The Sundance Film Festival today is announcing its 2015 main slate. And in a couple more weeks, Indiewire will have some Sundance news of its own: the names of the lucky aspiring writers chosen to participate in the site’s laudable Critics Workshop initiative in Park City.
“We started doing the workshop at Sundance last year,” explains Indiewire chief film critic and deputy editor Eric Kohn (pictured), who added the latter title just last week, via telephone to FishbowlNY. “It was sort of a pilot program and will really kick into full gear this festival.”
“It’s supported by the Roger Ebert Memorial Scholarship, which Chaz created last year with Sundance,” he continues. “The idea is to bring aspiring writers with a lot of potential into the festival environment and create work that has currency in the marketplace.”
Four writers will be selected for this year’s Critics Workshop, down from six last year. All will be housed separately from Indiewire at the festival, through the support of Sundance.
“We’ve really gotten a sense, from this year’s applications, of the variety of different young voices in terms of how people want to cover the film industry,” notes Kohn. “It’s a really valuable time for these people, because as you said, independent film is becoming more of a mainstream concept.”
Joining Kohn at Sundance this year on the Indiewire staff side will be LA-based EIC/GM Dana Harris, managing editor Nigel Smith, blogger Anne Thompson, publisher James Israel and an editorial assistant. Part of the reason Kohn was promoted to deputy editor is to allow Harris to devote more time to evaluating revenue-generating and business partnership opportunities.
“Eric is the first colleague I chat with every morning, at around 7 a.m. PT,” says Harris, also on today’s call. “The evolution stage we’ve reached at Indiewire is solidifying it as a real business and trying to figure out all the angles to make it work.”
Adds Kohn, based in Manhattan alongside Smith: “A couple of years ago, we started adding new components to Indiewire – a TV vertical, our Blogs network started to grow, we developed our Filmmaker Toolkit section. We improved faster than we expected to, so one thing that Dana and I are trying to do now is bring all these new pieces together into a more organized equation.”
It’s also not every film site – indie or otherwise – that can boast of a blogger whose schedule is interrupted by official screening business at the Venice International Film Festival. But such is the case with Indiewire, thanks to contributor Peter Bogdanovich.
“Peter is on the road a lot,” says Kohn. “He also teaches. So it’s always a bit of a revolving door and nice surprise when he can find the time to add to “Blogdanovich.” One of the things that I found really interesting is that there is so much material in his personal archives, for the world to still sift through. So the blog can go on in all kinds of new fascinating ways that we didn’t even imagine.”
“And the fact that he’s covering Old Hollywood helps broaden the conversation about what Indiewire and independent film really are. It’s more about an independent point of view and how we talk about movies. The way Peter celebrates film history is not adhering to traditional shadings. It’s through his own personal experience of watching movies.”