EXCLUSIVE: Spotlight production co Topic Studios is teaming with journalism outfit Field of Vision to offer $250,000 in emergency financial help for struggling documentary freelancers during the coronavirus lockdown.
The two companies are divisions of First Look Media, the org set up by eBay founder and philanthropist Pierre Omidyar with doc heavyweights Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill, and Laura Poitras.
Industry freelancers have been particularly hard hit by the economic aspects of the crisis, with film and TV production halted around the world. As such, the fund is aiming to support the most vulnerable by providing life assistance grants, such as for rent, healthcare, bills, groceries, for those who have experienced financial hardship from loss of income or opportunity. The money comes from the operating budgets of the two companies.Field of Vision / Topic Studios
The fund will offer individual grants of up to $2,000 in two chunks, initially in April and then again in May, as the situation evolves. It will open for applications between April 8 and April 10 or until the companies receive 750 applications and then again between May 6 and May 8 or until a further 750 applications are received.
Co-Founder and Executive Producer of Field of Vision, Charlotte Cook said, “This is an incredibly hard time for the documentary field and we're hoping the fund is able to offer some relief. We started with our virtual mentorship and consultation service to try and be as available to filmmakers as possible, but felt it was vitally important to also provide financial assistance. We want to support the artists working in the documentary field every day, but especially now, and will continue to build and add more resources as we can over the next few weeks and months.”
Executive Vice President of Topic Studios, Maria Zuckerman added, “We at Topic Studios are proud to launch this initiative in partnership with our close colleagues at Field of Vision. We hope to respond to the needs of our collaborators in the documentary community and look forward to a time, hopefully soon, when our main focus will again be on making great work together.”
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, Vice TV has ordered Shelter in Place with Shane Smith, a new half-hour weekly interview show hosted by the Vice Media Group founder. It’s set to premiere Thursday, April 9 at 10 PM with two back-to-back episodes.
In the series, produced through remote video interviews from Smith’s home in Santa Monica, Smith will tackle the biggest questions of the moment with experts from the fields of science, journalism, entertainment, food and economics.Vice Media
“I'm at home, you're at home and our news cycle is changing by the minute,” said Smith. “So, I decided to dial up some of the world's foremost thinkers to offer us some much needed perspective and get to some truth on what we should be doing in this time like none other.” You can watch a preview clip below.
Smith’s first guest will be whistleblower Edward Snowden, who delves into the world of surveillance, privacy and our future civil liberties as international governments and autocratic regimes enact bold, new policies to curb the virus.
“When any of us look at where this is heading, we need to think about where we’ve been,” said Snowden. “And sadly, these kind of emergency powers that are born out of crises, have a perfect history of abuse”.
The second episode will feature California Governor Gavin Newsom who speaks to Smith about how his state has braced for the pandemic, where the federal government has stumbled, and what is coming next. Dr. Anne Rimoin, a world-leading epidemiologist, is also featured and will speak to how the virus has spread and what we can do about it.
Produced by Vice TV, Shane Smith, Alex Chitty, Maral Usefi are the Executive Producers for Shelter in Place. Jonah Kaplan is Supervising Producer.
Shelter in Place will be available on Vice TV via all major satellite and cable providers; ViceTV.com; and the Vice TV app via iOS, Android, Apple TV, Roku, and Chromecast. The first two episodes will be available for free on Vice & Munchies YouTube page.
Shelter in Place with Shane Smith is the latest programming from Vice TV produced in response to COVID-19. Vice Quarantine Hour is a limited variety series airing weekdays at 8 AM ET/PT. Vice TV's Emmy-winning nightly newscast is airing dedicated COVID-19 episodes with Vice News Tonight: Remote.
While major studios have the resources to debut their theatrical releases early on digital and streaming platforms amid the nationwide shutdown of movie theaters due to coronavirus COVID-19 concerns, indie filmmakers are being left without an audience for their small films. Typically, film festivals give these indie films the exposure they need to build up an audience or critical acclaim.
But with film festivals cancelling left and right, indie films are the ones that suffer the most. However, Jay and Mark Duplass, who got their start in the indie filmmaking world, want to use their clout to support those indie filmmakers whose small films are left without a home.
Film festivals are more than a fancy place for high-profile filmmakers to debut their next awards contender. They’re an essential home for many indie films that otherwise wouldn’t get a chance to debut to big crowds. But with those crowds dispersed and shut up in their homes for the time being, indie filmmakers are being left with nowhere to show the small films that they worked on for years. They don’t have the resources to just drop their movies on digital platforms and even if they did, they’re more likely to get overlooked in favor of Bloodshot.
However, the Duplass brothers are attempting to lessen the financial blow that indie filmmakers are feeling by using their clout to elevate those small films. In an interview with IndieWire, Mark Duplass put out the call to indie films for a home, offering the resources of Duplass Productions to boost indie filmmakers’ works.
“[The streamers] are all doing their best overtime watching pretty much every movie that’s being submitted to them from the festivals that didn’t have their premieres. We as Duplass Brothers have also come forward to those people and said, ‘If you find a movie where you feel like ‘This is really great but it’s not there yet,’ bring it to us and we will help partner with you to make that movie what you feel like it needs to be for your service.”
While streaming platforms have been a godsend for many stuck inside, or the many people who can’t afford to go to the movie theater every week, Duplass said that not only independent filmmakers, but independent studios have been struggling to cope with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
“There are so many positives and negatives to where we’re at with the prominence of streamers, what they have done to places like IFC and Magnolia who’ve been around for years and who are an integral part of our ecosystem,” Duplass said. “They were really damaged by some of these acquisition prices at film festivals. We used to … sell our movies to these niche distributors, and we wouldn’t hammer them for too much money because if we did, they wouldn’t be...