The Independent Feature Project is getting an early start on putting together its 13th fall Independent Feature Film Market, with new staffing and a push to attract buyers at the Cannes Market.

IFFM market director Sandy Mandelberger was at the American Film Market in February drumming up support for the annual autumn conclave and will be pressing the flesh at Cannes with IFP’s acting executive director, Karol Martesko, as well as the organization’s new associate market director, Sophie Gluck.

Coming on board June 10 as executive director is Catherine Tait, succeeding Karen Arikian. Team will have a new brochure extolling the IFP and will present at Cannes’ American Pavilion a press conference May 15 moderated by Roger Ebert that will feature Spike Lee, Peter Sellars and other U.S. directors participating in the festival. The IFP also is sponsoring discussions at the Pavilion featuring leading U.S. indie distribs and film fest toppers.

The fall market will run earlier than usual, Sept. 24 to Oct. 3. “Due to the competition between AFM and Mifed, October is a mess,” says Mandelberger. “The Toronto festival finishes Sept. 15 and Mipcom begins Oct. 6 so we’ve positioned ourselves to avoid conflicts, as well as to fit in with the New York Film Festival.”

This year the IFFM is one day shorter but has been expanded to encompass all six theaters of the Angelika Film Center. Video screenings will be held across the street; there also will be a new apparatus for “video request screenings,” giving buyers space to see on video repeat showings of films they missed at the normal market projections.

“The core of the market is still U.S. films, but about 20% of our features will be from abroad, including more foreign-language pictures,” Mandelberger says. Another innovation is that tv movies have been added to the main market, on an equal footing with theatrical films.

A further policy change to streamline the market is the IFP’s new dictum that its popular Works in Progress sidebar will allow each filmmaker up to 25 minutes to present his wares.

“Previously people would screen a rough cut lasting two hours or more of their films, leading to numerous walkouts,” Martesko says. “Now they will have a ‘pitch and view’ slot to show several minutes of footage and verbally present their project to assembled buyers.” Interested parties can then get a full-length video to peruse at their leisure.

The Works in Progress section in the past has introduced such important features as “Roger & Me,” “Paris Is Burning,” “Poison” and “Slacker.”

IFP also is putting together a loose consortium in association with the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater & Broadcasting as well as the Film Society of Lincoln Center to create awareness of film events in Gotham.

“We want to get the pulse of what’s happening in New York and allow local organizations to promote their activities and facilities this fall,” says Martesko. Among the groups to be involved are Tribeca Film Center, Kaufman Astoria Film Studios, the American Museum of the Moving Image and The Kitchen.

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