Thursday, December 16, 2010

Brave Thinkers Of Indie Film, 2010 Edition

Check out Ted Hope's list of Brave Thinkers Of Indie Film, 2010 Edition. Definitely people you need to know!

Brave Thinkers Of Indie Film, 2010 Edition.
by Ted Hope (reprinted from Ted's blog Truly Free Film)

We have a bit of a redundancy in the recognition of those that create good work, but that good work does not end with what is up on the screen — which is the part that everyone seems to want to write about. I feel however that we must recognize those that focus not just on the development and production of good work, but those that commit themselves to ALL of cinema, including discovery, participation, appreciation, and presentation — what I consider the other 4 pillars of cinema.

Last year at this time, I put forth a list of inspiring folks, people who by their acts and ideas were giving me the energy to keep striving for a better film culture and infrastructure, one that was accessible to all, and slave to none. We are closer to a truly free film culture this year than we were last year, and I remain optimistic that we can be a hell of a lot closer next year than we are today, thanks in no small part to the 40 I have singled out these two short years.

This list, like last year’s, is not meant to be exhaustive. Okay, granted I did not get to the quantity to the 21 Brave Thinkers that I did last year, but the quality is just as deep. Regarding the lesser amount, I don’t blame the people — I blame the technology (of course). I wish I had better tools of discovery that would allow me to find more of the good work and efforts that are out there. I know I am overlooking some BTs again this year. But so be it — one of the great things about blogging is there is no need to be finished or even to be right (although I do hate it when I push publish prematurely — like I did with this — when it is still purely a draft).

I know I can depend on you, my dear brave thinkers, to extend and amend this work into the future. I do find it surprising how damn white & male & middle aged this list is. And that I only found two directors to include this year. Again, it must be the tools and not the source, right? Help me source a fuller list next year; after all, it is as Larry K tweeted to me about regarding who are the most brave these days: “Those whom you don’t know but who continue, despite the indifference of all, to create work that is authentic,challenging and real.” How true that is!

Last year I asked and stated: “What is it to be “brave”? To me, bravery requires risk, going against the status quo, being willing to do or say what few others have done. Bravery is not a one time act but a consistent practice. Most importantly, bravery is not about self interest; bravery involves the individual acting for the community. It is both the step forward and the hand that is extended.”

This year, I recognize even more fully that bravery is a generosity of spirit, as well as a generative sort of mind. It is extending the energy inside ourselves to the rest of the world. I often get asked why I blog (or why so much), and I have no answer for those folks. It can’t be stopped, for I believe if we love the creative spirit as much as the work it yields, if we believe we create for the community and not for the ego, how can we not extend ourselves and turn our labor into the bonds that keep us moving forward. In other words, no one can afford to create art and not be public (IMHO). If you want a diverse and accessible culture of ambitious work, you can not afford to simply hope it will get better — you have to do something (or get out of the business, please).

So without any further adieu, here’s my list of the nineteen folks who have done more on a worldwide basisto start to build it better together, to take what remains of a crumbling and inapplicable film culture & infrastructure, and to try to bring it into the present. They all share a tremendous generosity and open spirit, embracing participation and collaboration.

This is no longer a world of scarcity and control. These nineteen have begun the hard work of designing a new world of film based on surplus and access — and the resulting community that grows from that –, and their actions and attitude give me hope for what is to come.

Wendy Bernfeld – The transformation from an entertainment economy designed around scarcity & control, to one built for surplus & access requires new business models and new sales models. Filmmakers struggle with this more than anyone as most of the sales agents still push for the deals that deliver them the highest return for the least amount of effort. This is not so for Wendy, whom through her company Rights Stuff has started the task of moving towards the short term non-exclusive license world this new world requires. Furthermore, Wendy has shared her knowledge both on my blog and at speaking engagements the world over. Her openness and forward thinking is an example for all of us.

Peter Buckingham – Until the UK shuttered the Film Council, Peter ran their innovation fund. Perhaps it’s just that I sit in America, but to think of a public official who is so committed to moving both the dialogue and the process forward as Peter, is no easy feat. Peter helped launch the UK’s Digital Cinema Initiative. His insight on the possibilities of meta-datat are always inspiring. We could use an ample dose of his high energy leadership on our shores if we are going to get some real things done here.

