When IndieWire launched on July 15, 1996, the first movies on DVD were still months away. Ewan McGregor became a star with “Trainspotting” and Sony Pictures Classics released Sundance acquisition “Manny & Lo,” starring 11-year-old Scarlett Johansson in her first leading role. NBC had a death grip on the Nielsen ratings; Reed Hastings ran a company that tested software.
IndieWire began when future New York Film Festival director Eugene Hernandez emailed a newsletter to a couple hundred members of iLINE, the AOL film community he created with Cheri Barner and Mark Rabinowitz. (Lead stories: “Trainspotting Rumors About Dubbing and Re-Cutting Put to Rest by Its Director” and “Antonia’s Line Banned in The Philippines.”) He’d tried this before, as a monthly, but realized he wasn’t exploiting his advantage: Being online meant providing news faster.
There’s much more to the story of IndieWire, which we’ve previously captured in a couple of oral histories. (You can read them here.) This year, as we celebrate our 25th anniversary, we’re using it as an opportunity to look ahead. We’re proud of where we came from, but the entertainment world we cover has changed in ways that IndieWire’s founders could never have imagined.
We’ve grown those 200 or so newsletter subscribers into a monthly readership of over 10 million. Independent film remains part of the IndieWire bedrock, but today our identity stretches far beyond it. We cover all kinds of films and television, on any platform. We’re obsessed with Oscars, Emmys and the year-round awards season as well as their ability to elevate new voices. We use the entertainment industry to examine issues of race, gender, sexuality, and disability. We’re obsessed with craft and the people who create.
For the remainder of 2021, IndieWire writers will use our 25th anniversary year to explore some of the biggest issues in film and TV today. As it happens, 2021 also is an extraordinary year for an entertainment industry that, to be polite, finds itself in a state of flux. You might call it changing reels while the movie’s still playing — but of course, DCPs replaced film spools years ago.
We’re going to thought leaders who can talk us through the uncertain new chapters like the relentless march for IP takeovers; where LGBTQ storytelling goes when it’s part of the mainstream; how Hollywood might replace its box office and Nielsen numbers; what happens when green screen becomes the norm; the role of diversity in a new generation of storytellers; how old-school indie filmmakers are making the transition to the streaming world; and the rise of female blockbuster filmmakers.
Above all, we’ll look at the way this industry’s ever-complicated relationship to creativity will continue to evolve. We don’t know how the future of this business will continue to sustain adventurous storytellers, but here’s the thing: That’s never been easy to figure out. Some of our favorite filmmakers (and longtime IndieWire readers), from Sean Baker to Barry Jenkins to the late Lynn Shelton, took decades to get to the point where the world paid attention to what they had to say. The TV landscape had to undergo a dramatic evolution before it enabled dynamic voices like Damon Lindelof, Issa Rae, and Michaela Coel to find ways of delivering dynamic, uncompromising work on major platforms.
They have all overcome daunting obstacles to succeed, navigating a cluttered marketplace with originality and pragmatism alike. If anything, the challenges they faced will only become more pronounced in the years ahead. We can’t slow the speed of progress that has made our media climate so demanding and competitive, but we believe film, TV, and other related art forms can survive every existential challenge that comes their way, and plan to spend the rest of this year — not to mention the next 25 — telling you how. Stay tuned.