Forum Schedule

Schedule of events for the 2016 Film Independent Forum

Please note: Forum schedule, speakers and panelists are subject to change at any time.

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7:00 pm — Opening Night Film: Loving

Q&A with director Jeff Nichols and actors Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton; followed by a reception.

Sponsored by The Virginia Film Office.

Forum badge pick-up will take place following the Q&A in the DGA lobby, as well as the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Reception, celebrating Film Independent’s 2016 Producing Lab Fellows and awarding the Alfred P. Sloan Producing Grant.


For more details and information about the moderators and panelists listed below, please visit the Forum Speakers page.

10:00 am — Keynote Conversation: Sam Esmail

In just two years, Sam Esmail has gone from the debut of his exquisite first film Comet, to creating the groundbreaking television series Mr. Robot, which has brought him critical acclaim and an international following of die-hard fans. Through his work he has shown a unique approach to mind bending storytelling and an appetite for innovation and risk taking—Mr. Robot VR anyone?

We are pleased to begin the Forum with Esmail to discuss how he launched his hit TV show, his creative process and his adjustment to the TV medium from his beginnings as an indie writer/director.

Sponsored by USA Network.

Moderator: Mark Olsen, Los Angeles Times

Panelist: Sam Esmail

11:15 am — Market Report: Putting Together a Movie in 2016

To succeed in making films these days, you have to understand how the artistry of filmmaking is intertwined with the economics of the market, and how you, the indie filmmaker, is positioned within the global stage. A group of esteemed producers, sales agents and financiers help you get a grip on the changing market place as they explain how they have put together movies in this new global market.

Moderator: Lisa A. Callif, Esq.

Panelists: Jason Michael Berman, Brian O’Shea, Heather Rae, Maren Olson


Agents of Change: Part 1 – New Voices from Filmmaking’s Cutting Edge

Agents of Change is a two-part mega-session devoted to examining the methods and careers of the country’s top immersive and interactive storytellers.

This session shines a light on two creative collectives working at the bleeding edges of storytelling and technology. Things kick off with a talk by Tender Claws (Pry),a visionary LA-based duo who use creativity and code to produce work that blurs the boundaries of design, publishing, cinema, installation and virtual reality. Next, we’ll hear from The Argus Project, a NY-based collective who have created a suit of camera-covered “countersurveillance armor” that allows citizens to record the actions of the police, as well as a melancholy/hilarious video installation that explores the suit’s creation.

Curator/Moderator: Kel O’Neill

Panelists: Danny Cannizzaro and Samantha Gorman, Raquel de Anda and Gan Golan

12:30 pm — Off-the-Record Networking Lunch (DGA Lobby)

Film Industry professionals host tables for lunch and candid conversation.

1:45 pm — Shopping Your Project: A Financing Clinic

A group of Film Independent Producing Fellows present their projects to a panel of experts and receive advice on the potential pitfalls of their script, where to find the right support for their projects, and how to leverage their projects’ elements into an attractive package for financiers and potential investors. The panelists’ specific feedback will provide useful packaging and financing tips for all.

Moderator: Paula Manzanedo-Schmit

Panelists: Elsa Ramo, Nina Yang Bongiovi, Jay Cohen, Matthew Lessall


Agents of Change: Part 2 – Exploring VR

Agents of Change is a two-part mega-session devoted to examining the methods and careers of the country’s top immersive and interactive storytellers.

Part Two of Agents of Change brings together virtual reality creators to discuss and explain their different approaches to the medium and explore the role perspective plays in VR. What are the different ways to create immersive VR experiences? Who do you become when you put on a headset? How does the perspective of the creator impact the audience’s experience? If a positive aspect of VR is about stepping into other people’s shoes, how can we ensure that a diverse pool of creators have access to the tools necessary to make next-level VR experiences?

Curator/Moderator: Kel O’Neill

Panelists: Sheldon CandisTyler Hurd, Skip Rizzo, Julie Young, Yo-Yo Lin

3:00 pm — Industry Connect at the Forum (DGA Atrium)

3:15 pm — Where Marketing Meets Impact: A New Era of Film Campaigning

Whether you want to activate your audience to create social change or persuade them to buy a ticket to your movie, building an effective audience engagement campaign is at the core of extending the life and value of your film, both financially and socially. The brains behind some of the most impactful marketing campaigns for films such as Spotlight give us an inside look at their process for creating social impact and box office success. They will show us their work for recently released films and will also provide on the spot advice regarding an upcoming film by a Film Independent Fellow.

