Perhaps the most oft-quoted (usually annoyingly) piece of film advice is screenwriter William Goldman's statement, "Nobody knows anything." When Goldman introduced it in his book Adventures in the Screen Trade, he meant it as a cautionary note regarding our ability to predict and quantify this business. All the best minds can get together with tracking data and four-quadrant marketing plans, with scripts that have spent years moving through the development mills and with directors who have seemingly strong budget-to-box-office ratios, but the final performance of a film can remain an ineluctable mystery up until its opening night.

Contrast Goldman's statement to the advice coming from all corners of the indie community these days (including from the pages of Filmmaker Magazine). We are all telling you that you must define your audience, aggregate them, get their email addresses, build a marketing plan and conform to a new orthodoxy that believes that it's up to the filmmaker to drive the new model that will see a film arrive to audiences' home screens, desktops and cell phones.

Yes, all of that is actually important, but I'd urge filmmakers to do one thing before all of that: know your film. I mean, really know it. Understand what you have made on a deep level that derives from not only your intimacy with all that you have poured into it but from your sober reflection on how people you trust perceive it. Basic thoughts, yes, but they came to mind after I co-moderated the IFP Rough Cut Lab this past week. We spent five days with ten filmmakers and their teams, bringing in guest lecturers to speak on a variety of topics, all having to do with the process of locking picture, completing music and sound (and, distressingly for the filmmakers, delivery), and then finding an audience, whether that's through a theatrical sale or a new-era DIY strategy. In my opening remarks to the filmmakers, I wound up quoting Goldman, telling the filmmakers that his words are especially relevant in a time in which our business models are being disrupted and scrambled.

As the Labs progressed throughout the week, I found myself resisting a "one size fits all" pattern of advice, urging each filmmaker to discover what might make their film stand-out in the marketplace and hone a strategy that was unique to them. There was one film, a beautifully executed, small relationship drama, that probably shouldn't be hyping themselves through endless email blasts; the film will get into a great festival and audiences should feel like they've discovered it on their own. There was a ballsy, out-there movie that felt like a blast from the international underground cinema of the '70s, and I felt these filmmakers should embrace their outlaw status, make audiences almost scared to see their film, and not try to market it in a too-friendly way. On the other hand, there was a powerful social-issue film that needs to target and reach out to audiences who will debate the movie's topical concerns after the credits roll. Each of these filmmakers shouldn't try to shoehorn their film into some new conventional wisdom. In other words, nobody knows anything - except, if he or she is very lucky, the filmmaker.

Two other notes regarding events in New York. First, Filmmaker's Nick Dawson will be interviewing our current cover director, Kathryn Bigelow, this Monday, June 22, at 8pm at the Soho Apple Store. Bigelow's a fantastic director, a great interview subject, and her new film, The Hurt Locker, is a must-see (it opens in mid-July). I'll be there too, so say hello if you come by. And, second, a number of good filmmakers are showing their film at the BAM CinemaFEST, which runs until July 2. Among the titles we recommend are Jody Lipes's Brock Enright: Good Times Will Never Be the Same, Tze Chun's Children of Invention, Bradley Rust Gray's Exploding Girl, and Ry Russo-Young's You Won't Miss Me, a favorite of a number of our writers (including me). Click on BAM's link above for their complete schedule.

See you next week.


Scott Macaulay
Comprised of footage documentary filmmaker Richard Rogers shot during his life but assembled and completed posthumously by his former student, Alexander Olch, The Windmill Movie is a new kind of "emotional biography," tracing Rogers' journey through his prolific film work, his upper-class guilt, and his turbulent love affairs. Known as a gregarious bon vivant by his friends, Rogers was also a melancholy soul who struggled to assemble this biographical footage into a film that would summarize all that was inside him. Interviewed in our Spring issue, Olch says the motivation behind the film was to give thanks to his teacher. "It really is essentially an act of love by a student," he says. "Film is a business and a craft that is very much about apprenticeships and learning from the previous generation. I feel that's somehow not recognized as much today as maybe it once was." Subscribe to our digital issue to read this interview as well as access our back issues up until 2005.

