Thoughts on our new era: everything is temporary
Times have changed and so has the entertainment industry. As soon as we get comfortable with one thing, something comes along and changes it forever. In 2005 when I decided to shoot a feature film in HD I was laughed at, told that “film was forever,” and that digital filmmaking was just a fad. (Talk to Kodak about that today.) Our industry is always changing, and the Coronavirus has changed everything once again.
What do you mean there’s not going to be in-person Sundance in 2021 -- and now again in 2022? “We do not believe it is safe nor feasible to gather thousands of artists, audiences, employees, volunteers, and partners from around the world, for an eleven-day festival,” organizers said. Will film festivals adapt? Is it still a good strategy to submit my film to film festivals? Or should I skip the festivals and reach out to streaming companies directly? How would I even do that, as an independent filmmaker? How does one get through those doors without an agent? And if we do get the funding we need, how will we operate safely on set? These are the questions that keep me up at night.
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard “Everything’s going to be back to normal soon” and “This is the ‘new normal,’” I’d be rich. What does “normal” really mean?
Even watching movies has changed. Like everyone else, I’ve spent the last couple of years watching at home. But recently, I ventured out to see a movie in a theater, a private preview of The Rescue, a 2021 documentary directed and produced by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin. I was thrilled to be out in the world, at a movie theater, watching such a beautiful film about generosity. I wore my N-95 mask the entire time while people around me ate popcorn, unmasked. I’m triple-vaccinated, I kept telling myself, nervously. But this was before Omicron hit and it seemed like, maybe, things were getting back to “normal.” Eventually, the movie calmed my mind and transported me into another world. A world I miss.
My hope is to make a beautiful film that will play on a big screen and eventually stream for the world to see. But I’m okay if that old model no longer is an option. Face it, if technology and the coronavirus have taught us anything, it's that the film industry will change when necessary. The question is how do we adapt?
I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that WIFSFBA's supportive community, along with the creative process of making films, has kept me sane through this pandemic. It has allowed me the amazing opportunity to direct and produce alongside my talented creative producer, Amy Harrison, and co-producers, Neva Tassan, Svetlana Cvetko, Jennifer Wallace, and Tasha Nesbitt. When we set out to make my documentary about the painter Tamara de Lempicka, I could never have imagined I’d be directing over Zoom, with one of my co-producers in San Francisco, another in Oakland, a third in Los Angeles and my cinematographer and cast in Aspen, Colorado. It really is a whole new world and I’m so grateful that I have figured out a way to navigate through it. I take inspiration from the subject of our documentary, a woman whose struggles coincided with world history in the best and in the worst of times. But she always made her art, and today she is one of the most sought-after female painters of our time.
Our current artistic struggles coincide with a world-wide pandemic, but following in Tamara's footsteps, we continue finding ways to reinvent filmmaking and to keep doing what we love. Our industry, while rapidly changing, isn't going anywhere. As for COVID-19, well, I’ll just have to keep in mind that everything is temporary.