g The Film Panel Notetaker: September 2006

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Made it into the Four Eyed Monsters Video Blog

You can catch a very brief glimpse of me standing in line at the Four Eyed Monsters screening last week at the IFC Center. I'm standing next to my friend Carrie, who tells the cameraman that she found out about the screening from the Internet.

Check it out:

Monday, September 25, 2006

Welcome to the new & improved blog for The Film Panel Notetaker

Popular The Film Panel Notetaker Blog Relaunches With New Website

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Sept. 25, 2006 — The Film Panel Notetaker, the first-of-its-kind blog created in 2005 by Brian Geldin, who provides public relations services for burgeoning independent filmmakers, has relaunched with a new website, www.thefilmpanelnotetaker.com. The blog, well-regarded among independent filmmakers throughout the country, comprises detailed film panel discussion notes taken by Geldin at various panels he attends at film festivals, conferences, and seminars.

“I created The Film Panel Notetaker as a way for film industry novices, as well as veterans, to access notes at panel discussions they were not able to attend themselves,” said Geldin. “I welcome guest notetakers for panels I cannot attend myself, and I encourage anyone who attends the same panels as me to post their own notes in the blog’s ‘comments’ section.”

Last week, Geldin attended The Independent Feature Project’s (IFP) Filmmaker Conference in New York, where he took notes at several different panel discussions with topics ranging from online social networking to Netflix. He also appeared at and blogged about several film screenings held in conjunction with Independent Film Week such as A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, The Guatemalan Handshake, Head Trauma, and Four Eyed Monsters.

IFP Executive Director Michelle Byrd congratulated Geldin on his blog’s relaunch. “Many thanks for attending and being committed to sharing the information. It's really generous of you,” said Byrd.

“Geldin not only hits up all the film events, speeches, and discussions the rest of us are too lazy to attend, but he actually passes along detailed notes of all the important points and exchanges that arise,” said film journalist S.T. VanAirsdale on his blog, The Reeler (www.mcnblogs.com/reeler).

Prior to relaunching the improved blog, The Film Panel Notetaker was hosted on MySpace. Last week alone, the The Film Panel Notetaker received an average of 90 visitors per day, and more than 500 visitors the entire week. At its highest point last week, the blog ranked 26th out of more than 1,000 other MySpace blogs in the Movies, TV, and Celebrities category.

About Brian Geldin:
Brian Geldin is an active member of the New York independent film and entertainment community, and is a member of IFP. He recently garnered national press for A.M. Peters’ NO Cross, NO Crown, a timely and engaging documentary that explores post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, a town that invented what we know as American music.


Friday, September 22, 2006

Hooray for The Reeler!!!

The Reeler's S.T. VanAirsdale mentions The Film Panel Notetaker in a blog entry he posted earlier today. Click here to check it out.

Head Trauma & Four Eyed Monsters

This has certainly been one exciting and busy week for me. I'm wrapping up my IFP Filmmaker Conference & Independent Film Week blog entries with a bit about the last two DIY Indie Screenings I attended. That's it for this year's conference, but I plan to be back next year. In the mean time, expect to see some entries soon about the New York Film Festival that's coming up. – Brian

IFP'S Special DIY (Do It Yourself) Indie Screening Series:

Head Trauma
Directed by Lance Weiler
Angelika Film Center - NYC
Sept. 20, 2006

Wednesday night, I attended the 10pm screening of Lance Weiler's low-budget indie horror flick, Head Trauma, at the Angelika. Due to some sound issues, the audience waited patiently outside the theater until the sound check was complete. While I was waiting, people emptied out the theater next door for Half Nelson, and out came my friend's new brother-in-law Scot Armstrong, screenwriter of the upcoming comedy School for Scoundrels. Soon after, the sound check was complete, and I sat down and the film began. It's about a guy who somehow finds himself back in his old neighborhood where he lives in his late grandmother's home, which is due for reckoning. He has nightmares and visions of hooded whack job who kills people. The film is set up and executed nicely, and is genuinely creepy. Afterwards, there was a brief Q&A with Lance.

Four Eyed Monsters
Directed by Susan Buice & Arin Crumley
IFC Center
September 21, 2006

Last night, I went to the IFC Center to see Four Eyed Monsters, where I ran into my friends Josh Freeman and Carrie Oken. It was my second viewing. I saw it previously at the 2005 Trenton Film Festival, when a short film I associate produced, Blinding Goldfish, was there. I think I enjoyed the film more now that I've gotten to know Arin & Susan better through their blogcasts. I saw things I don't remember seeing before, and they seemed to have added some things that were there originally. Afterwords, there was a Q&A where Arin & Susan invited some cast & crew members up to the screen, and the audience asked questions ranging from if they actually communicated through writing everything down on notepads when they first started dating to if they're ready to make their next film. They said that working on the movie and promoting it has pretty much been a full-time job.


Shooting People's notes from Doc Short Content panel

Shooting People was at the Doc Short Content panel discussion at the IFP Filmmaker Conference this week.

Panelists included: Aline Allegra (Current TV), Brian Storm (MediaStorm), and Tarah Feinberg (NBC Universal).

Click the following link to read the notes:


Indiewire's coverage of Filmmaker Conference panels (original post 9/21/06)

Thanks to Davis, a fellow myspacer (http://www.myspace.com/davisfreeberg), for sending me the link to the Indiewire article about the film panels at the IFP Filmmaker Conference.

Check it out:

Getting the Word Out: Social Networking (original post 9/21/06)

Of all the panel discussions I've attended this week, this was the one I looked forward to the most, and the one I learned the most from. Brian Clark did a fine job of keeping the panelists on topic, and moving it along at a good pace. I'm not a fan of panels where the moderator doesn't have control of the panel, and I can't keep track of what's being talked about, and things are all over the place. This didn't happen here, but I've gone to other panels where this happens, so kudos to Brian and the panelists for making my day.

As I was typing my notes, it got me reminiscing about my pre-Myspace/blogging days. A few years ago, I was involved with an online social networking site for filmmakers called
Indieclub.com, where I was the New York City group administrator. Indieclub had both an online and offline component for me. I'd go to its message board everyday and post and reply to people from all across the country about things going on in the filmmaking world. But then I'd also organize monthly Meet & Screens with the NYC members, where we'd watch each other's short films. I eventually handed over my role as group administrator to the great Christine Lynn Harvey, who took it one step further by organizing acting/writing/directing workshops at the School for Film & Television, where we'd meet monthly to workshop a scene from our screenplays, act it out on video tape, and play it back. Since those days, the IndieclubNYC group has been turned over to another fella, and I occasionally check out the message boards to see what's going on. I think since the inception of blogs & places like Myspace and IndieLOOP, I've found it more resourceful than Indieclub, but Indieclub is still a great networking site, and I recommend anyone to check it out.
– Brian

The Film Panel Notetaker's Notes From…

IFP's 2006 Filmmaker Conference:
Getting the Word Out: Social Networking
September 20, 2006


S.T. VanAirsdale, The Reeler
Karina Longworth, Netscape
David Dinerstein, iklipz
Ingrid Kopp, Shooting People

Brian Clark, Publisher & Managing Member – indieWIRE/indieLOOP

Brian – What does social networking mean to large companies?

Karina – Formerly with Cinematical.com, owned by Weblogs, Inc., owned by AOL. Now with Netscape, the re-launched version. Used to be just a browser/web portal. As of July 1, it's a news portal. See what news stories your friends are interested in. Topics like health, politics, science, etc. Will eventually have larger capacity than YouTube. A viral video resource.

Brian – Talk about classic social networking.

Ingrid – Shooting People started in 1998 in UK. Had 60 filmmakers sharing info. Now over 30,00 members in US & UK. Was much more focused on making production easier. Now trying to help get members' films seen. Currently a paid membership organization. Localized in NY, UK, SF/LA. Parties for filmmakers to meet in person (offline component).

Brian – How is iklipz different than other social networking sites?

David – Have been around for a little over a month. What inspired us was going to the Sundance Film Festival. There's more people attending the fest who are there to network, than filmmakers in the fest. Industry insiders run iklipz. Trying to establish opportunity for filmmakers to get their voices heard. The problem with Myspace and similar sites is that no one from the filmmaking world pays attention to them. Recommend posting your film in iklipz instead. There's two components to iklipz- Industry side and Public side.

Brian – Talk about Quality of Life as an example of social networking promotion for a self-distributed film.

