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Apple's new iMovie trailer feature but by the next day had a different take on it. So I made my new thoughts the newsletter, and then some people blogged about it so I had to go back and add the newsletter copy to the blog post so people had something to link to. Okay, this is kind of wonky and boring, but I guess what I'm trying to say is that these days you have to think about things like the specific qualities of each platform, degrees of casualness and formality, and the ability of different mediums to enable response and discussion as you are writing.When I started writing these editor's notes, I thought of them as musings to a subset of our readers -- a way of working out some ideas in public that might appear later in the magazine, and, of course, a means of soliciting input from all of you. (You can always email me at editor.filmmakermagazine AT gmail.com. Gmail's new Priority Inbox is doing a pretty good job of weeding out the spam.) But sometimes it's the other way around. Last week I wrote a blog post about
The other day I posted on Twitter that I wanted to write something about what I saw as the vanishing art of the quid pro quo. But that was probably too loaded a phrase for 140 characters. Someone immediately responded that social is all about the quid pro quo and that it's hardly vanishing at all. So, "vanishing" is the wrong word. I should have said "changing." It's just occurred to me that the most successful producers I know are people who expertly understand all the various systems of exchange in the film world, be they economic or not. These systems often get reduced in the lay public's mind to lines like "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours," but in practice they are way more subtle. (I think a misconception of many just starting out is that everything depends on "who you know"; yes, relationships open doors, but the quality of the work is always the final determining factor, I believe.) Friends, colleagues, business acquaintances and even frenemies all have ways to exchange things -- deal terms but also information, advice, actual work, or the prospect of future commitment -- that help projects get made. And the highest form of the quid pro quo is honesty -- you tell someone what you really think about their project, even if it's not what they want to hear, and they'll do the same for you.
Before I go too far, I should say what the quid pro quo of having something appear in Filmmaker is: we write about a film and give it some publicity, and in return, the filmmaker gives us some piece of information or perspective that's specifically of interest to our readers. The best publicists take account of our audience, which is heavily comprised of people who make films or want to make films, and figure out how to pitch us differently than, say, the Arts of Leisure section of the New York Times. The worst start their query letters with, "It would be great if you could write about...." Great for who? Yes, great for you, but what about our readers?
I've thought about all of this in relation to Kickstarter and Indiegogo and the various campaigns I see popping up. I think some filmmakers think that the rewards offered are what comprise their system of exchange. In return for supporting my film you get a DVD and signed poster. That's wrong. The reward is just a symbol; what the donor is really buying is participation, the feeling of being part of what you are doing. So crowdsourcing filmmakers have to open up their processes in meaningful ways to the input of their donors -- or, at the least, find ways to convey to them the vicarious thrills, excitements and, if appropriate, disappointments of production.
Maybe I thought about all of this because I'm annoyed by the phrase "It would be great..." (And I write that phrase too, but now I make sure to reword it in second drafts.) Or maybe, I am just realizing, this topic was inspired by my recently reading Adam Gopnik's piece about the free market thinking of Adam Smith and his relationship to David Hume's moral philosophy in the New Yorker. In any case, this will coalesce into something clearer and practical and more focused in some future Filmmaker article, blog post, or, perhaps even, tweet.
See you next week.
P.S.: Thank you to Brian Newman for listing Filmmaker as one of ten great things about independent film. THE 20th ANNUAL GOTHAM INDEPENDENT FILM AWARDS™ - TICKETS & TABLES ON SALE With the Gotham Independent Film Award™ nominees announced last week joining the previously announced career Tributes to Robert Duvall, Hilary Swank, Darren Aronofsky, and Focus Features CEO James Schamus, all eyes now point toward this first awards event of the season. This public showcase honors the filmmaking community, expands the audience for independent films, and supports the work that IFP does behind the scenes throughout the year to bring such films to fruition. Join the nominees, the Tribute recipients and other members of the community at the 20th Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards at Cipriani Wall Street on November 29th. For tickets, and table sales click here.
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MONSTERS Directed by Gareth Edwards, Monsters is a harrowing tale about two people struggling to survive in a world invaded by aliens. When a NASA probe sent out to investigate possible alien life crashes in Central America, alien life is born and wreaks havoc, causing half of Mexico to be quarantined as an infected area. American journalist Andrew (Scoot McNairy) is on location in contaminated zone. His boss orders him to retrieve his daughter Samantha (Whitney Able) and get her home safe. The last ferry past the infected zone has already left, so Andrew and Samantha take the risk of being led by land towards the safety of the U.S. border. WELCOME TO THE RILEYS Noted music video director Jake Scott makes his feature debut with Welcome to the Rileys, a drama about the relationship between Doug (James Gandolfini), a man who has suffered the loss of his teenage daughter, and Mallory (Kristen Stewart), a streetwise young woman who doesn't really know her way in life. Estranged from his wife, Doug fashions a strange kind of domesticity with the much younger Mallory. Doug's wife Lois (Melissa Leo) is in deep guilt over her daughter's death, and when she gets to know Mallory, she sees her as a second chance at a daughter. Welcome to the Rileys was an official selection at the Sundance Film Festival, and shines with emotionally raw performances by Gandolfini, Stewart, and Leo. WASTE LAND Waste Land is a stunning documentary about the way that art can transform oneself and the tenacity of the human spirit. Co-directed by Lucy Walker and Karen Harley, the doc centers on artist Vik Muniz and takes the audience from Jardim Gramacho, the world's largest landfill outside of Rio de Janeiro, to the bright lights of the art world elite. Catadores (pickers of recyclable materials) make their arm from reguse, living their lives in poverty but finding salvation through their unusual finds. Their artwork ends up reaching the most prestigious auction house in London. THE KIDS GROW UP A sweet and loving look at a father-daughter relationship, The Kids Grow Up, directed by Doug Block (51 Birch Street), follows his daughter Lucy from her earliest years to her departure for college at the age of 17. In a year in which children leaving home have been the subject of such fiction films as Toy Story 3 and The Kids Are All Right, Block proves that a sad and funny doc appreciation of fathers for their daughters can be just as moving. This week on the blog, four of Filmmaker's "25 New Faces" win at the Memphis Film Festival; Jamie Stuart interviews several top filmmakers at the New York Film Festival; low-budget horror studio Glass Eye Pix celebrates its 25th anniversary; Harmony Korine's Trash Humpers is deemed too "trashy" for Netflix; and iMovie '11 lets you turn your home movies into custom movie trailers. Also, read select articles from our Fall 2010 issue (pictured left) online.
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BILL PLYMPTON, IDIOTS AND ANGELS By Damon Smith
If two-time Oscar-nominated animator Bill Plympton had been alive in turn-of-the-century Berlin, he'd surely have aligned himself with Dadaists like George Grosz and Otto Dix, satiric artists whose mastery of the comic grotesque are echoed in the Oregon native's deranged, darkly comic visions of everyday life. Like his illustrious predecessors, Plympton was a widely published illustrator and political cartoonist; his eponymous comic strip debuted 35 years ago in the Soho Weekly, years before he ever inked a cel. A decade later, after tinkering with short animation, he made his first feature, The Tune, a landmark in single-artist independent animation. read more
Ann Arbor Film Festival
Final Deadline: Nov. 4
Festival Dates: March 22-27
San Francisco International Film Festival
Regular Deadline: Nov. 8
Final Deadline For Features: Dec. 13
Final Deadline For Shorts: Dec. 6
Festival Dates: April 21 - May 5
Seattle International Film Festival
Early Deadline: Nov. 1
Regular Deadline: Dec. 7
Final Deadline: Jan. 3
Festival Dates: May 19 – June 12