g The Film Panel Notetaker: September 2007

Friday, September 28, 2007

Filmmaker Conference – Creating Content for New Platforms -September 17, 2007

Filmmaker Conference – Creating Content for New Platforms -September 17, 2007

(IK) Ingrid Kopp, Shooting People

(AC) Austin Chang, MTV New Media
(AL) Al Cattabiani, iThentic
(JC) Jan Crittenden, Panasonic

PANEL SUMMARY: This panel focused mainly on using new platforms as marketing tools rather than its promised topic of creating content for these platforms, but the main message was that no one from executives at major media companies to those who develop creative tools & equipment can tell us exactly what is coming down the pipeline, so we all have to stay open minded and be willing to adapt to whatever’s next. No matter what, you still need to have a strategy and a 360-degree view of your plan and options.

(IK) It seems as though the “future platforms” exist now, and it’s just a matter of figuring out what sticks. What are you throwing against the wall and what’s sticking?

(AC) MTV Networks brings it all together under a wide umbrella, from content for the wide mainstream to the uber-niche. We are at a point where we can use our online communities to drive what goes on air. The online communities are becoming our programmers!

(AL) We are a startup. There is a tsunami of user-generated content (UGC) so we want to be a destination for filtered, cleared, original content. We want to go through it for you and pick the best stuff. Our fantasy is to do for short form what Miramax did for indie.

(JC) The tools are evolving. There is a tightening of the gap of time between production and distribution. Looking at the video as data gets stuff to the audience faster.

(AC) MTV looks at it from a property standpoint. For example, the third Jackass movie is being released online, and we will map a whole community on top of it with a PSP game, extra content and a community that lets people participate in all things Jackass. This leads to a more lucrative series. Basically, we create uber-niche UGC sites based on audience demand.

(AL) Ithentic is getting traction with some mobile series:

--“Girls With Guitars” which focuses on female musicians and is backed by Fender. It’s notches above typical UGC.
--ITVS Mobile Stories, where filmmakers are invited to make short films about food.
--A sci-fi series.

Series give sponsors a chance to get some legs. We haven’t figured out how to make a full-fledged business of it. There are still lots of questions about mobile content delivery, including whether or not people really want it. Ithentic works by pairing up with distribution partners for straight-to-mobile delivery in Canada, the US and the UK.

(AC) Your distribution plan can become part of making the movie. Take advantage of these platforms to make a difference in the world.

(JC) As far as making a difference, Panasonic gives filmmakers grants, called P2 for a cause. Our PR department can also help get the word out about worthy projects. They pitch hundreds of stories about people using our products.

(IK) Where will technology take us?

(AC) It’s all broad strokes right now—TV, movie, and web content is being uploaded for the small screen and mobile. Again, creating content-based communities is key.

(AL) We’re agnostic about platforms. We’re just trying to curate really good stuff and go where the road takes us. The artists will figure it out.

Audience Q & A
[Notes taken by Jennifer Warren--Thanks, Jennifer!]

Q : What approach do you have for co-producing?

(AC) Casting the net and looking for good ideas. We don't have money for co-productions, we have to raise it via sponsors etc. If you have a good co-production idea then pitch it and we will see if it will match. There is no science to what we do.

Q: Are there technical decisions that filmmakers should make early on if going the route of new-tech/platform distribution?

(JC) 24P cameras- go the highest resolution for the best quality.

(AC) We take it all...

(AL) Keep in mind the screens are little - so long shots and busy backgrounds are not going to work.

Q: As viewers are becoming more interested in smaller viewing bytes, what becomes of old-fashioned feature filmmakers?

(AL) This is just a new form. It does not replace the old.

(AC) Our viewers are all about multi-tasking, texting while watching video clips etc. and that is who we produce for.

(IK) The thing that is so exciting is that if you can harness that, then you can build an audience to bring to your next feature project.

(JC) Yes, sometimes the short platform stuff leads to the long form.

DIY Filmmaker Sujewa Blogs About the Human Rights Atrocities Taking Place in Burma

Over at DIY Filmmaker Sujewa's blog, you can find plenty of news & links on the current violent opposition to peaceful protesters taking place in Burma.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Filmmaker Conference - Filmmaking 2.0 - Consumer Viewing Habits - Sept. 17, 2007

Arin Crumley, co-director of Four Eyed Monsters, sent me this video for a panel he spoke on at the Filmmaker Conference that I was unable to attend. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Filmmaker Conference - Navigating International Film Festivals - Sept. 18, 2007


(AB) Arianna Bocco, VP, Acquisitions & Productions, IFC


(LC) Lenny Crooks, Head of New Cinema Fund, UK Film Council

(ME) Marit Van Den Elshout, CineMart Manager, Int'l Film Fest Rotterdam

(CS) Clare Stewart, Exec Director, Sydney Film Fest

(AB)What advice would you have for N. American filmmakers with a good co-pro opportunity and how do they hook-up with producers? Also what is the best Intl Film Fest strategy?

(ME) In order to navigate festivals do your research before submitting. It is not always best to go for the big ones – Cannes, Toronto, Sundance etc. If you have a smaller film then you should be very clear on what festivals best match your film. With regards to co-pro it is all about relationships with co-producers you must build up a true friendship and trust as you will be with them for a long time.

Audience Q & A

Q – Following on from the European discovery of Lars Von Trier and the creation of Dogma 95, where lays the popularity of experimental filmmaking currently in the European market?

(LC) Firstly, Lars is a creative genius from a Danish film school of theory with very disciplined principles born from brilliant scripts. Experimental is not just about picking up a camera and shooting, so it really depends on what you are classing as experimental

(AB) One thing to remember is there is reported to be at least one film festival a week currently and they all want to discover a filmmaker. So in terms of experimental film there will be someone who wants to champion you and your work, so again it may not always be in the obvious festival route.

(CS) Dogma was a way of working and it is important to note of something that is not always thought of about Dogma, that they had very clear thoughts from the concept on why and how they would sell and market their films.

(ME) With regards to selecting a film we all read and watch with our stomachs and what hits you in the stomach is what we will pick.

(CS) Rotterdam does have a really strong presence in experimental film and I personally attend to programme from Sydney from there. So it is worth considering where the best showcase for you film will be for other like-minded festival programs

Q: If doing open submission as an unconnected and unknown filmmaker, who are the first people looking at your film?

(CS) We are always reviewing the ways we make our discoveries. We have a 3 prong approach – fiction, Docs and Shorts – We have advisory groups that watch and rate and then make recommendations that then get viewed by the producers.

(ME) We have a strong programming team – when the film comes in it is distributed among the programmers, eg. World Affairs, Experimental etc so there are levels of viewings with genres narrowed down accordingly.