STV –Quality of Life, a self-distributed film by filmmaker Benjamin Morgan, sold out the film in April at the Two Boots Pioneer Theater in New York. Based on that success, he was able to book Memorial Day weekend at Laemmle theaters in Los Angeles, but had no print advertising, and Laemmle cut back on screens. Despite no advertising, Quality of Life had 50,000 Myspace friends. Myspace gave it momentum. The Los Angeles Times was to run a story about Quality of Life, but questioned it since their own advertising model may not be good for indie filmmakers anymore.

Myspace is not enough. If your film is not good, it won't be seen. Let the market be the judge.

Brian - In terms of social networking, it's not all about big numbers, but what you do with your connections. How do you turn elbowgrease into relationships? Who are you trying to network with? Can one service scratch both issues?

Karina – One format as a go-between is blogs. Example – STV's The Reeler. Blogs are read by audiences, industry & journalists. There are many reputable and not so reputable blogs.

Ingrid – You can't be on one track as a filmmaker anymore. You need to make individual contacts. Take a hybrid approach. Example – Four-Eyed Monsters used multiple social networking platforms.

David – 5-10 years ago, we didn't have these online social networks. Example – 1995, Edward Burns called whoever he knew until he sold The Brother McMullen. Now we have opportunities to find audiences in an easier manner.

Brian – Can you use honesty as a way to network?

STV – I love movies and filmmakers period, but never pull punches. I've made enemies taking on issues, but people respect that. Everyone doesn't have to accept what I write, they can work around it. All about honest. Look at films and issues closer. ExampleHamptons International Film Festival programmer Rajendra Roy comments about personal filmmaking.

Brian – The Internet makes it easier for people to say things about other people without having to look them in their face. How do filmmakers deal with critics?

Ingrid – Shooting People makes sure there's no flaming in the bulletins. They're monitored. Established a community that trusts each other, but honesty and debate is fantastic.

David – There's nothing wrong with bad press. The web is unedited, but people are becoming more savvy. Studios have people to blog about how great their films are. If a film has a tremendous word of mouth, it doesn't matter if a critic didn't like it.

Brian – Online social networking is the next big thing. True or False?

Karina – Seems to me that this whole movement is almost over. On the brink of something else happening.

David – Disagree. Like cable TV in the 80s. iklipz trying to define itself as unique.

STV – Myspace is owned by Rupert Murdoch. It's not going anywhere.

Ingrid – People need each other to make their films. Shooting People is developing a new distribution software.

Brian – Online social networking is decentralized. Communities are not just in one city anymore. They can be anywhere. Social networking has become a replacement for the word community.

Audience Q&A

Q: What impact does social networking have on outreach & advocacy. Any successful examples?

Ingrid – It's a key aspect of Shooting People. See notes from Peter Broderick panel discussion.

Brian – Consulted on a documentary about war tapes. Mission-driven filmmakers Reached out to veterans.

Q: Karina, why do you think it's the last road for online social networks?

Karina – The Internet itself is not dying, but the buzz words like blogs, Myspace and other competitors are. Example – The lonely girl hoax. Not earning credibility with audiences.

Q: Are there opportunites for short filmmakers to get financing?

David – Used to only look at shorts about once a week to get a feel for new filmmakers. Now with iklipz, see things I might never have seen before. YouTube is not a filmmaker friendly site, but a tremendous engine.

Ingrid – Love shorts. Shooting People about to release a book about getting shorts seen.

Q: Should I update my blog daily?

Brian – It's about quality vs. quantity.

STV – I blog everyday. Sometimes 3,000 words or more. Nobody reads it all. Could find a better used of my time, but love what I do. Blogging and Myspace is very empowering.

David – Need to be passionate about it. People won't find you. You have to find them.


Shooting People's notes from IFP Conference (original post 9/20/06)

This morning, I awoke to my daily Shooting People email, and read the post with notes from the panel that Peter Broderick did about new distribution models and also from the filmmakers who made "Four-Eyed Monsters" at the IFP Filmmaker Conference.

If you're a Shooting People member, you should be able to click on the following URL to go directly to that post.


Not sure if you need a Shooting People password or not to read it. If you're not a member, I highly recommend you sign up at www.shootingpeople.org.


IFP'S DIY Screening: The Guatemalan Handshake (original post 9/19/06)

IFP'S Special DIY (Do It Yourself) Indie Screening Series:
The Guatemalan Handshake
Written & Directed by Todd RohalTuesday, September 19
DGA Theater - NYC

Tonight, I attended the first of IFP's special DIY Indie Screening Series during Independent Film Week – The Guatemalan Handshake, an incredibly strange and original comedy about a myriad things…the loss of power, the loss of a dog, the loss of a friend, demolition driving, an electric car, etc., with a cast of the quirkiest characters to hit the screen since Napoleon Dynamite, possibly even quirkier. It has brilliant moments of hilarity that just come out of nowhere, but also pauses for dramatic moments. It's hard to define the film's genre, storyline, and title, but it all just seems to work. This was a low-budget film with absolutely gorgeous 35mm cinematography. The Guatemalan Handshake is the winner of the Special Jury Prize at the Slamdance Film Festival.

After the film, Rose Troche (Director, The Safety of Objects, Go Fish) moderated a Q&A with writer/director Todd Rohal. In the lobby, T-shirts were sold for $20. Proceeds were going toward a second print of the film. They currently only have the one print.

Also present at the screening were Boredom at Its Boredest blogger and Cocaine Angel director Michael Tully (see Sept. 5, 2006, blog entry ), Aaron Katz, director of Dance Party USA, several of their friends and cohorts, and one of the stars of The Guatemalan Handshake, Ken Byrnes.

Tomorrow night, it's the second of IFP's special DIY Indie Screening Series – Head Trauma directed by Lance Weiler, and Thursday night, it's the third and final in the series – Four Eyed Monsters, directed by Arin Crumley and Susan Buice, which I saw at the 2005 Trenton Film Festival, but I'm going to see it again. As an aside, I went to the Trenton FF for director Jay Paramsothy's short film Blinding Goldfish, for which I was an associate producer. J


Netflix 101 & A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (original post 9/19/06)

Yesterday, I attended the Netflix 101 panel discussion, but had to leave about half-way through to attend the Independent Film Week opening night premiere of A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints. If anyone attended the entire Netflix 101 panel discussion, and would like to continue where I left off in my notes, you're more than welcome to do so. Just post them in the comments section of that blog entry. Thanks!

BTW, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints was great, and I had a ton of fun at the premiere. Thanks to IFP Executive Director
Michelle Byrd for the invite. The film is set back and forth between 1986 and 2005 in my old neighborhood of Astoria, Queens, with Shia LaBeouf as a young Dito Montiel, the real-life director of the film, and Robert Downey, Jr., the grown-up Dito. I felt really nostalgic watching all the places I used to walk by every day, and take the same subway in the film. . Present from the film were writer/director Dito Montiel, stars Shia LaBeouf, Chazz Palminteri, Dianne Weist, Channing Tatum, Melonie Diaz, producers Trudie Styler and Sting. I also had the pleasure of seeing Dr. Ruth Westheimer. I sat next to and had a nice talk with the very sweet Marilyn Agrelo, director of last year's hit indie doc Mad Hot Ballroom. – Brian

The Film Panel Notetaker's Notes From…

IFP's 2006 Filmmaker Conference:
Netflix 101 – Understanding the Prolific New Player on the Block
Monday, September 18, 2006

Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer, Netflix
Liesl Copland, Head of Acquisitions & Distribution, Red Envelope Entertainment
Jeb Brody, Producer – Sherrybaby & Little Miss Sunshine
Laurie Collyer, Director – Sherrybaby
Michael Skolnik, Director – On the Outs & King of All Nations (working title)
Eugene Hernandez, Editor – indieWIRE

Eugene – Outside of DVD mailings, there's a whole other production aspect to Netflix with its recently launched division Red Envelope Entertainment. There's an article in Wired Magazine with a serious quote from Ted Sarandos that has been the buzz with film bloggers: "Last year we acquired four new titles from Sundance, and this year we're working on about 12 deals… Eventually we'll be coming to Sundance and saying, 'We can buy everything.' There's a deal for every film."

Ted – This plays into the fundamental belief that the challenge to distribute any film is its marketing, building an economic model, and crafting a deal that makes sense for a film.

Eugene – Asks if anyone has read the book The Long Tail from the editor Chris Anderson of Wired. About where the economics of traditional retail model ends, the economics of online retail keeps going. Does this apply directly to Netflix? Elaborate on the idea of targeting to niche audiences.

Ted – The ability to single-case a product to someone is what keeps the diversity of content going. We ship 35,000 movies every week. Not everyone agrees what a great movie is. It's a personal choice.

