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filmmaker Christopher Boghosian in the comments thread to my blog post of last week, “When Should You Give Up?” I agree. You can read magazine articles about foreign sales deals, or stare at transmedia flow charts, but sometimes the most vital information for filmmakers is the information that lies between the lines. It’s the stuff you have to intuit, that you have to absorb and then practice through the prism of your own personality and emotions. Stuff like how to read correctly someone’s interest -- or lack of it -- in your project. How and when to close a deal. How to balance filmmaking with your life. And, yes, when to give up.“I'm a huge fan of articles regarding the more ‘mushy,’ unspoken, yet often thought about aspects of independent filmmaking,” wrote
That post prompted many comments. (The conversation is still going on, so if you have your own thoughts, I’d love to hear them.) It also kicked up a number of related topics -- more mushy stuff that I need to spin off into their own blog posts. One of these topics, the relationship between art and sacrifice, is actually addressed by Anna Rebek in today’s “Microbudget Conversation” column. (I definitely have my own thoughts on Rebek’s questions, but will wait for some of you to weigh in before posting.)
Here’s another related topic: When are you trying to be a filmmaker, and when are you just trying to make your movie? You might think they’re the same thing, but I actually think they’re not. There are directors who prepare from the beginning for a lifetime in film. They may have passion projects, or carefully considered scripts that will make great first features. But they’ll have other projects too, or they will put themselves out there in a way that signals they are open to projects brought to them by others. Sometimes their first movies are not the ones they initially thought they’d be. They make a splash with a short film and ride the ensuing wave.
There are others who have a burning desire to tell a single story, and this desire defines their early career. The single project becomes the focus. Often it’s autobiographical. The project’s telling might be cathartic for the filmmaker. Or, because it’s so personal, it might simply be the material the filmmaker knows best and thus is truly the best material for them to begin with.
I’ve seen plenty of both kinds of filmmakers. Some of those who fall in the “just trying to make your movie” category have used that early experience to swiftly move into other films. Others haven’t yet -- perhaps due to the vicissitudes of the business, but maybe also because for them a certain personal storytelling need has been satisfied. Once their first features are done, their crazy go-for-broke drive is diminished.
There’s no value judgment here. But here’s the thing: it helps to know in which category you fall. Some people just want to make their movies and believe that the film industry will allow them to do that. For the lucky ones, the industry does indeed find their personal passion projects appealing and enables their production. But others have a harder time. They make lists of industry financiers, send out scripts, attend workshops. And when the film industry fails to respond, they persevere, year after year. They don’t realize that the industry has already judged them and most likely won’t make their films. The smart ones in this category pick up on this, and shift their attention to non-industry financiers, or friends and family, or Kickstarter and IndieGoGo. They dispense with the business plans that purport to show how much money their films will return and make their pleas more personal. Perhaps they retool their projects for the resources they already have at hand. Or they come up with easily produced smaller projects that can serve as calling cards for the larger ones. Or, like I wrote in my post, they give up. And if they give up for good, and not just their on their movies, that’s when they stop being filmmakers.
See you next week.
GOTHAM INDEPENDENT FILM AWARDS -- DEADLINE APPROACHING Labor Day begins the full-fledged start to awards season attention – with the Venice International Film Festival currently underway and Telluride, Toronto and New York Film Festivals looming. This also means the submission deadline for the Gotham Independent Film Awards, the first film awards of the season is imminent. Friday, September 16th is the deadline for U.S. independent films scheduled for release in 2011 to be considered for this year’s awards. Submissions are now being accepted in the five competitive categories that accept open submissions – Best Feature, Best Documentary, Breakthrough Director, Breakthrough Actor, and Best Ensemble Performance. Nominees in all categories will be announced on October 20th. IFP’s Gotham Independent Film Awards honor the filmmaking community, expand the audience for independent films, and support the work that IFP does behind the scenes throughout the year to bring such films to fruition. This year’s Gotham Awards will take place on Monday, November 28th at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City. Applications, along with full criteria for all awards, are available here.
