Reality check for rookies

Discussion on focuses on emotion, cruel reality

First-time filmmakers discussed the high emotion of having a film at Cannes and the cruel reality of the commercial marketplace at a panel sponsored by Variety, the Independent Feature Project and Independent Feature Channel.

“It’s Darwinian in the worst way,” says Jake Kasdan, present with “Zero Effect.” “Your film winds up at a multiplex and because there’s so many films opening every week, you have to hit right away or you’re replaced by the next release.”

The May 19 discussion, moderated by critic Roger Ebert, covered a number of key marketplace issues but ultimately lacked focus although some of the most spirited discussion was generated when helmer Jake Kasdan queried the moderator about his “thumbs up, thumbs down” rating system.

“All ratings systems are goofy and ridiculous,” said Ebert. “The whole use of using what a critic has to say has been cheapened by quote whores and at least you can’t misquote thumbs.”

The group was considerably more upbeat about the fest. Don McKellar of “Last Night” admitted to doing the “whole Cannes thing” and Ken Yunome, present with “Island, Alicia,” said he thought the call informing him of its acceptance was a joke, having been rejected by two dozen American events.

The filmmakers were aware of the commercial limitations of the art market but felt they had little choice but to fight on. “Slums of Beverly Hills” director Tamara Jenkins says she began as a performer but ultimately the frustration of that life pushed her on to explore areas that were more creatively satisfying.

McKellar, who has written and acted in films for others, including Atom Egoyan, said that he was confident there would always be an audience for alternative movies because they “provide a space to respond rather than entertainment that’s predictable.”

Other panelists included Sundance winner Marc Levin of “Slam,” “High Art’s” Lisa Cholodenko and Jack Blum, present with “Babyface.”

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