Eugene – How do you break a film down to target it to the right audience?

Ted – It starts with an emotion. Smaller films that touches someone on a deeper level. Example- Sherrybaby.

Eugene – [To Liesl] What are you doing for Netflix?

Liesl – Head of acquisitions & distribution for Red Envelope Entertainment, the original content division of Netflix. Previously a film rep at Cinetic Media. Red Envelope looks at films at their early stage of development that we have confidence will find an audience.

Eugene – [To Michael] How do you get involved with Netflix?

Michael – On the Outs got to Netflix through luck. Sent an email to Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, who responded the same day.

Eugene – [To Jeb & Laurie] How did you work with Netflix?

Jeb – Big Beach Films doesn't have a business plan. We make movies we're passionate about. What we liked about Netflix is they have passion. Netflix has new ideas that other distributors don't have. They target homes directly.

Laurie- Did a lot of press for Sherrybaby. Doing a lot of press for a small movie is really important.


IFP’s 2006 Filmmaker Conference: Keynote: The Global Marketplace (original post 9/17/06)

Today was the opening of IFP's 2006 Filmmaker Conference. I picked up my badge at the Puck Building, and headed into the Ballroom for the first panel, which IFP Executive Director Michelle Byrd called the daily Keynote series of panel discussions, a one-hour conversation with a moderator and a panelist, with no Q&As. In this first instance, Scott Macaulay, editor of Filmmaker Magazine, talked with Daniel Battsek, President of Miramax Films.

I wish I could make it to all the panel discussions throughout the week, but since I'm working, I can only do so much...therefore if any of you happen to be at the conference throughout the week, and would like to take notes, I'd be very happy to post them for you on my blog. Just send me a message on my Myspace
profile. Hope to meet a lot of you this week, and for those who will not be there, I hope this will give you an idea of what it was like.—Brian

The Film Panel Notetaker's Notes From…

IFP's 2006 Filmmaker Conference:
Keynote: The Global Marketplace
Sunday, September 17, 2006


Daniel Battsek, President of Miramax Films

Scott Macaulay, Editor of Filmmaker Magazine

Scott – How's your first year been at Miramax?

Daniel – Getting used to the geography of NYC. Re-focusing Miramax. Finding films to release that do justice to the Miramax brand.
Scott – How are you re-defining the brand?

Daniel – Miramax is a very different company now than it was before in terms of size. Now produces between 6-8 films per year with budgets less than $20M. Specialized films with innovative qualities.

Scott – How's the split between production & acquisition?

Daniel – It's an incredibly competitive landscape, going up against all the other mini-majors. The way in which we find our films is absolutely crucial. Buying films in festivals is most competitive. We're building a production & development team, but we're mainly an acquisitions company.

Scott – What's your take on what's coming out of the American sector?

Daniel – It's difficult to generalize. Not an exact science. What's interesting is how movies are more a part of culture here in the US than in the UK.

Scott – What are visions of American films overseas? How are they viewed critically? Do they translate?

Daniel – Any films that lean left usually finds favor in the media, but not necessarily at the box office.

Scott- (Referring to Michael Tolkin's Return of the Player) Why do studios even have specialty divisions?

Daniel - Specialty divisions give studios a human side. There's a certain amount of show, but there's many examples of very profitable films coming out of specialty units and audience desire for more of a variety for independent fare.

Scott – How do you establish relationships with filmmakers?

Daniel – Find them in the innocence of their first movie. Can be nice if movies keep flowing, but can become uncomfortable if both parties lose interest. My desire is to stay with a filmmaker. Gain their trust. Hope to develop a relationship and continue working together, but isn't easy unless their contracted.

Scott - How does sources of new money effect the way you do business?

Daniel – Mainly positive. There's money out there to get films developed and produced. Negative side is that other producers can get a hold of a product before Miramax can.

Scott – Are filmmakers bypassing the specialty divisions?

Daniel – At a certain point, filmmakers need distributors, no matter who they are.

Scott – Are there too many films out there?

Daniel – Yes. From the Fall to Awards season, it's impossible to find any week where there's at least 2-3 competitive movies.

Scott – How are specialty divisions dealing with change in Internet marketing?

Daniel – The Internet is a much more cost-effective way to build word-of-mouth, but there's no proof in people actually wanting to see movies. It's not as direct and effective as TV advertising, which is more costly. Miramax spends as much time on WOM screenings as it does on Internet marketing.

Scott – Are indies still as critically-driven as they once were?

Daniel – Critics in the US are seen as much more powerful than international.

Scott – How does the perceived awards potential affect films?

Daniel – The beginning of the fall festivals are crucial for movies hoping to have a run. Miramax will release "The Queen," which won three of the top awards at Venice, and is the Opening night film of the New York Film Festival. Awards are very important to Miramax and all specialty units. They always bring prestige and box office.

Scott- What's coming up in Miramax's production slate?

Daniel – Working on Paul Thomas Anderson's next film and a Coen Bros. film.

Scott – Do you see new technology as a revenue center?

Daniel – Don't know. This side of the business is in such a state of flux, but it's on our radar.


Date Number One with a Cocaine Angel (original post 9/5/06)

[Pictured above: Sujewa Ekanayake with sister at Date Number One NYC premiere at Two Boots Pioneer Theater.]

Its been quite a busy week for me since Ive moved into my new Brooklyn apartment. Here's a little of what Ive been up to.

Last Thursday, I attended the NYC premiere of DIY filmmaker Sujewa Ekanayake's "Date Number One" at the Two Boots Pioneer Theater. This was a special premiere for me, as I partook in publicizing the event, sending out press releases to dozens upon dozens of indie film, entertainment, and NYC-area news media & bloggers, posting notices on Myspace, Shooting People, Indieloop, Indieclub, and many more. Emailing all my friends and acquaintances. Taping up posters with Sujewa in the East Village, and by myself in my old neighborhood of Astoria, Queens. Spreading the word, and getting people to know about the film. It was a lot of effort in a little amount of time, but it was all worth it. Sujewa is a really great guy and filmmaker.
Thanks Sujewa for allowing me to help you promote your film and introducing me to Sri Lankan cuisine before the premiere. Thanks for everyone who came, and helped spread the word. Please keep an eye out for screenings in you area here.

In other news, last night I attended Brooklyn Independent at Barbès in Park Slope, Brooklyn. I saw Michael Tully's feature "Cocaine Angel," which was preceded by the short films "Son" and "Gowanus, Brooklyn." Danielle of Indiepix sent me the invite a while ago, and since I knew that I'd only be six subway stops from the location, it would be so much easier to attend, when previously living in Astoria, so I plan to attend a lot more, and hope to bring some friends with me next time..you know who you are :)

"Cocaine Angel" was a rather gritty and emotional drama, with kudos to Damien Lahey for his very convincing performance. I also got to meet and talk to some really cool people who attended the screening: S.T. VanAirsdale of The Reeler (who I wrote about in my very first blog entry), Aaron Katz, director of Dance Party U.S.A., and Joe Pacheco, Brooklyn Independent Program Director and director of As Smart as They Are.

Next on my plate is...Sunday, I'm going to try to be the first in line at Alice Tully Hall to get tickets for the New York Film Festival when they go on sale to the public. I must get tickets to David Lynch's Inland Empire.

Be the first in NYC to see DATE NUMBER ONE (original post 8/14/06)

Please pass along the following note to as many people as you can so we can spread the word about this DIY-made indie film premiering in NYC on Aug. 31. Hope to see you there!

DATE NUMBER ONE, the acclaimed feature-length indie comedy from Do-It-Yourself (DIY) filmmaker Sujewa Ekanayake, will make its NYC premiere:

Thursday, August 31st, 2006
Two Boots Pioneer Theater
155 East 3rd Street (between Avenues A and B, closer to A)
DATE NUMBER ONE made its world premiere at the Goethe-Institut in Washington, DC, in May. It has since then made its Northwest U.S. premiere at Northwest Film Forum in Seattle, WA, and its Maryland premiere at Capital City Microcinema in Kensington, MD, Sujewaâs hometown, in June.

