Indie org IFP gets ready to ‘Howl’

Allen Ginsberg project among edgy new films

For indie filmmakers and talent-scouting execs, making the trip to IFP’s Independent Film Week in Gotham — as the next industry confab right after Toronto — is an easy decision.

Favorite son Kevin Smith, who first screened “Clerks” at the IFP Market, returns to kick off the Conversations With series as other panels cover the art and business of filmmaking. The week will also see alumni screenings like PJ Raval and Jay Hodges’ “Trinidad” and the NextGenNYC short film showcase.

But the core of the event remains the projects. The IFP Market, which saw more than 450 submissions in past years, has been reworked into the Project Forum, consisting of 150 handpicked films.

The Emerging Narrative section is for filmmakers seeking producers, while producers with some financing are set in the No Borders Co-Production Market for meetings with financing partners. Spotlight on Documentaries is for works-in-progress looking for money or a festival invite. The IFP sets more than 2,000 meetings during the week. For the industry, it is the chance to get in on hand-selected projects at ground level.

Notable projects this year include “Howl,” an Allen Ginsberg biopic to star James Franco; No Border’s first fully animated project about an exiled zebra, “Khumba”; and “Men,” an adaptation of “La Ronde,” with Alan Cumming and Lukas Haas set in roles.

The 18% of applicants who get in pay nothing aside from a minimal application fee. That’s fortunate, since sometimes it takes a few visits to get a project off the ground.

In 2004, the program accepted first-time director Courtney Hunt’s narrative project about two working-class women who turn to immigrant smuggling. She returned again with the same script in 2005, and by 2006 qualified for the No Borders Co-Production section. In 2008, her film “Frozen River” won Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize and was snatched up by Sony Pictures Classics.

“IFP kept opening doors for me based on the quality of my work and not on its marketability,” Hunt says.

Many alums have stayed loyal to the event, sometimes switching roles from filmmaker to exec. Docu helmer Cynthia Wade, whose Oscar-winning short “Freeheld” started at the market, is switching hats.

“This year I will attend as an executive producer seeking specific projects suited for co-productions,” Wade says. “There’s an inherent evolution within the market — I have not outgrown it but rather am finding new value in a bigger role.”