AFI Fest: 8 Contenders on 2020 Indies' Challenges and Rewards

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Scott Feinberg, Riz Ahmed, Rachel Brosnahan, (Middle L-R) Winston Duke, Julia Garner, Vanessa Kirby (Bottom L-R) Elisabeth Moss, Carey Mulligan, and Andy Samberg speak during the AFI Summit 'INDIE CONTENDERS' at AFI FEST, October 18, 2020.

Earlier this week, when I was joined via Zoom by eight stars of 2020 independent films — Sound of Metal's Riz AhmedI'm Your Woman's Rachel BrosnahanNine Days's Winston DukeThe Assistant's Julia GarnerPieces of a Woman's Vanessa KirbyThe Invisible Man's and Shirley's Elisabeth MossPromising Young Woman's Carey Mulligan and Palm Springs's Andy Samberg — it looked like the opening sequence of The Brady Bunch.

In fact, it was AFI Fest's seventh annual — and first virtual — Indie Contenders Panel, a one-of-a-kind gathering which I moderate each year, during which awards contenders from indies candidly discuss the challenges (e.g. brief shooting schedules) and rewards (e.g. diverse casts, crews and stories) of making low-budget films — and, this year, life, work and film-consumption during a pandemic. Check out the entire conversation below.

The 2019 edition of the Indie Contenders Panel, which you can watch here, featured Awkwafina (lead actress, The Farewell); Sterling K. Brown (supporting actor, Waves); Cynthia Erivo (lead actress, Harriet); Jimmie Fails (lead actor, The Last Black Man in San Francisco); Jon Hamm (supporting actor, The Report); Florence Pugh (lead actress, Fighting With My Family and Midsommar); Kerry Washington (lead actress, American Son); and Alfre Woodard (lead actress, Clemency).

The 2018 edition, which you can watch here, featured Willem Dafoe (lead actor, At Eternity's Gate); Richard E. Grant (supporting actor, Can You Ever Forgive Me?); Kathryn Hahn (lead actress, Private Life); Felicity Jones (lead actress, On the Basis of Sex); Joanna Kulig (lead actress, Cold War); Thomasin McKenzie (supporting actress, Leave No Trace); Rosamund Pike (lead actress, A Private War); and John C. Reilly (lead actor, Stan & Ollie and The Sisters Brothers).

The 2017 edition, which you can watch here, featured Sean Baker (co-writer and director, The Florida Project); Richard Gere (lead actor, Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer); Salma Hayek (lead actress, Beatriz at Dinner); Diane Kruger (lead actress, In the Fade); Kumail Nanjiani (co-writer and lead actor, The Big Sick); Robert Pattinson (lead actor, Good Time); Margot Robbie (lead actress, I, Tonya); and Lois Smith (supporting actress, Marjorie Prime).

The 2016 edition, which you can watch here, featured Kate Beckinsale (lead actress, Love & Friendship); Adam Driver (lead actor, Paterson); Sally Field (lead actress, Hello, My Name Is Doris); Rebecca Hall (lead actress, Christine); Margo Martindale (supporting actress, The Hollars); Viggo Mortensen (lead actor, Captain Fantastic); Ruth Negga (lead actress, Loving); Chris Pine (lead actor, Hell or High Water); and Miles Teller (lead actor, Bleed for This).

The 2015 edition, which you can watch here, featured Ramin Bahrani (writer/director, 99 Homes); Blythe Danner (lead actress, I'll See You in My Dreams); Saoirse Ronan (lead actress, Brooklyn); Jason Segel (supporting actor, The End of the Tour); Sarah Silverman (lead actress, I Smile Back); Lily Tomlin (lead actress, Grandma); and Olivia Wilde (lead actress/producer, Meadowland).

And the 2014 edition, which you can watch here, featured J.C. Chandor (writer/director, A Most Violent Year); Damien Chazelle (writer/director, Whiplash); Marion Cotillard (lead actress, Two Days, One Night); Jake Gyllenhaal (lead actor, Nightcrawler); Bill Hader (lead actor, The Skeleton Twins); Michelle Monaghan (actress, Fort Bliss); Kristen Stewart (supporting actress, Still Alice and Clouds of Sils Maria); and Tilda Swinton (lead actress, Snowpiercer).