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Malcolm Gladwell is a very clever man. That's because I'm sitting here right now thinking about Malcolm Gladwell and his new book, Outliers. I haven't read the book, mind you, and I don't own it, although I'm thinking I probably should pick it up. That's because I'm about to quote from it. That fact that I can quote from it without having read it proves that for all of his other strengths, Gladwell is also a master of contemporary viral marketing. He hangs each of his books on one simple, easily encapsulated, and remarkably timely sociological theory, which then becomes a cultural meme, boring its way into every crevice of the both the old and the new medias. In his first book he popularized the concept of "the tipping point," and his second, Blink, he extolled the virtues of snap decision making. His new book is about the genealogy of success. (I highly recommend a related article, "Late Bloomers," which compares artists who achieve success young, as wunderkinds, versus artists for whom success comes after many years of trial and error. It's fascinating to apply the conclusions Gladwell reaches to the film business and then consider what kind of movies are being made today and why.) In Outliers, the critical meme is "The 10,000 Hour Rule." In short, if you want to be successful at something, you need to put in 10,000 hours of work at it. It's really just a new way of saying "practice makes perfect," and there seems to be some debate over who formulated it first. (Here's a link to a psychology survey from 1993 that references it.)

Okay, let's see... at a 50-hour work week with two weeks vacation a year, that's four years of work before anyone can claim mastery of something. And, right now, in our post sky-is-falling world (Mark Gill's was another effective meme; somehow the title of this year's James Stern FIND Financing Conference keynote, "Making Smarter Movies, or 'I Need the Eggs'" didn't have the same ring), we are being told that we need to learn new skills, change our business and even our storytelling models. We need to think of multiple platforms, an expanded role for our audiences, characters that can live in not only our movie theaters but in the back of taxi-cabs and on those tiny screens you look at while you're pumping gas. So, my question is, for those of us who have been writing, directing and/or producing, does any of our prior experience bank towards those 10,000 hours? Do we have to learn it all anew? Or, more alarmingly, does current learned behavior have to be unlearned before the 10,000 hour-counter can start ticking? I don't have the answers, so you can do one of two things. Check back in this space in 2013 and see where we all are. Or, as Clay Shirky says, "fail forward fast," i.e. experiment quickly, see what works and then move on. 2013 is a long time to wait.

One other quick note: you can read more about it below, but if you are in New York or Los Angeles, please check out Kathryn Bigelow's new The Hurt Locker. It's the cover of our Spring issue and riveting, provocative movie from a great director working at the top of her game.

See you next week.


Scott Macaulay
After a seven-year hiatus from directing feature films, Kathryn Bigelow (Near Dark, Point Break, Strange Days) returns with the intensely harrowing war drama, The Hurt Locker. Based on journalist Mark Boal's experiences with the U.S. military's special bomb unit in 2004 Iraq, Bigelow casts an unflinchingly close eye at three young soldiers thrown into a bomb-disabling mission instead of returning home as planned. Grappling with the soldiers' issues of bravery, responsibility, and apathy, the film is highlighted by keenly intimate moments with the bomb techs (played by lesser-known actors instead of famous faces) that contrast with the incredibly tense war scenes, which shot at ground level so as to portray the war in all of its heart-stopping reality. In the Spring issue Bigelow talks about her desire to shoot in authentic settings. "I would have shot in Baghdad if I could," says Bigelow, who shot the film in Jordan. "In fact, at one point we were five kilometers from the border, it would have been half an hour's drive. But our security couldn't guarantee our safety — there were too many snipers." Subscribe to our digital issue to read this interview as well as access our back issues up until 2005.

The juggernaut of American Idol has spawned international versions all over the globe, but nowhere is this show's ethos more powerful and effective than in Afghanistan. In Afghan Star, a documentary by journalist/TV producer Havana Marking, the TV show of the same name is a national phenomenon in a country that had been controlled by the Taliban for 30 years, where even singing used to be banned as being "against religion." Following four contestants, their motivations are to shed years of oppression and persecution through expressing freedom and creativity in popular song. The film also shows the use of escapist entertainment to foster democratic voting (via texting for fave singers), as well as the singers risking death threats to increase social change via the popular media. "The brilliant thing about a talent show is that the reason why someone's going to be good in my film is the reason they might get to the top three," says Marking in this week's Director Interviews. "The main thing I was really keen on doing was finding characters that absolutely highlighted different issues, and I think we were really lucky to do that." Read out interview with Marking below.


This week on the blog, Smriti Mundhra recaps the FIND Film Financing Conference, Scott Macaulay looks at Columbia Pictures' decision to put Steven Soderbergh's latest film in turnaround and Pamela Cohn lists the winners at Silverdocs (pictured left, one of the winners, October Country).

To read more posts from our blog, click here.

Although it's still June, it's not too early to register for the 31st Independent Film Week (September 19-24) - in fact there are advantages. Strategically positioned between the Toronto and New York Film Festivals, Independent Film Week (formerly IFP Market) is the nation's oldest and largest forum for the discovery of new film projects in development and new voices on the independent film scene. This year we look forward to introducing over 100+ new feature narrative and documentary works-in-progress - which have little to no previous industry exposure - through the Project Forum, special "Sneak Preview" screenings of IFP Independent Filmmaker Lab projects, and showcases of new films from the UK Film Council and Telefilm Canada. NEW THIS YEAR: Early Industry registrants can gain access to Project Forum titles through our secure, online Independent Film Week channel as early as July 31. Discover key information about participating projects, access video clips and trailers, and other valuable tracking information to best inform your project meeting selection (limited to Project Forum buyers only). And via online Conference, screening & event scheduling you can download your activities and screenings straight to your PDA device or calendar. The earlier you register - the earlier the access. Full details in the downloadable Industry Brochure.

By Nick Dawson

Havana Marking's feature debut sees her capitalizing on her first-hand knowledge of the documentary genre's populist offshoot, reality TV. Afghan Star focuses on the TV series of the same name, a talent show along the lines of American Idol which aims to find the newest and best singer in a country where - until the Taliban's rule ended in 2001 - music, dancing and television were all banned. Marking's movie follows four hopefuls from the final 10: handsome Rafi, a 19-year-old with real pop star charisma; gifted 20-year-old Hameed, a classically trained Hazara musician; Lima, a 25-year-old woman from ultra-conservative Kandahar who has to practice her music in secret; and rebellious 21-year-old Setara, who sees music as a vital part of her self-expression. Afghan Star won Best Director and the Audience Award in the World Documentary section at Sundance this year. read more


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

Austin Film Festival
Submission Deadline: July 15
Festival Dates: Oct. 22-29

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



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