Q&A: Dawn Hudson

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In the 17 years she has been executive director of Film Independent, Dawn Hudson has presided over exponential growth of the 6,000-member organization. These days, her position as one of the world's head cheerleaders for independent film has her explaining the harsh realities of the indie market to rising filmmakers. She recently spoke with THR's Matthew Belloni in advance of this year's Film Independent Spirit Awards.

The Hollywood Reporter: What role should a support organization like Film Independent play in a tough environment like this?

Dawn Hudson: When times are difficult, that's when an organization like Film Independent is really here to bring the community together. We started out getting filmmakers the tools for production and helping them find out how to do it more cheaply. Now that information and the tools are so much more widely available, our focus has been helping filmmakers get their films into the marketplace and helping filmmakers reach their widest possible audience. In the fall, we do a filmmakers' forum. It focuses on getting filmmakers the tools they need to find their core audience, build that core audience, reach them through creative means. And to also start with budgets that can be recouped.

THR: You took a little heat last summer when the L.A. Film Festival opened and closed with two big summer blockbusters, "Wanted" and "Hellboy II: The Golden Army."

Hudson: Getting audiences out for anything in L.A. is no easy feat, so you have to create an event that excites audiences all over Los Angeles. During the festival, the theaters are practically full for the international films, the documentaries, the small independent films.

THR: The Spirit nominees again are a mix of specialty division fare and the out-of-nowhere films. What's a film from this year that means something to you?

Hudson: I've always been a huge fan of Kelly Reichardt, so "Wendy and Lucy" was great. And Barry Jenkins and "Medicine for Melancholy," which has this panorama of San Francisco that you haven't seen. They both impacted me.

THR: What's your day-to-day job like these days?

Hudson: It is about helping individual filmmakers bring out independent films, increasing diversity in the film business. We see it as a part of supporting the independent oasis. Last year we had 350 workshops, classes, tech workshops, financing conferences.

THR: Explain the new film competition you're doing with Netflix.

Hudson: It's an opportunity for independent filmmakers to get a $350,000 production grant. We wondered how popular it would be. Then we did a press conference with Josh Brolin and 24 hours later we had 1,200 applicants. So there is definitely a need!
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