Doc drive heightened as IFP Market opens

128 pix to be unveiled along with HBO-sponsored pitch session

While the narrative film acquisitions scene continues to feel the pinch of oversaturation and lower box office, the IFP Market will kick off its 22nd edition today at SoHo’s Angelika Film Center with a new name and sharpened focus as a source for documentary acquisitions.

Formerly known as the Independent Feature Film Market, the Independent Feature Project’s annual Gotham event will run through Sept. 22 with its largest-ever offering of docu works.

“It’s a fact of the current situation in acquisitions that documentary work in the market (is more attractive) than narrative work — in terms of interest, investment or acquisition,” the market’s director, Milton Tabbot, told Daily Variety.

In addition to unspooling 128 docu projects — including 32 features, 76 works in progress and 20 shorts –market will also host docu-related networking events such as its HBO-sponsored Documentary Pitch Session and a special Spotlight on Documentaries section.

Historically, documentaries have done better in the IFP Market than narrative features, which have tended to be too low-budget for mainstream viability but too conventional for the arthouse market. Docus have become more significant in the past few years, Tabbot said, “as there’s more interest in reality programming, more television outlets, more slots to fill.”

Where narrative films are concerned, many regular attendees have said that the market’s real value is as a forum for works in progress, as it gives filmmakers a chance to tailor their future efforts to fit industry exigencies or even obtain finishing funds.

The market has two yearly programs to this end: The large Works in Progress section, which includes 10 spotlighted Rough Cuts selections screened in their entirety; and the No Borders program, which matches projects in any state of development with completion funds.

“I think that what saved the (IFP Market) from being a zoo was the No Borders project,” said Open City Films co-head Jason Kliot, who with partner Joana Vicente reps Open City and its digital division, Blow Up Films, at the market.

“With No Borders you get the sense that there’s been a real pruning process,” Kliot added, “so you’re going to see projects that could have some interest to you.”

Agreeing that the availability of unfinished work provides much of the market’s appeal, Peter Broderick, president of IFC digital wing Next Wave Films, calls it “a completely essential event.

“For us, it’s a way we see a lot of films looking for support — which is especially important now that we’re financing digital films,” said Broderick, a market attendee for 10 years. “And for the filmmakers, with money in place they can put their energy into making their movies.”

A look at Alexander

Tonight upcoming Sony Pictures Classics release “Just Looking,” directed by Jason Alexander, will officially open the market.

Weekend highlights will include Saturday night’s screening of Ed Radtke’s “The Dream Catcher,” part of the IFP and Film Society of Lincoln Center’s American Independent Visions series; and Sunday’s kick-off panel “How We Got Our Films Made and Distributed,” to include indie directors Radtke, Aiyana Elliott (“The Ballad of Ramblin’ Jack”), Tom Gilroy (“Spring Forward”) and David Schisgall (“The Lifestyle”).

Some 2,500 attendees are expected at this year’s market, which will also feature video and script libraries, a new-media lounge in the Puck Building, roughly 50 industry workshops and panels, the 10th IFP Gotham Awards and the Gordon Parks Independent Film Awards.

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