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The NYU Cinema Research Institute brings together innovators in film and media finance, production, marketing, and distribution to imagine and realize a new future for artist-entrepreneurs. 


New Year's Resolutions & CRI Solutions

Claire Harlam

In the first week of the new year, most blogs and papers have published articles on new year's resolutions for the film industry and/or wrap-ups of last year's highlights and statistics. Some of The Wrap's resolutions are particularly relevant to the work that CRI fellows are doing now.

Some highlights and areas for consideration:

CHRIS MCGURK, CEO, Cinedigm: People have to re-screw their heads on about the way a film is released. It used to be that a movie had to be picked up by an independent distributor and get to 500 screens to be validated as a movie, but it takes $5 million to $10 million in marketing to do that, and it makes it difficult to get a return on your investment.

The way that a film can be released is an interesting consideration now from micro to ultratoobig budget projects. Ryan has designed his project to "address the lack of economic transparency in independent film with the ultimate goal of helping filmmakers better understand the options available to them when it comes to distributing their films." With a better understanding of the real costs involved in distribution, independent filmmakers will have a much easier time re-screwing their heads on in order to embrace changing release strategies.

FRANKLIN LEONARD, Founder, the Black List: I spend a lot of time thinking about data and how data can be used to improve the film business. One way that seems both obvious and interesting is making movies that already have an audience. Hollywood typically assumes that means, "Oh there’s a built-in audience for this board game." That’s wrong. It means determining ways to identify audiences for specific subjects or ideas via the internet, social media and surveys.

I agree with Leonard--the film industry has barely begun to collaborate with and learn from the tech world in order to harness data about what audiences want. Which is not to suggest that filmmakers should start making movies based on what audiences want. (That would be a cynical verging on gross thing to suggest.) Better tools to target individuals based on their interests and tastes mean better chances for filmmakers and grassroots distributers to build audiences around any film. I'm researching new digital platforms in this space, I'm trying to understand how to build community around film online and learn from that community, and I'm (hopefully) killing the word niche in the process.

GLEN BASNER, CEO, FilmNation: ...It’s much easier to have a hand in the creative process and in the development of a movie than when you're getting a big fee from the studios, making $20 million before you step on set. Don’t get me wrong, studios have a lot of strengths -- more advantages than disadvantages -- but they are not nimble. They can’t tailor each project to specific filmmakers. That has allowed smaller companies to enter the void and have a bigger impact than ever before.

Edward is aiming with his project to build "a new model of independent filmmaking focused on the production of feature films produced within the walls of the university system that will prove to make dollars and sense." Like Basner suggests, now is a perfect time for filmmakers working within a nimbler infrastructure than the studio system to "enter the void." And no one but no one is nimbler than a film student.


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