The Indie Writer Summit, Writers Guild of America East, NYC
by Terri Bowles
Filmmakers and writers gathered at WGEA’s Tribeca offices to hear industry experts discuss film financing, distribution and scriptwriting. Speakers included producer Scott Rosenfelt; writer/director Derek Cianfrance; Loren Hammonds of the Tribeca Film Festival; Franklin Leonard, founder of The Black List and several other media professionals.
Over the course of four hour long discussions, panelists offered advice geared toward helping aspirants gain entryway into film, television and digital content areas. Cianfrance (Blue Valentine, The Place Beyond the Pines) offered critical scriptwriting advice, encouraging audience members to write the “simplest, most truthful” sentences that give actors space for interpretation, and to focus your writing on “what feels true to you.”
During a panel on Financing Indie Films, prolific independent producer Scott Rosenfelt (Mystic Pizza, Teen Wolf) encouraged writers to “target producers and investors who are interested in your subject,” particularly since the field is crowded with content across various platforms that no longer are limited to just film and television. While discussing the new success of content behemoths such as Amazon and Netflix, Rosenfelt warned that raising money for independent films is “harder and harder…but the writing is what will stand out.”
Alia Jones-Harvey, director of education and workforce development in the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, and other panelists explained the incentives available to filmmakers shooting films in NYC, including tax credits, discounts, office space and more. And in a conversation with The Black List’s Leonard; Tamir Muhammad, director of content and artist development at Time Warner; Tribeca Film Festival’s Hammonds; and Darcy Heusel, VP of audience engagement and impact at Neon, attendees heard a wide-ranging conversation on the rise of episodic content and how new content avenues have raised the stakes for traditional filmmaking. Echoing the sentiment expressed during other panels, Heusel, Muhammad and Hammonds all stressed the importance of good writing. Heusel noted that exploring current “social issues and cultural flashpoints” will be keys to creating films and shows that stand out and strike audiences at their core.