Edward Burns – Although he has more access to the Hollywood machinery than most, for his latest film, Nice Guy Johnny, Eddie not only went the no-stars micro-budget route, but he set out to distribute it himself from the start. With no marketing or advertising spend, Eddie has enjoyed a revenue return far in excess of his investment. As much as I admire his courage and commitment, it his openness about the process that I find most inspiring. In festivals, colleges, and even The Today Show, Eddie has shared his frustration and hope. He’s also consistently looked for new ways to help people discover his work. His Homage Trailers, where he remakes trailers of classic movies using footage from his own film, are filled with wit and humor and not to be missed.

Efe Cakarel & The Mubi Team - Of the folks listed here, Efe may be the one I am most remiss about not listing last year. The former Auteurs — now Mubi — remains the most robust community of film fans on the web, while being a dynamo curator of quality film on a global basis. Yet, it seems good that I overlooked Efe and his Mubi team last year, as the transformation to Mubi and their extension onto the Playstation platform gives film fans more access than I could have previously imagined. The challenge of bringing quality work to the community and generating discussion remains large, but these folks are leading the way.

Henning Camre – President of the Think Tank on European Film and Film Policy, former head of both the Danish Film School and UK’s National Film and Television School, and the Danish Film Institute, Henning is pushing through the necessary change in the Scandinavian Film Industry — but it is a ripple that will resonate throughout the world. I got to participate in the Think Tank as was deeply impressed at the quality and depth of the presentations and organization. No one ever likes to volunteer for the heavy lifting, but Henning has several times over. Change only comes when we recognize the pain of the present outweighs the fear of the future, and Henning’s clarity of vision towards the new reality has no equal on our shores. He embraces both the new and the old, the conservative and the radical, subscribing to the reality first, probing beneath the perception to unearth the hard facts about access and practice.

Sheri Candler - When you believe in something you want to share it, right? Sheri embodies this statement like few others. Her commitment and faith in audience and community building is contagious. An avid user of social media, it is hard to miss Sheri in the virtual world, as she lends her voice, heart, and hand to filmmakers trying to sort out a way to connect and build the necessary bridges. Added bonus for following Sheri? Her ideas are good and well thought out! Last year’s Brave Thinker, Jon Reiss attests: “I met Sheri just over a year ago after I had just finished Think Outside the Box Office – where else – but on Twitter. She reached out to me, as she does with countless others, and since our first meeting has been an invaluable partner – passionate, incisive and always on the hunt for new ideas and new people that can help filmmakers (myself included) connect with their tribe and help solve the problems facing us all in this challenging time. Her tireless engagement and generosity sharing her wisdom and discoveries is a constant inspiration to me and should be to all in our community.”

Adam Chapnick - CEO of, a company that places film and TV content on digital sales platforms such as iTunes, Netflix and Amazon for a flat fee while allowing filmmakers to keep 100% of their revenue. As Adam said in his HopeForFilm post: “Distribber was created to help rights holders maximize the payback from their work and investment. More specifically, Distribber was conceived as a solution to several persistent complaints from filmmakers and other creative rights holders about distributors in general and aggregators in particular.” Distribber, and Adam’s efforts, are key tools in the building of a middle class of artists who own and profit from the work they create.

CineFamily - When it comes down to email blasts that I love to receive, nothing rivals Cinefamily’s. Bold programming, well presented. As curators, they expand my knowledge. As a hardened New Yorker myself, these Losangeleans give me a reason to long for the west coast. They show us all how to use the web, and use it well. In an era and city of mass conformity, they show that it is still both set & setting, programming broadly to the narrow, with verve and attitude. Sure this kind of stuff goes over in quirk capital’s like Austin, but little did I suspect LA to deliver so much fine weirdness. To quote their own site: “The Cinefamily is an organization of movie lovers devoted to finding and presenting interesting and unusual programs of exceptional, distinctive, weird and wonderful films. The Cinefamily’s goal is to foster a spirit of community and a sense of discovery, while reinvigorating the movie-going experience. Like campfires, sporting events and church services, we believe that movies work best as social experiences. They are more meaningful, funnier and scarier when shared with others. Our home is the Silent Movie Theatre, one of Hollywood’s most beloved and beautiful cultural landmarks. There, The Cinefamily will provide a destination spot for Los Angelenos and others to rediscover the pleasures of cinema.”

Dylan Marchetti & Variance Film – I may not have heard more filmmakers praise a distributor this year, than Dylan. Furthermore, I don’t know of a distributor who maintains such an accessible and vocal presence online, thinking aloud, and engaging the community on the search for a new model that could serve the widest definition of film. Working on a flat fee basis versus a percentage of the gross, committed to a firm code of ethics, committed to 100% transparency in accounting, and 100% control for the filmmakers at all times, Dylan is a true partner in the emerging artist/entrepreneur economy.

