[UPDATED 3/22/19]

DCU returned big time for 2019 (and SAGindie returned as a sponsor). Film Independent’s annual DIRECTORS CLOSE-UP kicked off in Los Angeles on January 30, and attendees of the five-week series were able to hear firsthand accounts from moviemakers and other industry folks on what it means to make an independent film in 2019. From casting to documentaries to screenwriting to genre fare, DCU2019 covered it all. Check out photos, videos, and highlights below!




Week 1 – January 30 – Nicole Holofcener: The Land of Stellar Performances

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  • Nicole Holofcener (writer/director, The Land of Steady Habits)
  • Jeanne McCarthy (casting director, The Land of Steady Habits)
  • Thomas Mann (actor, The Land of Steady Habits)
  • Moderated by Karyn Kusama (director, Destroyer)

“You usually read the script first and if the script really connects with you and you get excited about it, you meet the director and hope that the way you see it resonates with them.” –McCarthy
“You can sense a personality a little bit [in an audition]. Whether it’s a warm, open, ‘happy-to-be-there’ personality or not, which could be nerves, sometimes.” –Holofcener
“I generally like to meet the people if I’m going to just offer them a role, and they generally want to meet me… I can just get a sense of ‘Oh, this is what it’s going to be like,’ ‘no thanks,’ or ‘Yay!’” –Holofcener
“Meeting with [Holofcener], you just know you’re going to be a part of something that’s already good, whether or not you’re in it.” –Mann


Week 2 – February 6 – The Storytellers: Writers and Directors

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  • Jane Anderson (writer, The Wife)
  • Billy Ray (writer, Overlord)
  • Robin Swicord (writer/director, Wakefield)

“When you write a movie that’s not for you to direct, you have to think of it as a relay race. You have to run your lap, and then you hand off the baton.” –Ray
“It’s very easy for us to feel possessive over our own vision as a screenwriter. But it’s a collaborative art. We’re not novelists.” –Anderson
“Directors [sometimes] will focus on minutia in the script, instead of coming in with the big picture… I feel that writers often start with big-picture, then figure out at the granular level how [to] serve that big-picture.” –Swicord
“Say, here’s what really matters to me about the script, these are hills I would die on. And if you pick a select few of these, as opposed to I’m going to fight you over every single word behind every single page, then [directors] respect that.” –Ray


Week 3 – February 13 – Another Type of Narrative: The Truth of Docs

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  • Alexandria Bombach (director, On Her Shoulders)
  • Talal Derki (director, Of Fathers And Sons)
  • Bing Liu (director, Minding the Gap)
  • Morgan Neville (director, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?)
  • Sandi Tan (director, Shirkers)
  • Moderated by Lisa Leeman (director, One Lucky Elephant)

“Thinking about perception – who’s telling what story and how we’re telling it – is very important to me.” –Bombach
“There are two questions that always haunt you: ‘What your film should be about?’ and second, ‘Will I get the right access to the story?’” –Derki
“Right now, my criteria for making a film is a film that I can’t imagine not making.” –Neville
“I knew it would destroy me psychically, financially, spiritually — and it did! That comes with making a film. It should destroy you.” –Tan


Week 4 – February 20 – The Independent Spirit: A Directors Roundtable

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  • Bo Burnham (writer/director, Eighth Grade)
  • Debra Granik (writer/director, Leave No Trace)
  • Barry Jenkins (writer/director, If Beale Street Could Talk)
  • Tamara Jenkins (writer/director, Private Life)
  • Boots Riley (writer/director, Sorry to Bother You)
  • Paul Schrader (writer/director, First Reformed)
  • Moderated by Josh Welsh (President, Film Independent)

“With digital technology, you can make a gorgeous looking film for really cheap.” –Schrader
“Some of the greatest shots in our movie came in the last minute… it’s about making do with what you have.” –Riley
“We definitely tried to make a digital film, because it’s a digital story… The real image I was trying to capture with the movie is the image of someone on their phone in the dark at night.” –Burnham
“We got to shoot in order, so that was the best part of it… By the time [the characters] are parting, [the actors] had gone on an arduous journey together.” –Granik


Week 5 – February 27 – Thrill Seekers: Directing Dynamic Genre

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  • Fede Álvarez (writer/director, The Girl in the Spider’s Web)
  • Drew Dowdle (writer/producer, Quarantine)
  • John Erick Dowdle (writer/director, Quarantine)
  • Aaron Katz (writer/director, Gemini)
  • Daniel Stamm (director, The Last Exorcism)
  • Moderated by Scott Mantz (film critic, Collider)

“I see a big challenge in taking what I’m interested in… in terms of genre filmmaking, thrillers or science-fiction films, and then populating those films with really interesting, complex characters.” –Katz
“Find one thing about the scene you’re shooting that you want to do really well. Don’t try to do everything… If it’s lighting, make the most beautiful-looking scenes cinematography wise. If it’s acting, really concentrate on that moment.” –Stamm
“There’s never been more demand in terms of independent film financing and studio financing. [Horror/genre] is what everybody wants to make right now.” –Drew Dowdle

Film Independent Directors Close-Up 2019 was sponsored by SAGindie, Directors Guild of America, Landmark Theatres, Breaker, and Sexton.


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