IndieWire: A Brief History Of Our First 10 Years

Here's an overview of IndieWire's growth over its first 10 years, from small festival newsletter to global entertainment news website.
IndieWire: A Brief History Of Our First 10 Years

The leading news, information, and networking site for independent-minded filmmakers, the industry and moviegoers alike, IndieWire launched on July 15, 1996 and has stayed committed to bringing readers and filmmakers the best in movie and television news in the decades since. Two-time winner of the Webby Award for best film website (most recently, in 2012), IndieWire has been lauded as a “must read” by Variety, branded the “online heartbeat of the world’s independent film community” by Forbes, and dubbed “best indie crossroads” by film critic Roger Ebert.

Twelve year after launching IndieWire, company founders sold the company to SnagFilms, the company founded by Ted Leonsis and backed by Steve Case and Miles Gilburne.

IndieWire Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder Eugene Hernandez noted in a letter to readers at the time, “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.”

“We have always been focused on driving greater appreciation of independent filmmaking,” Brian Clark, president of IW publisher GMD Studios said at the time, “In every important way, nothing changes for IndieWire except for the new resources it will have to pursue its mission to evangelize independent filmmaking.”

Discover more of IndieWire’s origins and growth over its first decade in the timeline below.


The seeds of IndieWire were sown in the Spring of 1995. An email solicitation sent by Eugene Hernandez to America Online-based filmmakers and film aficionados during the Memorial Day weekend of ’95 generated a significant amount of interest and resulted in a group who met weekly in an AOL chat room to discuss films and filmmaking. By the Fourth of July of that year, the group (dubbed iLINE) had become a forum on AOL. In early September of ’95, iLINE founders Cheri Barner, Eugene Hernandez and Mark Rabinowitz organized an America Online auditorium for filmmakers, presenting filmmaker Bryan Singer (“The Usual Suspects”) in a one-hour online Q & A session. Later that fall the group hosted an online chat in conjunction with the 1995 Independent Feature Film Market, and attended the 1995 Hamptons International Film Festival.

1996 began with a bang as iLINE joined forces with the popular Virtual Film Festival to launch its first website and cybercast of the 1996 Sundance Film Festival. In conjunction with the festival, and Sundance’s first New Media Center, iLINE debuted its website as a dynamic new community devoted to independent films and filmmaking. The cybercast was incredibly popular and was the group’s first of many comprehensive festival productions and its launch was touted in Variety as the iLINE team brought daily coverage of Sundance to the Internet, and to a wide audience around the world, for the first time ever.

The online effort was overwhelmingly successful, drawing the attention of ABC-TV’s Multimedia division. In April of 1996, iLINE teamed up with ABC ONLINE to produce a popular indie film area on America Online. The site presented regular coverage of independent films and festivals, including: the Los Angeles Independent, Gen Art, Montreal Festival Du Nouveau Cinema, and New York film festivals among others. iLINE also hosted a series of online chats with notable indie filmmakers including: Todd Solondz, Jon Cryer, Mike Leigh, Jim McKay, and Nicole Holofcener.

Sundance Film Festival


IndieWire, the daily news service for independent film launched on July 15th, 1996 as an email publication. Through the support of a number of key members of New York’s indie film community, in particular Karol Martesko from FILMMAKER Magazine, it immediately helped to further connect the various threads of an emerging online community. A new website, developed by Florida-based GMD Studios, then served as the new focal point for the growing IndieWire team’s efforts. Setting an ambitious daily publication schedule from day one, IndieWire was initially distributed to a few hundred readers. Over the course of 1996, as the readership grew rapidly, the publication was shaped into a diverse service offering an array of news and information.


In the fall of 1997, as the IndieWire readership grew to well over 6,000 subscribers the team began implementing a plan for a new online environment. On January 12, 1998, with a readership encompassing the indiefilm community, the group launched Indiewire.com, adding sections such as DIY or What is Indie? to speak to engage artists on increasingly important topics that eventually become core aspects of IndieWire’s editorial mission.