Thomas Mai – I have had the first hand pleasure of sitting in the audience as Thomas pitches filmmakers on the power of social media and the new era of truly free film ahead of us. I have seen the skeptical grow empowered from his presentations. Thomas, a former sales agent, has taken his rant on the road, sharing his insights with audiences worldwide. From a base in Brazil, Thomas has used a shaky internet connect to distribute his lectures across the global. And he has given quite a few public speaking tips along the way, not to mention writing well-shared posts for HopeForFilm. You can check out one of his lectures on his site

Karol Martesko-Fenster - Brian Newman summed it up well, about Karol: “While he is no newcomer to the scene, having either founded or been part of the founding of a great part of the indie scene (Resfest, Filmmaker Magazine, indiewire) he continues to reshape it at Babelgum. Under the direction of Karol, Babelgum has been licensing (i.e. paying real money) work from independents who push boundaries. Whether it’s funding the Workbook Project, helping Sally Potter to be the first filmmaker to release a feature on a cellphone (day and date with it’s festival premiere) or funding the “prequel” docs leading up to the film “Bombay Detective,” Karol is pushing the field forward with the development of new artistic practices and business models.”

Thom Powers - Founder of Stranger Than Fiction, programmer at TIFF, co-founder ofCinema Eye Honors, this year Thom expanded his base still further as one of the founders of the DOC NYC fest. Few have done as much to further the community and appreciation of film in NYC. He has helped to build an energetic and passionate doc community, and never stops thinking about how to extend it further. A man with a mission if there ever was.

Casey Pugh - We need to facilitate collaboration between the tech and filmmaking worlds. Having been involved in building the Vimeo player and then Boxee, Casey’s already done a lot (and I think he is only 26). An Emmy award joined his list of accomplishments this year, and the cause of this award, is my favorite film of the year, Star Wars Uncut. I am eager to see his latest project, VHX launch in the months to come, as I am confident it will be another step forward for a truly free film culture. Casey sees the big picture, the full definition of cinema. In his work he’s building the ramps and bridges connecting the six pillars of cinema: discover, development, production, participation, appreciation, and presentation.

Orly Ravid & The Film Collaborative – A not-for-profit film distributor has long been a dream of mine, but it took Orly and her team to actually do it. For a truly free film culture to exist, sustainable enterprises must be built that facilitate the connection between unique work and audiences on terms that go beyond profit. THE FILM COLLABORATIVE is the first non-profit, full-service provider dedicated to the distribution of independent film. Not much more to be said, but Orly’s demystification of the sales and distribution processes, a refreshingly open approach to the numbers and realities of the distribution effort, via her blogging have gone a long way to helping filmmakers across the globe understand the world we are living in.

Michel Reilhac of Arte France I asked Brian Newman about Michel: “Michel has probably embraced the “new paradigms” of the film/media world better than anyone else, and he speaks and writes about it with an eloquence sorely lacking in the field. For just one example, see his “Gamification of Life” speech at the Power to the Pixel forum. He has helped transform Arte France into a leader in the support of transmedia, even pushing them to think about how this affects their daily work. He is also a mentor and friend to many filmmakers, helping them find and tell their stories in both new and old ways – but always better. But what most endears me to Michel’s work was his recent decision to stop funding conferences and training, instead giving more money to filmmakers to push the field forward by experimenting in their craft. Great idea: less talk, more action.” Amongst many round-breaking projects are their award-winning documentaries, Gaza-Sderot and Prison Valley – beautiful examples of new approaches to story-telling using the web and interaction.

Mike Ryan - Perhaps no post on indie film initially infuriated me as much as Mike’s Filmmaker Mag piece on the “current preoccupations of the indie film scene“. I strongly disagree with Mike’s blame-it-on-the-audience and build-it-and-if-it-is-good-they-will-come approach, but as the days turned to weeks and the weeks turned to month, the necessity of his central message of needing to be driven by the art and not the business resonated in deeper and deeper ways with me. It is a brave thing to say, particularly as a producer, that you do not care if something makes money and that the art comes first. Mike leaves no doubt that he is a man of bold visions and strong opinions; he is not afraid to speak truth to power. He is both rigorous and playful in his thinking, and he invests it in new projects and filmmakers, not because of the business or opportunity, but because he believes that what they have to say and how they choose to say it is important. American Indie would not be the fertile ground it is these days without Mike’s efforts, but his efforts don’t end there: Mike helped to co-found HammerToNail with both Corbin Day, Michael Tully, and myself; Mike helped start an initiative in Memphis to train underprivileged youth in film, and Mike has trained many another up and coming producer.

