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Alexander Berberich talks about the expatriate's path -- moving to Argentina and Costa Rica where he's made local alliances and built his own support system. In the second, Brendan Bethmann talks about not only making movies in upstate New York but producing a TV show highlighting regional filmmaking talent for the local PBS affiliate.Where should you live if you want to be an independent filmmaker? Or, perhaps, how do you figure out how to be an independent filmmaker based on where you live? These questions have been rattling around my brain after thinking about the last two installments in John Yost's column at Filmmakermagazine.com, "The Microbudget Conversation." In the first,
Both posts got a lot of comments. In the thread for Bethmann's piece, a filmmaker wrote, "If you don't live in/are connected to NYC or L.A. [throw in Austin, Portland, San Fran, and Chicago into that mix] then you will always be an outsider looking in." My first thought on reading this was that it was like saying, "I want to work in the American auto industry but I don't want to move to Detroit." I mean, the history of American film is the history of emigration, with directors from Western and Eastern Europe moving to Hollywood during and after the Second World War and invigorating the studio system. My second thought was that the comment missed the point of the piece, which is that you can decide what kind of independent film world you want to be part of. There's no "inside" or "outside." You can make your own world, but perhaps that's simply a local one with nearby screenings, local investors and crew who happen to be your neighbors. Maybe your work will catch fire and break out in a bigger way, but your goal should be to not be sad if it doesn't.
If that's not enough, if the experience of making films with manageable resources and sharing them with your friends isn't satisfying, well, the conventional wisdom is that, yes, you might need to move somewhere where there's a more active community, one that can not only help you make your film but will be that first receptive audience for it. There's nothing clique-ish or conspiratorial about this. People move places all the time to pursue professional goals. It's both a practical necessity and a sign of seriousness of intent. (It goes the other way too -- maybe you live in New York and spend so much on rent, work two jobs, and are too burnt out to write your screenplay. Then you should live elsewhere.) But, like I said, that's the conventional wisdom. The new wisdom is that there are new ways to connect with people globally, to crowdsource funding, distribution and production methods. (Example: The Cosmonaut Project)
But face to face can still be important. If you live outside the production and business centers, you might need to plan your life so you can at least intersect with a broader community at different points during the year. I had a Skype call this morning with a director whose film will premiere at a fall festival. She doesn't live in a city with a big filmmaking scene, she needs a sales agent, and she's frustrated by the process of sending out screeners cold. I told her to research the list of sales agents who attend that festival and try going to Cannes for a day or two, mid-fest. Email these sales agents first, say her film will be premiering and can she schedule 15 minutes. It's usually not too hard to get these meetings.
Sometimes, it is about showing up.
Or, another way of addressing all of this, from Stephen Elliott and yesterday's daily Rumpus newsletter: "... if nobody believes in your project enough to get behind you, then perhaps you have larger issues."
If you're a filmmaker, what's good, or bad, about where you live?
On another note, we're closing our Spring issue right now. If you want to subscribe and make sure you get it, you should do so in the next day or two.
ENVISION: ADDRESSING GLOBAL ISSUES THROUGH DOCUMENTARIES Lucy Walker's Academy Award-nominated Waste Land and a sneak screening of Phil Grabsky's The Boy Mir - Ten Years in Afghanistan anchor the programming for the third annual ENVISION, set for April 8th and 9th at The TimesCenter in New York. This is the third year that IFP is partnering with the United Nation's Department of Public Information to present this forum uniting the filmmaking community, civil society organizations, and the general public in the shared goal of envisioning a better world for all and achieving impact through media. The spotlight focus in 2011 - from the UN's Millennium Development Goals - is the goal of eradicating poverty and hunger, and the event will combine documentary screenings and selections from documentaries in the works (the international "Why Poverty?" series) with discussions on the role of women in alleviating poverty, the issue of food security, and critical issues around countries in crisis. "On the Front Lines" will address the filmmaking challenge of illuminating the issues while balancing the need to tell stories that reach audiences. This year's Opening Night will begin with a welcome address by artist, humanitarian, and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Harry Belafonte, followed by a screening of Sarah McCarthy's The Sound of Mumbai - A Musical. For details of the program and ticket information, click here.
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FANNY, ANNIE & DANNY By Michael Tully
If there's one universal truth about families, it's that as cozy and loving and supportive as they can be, they can also be cruel and irritating and patronizing and infuriating and maddening and fisticuffs-inducing and... that will suffice for now. That truth is ratcheted up to excruciating levels in Chris Brown's scalding hot satire Fanny, Annie & Danny, in which one five-member family gathers for a pre-Christmas Day Christmas dinner only to reach an inevitable climax that makes Home For The Holidays seem like a tame little tea party. read more MIRAL Based on the autobiographical novel by Rula Jebreal, Julian Schnabel's Miral tells the story of three generations of Palestinian women and the choices they make during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and the current conflict. The film is a polemic change-up for Schabel following his three previous films about male artists and writers. PEEP WORLD Barry W. Blaustein's Peep World features a great cast of character actors including Michael C. Hall, Rainn Wilson, Sarah Silverman and Ben Schwartz. Set during their father's 70th birthday party, the siblings take on their issues with the youngest, Nathan (Schwartz), who published a novel that highlights their darkest secrets. MY PERESTROIKA Robin Hessman's debut feature My Perestroika looks at Russia's new middle class and their living environment today. Compiling five years worth of research and shooting (as well as living in Russia for most of the '90s), Hessman highlights five Russian adults through interviews and home movies -- taking us through their childhood in school together during the Brezhnev years of the 1970s, through Gorbachev, the collapse of the USSR, and, finally, today's New Russia. Interviewed by Alicia Van Couvering at Sundance 2010, Hessman says one of the most fulfilling parts of making the film was the conversations she'd have with her subjects. "Russians can sit in the kitchen and talk about the meaning of life until three in the morning," she says, "so I don't think it was a difficult experience for them to talk about this stuff, but I don't think anyone had ever asked them these questions." This week on the blog, Patrick Epino self-distributes Mr. Sadman in an interactive way; Scott Macaulay's final report on SXSW '11; Howard Feinstein's best picks from New Directors/New Films; breaking down Ed Burns's $9,000 shooting budget; and Alicia Van Couvering on the female filmmakers of SXSW '11 (pictured left).
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ADAM BHALA LOUGH & ETHAN HIGBEE, THE UPSETTER By Brandon Harris
Widely revered in reggae and hip-hop circles, Lee "Scratch" Perry is one of 20th century music's most influential and mysterious artists, a tried-and-true rasta man whose lasting contribution goes beyond spawning some of reggae's most seminal acts. He was, in fact, the driver for the aesthetic innovations that germinated into the two genres mentioned above, and he reinvented the image of the studio engineer from mere technician to artistic focal point. Now in his mid seventies and expatriated to Switzerland, he's the subject of the feature-length doc The Upsetter, from the directors Adam Bhala Lough (The Carter, Weapons) and Ethan Higbee (Red Apples Falling). NYU classmates, frequent collaborators (Higbee has scored several of Lough's previous features) and nearly lifelong reggae fans, Lough and Higbee received unprecedented access to the beguiling Perry, who speaks in gorgeous, puzzle-like sentences that require significant scrutiny to unpack. read more
Hamptons International Film Festival
Early Deadline: April 1
Regular Deadline: May 13
Festival Dates: Oct. 13-17
Chicago International Film Festival
Early Deadline: April 1
Regular Deadline: June 24
Festival Dates: Oct. 6-20
Toronto Independent Film Festival
Regular Deadline: April 1
Late Deadline: July 15
Festival Dates: Sept. 8-18