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SLACKER By Nelson Kim
A young man (the then-31-year-old writer, director, and producer) gets off a bus in Austin, hails a cab, and tells the driver about his theory that every choice we make in life creates an alternate world in which the choice we didn’t make becomes a reality of its own -- and every choice made within that new reality then splits off into its own set of alternate realities, in a potentially infinite series of parallel lives. The cab stops and lets the young man out. He comes upon the body of a dead woman lying in the street, just killed by a hit-and-run driver. Another young man, with the look of a troubled loner about him, leaves the scene of the crime and goes to his house nearby, where he’s soon arrested by the police: he was the driver of the hit-and-run car, and his own mother was the victim. The police take the driver away as a young musician watches. Then the musician moves on to a street corner, playing his guitar and singing. A woman in a Fishbone t-shirt gives him some spare change, and we follow her into a coffee shop, past a table where a trio of friends are talking about literature. One of them gets up from the table and walks out of the coffee shop. Once outside, he’s accosted by a deranged middle-aged man talking about UFO abductions... read more GAINSBOURG: A HEROIC LIFE From comic-book artist Joann Sfar comes this evocative, innovative and comprehensive biopic about seminal French musician Serge Gainsbourg (Eric Elmosinino). Sfar employs several styles to bring his film to life, as sequences incorporate animation, puppetry and live action. Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life shuffles between history and mythology, tracing its subject from his upbringing in Nazi-occupied Paris through his storied career as an acclaimed singer-songwriter and French cultural icon. Read our interview with Sfar. RESURRECT DEAD: THE MYSTERY OF THE TOYNBEE TILES Ever walked down the street in a busy city and while glancing down on the sidewalk come across a strange handmade message embedded in the asphalt: "Toynbee Idea, In Kubrick's 2001, Resurrect Dead, On Planet Jupiter"? Well so has filmmaker Jon Foy, who lives in Philadelphia, one of the most frequent sightings of the Toynbee Tiles. Along with Toynbee enthusiast Justin Duerr and a few other fanatics of the phenomenon, Foy goes on a decades-long journey to solve the puzzling text and the creator behind it. Their search leads them from the works of Arthur C. Clarke to a one-act play by David Mamet, to old 1980s newspaper clippings. A mix of gumshoe detective work and reenactments done in dazzling graphic-novel animation, Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles has built a strong following out of Sundance and is certainly a must-see for fans of unsolved mysteries and iconic street art. Read our interview with Foy. This week on the blog, Scott Macaulay announces a collaboration with Studio-X NYC, posts an excerpt from an interview with novelist Haruki Murakami, and remembers San Francisco Film Society executive director and former Filmmaker contributing editor, Graham Leggat (pictured left).
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THE CINEMA IS A TRAIN: ON STEVE MCQUEEN'S HUNGER By Zachary Wigon
In an earlier essay for Filmmaker, I argued that “...cinema’s ‘vocabulary of forms’ is typically under-utilized... While there are any number of cinematic languages that could exist, most of the time films tend to rely heavily upon what we could call the basics of film grammar – shot/counter-shot, close-ups, wide shots, over-the-shoulders and reverses, as well as certain editing paces and conventions of lighting and score,” and went on to praise Enter The Void for its progressive formalism. In keeping with Jean-Luc Godard’s dictum inspired by one of the first films ever made – “The cinema is not the station, the cinema is the train” – this series aims to explore potential new directions in cinematic style, where that train might be headed. read more SEPTEMBER
Atlanta Film Festival
Early Deadline: September 2
WAB Deadline: December 16
Festival Dates: March 23 - April 1, 2012
Sundance Film Festival
Regluar Deadline: September 2
Late Deadline: September 16
Festival Dates: January 19 - 29, 2012
Metropolitan Film Festival of New York
Early Deadline: September 6
WAB Deadline: November 1
Festival Dates: December 10