g The Film Panel Notetaker: Life on the Film Panel Circuit - Jeffrey Abramson, VP of Film, Gen Art

Monday, April 23, 2007

Life on the Film Panel Circuit - Jeffrey Abramson, VP of Film, Gen Art

Life on the Film Panel Circuit - Jeffrey Abramson, VP of Film, Gen Art

Jeffrey Abramson with Christian Slater at premiere of "He Was a Quiet Man" at 2007 Gen Art Film Festival

1. Name
Jeffrey Abramson

2. Website
www.genart.org/film and www.genartpulse.com

3. Bio
Vice President of Film for Gen Art. I oversee the film division of Gen Art which includes the Annual Gen Art Film Festival in New York, our new Gen Art Chicago Film Festival, Screening Series, Cinema Circle and various shorts programming and contests. Been with Gen Art seven years (+5 years of volunteer work). Previously: Market Research Associate at Miramax Films, producer of several award winning short films.

4. What was the most recent film panel discussion you participated in? Where did it take place?Were you a panelist or moderator?
Moderator of the two panels at the Gen Art Film Festival . . . "Media Ecology: The role of media and the arts in saving the planet" and "Making It! A discussion with some of the filmmakers and casts from this year's festival".

5. What lessons did you take from this most recent panel discussion?
One thing we have learned over the past several years is that people don't come to Gen Art for the panels - they are mostly excited about the premieres. So we started to video tape the panels and put them online . . . next year I may just do it in a studio environment with a "live audience." Maybe partners with NYCTV or something . . .

6. What was your favorite panel discussion you ever participated in and why?
A discussion at IFP on breaking into the business. Several of the guests were indie filmmakers whose first films had been successful. The audience was full of excited and curious and ambitious filmmakers. I felt this disconnect between the stories the more seasoned filmmakers were telling and what the audience wanted to hear - it was almost as if the more seasoned filmmakers forgot what it was like to be sitting in that audience . . . so I broke down the wall. I made the panelists explain the "how" behind every step they took to get where they were . . . when asked how one filmmaker got to direct a particular film he said "my agent got it for me" . . . so I asked how he got his agent, how the agents assistant ended up at the screening of his short film and how he ever got his film into that screening in the first place . . . THIS is what audiences need to know . . . and too often panels are vanity plays or panelists are not very sharing people . . . . Another great panel was when I moderated a discussion with acquisitions executives from New Line and Fine Line (also at the IFP). I grilled them about why a certain movie they acquired at Sundance hadn't been released yet . . . and learned it had basically been shelved. I felt the audience needed to see that signing with major distributors isn't always the best way to go for all film projects.

7. In general, do you have any favorite or least favorite questions asked of you by either the moderator or the audience?
I am curious about the personal lives of filmmakers . . . where they live, what they do for fun and what inspires them . . . I think my favorite questions are related to such things. Least favorite question: How much did it cost? Usually asked by people who don't know a single thing about movie making . . . almost as if they saw it once in a promo for Sundance and so they think it's standard to ask. Mostly I hate it because nobody ever answers it!

8. If you could program your "dream" panel discussion, what would it be about and who besides yourself, should be on it?
Right now it would probably be a face off between filmmakers like the ones behind "Four Eyed Monsters" and an indie studio exec like Bob Berney (Picturehouse). Panels are usually made up of peers, if panelists do not know each other already - they are usually on the same level in their careers or their companies are . . . I think it's more exciting to mix it up . . . like I'd love to see a panel of cinematographers and company reps battle it out on the aesthetic of film vs video. Drama dammit!!! This is the movie business!!

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