Yancey Strickler & Perry Chen - Of any one on this list, Yancey and Perry are probably the only ones whose creation has moved from an object to a verb. In certain circles I have heard Kickstarter to stand in for crowdfunding. Although they are not the only game in town when it comes to mobilizing the community to put worthy projects into being, they’ve certainly been among the most prominent. Mark Rosenthal of Rooftop Films makes their commitment clear: “It’s brave to share your creative dreams with the world, to put your faith in people, to seek support from strangers. Everyone who’s putting their films and albums and paintings and gizmos on Kickstarter is taking a chance that people will like what they’re doing. But it takes other brave people—like Yancey and Perry—to spend years of their lives building the site and enabling the community to build. Great job, guys.”

Timo Vuorensola - PowerToThePixel’s Liz Rosenthal said: “Timo Vuorensola is a film director from Finland and an early advocate of crowd-sourcing and social filmmaking. His first feature, the sci-fi comedy Star Wreck: In The Pirkinning was several years in the making. He and his team built an active community of 2,500 around the making of the film . The community co-created around 50% of what made it into the final film, They helped with aspects of casting, writing, music, 3D modelling, CGI effects, translating the film into more than 30 languages. It has since achieved cult success, his evangelical community helping spread the word and has been downloaded over 8 million times through official torrents whilst the team sold DVDs and merchandise of the film. Timo launched, a new web service that enables filmmakers to build and collaborate with online communities around their films.Timo’s second feature, the sci-fi comedy, Iron Sky, which tells the story of Nazis who come from the Far Side of the Moon, is due to be released in 2011 and has a budget of 6.5 million euros. Fans have already been able to help with ideas in Wreckamovie and helping to fund the movie by buying merchandise, donations and also offering a chance to invest in the movie and share its possible profits.”

Rainn Wilson - As I stated the other day: “Rainn gives back in a big way. I am a bit in awe in how generative and generous this man is. There’s a reason why he has over 2 million twitter followers and it’s not just because he’s really funny. He cares about things. He cares about people. He cares about process. He’s thoughtful.” If you haven’t ever checked out Soul Pancake, a site he helped found, nows the time. I got to know Rainn this year as he both Executive Produced and starred in SUPER (which I produced with Miranda Bailey). It was Rainn’s tweet that he and “James Gunn were going out with a low budget f’d up Watchmen” that drew me to the project. His commitment to social media definitely played a big role in the financing and sale of the film. Through Rainn’s commitment to a better world, he is inadvertently building a better model both for film and us as individuals.

I recognize that many of these folks have written for HopeForFilm, but it is something that I encourage people whom I admire to do (even some that I don’t!). There are also some on this list that are good friends, but I like to socialize with such types, so what can I say? Some people on the list are folks I have or have had business with, and some I plan to have business with in the future, but the same holds true for the professional sphere as is in the personal — when people do good things, I want to get to know them. Is that at all surprising?

I remain thankful a great deal this year including making one film and selling another. This list is my thanks to some of those who inspire me. We can build it better, together.

P.S. I solicited nominations this year from last year’s Brave Thinkers. David Gertz went as far as to write a whole post on the companies that are doing the work that will allow a new infrastructure to take hold. Check out his post here.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Distribution U. THIS MONTH (November) in L.A. and NY

Distribution U.: The One-Day Crash Course on the New Rules of Crowd-Funding, Audience-Building, and Distribution

New York: November 13th

Los Angeles: November 20th

Special discount for Friends of Filmmakers Alliance

How can producers design innovative — and extremely effective — marketing, social media, and distribution strategies for their current project? That's the core focus of Distribution U., a one-day "crash course" taking place in November at NYU and UCLA. Presented by leading distribution strategist Peter Broderick and Scott Kirsner, author of the book "Fans, Friends & Followers," Distribution U. is a completely panel-free gathering that engages its participants in new ways. There are case studies, data points, and examples of films that have created successful audience-building and distribution strategies…small-group lunch discussions with industry experts...filmmakers discussing the decisions they’ve made, good and bad…time for networking and sharing resources...and a brainstorming session to develop useful ideas for projects that Distribution U. participants are working on. One participant at last year's Distribution U. in Los Angeles said: "It was an excellent, thought-provoking, and practical program." Another said, “The room felt like the future to me.” We hope you can be part of the 2010 edition.

Friends of FA receive a special $25 discount by registering at the links below... and there are deeper discounts for groups of two and three participants.