Although a modest subscription charge was assessed to the daily’s new transformation (Indiewire: Express), the IndieWire team remained committed to keeping the content free on the new site, in various push technologies, and in the weekly update — IndieWire: Digest. Additionally, Indiewire published Indiewire: PRINT editions at key film festivals. In July of ’98, the company launched a new website: iPOP Indiewire’s Movie Magazine, as a member of IMAGINE’s new Daily Entertainment Network.

Indiewire’s first presence at the Sundance Film Festival also offered the first published print dailies ever distributed at the event. The Park City coverage became a centerpiece of IndieWire’s On The Scene reporting that brought its team to other national and international festivals, including SXSW, the Los Angeles Independent, Berlin, New Directors/New Films, Florida, Nantucket, Hamptons International, Athens (Georgia), the IFFM, Austin, New York, Fort Lauderdale International film festivals, and many more.

In a guide to indie filmmaking, Shift Magazine (September 1998) showcases Indiewire, writing, “This of this as the CNN for indie auteurs — all film, all the time…keeping you up to speed on who’s buying what and who’s filming where.”

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In January of 1999, IndieWire was in Park City, UT with its comprehensive festival coverage in a four-color Indiewire: PRINT publication distributed on-site and electronically via its Internet site and e-mail publications. Additionally, Indiewire’s coverage was showcased on the Internet Movie Database and profiled via daily front-page links on Yahoo!. During the early months of 1999, the Indiewire:Express publication was revamped and converted into the new free e-mail publication — Indiewire: DAILY. Indiewire: DAILY was created as a companion to the IndieWire.com website. It included brief excerpts of daily IndieWire articles, complete with direct HTML links to the full stories, as well as links to articles about indie film from across the Internet. IndieWire’s readership reached new heights with over 9,000 subscribers enjoying the revamped Daily. In June of 1999, film critic Roger Ebert named Indiewire the “Best Indie-Film Crossroads” in an article about the best movie website for Yahoo! Internet Life. “The site Indiewire.com is an online trade paper — the ‘Variety’ of independent film,” Ebert wrote, “The reporting is concise and informed.”


In January of 2000, IndieWire returned to Park City, UT for its annual festival coverage of the Sundance Film Festival and the Slamdance Film Festival – with articles published daily in a four-color IndieWire: PRINT publication. Additionally, IndieWire provided video coverage for nine days of the festival provided informative and entertaining coverage, in digital video, of the personalities and culture that make Sundance an international phenomena.

The IndieWire team was named to the Silicon Alley 100, an exclusive roster of the top companies in New York’s new media business. In the January 2000 issue, the editors of the Silicon Alley Reporter praised IndieWire for its “integrity, consistency, organic growth and uncontested respect in the independent filmmaking community.”

“Filmmakers are becoming more savvy,” offered Sundance Film Festival Director Geoff Gilmore in a conversation withThe New York Times (January 20, 2000). “They go to Indiewire.com every day.” Meanwhile, Fortune Magazine (June 26, 2000) singled out Indiewire in its Cool Companies/Hot Ideas issue, while Shift Magazine called IndieWire, “One of the 10 coolest companies and one of the 10 most exciting indies in high tech,” in a cover story (July/August 2000).

Variety singled out Indiewire simply, calling it, “The virtual ‘Daily Variety’ of the independent film scene. A Must Read” (July 31, 2000)


In its “Best of the Web,” Forbes Magazine (May 11, 2002) honored IndieWire as a top film site, calling it the “online heartbeat of the world’s independent film community with breaking news and in-depth coverage.” Today, IndieWire continues that tradition with its website, which is updated daily, as well as via its Indiewire: DAILY and Indiewire: WEEKLY email publications. Additionally, Indiewire publishes print dailies at select film festivals.

Film festivals are an important part of IndieWire’s daily film coverage and Indiewire’s reports from fests have been hailed in the media. “The straightforward no-nonsense reporting most sites lack can be found here in abundance,” wrote Entertainment Weekly (May 11, 2001) in recognizing indieWIRE’s coverage of the Cannes Film Festival. (It awarded the site an A-).


A new website launched on September 8, 2005, the home IndieWire until the site was re-imagined and re-launched in January 2009 after the sale of the company to SnagFilms.

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