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I'll set the stage. We were at DCTV, in the un-renovated space that will become a downtown movie theater by 2013. There were four of us: me, Colleen Conway (V.P. of Reality and Alterative Programming at Lifetime), Erin Keating (Director of Development and Production and IFC TV), and Alrick Brown, who you'll remember from our 25 New Faces list and for directing the Sundance World Audience Award winner Kinyarwanda. We had gone to the Q&A portion of the panel, and a questioner let loose with the frustrations of many in the audience: If execs are always looking for "new material" and "fresh voices," why don't they make it easier for those voices to break in? You need your material to be submitted by an agent or manager or lawyer, the audience had been told. Or, you need to come in through a reputable production company, preferably one that's already in business with the network in question.
The executives explained why, practically and legally, they can't open their floodgates, but it was up to Brown to lay down the tough love. "Let's be realistic," he said. "We live in a place of entitlement, so many of us. 'I have an idea, you should put it on television.'... But accept the reality that this is not an easy venture... We're acting that we are entitled to these things, but these are things we have to fight for!" "But you teach at NYU and won Sundance," the questioner said, which only underscored Brown's point, because he had to fight for those things too. Watch the whole clip here. The takeaway: you can't survive in this business unless you accept and then move past what sucks about it.
Other harsh truths can be found in my interview with Prometheus screenwriter Jon Spaihts. I did this interview a month ago and hadn't seen the movie then, so I walked Spaihts through the steps of his early career, which, from the outside, seems kind of blessed. I mean, he scored high on the Black List with his script Passengers, and then off a general meeting got the Prometheus gig. But the reality is more complicated. Here's Spaihts on what happened after Passengers:
I took meetings for more than a year, and everyone was incredibly complimentary, everyone was flattering, engaged, keen to work with me, eager to be in the Jon Spaihts business, and then I went more than a year without getting a job. And that's an adjustment, because every fresh writer coming to town off a spec sale or an option and starting to do the meeting circuit thinks that every meeting is a job interview that might turn into that wonder gig. In fact, most of those meetings are merely introductions. They're just people getting to know you -- seeing what you're like and what it's like to talk to you. Most of them were never going to be jobs, even on their best day. You have to adjust yourself to that notion and realize that you're building a constituency; you're meeting everyone, you're learning what it's like to talk to these people, and they're learning what it's like to talk to you. If things go well, you're building a fan base. I actually think it's a very important point in your career. But it's a lean time, when you're doing more talking about work than actually working.
There are no easy ways in... but if you have the talent, and your sensibility syncs with the larger cultural zeitgeist (a blog post in itself), there are ways in.
On another note, the Vimeo Festival and Awards starts tonight and runs through Saturday. We're a sponsor this year and hope to see some of you there.
IFP CO-PRESENTING LAB ALUMNI SCREENINGS AT UPCOMING FESTIVALS Within the current explosion of June festivals, IFP is happy to be co-presenting screenings of several recent program alumni at the Los Angeles Film Festival, the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival in New York, and the Northside Festival in Brooklyn. All films in these screenings are recent alums IFP's Independent Filmmaker Labs. At LAFF (June 14-24), IFP will co-present two films: Terence Nance's An Oversimplification of Her Beauty, screening in "Summer Showcase," and the World Premiere of Maya Stark and Adi Lavy's Sun Kissed, screening in the Documentary Competition. These two films join seven additional IFP alumni projects that are also screening at LAFF this year! At Human Rights Watch (June 14-24), IFP will co-present the New York Premiere of Habibi, Susan Youssef's story of two young lovers living in the West Bank whose relationship is torn asunder by familial and societal demands. At Northside (June 14-21), IFP will be hosting a screening of Matt Ruskin's feature Booster (and David Lowery's short Pioneer) on June 19th, with six additional alum projects also screening during the festival.
Hammer to Nail Review
Paul Williams Still Alive
Safety Not Guaranteed
Dark Horse writer/director Todd Solondz
IFP Co-Presenting Lab Alumni Screenings at Upcoming Festivals
THE OREGONIAN By Alex Ross Perry
Calvin Lee Reeder's The Oregonian is a horrifying film, if not what is commonly perceived as a "horror" film. It is deeply and fundamentally upsetting in an off-putting way that will sicken and alarm you if your idea of pure terror is anxiety over your own mortality and meaninglessness or being alone and lost in an unforgiving environment, as opposed to the tired slasher movie shock tactics of a knife appearing behind a scantily clad character to the tune of a sudden musical cue. Its closest comparison might very well be that other recent dreadful paean to social miscreants and the human-disguised demons that live among us (not to mention a celebration of outdated film/video formats): Harmony Korine's Trash Humpers.
read more DARK HORSE In Todd Solondz's Dark Horse, Abe (Jordan Gelber), a thirty-something underachiever is trapped in an underwhelming job and living at home with his parents (Christopher Walken and Mia Farrow). Abe's world turns upside down when he meets the equally discontented Miranda (Selma Blair) and embarks on an unlikely love affair with her. After its festival run, Dark Horse has been described as Solondz's most mainstream effort. PAUL WILLIAMS STILL ALIVE In Stephen Kessler's documentary Paul Williams Still Alive, super-fan Kessler follows the iconic singer-songwriter/actor Paul Williams. Responsible for such hit songs as The Muppets' "Rainbow Connection" and The Carpenters' "We've Only Just Begun" in addition to his famous turn as Swan in Brian De Palma's Phantom of the Paradise, Williams gained a reputation as one of the most eclectic and prolific pop culture personalities. Kessler follows his idol for this all-access pass to the musician's life. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED Colin Trevorrow's Safety Not Guaranteed focuses on three magazine employees from Seattle who land a bizarre story - a personals ad requesting a companion for time travel. They track down the ad's author, a grocery clerk named Kenneth (Mark Duplass), and their story evolves into something much grander than they expected. Inspired by true events, the film was a hit at SXSW and has garnered many critical accolades. This week on the blog, Scott Macaulay shares Harmony Korine's Black Keys video (pictured left), discusses Prescreen's suspension, and Sam Eisen announces Sundance Selects' acquisition of Una Noche.
To read more posts from our blog, click here.
"DARK HORSE" WRITER/DIRECTOR TODD SOLONDZ By Livia Bloom
"I want to want you," says the cripplingly depressed Miranda (Selma Blair) to her suitor with excruciating honesty. The coddled, overweight Abe (Jordan Gelber), a compulsive collector who still lives at home with his parents (Mia Farrow and Christopher Walken), will take what he can get. "That's enough for me," he breathes. In Todd Solondz's Dark Horse, the queasy tale of a 35-year-old man-child who decides to add a wife to his possessions, the writer-director's dialogue is as sharp as ever, each line an arrow poisoned with sincerity.
Woodstock Film Festival
Regular Deadline: June 8
WAB Deadline: June 29
Festival Dates: October 10 - 14
Hamptons International Film Festival
Late Deadline: June 8
WAB Deadline: June 25
Festival Dates: October 4 - 8
Slamdance Screenplay Festival
Regular Deadline: June 11
Late Deadline: July 23
WAB Deadline: July 31