"The film is about as charming as they come...presents a world in which cultures don't clash, they mesh. It's refreshing to see characters who all appear to have a natural optimism, as opposed to the typical indie-film predilection for bitterness and cruelty. â- Michael Tully, Director, âCocaine Angelâ â Filmmaker Magazineâs 25 New Faces of Independent Film

âEkanayake has made a very good film, the standouts being the writing, the casting, and the direction of the actors.â

âDATE NUMBER ONEâs strength is its attention to the local lingo of Washington, DC, not the lingo of the Hill, but the locals who live and work around the cityâ?a subtle, thoughtful film.â
-The Chutry Experiment

DATE NUMBER ONE is a comedy about several first dates, made up of 5 different stories:
1. Just Another Ninja Searching For Love about a ninja who goes on a blind date.2. A Romantic Dinner For 3 about a woman attempting to add a third partner to a romantic relationship.3. Washington âCity Of Love" DC/Start Over about a writer who tries to get back together with his ex-girlfriend.4. Air Quotes Woman about a woman who always uses air quotes, and her search for a new boyfriend.5. The Superdelicious French Lesson about a first date where a character learns a little bit of French in an unusual way.

Sujewa Ekanayake is a Washington, DC-area-based Sri Lankan-American independent filmmaker & distributor. He wrote, produced, directed, photographed, edited and self-distributed DATE NUMBER ONE under his production company Wild Diner Films. His popular blog âDIY Filmmaker Sujewaâ is listed as one of Indiewire.comâs âBlogs We Love.â Previous films include the 16MM comedy âWild Dinerâ and the documentary âCapital Heartbreak & Sweetness: 17 DC Poets.â

Visit www.wilddiner.com and www.diyfilmmaker.blogspot.com for more info.


IFP Industry Connect: I Wake Up Screening (original post 7/10/06)

This is the first IFP Industry Connect panel discussion Ive attended since February, when I took notes at the IFP Industry Connect: Publicity & Viral Marketing & Building Audiences, a panel that I helped to coordinate along with fellow IFP Marketing & Publicity committee members. This was also the first time Ive been to the ImaginAsian Theater. There was another IFP panel discussion that took place there recently on film distribution where Caveh Zavedi, the director of I Am A Sex Addict was there, along with the filmmakers of The Puffy Chair. If anyone went to that, and took notes, please let me know, and Id be happy to post them on my blog for you. Thanks! -Brian

The Film Panel Notetakers Notes From

IFP Industry Connect:
I Wake Up Screening: What to Do Once Youve Made the Movie"
ImaginAsian Theater
July 6, 2006


I Wake Up Screening Co-Authors:
Laura Kim, EVP, Marketing & Publicity, Warner Independent Pictures
John Anderson, Chief Critic at Newsday

David DArcy, Arts Writer & Critic

* Due to transit delays, David DArcy was tardy, and in his place for the first half of the panel discussion was IFP Executive Director Michelle Byrd.

Michelle starts the panel discussion off by mentioning she first heard about Lauras and Johns book while she was in Berlin. She got an email from the books publicist, who asked IFP if they could do a panel discussion.


Q: Michelle How did John and Laura team up?

A: John Laura was a publicist for MPRM in Los Angeles. He knew her for a long time. They thought it would be useful to write a guide together for filmmakers with films who dont know what to do with them once theyre finished.

A: Laura They found an agent and began to write the book.

A: John They wrote it very quickly.

A: Laura Its a how to guide for filmmakers in the last phase of production.

Q: Michelle Did John and Laura have any concerns workwise?

A: Laura They had very few concerns. In terms of whats in the book, she ran into a filmmakers whos mentioned in the book on her way back from Cannes. Theres nothing salacious about what she wrote about that filmmaker or any others in the book, but just the facts. Before Laura started working at Warner Independent Pictures, she had it in her contract that would allow her to write this book, so there was no conflict.

A: John Theres also anecdotes in the book. Need to avail yourself to whats already out there. Try to figure out who would be the best person to handle your film. These things sound obvious to most filmmakers, but sometimes they forget to do it.

Q: Michelle Whens the right time to screen your film?

A: John Filmmakers should show their films first to people they can trust, and who can not be objective, but at least give an inkling of criticism.

A: Laura If you think your film is finished, it might be, but dont screen it to the public, unless its ready.

A: John Example Kissing Jessica Stein It had so much feedback. They kept changing and tweaking it.

A: Laura KSJ got into the LA Film Festival, but had small screenings with friends first. They changed the ending before the festival. Originally ending alienated core audience.

Q: Michelle How do you define the dynamic of audiences who will give you the truth?

A: Laura Invite really smart, real people, outside of the industry.

Q: Michelle - What if KSJ didnt change its ending?

A: It probably still would have gotten picked up by a small distributor, but not a mini-major like Fox Searchlight, which ultimately released the film.

* David DArcy arrives, and takes over as moderator, but Michelle remains. David tells everyone that he was stuck in transit from the airport on his way back from the Karlovy Vary Film Festival in the Czech Republic.

Q: David How little do filmmakers know about the business?

A: Laura They should concentrate on making the best movie, but still need to know business basics.

A: John Filmmakers dont necessarily need to know all business, but should surround themselves with people who do.

A: Laura Filmmakers should have chemistry with business people. There should be trust with one another. Filmmakers are auditioning for the producers rep, sales agents, publicist, etc., just as much as they are for distributors.

A: John If you show your film to a rep whos reluctant to rep your film, then its better to find someone else.

Comment: David Not every rep whos had success with some films, will have success with every film. There are still some films that played at Sundance that never received distribution, and even films that do get acquired by distributors are never released. Ex) Double Whammy- Produced by Gold Circle Films. Went to Sundance. Had a publicist and sales agent. Sold to Lionsgate for the complete budget of the film. Starring Elizabeth Hurley, Steve Buscemi, etc. Was an equation that seemed to work, but Lionsgate has yet to release it.

Q: David How do you turn a disadvantage into an advantage?

A: Laura- Theres only a few cases where all distributors vie for your film. Youre lucky if you get just one distributor interested in your film. Do not count on your first film to get you rich. Every distributor is taking a gamble on your film. Costs to advertise have become so high. Its really hard for indie films to make a ripple. At least 12-14 new films open every weekend, where years ago only anout 6-8.

Q: David At Karlovy Vary, there was a Sundance section. Why hasnt the festival circuit expanded? Why so narrow? Getting into a big festival for indie films is equivalent to winning the lottery.

A: Laura Festivals are the ultimate form of exhibition. In order to vie for importance, fests need to have world premiers. Big examples are Cannes, Toronto For indies, its Sundance, Seattle, SXSW

Q: David What does the book do for those who dont get into Sundance?

A: John Alternative modes of distribution and festivals.

A: Laura Think twice before submitting to a particular festival. Determine which festival is best for your film. Any time your film plays at a festival, youre opening your self up for public criticism, or praise.

A: John People are turning to the Internet for distribution. The Holy Grail of distribution has always been theatrical, but there are means to be seen by more people with new forms of media.

Audience Question How do you feel about filmmakers working with the distributor to market their films? Example, Caveh Zahedi says on his blog that he didnt like the DVD cover the distributor is using.

A: Laura Filmmakers better get involved with the distributor. It should be collaborative. They should rely on the filmmakers involvement. If the filmmaker is not passionate about their film, they why should the distributor be?

A: Michelle It was IFCs idea to have Caveh do a blog. Caveh didnt know much about blogs beforehand, but has gotten very involved with it since.


My first P.A. gig (original post 7/2/06)

While I've been visiting my family in my hometown this 4th of July weekend, I found a journal in my old bedroom of the first day of my first production assistant job, that I thought I'd share:

Today was the first day of my job as a production assistant on Compulsive Pictures' short film "Here" starring the $6 Million Man and The Fall Guy himself, Lee Majors.

I arrived at the 3rd Street Holiday Inn in Niagara Falls, NY at around 3:30pm. Logan, the production manager, called me earlier to arrange the meeting time. When I got to the hotel, I took the elevator to the 6th floor, and walked down the hallway until I reached room 601. That is where Compulsive set up shop, their temporary Niagara Falls headquarters.

Logan came to the door and introduced himself to me, and then we proceeded into the room to a table where Susan, the producer, was sitting with her laptop. She introduced herself to me.
Susan put me right to work. My first job was to go down to the receptionist and ask if they placed a VCR in Lee Majors' room yet. (Majors has yet to arrive at this point. He's supposed to come in on Wednesday).

The receptionist gave me the key, or actually a magnetic card, to Lee Majors' room, which was room 801 on the 8th floor, where all the suites are, and you need this key to insert into a slot in the elevator in order to go up to the 8th floor.

Before I went into Majors' room, I went back to room 601 to get Susan, who requested earlier that she come with me to Majors' room.

When we hopped back into the elevator, I popped the key card into the slot and we began our ascent up to the 8th floor. The elevator key card was also the room key card and I used it to gain entry into the room.

