Friday, May 28, 2010

Better Late Than Never - IFP Producer Fellow Howard Gertler Blogs Cannes


I’d meant to blog from Cannes, where I’d received a gracious Producers’ Network accreditation fellowship from the IFP. But the experience of being out there was like the movie Groundhog Day — wake up at 7:30A to make sure you get to the daily Producers’ Network breakfast roundtables by 8:30A (for a 9A start — the tables are filled by 8:45A), run up and down the Croisette going to, scheduling or re-scheduling meetings, grab a quick bite from the panini kiosks (unbelievably delicious, like ‘wichcraft on every corner), drinks meetings and cocktail parties starting around 6P, maybe see a movie, and converge on the terrace of the Grand Hotel until 2 a.m. or later. Pass out for a few hours’ sleep, realizing that you forgot to blog.
Rinse. Repeat. For 8 days straight.

I’m not complaining, but man, if you’re not there presenting a movie, you need to hustle. The last time I was there was when Shortbus premiered in the official selection, and I could concentrate on one project that occupied my entire time there (it was an equal amount of hustling, but the focus made it a bit easier). This trip was spent reconnecting with old friends and introducing myself and my slate to sales agents and financiers, especially those based overseas.
If you haven’t been to Cannes, then know that there are 2 Cannes overlapping — the Festival and the Marche du Film. The Festival is the opportunity to see what the organizers consider to be the cream of this year’s international crop of auteur-driven films; it is dressing up in black-tie to gain admission to the afternoon and evening screenings; it is Juliette Binoche. The Marche is the opportunity to see what wares are being hawked by scores of international sellers crammed into the Palais next to the Lumiere theater; it’s running around a trade show in comfortable shoes; it is Julie Strain.

The trick is to balance the two. A lot of industry folks just give up on seeing movies during the fest altogether. I felt that I would wither if I didn’t — I needed some sort of spiritual nourishment, and I found it at Mathieu Almaric’s “Tournee,” Cam Archer’s “Shit Year,” Xavier Dolan’s “Heartbeats” and David Mitchell’s “The Myth of the American Sleepover” (ok, I will cop to some sort of laziness by virtue of the fact that I didn’t see many foreign-language films, but I will gladly shell out the $12.50 to see Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s movie when it arrives here).

On the business side, the emphasis was largely on international co-productions. It’s a challenge for US producers, because we’re not a party to a large swath of these treaties. It was productive to speak with folks from places like Colombia and Australia to hear more about their resources, both soft money and location-wise, that make it worthwhile to shoot US-set features abroad.
It was an invaluable experience to get a sense of the international scene, both in the Festival and the Marche; taken together, it’s a global agenda-setter for what you’ll soon see and what’s getting made. But the propriety of a casino situated right next to the Palais wasn’t lost on me.

Friday, May 21, 2010

IFP Alum WAR DON DON wins the Cinereach Award!

Since it's award-winning debut at South by Southwest, Rebecca Richman-Cohen's War Don Don has truly been a film to be contended with. Today, it was announced that, in connection with the 2010 Human Rights Watch Film Festival, Cinereach presented its annual Cinereach Award to Rebecca Richman Cohen for her work as Director/Producer of War Don Don. The award, which includes a $5,000 prize, recognizes excellence in artful, vital storytelling.

In the film, Issa Sesay is tried in the "Special Court” of Sierra Leone, accused of committing war crimes during the country’s recent civil war. With unprecedented access to prosecutors, defense attorneys, victims, and, from behind bars, Sesay himself — War Don Don puts international justice on trial, finding that in some cases the past is not just painful, it is also opaque.

“War Don Don unravels the complexities of the international justice system, while weaving a gripping and dynamic story,” said Cinereach Creative Director Michael Raisler. “We’re thrilled that the film is part of this year’s program and can’t imagine a more exciting context for audiences to experience it.”

War Don Don went through the IFP Filmmaker Labs and Independent Film Week's Spotlight on Documentaries in 2008. (for those of you slackers out there, get your doc applications in today! it's the final deadline).

John Biaggi, Director of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, adds “It’s rewarding to see these two strong forces in the film world linking up - War Don Don, which is one of the year’s finest documentaries and delivers on many levels, and Cinereach, a vibrant, highly engaged organization.”

The Human Rights Watch Film Festival New York takes place from June 10-24. War Don Don will screen, with Rebecca Richman Cohen in attendance, at the Walter Reade Theater, Lincoln Center on:
June 12, 2010, 6:45PM *including panel discussion with co-council to Issa Sesay and others 

June 13, 2010, 2:00PM
June 16, 2010, 4:00PM

For tickets click here.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Cinereach Seeking Emerging Filmmakers for $5,000 Fellowship

Our good friends over at Cinereach have announced that submissions are now open for their annual Reach Film Fellowship (RFF). Cinereach is a not-for-profit film foundation that funds and produces films at the intersection of engaging storytelling, visual artistry, and vital subject matter.

Having attended the final screening and reception for last year's incarnation of RFF, I can say it is a fantastic and impressive program. RFF is a prestigious seven-month program that pairs filmmakers with a $5,000 grant, mentorship and other resources as they make artful short films with socially relevant themes.

HERE is a BEHIND THE SCENES VIDEO from last year:

Behind the scenes: The Reach Film Fellowship 2010 from Cinereach on Vimeo.

The application deadline is July 12, 2010. Applications and guidelines can be found here.

The fellowship is open to emerging filmmakers who have completed at least one short film. It is ideal for recent film school graduates and self-taught filmmakers with the equivalent level of production experience. