America has its own dogma, and its backers are InDigEnt.
IFC Prods., Sloss Special Projects and director Gary Winick have teamed to create Independent Digital Entertainment (InDigEnt), an American response to Lars Von Trier’s Danish collective Dogma ’95.
IFC will fully finance 10 low-budget pics, in exchange for a three-year TV license on the Independent Film Channel. IFC’s Jonathan Sehring and Caroline Kaplan will produce the films, with John Sloss and Winick exec producing. Sloss will represent domestic theatrical and video distribution rights to the pics, and all foreign rights.
Among its innovations, InDigEnt will sponsor pics shot on digital video, minimal to no lighting and small crews. Pics may be blown up to 35mm for festival presentation or theatrical release. But, unlike Dogma, InDigEnt’s will not be as hard and fast with its filmmaking rules.
Winick has already rounded up the support of filmmakers such as Carl Franklin, Alexander Payne, Todd Haynes, Tamra Jenkins and Richard Linklater for his scheme. Some of these directors have expressed interest in making an InDigEnt pic.
“Through InDigEnt we are offering film artists a unique framework that removes the logistical complexity and financial concerns that have come to control much of the filmmaking process — so that filmmakers can focus exclusively on the stories they are telling,” Winick said.
In addition, Sloss has negotiated a unique backend position on each InDigEnt pic for the filmmakers and crew. “The entire filmmaking team, from directors to actors to grips, will divide 50% of all revenue generated from the first dollar, the truest partnership yet in filmmaking,” Sloss said.
Winick came up with the notion of forming InDigEnt six months ago, after seeing Thomas Vinterberg’s “The Celebration,” which was made under Dogma ’95 rules.
In discussions with his cinematographer, Wolfgang Held, Winick reminisced about free-form U.S. filmmakers such as John Cassavetes and conceived shooting such a pic on digital video.
He subsequently embarked on the digital vid pic “Sam the Man,” starring Fisher Stevens, Annabella Sciorra, Maria Bello, Rob Morrow and Ron Rifkin, to, as he put it, “see how this all works.”
The experience pleased both Winick and the actors, the director said. “You can shoot a scene in ten, twenty different ways. It gives you a lot more flexibility. You’re talking about a three-week prep followed by a two-week shoot.”
Aside from the cost of a digital video film, which can be as low as $100,000, filmmakers are attracted by the immediacy and realism of digital video, and the ability to simply get things done quickly. “It’s quite an experience when you’re in a 15-passenger van and your whole movie is in that van,” Winick said.
The purity of InDigEnt is likely to find favor with filmmakers who are fed up with the bloated nature of many studio pics. But Winick was keen to stress that InDigEnt would not be going to the other extreme. “If a (scene) needs a light, I’m going to give it a light,” he said.
Although Winick conceded that post-production can be just as lengthy as with an ordinary feature, he believed that “Avid and other companies will shortly come out with equipment that supports DV.”
According to Sehring, IFC plans to take advantage of its own DV Theater Broadband Showcase and, theatrically, may go through Clearview Cinemas, which has already exhibited pics digitally.
“This is the only existing opportunity for filmmakers experimenting in this medium to guarantee that their work will be seen by a wide audience,” Sehring said.
Winick’s other directing credits include “The Tic Code,” “Sweet Nothing,” “Out of the Rain” and “Curfew.”