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the recent passing of Bingham Ray, I couldn't help but wonder who the young distributors of today are who will be following in Ray's passionate footsteps. Almost 20 years ago I interviewed Ray and partner Jeff Lipsky, who founded October Films in Lipsky's garage on their own dime. Ray took pride in that fact, in the fusion of entrepreneurship with movie love. At the time, they had just moved to their Rockefeller Center offices, raised some new investment capital, and were preparing for big things.After
I'd like to see someone launch a grant in Bingham's name to support a young distributor at an early stage of his or her career. And I wonder what that distributor would look like. How would their job differ from the one Bingham fulfilled when he started October? These days, it seems like the goal would be to curate the right films, market them imaginatively across traditional, new and social medias, and then leverage them into all the various distribution channels the mega-tech companies have built for us.
But what if there's another way? I was struck by this profile in Pando Daily by Sarah Lacy of Jason Njoku, a Nigerian entrepreneur who is attempting to build a giant, legal distribution network in Africa. From Pando:
Njoku is building IrokoTV. It's not only one of the most exciting Web companies to come out of Africa, and it's one of the most interesting original video startups I've seen in the world. He's painstakingly building a modern distribution engine for the second largest movie industry in the world by volume: Nollywood, or Nigerian cinema. Brick. By. Brick. Iroko does it all: They roam the markets of Alaba cutting deals with independent film producers, they scrub the content to remove copyrighted content, they subtitle it, they enter all the metadata, they convert it from outdated formats, they enter all the relevant information in an IMDB-like database, and upload it for hundreds of millions of people in the Nigerian diaspora to rabidly consume.
The extraordinary hook of this article is Njoku's rejection of YouTube. After creating his own de facto and successful YouTube Channel, Njoku encountered enough problems to convince him to host own material and build his own network. It's an incredible story as Njoku battles U.S. tech companies' bias towards Hollywood content, surprisingly litigious Nollywood pirates, and the prejudice of internet chiefs who can't believe he's doing 800,000 gigs of content a month.
Obviously, not every new distributor can -- or should -- be like Njoku. My jaw dropped as I read the extent of what he's doing. But what's in the job description of an American independent distributor of 2012? If you were starting a distribution company, how would you reinvent the wheel?
See you next week.
IFP'S SCRIPT TO SCREEN CONFERENCE - SUBMIT YOUR PITCH IFP's Script to Screen Conference, to be held Saturday March 17 at 92Y Tribeca in NYC, is the place to explore the art, craft, and business of screenwriting and creating the next generation of independent film and media. Anchored by a conversation with Oscar-nominated director Bennett Miller (Moneyball, Capote); Script to Screen will feature a live pitch contest; writing games and conversations with innovators in screenwriting, TV, and new media; and a networking lunch offering the chance to connect with representatives from organizations such as Writers Guild of America East, Tribeca Film Institute, YouTube, Cinereach, and the New York Television Festival. The day-long event will explore new opportunities available to indie filmmakers and content creators.
The day will also feature a Writer's Conversation with exciting new talents Ry Russo-Young (Nobody Walks), Leslye Headland (Bachelorette), Liza Johnson (Return), and Madeleine Olnek (Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same). Other guests include Jonathan Ames (Bored to Death); Ethan T. Berlin and Eric Bryant ("Bunk"); Dia Sokol Savage ("16 & Pregnant"); and Collegehumor.com's David Young. Script to Screen is presented in partnership with the Writers Guild of America East, New York Television Festival, and BookExpo America. For information on how to submit your pitch, go here. For additional information and to purchase tickets, click here.
