g The Film Panel Notetaker: Filmmaker Conference - Festival & Marketplace Strategy - Sept. 16, 2007

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Filmmaker Conference - Festival & Marketplace Strategy - Sept. 16, 2007

Today was the first day of IFP's 3rd Annual Filmmaker Conference, which is running concurrently with the 29th annual IFP Market in New York City. Look for a score of coverage from our notetaking team throughout the week.

Festival & Marketplace Strategy – September 16, 2007

(WB) Will Battersby – Producer, Trumbo
(TT) Tory Tunnell– Producer, Trumbo

(GW) Gabe Wardell, Altanta Film Festival
(RW) Ronna Wallace, Producer’s Rep, East Gate Pictures
(BS) Ben Stambler, ThinkFilm
(AH) Alex Holdridge, Catcher 22 Productions
(JW) Jeremy Walker, Publicist, Jeremy Walker & Associates

(TT) When is the best time to show your film to the film industry?

(RW) Producer’s reps are one of the first people to go to. I get involved as early as possible once the film starts shooting. If you’re looking for completion funds, you might have a different plan than if you have a finished film. You should only show your film to distributors under the best possible light at a thriving film festival. Strategies for every film are different.

(AH) For my first film, I had no strategy, but for my most recent film, I have one. Don’t show anything to anyone ever till the last possible minute. It’s really essential to get a good producer’s rep. They will protect you.

(JW) At Sundance, I handed out DVDs of Great World of Sound like they were candy. I trust certain people in the press. I’m doing something different than these other people. GWOS didn’t have any stars in it, so the press needed to have a compelling reason to cover it. I decided to make sure whoever could and should cover it, could do so really easily. I didn’t make it easy for important critics who would benefit from seeing it with an audience. The critic who discovered it was Manohla Dargis of The New York Times.

(BS) To defend distributors, just because we’re seeing something early on DVD, doesn’t mean we’ll pass on it.

(JW) There’s something to be said about genre films such as comedies. They will probably play better with an audience, a factor that’s hard to understand. GWOS has a durable identity. Every movie is different.

(WB) What’s the process that festivals go through to choose films?

(GW) Filmmakers must go through an application process. We prefer DVD submissions. Obey the rules. Atlanta is a regional festival with lots of film lovers and some critics. Looking to discover new talent. Don’t go to Atlanta to expect your film to be in a bidding war. GWOS was at Atlanta. We gave it a prize the same week that its distribution through Magnolia was announced. Atlanta is an Academy-Award-qualifying festival if your film wins a prize.

(JW) A frequently asked question I get is, should I do a neighborhood or bigger festival? There’s a lot to be said for a home-field advantage. If your film has some sort of hook because of where it was shot, sometimes that narrative can be exploited more relatively.

(GW) Some Atlanta filmmakers’ have a be-all, end-all goal to be in our festival. We’re also happy to have films that have played at big festivals like Sundance come to Atlanta. Covet your premiere festival like it’s your virginity.

(RW) Some festivals front-load their bigger titles in the first few days when distributors are there.

(TT) How do you prioritize what to see first at festivals?

(BS) Look first at talent. 2nd, documentaries and first-time directors’ films that could work in a theatrical setting.

(WB) Should you have photos prepared for the festivals and the press?

(JW) The first thing festival ask for is a photo from your movie. This is a good time to talk to a publicist. The film festival catalog better look really good (like a Williams Sonoma catalog). Hire a good still photographer. You could hire a publicist or do it yourself. Look at your shooting schedule and find what scene would be good for your photo. What moment in your film is durable enough to be your photo and/or clip.

(GW) You really want an iconic image.

(AH) As a filmmaker, you should be conscious about it. Think: “How do I want to feel?”

(TT) How do you get attention from distributors?

(BS) Consider where you want to premiere your movie. Small movies at larger festival won’t get paid much attention to, but at smaller and mid-tier festivals, can be a bigger fish.

(RW) I email the distributor first, then get on the phone to tell them how good the film. My credibility is important. The busiest three weeks are prior to the festival. Be prepared before arriving at the festival.

(JW) There’s a lot to be said about underselling movies. Let the movie speak for itself. There’s lot of ways to spin a title.

Audience Q&A

Q: A producer’s rep wanted me to spend a lot of money for them to sell m film at a festival. Do you always need a producer’s rep at every festival?

(GW) At most festivals, you don’t need one unless you’re at a top-tier festival.

(RW) A producer’s rep who says they can guarantee a sale is probably lying to you.

Q: What’s a good festival for films with live music integrated in the screening?

(GW) Music-based festivals like South by Southwest (SXSW).

Q: What do you think of self-distribution?

(BS) As a producer, I self-distributed a “mumblecore” feature. As a distributor, I’m never going to see your movie. Distributors can undo bad work that others have done at other festivals.

(JW) You have one shot. The marketplace is Darwinian. The more you expose your film, the less control you have of it. NYC is great place for niche films.

Q: What is mumblecore?

(GW) A grassroots film movement. Low-budget, indie film, mostly digital, completely surpassed traditional distribution models. A lot of web-based promotion.

(BS) They generate interest off each other.

(GW) It’s cooperative.

(AH) Invented out of necessity.


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