Traditional methods of getting a project made and finding an audience are evolving rapidly toward smaller screens, a panel of directors and producers agreed today at the Sundance Film Festival “Every time I’ve had a movie I couldn’t get financing for recently, the next question is always ‘could this be a TV series?’ It’s a business model. It’s boring but it’s real,” said Richard Linklater. “It does feel like great quality is going to TV and online… because the studios make tentpoles and not adult dramas,” added Fast Five director Justin Lin, who also co-created the YOMYOMF YouTube channel. Linklater and Lin were appearing on the Power of Story: Independence Unleashed panel along with Enlightened co-creator Mike White and director Jane Campion. Linklater is back at Sundance this year to premiere his Before Midnight, the second sequel to 1995’s Before Sunrise. Campion also returns to the Festival with her seven-part crime mystery BBC/Sundance Channel TV series Top of the Lake starring Holly Hunter and Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss. White is at the Festival as one of the producers of Writer/director Sebastián Silva’s Magic Magic. Lin is a Sundance alumni, having had his directorial debut Better Luck Tomorrow premiere here back in 2002.
“It seems like there is a creative freedom in TV today that you don’t get in film,” said Campion who added that she was converted to the new power of the small screen medium after watching HBO’s Deadwood a few years back. “I was amazed. They’re letting them do that and getting away with it,” the Oscar nominated director recalled of seeing the dark ensemble series. HBO got praised by another panelist too Saturday “You can do what you want, they give you the money and they make a lot of noise about it,” said a cold-fighting White of the triple advantage he finds working with HBO as a producer and as an actor.Enlightened just debuted for its second season on the cable network on January 13.
Part of the move online and to TV, all the filmmakers agreed, was because of how hard it is for indies to find an audience nowadays, even if they do get traditional distribution. “The work you have to do to for independent films. I don’t even know if it matters if people don’t see it,” said Campion to the packed Egyptian Theater on Main Street. “You have an audience, you don’t have to do the hustle like you do on independent films,” noted Linklater of cable TV and online platforms. Linklater had a six-part travel series Up To Speed debut on Hulu last year. “It’s a nice offset to more traditional movies and TV,” he added. Lin was more blunt. “I don’t want to go to a studio and beg them to make a project. If they don’t want it, f*** ‘em. I’ll go somewhere else,” he said of the options he believes filmmakers have today.