“MELVIN” — A DESPERATE YOUNG MAN BECOMES A PARENT
Yup, it’s true. IFP’s Independent Film Week has come and gone.
We are now navigating that outside-of-the-cocoon existence again, where our Melvin team is no longer in the safe environs of IFP’s Independent Film Week hug. Will a higher percentage of our emails and phonecalls be returned now that we’ve made some sort of personal connection with people from all walks of the industry’s life? That’s to be determined. I can only say, I really hope so…
After all the speed dating, panels, cage matches, and impromptu conversations, I am left with a strange taste in my mouth. After navigating the production of a handful of films, including Melvin, I feel like I’ve learned to better anticipate the tremendous highs and lows that are constantly at work — shot to shot, day to day and week to week over the course of a film’s shoot. But talking about an unfinished film and tailor-pitching it to the person in front of you really is an entirely different craft altogether.
I walk away from NYC and Independent Film Week replaying many of the conversations in my head. Some make me smile: when I recognize that there was an authentic connection, or that the other party was ‘getting’ our simmering portrait of a desperate young man beginning to unravel. I can also recall some of the more asinine things I said, and in looking back, I realize that I could have been talking to the wall or an alien, because we weren’t speaking the same language at all.
For me, the week, with its focus on pitching, marketing and distribution, really was an educational breakthrough. I thank IFP and all the people from whom my writing partner Gregory Collins and I borrowed time. I applaud all the folks who have honed their craft so well in the marketing and publicizing of films. I think that strange taste in my mouth is the sense that a chapter change is upon me personally.
Filmmakers, by and large, now need to be marketers and, in some form, distributors of their own work. The filmmaker’s toolset has had to change and grow. This internal dialogue/conflict I’m having is well summed up by the, “Am I a Filmmaker or a Brand?” cage match conversation between Michael Tully and Jon Reiss (to read the play by play, check out the post by Marc Maurino documenting the exchange). This conversation asked the question, “After you’ve toiled for months and years to achieve your vision, should you, as a filmmaker, be expending your energies promoting your film online rather than working on your next project?”
There isn’t an easy answer to that question…at all. I think that from where I stand, as Melvin’s mother, I need to continue to provide for him. He’s nearly outside the womb, and when in the coming months he comes to life and can be seen, how can I abandon him at that very moment? Simply put, I can’t. I don’t think any filmmaker wants to create the work and then not have it be seen or well-received by someone, somewhere. I also know that as my career continues to grow, as both a working producer and director, one of the most important things to have going is the next project.
The film I’m producing in early 2011 is rocketing to life. As the writer/director Matt Muir and I put more of the pieces in place for Thank You A Lot — including the very talented actor Blake DeLong and the one and only James Hand — how can I make myself present every step of the way? It’s an interesting dilemma, but I feel like a parent with more than one child who somehow has to figure it out. And, I will.
Before I left for Independent Film Week, I was asked, “So what good thing is supposed to come out of this for you?” I didn’t have a solid answer. I still don’t. And without sounding completely corny, I feel like the good thing just may be understanding what sort of parent you really need to be for each of your films. Do I need to create transmedia elements and a solid twitter campaign and key art for this film, but for this one over here, a film with a different place in the world, do I let him run on a college screening tour and partner with a team of people who handle nearly all the materials and variables and I sit in the backseat and blog about it while lining up my VOD and other ancillary deals?
It’s all to be determined. But I can say, I’m incredibly thankful that I got to be a part of IFP’s Independent Film Week. The word from Rooftop Films is that there were more than 650 people at the Labs Showcase Screening last Tuesday Night, where Melvin, along with 19 other films, screened a clip or trailer. That, in and of itself, is a pretty damn good thing to come out of this whole week.