Indie pic org wants a separation

IFP/LA eyes name change

Board members for the Los Angeles branch of the Independent Feature Project are discussing a name change that would remove the IFP brand from the organization.

Last week, the IFP/LA board agreed to seek a new name for the outfit, one that would also be used to brand the Independent Spirit Awards and the Los Angeles Film Festival. IFP/LA wholly owns both events.

The West Coast group would maintain its nonprofit status as well as its mission of supporting independent filmmakers. It could continue to collaborate with the IFP on certain programs.

The Independent Feature Project is composed of six independently operated chapters in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Minneapolis, Miami and Chicago. There is little formal affiliation, although the chapters share a name, logo and certain programs.

IFP/LA is also the largest of the six chapters, with more than 6,300 members. New York is a distant second, with less than 2,000. The remaining chapters have a combined head count of about 1,300 members.

Insiders have long known that IFP/LA executive director Dawn Hudson was dissatisfied with IFP’s infrastructure.

While IFP/LA dominates both the membership and the public profile of the organization, Hudson complained that many aspects of the IFP weren’t effective for West Coast members.

At one point Hudson broached the idea of unifying all the chapters in an effort to gain greater representation, but the rebellious nature of independent filmmakers made the plan seem like an awkward fit.

One of the few joint activities between the New York and Los Angeles IFPs is Filmmaker, a magazine sent to all IFP members. Published four times a year under editor Scott Macaulay, who founded the publication in 1992 with Karol Martesko and Holly Willis, it’s funded by both chapters. However, he says the magazine would continue without Los Angeles’ support.

“It’s certainly sustainable on the revenue of one chapter,” said Macaulay, who also is a producer of films such as “Raising Victor Vargas.”

In 1992, IFP/New York launched the Gotham Awards, which honors members of New York’s indie film community.

The Gothams originally took place in September, where it served as the climax to the annual feature film market. However, in 2004 IFP/New York moved the event to December and expanded the competitive prizes — a gesture some interpreted as an attempt to steal the thunder of the Los Angeles-based Spirit Awards.

More than anything, it may be the popularity of the Spirits that served as the IFP/LA tipping point. While the event is almost aggressively casual with its beachside tent and free-flowing pre-noon cocktail hour, it’s become the see-and-be-seen event for execs and celebs seeking indie cred. With a press line as frantic as any major studio premiere, its pics appear side by side with the Oscar candids.

“I think it is the best single day that the independent movement has,” said Film Finders partner Peter Belsito, who opened the Los Angeles office of the IFP in 1980.

Sandra Schulberg founded the Independent Feature Project in New York in 1979 as a nonprofit organization for independent filmmakers.

Neither Hudson nor Michelle Byrd, executive director of IFP/New York, would comment for this article.

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