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Netflix, Piracy and the IRS: The Top 10 Filmmaker Toolkit Articles of 2011

Photo of Dana Harris By Dana Harris | Indiewire December 30, 2011 at 10:00AM

Like the name suggests, Indiewire's Filmmaker Toolkit is a collection intended to help filmmakers fix, tune or hack their way to success. And, as the wide-ranging topics of 2011's most popular Toolkit pieces made clear, there's no such thing as a Swiss army knife. The issues filmmakers faced ranged from social media to piracy to the IRS, with a solid dose of Netflix besides.
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If You're a Documentary Filmmaker, You Could Owe the IRS a Whole Lot of Money
Lee Storey's "Smile 'til It Hurts: The Up with People Story" was at the center of a lawsuit questioning whether making documentaries was a profession or a hobby.

Like the name suggests, Indiewire's Filmmaker Toolkit is a collection intended to help filmmakers fix, tune or hack their way to success. And, as the wide-ranging topics of 2011's most popular Toolkit pieces made clear, there's no such thing as a Swiss army knife. The issues filmmakers faced ranged from social media to piracy to the IRS, with a solid dose of Netflix besides.

So here's our final one-through-10: The most popular Filmmaker Toolkit articles on Indiewire this year.

The Decline of Indies on Netflix: Were They Amputated With the Long Tail?
Who knew those cute litte red envelopes could cause so much trouble? Anthony Kaufman's article looked at Netflix's attitude toward indie film as it evolved from DVD rental service to streaming entertainment juggernaut. While there was evidence to suggest that Netflix's interest in indies was on the downturn, some commenters had sympathy for the company's position. As one wrote, "NOT EVERYTHING INDIE IS GOOD!!!"

The Porno Clause and Other Legal Tips Filmmakers May Not Know, But Will Wish They Had

If the SEO gods are to be believed, this article had the jump from the headline. However, it also outlined obscure-but-not elements of film contracts that can't be ignored, including Section 2257A, The Out Clause, The Trigger Clause and, of course, The Clause Clause.

Why James Schamus Believes There's a Business in Very Low-Budget Features
It was heartening for readers to see there was reason for even a subsidiary of Comcast/General Electric to have faith in very small movies. This was an extended interview Focus Features president James Schamus gave Indiewire timed to Focus' first annual Story Camp, the invitation-only lab that develops projects with budgets under $1 million.

Is Film School for Chumps? The Indie Film Community Talks Back to Monday's NYT Article
Indiewire gave film schools a chance to defend themselves after the New York Times published an article that painted a bleak picture for film-school grads -- and placed much of the blame on the training provided by the schools themselves. While professors defended the system (Northwestern's Kyle Henry said, "I don't believe there is disconnect between film school and the 'real world.'"), some filmmakers begged to differ. "The Color Wheel" director Alex Ross Perry declared film programs as "stuck in a rut of uselessness," while Jay Duplass was a little more sanguine: "The most important thing an aspiring filmmaker should do is to make lots of films and to make them as cheaply as possible."

Why Piracy is Good and Copyright Sucks: An Excerpt From “Sell Your Own Damn Movie!”
Lloyd Kaufman may make schlocky movies (not that there's anything wrong with that!), but never doubt his ability to sell with shock. The idea of piracy having benefits wasn't a new one, but the headline said it all. (And the headline was all his.)

Forget About the 60% Netflix Price Hike: If You Stream, You Lose the Queue
This piece highlighted what seemed like an afterthought in the infamous Netflix price hike: The death of the queue. While the Netflix mouthpiece told Indiewire that "the queue is not as vital" thanks to the recommendation algorithms in its streaming service, commenters were having none of it. "The queue is my brain, it is my memory," wrote Julia Nakhleh. Another reader was a little more reserved, but still dismayed: "Netflix is still the best movie or TV-watching service that I have found, but man did they get rid of everything that gave them some personality."

The 5 Best Ways to Use Social Media to Build an Audience For Your Movie
An excerpt from The Film Collaborative's book, "Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul," social media expire Sheri Candler distilled valuable lessons for would-be social media mavens, including the importance of a steady (but not overwhelming) stream of content and above all, ensuring that you give as good as you get with your audience.

If You're a Documentary Filmmaker, You Could Owe the IRS a Whole Lot of Money
A lawsuit surrounding Lee Storey's documentary ""Smile 'Til It Hurts: The Up with People Story" led a US judge to declare filmmaking a hobby -- and, like knitting, not tax deductible. The International Documentary Association later went on to file a "friend of the court" brief on behalf of the filmmakers; the comments went off into accusations of left wing-vs.-right wing accusations.

The 100 Films Affected By the Regent Lawsuit -- And What the Filmmakers Can Do About It
When banks sued Regent Media for $90 million, it left about 100 titles in the legal lurch. Eric Kohn lasked experts what the filmmakers' options might be. Attorney Rob Rader counseled against class action, recommending that they work to force Regent into bankruptcy. The comments are filled with Regent horror stories and, as screenwriter Jody Wheeler told Kohn, "It boggles the mind. They took every new crop of gay filmmakers, pulled them in, signed them up and either didn't pay them or paid them poorly and then let it go."

Christine Vachon at NewFest: "There is no excuse not to make your own movie anymore"
When producer Christine Vachon was honored at NewFest this summer, Anthony Kaufman interviewed her before an audience at Lincoln Center's Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center. "The real question right now is the way we're forming communities in different ways, the way filmmakers are finding and aggregating their audiences and the way we consume media is bound to have an effect on the kinds of stories we tell. All of those things, I grapple with those constantly," she said. "And for the most part, I think it's exciting. That kind of access is a lot more exciting than when I started out 25 years ago, and it was the rarefied few that could buy that can of film and rent that 16mm camera."

This article is related to: Filmmaker Toolkit, Lists, Features





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