As a working producer, one of my simple arbiters of what's interesting for the readers of Filmmaker is, simply, this: if it's a subject I want to know about, then it's probably one our readers want to know about too. So, I hereby confess that I don't know a ton about marketing. Or, perhaps I should walk that back a bit, because I don't mean that I don't know how P&A works, or how much it costs to mount various types of advertising campaigns in small or large markets. I don't mean that I don't have ideas about what would be a cool poster, a great trailer or an eye-catching ad slick. And I also don't mean that I don't know about the new ideas out there involving social media, online outreach, etc., because I do know a lot about them.
,br> What I mean is that while I have background as a producer and as a journalist, I do not have one as an advertising person.

When I first started producing films, I came from performance and theater. So, I remember starting by studying some very basic books about film production, like Lenny Lipton's old Independent Filmmaking book, as well as books about the business end of things, and by being mentored by people more experienced than me. But my study of how consumer awareness is generated, how a want-to-see factor is created, and how marketing shapes a consumer's anticipation of a product is limited to stuff that's probably too lofty and politicized and theoretical and was originally published in October Magazine.

Where am I going with this? Well, it seems that with all the conversation about DIY distribution currently buzzing in the independent scene that ideas of audience outreach, community organizing and even fundraising are collapsing into the rubric of marketing. Similar to the mid-'80s and early '90s, when a film's budget was a marketing hook, now it's the viral nature of its distribution. Maybe that's how it should be : no-budget independents, after all, don't have huge P&A budgets able to shape the perception of broad demographics. But, at the same time, I wonder if curiosity over the release method is enough. Should such talks be the first thing that I, Joe Moviegoer, learn about a film? Shouldn't there be some other impression generated first, one that convinces a moviegoer to want and need to see the film? Who are the genius digital marketers right now, and how can we apply their thoughts to independent film?

Like I said, I am not an expert on this... and because I am not it's a subject I'm hoping to explore in upcoming issues of Filmmaker. As always, I am interested in what you have to say. Editor.filmmakermagazine AT gmail.com.

See you next week.


Scott Macaulay

Fish Tank, from writer-director Andrea Arnold (Red Road), is a startling portrait of a street-smart yet vulnerable British teen girl named Mia (Katie Jarvis) living in a housing project with few friends and a foul mother (Kierston Wareing). The title aptly describes the small and contained world in which Mia resides: she uses hip-hop dancing as a means of escape, and is able to find friendships with a local boy and her mother's boyfriend (Michael Fassbender), the latter which veers into questionable territory. Mia wants so desperately to have meaning and acceptance in her life, yet at 15, it feels as if she'll be trapped by her environment's shortcomings. Winner of the Jury Prize at Cannes '09, Fish Tank delivers both a knockout and heartbreaking real performance from Jarvis, along with a sense of honesty and heart from the writing of Arnold. Interviewed for this week's Director Interviews, Arnold talks about how she found her star, Katie Jarvis. "I was always looking for a real authentic girl that was close to what I'd written," she says. "Although Katie isn't Mia, she's got the vulnerability and also the spirit of her. I didn't ask her to really be anything other than herself." Read our interview with Arnold below.

Starring esteemed actors Christopher Plummer as Leo Tolstoy and Helen Mirren as his wife Sofya, The Last Station, directed by Michael Hoffman from the novel by Jay Parini, chronicles the last years of Tolstoy as he wrestles with celebrating poverty in his novels while being enormously wealthy in real life. Set in 1910, Tolstoy is in his eighties, and split on who shall inherit his wealth. Should any of his thirteen children receive it, or should he donate it to the fanatical pseudo-Christian religion that he has adopted late in life? Further complicating the matters is the introduction of his chief disciple, Vladimir Cherkov (Paul Giamatti) and a naive assistant (James McAvoy) of Tolstoy's. Between all of these characters, The Last Station, nominated for two Golden Globes and several Independent Spirit awards, creates a menagerie of thoughtful and energetic presences who all come to realize that the death of Tolstoy is truly the end of an era.


This week on the blog, Scott Macaulay gets an e-mail from Jon Reiss about a generous offer to filmmakers headed to Park City, says goodbye to Eric Rohmer (pictured left) by reprinting recollections by James Schamus, Ira Sachs, Peter Bowen and Larry Gross, and looks at Zachary Oberzan's First Blood adaptation.

To read more posts from our blog, click here.

IFP's Independent Filmmaker Labs is the only program in the U.S. supporting first-time feature directors with projects at the crucial rough cut stage, before they are submitted to festivals. The Labs are a free, week-long workshop in New York offering personalized feedback and advice on all aspects of the post-production process, audience building, and distribution strategies in the digital age, followed by continued support from IFP as the project premieres in the marketplace. More than half of Lab alumni have gone on to premiere at major festivals - including Berlin, Sundance, SXSW, Toronto, and Venice, and have enjoyed theatrical releases, been broadcast nationally, or released on DVD. Among recent alums, Geralyn Pezanoski's Mine, produced by Pezanoski and Erin Essenmacher, opens nationwide this month via Film Movement, and Zeina Durra's 2009 Lab project, The Imperialists Are Still Alive!, produced by Vanessa Hope, premieres in the U.S. Dramatic Competition at Sundance 2010. Lab applications are now available for both the Documentary and Narrative Labs which will take place in April and June, respectively. Read more here.

By Damon Smith

With Fish Tank, Andrea Arnold revisits the distressed, working-class locales of her earlier work, telling the story of Mia (Katie Jarvis in a confident and steadfastly believable performance), a 15-year-old girl growing up in a nondescript council estate in Kent. Angry, alienated from her female peers, and frustrated with life at home:she's always at odds with curvy-cougar mom Joanne (Kierston Wareing) and petulant younger sister Tyler (Rebecca Griffiths), the three of them continually trading obscenities and cutting remarks:Mia finds peace in solitary self-expression, dancing freestyle to hip-hop tunes in an abandoned flat. read more


Los Angeles Film Festival
Submission Deadline: Jan. 15
Festival Dates: June 18-28

Rhode Island International Film Festival
Submission Deadline: Jan. 15, June 1 (Final)
Festival Dates: Aug 10-15

Hamptons International Film Festival Screenwriters Lab
Submission Deadline: Jan. 23 (Final)
Festival Dates: April 16-18

Illinois International Film Festival
Early Submission Deadline: Jan. 31. Final Deadline: Aug 31
Festival Dates: Oct 22-24


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