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Editor's Note
The first time I heard Francis Ford Coppola speak, it was at the Spirit Awards -- easily 15 years ago. It was my first time at the Spirits, and they were held not in Santa Monica but at Raleigh Studios. There was still a tent, though, and I was seated at its outskirts. I was so far away from the stage, in fact, that I was closer to the gate leading out to a side street where, that afternoon, an ice cream truck was parked. For the entire event I listened to its treacly music-box melody play over and over again, the little jingle becoming an accidental soundtrack to all of the speakers.

I particularly remember Coppola's speech. I was excited to hear him -- The Conversation is one of my favorite movies, and I love Rumble Fish. So, I was disappointed when his talk that afternoon seemed almost banal. It consisted of little bits of advice like, "When a friend has a movie opening, always make sure to send him a card or note or give him a call to wish him congratulations." From the director of The Godfather, I expected more. As his speech went on, his little homilies blended with that ice-cream truck jingle, and whole thing felt trippy, surreal.

I thought about that afternoon yesterday here at the Marrakech Film Festival as I listened to a live conversation with Coppola and then sat down with him for a roundtable discussion. (I tweeted the former -- check my timeline at The event was billed as a "Master Class with Francis Ford Coppola," but the director asked at the start that the title be changed. "Cinema has few masters, and I'm still a student," he said. With that, the talk commenced -- and not auspiciously. The moderator began to guide Coppola down memory lane, and the director responded by recalling his first time seeing an Eisenstein film, going to Radio City Music Hall, and life in his father Carmine's household. But after just a couple of minutes, Coppola changed gears. He said he was told that the audience would be full of young people with questions, and that he wanted to impart to them useful advice and knowledge gleaned from his decades in the movie business. And for the next 90 minutes, that's what he did. He talked about working with actors -- not rehearsing the text too much but building actors' memories of their characters through improvisation. He discussed why short stories can make better filmic source material than novels. He said it was important to identify your movie's central theme with one or two words. For The Godfather, it was "succession." For The Conversation, "privacy." That way, he said, directors have a guide through all the decisions they have to make. For example, when a costumer on The Conversation showed him different possible raincoats for Henry Caul, Coppola remembered his "privacy" theme and picked the one that was slightly transparent. He also admonished filmmakers not to lie -- most importantly, not to one's self. "When you get in the habit of not lying, that conviction will carry through to your work," he said. He said many filmmaking lessons were, at their core, basically just life lessons.

If there was one thing he kept coming back to, it was the importance of taking notes. Notes of your ideas, your thoughts on possible screenplays, or what you thought of your dailies. He said to timestamp every note and also indicate the location where you wrote it. And: when reading a novel you intend to develop, write notes in the margin on your first read. Later, he said, you'll notice that some pages are full of notes and others are empty, and those notes will indicate your initial dramatic interests in the material. He said whenever he felt stuck on Apocalypse Now he'd go back to an old, marked-up copy of Heart of Darkness. This was all good advice, I thought. In fact, after years of relying on Blackberry's and, previously, Palm Pilots, I've recently taken to carrying a notebook everywhere too.

The almost pedestrian and practical nature of this last piece of advice reminded me of that talk at Raleigh Studios. And then I realized what I didn't pick up on years ago. Calling a friend on their opening day isn't just Emily Post good manners. Practicing a generosity of spirit is a way of staving off the self-defeating bitterness that is too easily summoned in a business with fewer and fewer winners each year. Filmmaking lessons are just life lessons.

I'll have more from Coppola -- a discussion of his dream project Megalopolis, his just-wrapped new feature Twixt Now and Sunrise, and his thoughts on distribution -- after I transcribe the roundtable. Keep your eyes peeled on the blog or maybe find it in the next print edition.

Speaking of the print edition, our Holiday Subscription Sale is underway. A year's subscription is discounted to $10, and a two-year to $18. The first 200 new subscribers who sign up receive the ebook edition of Jon Reiss's essential guide to DIY marketing and self-distribution, Think Outside the Box Office. These are split between one and two-year subscriptions, and as of this morning there were less than 10 of the one-year offers left and a bit more of the two-year. By the time you read this the one year's will probably be gone, but you should still check. And everyone who subscribes is eligible for a bunch of great prizes including DVD box-sets from Criterion and Oscilloscope. Aside from the swag, by subscribing you help us continue to bring you what you need to know about the independent film world. Thanks to everyone who's subscribed already, and I hope to be sending some of the rest of you our next issue for the first time.

See you next week.

