Stellar Network leading the way for tyro industryites
Gotham might not be a company town, but East Coast industryites still want to schmooze.Several groups have sprung from this need to network — some formal, with dues and mission statements, others less so. Their rosters encompass all levels of the food chain. The most organized and proactive is Stellar Network, with its twin goals of education and community-building. Founders Nicola Behrman and Hannah Minghella, both Brits, started the group in 2002 in search of fellowship. “We were being a little selfish at first,” says Minghella, daughter of helmer Anthony, who sits on Stellar’s board. “We wanted to expand phone relationships into face time.” The network now consists of 600 industryites in film, TV and theater, including staffers at local studios and agencies. Membership ($65) is by application, because even for a group of showbiz aspirants, Stellar seeks to maintain a level of legitimacy. Hosted events have included “showcases” of pics by members Matthew Bonifacio (“Lbs,” set for a summer release) and Nicole Kassell (“The Woodsman”), as well as a series of in-depth legal seminars on topics such as obtaining music clearances and optioning literary properties. On a miserable March night, a crowd still came out to attend a seminar on New York state tax incentives for local film production. Afterwards, the audience lingered and mingled. Behrman is proud of the mentor relationships that have emerged from such functions. Stellar member Leo Geter, an unrepresented writer-director, hooked up with Moxie Pictures via the group and now has John C. Reilly and Jesse Eisenberg attached to his script “Swing Choir.” Says Behrman, “Experienced industry players are comfortable and excited to throw themselves into the Stellar pool. Not only do they feel good about giving back, they’re also finding it inspiring.” Having grown beyond original expectations — a London branch launched last year — the group is now at a crossroads, and entertaining the possibility of an L.A. branch. Another org with British ties is Shooting People, launched in late 2003 as an offshoot of an already well-established English entity. The U.K. arm, begun by Cath Le Couteur and Jess Search, began as a means to share production knowledge; “Shooters” tend to be those in the trenches (directors, editors, cinematographers, etc.). The group’s motto is “run for and by filmmakers.” In New York, SP is an online community of 6,000 that stays in touch daily via email bulletins and resumes posted on the site. Does it work? “People really seem to be using this as a platform to get work and help other people make films,” says filmmaker Jesse Epstein, who has used it to crew her productions and recounts that casting directors make use of its photos on profile cards. One member, Sadia Caron, found voiceover work for an animated feature and a full-time gig as a producer for the Gotham office of a Brazilian network after posting her profile. Shooters check in for info and opportunities: Posts range from technical assistance (“insurance and firearms?”) to places to stay at festivals. The U.K. edition is already so vast — 30,000 members, with patrons such as Danny Boyle, Mike Figgis and Iain Softley — that it’s broken into subcategories like animation and casting. Each branch has access to the other networks. The English version has a $20 membership fee, while the Gotham arm is still gratis. In New York, plans are afoot to organize screenings and salons with established filmmakers (including locals Morgan Spurlock and Albert Maysles) as well as “speed-dating” events where editors, directors and composers confab. Reinvigoration through youth is the goal of month-old Young Media Professionals. Co-chaired by Bobby and Susan Kravitz of production shingle Co-op, the org is a division of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. With the blessing of NATAS director Peter Price, YMP was created to encourage cross-pollination — board includes legit helmer Scott Ellis and fashion designer Todd Oldham. Five hundred members are already on board, each given NATAS trial memberships until September. (“Young” is under 50. At 51, members graduate into NATAS.) But there’s also room for lower-key events without official membership requirements. As a way to gather fellow Indiewire alumni, Mark Rabinowitz has been hosting TEFKAiD (The Evening Formerly Known as Indiewire Drinks) since 1997. Rabinowitz keeps his mailing list — which runs about 170 strong — fluid, along with the frequency of events, which slow down when attendees are off on the fest circuit.