Indies: A matter of vision

Panel discusses issues facing helmers working outside H'w'd system

A half-dozen filmmakers with pics in various Cannes sections talked about what it means to be an indie today — how to raise money, stay true to a personal vision and find an audience.

Moderated wittily and effortlessly for the umpteenth year by film critic Roger Ebert, the panel Saturday at the Variety Beach Club addressed several of the key issues facing directors working outside the Hollywood studio system.

To all of them moviemaking is “a vocation” — and all seemed disinterested in the kinds of movies which Hollywood is nowadays pop corning the world with.

Among the key hurdles for indies is, of course, getting money.

Surprisingly, there were no heart wrenching stories of maxed-out credit cards and sets made of cardboard, but rather a claim by most that they preferred to focus on themes which they recognized would not automatically attract easy finance.

And at least one panelist, Bent Hamer, said it took seven years to put together his project about Charles Bukowski called “Factotum.”

“Like Bukowski said, you just have to make up your mind, and go for it, whatever the risks,” Hamer said.

Others too emphasized that it was the story they wanted to tell that dictated the approach to raising money and putting the project together. No one on the panel admitted to being concerned about box office per se.

“I don’t really see myself as an independent or otherwise. We’re all co-dependent,” said Lodge Kerrigan. “The themes I want to make wouldn’t be supported by bigger budgets anyway.”

He and Ebert agreed that a good script and a personal vision can attract actors who are hungry for meaty roles they can’t find in the studio system.

There are also other ways to get challenging movies made, the panelists agreed.

Kyle Henry, the director of “Room,” suggested that filmmakers have started caring for other younger, less experienced filmmakers — and vowed to do the same at some later point.

Steven Soderbergh was singled out for his efforts in befriending talented young directors.

And David Jacobson, the director of “Down in the Valley,” said that his star Ed Norton fully supported the helmer’s vision and helped steer the pic through the financial waters.

Stu Samuels, the director of “Midnight Movies: From the Margin to the Mainstream,” even emigrated to Canada to take advantage of tax incentives there for his latest docu. TV license fees also played a part in getting his project made without compromising his independence.

As for how an experience like Cannes can affect fledging filmmakers, Miranda July hazarded that it was somewhat schizophrenic: “You have to be very open to make a movie — but guarded in your interaction with (the craziness) of Cannes.”

The director of Sundance discovery “Me and You and Everyone We Know” said that being true to the characters and dealing with their sexuality as honestly and respectfully as possible has made audiences respond positively to the difficult material.

“The American Directors” panel was sponsored by Variety, Comerica Bank and IFP.