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Highlights from Ebert Symposium on Future of Movie Industry


Here are ten video highlights from the first virtual event of this year’s Ebert Symposium Series, which can be viewed in full here. Titled “The Film Industry in a Time of Change,” the panel was broadcast on Thursday, October 8th, and was moderated by Ebertfest co-founder Chaz Ebert and Ebertfest director, Dr. Nate Kohn. The panelists included Michael Barker, Co-Founder and Co-President of Sony Pictures Classics; Neal Block, Head of Distribution and Marketing for Magnolia Pictures; Melissa Haizlip, director and producer, “Mr. Soul!”; Mary Mazzio, film director “A Most Beautiful Thing“; Nina Shaw, the founding partner in the entertainment law firm, Del Shaw Moonves Tanaka Finkelstein & Lezcano; Christine Swanson, writer and director, “The Grace Sisters”; Malcom D. Lee, director and producer, “Girls Trip,” “Space Jam: A New Legacy”; and Darrien Michele Gipson, president of SAGIndie. 

The topics discussed ranged from the cost of COVID-19 safety measures that movie theaters must implement; how the pandemic and the social justice protests affect the state of the movie industry; the emerging filmmakers who may be overlooked in the midst of these changes and the silver linings found in unexpected benefits of at-home viewing and the vitality of amplifying underrepresented voices. Below are only short clips of the event, and a much fuller experience can be obtained here.

The second panel in the  Ebert Symposium Series will be broadcast Thursday, October 22, hosted and moderated by professors from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (you can find the full list of panelists here); and the third and final virtual event of the 2020 Ebert Symposium Series takes place Thursday, November 5th. 

To submit discussion questions for the panelists, please fill out this form in advance of each event.

1. Nate Kohn, Director, Ebertfest Film Festival & Film Professor, University of Georgia, Athens

Ebert Symposium 2020: Nate Kohn’s Introduction from RogerEbert.com on Vimeo.

Co-moderator Dr. Nate Kohn welcomes the panelists to the first virtual event of the 2020 Ebert Symposium.

2. Malcolm D. Lee, Director, “Girls Trip,” “Space Jam with Lebron James”

Ebert Symposium 2020: Malcolm D. Lee from RogerEbert.com on Vimeo.

Malcolm D. Lee, director of “Girls Trip,” discusses the benefits of communal experience of moviegoing, when we may feel safe enough to get back to theaters, and how we define success at the movies.

3. Christine Swanson, Director, “The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel

Ebert Symposium 2020: Christine Swanson from RogerEbert.com on Vimeo.

Christine Swanson, director of “The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel,” talks about her film being a bigger hit perhaps because it was released during the pandemic when everyone was home. There is an audience hungry for movies about Black women. 

4. Neal Block, Head of Distribution, Magnolia Pictures

Ebert Symposium 2020: Neal Block from RogerEbert.com on Vimeo.

Neal Block, Head of Distribution and Marketing for Magnolia Pictures, discusses the cost of movie theaters implementing COVID-19 safety measures and why theaters need federal stimulus money.

5. Michael Barker, Co-President, Sony Pictures Classics

Ebert Symposium 2020: Michael Barker from RogerEbert.com on Vimeo.

Michael Barker, Co-Founder and Co-President of Sony Pictures Classics, discusses the benefits of at-home viewing, illuminating what is best for a specific movie in a specific marketplace. 

6. Nina Shaw, Entertainment Attorney

Ebert Symposium 2020: Nina Shaw from RogerEbert.com on Vimeo.

Nina Shaw, the founding partner in the entertainment law firm, Del Shaw Moonves Tanaka Finkelstein & Lezcano, discusses the escalating cost of production during the pandemic, and how it affects below-the-line costs, salaries, location costs and beyond. Also, the social justice part of this business is so important that we don’t want to displace those who may not have a firm foothold in the industry. 

7. Darrien Michele Gipson, President, SAGIndie

Ebert Symposium 2020: Darrien Michele Gipson from RogerEbert.com on Vimeo.

Darrien Michele Gipson, president of SAGIndie, talks about the emerging artists at risk of being overlooked amidst the pandemic. When you have to have an incredibly small crew and you can’t afford to train anyone, you may lose a generation of new artists. It makes it harder to sustain a career.

8. Mary Mazzio, Director, ” A Most Beautiful Thing”

Ebert Symposium 2020: Mary Mazzio from RogerEbert.com on Vimeo.

Mary Mazzio, director of “A Most Beautiful Thing,” talks about the vitality of amplifying underrepresented voices. Those who live in the world of privilege must do more from a filmmaking standpoint and from an advocacy standpoint. 

9. Melissa Haizlip, Director “Mr Soul!”

Ebert Symposium 2020: Melissa Haizlip from RogerEbert.com on Vimeo.

Melissa Haizlip, director of “Mr. Soul!”, talks about how artists can be a part of vital and transformative change. We are at an inflection point in history. Creativity is part of the cultural shift, and art and love and truth and joy can’t be cancelled. She speaks of how Black love is revolutionary and that we are moving toward a meritocracy.

10. Chaz Ebert, President, Rogerebert.com

Ebert Symposium 2020: Chaz Ebert’s Closing Remarks from RogerEbert.com on Vimeo.

Chaz Ebert shares her closing remarks for the first virtual event of the 2020 Ebert Symposium. She affirms how each panelist has either made a film that exhibits Empathy or represented someone in the industry whose work embodies that principle. 

The second virtual event for the 2020 Ebert Symposium will stream Thursday, October 22nd, at 5pm CT on the YouTube channel and Facebook page of Ebertfest. The third event will be broadcast on Thursday, November 5th. To submit discussion questions for the panelists, please fill out this form in advance of each event.



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