Independent Filmmakers Struggle Due to COVID-19 — Sonoma State Star


Everyone enjoys a trip to the local cinema; with the smell of popcorn, booming surround sound and the enchanting silver screen. However, since the start of the pandemic, there have been considerable changes in the way audiences watch movies.

Most major movie studios have afforded themselves the luxury of pushing back their movie release dates, hoping to wait for moviegoers to return. Unfortunately, independent filmmakers don’t have the funds to do such things and have taken a hit as a result, now having to budget for newly introduced health protocols.

Independent filmmakers are highly dependent on investors to finance their projects, so their films must be made in a timely manner in order to repay said investors. “Changes to industry standards for health and safety will likely remain permanent, so shoots will take longer and cost more than a year ago,” said Joseph Williams, editor for S&P Global.

Major studios can afford to invest significant sums in the health and safety of their teams, without it weighing heavily on the money budgeted for their films. Small productions are not so lucky.

In an interview with the STAR, Talena Sanders, professor of communications at Sonoma State University, explained how safety is a top concern, especially when working in such close quarters. “I usually work in documentary filmmaking, so the way I produce films is different from a narrative production. In the world of narrative production, cast and crew can be quarantined prior to production, allowing for a covid-free production. In a documentary, you usually follow people through their lived experiences as they happen, so it’s harder to be safe.

Independent filmmakers have continued to create thoughtful projects, despite the series of setbacks wrought by the pandemic. Abe Chase, a film student from Cypress College, described what inspired him throughout the pandemic. “The number of major events that have happened during the pandemic has almost made it easier to find topics. Things like; Pro-Choice versus Pro-Life, the BLM movement and the Stop Asian Hate movement. I’m first and foremost a documentary filmmaker, so for someone like me, it’s been a really interesting and exciting time to get out there and find a story to cover.

Drive-In films have made a resurgence, allowing independent filmmakers to showcase their work in a COVID-19 safe environment. The resilience and drive of these passionate independent artists has definitely been tested and proven in these uncertain times.

As the Oscars approach, it’s important to recognize smaller productions that attempt to create art on a much smaller budget. Don’t forget to interact with independent films’ social media accounts, liking and commenting on posts can add to the presence of these projects on all platforms. This can create buzz for upcoming release dates and add to potential success for artists.

Finding a patreon subscription or even just watching movies on apps like Vimeo or Youtube can also help independent filmmakers. The Sonoma International Film Festival is a great local option for discovering and supporting independent artists and there is a huge range of different films to watch. For more information, visit


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