Filmmaker Magazine FOLLOW US
Twitter Facebook RSS
Blog Web Exclusives Director Interviews Festival Coverage Our Videos Load & Play Subscribe Now
Editor's Note
If I ever teach a course on the film business, thereís a documentary Iím going to make required viewing. My guess is that you probably havenít seen it because it was made for AMC a few years ago as part of a short-lived strand of docs about film. Itís called Malkovichís Mail, and it was directed by the independent filmmakers Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe. The docís concept is simple. Fulton and Pepe visit the office of John Malkovichís production company, Mr. Mudd, and wade through his slush pile of unsolicited treatments and screenplays. They take a handful of these scripts -- oddball stories written by film business outsiders -- and try to convince Malkovich to pitch them to the studios. Whatís great about Malkovichís Mail is that the filmmakers also visit the screenwriters and discover what motivates them to take up screenwriting. Thereís a housewife who gets up at 5:00 AM every morning to secretly write while her husband sleeps; sheís too embarrassed to let him know that she harbors artistic ambitions. Thereís a police diver who has written a thriller, and a challenged young man obsessed with flying dinosaurs. For these folks, film represents a validation of their dreams.

Malkovichís Mail dates from 2003, and I think I initially took a shine to it because its concept was resonant to me as someone with a production company. I donít have a Juno under my belt, as Mr. Mudd does, but even today I still get my fair share of unsolicited pitches -- one pagers that come with self-addressed stamped envelopes for my reply. (Is some book out there telling folks that this is the way to pitch projects?) What cemented Malkovichís Mail in my mind, though, was one small moment that occurs about half way through the film. When the filmmakers finally corral Malkovich, he reacts with a kind of bemused exasperation that heís the focus of so many peopleís longings. Donít they understand, he says, that he struggles to pitch his projects too? That he sends scripts to executives who shuffle them to the side in favor of the latest Tom Cruise project? For the outsider, Malkovich is both gatekeeper and potential savior, but the actor doesnít view himself that way at all. Heís waiting for someone even higher up to bless his own passion projects.

Almost a decade has gone by since I saw Malkovichís Mail, and I think thereís another reason it has stuck in my head for so long. These days, unsolicited pitches are more likely to come through e-mail, Facebook or even Twitter rather than snail mail. But the filmís meditation on gatekeeping is even more relevant. Today, a smartly executed YouTube video will get you meetings all over Hollywood. A well-aggregated community of friends, peers and people who just think you are cool will get your film funded and seen. But still there are those who would like to believe that if only that man in the castle would read their script... As Malkovichís Mail shows, that man in the castle has his own issues and is probably sitting by the phone right now waiting for his own call to be returned.

Finally, though, Malkovichís Mail is not just an insider tale. It ends on a wonderfully moving and inspirational note that, quite honestly, will bring a tear to your eye. And obviously I wouldnít have written so much about the film if you couldnít see it for yourself. I discovered that the whole doc is on YouTube. Hereís part one, and follow the links on the page for the other four parts.

See you next week.

Best,
Scott Macaulay
Editor

Upcoming At IFP
IFP'S FILMMAKER CONFERENCE: COMING IN FOUR WEEKS! PASSES ON SALE NOW IFPís five-day Independent Filmmaker Conference (September 18-22) is the must-attend event for filmmakers offering the opportunity to learn the art, craft and business of filmmaking Ė and where itís going next. Now in its new home at the Film Society of Lincoln Centerís Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, the event is more intimate (only 150 seats available) and provides greater industry access than ever before.

Donít miss your chance to learn the ins-and-outs of financing, producing and distributing your movie Ė and sustaining a career - with reps from BMI, Brigade Marketing, CAA, Deluxe, HBO, IndieWIRE, Magnolia Pictures, WGA, Sundance, Toronto and Tribeca Film Festivals, and many more.

For the latest Conference updates, schedule, and to purchase passes, go here.
Join The Discussion
Our Forums page is new and improved! Check out the new categories: how to make films, discuss the current trends in the business, job opportunities and look out for guest filmmaker moderators. Click here to get started.
Top Discussions
Film Calendar, DIY Distribution, Current Cinema
In This Newsletter
Editor's Note
Hammer to Nail Review
Amigo
The Last Circus
One Day
Interview with Guillermo del Toro
IFP: Independent Filmmaker Conference Passes on Sale Now
Fest Deadlines
Join our Forums
Hammer To Nail
HELL AND BACK AGAIN By Paul Sbrizzi

In recent years American war docs have largely moved away from exposťs on corruption and bad government policy. Instead, the focus has shifted to small, largely apolitical stories about life in the military and the human cost of war. Hell and Back Again raises the bar for the subgenre, taking the viewer front and center on the physical battlefield and deep into the complex and troubled psyche of a charismatic young soldier. read more
New In Theaters
AMIGO For his first film since 2007's Honeydripper, director John Sayles reunites with Matewan lead Chris Cooper for a tense political thriller. Set against the backdrop of the Philippine-American War, Amigo follows a local Filipino politician (Joel Torre) whose loyalty is torn after he comes under pressure from a military officer (Cooper) who wants him to covertly aid American forces. Amigo is vintage Sayles -- a smart, socially-minded drama that's as politically nuanced as it is emotionally resonant.
THE LAST CIRCUS Returning to Spain after 2008's disappointing English-language effort, The Oxford Murders, this dark comedy from provocative director Alex de la Iglesia (Dying of Laughter, The Day of the Beast) marks a return-to-form for the audacious auteur. A dark comedy that carries on its back the strain of an entire century's worth of tumultuous political struggle, The Last Circus follows the son of a Spanish Civil War vet who faces abuse after being cast as the Sad Clown at a local circus. Equally hilarious and disturbing, The Last Circus adds another provocative accomplishment to Iglesia's unique and growing filmography.
ONE DAY Danish director Lone Scherfig follows up her 2009 breakout film, An Education, with this high-concept romance, adapted from a novel by David Nicholls (who also serves as screenwriter). One Day traces a lifelong friendship and emerging romance between two college peers, Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter (Jim Sturgess), by checking in on them once a year -- on July 15th -- for twenty years.
Recent Blogs
This week on the blog, Jason Guerrasio announces this year's "25 New Faces of Independent Film" screening series at The Grand Cinema in Tacoma, Washington (pictured left), Howard Feinstein reviews Tatiana Huezo's new documentary, The Tiniest Place, and Alix Lambert compares and contrasts two surprisingly similar summer moves - Project Nim and Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

To read more posts from our blog, click here.
Newest Web Article
LADY VENGEANCE: INTERVIEW WITH GUILLERMO DEL TORO By Farihah Zaman

Guillermo del Toro, best known for directing aesthetically impressive, intellectually thoughtful horror films like Mimic and Panís Labyrinth, steps into a slightly different role this summer by presenting Donít Be Afraid of the Dark, a remake of one of his favorite films as a child. I spoke to del Toro about his decades-long dream of bringing this film to life, the connection between horror and spirituality, and what makes a dark basement so damn scary.. read more
Festival Deadlines
AUGUST
CMJ Film Festival
Late Deadline: August 19
Festival Dates: October 18 - 22

Eugene International Film Festival
Late Deadline: August 19
WAB Deadline: September 2
Festival Dates: October 20 - 23

Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival
Late Deadline: September 2
WAB Deadline: October 20
Festival Dates: December 7 - 15

Join IFP Subscribe To Filmmaker