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Does the above paragraph describe your experience? I didn't think so. But it's the starting point for many arguments, articles, pitches and blog posts about independent film distribution. In pitching those websites/services/guides, the assumption is that there's a hole in the curatorial marketplace and that viewers are waiting for some kind of filmic Pied Piper to lead them to enchantment.
Okay, I'm being a little facetious here because, of course, we at Filmmaker like to think that we're helping you discover new work. But, I'm under no illusions that your moviegoing time isn't already spoken for. And while I realize that because I edit a film magazine I have a lot more to watch than the average person, I also imagine that I share some of the same movie-watching pressures as everyone else. Forget the dozen films I have to watch by Monday to judge our Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You Gotham Award, and a couple remaining New York Film Festival titles. Just in terms of average viewing, I've got a Netflix DVD that's been sitting on my shelf for over a month, my New Year's resolution list to fill in my gaps on the Toronto Film Festival's Essential 100, some commercial films in theaters I haven't seen (The Ides of March, for example), and, of course, television. I caught an episode of American Horror Story by chance last night; it wasn't bad, and one of its producers was a 2003 Filmmaker Magazine 25 New Face, Jessica Sharzer. More to the point, I've got seasons three and four of Mad Men in my Netflix queue and four and five of The Wire. I know those will be amazing -- better than many films.
These days, it's not as much about letting someone know about your film -- it's about wrestling them to the ground and making them watch it. It's about creating desire, making them believe their life will be incomplete if they don't see it. It's about convincing them before they turn it on or buy a ticket that it will deliver.
And it's about making them not watch something else.
Moviewatching is a zero sum game. We have access to so many films that every film you watch is one you didn't. In fact, I'd argue that as often as you find yourself in the position of that confused movie fan in my first paragraph you're in the opposite position, searching for a reason not to watch a particular movie. "I don't need to see that in the theater -- it's a rental." "I heard it wasn't so good." "The trailer was bad." "It's only 59% on Rotten Tomatoes." "So and so didn't like it."
Or: "It looks like every other mumblecore movie." "Why wouldn't I just read a book or magazine article about the same topic?" "It seems like a wannabe Hollywood film."
Without the movie stars and massive ad buys necessary to create raw desire, an independent film needs to be like a political campaign. You need to argue why someone needs to champion your film by the act of seeing it. You need to anticiapate all those reasons a viewer might be inclined not to choose your picture and then deftly, almost invisibly, rebut them.
Where will independent film marketing go? Will the future bring the "parrots" of Jennifer Egan's brilliant A Visit from the Goon Squad, spreading "authentic" word-of-mouth through their social networks in a 21st century version of payola? Or, perhaps, full-on negative campaigning, ads telling you not to see a competing film on that opening weekend. (Oscar campaigns of recent years have, actually, executed something similar to this.) Or is it simply about anticipating every possible viewer disincentive before a film is made, and then making the unique qualities of the film itself the best argument for seeing it in a theater or renting it on a Friday night?
It was sheer fortuitousness that this newsletter coincided with a new column by Saskia Wilson-Brown on her work marketing Stephen Gyllenhaal's feature Grassroots and how it's like a political campaign. I was excited when Saskia called and asked if she could blog about it because she promised to be transparent about the challenges involved with applying DIY marketing techniques to a non-micro-budget film with real investors and partner sales agents. Check our her first post here, and follow the film's journey in coming months.
And if you're in New York this weekend, come see Alma Har'el's Bombay Beach at the IFC Center; I'll be doing the Q and A at the Friday night show. I also recommend Tiffany Shlain's Connected, which begins a run at the Angelika. Look for an interview with Tiffany on the site in the next day and read our interview with Alma here.
See you next week.
GOTHAM AWARD NOMINEES TO BE ANNOUNCED THURSDAY OCTOBER 20TH The countdown continues to the announcement of this year's nominees for the Gotham Independent Film Awards, scheduled for a week from today - Thursday, October 20th. The Gotham Independent Film Awards, selected by distinguished juries and presented in New York City are the first honors of the film awards season, honoring the filmmaking community, expanding the audience for independent films, and supporting the work that IFP does behind the scenes throughout the year to bring such films to fruition. Nominations for Best Feature, Best Documentary, Breakthrough Director, Breakthrough Actor, Best Ensemble Performance, Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You, and the Audience Award will be announced. Already announced to be presented at the 21st Annual Gotham Awards on Monday, November 28th, are the career Tributes to actors Charlize Theron and Gary Oldman, director David Cronenberg, and Tom Rothman, Chairman and CEO of Fox Filmed Entertainment. For tickets, ticket packages, and table sales go here.
