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National University
Editor's Note


The Filmmaker staff is in the midst of putting together the new issue of the magazine, and I’m at the moment editing a long conversation we recorded featuring a number of loquacious producers and sales reps talking about all the stuff that everyone is talking about these days, i.e., the state of independent film. It seemed like a good idea at the time to put this group together and let them rip, but it’s a nightmare to edit. As a producer I’ve always been sympathetic to directors who favor overlapping line readings because they sound more natural, but now I get the editor’s resulting angst.

Anyway, one exchange in the piece is resonating with something that’s up on the website right now. One producer during the conversation said that one problem with the current distribution environment is that when he hears about a small film that doesn’t have distribution but which has premiered at a festival he wants to see it immediately. “I want to see the 15 films premiering in the competitions of SXSW,” he said. A sales rep retorted, “Why?” (Because I’m paraphrasing I’m not ID’ing the speakers, but you can find the exchange in the piece when the magazine comes out.) The producer wanted the immediate gratification of having all the films available to him at once, while the sales rep desired the Darwinian filter of critics, other festival programmers and acquisition execs that would allow only the most essential of these films to drift into his field of vision.

The producer’s argument is much the same as filmmaker Ryan Bilsborrow-Koo’s, who, in an essay just posted on our site entitled “Your Film Online,” argues against what he views as the outdated notion of “windows” – you know, the system in which films premiere in a proscribed order through several media. (See link to the full essay below.) For Bilsborrow-Koo, younger movie fans want films when they want them, they want to watch them on whatever device they want to watch them on, and if the films are not available legally they know how to download them (in usually good copies) from BitTorrent. The counter argument to all of this is succinctly summarized in the piece by Sony Pictures Classics co-president Tom Bernard who, speaking at the IFP’s Independent Film Week, said, simply, “People are used to windows.”

I find myself somewhat in the middle of this argument and am not quick to dismiss Bernard’s pithy defense of old-school thinking. Like the producer above, I do like to have access to stuff I want to see, but like the rep, I appreciate the role of gatekeepers and filters. By rating, defining and promoting work, they help match us with films we will truly connect with. (They also create those needs and likes in us as well, but that’s another conversation.) So, let’s say for a moment that we are moving towards Bilsborrow-Koo’s world in which everything will be available when and how we want it. And let’s also acknowledge the role that distribution windows have in not only modulating viewer demand but also creating perceived value. Without these careful releasing strategies, in what new ways will filmmakers and distributors create a film’s sense of value and importance in the marketplace, stoking desire not just for a movie among the cineaste crowd in the week after a festival screening but among a broader audience in the months and years ahead?

Issues of how the creation of cultural value is changing in the digital age are ones I’m interested in, and I’ll try to organize these vague thoughts into something clearer in a future issue of Filmmaker. But for now, read Bilsborrow-Koo’s trenchant essay and, if you have comments, shoot them back to editor.filmmakermagazine AT gmail.com, and I’ll incorporate them in a blog post this week.

See you next week.



Best,

Scott Macaualy
Editor

CHOKE
Actor and first-time director Clark Gregg is the latest to adapt a Chuck Palahniuk novel to the screen as he debuts with Choke, a lighthearted (for Palahniuk standards) look into the world of sex addiction. The film stars Sam Rockwell as the despicable yet charming Victor, who, due to a vagabond childhood and an addiction to orgasms, lacks respect for the opposite sex. Following his misadventures with bumbling sidekick Denny (Brand William Henke), who has a chronic masturbation problem, the two fall in and out of 12-step programs for their problem in another one of Palahniuk’s dyspeptic takes on modern America. The film was shot by Tim Orr, David Gordon Green’s regular cinematographer.

 

WILD COMBINATION: A PORTRAIT OF ARTHUR RUSSELL
In 15 years after his death from AIDS, Arthur Russell's obscure, idiosyncratic music has moved out of the world of downtown new music and influenced a whole new generation of composers, singers and songwriters. In Matt Wolf's debut feature, he tells the story of the cello-playing disco pioneer by highlighting the '70s-'80s New York downtown scene he thrived on while mixing in home movies of Russell and interviews with his surviving partner and his family. Nick Dawson writes in this week's Director Interviews: "Though it has the usual music doc tropes of archival footage and talking head interviews, Wild Combination distinguishes itself both by its selective focus and Wolf's use of experimental techniques."

 


This week on the blog, Scott Macaulay raves about Silent Light, Jamie Stuart invades our minds with the first episode in his web series from the New York Film Festival (pictured left) and IFP announces its final Gotham Tribute.

To read more posts from our blog, click here.

 

"FIRST WEEKEND" SERIES LAUNCHES OCT. 2 WITH BALLAST
A new IFP program designed to connect audiences directly with new independent films being self-distributed launches next week with Lance Hammer’s Sundance award-winning debut feature, Ballast. Supporting the crucial first weekend box office, $25 tickets to the October 2nd event includes admission to the 8 p.m. screening at Film Forum, an invitation to the post-screening Q & A between Hammer and Tony Award-winning playwright/poet/activist/actress Sarah Jones (Bridge & Tunnel), and an invite to the exclusive after-party with the filmmaker and members of the NYC arts community, including members of the Host Committee - artists such as Vera Farmiga, Kerry Washington, Neil LaBute, Salman Rushdie, Jonathan Lethem, and Adam Yauch, who have lent their names in support of the effort and will be hosting these quarterly events. Full box-office proceeds will go directly toward the film’s theatrical run.

To learn more about the program.

For tickets.


 

YOUR FILM ONLINE
Ryan Bilsborrow-Koo

My name is Ryan Bilsborrow-Koo and this is my guest post for the just-concluded Independent Film Week here in New York. Along with Zachary Lieberman (co-creator of The West Side), I spoke on Monday’s panel “Your Film Online,” and I wanted to expand here on some thoughts I shared during that panel — mostly in response to the prevailing wisdom that “the sky is falling” on independent film.

I’m a New Face of independent film, not an Industry Veteran, so maybe it’s naiveté that leads me to have a very different outlook on distribution than The Film Department CEO Mark Gill, whose comments in June were still on everyone’s lips at IFW. After proclaiming, “As it relates to independent film, the sky really is falling,” Gill’s solution was for the indie film world to make “fewer, better” movies. Unfortunately, that’s not actually a productive piece of advice. After he spoke, did most of the audience pack it up and leave to pursue a different career? No. Everyone’s already trying to make the best film they can, and telling financiers or filmmakers to try harder isn’t going to materially affect the market. read more

Festival Deadlines

SEPTEMBER
Crossroads Film Festival
Submission Deadline: Sept. 30, Dec 20 (Final)
Festival Dates: April 2-5

OCTOBER
Lone Star International Film Festival
Submission Deadline: Oct. 1
Festival Dates: Nov. 12-16

Palm Springs International Film Festival
Submission Deadline: Oct. 3
Festival Dates: Jan. 6-19

Cinequest Screenwriting Competition
Submission Deadline: Oct. 10
Festival Dates: Feb. 25-March 9

Find more festival deadlines, click here.







 


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