[Dogfish] Accelerating Independence: The world’s first film production accelerator is accepting applications
by James Kaelan

dogfishlogo235x164Back in 2005, Paul Graham and Trevor Blackwell, two tech pioneers who’d made fortunes in Silicon Valley, founded a company called Y Combinator. The business model was based on publicly funded business incubators, where the government gives research and development grants to private companies in order to facilitate research and innovation in a given field (usually biotech or medicine). In order to make the private incubator model viable, though, Y Combinator made two modifications. Rather than investing in biotech firms, they would invest in tech start-ups. And rather than giving away money (they would raise capital from private investors, not taxpayers), in exchange for providing seed capital to help start-ups formulate their business plans, Y Combinator would take an ownership share in each company they helped launch.

Since Graham and Blackwell’s innovation in 2005, a slew of these “seed accelerators” have sprouted up, mostly in that temperate valley near San Jose. But no one had applied the seed investment model to film development until Dogfish Accelerator launched their site during Sundance.

This summer, the team behind Dogfish Pictures (one of the companies that helped produce last year’s Compliance, and this year’s Prince Avalanche) is fielding the first class of producers for its inaugural accelerator program. As they explain on their website:

“Dogfish provides all the support of a typical accelerator program to teams of producers looking to develop their business model prior to the investment phase of a film. We aim to make the creative process easier by taking care of the business early on.

“Teams will receive seed funding, mentorship, perks and resources, training and events over a short period of time (three months) in exchange for eight percent of each project’s revenue. Our mission focuses on community, collaboration, transparency, and education to achieve successful ventures.”

Michelle Soffen, Co-Founder of Dogfish Accelerator, confirmed that production teams of any size—but headed by a producer—will be provided with three months of office space in New York, and seed funding of $18,000. During the three-month incubation program, producers will interface with an astounding variety of mentors. Amongst a host of others, the list of Dogfish experts includes Craig Zobel (director of Compliance), Angel An (Director of Development, Samuel Goldwyn Films), Adam Leipzig (former President of National Geographic Films), Sophia Lin (Producer on Take Shelter), and Adam Kersh (Partner, Brigade Marketing).

Unlike other film development programs, Dogfish focuses primarily on business. “We’re less interested in the script,” says CEO James Belfer, “and much more interested in the team that’s going to produce that script.” In this day and age of ubiquitous crowdfunding and decreasingly expensive production, continues Belfer, “a producer is way more likely to get a film made than he is to know how to recoup investment. That’s why we’re pretty much exclusively focused on the business plan. If a production team has a comprehensive strategy for marketing and distributing their film, we’re going to see truly independent film as a business rather than a money-losing hobby.” With 85 percent of independent films failing to recoup their investments, let’s just say there’s room for improvement.

michelleandjamesbodyBut Dogfish isn’t simply a mentorship program. Since they own eight percent of every film they incubate, they have a (literally) vested interest in attracting investors. Accordingly, after the initial three-month accelerator, every production team will have the opportunity to pitch investors at a special summit of financiers, organized by Dogfish. Additionally, Dogfish Pictures will be investing, at their discretion, another $1 Million into the projects they incubate. This means they may divvy up that capital equally among the films, or they may choose to put the full $1 Million into a single project (though it will probably be some compromise between those two extremes).

Along with Seed&Spark and Nice Dissolve, Dogfish is touring the festival circuit promoting the concept of truly independent film (and throwing really awesome Innovator’s Brunches in every city they visit). To find out more about the tour schedule, visit www.stayindiefilm.com. And to learn more about applying for the Dogfish Accelerator mentorship program (applications are due at the end of next week) visit www.DogfishAccelerator.com.

To quote MovieMaker‘s Manifesto, these companies are standing up for the “oppressed majority” that is the independent film community. If we’re going to create a viable alternative to the studio system, this is how we’re going to do it!


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.

Latest Stories

Happy Bastille Day! Directed by the colorful, hyper-kinetic, and very French Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), Mood Indigo tells the story of two lovers against the backdrop of Gondry’s typically fantastical Paris. Visual effects supervisor Romain Strabol explains how the team crafted two key elements of Mood Indigo‘s surreal mise-en-scène: a mouse-house […]

Copy of Road to Paloma 2

Towering over six feet four inches tall, Hawaiian born actor-director Jason Momoa’s powerful presence on screen is unmistakable. In the HBO series Game of Thrones, he is Khal Drogo, the fearsome Dothraki warlord who weds exiled princess Daenerys Targaryen. In Stargate Atlantis, he transforms into dreadlocked military specialist Ronon Dex. He goes mano y mano, […]

New Filmmakers LA is back with even more moviemaking wisdom, featuring interviews with directors Edward Shieh, Sam Barnett, Evan Matthews, Marko Grujic and Michelle Yu. NewFilmmakers LA (NFMLA) is a non-profit organization designed to showcase the innovative works by emerging filmmakers from around the world, providing the Los Angeles community of entertainment professionals and film goers with a constant surge […]

New Filmmakers LA is back with loads of moviemaking wisdom, featuring interviews with directors J.D. Ramage, Adam Rosenbaum and writer Matt Godfrey, Ross Kolton and lead actor Ryan Mazzei, Bettina Bilger and Chris Valenziano. NewFilmmakers LA (NFMLA) is a non-profit organization designed to showcase the innovative works by emerging filmmakers from around the world, providing the Los Angeles community of entertainment […]


This week, on the heels of Independence Day, director Hal Hartley (No Such Thing) discusses his latest feature film, My America, which knits together the emotions and people that define the United States. Commissioned by Center Stage, the state theater of Maryland, the film consists of a series of spirited monologues written and performed by […]


Richard Linklater is no stranger to the workings of time—both as thematic device in his films, and as necessary ingredient to the moviemaking process. After all, his two previous features had unusually long gestation periods: 2011’s Bernie had been cooking in the director’s head since 1997, while 2013’s Before Midnight comes 18 years after Before […]


Filmmaker and editor Dean Pollack’s work has appeared everywhere from Bravo and Hulu to Adult Swim. He just completed his second directorial effort, the feature film Audrey, which traces a single hour in a woman’s day. He discusses the advantages and disadvantages encountered shooting a film set in real time on a single location. Not […]

Still from James Broughton film The Bed. Courtesy of Frisky Divinity Productions.

Stephen Silha is the co-director of Big Joy: the Adventures of James Broughton, a lyrical documentary about the beloved director of The Bed, The Pleasure Garden, This is It and other counter-culture classics. Here, Silha recounts his friendship with the late Broughton, the subject he brings to luminous life along with fellow filmmakers Eric Slade […]

New Picture (12)

“The food in that movie looked so good.” There’s nothing quite as aggravating as delicious onscreen food. Think of the plump, glistening, jeweled globs of sashimied perfection served to the camera in Jiro Dreams of Sushi, and weep with frustrated desire. Let’s face it: That film, and others like it, have honed the fine art […]