January 5th, 1998

To all you enterprising American independent filmmakers:

After a dozen years with the widest "open door" policy in the film world, we have to change the rules. Up until now, if you sent a film to John Pierson & Associates (the 80's), Islet (early 90's), or Grainy Pictures (three years and counting), the result was always the same: we watched it - all of it. Yet after screening hundreds of films each year and giving thousands of hours of free advice, we found, on average, two features per annum to finance and/or represent... because we're finicky.

In the end, no experience is wasted. All that material became part of the research for Spike, Mike, Slackers & Dykes: A Guided Tour Across a Decade of American Independent Cinema (Miramax/Hyperion). So even as we stop handing out advice for free, it only costs $12.95 in trade paperback. And the book begat our magazine format cable television show. Split Screen recently concluded its first, ten-episode season courtesy of the Independent Film Channel and Bravo. Production is scheduled to resume on December 1st for this year. All of which brings us back around to the new rules.

Although Grainy Pictures has not entirely deserted the ranks of feature film representation, we've come pretty damn close. Don't despair, for there is good news in our shifting emphasis. We're producing at least twenty weekly Split Screen episodes for 1998, each containing 3-4 segments. Yes, it is undeniably TV; but we don't use television producers. Instead we look for talented, if unproven, independent filmmakers and fund their segment ideas. Sometimes these grow into features. On most shows we also provide a showcase for pre-existing work: short, in-progress, or a portion of a completed feature.

So how should you approach us from here on out? You should think twice about blindly submitting an entire feature over the transom. Like the rest of the industry, we'll probably turn it off if we don't respond to the first twenty minutes. Please start by faxing a one-page pitch (see contact info here): focus on content, not some over-earnest description of how hard everyone worked to overcome adversity, blah blah blah. If you do submit a tape and expect it to be returned, send along a SASE. We're in a new office where storage space is at a premium. Think dog at the pound.

In the last twelve years, we've really tried our hardest to give everyone our attention. It seemed like the human thing to do in a sometimes inhuman business. Now there are simply too many films, and not enough hours in the day. Nevertheless we choose to see the glass as half-full, and you should too. Instead of backing only two feature filmmakers next year, we plan to give about fifty of you a golden opportunity on Split Screen. IFC plans to make the show a real centerpiece of the network. Come along for the ride.

Happy New Year!

John and Janet Pierson

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