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Film Calendar, DIY Distribution, Current Cinema
Hammer to Nail Review
The Skin I Live In
Texas Killing Fields
The Microbudget Conversation: Do Your Homework
IFP: Gotham Award Nominees to be Announced Thursday, October 20th
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MARGARET By Michael Tully
Oh boy. Oh wow. If your idea of a rewarding time at the movies is a symphonic drama that aches with the blood, sweat and tears of real life while simultaneously upholding the finest traditions of opera, of theater, of poetry, of literature, look no further than Kenneth Lonergan's Margaret. Much has been written about the unfortunate legal brouhaha surrounding the film's post-production -- it was shot in 2005 while here we are twiddling our thumbs in late 2011 -- and though no one seems able to definitively say whose cut of the film this 149-minute theatrical version is (for what it's worth, the film print has a 2008 copyright), that honestly doesn't matter. Margaret is superior cinema any way you look at it. read more BOMBAY BEACH A hit at this year's Tribeca Film Festival, this documentary from Beirut music video director Alma Har'el is a hypnotic, Malick-esque portrait of a rustic and impoverished Californian town. Bombay Beach paints an imaginative picture of an end-of-the-world America with a cast of quirky subjects, including an overly medicated bipolar preteen, a romantic high school football player and an oddly charming oil field old timer. Har'el, who we chose as one of our 25 New Faces this year, chooses to blend surreal fantasy sequences with her otherwise non-fiction film, a tactic that only serves to heighten the film's beguiling aura. Read our interview with Har'el. THE SKIN I LIVE IN The latest from auteur Pedro Almodovar is the director's first excursion into the horror genre. The story of Dr. Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderes), a plastic surgeon whose wife previously passed away in a car accident, The Skin I Live In is essentially Almodovar's riff on Georges Franju's French classic, Eyes without a Face. In Ledgard's laboratory is a captive woman, played by the beautiful Elena Anaya, who is his test subject as he attempts to create a new human skin. Her visage becomes that of his dead wife's, but of course, there's more to her story, which Almodovar unfolds in a queasily disturbing but always stylish way. TEXAS KILLING FIELDS A dark new thriller based on real life events from director Ami Canaan Mann (Morning), daughter of Michael Mann, Texas Killing Fields follows a pair of detectives (Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Sam Worthington) who investigate a brutal case of serial killings. After a local girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) goes missing, the two partners race to stop the killer from claiming another victim. Imbued with a gloomy atmosphere similar to the films of Ami's father, The Texas Killing Fields mines some terrifying real life locations and events to develop into a suitably creepy thriller. This week on the blog, Scott Macaulay sings the praises of Alma Har'el's Bombay Beach, Stewart Nusbaumer accompanies documentarian Joanna Arnow as she shoots at Occupy Wall Street (pictured left), and Jason Guerrasio reports from the premiere of Paradise Lost 3 at the New York Film Festival.
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THE MICROBUDGET CONVERSATION: DO YOUR HOMEWORK By John Yost
It's been a few weeks longer than usual, and the list of reasons is a mile long. The first, and important few are: I'm moving, there are big things being planned for this column's future, and I was at Independent Film Week. If you ever get a chance to go to IFW... Go. Especially if you are planning a film. I won't get too far into it, (as many wonderful folks already have) but it was thrilling, inspiring, and sobering. Our industry is changing almost faster than we can keep up. There are a ton of creative folks out there learning from other industries' mistakes and steering the boat clear; However, there are still some people who won't give up the way things used to be. Micro-Budget is rapidly becoming an option for many filmmakers who just can't get their film done through normal channels, and while it is not immune to any of these major changes, it is still one hell of place to maintain freedom of content and learn as much as you can. If this column has shown me anything it's that there is a huge community of frustrated, talented, and dedicated folks out there who are willing to do anything to make their film -- and that is exciting. The one quote I took away from the week was (it was easy... everyone ended their panel with it) "Do your Homework!" As Micro-Budget folks we can only get better at this. Use that drive, passion, and freedom, but don't rush it. If you're frustrated, put it into the pre-production and make your no-budget film that much better... your brain costs nothing... so do your homework. read more OCTOBER
Glasgow Film Festival
Late Deadline: October 14
WAB Deadline: October 28
Festival Dates: February 8 - 26, 2012
Boston Underground Film Festival
Regular Deadline: October 14
WAB Deadline: January 13, 2012
Festival Dates: March 22 -25, 2012
Full Frame Documentary Film Festival
Regular Deadline: October 15
Late Deadline: November 30
Festival Dates: April 12 - 15, 2012