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Squaw Valley Screenwriters Workshop
I’ve been attending SXSW for several years now, but this was the first year I walked down the very, very long hallway on the first floor, took a left, and walked down that other very, very long hallway and kept going after I passed the gaming room. I was stunned when I walked into one of the giant auditoriums and discovered over a 1,000 people listening to Gary Vaynerchuk give a presentation titled “Video Blogging: Turning Wine into Gold.” In a frenetic presentation that almost felt like a Tony Robbins event, Vaynerchuk described how he has made a mint by bringing a Web 2.0 sensibility to his family’s wine business, and the crowd ate it up.

An industry colleague attending SXSW for the first time told me he thought the film press doesn’t properly convey the experience of the festival. SXSW is actually three festivals: music, film and interactive. Music occurs in the second half, but film and interactive share the first five days. And because some film and interactive panels share the same area on the conference center’s third floor, it’s easy to attend the film conference and think that you are also mixing with the interactive folks. But, unless you are diligent about making that long walk downstairs, this isn’t the case, as I discovered when I wandered into Vaynerchuk’s presentation.

To put it another way, SXSWi is huge. In fact, it was the only area of the festival that experienced growth this year. (Music attendance is reportedly down and film was flat, which has to be considered an achievement in today’s economy). And while there were some great film panels and some excellent films (I particularly loved Michael Paul Stephenson’s Best Worst Movie, and our reporter Alicia Van Couvering’s fave was Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo, what I really got out of SXSW was thinking about business ideas that bounced back and forth between the interactive side and the film side. It was hard not to notice that the kind of entrepreneurial energy that might have been excited to launch a film company a few years ago now seems directed towards start-ups specializing in widgets and apps.

Scott Kirsner of the CinemaTech blog invited a number of folks – Ted Hope, Lance Weiler, Liz Rosenthal, Brian Chirls, Brett Gaylor, Caitlin Boyle and myself – to a morning breakfast where he asked us what we were thinking about after a few days at SXSW. He’s posted the conversation here, but, frankly, the audio quality is not good. I’ll try to get it transcribed (and edited, since I rambled) but, in the meantime, here the quick bullet points I scribbled for my part of the talk. These are more a series of questions than answers and, as always, I’m really interested in hearing what our Filmmaker readership thinks about issues like these.

• So much of the energy at SXSWi was focused on work that is informational, instructive, or has to do with games; how do we harness that same desire for new business models and modes of delivery but point it towards the making of films that have art and culture as their goal?

• As new modes of online distribution take hold, how will the form of our cinematic storytelling change?

• How do we convey a sense that our work has scarcity and value when it is so easily delivered to our audiences?

• How do we force our artists to be ambitious in a medium that prioritizes the quick and immediate?

• How does viewing work through a browser window change both our perception of its value and our reception of its storytelling?

• And, finally, what are the alternatives to increasingly dominant ad models when it comes to the financial support of independent film? Chris Anderson spoke about his “free” theory and said that in today’s digital economy you need to give away 95% in order to charge that remaining 5% of our customer base. True success comes, he said, when you can up that 5% to 10%. If this is true, how do we get 10% of the people out there who say they desire quality cinema to make a regular, predictable commitment to pay for it so we can begin constructing new financial models for our films?

See you next week.


Scott Macaulay
Lauded with awards everywhere it goes (from Cannes to Venice), Steve McQueen's look at the final months leading up to the death of Bobby Sands as part of the IRA’s 1980’s battle against their British rulers is a visual masterpiece. The film hits its peak in the middle when Sands (Michael Fassbender) and a priest debate over the ethics and efficacy of Sands’ hunger strike in a 22-minute, single-take scene. Here's what McQueen, a visual artist turned filmmaker, told our senior editor Peter Bowen about his idea for the scene when we interviewed him for the Winter issue. "I don‘t write, but I knew exactly what I wanted to say," he says. "It is like a musician who hums a lot. They know what they hear, but they need someone who actually writes music to write it down. I knew that at the beginning I wanted throwaway conversation. But that would just be the beginning of this avalanche of words. I wanted it to be silly or whatever, to be about the two feeling each other out through this jiving and joking and roundabout conversation. It was almost like writing music."

Cary Joji Fukunaga first caught our eye after making his superb student film Victoria Para Chino, which lead to a Student Academy Award and him being named one of our "25 New Faces" in 2005. Not only did he have a knack for telling a gripping story but he also had an eye to tell that story with beautiful imagery (which has brought him numerous cinematography gigs since then). Now he combines the two again in his first directorial feature, which is as much a thriller as it is a sociopolitical message. Highlighting the arduous journey immigrants take to get from Central America to the U.S. border by hiding above speeding freight trains, Fukunaga follows ex-gang member Casper (Edgar Flores) and Honduran teen Sayra (Paulina Gaitan) as they try to evade not only the border patrol but the gang Casper disbanded from.

Surrounded by beautiful women, unbelievable opulence and gorgeous clothes, the world of Valentino is one that most people are only too happy to get to know a little better. In director Matt Tyrnauer’s first foray from journalism into film, he guides us through the last stages of Valentino’s career with wit and compassion, focusing on the legendary designer’s relationship with his partner Giammetti. The film was shot over a period of two years with unprecedented access to the couple and observes the rumors, the tantrums, and the struggle between fashion art and fashion finance. It’s a fin de siecle ode to not only Valentino’s house but to the entire concept of the artist/craftsman heading up a global luxury brand. In his discussion with Nick Dawson in this week’s Director Interviews, Tyrnauer describes the delicate, frustrating process of getting Valentino and Giametti to trust him with the final cut of the film. “It was a waltz, a continuous waltz," he says. "To say they used every means of influence and badgering and protests would be an understatement. By turns it was a charm offensive and then it would be walking off the set, which you see on film.” Read our interview with Tyrnauer below.


This week on the blog, coverage from the South by Southwest Film Festival, including the list of award winners, Scott Macaulay recaps an interesting Richard Linklater/Todd Haynes conversation and micro-reviews from James Ponsoldt (You Wont Miss Me and Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo). Find more SXSW coverage here.

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

With the world of fashion as its backdrop rather than its subject, Matt Tyrnauer's film focuses on the remarkable relationship between Valentino, the flamboyant fashion titan, and his partner in life and in business, the enigmatic, long-suffering Giammetti, the man who made Valentino a legendary figure but has remained always in the shadows. The film also spans a pivotal point in Valentino's career when his company has been bought out and faces an uncertain future, and rumors of Valentino's own retirement begin circulating. read more


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

The San Francisco Frozen Film Festival
Submission Deadline: March 31
Festival Dates: July 9 - 12

American Black Film Festival
Submission Deadline: March 31
Festival Dates: June 24 - 27

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



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