(CS) I am often approached by other international film fest programmers about films I should look at. If you have someone to champion your film on a local level or at a smaller film fest, ask them who to on an Intl level or who they recommend you submit your film to.

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Filmmaker Conference - The State of Independents – September 19, 2007

The State of Independents – September 19, 2007

(EH) Eugene Hernandez, indieWIRE

(BT) Bill Thompson, Head of Distribution, Picturehouse
(MK) Michael Kang, West 32nd
(PG) Peter Goldwyn, Samuel Goldwyn Films
(CB) Charles Burnett, Director, Killer of Sheep
(TQ) Tom Quinn, Head of Acquisitions, Magnolia Pictures

How has independent film changed in the last five years? Where are we headed and how can distributors and independent filmmakers work together to tweak old platform models in a landscape of shrinking windows and increasingly elusive audiences to get their work seen by global audiences?

(EH) Where do things stand today for independent film distribution? What are some films, trends, and issues that have occurred for the past 12-18 months? What are you optimistic and pessimistic about the state of independent films?

(TQ) Pretty morbid feeling. Independent film is anything release on 600 prints or under. A somewhat disappointing trend is that the release of theatrical documentaries is oversaturated. Event-driven docs such as Sicko or March of the Penguins are subject-driven docs. In the Shadow of the Moon hasn’t really taken hold either. I don’t think they have a huge life anymore. I don’t think Crazy Love fits in that description. It had a disappointing box office. It’s not even going to break $400K, but probably will be nominated for awards. On the flip side, Magnolia did really well with its DVD releases, ie. Jesus Camp.

(EH) What do you think about what Tom is saying?

(BT) Unfortunately, docs always give us a challenge as distributors. No matter how well-reviewed they are, they’re difficult sells. We have The King of Kong in about 50 theaters now. The biggest changes are the numbers of films being released. Last Friday in The New York Times, at least 15 films were reviewed. Maybe only 5-7 of them were indie films. It’s a challenge to get them noticed, especially in New York.

(EH) What are you optimistic and pessimistic about the state of independent films?

(BT) We have a wide variety of films. We’re co-owned by HBO Films and Newline. This year, we release Rocket Science that premiered at Sundance and was well-reviewed. We also produce films. Depending on the relative success of independent films is how we think of the marketplace. If there are no major names attached to a film, will a true indie film do well in the marketplace? This is a concern.

(EH) What’s happening with foreign-language films?

(BT) We love to distribute them. Hope there’s a continuing market for them. There’s still a real challenge in this country. A few films are successful, but most have a hard time finding an audience. It could be very costly and discouraging.

(EH) Pan’s Labyrinth had one of the highest grosses for a Spanish-language film. How much do grosses characterize the performance of a film?

(BT) Pan’s Labyrinth grossed about $47 million. It broadened the market for Spanish-language films, but realistically, that film was unique because of its fantasy elements, so it reached a crossover audience. At its most, it was on 1,100 screens. Don’t know if it will start any trends. We’re releasing The Orphanage, another Spanish-language film produced by Guillermo Del Toro, later this year that debuts at the New York Film Festival.

(EH) What are you optimistic and pessimistic about the state of independent films?

(PG) Pan’s Labyrinth makes me optimistic. There’s a real saturation of movies and not a lot of screens. Specialized films don’t get all the marketing that studio films get. Don’t like generic genre films. Other films don’t get a chance to survive.

(EH) 2 Days in Paris just crossed $3 million gross. Are you happy with its performance? And previous release The Squid and the Whale?

(PG) We’re extremely pleased with it. It did not lend itself to a lot of marketing. Do all you can do. Movies have to speak for themselves. We released The Squid and the Whale in time for Academy consideration. Measure of success is I a good movie, good reviews and getting into the right theaters.

(TQ) It’s a total crapshoot. One of my favorite films this year is 2 Days in Paris. It’s a good quality movie that found an audience. Distributors should pick the right movies, pay the right price, and pick the right release date.

(EH) Killer of Sheep (which was made back in the 1970s) had a very successful release this year. What’s your take on the critical and economic perspective of distribution?

(CB) I give a lot of credit to Milestone Films (distributor of Killer of Sheep). The film went through a lot of obstacles to get shown since it was made. Several attempts in the past failed. Milestone went about releasing it in a scientific way. They knew how to expose it. I was surprised it did so well. It was originally my thesis film. It wasn’t meant to be shown theatrically. Word of mouth developed, and people wanted to see it and someone wanted to distribute it. I originally faced issues with getting music rights, and finally got the rights years later.

(EH) What are you optimistic and pessimistic about the state of independent films?

(CB) I’ll continue to make films. Don’t know why. An ongoing struggle for people of color.

(EH) West 32nd was received well critically at the Tribeca Film Festival. What’s your plan for releasing it. Any challenges? What are you optimistic and pessimistic about the state of independent films?

(MK) I’m the newbie at the table. I have no idea what will happen. West 32nd Street is a hybrid of Korean/Korean-American film that was financed by a Korean company. It will be released in Korea first, and then will be brought to the U.S. We’re still ironing out the plan. The process of making my first film, The Motel, was very collaborative, except for the release process. Palm Pictures was great, but they’re business oriented. Me getting in the middle of it may be more bothersome.

(EH) What are some tips to provide filmmakers with on the business side?

(MK) Surround yourself with people who know what they’re doing. Listen to them.

(EH) What is the current state of acquisitions? What are some challenges?

(TQ) Magnolia is different than Samuel Goldwyn. We buy more movies. Each year, we do a tent pole release. We also buy a lot of straight-to-DVD films. We’re all over the place. We look at each film with equal importance. Go with your gut.

(PG) Samuel Goldwyn acquires between nine to 12 movies a year. We try to keep an open mind. We’re the middleman between the filmmaker and the audience. We released What the Bleep Do We Know? The filmmakers did grassroots promotion. Also release The Boynton Beach Club. Don’t particularly like genre movie. Audience groups talk to each other see movies over again. Word of mouth is extremely powerful. We exist in a vacuum and sales agents want to keep us in this vacuum. There are situations where I love a film, but need to think about the business. We’re not always sure of the commercial prospects of them. Sometimes, we’ve even past on the most successful films.

(EH) How much do you have to consider who your audience is?

(MK) Filmmakers shouldn’t try to think about the marketplace when writing screenplays. I make films I would like to see. Hopefully, I have good tastes.

(CB) There’s a lack of black people represented in films. I feel obligated to tell their stories and hope people will enjoy them.

(BT) We see hundreds of films each year. Filmmakers are passionate about their films, but need to find a way to make distributors and audiences care about them, too. Have to find a way to sell to a broader audience.

