AFI Fest 2009
Last week in the newsletter I posted a strange email from my inbox dated March, 2010, a "Letter from the Future" that recounted the post-Sundance success of a filmmaker who embraced several online, hybrid and DIY distribution strategies for his film. The letter kicked up a bit of dialogue, including praise from some folks and others who were "revolted" and considered it "depressing." One person dubbed the letter a parody of Jon Reiss, the very serious filmmaker who has been writing a great series of articles on his distribution of his documentary Bomb It for Filmmaker. I've just posted on the blog Reiss's response, a "Response from the Present," in which he replies to a few of the critics, some of whom argue that the dialogue today is too pre-occupied with business models and not focused enough on the films themselves. Others, particularly some filmmakers, find all this talk about distribution models, gaming, webisodes, etc. simply too overwhelming. The idea that a filmmaker has to know about all this other stuff seems like a sad directive for people who embraced the arts precisely to engage in another kind of creative thinking.

There are many responses to all of this, and I'll be posting some of my own and linking to others on the blog in the days ahead. One comment about the "overwhelming" criticism, though. These people are right. All this commentary can feel like a bit too much for filmmakers who need to make sure their script is a good one or for producers still struggling to collect their advance from the old-school distributor who released their last movie. To these people I will pass on advice that I am trying to embrace myself: on your next project, start by thinking of just one thing you can do differently, one thing that tries to respond to the paradigms that are changing before our eyes. You don't have to instantly morph into some kind of new media P.T. Barnum overnight, but for your next film, steal a moment away from the rush of pre-production and the anxiety of financing to think of one creative idea, something you've never done before. A creative extension of your story, a twist on your distribution strategy or a clever marketing idea that will allow your story to connect with an audience in a new way and, importantly, will be fun for you to ponder, explore and figure out. Of course, once you start with one thing, as our filmmaker from the future discovered, more ideas will come. But start with just one.

On another note, look for the Fall issue of Filmmaker on the stands in the next week or so. You can read interviews with Lee Daniels, Jason Reitman, Lars von Trier; there's a great piece by Esther B. Robinson about surviving the recession while remaining a filmmaker; and Matthew Savare, Michael Hansen and Mark Flippen pen a must-save article on how to monetize tax incentives.

One more thing: if you haven't taken our survey on digital archiving, please do me a favor and take two minutes to do it. Our deadline is tomorrow.

See you next week.


Scott Macaulay

Maurice Sendak's 1963 children's classic Where the Wild Things Are is finally on the big screen, and rightfully helmed by Spike Jonze, whose imagination has led the creation of many innovative music videos, commercials, and films. Max (Max Records) is dealing with the turbulent emotions caused by a somewhat lonely pre-adolesence, and donning a wolf suit, takes a boat ride to a mysterious island populated with wooly monsters with a unexpectedly friendly disposition. Max runs and plays with the monsters, abandoning his old family for a new one, yet it's doubtful if he can ever really belong with them. The voices for the monsters is a strong cast of gifted actors (James Gandolifini, Lauren Ambrose, Chris Cooper, Catherine O'Hara), and with a screenplay adapted by Jonze and Dave Eggers, Where the Wild Things Are is a return to the dark children's tales that thrill the imagination.

A campy throwback to the blaxploitation films of the 1970s, Black Dynamite stars Michael Jai White as the title character, a 1972 smooth operator who uses brains and kung-fu moves to fight both gangsters and local politicians, each as corrupt as the other. Directed by Scott Sanders, and a winner at the Seattle International Film Festival, it's clear from the film that while it's a fun spoof of blaxploitation films, its clever aesthetic style and amazing soundtrack could make it an indie cult hit very soon. Read our interview with Sanders in our Fall issue, on stands later this month.

On the heels of the short film anthology Paris Je'Taime, New York, I Love You, pays tribute to the magic and uniqueness of New York City while exploring different types of love (romantic, familial, love of self). The shorts feature a selection of renowned actors and directors including Natalie Portman (who stars in one short and directs another), Mira Nair, Julie Christie, Allen Hughes, James Caan, Joshua Marston and Fatih Akin just to name a few.

Winner of two awards at this year's Sundance, Sebastian Silva's The Maid explores the power struggle between hired help for a wealthy Chilean family. Raquel (Catalina Saavedra) has been working for the family for over 20 years, not quite a family member, but more than a servant. It's impossible to just fire her, so they hire another servant to assist her in her duties. Raquel is threatened by this new woman, and establishes her dominance through strange and disturbing ways. A haunting drama, The Maid alternates between sympathy for Raquel's position, yet not justifying her actions when she terrorizes the younger new servant who didn't do anything wrong. Interviewing Silva (who was named one of Filmmaker's 25 New Faces of Independent Film this year), Nick Dawson writes in this week's Director Interviews, "One of the great strengths of Silva's film is that is takes a different direction from what we initially suspect," he writes. "As the potentially predictable set-up involving an increasingly unhinged domestic servant is given an intelligent and humanistic spin." Read our interview with Silva below.


This week on the blog, Jason Guerrasio recaps Paranormal Activity's (pictured left) record breaking weekend, Scott Macaulay looks at Arin Crumley's new project, OpenIndie, and Alicia Van Couvering learns of the resurrection (sort of) of Kim's Video.

To read more posts from our blog, click here.

The 19th Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards™ nominations will be announced Monday October 19th at 1:00 p.m. EST (10:00 a.m. PST) live on The nomination announcements will be hosted by A. O. Scott, film critic at The New York Times and co-host of At the Movies, live from the Gotham Independent Film Awards official club, Norwood. Nominees for Best Feature, Best Documentary, Breakthrough Actor, Breakthrough Director, Best Ensemble Performance, and Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You will be announced. Previously announced were this year's Tributes: to director Kathryn Bigelow, actors Natalie Portman and Stanley Tucci, and producers Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner. The 19th Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards™ will be held at Cipriani Wall Street on November 30th.

By Nick Dawson

Sebastian Silva has made his breakthrough movie with his sophomore effort, The Maid. Set in present day Santiago, the film is centered on the eponymous Raquel (Catalina Saavedra), an abrasive, overworked housekeeper who has been with the same family for over 20 years. When she collapses one day, the family decides to hire another live-in maid to help lighten her excessive workload, however Raquel responds negatively to the idea, seeing it as the first step to her becoming obsolete. read more


Honolulu International Film Festival
Submission Deadline: Oct. 20, Jan. 15 (final)
Festival Dates: March 12-14

Florida Film Festival
Submission Deadline: Oct. 23. (early), Nov 20 (final)
Festival Dates: March 27 - April 5

Cleveland International Film Festival
Submission Deadline: Oct. 31 (early), Nov. 30 (final)
Festival Dates: March 18-28


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