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For some time I've been wanting to write a newsletter that's really negative. Or, rather, that's about negativity. I've been looking over the past newsletters and notice that they mostly have a kind of positive tone to them, which I don't think is inappropriate. After all, they land in your inbox, and who wants to read a bunch of griping and complaining each week?
However, griping and complaining is part of being in independent film. When I give my closing speech at the IFP Narrative Lab each year, I caution filmmakers not to feel defeated and become bitter as they encounter the travails of the festival and distribution circuit. I believe that, but at the same time, negativity leading to righteous indignation leading to focused action is something you need to keep yourself going. So, I will write about anger and negativity and jealousy and competitiveness... but not this newsletter. I'm not in the mood.
I will reference today something that can lead to anger, though, and that's being strung along. Or, as it's often known in the biz, "being jerked around." It's the subject of a blog post by underground filmmaker Courtney Sell in which he describes a protracted series of meetings with an unnamed cable network that got him amped up for success and then left him crushingly defeated. In the piece, he describes his own naivete, his failure to negotiate a contract upfront and his, in retrospect, foolish willingness to do work without having a deal locked down. But, hey, Courtney, don't beat yourself up. The dirty secret is, this happens to everybody, regardless of their industry status. Reading Courtney's piece flashed me back to the story of the famous and famously rowdy New York director flown to Paris for a meeting, arranged by a producer, with the president of the company who would, the producer claimed, finance his next film. Except that the day the director arrived, the CEO wasn't there. The meeting wasn't on his books. Someone had dropped the ball, and the terrified reception staff tried to figure what to do while the director stormed the lobby.
The director got on that plane and all he got out of it was a trip to Paris. Not the worst way to have your time wasted. But the issue of how much to do on faith, or on spec, and how much to try to negotiate upfront is one writers and directors navigate everyday. When I interviewed Prometheus screenwriter Jon Spaihts a few months ago, he told me he got that gig by violating Studio Screenwriter Protocol 101 -- he wrote up his ideas without a deal and left them with Ridley Scott's executives. That worked for him, but what about people less far along in their careers? I'm remembering a conversation with a friend, whose writing sample got him meetings all over town. He left each meeting with something else -- a script producers were looking for a "new take" on, or a novel that needed the right angle. He'd stay up all night, reading these scripts and novels, worried that if he didn't get back to these people that he'd blow a future opportunity. Eventually he realized he had to concentrate on his own work as well as the few projects that interested him, and now he's doing great.
There's a lot more to say here... more than will fit in a newsletter. To be continued, of course. But if you'd like a dose of that negativity that I didn't really get to this newsletter, check out this hilarious rant by Ira Glass on how it sucks to be a producer. (Incidentally, the movie Glass produced, Sleepwalk with Me, is released tomorrow -- see opposite.)
See you next week.
IFP CONFERENCE - SEEKING PITCHES; TIX ON SALE! Held during IFP's signature Independent Film Week, the Filmmaker Conference brings together the international filmmaking community to explore the art and business of 21st century storytelling. Highlights include Keynotes from producer Christine Vachon and Focus Features' James Schamus, filmmaker JC Chandor, ARTE's Michel Reilhac, and the Ford Foundation's Orlando Bagwell, as well as case studies of Beasts of the Southern Wild and How to Survive a Plague, and vital info you can use to produce your latest & greatest works.
Now seeking pitches for Pitch Workshops for screenplays, marketing materials & transmedia - win a free ticket!
New! "Meet the Decision Makers" - real meetings for Conference passholders with top distributors, agents & managers, and filmmakers' grants and fellowships. Limited tickets available!
For the latest schedule, pitch workshop info, and to purchase tickets, click here.
Sleepwalk with Me
Kleber Mendonca Filho, Neighboring Sounds
IFP Conference - Seeking Pitches; Tix on Sale!
SAMSARA Ron Fricke's Samsara is a non-verbal document of life in 25 different countries across the globe. Shot over five years on 70mm, the film is Fricke's follow up to his 1992 film Baraka, which was also done in the same style. However, according to the filmmakers, Samsara is going to be quite a different affair. While the tone and style remains, the focus on people is greater. SLEEPWALK WITH ME In Mike Birbiglia's Sleepwalk with Me, wannabe stand up comedian Matt (Birbiglia) is grappling with his failing career, fear of getting married to his longtime girlfriend (Lauren Ambrose), and newly developed sleepwalking habit. Birbiglia's feature debut is based on a story he told in an episode of This American Life, which was later adapted into a one-man show. Sleepwalk with Me premiered at this year's Sundance, where it received the Best of NEXT audience award. NEIGHBORING SOUNDS Kleber Mendonca Filho's Neighboring Sounds follows a group of well-to-do families who live near a low-income housing area in Brazil. With the arrival of a security firm, the families grow uneasy due to the negative implications of their newfound presence. Filho's debut screened earlier this year at the Film Society of Lincoln Center's New Directors/New Films series and received glowing reviews. You can read Brandon Harris's interview with Filho here. This week on the blog, Kevin Canfield interviews Teddy Bear director Mads Matthiesen (pictured left), Nick Dawson shares the trailer for Ryan O'Nan's Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best, and Alix Lambert discusses Samein Priester's 1st &4Ever.
To read more posts from our blog, click here.
KLEBER MENDONCA FILHO, "NEIGHBORING SOUNDS" By Brandon Harris
One of the year's most startling debuts, Kleber Mendonca Filho's Neighboring Sounds is a queasily effective portrait of a society undergoing dynamic change. Unfolding over the course of a few weeks in the perpetually sunny Brazilian metropolis of Recife, the film centers on several families in one upscale block which is surrounded by new development. Yet the perpetual noise of high rise construction isn't the only thing haunting the denizens of this seemingly comfortable and manicured urban space. Fear of crime and just-under-the-surface racial tension takes its toll on everyone in unspoken ways. Even as fading reminders of Brazil's ever-present colonial past never quite wash themselves away, the private security forces that begin patrolling the neighborhood which forms the film's milieu are clearly a force of change in a new, perhaps less easily ordered Brazil.
Bronx International Film Festival
10 for 10: August 24
Regular Deadline: August 31
Late Deadline: September 7
WAB Deadline: September 14
Festival Dates: November 8 - 10
United Film Festival - New York
Special Deadline: August 24
Earlybird Deadline: October 5
Regular Deadline: November 16
Late Deadline: December 28
WAB Deadline: February 8
Festival Dates: May 10 - 16
OUTrageous: Santa Barbara Lesbian and Gay Film Festival
Late Deadline: August 24
WAB Deadline: September 7
Festival Dates: November 8 - 11