(EH) Magnolia release R. Craig Zobel’s film Great World of Sound over the weekend, which grossed about $6,000 in its first weekend. You clearly cared about it, but what can be learned about its performance at the box office?

(TQ) The opening was depressing. Reviews were great. Outside of this room, audiences are picky. The film is a great comment on fame. We love Craig and the concept of the film. It’s a hybrid documentary/narrative film.

Audience Q&A

Q: Why do distributors open their films in New York City? Why not pick up films before they premier at a major film festival?

(PG) Show us your movie early. The reality, to some extent, is you want to show your film at a major film festival. We spend most days watching films sent to us on DVD. We would love not to have to buy films at festivals. Festivals are a filtration process. It makes it easier for us. We also attend CineVegas. Every head of acquisition is there.

(TQ) The Holy Grail is going to Sundance and selling your film for seven figures. We do see some things out of circuit. We’re always on the hunt. Unfortunately, we see practically every blind submission, but we never take them. It’s key to pick your festival as wisely as you pick your distribution deal. New York City is the most expensive city to release a film, but also the highest grossing. If you get a good review in The New York Times, it will help with releasing it in the rest of the country.

Q: Why aren’t we seeing enough films with African Americans that aren’t being portrayed as stereotypes? [Eugene adds: There’s a lack of diversity in films being released and the people working at these companies. Not much has changed in the last three to four years. We seem to have a long way to go. How do you see things changing?]

(TQ) From my experience, Woman Thou Art Loosed was a powerful film. Almost every distributor passed on it. Raising Victor Vargas also had a good release and tells its story from a young, minority perspective. We try to be as active as we can to fill these jobs.

(PG) Looking at every movie, need to figure out if an audience will want to see it.

(CB) There are problems in my community with distribution because of a lack of theaters. People have to go 10 miles to get to a theater. In some ways, it’s really unfair. There are the Magic Johnson Theaters, and the Pan-African Film Festival is also in Los Angeles.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Filmmaker Conference - The State of Film Festivals/ Christian Bruno’s “Strand”– September 17, 2007

Filmmaker Conference - The State of Film Festivals/ Christian Bruno’s “Strand”– September 17, 2007

(SS) Sharon Swart, Variety

(MD) Matt Dentler, SXSW
(DK) David Kwok, Tribeca
(DW) David Wilson, True/False
(SD) Sarah Diamond, Slamdance
(DC) David Courier, Sundance

PANEL SUMMARY: This panel, which included three men named David, purported to be about the “state of film festivals” but really just reviewed the things most filmmakers already know about the festival circuit. One point made, however, was one that always bears repeating: be strategic about where you premiere your film.

(SS) Describe your festival and what you do there.

(DC) What can I say about Sundance? It’s a really good festival. (Laughter.) We’re about 27 years old and were founded by Robert Redford. In the past five years we have expanded to become a festival for world cinema, not just American independents. Our focus is filmmakers, not the “scene” that we have the reputation for. The scene exists because the filmmakers come to us. I oversee the documentary area, but all of the programmers choose the final program together.

(SD) I’m happy to be on a panel with David (Courier), because they always separate us! Slamdance is in its 14th year, and it takes place during Sundance in Park City. It was started by a group of Sundance rejects in order to take advantage of the press generated around Sundance. We get about 3500 submissions and only show 100 films. We focus on unknown filmmakers and emerging talent. Our programming team votes on films during one weekend, after we have all watched them.

(DW) True/False is the largest, oldest, and most important film festival in the country (Laughter). We are a documentary film festival that focuses on edgy films that push the envelope of the doc format. We bring all of the filmmakers in for the festival, and try to create an experience with parties, concerts, and a truly appreciative audience.

(DK) Tribeca is an international competitive festival, open to all types of films.

(MD) I am the SXSW Producer. SXSW started 23 years ago as a music festival, and now the film festival is in its 15th year. Our audiences are 50/50 industry people and film fans. We show about 200 films, half of them features and half shorts, of all types. This year, we premiered Knocked Up, but we generally try to keep a more indie sensibility.

(SS) How do you make sure you have a ratio of premieres and other work, and how does a filmmaker decide whether to premiere at your festival?

(DC) We consider ourselves a “discovery” festival. You don’t go to Cannes to get discovered. You go to Cannes to LAUNCH. We discover new talent. Our competition films are about discovery, and we demand a world premiere for U.S. films in competition. Other sections do not demand a world premiere.

(MD) Programmers have to mix it up. Sometimes it’s hard to find really great brand new films, so they can’t all be new, but our competition films have to be North American premieres. We have a great advantage, because every feature filmmaker in America makes their films to be ready for Sundance, and we come after them, so we have an embarrassment of riches for new films.

(DW) We’re in a unique position, because there is no such thing as a premiere at True/False. For us, it’s about films that we want and love, but we only program 30-35 features in our four days. We might work with another festival that will officially premiere a film, to do “secret screenings” where the audience comes to an unannounced film and gets a good surprise.

(DK) Tribeca has a separate competition for NY made films. A festival needs to choose a film that’s right for it, and you need to choose a festival that’s right for your film. Sometimes I like a film personally, but don’t think it’s right for our festival, so I will pass it on to a programmer at a more appropriate festival. You definitely need a festival strategy for your film—where is it going to premiere and where is it going to go after that?

(MD) Yes. Festival strategy is crucial. Short films are an exception, but for features, don’t blow your chance to premiere at a big festival by giving away your premiere to a smaller one. Nothing is worse than when I meet a filmmaker whose film sounds really interesting, but I can’t even review it for competition because they’ve already screened it in Podunkville.

[Notetaker’s Note: I left halfway through this panel to attend the work-in-progress screening of Christian Bruno’s documentary, Strand: A Natural History of Cinema.]

Work-in-Progress Screening
Strand: A Natural History of Cinema

San Francisco’s uber-cool filmmaking couple, Christian Bruno and Natalija Vekic (Lost & Found) , are teaming up to bring us this new documentary for filmmakers, film lovers, and anyone who has nostalgia about the glory days of cinema-going. Their 12-minute work-in-progress screened at the IFP, and it promises to be a winner, with everything except for the interviews shot on good old fashioned 16mm film.

Director Christian Bruno talked briefly about his plans for the film:

Our plan is to make a 90-minute film. We will start right after World War II, and then chronicle the history of cinemas and repertory theatres, moving up through the 60’s and 70’s, right until the 80’s with the rise of home video. The story of movie theatres is an important part of film history, and our movie tells an important story because much of how we feel about films today was shaped by the repertory film owners and programmers of the past.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Filmmaker Conference – Turning Your Viewers “On” – September 17, 2007

Filmmaker Conference - Turning Your Viewers “On” – September 17, 2007

(SK) Scott Kirsner, CinemaTech

(LR) Laurie Racine, Eyespot
(SR) Slava Rubin, Indiegogo.com
(MS) M Dot Strange, Director We are the Strange
(SG) Sindy Gordon, REELot

(Note: These notes start about 10 minutes into the panel, as I was busy wrangling my badge at the beginning.)