November 13th in NY

November 20th in LA

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ingrid Kopp's Digital Bootcamp

As noted in my previous post, I'm spending a lot of time in New York CIty these days. So, it's important that I get a feel for what's happening here. I'm lucky enough to know the awesome Ingrid Kopp of Shooting People (great org!). And she was kind enough to invite me to her Digital Bootcamp seminar at DCTV (another great org!).

I partially went to hear what cool stuff she was going to discuss, but also to see who turns up for a talk like this and if there is a real "community" attending these things. There was a nice turnout, although there is never as many people at these things as there should be - considering all the filmmakers I know who would benefit from Ingrid's info. Just sitting in the audience waiting for the presentation to begin, I wasn't able to see how much community there was among the audience. When I say community, I mean some kind of familiarity/connectivity between peeps that may include shared goals, projects, resources, etc. People were invited to stick around after the presentation for drinks and chatting, which would have given me a much better idea. However, I had to leave right after the presentation and missed the opportunity to see what's up.

Why is assessing the size and types of the filmmaking community here important? Well, if I'm going to start a community, I'd like to know what's here already. What am I dealing with. What exists already? Is there really even a need for Filmmakers Alliance in NYC? So far, I'm confident FA would have something significant to contribute here.

Anyway, all this focus on community went out the window when Ingrid began to talk. Immediately and throughout, I was very excited by everything she had to say and how she said it. She whizzed through a jam-packed tour of online digital tools in just over an hour and probably could've talked for several hours more. She spoke rapidly, but very succinctly, focusing not only on what technology exists out there on the web to help filmmakers develop an audience for their films, but also on how filmmakers can use these tools to expand the definition of filmmaking - and, therefore, how they define their own creative lives. Much of what she had to offer was not just "Check out this thing or check out that thing", it was "Think differently about films. Think differently about building an audience. And here are some tools to help you do that...."

How do we think differently? Well, first of all, the old idea of "build it and they will come" simply isn't working. I know, I know, you're an artist. And artists make art. And if it's great, people will see it - even if it's the very small handful of people who can recognize your genius for what it is. Or, if you are like Van Gogh, they will never see it in your lifetime, but you'll have the satisfaction of knowing you're a true artist. Oh, stop it, please. Van Gogh would've given his right ear to gain a large audience for his work. Or was it the left ear?....Anyway, that romantic notion is simply foolish, especially given what exists out there to help people find your work despite the zillions of attention-grabbing, time-sucking choices they can make.

Ingrid Kopp of Shooting People

In her seminar, Ingrid introduces a whole array of clever, easy-to-use gizmos and do-dads that make the tedious job of building an audience actually kind of fun and creative - which offers another opportunity to think differently. She challenges us to not think of an audience as just an audience. The old idea of a passive audience engaging in a one-way relationship with the artist also does not serve the new age of indie filmmakers. Audiences can now be, in many cases MUST be, partners in a creative experience. And how does one build these "partnerships"? And what do they look like? Alas, those questions demand too much to be answered in this post. Suffice it to say, for now, that there are many, many cool new web tools out there to help you build those partnerships and many, many filmmakers and other creatives who are already taking advantage of them to successfully do it themselves.

Ingrid pulls a lot of examples from sites that have nothing to do specifically with filmmaking, but can be easily re-imagined to support the needs of indie filmmakers. They are tools used for marketing products, building grassroots support around a political or social issue, educating people about an issue or simply creating a very cool distraction. Often, these tools are used in very creative, unexpected ways that pulls in not just eyeballs, but true partners. This offers yet another opportunity to think differently filmmaking. How can we use these tools to extend the film experience beyond the parameters of the film itself? Can the process of building an audience/partners be a creative endeavor that is not altogether separate from the film itself? The answer is unequivocably, yes.

I know these emerging possibilities scare a lot of old school filmmakers who really just want to make a film and have it play to packed crowds at hundreds of commercial theaters. Then, become "industry famous" - wheeling and dealing with studios and making films with famous, fabulous people. I feel their pain. New technology is always scary, especially when it totally changes the game. Many silent filmmakers were terrified of and/or completely uninterested in the advent of sound. But like sound, this new technology is a reality of, not just the marketplace, but the creative process itself. It is much wiser, and ultimately more satisfying, to embrace and integrate all the cool stuff and enjoy the exciting new places it can take your work. Your childhood filmmaking dream may look a little different, now, but truly achievable.

