is actually “alive and well,” digital experts said at TheWrap’s Industry Panel at Sundance Film Festival on Saturday.

When speaking to TheWrap’s Editor-in-Chief and CEO Sharon Waxman, Joe Pichirallo, a veteran studio executive, producer and film educator, said that digital platforms have made things “more accessible and democratic” for independent filmmakers.

“Back then, you really had to come to Sundance to be discovered, but that’s not the case anymore,” he said. “You can get discovered without an agent by creating content that is distinct and original and by being smart to build an audience that is receptive to your content. I actually am here to say indie film is alive and well, and I am not one of those people that is talking about the gloom and doom of independent film — it’s actually thriving.”

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Bec Smith, an agent at United Talent Agency (UTA), agreed: “The internet has made it fabulous for filmmakers to get their work out there with no barriers.” She added that, as an agent, she actually looks online for new clients that represent a change and a democratization of the industry.

“Amazon and Netflix have completely changed the sales landscape because those companies have, to some degree, a broad audience that they can tap into, whereas something that used to be coming to a festival and a theatrical release being only desirable outcome,” Smith added. “The other change in sales is that it’s harder to compare deals… It’s more complicated, but it’s exciting as an artist where you get multiple offers; and what’s more important, it’s a very dynamic sales environment.”

Angela Courtin, the Global Head of YouTube TV Originals Marketing, said that digital platforms are also better for filmmakers if you want to build a community and have a fanbase grow with you, as opposed to “just” launching a film.

“The great news is, I’m more excited about peak film than I was about peak content in the traditional sense that so many diverse voices have a place to be championed and have a global impact. Whereas on the TV side we were gluttonous, on the film side we finally have a place,” Courtin added.

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The question then arose whether agents, like Smith, are still necessary for filmmakers to find a platform, whether it’s online or with a distributor. Pichirallo added that you still need agents to find an appropriate audience for the films unless you are like Anna Akana, a YouTuber who was also part of the panel, who generates income through her own channel.

“As the business is evolving, agencies are evolving as well,” Smith said. “We continue to expand and grow, and one thing that will never change about agencies is that they are drawn to talent and that is the life and blood of any agent.”

Akana agreed, addressing Smith, “I love you guys. I don’t want to deal with business deals all day — I want to focus on the creative, so it’s great to have people that thrive on negotiations.”

Aneesh Chaganty, a 26-year-old filmmaker who is attending Sundance with his film “Search,” made his own career when he created a Google Glass spot called “Seeds,” which became an internet sensation after garnering more than 1 million YouTube views in 24 hours. Following its success, Chaganty was invited to join the Google Creative Lab in New York City. And Chaganty is a firm believer that a filmmaker doesn’t need a large social media following to find success. Instead, all you need is that one big thing to get started.

“All you need to do is get the attention of the one person or thing that you want to leverage you up to the next thing,” he said during the discussion. “All I wanted was the attention of Google. Make sure that before you make anything, you decide what is the entity or corporation or the person you really want. If you figure it out, you can create something that is artistic and valuable to your person but strategic at the same time. All it takes is that one thing to bring you up to the next level.”

The other panelists agreed, with Smith adding that she works with some people on the opposite side of the world who have never had a Facebook account. And Pichirallo added that Lena Dunham “was discovered without a big following” but rather was discovered because of an idea.

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TheWrap Presents Live Interviews, Photos at the Acura Studio At Sundance 2018


For Immediate Release

PARK CITY, Utah–January 19,2018–The Wrap is pleased to announce its annual live interview studio during the Sundance Film Festival 2018 welcoming top talent including Octavia Spencer, Peter Dinklage, Claire Danes, Idris Elba and many others for four days of news-making conversations about independent film.

The space will be headquartered at the Acura Studio located in Park City where the 10-day festival takes place. TheWrap’s editorial team will conduct four days of video interviews and photography with the leading actors and directors appearing in competition at the festival.

They include:

Octavia Spencer (A Kid Like Jake), Keira Knightley (Colette), Elle Fanning (I Think We’re Alone Now), Nick Offerman (Hearts Beat Loud), Aubrey Plaza (An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn), Jim Parsons (A Kid Like Jake), Claire Danes (A Kid Like Jake) John Cho (Search), Debra Messing (Search), Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Kindergarten Teacher) Ethan Hawke ( Blaze), and Jon Hamm (Beirut). They will be interviewed by TheWrap’s deeply knowledgeable editorial team including editors Sharon Waxman and Steve Pond, and reporters Matt Donnelly and Beatrice Verhoeven.

In addition, TheWrap is pleased to partner with the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) for a panel discussion about ‘How to Get Your Film Out There- The Digital Experts Weigh In’ hosted by Youtube.

Leading industry figures including Angela Courtin, Head of Marketing at Youtube TV & Originals; Aneesh Chaganty, director of “Search;” Youtuber, Anna Akana and Grace Royer, Agent, UTA Independent Film Group and Joe Pichirallo, chair of the Undergraduate Film & Television program in the Tisch School of the Arts Kanbar Institute of Film and Television at New York University.  The panel will take place on Saturday January 20th, 2018 from 3-4:30 p at the Claimjumper located at 573 Main Street. The event is open to Sundance badge holders and invited guests.

TheWrap will also be hosting its annual Influencer Dinner in partnership with Cinedigm, bringing together thought leaders for a robust conversation about the future of independent film.


