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FIRST PERSON | A Letter to indieWIRE Readers

FIRST PERSON | A Letter to indieWIRE Readers

As you can read today on indieWIRE, we have some big news to share. In the waning hours of our 12th anniversary on Tuesday, we signed a deal to sell iW to SnagFilms, a new company founded by Ted Leonsis and backed by Steve Case and Miles Gilburne. We first sat down with Ted and Snag CEO Rick Allen six months ago, but it was a meeting with the two of them at the Morning Ray Cafe, during this year’s Sundance Film Festival, that sealed it for us. We knew then that it was just a matter of time before we’d combine our efforts.

Sitting at my desk on Wednesday afternoon, I was struggling with how to write about this deal. So much to say, but how to tie it all together? Late in the evening I started getting calls from journalists who had heard the news, and talking it through with Anne Thompson at Variety and Gregg Goldstein at The Hollywood Reporter helped a lot. I was asked to write a comment for today’s press release and I want to emphasize and elaborate on some of those thoughts, because I meant what I wrote:

“We created indieWIRE twelve years ago to fill a gap for filmmakers and the industry. The concept was to create a platform to deliver news, information and other resources. Along the way, indieWIRE emerged as a hub for the community.”

In our meetings with Ted, Rick and everyone at Snag, we quickly realized our common passion for independent film, not to mention our shared love of docs. Along the way, we also spent a lot of time talking about indieWIRE’s role within the indie community. Now more than ever, it is vital that we preserve the integrity of indieWIRE while finding a way to grow it into an even more vibrant home for independent film.

As my colleague Brian Clark reminded me this morning, “indieWIRE has always been unapologetically focused on social dividends as a community business, and that contributed to our role as the ‘school newspaper’ for indies.” As he noted, we’ve continued to remind ourselves over the years that indieWIRE’s primary product was the community. That became even clearer to us back in 2006 when we gathered with a group of folks to talk about the impact on the community in the wake of the AIVF closure. Clark recalled, “Eugene and I found ourselves surrounded by that community who we so deeply respect as they told us indieWIRE had essentially inherited the torch. That’s a weighty expectation for anyone, let alone a scrappy editorial outfit acting like a not-for-profit that has to earn its own keep, but it is an example of the kind of social dividends that have always been central to indieWIRE’s mission.”

“As the industry thoughtfully examines its traditional methods, a generation of indies is showing tremendous inspiration and creativity. Change is in the air and filmmakers are more open to employing new approaches for production and distribution than at any time in the history of indieWIRE.”

As I told Anne at Variety earlier today, lately it feels like indie film is under assault. Friends are losing jobs and it’s harder and harder to get a film out there. Yet, I look at “From Here to Awesome,” and the folks who made “Four Eyed Monsters,” or I hear about filmmakers launching their own DVD labels to support each other’s work and I am convinced that indieWIRE can do even more to support their efforts.

Still struggling to convey all of my thoughts on Wednesday night, I reached out to Karol Martesko, iW’s founding publisher, and I IM’d him that last paragraph. He offered some nice insights, “I agree Eug and am also excited about the fact that the current environment is extremely fertile ground for the next iteration of indieWIRE. The creative community along with the burgeoning universe of film/video consumers will be looking for an authentic and trusted voice championing impactful filmmaking along with insightful coverage of business trends surrounding the numerous emerging distribution platforms. I am hopeful that the passion of the team that started iW, from the moment it was first discussed on the steps of NYC’s Angelika Film Center, carries over to the new stewards of the brand and that iW can fulfill on the goals we set for our venture in 1995.” Hear, hear.

“In Ted, Rick and the entire team at SnagFilms, we have found partners similarly aimed at developing indieWIRE as an even more vital link during this dynamic moment for our community.”

In the months we’ve spent working towards this deal with Ted, Rick and everyone at Snag, we’ve started talking about exciting ways to energize iW, but we can’t do it without the support and input of our readers, filmmakers and the industry. We guarantee our commitment to maintaining indieWIRE’s integrity, and I also want to focus on what we can do to bolster our own fledgling social network, IndieLoop. More than 10,000 people have joined that site and I am anxious to hear how we should rebuild it into an even more useful set of tools for filmmakers.

A key concern for indieWIRE readers will certainly be our editorial independence. Rest assured, we have spent 12 years building a publication with integrity and the minute we lose that, we may as well pack it in. The other day, as we closed this deal, I got on the phone with Ted Leonsis for about an hour, recording the conversation to mark this historic moment for us. He reiterated something that I want to share. “What I saw with indieWIRE was that you really respect the industry and the filmmaker – you embrace it and you celebrate it. And you try to be part of a solution as opposed to admiring the problem. Well, that’s what we want to do, we’re going to be the aggregator and distributor of the films. I saw that indieWIRE had big reach, and had real finesse and credibility in that community. And by combining our two entities we could say okay, we’re going to be part of the solution.”

We’ll post that full conversation later today, after the news sets in. For now, let me thank a lot of people, starting with the other two thirds of iW’s New York City trio: Brian Brooks and James Israel. And a special nod up North to our assistant editor Peter Knegt who is finishing his grad studies in Montreal. We are all quite excited to continue working together with our new partners, including Stephanie Sharis and Andrew Mer and everyone at Snag. A big shout out to iLINE & indieWIRE co-founder from back in the day, Mark Rabinowitz. He is the current custodian of the first byproduct of the iW/Snag marriage, a new blog called Docsider. I hope you’ll check it out, its a work in progress, but we hope to make it a key spot for a quick overview of what’s happening daily in the world of docs.

I thanked many of the folks from the very early days in a First Person piece timed to our 10th anniversary, but I want to pay special thanks to the aforementioned Karol Martesko, and our key manager Ken Tabachnick, and of course the GMD Studios team, especially iW publisher Brian Clark, and his incredible colleagues in Winter Park, FL, Tammy Kearns, Andy Cowan, JD Ashcraft, Jim Rhoades, and Chris Campbell. And thanks to Micah Green at CAA for paving the way for the deal.

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