"What's in a name?" is the rhetorical question posed by David Geffner in his article on the role of the casting director in independent film. A lot, if you're an independent producer trying to get a project financed. As many of the casting directors surveyed here noted, the commitment of name talent is essential these days in order to raise industry money for independent films, no matter what the budget level. Besides creating a vexing Catch-22 for first-time filmmakers (you can't get talent unless you can make a financial offer; you can't get financing without talent), the current prioritizing of "names" over script quality and director's potential by video companies, domestic distributors, and foreign sales agents has, as producer Ted Hope also comments, lead many producers astray, forcing them into ill-considered casting choices that ultimately ruin their movies. Does any indie filmgoer really care about seeing Emilio Estevez?
The obsession with names is especially annoying considering that "no-name films" like Welcome to the Dollhouse were among last year's best and most successful. John Walsh spent almost a year looking for a name before financing his Ed's Next Move himself. He excerpts his development diary here. And for those venturing into industry waters, Claire Best explains how to budget a negative pickup.
Names specifically, James Spader, Holly Hunter, Bill Pullman, and Patricia Arquette's helped directors David Cronenberg and David Lynch bring to the screen two of the most challenging releases of 1996, Crash and Lost Highway, both profiled here. And this is our annual Sundance issue. We preview a few Festival films and also chat with the folks at Slamdance who, after spending a couple of years creating a name for themselves, are considering a move to Los Angeles. (Ironically, although it was created as a populist retort to Sundance, with a reported 1,000 applications and only ten Dramatic Competition slots, Slamdance is now arguably the most competitive fest around.)
Along with Best's article on negative pickups, we also feature New York grip (and editor of FilmCrew magazine) Frank Dellario's piece on dolly grips. This is our largest issue yet and as Filmmaker continues to grow, we'll bring you even more nuts-and-bolts information on making movies.
See you next issue.