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Next week, my husband Brian and I will take our first documentary feature (Our Nixon) to Independent Film Week. I’ve never been to this event before, or to anything remotely like it, so I would describe my state of mind as Excited Anticipation, tinged with a slightly lesser amount of Bemused Bafflement.

For the uninitiated, here is the little that I know about Independent Film Week (I should say more specifically the Project Forum): if you are selected by IFP to participate, you upload information about your film to a top secret server run by elves, and then various species of “industry” people (producers, distributors, agents, programmers, etc.) register to get access to that server. They review all the film projects and request short meetings with the filmmakers they are interested in talking to. IFP gives you the resultant schedule, and then for four days in late September, you dash madly about from meeting to meeting, repeating your carefully rehearsed pitch designed to make everyone in the world think your film is the best thing since sliced bread or whatever.

Actually, I have no intention of carefully rehearsing anything. Personally, I can’t stand people who spew rapid-fire auto-pitches at me while I tiredly gaze into my glass of crappy complimentary wine at “networking” events. (Note to self: do not accidentally get drunk off the crappy complimentary wine.) Actually, the very word “networking” gives me hives. My big fat self-promotion plan is to be a normal human being who is generous, passionate and genuine, and then see what that leads to. Maybe it won’t lead to anything, but I’ve never believed that rabid self-promotion leads to very much, either. Seriously, nobody likes those people.

I do confess my fear that it may be challenging to be a normal person is such an unnatural environment. How does one prepare for something like this?

I decided to consult some Speed Dating experts. I quickly found my Yoda. Her name is Amber, she owns her own speed dating company, and she is mesmerizing. I recommend her YouTube channel, especially “How Does Speed Dating Work?”, in which she helpfully suggests a “pre-game drink to get rid of any dating jitters.” A plan I can get behind, especially at 10:00 am. I also found “Top 10 Speed Dating Rookie Mistakes” educational. I will summarize said mistakes for you, but you really should watch the video:

1) Don’t get wasted.

2) Have good breath.

3) Keep an open mind.

4) When the meeting’s over, don’t linger; respect the bell!

5) Have a good handshake.

6) Meet everyone.

7) Don’t talk about other dates.

8) Learn your date’s first name.

9) Engage! Don’t dominate!

10) Don’t aggressively hit on people. Don’t be a sleaze!

These tips were really useful! Then I watched Amber’s self-referential, quasi-documentary Speed Dating masterpiece of confusion, “Single in the City,” which contains a surprising amount of foul language and a lot of… just really, very strange things.  Wait, is this for real? Can somebody please explain this video to me? How did I end up watching this?

So, what will it be like at Independent Film Week? I am picturing some sort of convention hall of cavernous size. I’m seeing lots of gray folding tables with numbers on them, lined with gray folding chairs. Possibly there will be curtains or partitions between the tables. People will definitely be wearing name badges on those lanyard things around their necks. Half-empty plastic water bottles destined for the trash vortex will pepper the scene like so many dreams dashed on the rocks of economic reality and tastemakers’ whimsy. Dare I dream for complimentary coffee?

I do hope those gray folding chairs are comfortable, because we’re going to be sitting in them all day, every day, for four days. We have received our preliminary meeting schedule, and boy do we have a lot of meetings! This is a delightful surprise and, for some reason, humbling. Brian and I are wicked jazzed to find out what made all of these people interested in our funny little movie. So far, we have 25 meetings lined up.  Most of them are scheduled one right after the next. Will I lose my voice?  Will I have time to pee? Hm. Maybe it would be best to avoid the complimentary coffee.

Meanwhile, preparations continue. While I consider the important questions of what to wear and whether I need a pre-game haircut, I am also doing reconnaissance on the 25 mysterious strangers who requested meetings with us. I’ve found that as I look up folks whose names  I don’t immediately recognize, in most cases it turns out they were involved in producing or distributing films I genuinely adore. That is so undeniably cool! It also reminds me that whatever each of us is hoping to find whilst running around Speed Networking, we’re all really in it for the same thing. It’s the movies, stupid.

So! Will Brian and I win friends and influence people? Will Our Nixon find a true love connection? Will there be complimentary coffee? Will I let Amber down by getting wasted? Will I find time to pee? Tune in next time to find out!

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