The New Year is coming

A still from Moon the film of Kelsey Gunn standing on a rock on the moonscape.

With the New Year, I expect a surge of new and resumed production as the production entities scramble to fulfil their content contracts and the networks and studios push to retrieve their viewers. How is your resume looking?

I was intrigued by a couple of articles in different sources (here’s one) talking about the streaming services bundling themselves. I’m not a business expert, but as an observer, this is something I’ve been expecting for a while now. First the new service technology arrives – ooh exciting and different – then it blooms and expands – proliferates – until it is unwieldy beyond what is sustainable in the marketplace. Then the service providers start recombining until a new equilibrium is reached and for a while, until the next major disruptor, everyone is happy.  I see this bundling along with some of the acquisitions between major players, as that compression process beginning.

At the end of the day, I expect that the niche markets will still exist – so fandoms and special interest viewers will still be able to find esoteric shows they like. Documentary is still having a moment, and BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ filmmakers are being prioritized (at last!) by grant makers, at least at the indie production level. Short film festivals are still mindbogglingly numerous, including many that are genre specific to find those fandom audiences.

In fact, the benefits of making short films as practice, as proofs-of-concept, as showcases of your storytelling skills, as demonstrations of your ability to direct actors, even as content for hungry streaming services, are talked about a lot. The hope is that your short film will be a steppingstone to greater things including features or series development deals. I have seen this last event happen – but not often.

Meanwhile, Ron Howard and partners, along with Ava Duvernay have combined forces to build Impact – a Crew List Directory for the industry. Duvernay’s contribution is to add the Array badge to highlight women and people of color.

My dear clients, the short story is that I can’t tell you anything about the features of the service because I can’t join them. The only way to gain membership is to have FEATURE credits within the LAST FIVE YEARS.

These may be narrative or documentary. I’m not sure what they consider to be the equivalent of features in TV, or streaming, but I suspect there might be a minimum number of episodes. My feature credits are too old and short film credits mean nothing to them. Apparently, they think you can’t learn anything from making short films. If you happen to be someone like me, whose plentiful feature credits come from before I stopped working on sets to raise my kid, you are out of luck. (My story about the time I brought my kid to work can be told another time.)

It’s not that I begrudge them trying to create a highly current list of active professionals who might be supposed to be up-to-date on technology.

It’s that they talk in a self-congratulatory tone about being inclusive – but are actively excluding a whole group that is likely to be primarily women.

Please note that Ron Howard is no spring chicken. To his credit he has remained married to one woman since 1975. I don’t know what his domestic arrangements are, but I doubt he ever had to choose between his career or staying home with his four kids – which include one set of twins by the way. However, if he had, perhaps there would have been a period, maybe longer than five years, when he didn’t have new credits. Does that mean he would have forgotten how to make a movie in the interim?

And I ask this too, even considering a gap, why would you want to join their list if you were not actively seeking to work now because you believe you have something to offer?

Director Toy Lei posing  on one of the moon rocks in front of a green screen on the set of Moon the film.

Director Toy Lei on the green screen set of MOON. Photo Credit: Ashley Covington

As a counter point to this, my news is that my team on MOON has been nominated for Best Production Design at the Vienna Short Film Festival. That is the second time I have been nominated thus for this film (the first being the Simi Valley Film Festival) – which is also the second time in my life that my film work has been nominated for anything. I credit the artisans around me both hands-on and digital for bringing my ideas to life so beautifully, on what included very heavy visual effects and a magical set partly made on Unreal Engine. I also got to work in a union production facility for the first time. The tools change. The process doesn’t. It’s almost as if I have gotten better as I aged, despite the gap…hmm.

This means that you might have to find other networking organizations and crew lists to join. You can’t rely on people finding you. You MUST be proactive in your job search, your networking, and your outreach to freelance opportunities – and update your LinkedIn profile.

Now comes “The Question Of The Month”.

That’s not a thing, but if it were – what would you find most useful to you in the New Year?

  • A Live Q&A about your resume, cover letter, or job search


  • A Pay-what-you-can Elevator Pitch workshop on Zoom?

Let me know. Maybe both…

In other awesome news:

One of the short films I worked on has qualified for Oscar consideration been short -listed for an Oscar!! (Another first for me.) If you, or someone you know, is a member of the Academy, please check out Bienvenidos a Los Angeles by Lisa Cole. Members can see the full film in the Academy screening room. Voting continues!!

Poster for Bienvenidos A Los Angeles film with two actors and a landing airplane in the background