Majors' room was a suite and had greater amenities than the regular hotel rooms. It had a jacuzzi, and he was to be getting a VCR, which is the main reason we went up there to check if it had been delivered yet, but it had not. I asked the bell hop (or whatever politically correct title to which I can't think of) to make sure Majors gets his VCR, plus to change a chair in his room which had a large white stain on it. (Perhaps it came from the White House- LOL).

After our Lee Majors' room excursion, we went back down to the production office in room 601 and Logan gave me a list of things to buy for Lee Majors and the crew.

For some reason, I only wrote in my journal the first day of production. If memory serves me, it was approximately a 5- or 6-day shoot. Some of my greatest memories:
- Picking crew up from the Buffalo Int'l Airport who arrived on the then brand new airline Jetblue.
- Driving Lee Majors and a few other cast & crew members over to the Canadian side in a 15-passenger van, and the falls were barely visible because it was so foggy.
- Ordering Moon Over Myhammies at Denny's for DP Maryse Alberti (Happiness, Poison)
- Getting to help make movie blood, and tasting it.
- But the top moment of all was probably the last day of shooting when I got to throw a red vest (one of the props in the film) into the rapids, which went over the falls.
For more info on "Here," visit IMDB at


"Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore?" (original post 6/29/06)

Thank you Danielle from Indiepix for inviting me to the screening of Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore?last night. I really enjoyed the film, and getting to meet & greet the filmmaker Frank Popper. Please find below the notes I took during the Q&A. If anyone attended the screening, and wants to add something I may have forgotten, please do so in the comments section. Cheers! - Brian

The Film Panel Notetakers Notes From

Sponsored by
Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore?
Makor/Steinhardt Center, NYC
June 28, 2006

About the Documentary

Frank Poppers Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore?, which made its World Premiere and received the Audience Award at the 2006 Silverdocs Festival, is a riveting, edge-of-your-seat story about Jeff Smith, a 29-year-old underdog campaigning for Congress. With a group of like-minded idealists, the young spitfire, lacking experience, funding, and even familial support, tirelessly campaigns against career politicians backed by the wealthy and powerful. Inspiring and rousing, Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore? is proof that there is still room in our increasingly corrupt, corporatized political system for one determined individual to incite change. Woodstock in the City film summary

Q & A with Director Frank Popper

Audience Comment:

A native St. Louisian said he isnt much into politics, but enjoyed the film, and asked how Frank came about making this film.

F.P.s Response:

Frank said he thought about doing a political documentary for a while, and heard about Jeff Smith at a Donna Brazile speech. Frank wanted to make a film on how the system is tough on people like Jeff... Nepotism toward the political legacy of Russ Carnahan as Jeffs main opponent in the race. The films producer calls it an optimistic tragedy.

Frank entertained the possibility of shooting this as a four-part series, but turned it into a feature instead. It shows how the system can be broken, but that its also fixable. Wanted to give audiences a general sense of the system.

Frank thought Jeff was a really nice, yet tough guy himself. At first Jeffs campaign staff wanted Frank out of there, but kept him in because they thought they might be able to use some of the footage for Jeffs campaign. Frank went onto shoot Jeffs short campaign documentary, which they made 10,000 copies of and handed out to constituents. Jeff wrote thank you notes to all of his campaign contributors. Result of primary election was that Jeff won the city vote, and came in first in the county, but was trounced in the rural vote, coming in narrowly behind Carnahan. Jeff was never really running against Carnahan, just the Carnahan name.

Audience Question:

How much did Frank spend to make the film?

F.P.s Response:

Spent over $3,000. Shot on miniDV. It was easy to just shoot it. The hard part was getting it finished. Took about two years to complete.

Audience Question:

Does the film have distribution?

F.P.s Response:

It will be at Landmarks Tivoli Theatre in St. Louis on July 27-Aug. 3. Also playing in Washington, DC, sometime in September.

Audience Question:

Had Frank ever shot a political documentary before?

F.P.s Response:

No. This was Franks first feature documentary. He previously worked on smaller, corporate videos.


What came first? The panel notetaker or the panel supervisor? (original post 6/26/06)

As you're well aware, I'm The Film Panel Notetaker, which means I take notes at film panel discussions and post them on my blog. How long have I been doing this? Since last December.
What you may be unaware of is that I'm also a volunteer panel supervisor for the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. What that means is that I supervise a blue-ribbon panel of TV Academy judges who vote for nominated TV programs to win Emmy awards. How long have I been doing this? Since 2002.

But what really did come first? By looking at the dates above, it would appear that panel supervising trumps panel notetaking, but is that really the case?

In actuality, I've been film panel notetaking and all sort of panel notetaking, for that matter, well before I ever stepped into a room to play tapes for TV judges.

What does one have to do with the other? Absolutely nothing. It just sparked my own curiosity, and perhaps its mildly entertaining to y'all :)


An inconvenient truth about a Brooklyn rooftop (original post 6/5/06)

Saturday night, I hopped on the G-train to Carroll Street in Brooklyn, walked three-long blocks past the Gowanas Canal, and met up with my new pal Agnes Varnum at Rooftop Films in the Old American Can Factory. It was an uncommonly chilly and rainy June evening, but luckily, my trusty $25 retractable umbrella kept us semi-dry as we enjoyed a screening of The Real Dirt on Farmer John, a terrific documentary about a third-generation flamboyant farmer who managed to reinvigorate his family's farm after many years of hardships, and strange hippy tripping encounters. Its a touching, funny, sad, and inspiring film, and I learned a lot about farming, too.

In other documentary-watching news, I met up with my friend Sarah yesterday at the Sunshine Cinema, where we saw An Inconvenient Truth. The whole reason we went to see it was this A few days ago, I emailed Sarah a personal rant I was having, and her reply was a social-issue related rant about bringing up children in a world of global warming. Neither rant had a lick to do with the other, but we often share rants, and hers got me thinking to go see An Inconvenient Truth. Coincidentally, after our mid-week rant, I received a booklet in the mail from the New York City Department of Environmental Protection- the 2005 Drinking Water Supply and Quality Report. This further fueled my interest in seeing An Inconvenient Truth. Both Sarah and I seemed to agree that Al Gore is splendid at giving slide shows on film, and we promised to visit the website at the closing credits to learn even more about how we can help save the world.


Festing it up in Rochester & Toronto (original post 5/8/06)

Today is my first actual day of actual R&R on my week-long vacation. Saturday and Sunday, I spent my time at two different film festivals in two different cities, in two different countries.

Saturday night I went to the Rochester International Film Festival with my friends Phil and Rebecca from Amherst, NY. We went to the 8pm screening at the Dryden Theater, located in the George Eastman House. There was a block of short films playing there. The RIFF hails itself as "Movies on a Shoestring." I must say that the quality of most of the films, in terms of cinematography, production design, et al, were quite good. Films ranged from animation to live action, and from all around the world.

One film in particular, which started off the 8 o'clock block, "Liberte Conditionelle," from Montreal, Canada, was stopped half-way through its run. Reason being, there were no English subtitles. The director of the festival came out to explain that they had not viewed the 35mm print prior to that evening, and didn't know it didn't have English subtitles. She said someone came up to her in the audience and told her to turn it off, and as she was about to let the next film role, several members of the audience yelled "Put it back on" and "We want to see the rest of it." It was a very awkward moment. She didn't listen to them. I would have liked to see the rest of it. Not that my 4-years of high school French are good enough for me to understand what was being said, but at least honor the filmmaker by showing the entire film.

On Sunday afternoon, my Dad and I drove from Grand Island, NY, to Toronto. We got there early and purchased tickets for the documentary "Encounter Point," which played at the Hot Docs Film Festival. Before the film, we grabbed some brunch at a local eatery on Bloor Street. I was surprised at how small the portions were. I guess in the U.S., we get too much food on our plates, and up North, they give just the exact serving size.

Afterwords, we headed over to the Isabel Bader Theater, where we saw "Encounter Point." I thought it was very good and thought-provoking. There are a lot of documentaries about Israel and Palestine, and "Encounter Point" focused on something new and interesting I didn't know much about, which was the people, both Israelis and Palistineans, who are looking for reconcilation as a means for peace, as opposed to allowing their governments to dictate unatainable conflict resolutions.

We were going to see "Look Up In The Sky: The Amazing Story of Superman," but my dad wasn't feeling up to it, so we headed back home.

I wasn't aware that the Toronto Jewish Film Festival was going on this week, too. I wish I had gone to Hot Docs Saturday night instead and stayed over night, so I would have had a chance to see more films there, and also at the Toronto Jewish FF. I've never gone to the Toronto Int'l FF, and think I will make it a goal to go there this Fall for an entire weekend.