PANEL SUMMARY: There are lots of new and emerging opportunities out there to connect with your audience. If you are proactive and spend the time to research and take advantage of these forums, it can help you raise funds, build community, and give your work staying power.

(MS) Our film cost $120K, which was raised through “questionable practices.” (Laughs.)

(SR) A good example of a film raising money online is Robert Greenwald’s Iraq for Sale. Greenwald already had a name, and his team reached out with four emails over 9 days that got spread widely, which got them $200K. On our site, we want everyone to have that opportunity. Filmmakers can pitch their projects and tell the world what they need for free. It is one opportunity to find your niche, which is what the web is best for. In the long run, the site will be a for-profit model, where we take a cut of either the profits or the funds raised.

It’s all about engaging your audience. Four-Eyed Monsters raised some of their money back $1 at a time by partnering with a website who gave them $1 for every member who they got to sign up. Another example is a student who wanted to make a film about flying, and he took 5 minutes of footage to all of the pilots and staff at Van Nuys airport to raise money.

(SG) On our site, screenwriters can put scripts, treatments and video pitches online. For protection of the work, they can set it up so that their projects have a code and can only be accessed by people who were given the code by the writer. The site was created for proactive filmmakers, and we already have 300 writers and over 500 projects posted.

(LR) I work for two sites that help filmmakers. dotSUB helps translate films for the global marketplace. For example, if you want to test the market for your film around the world, you can get the trailer translated, either by volunteers through Open Source technology, or professionally for $10/ film minute. The site can be part of building an international community for your film.

The other site is Eyespot. It is the next wave of video sharing, as it taps into the “remix culture.” You can put up clips and then ask questions which they can answer by re-editing the content using our very simple editing tools. It’s an attribution-only license, so you must be credited for anything that is done with your work.

[Notetaker’s Note: A conversation ensued wherein panelists discussed the many implications of putting your work online for remixing. Questions generated included: Who owns the rights to the remix? What if the remixed version is more popular? What is someone tries to sell the remi? Is it possible for the remixer to help create new markets for the original work?]

(SG) As a former Writer’s Guild rep, I can tell you that the prospect of having your written work “remixed” online and someone else stealing the rights is horrifying.

(LR) I sit on the board of Creative Commons. You can use a Creative Commons license, not to give up your rights, but to give people a variety of degrees of copyright. A lot of artists and musicians use it now.

(MS) You can also use Creative Commons as basically free storage for very large files, or as a way to share material with your collaborators.

(SR) Kevin Spacey tried to start TriggerStreet.com where people could post scripts for re-editing. It’s still there but not very successful.

(MS) I’m just trying to get my brand out there, so I think it’s great if anyone wants to do anything with my work. However, my work appeals to younger, more tech savvy people and I am sensitive to that. You go as far as you can with it yourself and then you habd it off to viewers. Right now, I am giving out themed packs of clips with various genres so someone could edit just an “emo” scene, for example. By sharing your work, you can also get things back from your audience. For example, we got a bad review once from a guy who didn’t know anything about video games, and he had his email address on the review. Supporters of my film SPAMmed him like crazy!

(LR) Opening your work up a little can open you up to potential corporate sponsors. Don’t be afraid of corporate sponsors. They could potentially sponsor a contest to remix some of your footage. They want to associate their brands with great content. Traditional media companies are also taking advantage of these opportunities to create buzz on the internet. You should compete now while you still can, before all of these online opportunities are for-pay.

(SR) Some of the same methods on the internet can be used to gain a new audience for older work. The Last Broadcast was a film made in the 80’s which has gained a new audience online and raised Over $4 million.

Filmmaker Conference- Collaboration and Co-Financing- Sept. 18, 2007

Filmmaker Conference - Collaboration and Co-Financing - Sept. 18, 2007


Sarah Green, Sarah Green Film Corp
Lydia Dean Pilcher, Cinemosaic
Kacy Andrews, Bigfoot Entertainment
Noah Harlan, 2.1 Films

I attended the filmmaker conference panel on international collaboration on film projects. What drew me into this panel was that, quite frankly, I have some documentary treatments and feature scripts that have, in their own ways, international relevance and appeal… so this panel ended up being golden for me.

Sarah Green was an excellent moderator. As a seasoned filmmaker, she got the discussion material and was able to lead us filmmakers to understand that there are other resources for funding your film projects. I think we are all brought up to believe that U.S.-based studios or PBS are our sole supporters, but as I learned—that’s not all there is out there.

The panel started by defining a couple of frequently used phrases.

“Soft money” is money that comes from government institutions typically set aside to support and promote local artists.

“Soft costs” are post-services, studio time and other resources that they already have in-house. “Hard costs” are money they have to pay out to vendors or people.

“Bi-lateral co-production treaty” is when country A and country B (or more to make it multi-lateral) get together and decide to support a film project together. No countries have this kind of treaty with the U.S. since they are designed to have incentives that counter the U.S. dominant Hollywood fare. Now, within those treaties there are various stipulations depending on the countries. For example, French programming should have 50% French-language programming and 30% should be by French filmmakers, etc. etc.

This is different from “equity co-productions” which have money sources from all over the world that may or may not be as nationalistic, but when you’re going out to cobble finance, there are different considerations as different financiers have different requirements and it all can therefore get pretty hairy when producing your vision.

Lynda described that ownership of a project is shared; this is against the U.S. tradition solo funded films that don’t always make the investor’s money back. When looking at production locations, consider lodging, incentives, local crew availability, etc. For example, to shoot Karma Sutra in India years ago, they funneled insurance and the purchasing of film/expendables through Germany per incentives there but her recent project was able to go with local incentives as production infrastructure increased in India.

Kacy is based in the Philippines with full production and post facilities, new gear, and crews. They’ve been building up the production infrastructure there (and are currently competing with film production in Thailand). She distinguished themselves and other out-of-U.S. companies as getting behind projects for reasons other than the U.S. equities only funding films for profit. Overall, it seems the landscape of films is changing.

Nolan noted that the European model for co-production is very difficult to breach with an American project, an American producer and other American elements. The most important thing I gleaned from this is the necessity of having producers (or other talent attached to your project) on the ground in places you’re looking to find funding. He mentioned going to No Borders or Strategic Partners to find these people. There are location expos in Los Angeles and at Cannes that are established to expose international locations, incentives and other options to filmmakers.