Anyway, my head was spinning with all kinds of cool possibilities as Ingrid rolled out all of this amazing stuff. So, to get your heads spinning, too (since I've been speaking in such general terms throughout this post), you need to go here:

Ingrid has created this great resource site and considerately put together a bunch of info and links to help us navigate this brave new world of filmmaking-useful technology. Check it out. And join us as soon as you can in the 21st century.....

Please do "A Small Act"....

Support my friend Jennifer Arnold's beautiful, uplifting film "A Small Act". Even if you can't make it to the theater, show the love and buy a ticket!

Thanks so much!!

Here's the site link:

And a great review from Roger Ebert (one of many):

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Independent Film Week 2010

So, I think I've officially forgotten when I first started coming to the various incarnations of IFP New York's annual event. All I know is it started for me when it was called IFFM (Independent Feature Film Market) and it was sometime around the time when Independent Film was just getting sexy to anyone other than independent filmmakers. It is now called Independent Film Week, of course, which includes the Independent Filmmaker Conference. I won't go into it's evolution again (I've done it in past blogs) nor regale everyone, yet again, with wild and woolly anecdotes from the past. I'll save that for when I reach my seventies.

Suffice it to say that I have not only been here each year through the various incarnations, but also in various capacities - as a filmmaker, as an organization rep, as a production company rep, as emerging filmmaker lab board member and as a simple attendee. This was my first trip as a a No Borders participant. For those of you who don't know, here's how No Borders is described on IFP's own site:

No Borders is the oldest and most prominent co-production market in the U.S. for narrative projects. The program is open to established American and International Producers. All projects must have a minimum of 20% financing in place. As these are co-financing meetings, only projects with experienced producers are accepted. A total of 25 scripts in development are accepted to No Borders.

And it is exactly as described. I was there as a producer with a project called "The Apology" to be directed by Babak Shokrian (who is also a producer and co-wrote it with two others) , who had earlier done "America So Beautiful" with my then-wife Diane Gaidry. He's now a long-time member of Filmmakers Alliance and solicited my involvement in helping get the new film off the ground. I read the script quite awhile ago and fell in love with it immediately. It went on to win Slamdance's screenwriting award and generally gets a great response from all who read it. Despite that, several changes for the better have been made since I first read it and more are on the way. It's a great project, but not an easy one to set up. Here's the brief synopsis:

Exiled to Germany after the Islamic revolution for his sexuality and political beliefs, a legendary Iranian showman is offered a chance to return home to see his dying mother if he agrees to deliver a public apology renouncing the beliefs that have come to define him as a cultural activist and anti-fundamentalist hero. Based on a true story set in 1993, the film details his complicated life as he wrestles with the decision, struggling to resolve the ideological and the personal.

Great story well-written. And with a terrific character that has generated interest from a lot of great actors (a great well-known one in particular). But it does not have big box office written all over it, so we must find financing partners for whom that is not the sole consideration. Never an easy thing to do and even more difficult in these economic times. Our goal, then, is to try to tap into "soft money" (EU and/or German state and regional funding, tax credits, negotiated service discounts and barter...and more) and supplement it with "hard money" (private equity investment, pre-sales, etc.). To get any of the European financing, we need to have a German co-production partner as those funds are only made available to indigenous companies.

This is why No Borders is so great. The simple goal of No Borders is to connect selected filmmakers with the people that can help move their project forward. And it is called No Borders for many reasons, not the least of which is its international flavor. So, they set up participants with anyone - from any part of the world - that can potentially support the project. You are set up on brief meetings - 15 minutes or so and not unlike speed-dating - that can lead to deeper connections outside of the event. The meetings are created by the IFP organizers, but I believe that support companies/orgs/individuals look at the dossiers of the selected projects and request meetings accordingly.

We got set up on about 5 or 6 meetings with lawyers, producers, production company reps, regional film commission reps, etc. Everybody we met with was impressive - smart, experienced and engaged. All were very nice, too. None were a perfect match for our needs but I think that is difficult to make happen and therefore rarely happens. All had something valuable to offer, however, and were just plain great to meet for any number of reasons. Other filmmakers we met had twice as many meetings as us or more, but then, they had very different projects that could attract that many more peeps.

On top of the organized meetings, you are also free to set up your own outside meetings as an industry list with contact info is readily made available to participating filmmakers. And the lovely, helpful IFP staff will even step in to help facilitate additional meetings. Therefore, it is important to do your homework so that you not only know who is there, but what their needs and initiatives are. You don't want waste anyone's time, including your own. No Borders projects are all at the script stage and some attending companies are there for the Project Forum - which are nearly or partially completely films - and they have no interest in projects still at script stage. Or a company may just focus on docs, or specific genres or any other number of specific objectives. It's wise to be diligent and, therefore, informed. Don't run around annoying peeps with your over-eager, misinformed energy.

