Director-producer delivers energetic keynote speech

Eli Roth advises his fellow indie filmmakes to be obsessed with the film business.

“It never ends; you have to be on top of every detail,” the director-producer asserted in a high-energy keynote address at Friday’s Independent Film and Television Alliance conference at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills. Roth, whose credits include “Cabin Fever,” “Hostel” and “The Last Exorcism,” emphasized to the crowd of over 300 that it’s essential for filmmakers to make every effort to promote their projects.

“Quentin Tarantino told me to go to every film festival,” he noted. “You can’t be one of those directors who doesn’t give interviews.”

Roth recapped how he began working on low-budget films while a student at NYU film school, taking on tasks such as casting extras. “I was 19 and I was possessed,” he recalled.

Roth wrote and directed “Restaurant Dogs” as an homage to Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs,” which was nominated for a Student Academy Award. He began working in 1995 on “Cabin Fever” with Randy Pearlstein; it took six years to make the film for $1.5 million and wound up grossing $22 million domestically for Lionsgate.

He admonished fledgling filmmakers Friday that their first film’s critical if they’re going to keep working, asserting, “Your first film has to make money.”

Roth also stressed it’s cruicial to take maximum advantage of oppportunities — such as setting meetings at Cannes to finance “The Last Exorcism” under a three-story poster of himself in “Inglourious Basterds.” “I used the hype,” he added.

During the 40-minute speech, Roth noted that the lower costs of do-it-yourself filmmaking is causing a sea change in business.

“The good news is that anyone can make a movie,” he added. “The bad news is that anyone can make a movie.”

And he emphasized that he’s scrambling to adjust to the fast-changing nature of the business such as producing the series “The Hemlock Grove” for Netfix along with features “Aftershock” and “Man with the Iron Fist.”

“We used to be scared of VD; now VOD is our best friend,” Roth said. “It’s leveled the playing field.”

After the speech, Roth told Variety that he remains relentlessly upbeat about working in the business amid the disappointments. “You’ve got to have that enthusiasm — it’s what keeps you feeling that you’re not alone,” he added.

Roth, who just turned 40, credits Woody Allen as a current inspiration. “He’s 76 and keeps making great movies, so I have no excuse for stopping,” he noted.

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