Another important anecdote from Lydia that made a whole lot of sense to anyone who knows there are lots of moving parts when you’re in production. Even though it may be alluring to have multiple sources for funding to add up to a bigger budget, keep in mind that if one pulls out or has strict requirements, then it is that much harder to pull it back together. It can be like a house of cards that will tumble if that one card is not replaced immediately. The fewer the better.

They said that Sales Agents review the commercial value of a film and can guess a pre-sell value. Obviously, a world-wide sale of your film is ideal but that’s not always going to be available. An international sales agent brings specialized information where they can provide estimates for unsold territories and can get those prices at the right time. Again, different sales companies have different kinds of movies. When looking for an agent, research not only their performance history but any themes or commonalities in what films they select to get behind.

Also, sales agents can get on board with you early on in the process. They aren’t going to come on without something to look at like a demo or script, but they do like to keep tabs until the end. Any previous completed projects that you have to show for yourself will assist in making them feel assured in selling you and your film since we all like to feel assured we’re investing in a sure thing.

At the end of the day, you are responsible to guide your funders and sales people to get your vision and lead them. You are your film’s best advocate. Your film isn’t the only one they have going on.

Documentaries have a better shot internationally than they do domestically here in the US due to the socialist nature for art in other countries. Kacy’s advice on docs was that you should make sure you get funding before you start production and pay your fees out of that since docs rarely do well theatrically or make profit.


"Honeydripper" NYC Premiere & Filmmaker Magazine 15th Anniversary Party

John Sayles' new film Honeydripper made its New York City & U.S. premiere last night at AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13, as part of IFP's Independent Film Week. Ira Deutchman of Emerging Pictures (distributor of Honeydripper) and also on IFP's Board of Directors introduced the film as well as Sayles and producer Maggie Renzi in a heart-felt written letter he had prepared. Earlier this week, Sayles & Renzi appeared at a discussion at the Filmmaker Conference. See notes from that here.

Maggie Renzi & John Sayles

After the movie, a party honoring Filmmaker Magazine's 15th Anniversary was held at Providence.

The scene from above at Filmmaker Magazine's 15th Anniversary Party.

Filmmaker Conference - 21st Century Journalism – September 17, 2007

Filmmaker Conference - 21st Century Journalism – September 17, 2007

(JG) Jason Guerrasio, Filmmaker Magazine

(DL) Dennis Lim, CinemaScope
(JI) James Israel, indieWIRE
(JM) Jonathan Marlow, GreenCine
(JA) Jody Arlington, Weber Merritt (PR for Silverdocs)

(JG) How has Web 2.0 changed the way you either promote or cover films?

(DL) As a critic, I don’t depend on press releases anymore. A lot is about reading as many blogs as I can. GreenCine, for instance. Film writers pay attention to blogs.

(JI) At indieWIRE, press releases don’t win us over anymore. You can put your work online, such as on YouTube, and attract more attention.

(JA) From a publicists’ perspective, new technology gets media to look at materials in different ways.

(JM) There’s so much material out there. We’re a lot busier than we’ve even been because of it.

(JG) Is print press coverage still the ‘gold’ standard over online press coverage?

(JA) You still want to get into print, but want to get similar coverage online. Finding segmented audiences is the way to go.

(JM) You definitely want to get into print.

(JG) What are some tips on how to approach the press?

(DL) It doesn’t hurt to get in touch with critics you think might like your film. Have a sense of what the critic likes.

(JM) Knowing the journalist you want to appeal to makes a lot of sense. For example, approach indieWIRE when you’re promoting your film that’s playing at a festival.

(DL) A problem that happens is when you don’t understand who you’re pitching to. It can be off-putting to the journalist.

(JI) indieWIRE covers films within the context of festival and theatrical releases. Recommend contacting us ahead of time regarding screenings. If you’re playing at a smaller festival, find out who the reporter is who’s covering it. Make it as easy as possible to screen your film. Send screeners to the festival press list.

(DL) It doesn’t hurt to personalize the note to the writer.

(JA) The number one “do” is to pick up the Filmmaker Magazine guide that explains how to handle the media. Getting coverage in the media is relationship- and product-based. Don’t do anything that makes you a neophyte like spamming the media.

(JI) Spend a couple of hours researching the media and refining your lists.

(JG) When does a filmmaker need to get a publicist?

(JA) They should have a publicist at a major festival like Sundance or Toronto. These publicists have established relationships with the press covering them. Some journalists ignore things unless they come from these specific publicists. Regional festivals are not huge markets, so work with the festival press office. Give them all the materials they need.

(JI) Ask the press office what journalists are attending.

(JA) Three types of very strategized articles to pitch: 1) About the film, 2) About the filmmaker(s) & 3) A review

(JG) What kind of photos/images should filmmakers have prepared?

(JI) Really good cinematography entices the press. So many good still images aren’t available. Need to have high-res images available to the press. 300 DPI resolution for print and 72 DPI resolution for web. Be sure to also have a website with bios, screening info, etc.

(JM) The easier you make it for the writers, the easier it will be for you to get coverage.

(JG) What are some ways to get attention for film blogs?

(JI) Write stuff people want to read about. Should be a balance between self-promotion and other things. Link to other blogs. Some people write about their personal life or trends in digital cinema. Do outreach to other people who might link to your blog. Email them whenever you’ve posted a new entry. Get on RSS feeds. It all helps to build traffic.

(JG) Are filmmakers concentrating too much on grassroots promotion of their films instead just making films?

(JM) I don’t get that impression. There are people who are more focused on marketing their films, and don’t get as much of my attention. We want to like the films and promote them and write about them that mainstream press might not.

(DL) Four Eyed Monsters was so grassroots. You have to get your film in the press. The distinction between print and online is increasingly insignificant. indieWIRE, for instance, has a sizable readership. Very targeted.

(JA) Depends on the market.

(JM) Some films have a built-in audience.

(JA) Being succinct when talking to the media is so important.

Audience Q&A

Q: For filmmakers relying on showing their films theatrically, forgoing the festival circuit, do you recommend going to the press market by market or going to them all at once?

(JM) There’s no one right strategy. Todd Rohall, for instance, went city to city with Guatemalan Handshake. Theatrical may not be the way. It’s cost prohibitive.

(JG) At regional festivals, contact and build relationships with local press.

Q: Is it a good idea to post your projects on viral social networking sites like Myspace and YouTube?

(JA) Don’t put your completed project there, but serves well for posting trailers.

(JI) I personally like to see scenes from films, not just trailers. It can’t hurt.

Q: Can you elaborate more on production stills?

(JG) Hire a photographer.

(JM) Don’t send screen grabs.

(JI) Resolution is much smaller on the web.

Q: What’s the preferred manner of outreach for local/regional festivals?

