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Final Draft
Editor's Note

The Cannes Film Festival, which began yesterday, is not just a red-carpeted showcase for top films by the world’s greatest auteurs. The sun-drenched event on the French Riviera also functions as a referendum on the health of the overall international film industry. And as the fest begins to unfold, with films like Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York, Clint Eastwood’s Changeling, and Steven Soderbergh’s Che yet to screen, the view from Stateside is decidedly murky. It’s been a brutal couple of weeks in the indie business, with two specialty divisions suddenly kaput, another mid-size distributor in reported financial distress, and a general questioning underway about the theatrical specialty film model. Warner Bros. president Alan Horn recently commented that he didn’t see the need for the kind of careful nurturing that specialty divisions provide – “Marketing is marketing,” he said, arguing that his studio’s big marketing division could just as easily handle these smaller films. Representing another view, an agent at one of the top agencies told me yesterday that he felt there was a gigantic hole in the marketplace for a company that could creatively and aggressive market films expected to gross in the $3 million to $10 million range. “We need a new Harvey Weinstein,” he said.

Amidst all this talk there is a realization that a new model of releasing needs to emerge. Marketing is too expensive, and too many specialty filmgoers seem content to wait for movies to become available for viewing on their home systems. Yet theatrical box-office seems to be both the arbiter of success as well as the essential rationale for an independent film’s acquisition. I’ve become a fan of other approaches, like the IFC day-and-date model, where films open theatrically and are available on pay-per-view the same weekend. I like that the IFC films we feature in Filmmaker will be viewable by all of our readers at once. The From Here to Awesome festival is another interesting new model that also seeks to aggregate an independent film’s publicity in a swiftly targeted blast. It allows filmmakers to sell their own titles across a range of platforms. But, wearing my producer hat, I’ll admit to not knowing how we’re supposed to financially model our films if conventional assumptions about domestic and foreign advances are radically altered.

We’re obviously amidst something of a transition period, and we in the film business are not the only ones suffering. On his excellent blog, former movie producer Jon Taplin calls our current time “an interregnum,” which is one of those “hinges in time when the old order is dead, but the new direction has not been determined. Quite often, the general populace and many of its leaders do not understand that the transition is taking place and so a great deal of tumult arises as the birth pangs of a new social and political order.” Writing about business, industrial and monetary policy, Taplin offers commentary that could just as easily apply to us in the film industry: “Some things are clear; that the digital revolution in communications and finance has ushered in an era of globalization that cannot be contained and that the devolutionary forces of the Internet are pushing power to the edges of almost every organization.”

I’ll be as eager as anyone to see Kaufman’s first feature and Eastwood’s latest, but I’ll also be watching for tea leaves in the trade papers to get a sense of how specialty film might emerge from the interregnum it seems to be in.


Scott Macaulay

Christopher Zalla's impressive debut feature follows Juan (Armando Hernández), a grifter on the lamb and Pedro (Jorge Adrián Espíndola), a naif searching for his father (Jesús Ochoa), as their lives intersect while jumping the Mexican border en route to New York City. But when Juan poses as Pedro to gain his father's trust (and hopefully his money), the story shifts to a gritty tale of manipulation and an end of innocence in the big city. Winner of the '07 Sundance Grand Jury Prize (then titled Padre Nuestro), this mistaken identity/morality tale is many things to its audiences. Some believe it‘s a commentary on the immigration issue in a post 9/11 America, others feel it‘s an old-fashioned story about the search for the American Dream, and some think it's just about fathers and sons. click here to read our interview with writer-director Chirstopher Zalla from the Spring issue


Hot off a successful run in his home country of Norway, director Joachim Trier now brings one of the most heralded Norweigen films in the last few years to the States. Written by Trier and longtime collaborator Eskil Vogt, the film uses unorthodox editing, flashbacks, voiceovers and alternate realities to tell the story of two friends from Oslo who have a strong aspirations of becoming acclaimed novelists but the harsh reality of the business and their own personal vices get in the way.


This week on the blog, Scott Macaulay learns Werner Herzog is in talks to remake Bad Lieutenant (!) (pictured left), comes across how to make money in Cannes (legally), and finds a Japanese film-themed card trick by Redbelt's Ricky Jay.

To read more posts from our blog, click here.


Ten documentaries poised to make their mark at film festivals in the coming year participated last week in IFP’s Independent Filmmaker Lab. Created to support high-quality, independent projects at the rough cut stage of production, prior to submission to film festivals, the program connects first-time feature directors and their creative teams with leading industry mentors through its Documentary Lab in May and Narrative Lab in June.

The Documentary Lab projects included Cambria Matlow & Morgan Robinson’s Burning in the Sun, Augusta Palmer’s The Hand of Fatima, Geralyn Pezanoski’s Mine: Taken by Katrina, Ngawang Choephel’s Ocean of Song and Dance, Troy Word’s The Presence of Joseph Chaikin, Xavier Marrades Orga’s The Stranger’s Land, Yolanda Pividal’s Tijuana, Nada Más, Lorena Manriquez & Miguel Picker’s Ulises' Odyssey, Lee Storey’s Up With People, and Melis Birder’s The Visitors. For more info click here.



Currently in the Spring issue of Filmmaker, four top flight cinematographers tell the magazine the process of deciding what format to shoot on for their latest films.

We like to imagine that the choices made by directors and cinematographers when lensing their features are unrestricted ones, and that the images on the screen are all the result of precisely made decisions. But, in the real world, budgetary, production and technical factors intrude, and sometimes in conflicting ways. A format that may produce an optimum image in production may cause complications in post. Or, more happily, budgeting a digital intermediate may allow for faster on-set decisions. Below, we talked to four d.p.‘s — , Tim Orr (pictured left), Sean Kirby and Ellen Kuras to learn about the decisions they are in the midst of their current shoots. read more

Festival Deadlines

Rhode Island International Film Festival
Submission Deadline: May 15
Festival Dates: Aug. 5-10.

Chicago Underground Film Festival
Submission Deadline: May 15, July 15 (Final)
Festival Dates: Oct. 29-Nov. 2

Plam Springs International Film Festival
Submission Deadline: May 23 (Final)
Festival Dates: Aug 21-27

Urbanworld Film Festival
Submission Deadline: May 31
Festival Dates: Sept. 10-14

San Diego Film Festival
Submission Deadline: June 2
Festival Dates: Sept. 25-28

Woodstock Film Festival
Submission Deadline: June 2 (Early)
Festival Dates: Oct. 1-5

Find more festival deadlines here.


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