Independent Film Week and more

First of all, here is Quaker Love:

I am considering my next trilogy.  I have to take a look at my schedule, but I do want to keep the films coming.  Either an Autumn or Winter Trilogy?  Maybe both?  We’ll see.  I’ve got one ambitious one that I am doing research for right now.

It’s Independent Film Week this week with the IFP – the Independent Film Project.  Ten years ago, I attended the 1998 incarnation of this, when it was called the IFFM – Independent Feature Film Project.  I was there with my movie Kin.  I had a great time because my goal was make connections and enjoy myself, which I did. 

I attended the Independent Film Conference on Sunday – six seminars in a row.  Brad Anderson was on a panel, as he was ten years ago.  He directed The Machinist, and I was going to tell him he should feed his actors, which is a reference to Christian Bale being emaciated in the film.  I saw him in the hallway, but he was already gone once I emerged from the Men’s room with my witty remark.  It’s all about timing.

I saw a man who worked for the IFP who was on the scene ten years ago, when I was there screening my feature Kin.  I was surprised he remembered me so well.  He remembered that I had a press picture of myself in a shopping cart.  I told him I was getting back into making films, and he said, “Do you really think that’s a good idea right now?”  He suggested waiting two years.  Basically what is going on this…

The economy is bad, as you know, and this is affecting the film industry.  That makes sense. So-called specialty divisions, who would previously have distributed indies, are shutting down.  Money is tight, and money is needed to finance films, distribute films, and market films. 

But on the other hand…

It’s easier to make films now than it was ten years ago.  Tons of people are making films now, and the Internet is a viable distribution possibility and marketing tool.  And the Internet is still the Wild West, with possibilities still being born.  See my film Quaker Love.  It’s not positioned to make me money, but I spent no money making it.   I put it out there and it’s got an instant audience.

A few notable seminars I attended…

A Conversation with Kevin Smith.  A ninety minute Q&A with Smith, who was very humble and engaging.  I asked him what advice he would have liked to have heard early in his career.  He said he had heard years ago at a seminar that filmmakers should keep their negative, but he didn’t see much value in that advice.  Kevin’s advice was to make the film you want to make, because then years later you can look back and know that you did what you wanted to do.  He said that Jersey Girl may not have done all that well with audiences, but he knows that he made the film he wanted to make at the time.  Kudos to Kevin Smith and I’m looking forward to seeing Zack and Miri Make a Porno.

The State of Film Festivals.  Geoff Gilmore, the director of the Sundance Film Festival was on a panel, along with one other guy, and a moderator.  Sundance is like the brass ring for indie filmmakers.  He was complaining – and I’ve heard these complaints before – that the festival should be about the films and the filmmakers, and not so much about the selling, the buying, and the glitz.  I understand that.  Sundance was not created to be a photo op for Paris Hilton, but that’s what it’s become, to some extent.

I then remembered an idea I had a year or so ago.  Wouldn’t it be a radical shift if Sundance chose their films by a lottery like many of the Fringe Festivals do?  Make a certain percentage national and a certain percentage International, and have a lottery for each.  During the Q&A, I got up and suggested to this idea to Mr. Gilmore.  Boy, he was not pleased.  “I don’t want to insult you, but have you been listening to anything I’ve been saying?”  And I was pretty much asked to sit back down. 

Now, granted, Sundance is never going to do a lottery.  I realize that.  If they did, the festival curator or programmer (Mr. Gilmore) would not be necessary.  I realized there was an extremely slim chance my idea would be received favorably, and people generally don’t like it when you present them with a suggestion that would eliminate their power and/or job.  But I stood up and gave put it out there, as nervous as I was.

I wish I had more time to explain myself, so here is why I think this would work:

Ten years ago, maybe I would have laughed at the idea, but that’s because no film festival does lotteries.  Since then, I’ve done the Canadian Fringe Circuit, where the work is chosen through lotteries at most festivals.  I’ve seen that that system works.  I’ve seen some amazing work at Fringe Festivals, and I’ve met some truly talented people there. 

You could say, “Lottery??  That’s arbitruary!”  Well, what about juried festivals?  They are chosen based on the tastes of the jury, who sometimes are ultimately made up of one person.  So if that one person gets behind your work, then you are in the festival.  That’s a bit random, too, when you think about it.

Also the Canadian-based Fringe Festivals are about the theater, and not about industry.  Imagine Sundance being about films and filmmakers, and not about industry.  Just imagine the cross-section of films that would be seen at Sundance!  And I predict the quality would be very high, and talent who would have otherwise never had been heard of, would be showcased.  We would be able to see their work. 

Look, I love film and couldn’t care less about Paris Hilton.  I’m just trying to put some new ideas out there.


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