(JA) Work with the festival press office. My office will do all of the heavy lifting.

Q: How should you name your blog? Should it be your name, your film’s name, or have a catch phrase?

(JI) indieWIRE has some creative blog names, ie. Boredom at its Boredest, Back Row Manifesto, etc. Pick something catchy.

Q: What should publicity services cost?

(JA) It depends on the scope of the work. Check the PR firms’ background and track record. Get a few bids before selecting one.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Filmmaker Conference – Conversation with John Sayles (Director) & Maggie Renzi (Producer), "Honeydripper" – Sept. 16, 2007

Filmmaker Conference – Conversation with John Sayles (Director) & Maggie Renzi (Producer), Honeydripper – September 16, 2007

John Sayles new film Honeydripper opens Filmmaker Week on Monday, Sept. 17. In preparation for that, Sayles and producer Maggie Renzi spoke at the Filmmaker Conference on Sunday.

Sayles talked about how he shot Honeydripper (a period drama set in 1950s Alabama that he shot over a period of five weeks) and his overall production scheduling and budgeting techniques that independent filmmakers could emulate to get the most out of their limited shooting schedule and budgets.

On Being Prepared:

The first thing to do is plan your schedule in advance. Almost no one shoots a movie in sequence. Make priorities. Determine what the most important scenes are to shoot for the day.

Take a day off. You do better work on a reasonable schedule. Get as much sleep as you possibly can. Be prepared as you can be. Be self-reliant.

Get your Director of Photography (DP) on hand when doing your schedule.

Renzi added that the reason they’re able to make movies that look so good, but are done cheaply is because of organization.

On the Actors:

Follow the “Most Favored Nation” rule, which means everyone gets paid union scale.

Out of his five weeks of shooting, he only had actor Danny Glover for about 3 ½ weeks.

Figure out what your emotional scenes are.

Renzi added that they work on location so much and do a lot of local casting. There were a lot of amateur actors used in Honeydripper. There’s no rehearsal for any actors. They have to come prepared. (Sayles later points out that they sometimes rehearse on the day o the shoot, but he never had the money or inclination to give days or even weeks of rehearsal time, similar in style to director Mike Leigh, who sometimes has half a year of rehearsals.) Renzi said they’re really good at casting and the actor doesn’t have a long way to go to be that character.

Sayles said he writes a bio for every character that has lines. He was an actor before he made movies. He read every part. The actor can think about their character in advance before shooting. The bios are given to the costumers and production designer, too. Stay in character, even if you blow your line.

Give your actors the illusion that you’re not in a hurry.

On Shooting Style & Technique:

Sayles also draws storyboards using a computer program. They’re stick figure or overheads.

Some other advice he gave on what to do on set while you’re there: you don’t need a perfect wide shot. Don’t need to take 12 takes of one wide shot. It takes up too much of your day. You have to cut on the set. He’s always editing in his head. Remember that you have a script supervisor. The best script supervisors are ones that have editing experience.

Another mistake is committing to a master shot. If you commit to a master shot, and it doesn’t seem right, you need to have a plan B.

Use two cameras. It’s cheaper when doing it with HD cameras. On a film shoot that’s only 4-5 weeks, it’s wonderful to have two cameras.

Audience Q&A

Q: Why don’t directors own their own cameras?

Sayles: There’s only a few directors I know who also DP their own films. Russ Meyer was one of them. Operating a camera is a skill in itself. On union films, you can’t direct and be the DP at the same time.

Q: What are some low-budget tricks to shoot table scenes?

Sayles: Use two cameras. Determine if you want the camera to move or to be still.

Renzi: John does an exercise where he watches movies with good table scenes but without the dialogue. What story is being told without the dialogue?

In closing, Renzi said they both came to the IFP Market 28 years ago with Return of the Secaucus 7. She hoped things turned out well for the filmmakers in the audience as it did for them.

Filmmaker Conference - Finding Your Audience – September 16, 2007

Filmmaker Conference - Finding Your Audience – September 16, 2007

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

(MR) Mark Elijah Rosenberg, Rooftop Films
(KL) Karina Longworth, SpoutBlog
(BH) Brent Hoff, Wholphin
(JV) John Vanco, IFC Center
(TR) Todd Rohall, Director, The Guatemalan Handshake

(TT) Discuss ways to find your audience.

(BH) Wholphin is a subscriber-based DVD magazine. Also sold in stores. We select films that would not have traditional means of distribution. See a potential for downloadable distribution.

(KL) Spout is the Myspace for film fans. It has a community/friends section, editorial (via SpoutBlog), the FilmCouch podcast, and more. Spout successfully sponsored the placement of Four-Eyed Monsters on YouTube.

(MR) Rooftop Films has been around for 11 years. Has a lot of NYC premieres, some of which go onto theatrical release.

(TR) Guatemalan Handshake premiered at Slamdance in 2006. It’s still in theatrical release. Have been taking it on the road for the past year and a half. Have Vaudeville-type shows along with the screening.

(JV) IFC Center works directly with filmmakers. There are a lot of venues in NYC. We try to emulate some of these theaters like Lincoln Plaza and Film Forum. They have a close relationship with their audiences. Our competition is not other theaters, but the couch. We’re the only theater to run shorts before each feature. We have more filmmaker appearances than any other theater.

(WB) How do you program the films at IFC Center?

(JV) IFC Center is the sister company to IFC Entertainment. We play a lot of IFC Films, but also films from other distributors like Magnolia and Picturehouse. In addition, we accept submissions from filmmakers. We’re pretty accessible to filmmakers.

(WB) The means of distribution have opened up. How do you choose which films to cover?

(KL) I started Cinematical. We were concerned more back then with the news cycle as told to us by publicists. I got burnt out on that. Eventually came to Spout, which allows me to run the cycle I like. Spout trusts me to allow my tastes to drive the blog. I try find one or two movies at a festival that are not getting as much attention as the bigger films. For example, Heavy Metal Baghdad at the Toronto Film Festival.

(WB) Would you go about distributing your next film the same way you did for Guatemalan Handshake?

(TR) I don’t know. Probably not. I wouldn’t make my next film the same way as the last. I know what I’d be walking into. I wanted to screen GH on a 35mm anamorphic print. Didn’t just want to show it on DVD. I had to get people to see it.

(WB) Do you mostly seek out films shown on the web, or do you also scout festivals?

(MR) It’s a combo of submissions and festival films. We received 2,500 submissions this past year. We showed 18 features this year (3-4 that will be playing in theaters, 3-4 that might play at theaters, and the rest, give opportunity to others). We’re looking for undiscovered gems. For shorts, if we haven’t seen them, most audiences probably haven’t either.

