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Squaw Valley Screenwriters Workshop
“Mumblecore Has Made It!” read the subject line of the publicist’s e-mail I just received regarding Joe Swanberg’s Alexander the Last and both its premiere at SXSW this weekend but also its coverage by David Denby in the New Yorker. The ensuing blurb read, “Joe Swanberg's Alexander the Last is one of three ‘mumblecore’ films screening at the 2009 SXSW Film Festival that will also be available in 30 million homes across the country via IFC Films' Festival Direct on-demand platform. The virtual film festival kicks off this weekend in conjunction with the start of SXSW giving film lovers coast-to-coast the unprecedented opportunity to experience a major film festival as it happens, right from their own living room. Joining Alexander the Last are ‘mumblecore’ films Medicine for Melancholy and Paper Covers Rock, as well as the Australian comedy Three Blind Mice and the Bulgarian neo-noir Zift.”

I don’t know whether or not Medicine director Barry Jenkins and Paper Covers Rock director Joe Maggio are content to be thrown in with the mumblecore movement – I certainly don’t think their films are properly part of that crowd – but perhaps that’s not the point. The real news of this week is, actually, that e-mail subject header: mumblecore has made it, but not so much as a unified and coherent genre than as a useful marketing tool. And this is not a bad thing. Independent films need to be marketed. Marketing is expensive, and if a three-syllable word can help a six-figure film get a two-page New Yorker spread, I think that’s great. And while there’s a segment of the indie community that’s grumbling about the good fortune of the mumblers, I think everyone has to acknowledge that Joe Swanberg and his colleagues have, through their own perspicacity, created perhaps the most effective sobriquet since “Dogma ’95” when it comes to marketing tiny-budget independent films in the U.S. market. Of course, what constitutes that market has changed radically in the last decade. What makes this week historically relevant is the fact that for the first time the mainstream media is devoting the same editorial space to a film, Swanberg’s, that is essentially playing one night in New York, one night in Austin, and then going straight to on-demand television as it would to an arthouse pic opening at the Quad or Angelika. Just goes to show that indie film movements – even ones, like mumblecore, that were never intended to be movements, as Alicia Van Couvering points out in her Swanberg interview, going up later today – have long and sometimes useful half-lives, ones that can enable marketing and distribution while sometimes flummoxing the critics. (For example, check out also Geoffrey Mcnab’s cranky broadside against the legacy of the French New Wave in The Independent. (I don’t know about you, but I think a rewatch of Breathless or Contempt is a tonic for just about any young filmmaker these days.)

On a related note, come back to the Filmmaker site tomorrow morning for our SXSW coverage. And, if you are a filmmaker with a film in the festival, you can always email me at editor.filmmakermagazine AT with any first-person thoughts on your film, filmmaking and South By, and I’ll consider them for the blog. And if you are attending, stop by my panel, Sunday at 1, which will cover DIY distribution.

See you next week.


Scott Macaulay
Marking the directorial debut of Tony Stone, this historical drama meets heavy-metal music video carves out a new indie genre: the DIY epic. Highlighting the discovery of America 500 years before Columbus, the film features two Vikings who are abandoned by their exploration party and left to fend for themselves in the New World. The two, speaking in Norse language, travel the foreign land with caution but soon split up and come across Native Americans and monks in their self-discovery of religion and personal glory, and it’s all set to a testosterone-filled metal score. Shot on handheld DV in Canada, Newfoundland, Maine and Vermont, Stone tells Mike Plante in this week's Web Exclusives what drove him to this story. "I’ve also always been into American history and that episode of it is so ignored and forgotten," he says. "A whole chapter of America that is so open-ended and not known about. There was never a film about it. Taking that on and wanting to visualize this was interesting to me."

From the producers of Little Miss Sunshine, writer-director Christine Jeffs's 2008 Sundance Film Festival quirky family dark comedy follows two sisters, a single mom (Amy Adams) and slacker burnout (Emily Blunt), who team up to start a crime scene clean up business while trying to figure out their own lives. Jeffs (Rain, Sylvia) surrounds her leads with a great supporting cast including Steve Zahn, Alan Arkin, as their quick money scheming dad, and Clifton Collins Jr. (Capote, Traffic) as a one-armed owner of a cleaning supplies shop who steals every scene he's in.


This week on the blog, Scott Macaulay looks at Reid Rosefelt's new venture, SpeedCine, announces that John Cooper (pictured left) is named new director of the Sundance Film Festival and learns of HBO's In Treatment threatening to leave New York if the state tax credit isn't funded.

To read more posts from our blog, click here.
IFP designed its Independent Filmmaker Labs to assist filmmakers in tackling the creative and technical challenges of completing their projects before they are submitted to festivals. The Labs challenge filmmakers to realize the full potential of their footage and stories prior to industry exposure by providing mentorship and professional guidance in areas such as: editing, music selection and scoring, festival and press strategy, as well as sales, marketing and distribution options. Led by Scott Macaulay (producer & Editor-in-Chief, Filmmaker Magazine) and Gretchen McGowan (producer, The Limits of Control, Coffee & Cigarettes) the five-day Lab supports low-budget, independently produced films by first-time feature directors. Recent Narrative Lab project alumni have included Tom Quinn’s Slamdance 2008 Grand Prize winner The New Year Parade and Tariq Tapa’s 2008 Venice Film Festival debut, Zero Bridge. As a commitment to diversity, IFP also seeks to ensure that at least 50% of participating projects have an inclusive range of races, genders, sexual orientations, ethnicities and physical abilities in key creative positions. Criteria and application information on the Lab available here.

By Nick Dawson

Kiyoshi Kurosawa's latest film, Tokyo Sonata, sees him switching from thrillers and horror films to an intimate family drama set in contemporary Japan. The film's familial patriarch, Ryuhei Sasaki (Teruyuki Kagawa), loses his job early on in the movie, and we then see the consequences of his inability to tell this to his wife Megumi (Kyoko Koizumi), grown-up son Takashi (Yu Koyanagi) and younger son Kenji (Kai Inowaki). The film follows each character's search for personal and collective identity in the midst of this communication breakdown, and Kurosawa's portrait of the family in decline begins as an understated drama and then slowly unravels. read more


Politics on Film
Submission Deadline: March 13 (Final)
Festival Dates: May 7-10

Route 66 Film Festival
Submission Deadline: March 15
Festival Dates: Sept. 19-20

Dances With Films
Submission Deadline: March 17, April 17 (Final)
Festival Dates: June 5-11

New York International Latino Film Festival
Submission Deadline: March 20 (Final)
Festival Dates: July 28 - Aug. 2

Find more festival deadlines, click here. And get the latest news and notes on the fest circuit at Festival Ambassador.



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