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Editor's Note

Last week Filmmaker gathered a small group of producers, sales reps and a distributor to talk about what some are calling a crisis in the funding and distribution of independent film. Our panel mixed generations, comprising veterans who remember independent film in the ’70s and ’80s as well as relative newcomers who have begun producing in the post-Pulp Fiction/Blair Witch era. I won’t go into all the details of our conversation here because the comments will run as a roundtable discussion in the next issue of Filmmaker. One thing was clear, though – we talked for about two hours and could easily have gone on all night. And while we jumped around a lot, skipping from production issues to distribution ones, we kept circling back to a few basic questions about today’s independent film scene. Has the money that sustained independent film in the ’80s and ’90s left the sector entirely or are we just at a low point in a cyclical business? Have the desires and viewing patterns of our audiences changed permanently, or can they be reawakened by better films and a more concerted effort to build a sense of community around independent film? Is the recent departure from the independent sector by several studios a blessing because it will create opportunities for more nimble players or a curse because it is destroying opportunities for films to be acquired? Are filmmakers fighting a rear-guard action in their quest for theatrical play, or should they accept the small-screen logic of the Internet and perhaps even change their work accordingly? I’m waiting for the transcript so I can begin to edit all of this, but, in the meantime, if you have any thoughts you are always welcome to email them to me at editor AT

See you next week.


Scott Macaualy

In David Kaplan’s modern-day retelling of the Cinderella tale, which he’s based on a ninth-century variant of the classic fable, the story’s poor heroine works in a Chinatown massage parlor and is comforted by a magical fish given to her by a hunchback. Those are just a few of the details that distinguish Kaplan’s feature directing debut, Year of the Fish, a film that was painstakingly rotoscoped in an animation process informed by, says Kaplan, the color palettes of Cezanne. About the director, known for similarly imaginative short-film riffs on children’s tales, Filmmaker’s James Ponsoldt wrote in our '07 Sundance coverage: “Kaplan's real-world, adult conception of children's stories can bring to mind Guillermo del Toro's terrifying, blood-and-vomit work in Pan's Labyrinth.”


In an independent film world that has always celebrated oddball characters and stories from the margins of American society, Chris Smith’s films have sometimes been overlooked. And as economic issues are debated at the political conventions, it might be a good time to go back and re-watch his first film, American Job, a mordantly funny drama about what it means to work for minimum wage in this country. Back when it premiered Filmmaker’s Scott Macaulay wrote: “American Job is a true delight. Funny, emotionally accurate, and expertly framed and edited, the film upends the TV-endorsed notion that the workplace offers us alienated Americans our surrogate families." This weekend the Museum of Modern Art offers Smith a retrospective, screening all five of his features (For tickets and screening times click here) including his latest, The Pool, which opens at Film Forum next week.


This week on the blog, Scott Macaulay links to part one of a two-part piece former AFI Fest Director Christian Gaines's has in The Circuit and finds an example of CGI human rendering that may cross the "uncanny valley." While Jason Guerrasio learns about Slamdance's 15th anniversary series (pictured left). To read more posts from our blog, click here.


Daily “Conversations With” series: Featuring Kevin Smith (Clerks, Zack & Miri Make A Porno), Josh Sapan (Rainbow Media), Robert Greenwald (Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers), and Rick Allen (SnagFilms)

Daily Case Studies: Featuring Guillaume Canet’s Tell No One, Ryan Fleck & Anna Boden’s Sugar, Alex Rivera’s Sleep Dealer, Aaron Rose & Joshua Leonard’s Beautiful Losers, Gary Hustwit’s Helvetica, and on-line film series & new media film pioneers The West Side, Molotov Alva & Star Wreck, and The Cult of Sincerity.

Daily “State of” discussions: Featuring cinematic innovators & icons discussing the pertinent issues of independent film today.

Panelists include filmmakers Courtney Hunt (Frozen River), Ryan Fleck & Anna Boden (Half Nelson), Alex Rivera (Sleep Dealer), Joe Swanberg (Hannah Takes The Stairs), and Larry Fessenden (The Last Winter), and representatives from A&E Films, Big Beach, BMI, Cinetic Media, HBO, Magnolia Pictures, Maximum Films, Miramax, Music Box Films, New Video, SAGIndie, and more!

Discounted Early Bird Passes on sale now!

For the latest Conference updates and pass purchases, go to


Nick Dawson

Jiří Menzel is rather like a character from literary fiction, the brilliant best friend who is beset by bad luck but accepts his lot in life with a wry, philosophical smile. Since the mid-90s, Menzel has essentially been inactive as a director (he contributed a segment to Ten Minutes Older: The Cello in 2002), but was lured out of semi-retirement when offered the chance to helm his sixth Hrabal adaptation, I Served the King of England. The film is a colorful and hugely entertaining look at Czechoslovakia between the 1920s and the 1950s, told in flashback as recently released ex-con Jan Díte (Ivan Barnev) recalls his eventful progression from rags to riches and then rags again. read more

Festival Deadlines

Three Rivers Film Festival
Submission Deadline: Aug. 29 (Shorts), Sept. 5 (Features)
Festival Dates: Nov. 7-20

Tropfest NY
Submission Deadline: Sept. 5
Festival Dates: Sept. 26

Victoria Independent Film Festival
Submission Deadline: Sept. 8 (Final)
Festival Dates: Nov. 13-20

Tribeca Film Festival
Submission Deadline: Sept. 15 (Opens), Nov. 14 (Early), Jan. 12 (Final)
Festival Dates: April 22-May 3

Canada International Film Festival
Submission Deadline: Sept. 20, Nov. 20 (Final)
Festival Dates: Jan. 24-25

Find more festival deadlines here.


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