(KL) Mostly from festivals. We receive a lot of DVD submissions. Hard to get through all of them. Also browse filmmakers on Myspace.

(BH) Word-of-mouth from friends. Track down hard-to-find films. For example, a short from Paul Thomas Anderson starring Elliot Smith and with a cameo from Bette Midler.

(JV) It makes a difference to have some kind of representation. We get a lot of blind submissions. Unless your film has a great log line, it will probably be at the end of the pile. Films from sales agents and distributors will get to us sooner. They move up in the pecking order. Try to avoid first time mistakes.

(WB) What are some economic models of distribution?

(BH) Deal mostly with shorts. Take it on a film-by-film basis. There’s a broad range. We’re starting to figure out downloadable elements. There’s a lot of economic potential for downloadable and on-demand models. It has completely different contractual issues.

(WB) What are some strategies for successful grassroots marketing?

(MR) Tie in your film with some sort of community or network. IFC Center’s Generation DIY series wad great. Rooftop tries to create a different cinematic experience than anyone else.

(WB) How did you start marketing Guatemalan Handshake early on?

(TR) I thought about it while making the film. Tried to be realistic about it. It premiered at Slamdance, which is where I got the idea to take the film on tour. I had met with the people who did the Fuel Tour in 1997. I was advised not to do it.

(WB) How receptive were theater owners to your tour?

(TR) My connections to theater owners helped. If I called them directly, they weren’t interested. Even my hometown said no. I created a booking agent for the film by using a separate email address, but emails were forwarded to me. It made it more legitimate.

(WB) Is the mainstream media catching on to what you’re doing?

(BH) Wholphin has received phenomenal coverage. Was in the International Herald Tribune, USA Today, Newsweek, etc. Has resulted in more subscribers. There needs to be hooks in the DVDs for the press to want to cover them.

(JV) A lot of press coverage because of the conventional runs.

Audience Q&A

Q: What are some ways you’re distributing experimental films?

(MR) Rooftop pairs some of its shows based on themes. For example, if the theme is “romance,” we’ll have shorts, animations, experimental films, docs, etc.

Q: What are some specific strategies to effectively publicize a screening?

(JV) Sometimes frustrating, because we see a lot of movies we like, but realistically, it’s so competitive in NYC. We can’t take the plunge to play all films for a week-long run (which are the films that get all or most of the press as opposed to single night screenings). We set up series of alternative screenings, such as Stranger than Fiction, so publicize them as a block.

(MR) Tap into real existing communities. Create a real engagement for these communities. Keep them always involved.

(JV) Log lines can be more appealing to people than reviews or marketing.

Q: Is there a formula for what content is shown? What’s in store for the future?

(MR) Our mission is to find films we don’t see enough of.

(KL) I watch a lot of films on the web. Really into web series. Like BlipTV, which is curated one level above YouTube.

(JV) There used to be very strict windows, ie. Theatrical, then home video/DVD, then cable, etc. That’s been broken down. IFC is now doing day-and-date (simultaneous release in theaters and cable)

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.

"Darkon" NYC Premiere - September 14, 2007

"Darkon" opened at Cinema Village in NYC on Friday. Purchase tickets online here.

The gang from Ovie Entertainment, producers of "Darkon," at premiere party at Level V.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Punk: Past, Present & Future - 14th Street Y, NYC - September 10, 2007

The Punk Panel Notetaker’s Notes from:
Punk: Past, Present, & Future
14th Street Y, NYC
September 10, 2007

Sponsored by Punk Rope

(DF) Danny Fields – Manager of the Ramones for 5 years; Collaborated with Iggy and the Stooges and the MC5

(LL) Larry LivermoreLookout Records (Green Day’s first label)
(LN) Liz Nord – Documentary Filmmaker, Jericho’s Echo: Punk Rock in the Holy Land
(JW) Jonnie Whoa OhWhoa Oh Records Founder

Before the discussion began, Danny Fields started with 32 seconds of silence for the recently departed Hilly Crystal (founder of CBGB). Danny then asked the panelists to introduce themselves.

(LL) I grew up in Detroit. I was interested in the Ramones and the Sex Pistols. Didn’t get involved with the business till the 1980s. Started Lookout Records.

(LN) I’m pretty honored to be on this panel. I used to order Lookout Records from the back of magazines as a kid. My husband Seth runs Negative Progression Records, which led me to make Jericho’s Echo.

(JW) Liz stole my thunder. I wouldn’t be here if no for Larry and the Ramones. I’ve run Whoa Oh Records for 10 years.

(DF) Punk is a niche industry and has become a multi-million dollar business. What is the relevance of the word “punk” today?

(LL) I always hated the word. The first time I heard it was in 1957 when a kid called me a punk. I was the only kid in down-river Detroit with a mohawk. I got really into punk in the 1970s and early ‘80s, when people told me it was finished. In college, I learned that Marx said everything in history happens twice. First culture, then commodity. I started my label in 1987. I thought maybe we could sell 1,000 records. Eventually Green Day went on to sell millions of records. I felt burned out and left my label in 1997. The music was becoming totally commercial. In the late 1990s, I met Jonnie Whoa Oh, and saw what he was doing with punk. Punk seems to get re-pollinated every 10-20 years.

(DF) Tell us Liz about your journey and why you made your documentary.

(LN) This is a good segway. I grew up going to listen to bands and got to an age where it wasn’t new anymore, but punk lives on because of the feeling of being outside the box. For these kids in Israel, punk is something new. It’s underground and dangerous.

(DF) Do you look forward to an original form of music?

(LN) The philosophy of punk exists in all forms of music, like hip hop.

(JW) That’s where the future of punk is going today. With so much music and influences out there, collaborations are going to grow. Now you can find whatever you want to listen to on iTunes. There are a lot of innovations, but a lot of bands are cookie cutter. I look for bands that take the style of punk, but make something different out of it.

(DF) Let’s talk about the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) element.

(LN) There’s always going to be DIY types. DIY worked really well with my film. I didn’t go to film school. I had some background in media and wanted to tell a powerful story about these kids who had something to say. So many people told me I shouldn’t do it this way, but because I grew up in a punk/DIY way, I knew I could really do this.

(DF) Do you look inside or outside the box?

(JW) There’s so much out there. How do you differentiate yourself? You need to be creative and use your resources. I always think outside the box. Being inside the box is dangerous. I started my label when I was 18 years old. I didn’t know what I was doing. Every mistake I made was a learning experience.

(DF) What’s your attitude about marketing and branding?

(LL) We made Green Day’s first record for $675. We were out of mainstream music, even punk. We didn’t have the Internet. I wrote fanzines. In the 1970s, everyone was some sort of punk or mutant, now we have clean cut bands. They love punk, yet they’re normal.