But one of the best hook-up opportunities No Borders presents is with the other filmmakers. Experienced filmmakers carry around a ton of great info and connections that they are often willing to share openly. Even though we are all scrambling around looking for money and other stuff, our projects are different enough so that we are not always in competition with each other. Therefore, filmmakers are often comfortable with sharing information and connections. Also, the environment of the event is not dog-eat-dog competitive. It fosters communal support. Sometimes the other filmmakers are the very people you need to meet. We met two potential German producers - there with their own projects - who's companies could be right as partners for "The Apology".

Independent Film Week also included the Project Forum as I mentioned earlier, however, we didn't get to see any of the films screening there. There were also some cool seminars included in the Independent Filmmaker's Conference, but my favorites were the Cage Matches they set up where two industry peeps representing somewhat opposing perspectives regarding a particular Independent Film Issue were engaged in a moderated debate.

Michelle Satter (Sundance Institute) and Jon Reiss ("Thinking Outside The Box Office") square off in one of the Independent Filmmaker Conference's Cage Matches.

Naturally, no one was seriously injured in these head-to-head confrontations, but they provided a lot of stimulating ideas.

Of course, there were also lots of social events during the week and I attended most of them. Rooftop Films had a couple of awesome (as usual) screenings and there were lots of fun receptions that allowed all the participants to connect socially. Of course, I mourned the end of the Florida Film Commission's crazy annual Wasabi Party (unlimited sushi and saki/beer) that died when the host restaurant (which gave them such an amazing deal) finally went under. However, they had a very nice alternative event at the very hip Ace Hotel.

Lastly, as I've said many times before, you get to be in NYC in September. That, in itself, is reason enough to attend.

Over-all, No Borders and the entire Independent Film Week was a great experience. Although much different than past incarnations of IFP's annual event, it feels like it is all "grown up", now. It is lean and purposeful - for serious filmmakers only. And I deeply appreciate that because I feel like I've grown up with it. There's still plenty of fun to be had, but my time is more limited, now, and I like feeling there's at least one event, at least once a year, where independent filmmakers can buckle down and get things done.

Friday, August 13, 2010

VisionFest 2010, August 27th at 7:00 p.m. - Downtown Independent Theater

VisionFest 2010
Friday, August 27th at 7:00 p.m.
Downtown Independent Theater
251 S. Main St. Los Angeles, CA 90012

CLICK HERE to purchase tickets.

VisionFest 2010 is Filmmakers Alliances' yearly celebration that brings together the best of L.A.'s independent filmmaking community.

The evening begins with the presentation of the NILSSON AWARD, curated and presented by the award’s namesake and inaugural recipient, ROB NILSSON. The award acknowledges and celebrates bold, direct, honest and aesthetically challenging filmmaking that is often unrecognized by the mainstream independent film community. This year's Nilsson Award recipient is Armenian filmmaker Harutyun Khachatryan.

Next is the presentation of the VISION AWARD to an established filmmaker whose artistic ambition and consistent filmmaking excellence provides artistic inspiration to emerging filmmakers all around the world. Past recipients include MIke Figgis, Terry Gilliam, Wim Wenders, Allison Anders, Alexander Payne, David O. Russell, Werner Herzog, Mark and Michael Polish, Kevin Smith, and producer Ted Hope.

This is all followed by a program of the best short films produced through Filmmakers Alliance in the previous year.The program is as follows:

Wait For Me by Dylan O'Brien and Holly Murdoch O'Brien
Native Time by Sean Morris
Beyond Silence by Vidyut Latay
Gonah Kardam by Gabriela Tollman
Aliens Vs. Predator Directed by Stephen Reedy and Produced by Megan Powers
David Vs. Goliath by George Zaver
Quetzal Directed by Marc Levy and Produced by Amanda Sweikow

The evening finishes with a high-energy party on the rooftop of the Downtown Independent Theater and is catered by some of Los Angeles' best restaurants.

CLICK HERE to purchase tickets.


Parking is not free. There are several parking structures near the theater. $9 parking is available right next door to the theater on the north side. However, $5 parking is available at the Los Angeles Times parking structure at 213 South Spring Street.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Independent Film Master Class - SUCCESSS!!