Hammer to Nail Review
This is Not a Film
Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie
Festival Cinematography Notes: Of Sundance, Berlin and the Canon 5D
IFP's Script to Screen Conference - Submit Your Pitch
THIS IS NOT A FILM By Nelson Kim
For those unfamiliar with the backstory: Jafar Panahi, one of Iran's most acclaimed directors (The White Balloon, The Circle, Crimson Gold, Offside), was arrested in 2009. A known supporter of the opposition movement, Panahi was charged with "activity against national security and propaganda activities against the regime." Despite domestic and international outpourings of support, he was sentenced in 2010 to a six-year prison sentence and a 20-year ban on directing movies, writing screenplays, speaking to the press, or leaving the country--an exceedingly harsh sentence, but one reflective of the Iranian government's post-2009 crackdown on free expression. Panahi continues to appeal his sentence, but faces the possibility that he may have to return to prison at any time. read more THIS IS NOT A FILM This is Not a Film turns a day in the life of acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi (The Circle, Offside), who has been in and out of jail since 2010, into both an ironic protest movie and a poetic meditation on the nature of artmaking. Arrested for making a film inspired by the 2009 protests in Iran, Panahi faced a six-year prison sentence, as well as a twenty-year ban on making films. This is Not a Film, in which Panahi, waiting to begin his jail term, ambles around his apartment and muses on various film projects, serves as his response. A hit at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, the film has been called a "triumph" by Filmmaker contributor Livia Bloom. Read her full review here. It's also this week's Hammer to Nail review, by Nelson Kim. TIM AND ERIC'S BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE Avant-garde sketch comedians Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim have built a rabid cult following thanks to their various Adult Swim TV series - Tom Goes to the Mayor, Check it Out with Dr. Steve Brule, and Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job! The duo specialize in absurdest bursts of strange, oftentimes scatological comedy, a style that their new Billion Dollar Movie presents in spades. Enlisting the help of A-list friends Will Ferrell, Zach Galifinakis, Will Forte, and John C. Reilly, the Billion Dollar Movie finds Tim and Eric blowing one billion dollars on a big-budget Hollywood film, then sequestering themselves inside a dilapidated mall. The film is an insane, no-holds-barred assault, unlikely to appeal to mainstream audiences outside the group's already converted fans. But for those few, Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie should prove satisfying, orgiastic, and oftentimes ingenious. BEING FLYNN Award-winning writer-director Paul Weitz' (About a Boy) eagerly anticipated Being Flynn tells the story of Nick Flynn (Paul Dano), a young writer who takes a job at a homeless shelter where he is reunited with his estranged father, Jonathan (Robert DeNiro). The film, adapted from Nick Flynn's memoir Another Bull Shit Night in Suck City, features a stellar cast including Julianne Moore, Olivia Thirlby, Lili Taylor and Wes Studi. Last Spring, we posted an interview with Nick Flynn on the film's set in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Watch the interview online here. And check back to the site tomorrow for Alix Lambert's interview with the author. BLACK BUTTERFLIES Dutch filmmaker Paula Van Der Oest's Black Butterflies portrays the tumultuous life of legendary South-African poet Ingrid Jonker (Carice Van Houten), who grew up in the era of Apartheid and dedicated her career to writing verse that opposed it. Her work has garnered great acclaim, and incited a turbulent relationship with her father, Abraham (Rutger Hauer), the Minister of Censorship. This week on the blog, Scott Macaulay recaps the Independent Spirit Awards, David Rosen explains Apple's current predicament, and Dan Schoenbrun shares The New Directors/New Films 2012 Lineup (pictured left).
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FESTIVAL CINEMATOGRAPHY NOTES: ON SUNDANCE, BERLIN AND THE CANON 5D By David Leitner
Blogging from last year's Sundance I wrote that "if I could give an award to the camera delivering the most impact on screen at Sundance 2011, it would go to RED One." That was then. In the 12 months since, ARRI's Alexa has all but conquered TV series production in the U.S., and now you can add a dozen low-budget indie films at Sundance too, like the bittersweet romcom Celeste and Jesse Forever, starring Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg and photographed by David Lanzenberg. read more
Seattle International Film Festival
WAB Deadline: March 2
Festival Dates: May 17 - June 10
Los Angeles Film Festival
WAB Deadline: March 2
Festival Dates: June 14 - 24
Earlybird Deadline: March 7
Regular Deadline: May 9
Late Deadline: June 6
WAB Deadline: July 13
Festival Dates: September 20 - 27