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in Filmmaking
on Sep 21, 2010

Hi again, Marc here with a report from opening day and the first day of meetings in the Emerging Narrative section for my character driven crime drama “Inside the Machine.”  Yesterday started with an orientation with IFP folks, in a room full of other writer/directors looking for producers.  Before they got started we all introduced ourselves, and afterwards started trading cards and contact information right away.  I know how I felt, and informal chats revealed that I was not alone:  having written a script, been selected to Project Forum, and maybe practiced pitching a bit, we didn’t really know what to expect.  

Quentin and Rose advised to manage our expectations; realize that these meetings are just a starting point; feel free to arrange meetings outside those that they have set up for us; and, per Quentin, do not expect anyone to hand a check over the table–but please be sure to let him know if that happens!  He also made it clear that the old days of the IFFM (the precursor to Independent Film Week) with the guys in the chicken and clown suits wearing sandwich boards with a film’s name on it outside the Angelika, are very much in the past.  (I promptly texted my clown and advised him I would no longer need his services for the week.)  

As a bit of background, IFP has arranged between “2 and 20” meetings for each of us with production companies, producers, and talent managers.  The individuals or companies with whom we are meeting have not read our scripts, but they have chosen to meet with us based on our synopses and bios in the Industry Dossier.  So they are coming to the meetings with a little background on us, and it’s a win if they request to read our script.  

Our orientation over, we were free to attend conference panels, as the meetings did not start until today.  I immediately, and fortunately, made fast friends with a fellow writer, Jenny Connell, who’s here with a smart, challenging script called “Playing House”, which asks “what happens when incest is best?”  She’s an accomplished playwright just breaking in to the film world, and one of those clearly talented people in Emerging Narrative that make me even prouder (and luckier) to be here.  We decamped to the wifi zone of the Ace Hotel to hustle ourselves some more meetings, trade notes, and share resources for a while.    

Jenny and I proceeded to check out the Tiny Furniture case study, which featured writer/director /actor/polymath Lena Dunham, editor Lance Edmands, producer Kyle Martin, and producer and Filmmaker writer Alicia Van Couvering.  They shared a lot about the production and sale and strategies behind Tiny Furniture, some key bits of which are as follows:  they did focussed rough cut screenings with select bloggers and industry friends, at a stage where the film was good enough to show, but they could still absorb input; in turn, those influential bloggers and friends provided some buzz about the film, which did more for them than any publicist could have.  Alicia acknowledged that being a film journalist means that reaching out to her friends means tapping a fairly inside-indie-film-world network.  

Since Tiny Furniture, as you may or may not know, firmly fits the definition of a micro budget feature, it draws in many ways on elements that Lena had available to her, like her mother, sister, apartment, parents’ home; but Alicia pointed out that these elements were deliberately chosen, and not just included in the film because they were available, but because they meant something, the takeaway of which for me was to write to your heart, not to your access to a certain location or prop.  (Of course, Robert Rodriguez famously made El Mariachi because he had access to a jail and a school bus, and things have turned out quite well for him.)  

Up next was a cage match between Ted Hope and Jeff Lipsky.  I remember dropping a resume off at Good Machine seventeen years ago, so Ted Hope has long been on my radar, and if you read indie film journalism, his blogs and his voice are impossible to miss.  So it was a real pleasure to finally hear him in person, and the passion that comes through with his writing and the films he makes was magnified a hundredfold in person.  Lipsky is the guy responsible for distributing Cassavetes, and moderator Liz Ogilvie said that between the two of them they’ve been responsible for most of the independent film of the last twenty-plus years.  After that she didn’t get another word in edgewise, as these guys were off to the races debating (and mostly agreeing) about the value and paucity of youth (sub-21, according to Lipsky) audiences in art house cinema.  (See below for more from Ingrid Kopp on this panel.)

IFP hosted a party at DeLuxe last night which had good wine and eats, and the room was full of filmmakers all passionately talking about their own and one another’s projects.  I met Craig Zobel, who directed Great Wall of Sound, one of my favorite films from a few years ago (who is here in No Borders with a new script) and got some insight into the way he’s balancing his career as both an independent and for-hire work.  

For me, the joy of being here is being knee-deep with a group of people who all want to do the same thing:  tell you stories in the dark that make you think, feel, cry, love, and laugh.  Everbody loves movies, but it’s a privilege to spend time with so many people who love making movies, too.

Today I had my first three meetings with producers.  I think they all went well, and found that there were moments when I felt my pitch was more direct in one meeting and rambled a bit in another; and realized that beyond my Internet research on each of their companies, it was equally important for me not just to know what their company’s slates look like, but to vet the individual feelings that I was getting from each of them.  They each asked me to send my script, and said they would accept my look book and a DVD or link to my new short as well, so that feels good.

I caught a great Winter’s Bone case study with Debra Granik and company this afternoon, and a distribution panel which talked frankly and intelligently about the future of distribution, VOD, streaming, etc.  The panels have been great, and my favorite moment was when Debra Granik, upon describing the “ornery” feeling of having a long and painstaking process of raising a budget, said that sometimes she would sometimes just “get a case of the fuck-its” and call her producer/cowriter/copanelist Anne Rossellini and say “we’ll do it ourself for half the budget!”  She also had sales agent Josh Braun and Dustin Smith from distributor Roadside Attractions, and it was really refreshing and informative to hear about how the sale and distribution deal went down.  

I have more meetings set up tomorrow, and successfully hustled myself two more via e-mail which I’m excited about.  Tonight looks like “Filmmaker Happy Hour” at the Ace Hotel, and possibly the Howl screening through Rooftop and Oscilloscope.  If you’re out and about, let’s talk film, and if you’re reading and want to know anything else about IFW, just ask in the comments. Thanks for reading.       

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