Presenters: Ashley Hasz, Carolyn Henderson


Made in LA: Spa Night and Too Late

In this candid, straightforward session, the producers of current indie films shot in L.A. will give you an honest account of their journey, from the inception of the project through production and distribution.

Moderator: Kate Roughan

Panelists: Andrew Ahn, Kelly Thomas, Dennis Hauck, Matt Miller

4:45 pm — Her Story: A Web Series Case Study

From its grass roots and social activism beginnings to its 2016 Emmy nomination, the production of Her Story is a great tale about how a group of fearless, talented and committed filmmakers strategized to create a timely web series that has put them on the map and paved their way to find more lucrative and indie-friendly opportunities on the web. Join us as the team behind the series shares their experience creating it and nabbing an Emmy nomination. This inspiring session will provide valuable information on navigating the web series space.

Moderator: Paul Cowling, Assoc. Director of Film Education, Film Independent

Panelists: Sylvia Desrochers, Katherine Fisher, Sydney Freeland, Jen Richards, Laura Zak


State of Distribution: VOD, Day & Date, Theatrical and Beyond

New direct-to-consumer platforms continue to subvert traditional distribution models and are multiplying the options you have to release a movie. But are you prepared to take advantage of all these new opportunities? Do you have the wherewithal to take control of your distribution strategy? A group of experts will give us a snapshot of modern distribution, as they explain the various ways you can distribute your movie and, most importantly, monetize your content. We will also hear from filmmakers who have successfully rolled out their movies using innovative strategies. With real examples and real numbers, this panel will help you sort through the many distribution options available today.

Moderator: Mia Bruno

Panelists: Adam Chapnick, Josh Miller, Rebecca Sosa


For more details and information about the moderators and panelists listed below, please visit the Forum Speakers page.

10:00 am — Keynote Address: Effie T. Brown

Starting with Real Women Have Curves and Jane Campion’s In the Cut, Effie Brown has become a prolific producer of independent films, web series and television. She perfectly embodies the ‘working filmmaker’ we strive to celebrate and support. Film Independent supported her from the start, through our Project Involve program, and now as an active Board member we rely on her to mentor and serve as a role model for other filmmakers. She comes to the Forum to tell it as it is!

Sponsored by the Loyola Marymount University School of Film and Television.

Speaker: Effie T. Brown

11:15 am — Off-the-Record Buffet Brunch (DGA Lobby)

Film Industry professionals host tables for brunch and candid conversation.

12:00 pm — Industry Connect at the Forum (DGA Atrium)

12:30 pm — Documentary Works in Progress

An exclusive opportunity to see documentary works-in-progress from Film Independent’s Documentary Lab. Hear the filmmakers talk about their projects’ inception, financing and production. The Documentary Lab is a highly selective program designed to help documentary filmmakers who are in post-production on their feature length documentaries.

Sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

Moderator: Jennifer Kushner, Director of Artist Development, Film Independent


1:00 pm — Online Content Creators: A Brand of Their Own

Learn about the different business models in the web space, as we explore the creative challenges and opportunities inherent to each platform: From finding a home on an established streaming service, to producing content non-stop, to building a strong following. We will hear from a group of filmmakers who have successfully found ways to make a living through short format content by building a vast online following that has allowed them the creative freedom to grow into fully fleshed production companies.

Moderator: Shira Lazar

Panelists: Burnie Burns, Rafi Fine, Todd Mendeloff, Philip Wang

2:45 pm — Sustaining a Creative Career: Filmmaker’s Balancing Acts

Whether creating their own indie features or working with a team in a TV writers room, these filmmakers have balanced their creative output to sustain a career and bring to life stories that matter to them. With provocative subject matter and fresh, creative choices, many of them have been able to navigate the independent market with smart and artful films and at the same time find work within the Hollywood system. How do they juggle their multiple projects whether at the helm or as part of a creative team?

Moderator: Jennifer Cochis, Director, LA Film Festival

Panelists: Cherien Dabis, Nisha Ganatra, Sian HederTina Mabry


Jumping on the Brand Wagon: What You Need to Know

From Spike Jonze to Sean Baker, brands are increasingly reaching out to filmmakers to create exquisite content that can connect with consumers in more compelling ways. How are these collaborations between brands and filmmakers coming about and how can you seize the new world of brand integration? A group of filmmakers and industry experts will explore the different opportunities to create short form original content in this space. They will also address the differences between product placement, branded content and brand integration; as well as the creative, financial and legal aspects of working with brands.

Sponsored by Brandwood Global.

Panelists: Lori Dalton, Billie Grief, Stacy Jorgenson, Joe Penna, Stephanie Weier

4:15 pm — Closing Night Happy Hour

Sponsored by Brandwood Global.


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