The Wrap News Inc. is the leading digital news organization covering the business of entertainment and media.  Founded by award-winning journalist Sharon Waxman in 2009, The Wrap News Inc. is comprised of the award-winning, industry-leading website with its high-profile newsbreaks, investigative stories and authoritative analysis; it also includes premium, magazines with stunning original photography and editorial, distributed to entertainment industry professionals; Wrap Events, a series of high profile gatherings of thought leaders including the Power Women breakfast series, Awards & Foreign screening series, Emmy Screening Series,  TheGrill, an executive leadership conference centered on the convergence of entertainment, media and technology and most recently added BE women’s conference.

Acura is a leading automotive luxury nameplate that delivers Precision Crafted Performance, representing the original values of the Acura brand – a commitment to evocative styling, high performance and innovative engineering, all built on a foundation of quality and reliability

The Acura lineup features six distinctive models – the RLX premium, luxury sedan, the TLX performance luxury sedan, the ILX sport sedan, the 5-passenger RDX luxury crossover SUV, the seven-passenger Acura MDX, America’s all-time best-selling three-row luxury SUV and the next-generation, electrified NSX supercar as a new and pinnacle expression of Acura Precision Crafted Performance.


For press studio inquiries contact:

Kathy Selim

YouTube ‘Youth & Consequences’ Star Anna Akana: Young Vloggers Are Too Focused On Fame


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‘Stitchers’: YouTube Star Anna Akana To Recur On Season 3


Anna Akana (Miss 2059) is set for a recurring role opposite Emma Ishta and Allison Scagliotti on the upcoming third season of Freeform‘s hit drama series Stitchers. She’ll play Amanda, a cool and confident medical examiner who starts working with the Stitchers team and has an instant spark with Camille (Scagliotti). Her character first appears in the June 12 episode.
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‘Blark and Son’ Reinvents the Sitcom for an Instagram Generation


To many younger viewers, the 30-minute sitcom with commercials seems as outdated as having to actually be at home at a certain time to watch something. That generation is speaking by putting their eyeballs elsewhere, with many opting for YouTube videos and Netflix originals over old school cable subscriptions. So why not try a 30-second version?

Stoopid Buddy Stoodios, a production company owned by actor Seth Green, Matthew Senreich, Eric Towner and John ‘Harv’ Harvatine IV, recently launched “Blark and Son” — a puppet-based animation show that “airs” on Instagram with self-contained episodes of about half-a-minute in length.

“We saw that there could be a show that’s engineered for the guy waiting in line at Chipotle,” Adam Aseraf, the show’s executive producer, told TheWrap. “The person trying to get away from Thanksgiving dinner.”

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Creator Ben Bayouth voices Blark, a crusty but devoted single dad who he describes as “the type of guy who has his gun under the table,” while Chris Mintz-Plasse (best known as McLovin from “Superbad”) plays the yet-nameless son, a “Reddit, video gamer, stay in my comfortable chair type.”

Bayouth said the show taps into “that universal quality of what it’s like being a 12-year-old,” around the age when one starts locking the door to prevent Dad from barging in. The odd-couple father and son dynamic is an established sitcom premise, but hasn’t necessarily been done on social video platforms like Instagram, which veers more toward “look at me” videos than storytelling.

“I was frustrated with the content on Instagram,” Bayouth told TheWrap. “These giant influencers just talking to the camera and they have a huge audience.”

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He said he wanted to use the medium to do something with actual writing involved, “not just a dude pointing a camera at his face.”

New “Blark and Son” episodes are uploaded every Monday and Friday. There’s also a Facebook page, but Instagram is its primary home. That’s right in line with its target audience of tweens and millennials, many of whom don’t subscribe to a traditional pay-TV outlet. And befitting an internet native show, “Blark and Son” takes on an unfortunate staple of online culture.

“Son in part represents the internet trolls always correcting everyone,” Bayouth said. “Everyone feels so entitled and they’re all know-it-alls. I thought it was fun to put a face to that kind of person.”

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Writing a such a short show is an exercise in avoiding unnecessary buildup or context, Aseraf and Bayouth said.

“Our episodes are really just ideas — they’re a slice of life,” Aseraf said. “It was really kind of what is the fastest way to get to the funniest joke.”

Fitting that all in 30 seconds is challenging enough, but “Blark and Son” was initially supposed to be even shorter.

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“It was originally intended for Vine — which would have been a terrible investment,” Aseraf said; Twitter shut down the once-popular six-second video platform in January. “Then Instagram video came out and we realized we could go up to one-minute long.”

TV offers a built-in audience to a certain degree, but online shows like “Blark and Son” have to go out and find those viewers. To that end, the team has partnered with popular online personalities like YouTube star Anna Akana on custom content that can be used by both parties to cross-promote.

“Social media is really a different animal than cable and broadcast,” producer Chris Waters told TheWrap. “It’s like a garden you have to water every day.”

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And broadcasting on a social media platform also fosters an interactive audience happy to weigh in on whatever 30-second clip they just saw while avoiding a boring lecture or conversation.

“One of my favorite things to see is a 13-year-old comment on one of our posts, ‘Oh my God, this is my dad!’” Bayouth said. “That’s the biggest win for us.”

As the show moves into its second season, the creators say it will answer a “burning question” about the Blark family. Son will also continue to evolve.

“In season two, we’re going to see Son open up more and [transition] into those preteen years,” Aseraf said. “Crushes on girls. Getting into bands, wearing five shirts and becoming emo.”

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