Hope you all had a nice weekend, too!


IFP Industry Connect: Publicity & Viral Marketing & Building Audiences (original post 2/16/06)

This panel discussion was particularly gratifying, as I am a member of the IFP Marketing & Publicity Committee that helped to put it together, along with Kevin Jarvis and Jonathan Russo.

If you attended this or any of the panel discussions mentioned in my blog, please leave any of your own notes that I may have missed in the 'comments' section. If you didn't attend, and are not sure how to comment, please feel free to leave any constructive feedback for me, so I can try to make improvements.

The Film Panel Notetaker's Notes From…

IFP Industry Connect:
Publicity & Viral Marketing & Building Audiences
February 13, 2006

About the Panel
Learn how viral marketing strategies can help your film get noticed in the marketplace, how you can use the same tactics for self-distribution, and when and why you really need a publicist—and what you can expect from that relationship.

Panelists included:

Reid Rosefelt [RR]
- Reid Rosefelt has been a publicist in the specialty film industry for thirty years, representing everything from Jim Jarmusch's "Stranger Than Paradise" to Ang Lee's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." He has had long-time collaborations with directors like Jarmusch, Errol Morris, Pedro Almodovar, David Mamet, Werner Herzog, Michael Almeryeda and Fred Schepisi. He has also worked with Todd Solondz, Lisa Cholodenko, Susan Seidelman, Tom DiCillio, Jen-Luc Godard, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Andre Tarkovsky, Jeanne Moreau, Paul Schrader, John Boorman, Ridley Scott, Francis Coppola and Peter Weir, among many others. Rosefelt's company was hired by Miramax for the release of its first foreign film, and was invited by Robert Redford to be a consultant for the Sundance Institute. He has represented actors like Ally Sheedy, Harvey Keitel and Cynthia Nixon. Since closing his company, Magic Lantern, Inc., in 2003, he has begun making his own films and is in pre-production on his first feature.

Joseph Craig [JC]
- Joseph Craig has worked in market research for the past 13 years at Nielsen Entertainment's National Research Group (NRG), and eight years prior to that at Paramount Pictures. He is currently the Senior Vice President and General Manager of NRGi, the independent film division of NRG. NRGi provides the independent film market with Nielsen's research services including customized data collection and analysis, art house tracking, online tests of commercials and trailers, screenings, focus groups and more. Independent film tracking includes specialized psychographics, pop polls, diagnostic testing, advertising strategies, specialized quantitative and qualitative studies and in-theater surveys.

Jonathan Russo [Moderator]
Jonathan Russo is the Membership Systems Coordinator for IFP
Questions from the Moderator

1. When should independent filmmakers hire publicists, or begin their film marketing campaigns?

[RR]—There are two times an indie filmmaker needs a publicist:

1. At the time you get accepted into a festival, especially for Sundance, Toronto, etc. Get a good publicist for sizable film festivals where there's a lot of press. Research publicists and schedule meetings with them.

2. When self-distributing a film

It's a rule of thumb "not" to promote your film while shooting. A low-key approach is always good.

When you're an independent filmmaker, try to make the best film ever. It's the studio's job to make you think like a marketer. The rule is if you show your film to people, and they like it, it can be marketed. It's just a question of how it's marketed.

Position your film—Your goal at a festival is to get your film sold. Try to focus toward your goal, things you need to do to get your film sold, like finding a good producer's rep or sales agent.

[JC]—It's never too early for marketing. Start thinking about marketing after you've got the script written. Determine who your audience is. Who's going to like your movie? Be realistic. How are you going to start reaching that audience? Don't turn off your core audience too early in the process. NRGi helps filmmakers hone in on who their audience is.

2. NRGi has developed several research methodologies to test audiences' reactions to films before they are releases. Explain how this is accomplished.

[JC]- NRGi gets involved with a film just as its about to be greenlit. Try to figure out what appeal the film will have to audiences, what drives interest. Will it see a return on investment? Can money be made?

Screen films for independent filmmakers in theaters all the time. Have done screenings for as little as 30 people. At screenings, NRGi hands out questionnaires, followed by a more in-depth focus group, and finally they write up a report. Try to get real movie goers to come to get the best, unbiased results. Doesn't allow the same people to attend screenings more than once in a four- to six-month period.

NRGi has to be impartial to show the reality of what the movie is, where it's going, what it's competition is.

3. What are some filmmaker "do's" and "don'ts" when they reach out to publicists/marketers?

[JC]—A lot of filmmakers don't like the marketing research process. For example, Clint Eastwood won't do test screenings, and Robert Altman hates the process. They think it's about how to change their movies, and it is not. It's about the best way of how to position their movies. NRGi never tells filmmakers what scenes to cut or to change their movie in any way. The title of the movie can make a huge difference in positioning a film.

The playability of a film has nothing to do with its marketability. Most independent films get a slow roll out in theaters, which helps build word of mouth. Sometimes, companies will hide what their film is really about. That's a mistake. They should embrace what they're about, which will help it reach out to its core audience.

[RR]—Filmmakers must make sure they get the best still photography during production. This almost never happens. There's nothing more vital. Stills make people want to see your film. Figure out what your signature images are. If you don't have a big stills budget, just try to take the best posed shots. Example of good stills on "The Last Seduction." They only gave out stills of Linda Fiorentino, which helped to promote the femme fatale concept of the film.

Try to make press materials as short as possible. The press won't have time to read everything, as they see four or more films per day.

Questions from the Audience

1. Can a publicist get you into a festival?

[RR]—Some reps will deny it, but they can have a voice. The key is to submit your films as early as possible in the process for a better chance of getting in.

2. What are some publicity or marketing strategies for documentaries?

[RR]—Worked with Errol Morris for seven years. Didn't want to call his films documentaries, but nowadays it's different. People will go see films or documentaries as long as they are really good.

[JC]—Reality television has opened up the doors for documentaries. Reality TV is free and entertaining. Nowadays, audiences look at documentaries as entertainment, not just something that's good for them. NRGi doesn't treat documentaries different from any other movie. They just try to figure out the best possible way to position them.

3. What are the fees involved with hiring NRGi?

[JC]—NRGi is extremely affordable. The average studio will pay between $10,000-$11,000 per screening. For independent films, NRGi charges between $1,800-$8,200 for everything. This price includes the concept, recruiters to fill seats, hand out passes, develop questionnaires, theater staff, collecting surveys, moderating focus groups, writing reports based on data collected, consulting with the filmmaker. They can also do it piecemeal, if you only want to do a focus group, or a reduced questionnaire.

NRGi needs to cover its basic costs, because it is expensive. They ask filmmakers what they need. NRGi will turn down work if they think a movie is not ready to be screened.

4. How do you get press at smaller festivals?

[RR]—Try to get a list of press in advance of the festival. You can go to the festival press office for these lists. Find out which press matters the most, and contact them. Put your press materials in the press office mailboxes. Hand out postcards and bring friends to help you.


Creating Timeless Women: Promoting Women (orginal post 1/24/06)

This panel discussion I attended last night was particularly of interest to me because I work in public relations, and there were two publicists on the panel that offered some very good insights.

If you attended this or any of the panel discussions mentioned in my blog, please leave any of your own notes that I may have missed in the comments section. If you didnt attend, and are not sure how to comment, please feel free to leave any constructive feedback for me, so I can try to make improvements.

The Film Panel Notetakers Notes From

Creating Timeless Women: Promoting Women
January 23, 2006

About the Panel
New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT) presented the last of its three-part series on women critics, stars and marketers in all media at Marymount Manhattan College. This particular panel included publicists and agents.

Panelists included:

Johnnie Planco [JP]
- Agent, Parseghian Planco

Margaret Emory [ME]
- Talent Agent, Dulcina Eisen Associates

Joe Trentacosta [JT]
- Theatrical Division Head, Springer Associates PR

Amy Brownstein [AB]
- President, Brownstein & Associates

Maggie Bruen [Moderator]
- Adjunct Professor of Cinema Studies at Marymount Manhattan and Ramapo Colleges.
- Author of several award-winning screenplays
- Produced and directed feature-length documentary The Fourth Green Field
- Her short documentary, The History of the Fraunces Tavern, is on permanent view at the Fraunces Tavern in lower Manhattan

Questions from the Moderator
[JP]= Johnnie Planco; [ME]= Margaret Emory; [JT]= Joe Trentacosta; [AB]= Amy Brownstein

1. How did you choose your profession, and whats the most important part of your work process?

[AB]Chose by accident. Was an actress in Upstate New York. Parents didnt want her to do that. Studied communications at Syracuse University. Got a well-rounded view of the media. Interned at Orion Pictures. Moved to LA.