Scott Macaulay

Upcoming At IFP
IFP FILMS IN PARK CITY Although the year is not quite done, the 2011 season has already begun with the announcement last week of films selected for Sundance and Slamdance. IFP has 12 program-supported projects going to Park City. The Sundance line-up includes Yoav Potash's Crime after Crime, Susan Saladoff's Hot Coffee, and Marshall Curry's If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front in US Documentary Competition and Pamela Yates' Granito and Paul Mariano and Kurt Norton's Those Amazing Shadows in Documentary Premieres. Narrative films include three No Borders projects: Rashaad Ernesto Green's Gun Hill Road and Braden King's Here in US Dramatic Competition and Denis Villeneuve's Incendies in Spotlight. In a banner showing for IFP's Independent Filmmaker Labs three projects from the 2010 Lab are at Sundance: Dee Rees' Pariah in US Dramatic Competition, Alrick Brown's Kinyarwanda in World Dramatic Competition, and Andrew Dosunmu's Restless City in NEXT. Also from the 2009 IFP Lab, Eleanor Burke and Ron Eyal's Stranger Things will be screening in competition at Slamdance. The announcements coincide with the final installment of the 2010 Independent Filmmaker Labs taking place this week in NYC, in which lab filmmakers will be reviewing their distribution plans, including festivals and beyond. Applications for the 2011 Labs (for first time feature directors) will be available in mid-January.
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In This Newsletter
Editor's Note
The Fighter
And Everything Is Going Fine
The Company Men
The Tempest
You Wont Miss Me
Ry Russo-Young, You Wont Miss Me
IFP: Films in Park City
Fest Deadlines
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New In Theaters
THE FIGHTER Having worked together on Three Kings and I Heart Huckabees, David O. Russell and Mark Wahlberg pair up again in a passion project of Wahlberg's, the true-life drama The Fighter. Based on the life of Massachusetts boxer Micky Ward (Wahlberg) and his half brother Dickie Ecklund (Christina Bale), The Fighter begins with the two men on different ends of the boxing spectrum. Micky is rising in the ranks while Dickie, once a top flight fighter, trains his brother while battling a crack addiction. The two finally part ways when Dickie goes to jail, Micky moves on with a new trainer, but the love the two have for one another reconnects them when Dickie is paroled. Can Micky trust him in his corner as he's about to have his first title shot? Bale's tour-de-force performance makes him a lock for an Oscar nomination and co-stars Amy Adams and Melissa Leo also give strong performances. AND EVERYTHING IS GOING FINE And Everything Is Going Fine marks the second time Steven Soderbergh has looked at the monologuist and actor Spalding Gray, the first being 1996's Gray's Anatomy. Gray practically invented the one-man monologue show, chronicling the different stages of his life with hilarity, wit, and a sometimes rarefied pathos. Following depression and a debilitating car accident, Gray is believed to have committed suicide in 2004 by jumping off the Staten Island Ferry, and Soderbergh's film is a tribute containing both interviews with the artist as well as footage from his work. THE COMPANY MEN It takes two or three years for a film to proceed from production to distribution. It would be nice to report, then, that television producer John Wells' debut feature film, The Company Men, about laid-off white collar workers, is a period piece, but we all know it's not. Ben Affleck stars as a fired marketing executive for a giant industrial conglomerate. Along with his similarly downsized co-workers (Chris Cooper, Tommy Lee Jones), he feels defenseless and unable to provide for his family. With strong performances by Affleck and Jones, the film dramatizes not just one man's layoff but the changing face of the American economy. THE TEMPEST You've been reading a lot about Julie Taymor lately. Delayed, over budget, but potentially boundary breaking, her theatrical production of Spider-Man is one of the greatest Broadway cliffhangers in years. But she's got a movie opening too, The Tempest, a kind of follow-up to her Shakespeare adaptation, Titus. Here genderbending actress Helen Mirren takes on the role of the god-like Prospera. The film also boasts a strong supporting cast including Alfred Molina, Chris Cooper, David Strathairn, Felicity Jones, Alan Cumming, and Russell Brand. YOU WONT MISS ME Ry Russo-Young's You Wont Miss Me, starring Stella Schnabel as an emotionally distressed actress, won Filmmaker Magazine's Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You Award in 2009... and it is now opening at a theater near you. In an interview last year between Russo-Young and her editor, Lance Edmands, she described her way of working: "I try to create an environment on set where people aren't thinking about the film as a finished product. That's the last thing I want them to think about." For Scott Macaulay, that prompted a blog post on the film. "That quote sums up for me one of the things I like most about the film," Macaulay wrote. "With You Wont Miss Me, Russo-Young has created a free-wheeling, lyrical but sometimes jarring depiction of a few months in the life of a character who is navigating her own chaotic and often inchoate emotional straits. The film has a deceptively casual feel as it avoids obvious plot points and melodramatic narrative contrivances. By its conclusion, however, it feels full -- an honest portrait of character we haven't quite seen on screen before at a very specific moment in her life. That feeling is a product of Russo-Young's method, that avoidance of 'finished product' thinking. She shot the film on multiple formats with in a series of short, tiny-crewed shoots over many months, and this loose-limbed process, one that evolved the story and character together over time, gives the film its own unique and personal footprint." Read our interview with Russo-Young below.
Recent Blogs
This week on the blog, the Sundance Film Festival announces their Competition and Out-Of-Competition lineups for 2011; a letter to filmmakers who didn't get into Sundance; Scott Macaulay reports from the Marrakech Film Festival, where one night was dedicated to French cinema (pictured left); and submissions are open for The Economist Film Project.

To read more posts from our blog, click here.
Newest Web Article

For her latest feature, the more stylistically adventurous You Wont Miss Me (which debuted at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and was a Gotham Award winner for Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You), Ry Russo-Young collaborated closely with actress Stella Schnabel (daughter of painter/filmmaker Julian Schnabel) to create a naturalistic portrayal of Shelly Brown, a bold, needy, confused young aspiring actress just released from a psychiatric hospital after an out-of-control episode only vaguely alluded to in intermittently glimpsed one-on-one therapy sessions. read more

Festival Deadlines
San Francisco International Film Festival
Final Deadline for Features: Dec. 13
Festival Dates: April 21 - May 5

Detroit Independent Film Festival
Late Deadline: Dec. 15
Festival Dates: March 9-12

Hamptons International Film Festival Screenwriters Lab
Regular Deadline: Dec. 22
Late Deadline: Jan. 7
Festival Dates: April 15-17

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