Josh Braun "Advocate Award" Honoree at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival
Film producer and marketer extraordinaire, Josh Braun, was honored at this year’s Full Frame Documentary Film Festival with the organization’s Advocate Award, cementing his reputation as a champion of independent filmmakers making substantive contributions to the industry and society.
“When I think about Josh Braun, I think you can’t teach taste, and he has impeccable taste,” said Deirdre Haj, director of the Full Frame Festival.
Although Braun’s media legacy spans over two decades, he had no idea film production would become his life’s work. Initially an underground musician in 1980s New York, Braun garnered grassroots buzz for his work with several bands. That included the Del-Byzanteens, where he played drums alongside now-iconic filmmaker Jim Jarmusch.
He may have stumbled into the film-marketing industry, but Braun has nonetheless carved out a significant and impressive niche in the business. Alongside his production outfit, Submarine Entertainment, Braun has played an influential role behind the scenes of numerous big-time releases: 2004’s Super Size Me, 2009’s Man on Wire, 2010’s the Cove and Winter’s Bone, and 2014’s Citizenfour. Any of those ring a bell? If you’ve attended any festivals at all, then a symphony’s likely charming in your head right now.
Indiezone.TV spoke to Braun at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival red carpet for the premiere of his latest project, Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict. Unsurprisingly, the documentary premiered to thunderous applause. A look at the life of the influential twentieth century heiress and art collector, the film explores the intersection of artistic experimentation and its intractable need for a commercial backbone to flourish. As a marketer of socially impactful films, Braun too finds himself squarely at the crossroads of unfettered artistic expression and businesslike approaches.
How Josh Braun Makes His Bed with the Odd Fellows of Art and Commerce
“For me, part of my job is selling, and part of it is producing, so in a way it’s like that divide between art and commerce,” Braun told Indiezone.TV. “So when you have a film like this, which sort of points people to appreciate art, and you see the sort of discovery of art through the lens of this amazing character, it actually sort of hits right in the middle of art and commerce.”
Braun continued, delving into the inherent irony of being Art Addict’s producer, “The story of the film is that…we helped produce it but we’re also selling it, so it sort of encapsulates that whole idea.”
With a vested interest, and years of experience in distribution platforms, Braun noted that the plethora of new media options have improved prospects for Vreeland and others in the independent film world. “With partners like Netflix and Amazon,” he said, “there are different models that didn’t exist three or four years ago, or even two years ago. It’s wonderful to have all these alternate possibilities.”
Perhaps it’s the advocate part of his new award, but Braun also couldn’t help but offer advice to independent filmmakers, both aspiring and successful, on how to manage their budgets. “As a producer and someone who’s selling films, I always encourage producers to be really smart about what their budgets are,” he explained, “because the reality is the biggest companies who might buy all the rights—like the Weinstein Company, or Magnolia, or any company you would name, Lionsgate, et cetera—may pay significant amounts of money and then smaller entities may not. So in this sort of Wild West of not knowing where you’re going to end up, I think you have to be smart and have your budget be in proportion to what the film is.”
Specifically, Braun continued, filmmakers focusing on famous or buzzworthy concepts can expect a more widespread audience for their work, and therefore may enjoy the luxury of planning for a higher budget. “If you’re doing a film about, you know, the Beach Boys, or someone super famous,” Braun said, the work is more likely to be picked up by a major studio. But niche markets, “because of these great partners like Netflix out there, and Amazon, and other companies who will sort of skip theatrical, I think for a film that works for that model, it’s a great alternative.”
With such a multifaceted view of the changing film distribution landscape, it’s a small wonder that Braun picked up this award from Full Frame. No doubt he’ll continue to share his gathered wisdom with the independent filmmakers of today and the future on the best ways their work can be seen.