Most important part of her work process is knowing her clients well, or she cant do her job. Knowing what theyre capable of, and thats what will get them press.

[JT]Went to Marymount as an actor. Enjoyed promoting events. Took a job at Springer & Associates.

Most important part of his work is knowing what hes selling (who your clients are and what theyre good at).

[ME]Started as an actress. Created an acting company. Her friend suggested she become an agent. Began working as an agents assistant.

Most important part of her work is she likes discovering new talent, getting them work, building and maintaining their careers.

[JP]Went to Fordham University at Lincoln Center. Interned his senior year at IFA (now part of ICM). Went over to William Morris Agency to work in mailroom for a long time.

2. What criteria do you have for selecting women clients?

[JP]Doesnt see much of a difference in gender selection. Doesnt matter if its a man or a woman.

[ME]- Sees it as an equal playing field. It depends on the breakdowns (whats being cast). Shell submit women to roles that are predominantly for men such as judges on Law & Order.

[JT]With PR, there are things you have to do with every actor that advantageous for their career, male or female.

[AB]Agrees with JT. She represents women of varying age groups. A lot of her clients want to get into Vogue, and she has to create an opportunity for them to be in Vogue. Monthly magazines are more niche-oriented, so harder to get women on cover of magazines such as GQ, and vice-versa. TV and newspapers are easier.

3. How do you find talent?

[AB]Good relationships with agents and managers. Go to theater and movies all the time. Was Terrence Howards and Lucy Lius first publicist.

[JT]Working on theater or film productions like Brooklyn The Musical. Work with talents personal publicists. Work with someone early in their career.

[ME]Only works with people shes seen, has knowledge of their work, and knows how to build their careers.

[JP]Interact with press agents and lawyers, get together socially with them. Go to every play and movie, watch TV.

4. What type of client is difficult to deal with?

[ME]Ones that are unrealistic, demanding, foolish, and dont listen. Agent and actor should both be in agreement on the actors plans.

[JT]People with unrealistic expectations. Makes it difficult for the publicist to succeed.

[AB]Dealing with female actors is difficult when they dont know their own personal style. Its not Amys fault, but she gets blamed sometimes anyway. Her job is to get her clients press. She can introduce them to stylists, but cant dress them herself.

5. Are projects for and about women easy or difficult to publicize?

[JP]Depends on the project. If its good and speaks something to women who want to see it, theres not much of a difference.

[ME]Always look for a hook. Look for your target audience. Try to be economical.

[JT]You can tell off the bat if a show is good for a man or a woman.

6. Which women deserve more success then they currently enjoy? Which would you want as a client?

[AB]Always had a love affair with Diane Keaton. Always liked her style, career, and ability to keep her life private.

[ME]Shes so involved with who she already has as a client. When she meets someone she admires, and gets the opportunity, she may sign them.

[JP]Trickier question than it sounds. If someone asked him if he wants to rep Meryl Streep, his answer would be, Of course!

7. How do you devise strategies?

[JP]There is a skill in representation. It comes from experience, watching, and listening to others. Take instinct and capitalize on that. Brainstorm.

8. What are some valuable skills for beginning agents and publicists?

[ME]Develop taste. Go watch a lot of films and theater, so you know good talent. Find out what turns you on. Experience and exposure to the industry. Be passionate.

[JT]- Be a multi-tasker, organized, and confident on the phone. Dont expect a lot of words to begin with, but understand the basic tenants. Teach interns and assistants starting out how the media works.

[AB]Amy disagrees with JT 100The hardest thing is when people walk in with a sense of entitlement. They should work for it. They must be cultural and sharp. Know the media. You can teach them how to talk to the press, but they must know the media first, and have passion. They have to sell their pitch to the press in the first 30 seconds. Get to know their bylines. Know their style. Get to them in a way no one else can. Pay attention to the credits at the end of a film. Amy just let go of an intern who just wanted the college credit. They really need to want to be there, and believe in the work.

Questions from the Audience

1. Name some actresses today who might become timeless later in their career.

[JP]Meryl Streep, Susan Sarandon, Sigourney Weaver

[ME]Meryl Streep

[JT]Charlize Theron

[AB]Kate Winslet, Cate Blanchett

2. How do you promote minority women?

[ME]Submits her talent according to the breakdowns. When there is a role for any woman, shell try to open the envelope for minority women.

3. Any advice for people who dont have agents or publicists?

[AB]The Hollywood Reporter and Variety are friendly to everyone. Dont get a publicist until you can afford one. If youre a filmmaker with well-known talent attached to your film, you can go to the talents publicists for help.

[JP]Filmmakers should join IFP. They help filmmakers promote their films.


Audience Development Seminar (original post 1/16/06)

Here's another oldie, but goodie. This should be helpful to those wanting to learn about publicity for films (and as a bonus, theater). Were you there? Post your own notes in the comments section. Werent there, but have a question? Some constructive feedback? Post those in comments too. Reader interaction is strongly encouraged and appreciated. This goes for any and all postings. Thanks!

The Film Panel Notetakers notes from

Stellar network
audience development seminar
October 25, 2004

Jeffrey Abramson
Head of film division at Gen Art.

Nicolette Aizenberg
Regional publicity and promotions at IDP Distribution (Samuel Goldwyn Films & Roadside Attractions).

Shani Ankori
Marketing at IDP Distribution (Samuel Goldwyn Films & Roadside Attractions).

Seth D. Carmichael
CEO, Carmichael Films, an independent film production, publicity, marketing and sales company.

Reva Cooper
Director/Owner of marketing and public relations business for Broadway, commercial Off-Broadway, and NFP theaters.

Beck Lee
Runs Media Blitz, a theatrical press agency for Off-Broadway.

Arwen Lowbridge
Development Consultant with Fractured Atlas, NFP for small theater and arts organizations.

Aaron Meier
Theatrical press agent at Boneau/Bryan-Brown for Broadway.

Michael Ventura
Co-Founder and Creative Director of Short Labs, a non-traditional media agency.

Marketing and Publicity for Film

Traditional Paths
Advertising print (newspapers)
Grassroots/niche marketing
Campaign Poster/Key Art
Get reviews from festivals, then set release date
Ex) Super Size Me acquired by IDP at Sundance, press release sent out. Also sent director Morgan Spurlock on publicity tour before the release in May. He was willing and able.
Send press releases to:
Trade Press The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Screen International
Long Lead Press
Regional Press Usually need to give three weeks notice.
Goal: Interviews, Features, & Reviews (Run the day the film opens)
Call critics. Encourage, but dont harass.

The most important element.
Use actual production stills, not digital screen captures or behind-the-scenes moments.

Packaging & Community Building
Stage 1 Understand your product
Create buy-ins & co-brand
Ex) Short Labs teamed with Vibe on event for urban romance short.
Stage 2 Understand your audience
Focus on niche audience (most vocal), then build to wider audience (crossover).
Try to get specific communities/organizations to buy blocks of tickets.

Marketing and Publicity for theater

Buzz It takes about 6 weeks to build buzz in theater.
Get preview coverage.
Be professional to the press.
Photography- Should capture the essence of the show.
Think about how you are going to fill the house.
Plan ahead. Do your research.
Papering Lists

Product (The Show)
Know product as intimately as possible.
Whats unique about it?

Books and other recommendations

The Tipping Point Tipsters: People who get into plays & films for free and talk about them. Build word of mouth.

Confessions of a PR Man

Madison & Vine

Down & Dirty Pictures

Learning Audiences

Subscribe Now

The Anatomy of Buzz

The Fader Magazine & Fader Films

Indiewire www.indiewire.com

Foundation Center www.fdncenter.org

Talking Broadway www.talkingbroadway.com

Save the New York Times listings www.savethelistings.com


Creating Timeless Women: Critics (original post 1/12/06)

I hope you enjoyed my previous blog postings from my notes taken at the 2004 and 2005 IFP Market & Conference. Whats old is new again.

As always, if you attended any of the panel discussions mentioned in my blog, please leave any of your own notes that I may have missed in the comments section. If you didnt attend, and are not sure how to comment, please feel free to leave any constructive feedback for me, so I can try to make improvements.

I promised you a brand new one, so here goes.

The Film Panel Notetakers Notes From

Creating Timeless Women: Critics
January 9, 2006

About the Panel
New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT) presented the first of its three-part series on women critics, stars and marketers in all media at Marymount Manhattan College. This particular panel included prominent women critics, who provided the keys to understanding their work to producers, writers, directors and actors.