Filmmakers Alliance's first Independent Film Master Class took place on Sunday and it was a HUGE success. Attendance was somewhat moderate, but those who were there were smart and engaged. The volunteers who helped put it together were amazing - generous of spirit, hard-working and focused. And the speakers....AMAZING. A deluge of great information and handy tips were imparted in a concise, easy-to-grasp way that spoke to truly independent filmmakers. But the most surprising and exciting thing was how well the Live Webcast turned out. Cliff Robinson made it happen and he was genius. Webcast viewers got to see the whole show from the comfort of their homes and interact with each other via chat while doing it.

Naturally, some things are lost by not being physically in attendance - a chance to interact with the other filmmakers, to talk to speakers, to enjoy the post-seminar reception, to get free goodies, etc., but at a quarter of the physical attendance price, the webcast was a very good deal.

It was not without a few technical glitches, especially at the beginning. And we learned much about how to stage an event like this that we will allow us to take it to a higher level next time. Scheduling will change. There was just so much information to get out, we simply didn't give ourselves enough time for it all and had to skip over some stuff. Need to have lots more water handy and definitely need solid breaks between each presentation. A few other things to add/change, too. But over-all it went absolutely great.

Thanks so much to all of you out there who helped make it a success. And hope to see the rest of you at the next one. We will probably be doing it in NYC in early November. But again, available from ANYWHERE online via the Live Webcast....:)

See ya then!!

Friday, July 30, 2010

"Within" Premiere's On LIFETIME

"Within" is the fabulous Hanelle Culpepper's feature directorial debut. It premiere's on the Lifetime Channel at 9 p.m. on July 31st. The film is part of the Bigfoot Entertainment slate (including "The Dogwalker" and "Midnight Movie") and was produced by Liam Finn - and yours truly,....but he did all the heavy lifting). CHECK IT OUT!! :)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Independent Film Master Class - Aug. 1st in L.A. AND Webcast!!



When: August 1, 2010 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Where: The Downtown Independent Film Theater

251 S. Main St.

Los Angeles, CA 90012 (map below)


IF YOU CANNOT ATTEND IN PERSON, register now for the Live Interactive Webcast. It is discounted 50% to only $25 for only the next seven days: Attendees and Live Webcast registrants get access to an archived copy of the Master Class for life!

Filmmakers Alliance's INDEPENDENT FILM MASTER CLASS is the complete, all-in-one package - a definitive, step-by-step, one-day seminar for independent filmmakers offering all the information you need to get your film MADE and SEEN. The INDEPENDENT FILM MASTER CLASS is a clean, clear, concise and complete independent filmmaking blueprint for your film project that will allow you to sustain your life as a filmmaker!!

  1. Concept, Story and Script Development - Developing ideas and concepts that work! Then, writing that script in a way that will get your film made without compromising your vision.

  1. Film Financing and Crowdfunding - Where to find the money and what you need to do to get it. Also, exploring new strategies in raising money for your film.

  1. Pre-production and Production - How to get the most filmmaking bang from your budget - creatively and cost-efficiently managing your project. Also, how best to work with actors, crew, locations, unions, guilds, crafts to ensure your film not only gets made, but looks exponentially more than its cost.

  1. Post-Production - New technologies and methodologies are making it easier to high end work with a low end budget. Find out what they are and what you need to do give a stunning, world-class finish to your film and how to prepare for it long before you reach post.

  1. Festivals and Distribution - Understanding the festival circuit and how to use it to your film’s greatest advantage. And devising and executing a distribution plan that will give your film it’s best shot at success and sustain your filmmaking life!

Speakers include:

  • Saskia Wilson-Brown( speaking about DIY funding strategies with a nod to more traditional ways of raising money.

  • Producer-writer-director Liam Finn serving up war stories on his no-budget first feature "Rejouer".
  • Filmmakers Diane Bell and Chris Byrne talking about financing and other issues putting together their award-winning Sundance fave "Obselidia".


The seminar also includes filmmaker case-studies and open Q&A periods, so come prepared with your specific filmmaking questions - the ones that most have you stumped - so that we can take you to the next level.

SEMINAR SPECIAL - 10 filmmakers will be selected from the attendees for a FREE 6-session series of consultations. You MUST submit your project to no later than June 30th for consideration. Please submit no longer than a single page synopsis, a filmmaking resume and links to any previous work. Please DO NOT send video files or full scripts.



Ticket Prices:

$175* - Includes seminar fee plus one year of Filmmakers Alliance membership (LA).

$125* - General seminar fee only.

$75 - Seminar fee for FA members only (with special discount code)

$50 - Live Interactive Webcast. REGISTER NOW! -

*Fee includes lunch and parking.

Get your tickets and start making your film NOW!!