Movies

Listen: Cinetic’s John Sloss Talks Expanding Into TV, Branded Content and State of Indie Film Biz

John Sloss, founder and principal of Cinetic Media, is the consummate mover and shaker in the independent film business. But a conversation with Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos a few years ago changed his view of television forever.

“From the moment Ted Sarandos informed me he was going to drop an entire season of ‘House of Cards’ at once — and I told him he was insane — I think the world has had to rethink the length of narrative stories and whether something told over 11 hours is significantly different than something told over 100 minutes,” Sloss says in the latest episode of Variety podcast “Strictly Business.” 

“The idea that stories would be told a half-hour or an hour a week over a series of weeks never seemed that particularly interesting to me,” Sloss says. “The idea that a narrative story would be told over 11 hours that you could watch for 11 hours straight is not only attractive to storytellers but was attractive to me as well. … My feeling is a narrative is a narrative whether it is seven minutes long or 11 hours.”

Sloss is putting his perspective into practice through a TV development deal struck last October with All3Media, the U.K.-based collection of production banners. At the same time, Cinetic has partnered with filmmaker David Gordon Green on a branded content venture dubbed Brand New Story. That company was inspired by Green’s success as a director of commercials in addition to movies such as 2018’s “Halloween” and HBO’s “Eastbound and Down” and “Vice Principals.”

Sloss sees a huge opportunity to marry top brands with creative talent because marketers need new ways to reach consumers.

“People are not going to spend a second watching content that doesn’t entertain them,” Sloss says. “You have to earn their attention.”

The wide-ranging conversation also covers Sloss’ thoughts on how the rise of film financing efforts at major talent agencies changed the nature of the indie film business. He also weighs in on how Cinetic helped shepherd the last two best picture winners — 2018’s “Green Book” and 2019’s “Parasite” — to Oscar glory. Sloss notes that he learned some hard truths about awards campaigning during his long haul with 2014’s “Boyhood,” the IFC release that was shot over a 12-year period. Sloss helped assemble an innovative financing model for the movie on behalf of longtime client Richard Linklater.

“As I learned in the trenches on ‘Boyhood,’ they don’t give (best picture) necessarily for best film. They give it for best campaign,” Sloss says.

“Strictly Business” is Variety‘s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of media and entertainment. A new episode debuts each Wednesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher and SoundCloud.

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