Panelists included:

Karen Durbin [KD]
- Film critic for Elle
- Feature writer for The New York Times Arts and Leisure section,
- Former editor of The Village Voice
- NYWIFT member

Marisa Guthrie [MG]
- Television reporter at the New York Daily News
- Previously reported on television industry at the Boston Herald
- Been writing about television for over a decade

Linda Stasi [LS]
- Columnist and critic for The New York Post
- Television host of NY1s What A Week with Mark Simone
- Previous columnist for New York Newsday and The New York Daily News
- Former magazine editor and freelance writer
- Authored four non-fiction books and at work on first novel
- Regular guest on numerous TV talk shows
- Named Columnist of the Year by the Newswomens Club of New York

Maggie Bruen [Moderator]
- Adjunct Professor of Cinema Studies at Marymount Manhattan and Ramapo Colleges.
- Author of several award-winning screenplays
- Produced and directed feature-length documentary The Fourth Green Field
- Her short documentary, The History of the Fraunces Tavern, is on permanent view at the Fraunces Tavern in lower Manhattan

Questions from the Moderator
[KD] = Karen Durbin, [MG] = Maria Guthrie, [LS]= Linda Stasi

1. What is the primary function of critics in todays society?

[KD]Bearing witness to a piece of work almost nobody sees. Make sure reviews she writes for Elle are worth her readers time. She tries to make the case for movies an audience might not automatically turn to. Shes happy when Hollywood movies are really good, but also happy to point out smaller films. Ex) Me and You and Everyone We Know.

[MG]TV is free. Genres could be confusing to people. She tries to boil down and sort out the enormous, explosive universe of television.

[LS]To understand an audience and give a perspective on films. Be as entertaining as possible in her writing. Show a sense of what she has seen, and if it is worth the audiences time.

2. What is your opinion on which of todays actresses will still be esteemed in the future?

[MG]Sophia Coppola, who is someone fairly new to directing. Even though she has had a leg up, she has still managed to create a distinct vision. Really likes Lina Wertmullers films including Seven Beauties and Swept Away.

[LS]- Agrees with MG. Sophia Coppola took a hit when she acted in The Godfather Part 3, and she has recovered beautifully.

[KD]Thinks Sophia Coppola is brilliant. Loved The Virgin Suicides, which was even better than the novel. The name may get you in the door, but if you screw up, that could be it. Mentioned Coppolas next picture is a $40 million biopic of Maria Antoinette. Also really likes Catherine Hardwicke and Nicole Holofcener and. Their work will last, and they have originality in common. Said Holofcener told her once that movies she has to offer are ones that no one else will make, that are her vision, and tell a story. Holofcener was offered to direct Legally Blonde, but turned it down.

3. Who do you think is overrated?

[KD]Paris Hilton (jokingly), Brad Pitt. Theyre not doing really interesting stuff, but Pitt was good in Thelma & Louise. Matthew McConaghey plays the big, dumb handsome guy roles. There is another, better machine out thereIndependent Cinema ex) Scarlett Johansson. Also really liked Reese Witherspoon in Walk the Line. Shes really heaven. It was a more challenging role than Joaquin Phoenixs.

[LS]Disagrees with KD about Brad Pitt. Said, Did you see him in Snatch? Said Scarlett Johansson is getting thin looking like everyone else. She had some fat on her in Lost in Translation.

[MG]Asked, Doesnt this happen to a lot of actors? They become a part of the Hollywood Machine. Liked Brad Pitt in Snatch, and 12 Monkeys.

4. Stars arent born, their made. How do you contribute to this?

[LS]Paris Hilton became a celebrity in the gossip columns. When critics mention stand out performers in a small part in a movie, it can sometimes make that persons career. If someones name gets out enough, they can become a hot property.

[KD]An example of an actress on the radar is Michelle Williams. While The Baxter got panned by critics, she got attention for her role, and shes getting Oscar buzz for Brokeback Mountain. When KD saw Me Without You, she thought Michelle Williams was a terrific British teenaged actress. She didnt know Williams was an American TV star from Dawsons Creek.

[MG]On Dawsons Creek, Michelle Williams was supposed to be a mysterious ingnue, and she wasnt. Shes too smart for that.

5. Do you have a responsibility as critics to help women achieve more prominence?

[KD]When she was 5, she went to see a war movie with her family. She was a critic even back then. It was very disappointing to her that there were no women in the movie. It was true then, and still true now that there are many more roles for men, than women in film. Shes a feminist. The importance of seeing yourself/being visible in films is important. Not just women who are under represented. Woody Allens Manhattan should have been called Upper East Side, because there were no people of color in it. She spent a long time editing The Village Voice, when there were hardly any women directors.

[MG]There are more people working in television, so there are bound to be more women working in television. Women are becoming more recognized in non-fiction programming. Television is becoming more democratic and inclusive. Advertisers value and recognize the female audience. Greys Anatomy is a show with central female characters, and the men are on the periphery. ABC wont throw all its promotional dollars on Commander in Chief.

[LS]Advertisers try to reach women age 18-34. They think that once women turn 35, theyre not interested in trying a new mascara. They keep women buying the same tampon for 15 years.

6. Do you make it a specific point to champion a particular actress?

[LS]Point out women in smaller roles who do an interesting job, so they can use it on their resumes. Something she always keeps in mind. For example, the new NBC sitcom Four Kings is a terrible, misogynistic show, but she praised the one woman on the show who shines, despite it being a dreadful show.

[KD]Chantal Akerman, a Belgian filmmaker, made a wonderful film with a French actress named Jean Dalmain. Did a story on it in The Village Voice.

7. How do you deal with criticism of your criticisms?

[LS]Critics are chosen for their jobs because they are outspoken. Critics are not there to please everyone, just to generate a buzz. When people are offended, they ask: Why dont you get a life?

[MG]People get easily and deeply offended by subjectivity. People call her 70 times a day to rant. Mostly the same people all the time. They want the interaction. Her intention is not to offend anyone, but she needs to have an opinion. Thats her job.

[KD] A lot of what she writes is positive. When she was in Sundance in the 90s, she sat on a panel about Neo-Violence (which she says is merely an independent film)and talked about Reservoir Dogs with producer Lawrence Bender. She thought the film was brilliant, but was enraged by the torture scene where a character gets his ear cut off. The violence was not the problem. It was the pop song that played along to it that bothered her. That was the cheapest trick in the book. She made her views clear on the panel. The audience got mad at her.

8. What trends in film would you expect to change? [My handwriting on this one was messy, so not sure if thats exactly the way the question was phrased.]

[KD]Violence is not a problem. Its stupidity that bothers her. Guys are now crying more at movies. Example- Titanic. The first weekend phenomenon. Studios looking for a heavy hit, but these movies can still be smarter. Most are movies by slobs and for slobs.

[MG]Violence as a set piece, exampleCSI. To shock, but missing the point, understanding the audience. TV is trying to grab the essence of The Sopranos, and make it suitable for network TV.

[LS]Constant degrading of Italian Americans. Why did Hillary Swank have to get her legs cut off in Million Dollar Baby, when Rocky gets to live on in every film.

9. Any hopeful trends to promote?

[MG]Great shows on cable, ie. FXNip/Tuck, Rescue Me, ShowtimeThe L Word. A singular vision for a piece of art is what makes it successful.

[LS]The quality of writing. More edgy, seat-of-your pants stuff.

[KD]Sundance, indie films, the rise of digital video, Focus Features, Soderberghs Bubble release on DVD, theatrically, TV, and the web at the same time.

10. Favorite Directors/Actors?

[MG]David Chase, The Sopranos; Also really likes Showtimes Weeds

[LS]HBO documentary series, and continually loves HBOs Def Poetry Jam

[KD]Kimberly Pierce

Questions from the Audience

1. What do you think of Jodie Foster as a director?

[KD]Doesnt dislike her work, but never really excited about her directing.

2. Where do you see blatant sexism in TV, or in the newsroom?

[MG]With Elizabeth Vargas co-anchoring ABC news now, she doesnt think viewers will necessarily care if its a man or a woman anchoring. Advertisers are always appealing to the bottom line.

[LS]The View was cutting edge when it debuted. What the hell is with Desperate Housewives? Its disgusting. Takes us back a couple of decades. Doesnt find it satirical. Finds it sexist. Mark Cherry got mad at her for saying those things in a review.

[KD]Thinks Desperate Housewives is satirical.

3. Whats beneficial to the industry from actors?

[KD]Talent, distinction, hard work. Willingness to go for interesting work, instead of just the money.

[LS]Character actors becoming leading actors.