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“When should you give up?” My post was prompted by a piece over at The Millions by Edan Lepucki in which the writer described giving up on the publication of her first novel after multiple publisher rejections. She considered self-publishing but decided that that wasn’t the way she wanted her first novel to be introduced to the world.Yesterday on the blog I asked the question,
I respect that decision even as I used her post to open up a discussion about the act of quitting when it comes to filmmaking. I wrote about how, when it comes to filmmaking, the “winner never quits” mantra that permeates our culture makes it hard to know when to abandon a project that’s never going to move forward. This project can be anything from a script that isn’t getting produced to a film that hasn’t moved from the festival to the multiplex.
The blog post resulted in some painfully honest comments. “This article is a tough read,” one commenter said as he described a project of his that represented money “down the drain.” Another filmmaker recalled the seven years spent on a first feature he literally buried in his backyard. But here’s the important thing: both of the above filmmakers didn’t view quitting as giving up on filmmaking. Instead, it was a way to move forward with newfound and hard fought wisdom.
On Twitter, Sheri Candler pointed me to a video of marketing guru Seth Godin titled “When to Quit.” Drawing from his book The Dip, Godin talks about the journey required to master a craft. He calls that period of intensive work occurring before one can begin the craft “the dip.” (In his example, “the dip” for a Pre-Med student is the grueling Organic Chemistry course.) Godin says you should never quit during the dip. You should bail either at the very beginning, when you realize that whatever you think you want to do is not really for you, or at the very end, when you’ve exhausted your options. Quitting during the dip means giving up on the wisdom that even a failed venture can bring.
When do you think it’s positive to quit? And in a film career, just when is “the dip”? If you have some thoughts, leave comments on the post. I’d love to hear from you.
On another note, Nicholas Rombes’s Blue Velvet Project is really taking off. When he first pitched it to me, I wondered how Nick would sustain a year’s worth of writing on a single film -- and do so one frame at a time. With the eighth post, the project’s objectives have become clear. Blue Velvet contains multitudes. Nick’s series uses Lynch’s still frames to discuss the history of film, sound, soap opera, scoring and Ronald Reagan. And that’s just in the first two weeks. Check it out.
See you next week.
FOUR CASE STUDIES ANNOUNCED FOR INDEPENDENT FILMMAKER CONFERENCE IFP’s Independent Filmmaker Conference’s series of Case Studies - always popular due to the insight into the production and distribution process by a film’s creative team – have just been announced: Red State, Terri, Buck, and Bill Cunningham New York. Kevin Smith’s Red State debuted at this year’s Sundance Film Festival to much notoriety, with Smith ending studio bidding by buying his own film for $20 and declaring he would be self-distributing it theatrically. It has since toured the country to enthusiastic audiences, grossing close to $1 million to date at the US box office from only 15 single show engagements. Azazel Jacob’s sensitive and unpredictable Terri, his well-received follow-up to the 2008 Momma’s Man, stepped up his game in terms of name cast (John C. Reilly), budget, breadth of release, and grosses – while still being a truly indie film. Richard Press’ Bill Cunningham New York and Cindy Meehl’s Buck are both character-driven portraits of accomplished and dedicated professionals from wildly different worlds - that are also two of the year’s best received and biggest grossing documentaries. The teams behind both of these docs will reveal how they each got to be just that. More info on this year’s Conference is available here.
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IFP: Independent Filmmaker Conference Case Studies Announced
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SECRET SUNSHINE By Tom Hall
The history of Lee Chang-dong’s extraordinary Secret Sunshine is a textbook case of both the problems and the miracles at play in the current marketplace for international cinema here in the United States. The film, which premiered at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival (winning the Best Actress award for Jeon Do-yeon’s devastating performance), was featured in the U.S. that same autumn at The New York Film Festival. But despite critical accolades (the film won indieWIRE’s 2007 Best Undistributed Film poll in a landslide), Secret Sunshine remained in limbo for over two years, with no American distributor willing to acquire it. Unexpectedly (to me, anyway), in 2009, IFC Films plucked the film from obscurity and, after a year or so on the shelf, Secret Sunshine was released in late December of 2010, more than three and a half years after its premiere, this time to a chorus of critical raves. read more CIRCUMSTANCE Using Lebanon to double as Tehran, this stirring debut from Iranian-American director Mayam Keshavarz pulls back the curtain on modern Iranian life in a way that few contemporary narrative films have done before. Winner of Sundance's Audience Award, Circumstance follows Atafeh (Nikohl Boosheri) and Shireen (Sarah Kazemy), two rebellious teen girls coming of age in repressive Iran. But when Atafeh's older brother returns from rehab, newly converted to religious extremism, he butts heads with the rest of his family over their moral decisions, including Atafeh and Shireen, who've built a sexual attraction to one another. Keshavarz's filmmaking is assured and distinctive; imbued with a youthful energy that perfectly contrasts the stark political realities underneath. Read our interview with Keshavarz now by subscribing for a digital issue of the magazine. HIGHER GROUND Higher Ground not only marks another confident, eye-catching performance from actress Vera Farmiga (The Departed, Up in the Air), it's also her directorial debut. The film, loosely based on a memoir by screenwriter Carolyn Briggs, follows a young woman (Farmiga) who, after suffering a crisis of faith, begins to question her place in the evangelical community where she lives. With Higher Ground, Farmiga has directed a dramatic, witty, and finely crafted character study, while turning in a great performance in the process. OUR IDIOT BROTHER The latest from Big Beach Films (Little Miss Sunshine, Away We Go) and director Jesse Peretz (The Chateau, The Ex) is a rambunctious comedy about a dim-witted but good-hearted black sheep (Paul Rudd), who wrecks havoc on the lives of his three sisters (Zooey Deschanel, Elizabeth Banks and Emily Mortimer) after he is paroled from prison. Boasting a strong comedic ensemble (Steve Coogan, Rashida Jones and T.J. Miller also star), Our Idiot Brother gently sends up the world of Manhattan media while providing Rudd with a role that taps both his great comic chops and his essential decency. This week on the blog, Jason Guerrasio gives insight on the latest West Memphis 3 documentary, Scott Macaulay comes across the unique Martha Marcy May Marlene ad campaign (pictured left) as well as video of Ryan Gosling breaking up a fight.
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RAUL RUIZ REMEMBERED By James Schamus
The great Chilean filmmaker Raul Ruiz passed away today in Paris. Through his feature The Golden Boat, which was James Schamus’s first as a producer, Raul gave a group of us in New York’s nascent ’80s independent scene a wonderful and nearly indescribable introduction to filmmaking. So, I’m grateful here to James for this piece remembering Ruiz and those thrilling and formative days. — S.M. read more AUGUST
Nashville Film Festival
Regular Deadline: August 26
WAB Deadline: December 31
Festival Dates: April 19 - 26
Boston Underground Film Festival
Early Deadline: August 27
WAB Deadline: January 13, 2012
Festival Dates: March 22 - 25, 2012
Miami International Film Festival
Late Deadline: August 29
WAB Deadline: September 30
Festival Dates: March 2 - 11, 2012