IFP panels offer indie points of view

Talks address breaking into the biz, digital filmmaking, financing

The quest for fundraising and the relative merits of digital and 35mm filmmaking took center stage Sunday at the inaugural panel of the IFP market “How We Got Our Movies Made: Leading Independent Filmmakers Tell Their Stories.” Panel was followed by a lively producers symposium, “Financing Independent Film,” abounding in how-to advice on landing a production and distribution deal.

“Get used to rejection,” cautioned David Shisgall, director of “The Lifestyle,” who shared the opening panel with Myles Connell (“The Opportunists”), Bruno De Almeida (“On the Run”), Aiyana Elliot (“The Ballad of Ramblin’ Jack”), Tom Gilroy (“Spring Forward”), Ann Hu (“Shadow Magic”) and Ed Radtke (“Dream Catcher”).

Stumbling blocks

In a discussion moderated by Daily Variety‘s Dan Cox, panelists recounted the typical stumbling blocks of breaking into the biz, and the producers who stepped in to produce finishing funds.

Elliot was the only filmmaker to have shot her film on digital, and opinions varied as to whether that technology is a boon or a hindrance to novice filmmakers. Hoping to debunk the idea that digital is the best way to cut expenses, Gillroy said: “That’s like a code for saying it will look like shit and we’ll underpay that crew. Digital companies are preying on your desperation tell a story,” he added. “If it looks like a bad Xerox, it’s not the same.”

Radtke, who urged tyro filmmakers to get their hands dirty rather than wait to line up the funding necessary for a full-blown 35mm production, countered that digital is especially suited to “doing something in the street, something like ‘The Cruise.’ ”

Counting screens

Shisgall also sparked a discussion about filmmaker-distributor relations by proposing that, in the case of a film unlikely to reach more than 150 screens, directors raise a P&A budget in advance to better guarantee a publicity and ad commitment. “You put yourself in a weak position if you allow the distributor to dictate marketing terms,” he said.

Elliot was quick to point out that her distributor, Lot 47, “brought a lot to bear on the process. Here’s a distributor that’s so passionate about the film, they’ve gotten great press and have been fighting to keep it in the theaters,” she said.

The producers panel offered a bracing look at the indie market for undistributed films. “A movie without distribution is a very speculative venture,” said Offline Entertainment prexy Ezra Swerdlow, who shared the stage with indie producer Dolly Hall, Alliance Atlantis acquisitions and development director Jan Nathanson, producer Jeff Dowd and Madstone Films head Tom Gruenberg.

Fielding questions from entertainment attorney Gary Kauffman, the producers explored the complexities of overseas financing and co-ventures with other production entities, casting agents and distributors. “Everybody here should think of their project as a potential strategic alliance,” Dowd said.

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