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Sundance 2017: Producers Share Their Journey In State Of The Slate Panel

State of the Slate: Films at Sundance 2017 panelists from left to right: Joe Chianese, Ryland Aldrich, Lee Clay, Daniel Bekerman, Shea Kammer, Jared Goldman and Sally Jo Effenson.

Seven producers with films either competing or premiering in the 2017 Sundance Film Festival gathered at the Park City Studios to discuss the initial workings in getting their projects off the ground. Participating in a panel led by moderator Joseph Chianese, EVP of EP Financial Solutions were Ryland Aldrich, producer of “L.A. Times” (Next selection), Daniel Bekerman and Lee Clay, producers of “Rememory” (world premiere), Sally Jo Effenson, producer of “Mudbound” (US narrative competition), Brunson Green, producer of “Walking Out” (US narrative competition), Jared Goldman, producer of “Ingrid Goes West” (US narrative competition) and “Wilson” (world premiere) and Shea Kammer, line producer to “The Yellow Birds” (US narrative competition), “Newness” and “To the Bone” (both world premieres).

Chianese began the event by highlighting the importance production incentives have on a producer’s decision to shoot in any particular state or country. Currently, 33 US states offer incentives, however six states have recent administrative changes in their legislative branch.  The new administrations may potentially shutter the state’s incentives, a fear that eventually looms over any state during office turn-overs. Furthering the challenge US states have on capturing incentive dollars are the rise in international locations such as those recently established by Morocco, Thailand and China.   He then asked each panelists what they focused on in the earliest stages of their production’s development.

Effenson stated the decisions began at the script’s development stage. Noting the story involved international locations during WWII, the decisions were made regarding the looks that served the story.  Goldman emphasized the balance needed between incentives, timing and depth of crew base.  “Wilson” was set in San Francisco, however obtaining the incentives in that area were unrealistic.  The timing of their shooting schedule enabled Minnesota to be a great stand in for the Bay area.

Kammer noted he creates multiple budgets for the productions he works on, highlighting options for the locations set in the script and alternative locations. Green admitted he originally thought of Canada for “Walking Out” but ultimately chose Montana for their attractive grant program as well as the lack of competition in finding strong crew.

Bekerman noted there is a certainty to Canadian incentives: they don’t change with incoming legislation which makes working with Canadian incentives attractive. There were parts of “Rememory” that were shot in New York, Chicago and Morocco which were managed by partnering with American companies for the “big picture interests.” Having worked on many US productions, Clay stated that incentives should be a critical part of any production’s budget.  However, he mentioned that even if one’s production is unable to secure an incentive, there is a great benefit to shooting locally.

“Living costs can add up. Sometimes it is better to stay in LA,” said Clay.

Aldrich reflected on his first feature, which he initially wanted to shoot in Massachusetts but realized the winter timing of the production would cause too much interference, so he went to Georgia. Due to the scheduling, many other productions that shoot in Georgia were on hiatus, allowing him to acquire the crew he needed.  “L.A. Times” required California locations.  Noting his budget was small, he stated he didn’t try for the incentive because his crew spend wouldn’t qualify.

Chianese led the panelists through a much greater in-depth look at their projects, as well as discussing the benefit of a national incentive, much like the now defunct 181.  The complete presentation of this hour long panel is available in an archive form.  Please click the link below to view State of the Slate: Films at Sundance 2017 in its entirety.