Working from a script he wrote 30 years ago, Woody Allen returns to Manhattan after a few years of cinematic stints in London and Barcelona. Larry David stands in as Allen's protagonist, a suicidal pessimistic former professor who has little faith in humanity. His bitter heart is softened when a Southern belle of a teen runaway (Evan Rachel Wood) enters his life, him being taken by the utter charm of her naivete. The two embark on a relationship marked by confusion, anxiety, and yet, a deeper appreciation of life's jokes and unexpected moments.

In contrast to the animation blockbusters produced by Pixar and Dreamworks, $9.99, a stop-motion animation feature directed by "25 New Faces" alum, Tatia Rosenthal, shines with its tender portrayals of a group of Australian tenants in an apartment building. Based on the short stories of Israeli writer Etgar Keret, the plot is driven by Dave Peck (Samuel Johnson), an unemployed young man who purchases a booklet for $9.99 that promises "the meaning of life." The surrounding neighbors' stories are then beautifully woven together by a unifying theme of hope, compassion, and a great desire for deep human relationships. From an elderly man looking for friendship, a little boy becoming attached to his piggy bank, and an angel (Geoffrey Rush) who bums cigs and coffee off of people in exchange for a chat, there is something understandably genuine to each vignette told. "I had no idea what I was taking on," Rosenthal tells Nick Dawson in this week's Director Interviews about stop-motion animation. "Not in the slightest, nor will I want to make another film in the same way for such a long stretch of time, but having said that, I'm really glad I did. After finishing the film, I went back and re-read The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (I've always wanted to remake that film...) and was tickled to realize that one of its themes was that in order to achieve the impossible, one has to be ignorant of the obstacle along the way. It was very true in my case." Read our interview with Rosenthal below.


This week on the blog, Scott Macaulay highlights the comments of Bahman Ghobadi (his film, No One Knows About Persian Cats, pictured left) about the current events in his home country of Iran, Mike Jones survives CineVegas, and has the photos to prove it and Jason Guerrasio posts Michael Moore's teaser to his upcoming film.

To read more posts from our blog, click here.

New Yorkers have a great opportunity this month during two upcoming cultural events to catch the local premieres of some terrific films from recent IFP program alumni - from those that participated at the development stage, to works-in-progress, to rough cuts. At the inaugural BAMcinemaFEST (June 17 - July 2) four program alums will screen: opening the festival is Cruz Angeles's affecting Brooklyn love story, Don't Let Me Drown (No Borders '05), followed by Jody Lee Lipes's provocative Brock Enright: Good Times Will Never Be the Same (Spotlight on Docs, '08); Dia Sokol's wry comedy Sorry, Thanks (Independent Filmmaker Labs 2008), and Emily & Sarah Kunstler's personal doc about their famed civil rights lawyer father, William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe (Spotlight on Docs '06). Additionally, at the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival, IFP will co-present with HRW and The Fledgling Fund Landon Van Soest & Jeremy Levine's Good Fortune on June 24th. The intimate-yet-sweeping documentary details the sometimes adverse effect that international aid has on those it is meant to help. At Independent Film Week 2007, Good Fortune won The Fledgling Fund Award for Socially Conscious Documentaries.

By Nick Dawson

Being an independent filmmaker is difficult enough without adding the further challenges of animation, so it's always a pleasure to see the emergence of a visionary talent like Tatia Rosenthal. The Israeli writer-director and stop motion animator has completed first feature, $9.99. Like all of Rosenthal's previous work, the film is derived from tales by Etgar Keret, with this production synthesizing six of the short story specialist's literary thumbnails into a cohesive panoramic narrative. read more


Myrtle Beach International Film Festival
Submission Deadline: June 19
Festival Dates: Dec. 1-5

Route 66 Film Festival
Submission Deadline: June 30
Festival Dates: Sep. 18-20

Montana CINE International
Submission Deadline: July 1
Festival Dates: Oct. 22-24

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



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