(DF) Everyone in your documentary looks normal. Why were you attracted to these kids?

(LN) To our eyes, they’re not freaky looking, but in Israel, they are. Most of their peers are doing mandatory military service. The punks really look radical. I felt like I could have a connection to these kids. They have a story to tell. The mainstream media tends to sensationalize things. It’s not all black and white there. Who better to tell a different side of the story?

(DF) What if you had to move to Kazakhstan (home of Borat) and was considered grotesque there?

(JW) I feel you need to be yourself no matter where you are. Punk was a bad word in the 1970s and 80s because of the way you dressed, but the people who are about the music for the music’s sake have kept it going. Was punk more about fashion or the music in the early years?

(LL) Both. Style was important back then. Music was important, too, because it was cool, exciting and adventurous.

(DF) Fashion designer Malcolm Mclaren, or the “schemata” guy, got bands out of the culture sections of newspapers and onto the front page.

Audience Q&A

Q: (To Danny) Did Edie Sedgewick ever make you tea?

DF: She wouldn’t go near a stove.

Q: Did you work on the movie Factory Girl?

DF: I was a consultant. Guy Pearce, who played Andy Warhol in the movie, told me he had listened to a recording of a phone call with me talking to Andy. I’m on the DVD extras. It was an experience seeing these actors try to recreate these icons. Warhol’s film “Empire” was considered a watershed in film history. I actually met people who watched the entire piece of crap. Warhol said about his own movies that the lighting, the sound, etc., were terrible, but the people in them were fabulous.

Q: Do you think commercial success and punk are mutually exclusive?

(LL) Not completely. They create problems for each other. The Ramones and Sex Pistols started out very anti-establishment, not intending to. Even though Green Day are multi-millionaires now, I don’t think it ruined their music, but it inspired a lot of clones. Making a lot of money affects the reality of music. Maxim denounced my label for getting too big. They were big supporters of it for the first five years.

Q: Why is it whenever we hear about punk music, it’s always about 1977? Punk is still alive for me and lots of other people.

(DF) I don’t know how to find a punk community. It doesn’t matter. It’s not about the money, it’s about the energy.

(LL) That era is where it all started. It’s the foundation. The fashion elements were flamboyant. It had both ugly and beautiful to it.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

New York Film Festival Ticketgoers At Jazz at Lincon Center

Tickets went on sale to the public today for the 45th New York Film Festival. Ticketgoers stood (or in most cases sat) in line as early as 5:30 this morning at the festival's temporary venue, Jazz at Lincoln Center in the Time Warner Center. In year's past, the box office opened at noon at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall (which is currently undergoing major renovations and schedule to re-open in winter 2008-2009 ), but many were glad that the box office at Jazz at Lincoln Center opened earlier at 10am instead. And as per usual, most of the more anticipated films such as Wes Anderson's Darjeeling Limited, the Coen Bros.' No Country for Old Men, and Todd Haynes' I'm Not There, were sold out due to Film Society of Lincoln Center members getting first dibs on tickets before they go on sale to the public.

Friday, September 07, 2007

EXCLUSIVE: SXSW Matt Dentler YouTube Find Erin Scherer Hits the Stage in NYC

SXSW Matt Dentler YouTube Find Erin Scherer Hits The Stage In NYC

Because many of The Film Panel Notetaker’s known readers are currently at the Toronto Film Festival, and I’m one of the few who stayed behind in NYC, I nabbed an exclusive interview with viral video superstar Erin Scherer, who came to NYC last night to perform her one-woman show, The Erin Scherer Show. For those of you wondering who Erin is, or would like a refresher, here’s where the story begins. It all started when South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival Producer Matt Dentler posted on his indiewWIRE blog in July a video from YouTube called “How Mumblecore Saved Erin's Life.” Matt then followed up with another post plugging Erin’s upcoming show in NYC, which I immediately put on my calendar.

I had anticipated more of a discussion or lecture from Erin where I could take notes like I normally do at film panel discussions, but I was delightfully surprised to find her show to be more of a stage performance piece, so I didn’t really take the traditional notes that I normally would, so here’s a recap of the night’s affair instead, and beneath that, my exclusive interview with Erin. I hope Erin will do another show sometime soon so you can all see it for yourselves.

The Erin Scherer Show – September 6, 2007 – Kraine Theatre - NYC

Erin brought much of her exuberance and charm from her YouTube videos to her quasi one-woman show/sketch comedy/pop culture commentary/interpretive dance performance. In her opening monologue, Erin discussed traveling to NYC when she was younger, but this current trip is her first real NYC experience. Erin commented on everything from gossip magazines headlines (ie. Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Aniston) to teen celebrities (the High School Musical kids, Hannah Montana, etc.) to the scantily clad models in the American Apparel advertisements. Erin exclaimed that much of her insights on celebrities come from her days working at my favorite grocery store chain in the world, Wegmans, where gossip and teen mags are readily at hand at the cashier stand. She also did a reading of radio legend Paul Harvey’s “The Rest of the Story,” performed a Saturday Night Live-style commercial parody called Pornspammers.com, and she even did an interpretive dance of M.C. Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This.” The grand finale of the show was a reading of the transcript from her YouTube video, “HOWL (For Lindsay Lohan).” The Erin Scherer Show is an intelligently campy and whimsical homage to Erin’s real life mixed with her escapist passion of the celebrity gossip world, that while presented in a hodgepodge fashion, ties up into a nice little 60-minute package.


Q: What inspired you to do a show in New York?

Erin: I started posting videos on YouTube a few months ago and thought about evolving them into a stage show. I wanted to get back on stage again. I had done some acting before at my college SUNY Oneonta in a production of Peer Gynt where I played a guest at a party. It was probably the worst production in the four years I attended Oneonta.

Q: Were you in any plays in high school?

Erin: I acted in Pippin (9th grade), Mame (10th Grade), and in a talent show my senior year playing Ruth Buzzi’s character on Laugh-In and Molly Shannon’s SNL character Mary Katherine Gallagher.

Q: Where are you from? Where have you been staying in NYC, and what have you been doing here?

I live in Geneva located in the Finger Lakes region of Central New York State. For the past week, I’ve been staying in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and have gone to the IFC Center to see some of the “Mumblecore” films I talked about in my videos including Joe Swanberg’s “Hannah Takes the Stairs” and Aaron Katz’s “Quiet City.”

Q: What is your documentary, Are You From Bingo? about? What are your plans for it? What’s next?

Erin: It’s about the restoration of Binghamton, NY, and also dabbles with gentrification issues. I may do a DVD release, and perhaps also put parts of it on YouTube. It’s 85 minutes in length altogether. I also hope to go to SXSW in 2008, and to make a “Mumblecore”-style movie with a twist of camp.