INDEPENDENT FILM WEEK UPDATE
Hello again, Marc here reporting from three days of meetings. It’s been an exciting whirl, and in hopes that some future IFP Emerging Narrative participant might read this (or just the IFP-curious at home), I think I’ll share a bit of what my last three days have been like.
As aforementioned, prior to arrival, we received a schedule of meetings, all of which were scheduled between 9 AM and noon in the Emerging Narrative part of the Project Forum space, which is a huge room bisected; one side has a lounge-type area with chairs, wifi, helpful IFP staffers, and lots and lots of filmmakers mingling, trading cards, and typing away on iPads and laptops. On the other side is where the real action is.
Dozens of tables are set up with blue tablecloths and a number, and at each table sits the producer, financier, or talent agent who just might be the one to break open your career and get your film from brilliant on paper to calling action on your own set. Prior to an appointed meeting time, you go hover near the entrance between the mingle area and the meet area, and friendly IFP volunteers with clipboards ask who you’re meeting with (or, if you’re momentarily clueless, remind you), and then lead you to, for instance, Table 21 with John Doe of X Films. (That’s a made-up company, by the way, not one with Exene Cervenka as an EP.)
You shake hands, smile, sit down, and it begins. And then … well, I they’re all different. I only know what my dozen or so were like, though comparing notes with my fellow filmmakers before and after we meet with the same person has proved helpful. (Eg., he’s gonna ask you about budget and who you like for the lead … she’s super cool and amazing … he seems sleepy …)
So I’ll mostly describe mine: overall positive. Everyone has asked to read my script, which seems to be par for the course with my fellow filmmakers as well. I ended up meeting with a pair of foreign financiers, who aren’t right for my very-much-set-on-the-Mexican-border script, but the kinds of contacts who would be valuable for one or two of the other projects I’m workshopping, and who wanted to see my writing to get a sense of my style, so terrific nonetheless.
The remaining companies seemed split between smaller production companies and stand-alone producers who would clearly need to coproduce anything over a certain dollar amount; companies that seem to have some of their own capital and/or have first look deals at studios; and talent managers.
The meeting start with pleasantries, and then I try to let the producer/manager set the tone; some say “so give me the pitch!” … others have said, so, I read that your project is a crime drama, and more flowing conversation ensues in which the “pitch” kind of gets folded in to the conversation. Some have asked about budget; some have asked about actors; some have asked about aesthetic; and most conversations have had an easy, natural flow. The meetings are a half hour, which is a really good length of time to get out everything that I want to share, and to get a good feeling for the producer on the other side of the table.
Once the meetings are over, you either have another one right away–I had four back to back yesterday–or maybe a half hour breather. When lounging out in the waiting area, there’s a lot of chatter between filmmakers and sharing about projects, etc., but there’s also a lot of hustling going on; and I would recommend, if you are not a hustler, not comfortable talking about yourself, your work, and going up to people, introducing yourself, sending cold e-mails, and working to get yourself out there … well, either learn how to, or maybe skip applying to Project Forum, because this is an environment which rewards the filmmaker who is comfortable putting him or herself out there and trying to get more attention–in a classy way, of course–for his or her work.
What I mean by this is that IFP has published an Industry Dossier, with a list of all the companies who are here taking meetings. They’ve all seen, or could have seen, our synopses; but just because someone didn’t, at first pass, choose to meet with me doesn’t mean that I can’t shoot an e-mail to the rep attending IFW, and request a meeting. This resulted in a couple meetings for me and they were some of the best I had; further, I sent a few e-mails that didn’t get answered … and when I spotted the executive, waited until she was free, approached, introduced, chatted, and set up a meeting for tomorrow. Needless to say, if you think you’re going to direct a feature film, you’ve got to have the ego and confidence to hustle a bit.
For what it’s worth, the other filmmakers I’ve spent the most time with have been doing the same thing as me–e-mailing company reps, keeping an eye out for them, and setting up as many extra meetings as they can. And the nice thing is, we are all sharing our resources; if I find out a new company just got added, I’ll share that, and I’ve been flipped the e-mails of reps that my friends have met with. I don’t think there’s any good to come of not sharing information and connections; good karma is what it’s all about, and I’ve found a nice group of friends who clearly share the same attitude. There’s no sense of “I want to be the only one to meet with Great Company A rep”; it’s more like, have you met with her? She’s great, here’s her e-mail, hit her up, see if she’s free later … There’s a partnership and shared goodwill among us in Emerging Narrative which is really, really nice, and I think it is in no small part due to the fact that we are all here due to the goodwill of IFP to begin with; I think those good vibes have extended to our sense of camaraderie.
One of the many good bits of advice that I got from Quentin at IFP was to put together a look book in order to best “subjectively influence the reader” who has requested my script. I took his advice and put together a 25 pp glossy book which features two photos per page, and my notes on why these resonate with me. The photos consist of elements relative to my film, like pictures of people with looks that I would imagine of my characters, and some real-world newspaper clippings of things that occur in my script; many pages of stills from films which represent my verite aesthetic, and notes about what each shot (or film, or character) signifies to me and what it touches in me; and stills from my own last film, and some notes about the similar thematic territory that those characters deal with.
Not everyone wanted a copy of the look book, though everyone said they would accept it by .pdf along with the script (as well as a DVD or link to my short.) Some folks did take it, and I was always flattered when they did, because that meant that it resonated with them enough in the moments that we flipped through it that they were willing to carry it the rest of the day.
Further, the very act of putting it together (which required me to really solidify my aesthetic) and then having it available for the producer to flip through as we spoke, was incredibly valuable. I’m sitting at that table representing myself as a director with a vision and the drive to push this film all the way through feature film production; having a look book, which reflects a lot of care and attention to detail, goes deeply into my aesthetic, and which can hopefully “subjectively influence” their read, feels like a natural tool to have in my arsenal, and I’m very glad I did it.
It’s late and I have to be up early to meet with festival programmers in a “speed dating” session to talk a bit about my short “All in the Game.” This continues to be the most exciting, most fun, and most promising moment in my film career so far. I sign off very grateful to IFP for putting this together, and grateful for my new friends.