EDITOR'S NOTE
I just returned from Park City, where the Sundance Film Festival is underway, and I still have articles and interviews to edit and post to our special Sundance page, so Ill keep this short. If you havent visited during the festival, please check out the site because theres a fairly huge amount of content on it. In our Sundance Features sections youll find interviews with a number of the filmmakers, including Michael Winterbottom and the two directors of Catfish, Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, as well as with the programmers of the festival. In a section called Sundance Responses directors at Sundance tell us the hardest decision they had to make on their movie. Go to Our Videos where there are a series of pieces by Sabi Pictures, which are executive produced by Filmmaker and The Workbook Project. These pieces bring together several filmmakers as well as key executives and producers to talk about the challenges facing lower-budget films seeking distribution as well as some of the solutions on the near horizon. In the next couple of days well also have video interviews with The Runaways director Floria Sigismondi and the Duplass brothers (Cyrus). And, finally, theres The Blog, where Alicia Van Couvering, Brandon Harris, Eric Kohn and I are all posting reviews and reactions. theres also our guest blogger, Ron Simons, a first-time producer attending Sundance with Tanya Hamiltons Night Catches Us. Through his eyes you can view Sundance anew as hes charting the highs and lows of premiering a film at the festival.

A quick take on the festival? Well, definitely a low-key year. I remember last year a kind of simmering anxiety that a slew of sales hadnt occurred by the end of the first weekend. This year, that that wouldnt happen was taken almost as a given. There have been some unexpected and well-received surprises (Catfish, Winters Bone, and The Kids are All Right are three of the most-buzzed), a few standouts (for me, Banksys Exit Through the Gift Shop and Derek Cianfrances Blue Valentine), and the typically excellent artists in the New Frontiers section. A summit at Slamdance brought together thinkers about the various DIY distribution initiatives (read my take here), and Sundance experimented with a YouTube distribution initiative that so far has produced revenue in the hundreds for each filmmaker, not thousands. It felt very much like a transition year, with buyers and audiences not sure what to fully endorse. Return to the site for a more detailed take on the festival over the next few days. Next week, Ill be in Rotterdam so look for updates on that festival as well.

See you next week.

Best,

Scott Macaulay
Editor

      NEW IN THEATERS
OFF AND RUNNING
Avery, an African-American teenager, grew up as the adopted child of two Jewish white lesbians with two adopted brothers of different races in Brooklyn. She excels in school and is pursuing a college track career. But growing up with white parents, she never felt she understood her African-American heritage, so she goes on a search for her birth mother. In this documentary by "25 New Faces" alum Nicole Opper, Avery's journey explores race, family, and the need for identity at the risk of alienating her adoptive parents and distracting her from her academic and athletic achievements.

SAINT JOHN OF LAS VEGAS
A dark and twisted comedy from director Hue Rhodes, Saint John of Las Vegas stars Steve Buscemi as John Alegheri, a reformed gambler living a comfortable yet boring existence working at an insurance company. Through asking his boss (Peter Dinklage) for a raise, he gets promoted to the fraud unit and works investigations with his partner Virgil (Romany Malco). From then on it's a bizarre descent into absurdism as the investigation takes place in his former city of sin, Las Vegas. Featuring a stellar cast of indie faves (Sarah Silverman, Tim Blake Nelson, John Cho) and produced by Spike Lee and Stanley Tucci, Saint John of Las Vegas is a strange but funny movie and an impressive feature directorial debut by Rhodes.

THE MOST DANGEROUS MAN IN AMERICA: DANIEL ELLSBERG AND THE PENTAGON PAPERS
In the early 1970s much of America was woken up to the lies fed to them by the U.S. government about the Vietnam War. Daniel Ellsberg, a high-level Pentagon official, took a major risk by smuggling top-secret Pentagon papers to the New York Times in 1971, detailing how five U.S. presidents told the same lies to their people to keep the war going. This film examines the fear Nixon had of Ellsberg's power, and wanted him stopped at all costs, and Ellsberg's findings would lead to the Watergate scandal and Nixon's resignation. Directed by Judith Erlich and Rick Goldsmith, The Most Dangerous Man in America is required viewing for anybody who wants a history lesson on the "real" Vietnam War and what a hero can do at the risk of his life and career against one of the most powerful governments in the world. Interviewed by Damon Smith in this week's Director Interviews, Goldsmith touches on how the story not only touches people in the States but also abroad. "It has a universality to it," he says. "The crisis of conscience and the historical stage its the Vietnam War, leading up to Watergate. I like to believe that the films pretty well made, too, but the story resonates on a lot of levels that transcend borders." Read our interview with the directors below.

      RECENT BLOGS

This week on the blog, Scott Macaulay posts a new video from the New Breed (pictured left) series from Sundance, Melissa Silvestri lets you know of an amazing filmmaking competition you can join through Shooting People, and Brandon Harris gives some thoughts on this year's Sundance at the half way point.

To read more posts from our blog, click here.

      UPCOMING AT IFP
IFP'S 2010 INDEPENDENT FILMMAKER LABS OPEN FOR SUBMISSIONS
IFP’s Independent Filmmaker Labs is the only program in the U.S. supporting first-time feature directors with projects at the crucial rough cut stage, before they are submitted to festivals. The Labs are a free, week-long workshop in New York offering personalized feedback and advice on all aspects of the post-production process, audience building, and distribution strategies in the digital age, followed by continued support from IFP as the project premieres in the marketplace. More than half of Lab alumni have gone on to premiere at major festivals - including Berlin, Sundance, SXSW, Toronto, and Venice, and have enjoyed theatrical releases, been broadcast nationally, or released on DVD. Among recent alums, Geralyn Pezanoskis Mine, produced by Pezanoski and Erin Essenmacher, opens nationwide this month via Film Movement, and Zeina Durra's 2009 Lab project, The Imperialists Are Still Alive!, produced by Vanessa Hope, premieres in the U.S. Dramatic Competition at Sundance 2010. Lab applications are now available for both the Documentary and Narrative Labs which will take place in April and June, respectively. Read more here.

      NEWEST WEB ARTICLE
JUDITH ERLICH & RICK GOLDSMITH, THE MOST DANGEROUS MAN IN AMERICA
By Damon Smith

Judith Erlich and Rick Goldsmith's documentary The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, is an incredible look into the life of Daniel Ellsberg, who in 1971 was a revolutionary hero in politics, exposing the American public to the lies told by five U.S. presidents about the Vietnam War. It's a incredibly rich political drama with cover-ups, scandal, un-truths, culminating into an unforgettable piece of U.S. history. read more

      FESTIVAL DEADLINES

JANUARY
Brooklyn Film Festival
Next Submission Deadline: Jan. 30, Final Submission Deadline: March 17
Festival Dates: June 4-13

Illinois International Film Festival
Next Submission Deadline: Jan. 31. Final Deadline: Aug 31
Festival Dates: Oct 22-24

FEBRUARY
Indianapolis International Film Festival
Next Submission Deadline: Feb. 1. Final Deadline: May 7
Festival Dates: July 15-25

Philadelphia Independent Film Festival
Next Submission Deadline: Feb 12. Final Deadline: May 7
Festival Dates: June 23-27

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