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Entertainment Partners Hosts 'An Independent Producer's Survival Guide' in Park City

Joe Chianese, EP’s SVP & Production Incentives Practice Leader, brings independent filmmakers and industry experts together to share best practices and lessons learned.
February 27, 2024

Joe Chianese recently attended both the Sundance Film Festival and the Slamdance Film Festival, which take place concurrently in Park City, Utah. In his twentieth year attending Sundance, Chianese was excited to see the continued evolution of the festival along with the growing and evolving film and television industry. He says, “It was clear distributors, studios, and streamers were in town to buy in an effort to supplement a lack of content caused by last year’s WGA and AFTRA/SAG strikes.” And buy they did!

At Slamdance, Joe moderated the panel 'An Independent Producer’s Survival Guide,' sponsored by Film Florida and the South Florida Filmmakers Lounge. A thirty-year industry veteran, Chianese is a leading expert on production and global production incentives. In his role at EP, he provides consulting as well as financial, tax, and administrative services for domestic and international production incentives. 

He stated, “The goal of the panel was to bring together a diverse group of filmmakers and experts who can offer their perspective on how to navigate and optimize independent projects today.”

Diverse panelists shared a wealth of knowledge

The panel featured three producers: Jamin O’Brien (A Thousand and One, and Eighth Grade); Kevin Chinoy (The Florida Project, Lorelei, and Tangerine), and Slamdance Co-Founder and Producer, Paul Rachman. Additional panelists included Adrian Wootton from the British Film Commission, Sandy Lighterman from Film Florida and Film Lauderdale, Diana Cadavid the Director of Industry Programs for the Latin Film Institute and International Programmer for the Toronto International Film Festival, and Fred Siegel, a Certified Public Accountant and Independent Film Financial Consultant—who also shared insights from their unique perspectives.

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On stage, indie producers—Jamin, Kevin, and Paul—discussed their films (Rob Peace, Suncoast, and Daughters) which premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Paul’s documentary, Daughters, received the Audience Award at Sundance and was recently purchased by Netflix. Together, the group discussed the evolution of independent film and how changes in the industry (i.e., incentives and technology) support independent producers, citing the example of Kevin’s film, Tangerine, which was filmed entirely with an iPhone. They also discussed production challenges faced by indie producers, many of which are the result of increasing production costs.

Throughout the panel, Joe spent time asking each panelist about their area of expertise, covering a wide range of topics, including how to manage budgeting, financing, tax implications, locations, incentives, distribution, and marketing independent film.

Advice to up-and-coming indie producers: Do your homework

Joe said, “I asked the producers on stage to offer advice for first-time producers, and they all said a version of the same thing: Make sure you fully leverage all the resources available to you. First and foremost, that means figuring out what kind of resources you have access to.”

Before filming, it is key for any filmmaker to identify the people, places, and tools that can help you bring your project to life in the most professional-yet-cost-effective way possible.

Shifting the conversation to Sandy and Adrian, each highlighted the benefits their respective incentive programs offered, particularly those specific to new and independent producers.

Sandy Lighterman explained that Film Florida offers a wide range of local incentive programs. Adrain Wootton encouraged audience members to explore international incentives, which can be extremely competitive, including foreign exchange rate benefits (e.g., between the U.S. and Canada). He elaborated by sharing that the British Film Commission offers some of the most inclusive tax credits in the world, with cash rebates of up to 25% of qualified spend. 

Both panelists were eagre to remind the audience that incentive programs continually analyze their offerings and often sweeten the deal to attract new projects. As an example, Adrian Wootton noted the UK is considering offering a 30% to 40% incentive to independent productions that choose to film there.

Next, the conversation pivoted to the importance of partnering with a film commissioner. “When you build a good relationship with a commissioner, you gain a strong ally and partner who can help support you at every stage of your project,” Joe said. All the panelists agreed, reinforcing the value of building these important relationships.

Before they wrapped, Diana Cadavid spoke about the importance of film festivals for independent producers as well as the impact of diversity in independent filmmaking—especially among Latino Producers. Finally, Fred Siegel shared accounting advice for managing budgets, financing, and building a distribution plan, stressing the importance of collaborating with a trusted financial advisor to stretch your dollar further. He also encouraged the audience to explore Section 181 and other tax benefits available to indie producers.

About Slamdance and the Slamdance Film Festival

Slamdance started as a small group of artists launching a grassroots campaign to showcase bold talent. Today, it has blossomed into a community of creators who are dedicated to amplifying diverse voices in pursuit of fresh, innovative narratives.

The annual Slamdance Film Festival, which debuted in 1995, prides itself on celebrating these artistic risk-takers. Joe says, “The festival has carved a niche for itself by providing a stage for stories that may otherwise go untold. Slamdance really fosters an environment of authenticity and inclusivity, which is pretty spectacular to witness.”

The festival features a combination of film debuts and panels, like the one hosted by Joe. In a very on-brand move, Slamdance allowed individuals to attend panels for free this year, opening up access to as many creators as possible.

Throughout the year, Slamdance also offers grants, mentorships, and educational programs to new writers, creators, and digital and interactive artists across the globe. By making a commitment to honoring creative freedom, the organization is poised to be a vital force in shaping the future of cinema.

Unique resources for independent filmmakers

Entertainment Partners is proud to offer a wide range of services—from incentives to payroll and everything in between—to productions big and small. Indie producers have a lot to gain by working with a tax incentive expert. Incentive programs all over the globe offer widely varied benefits and perks, and identifying which program is the best fit for your project can give you a lot more budget to work with. When you’re ready to explore options, EP can help you find your perfect match.

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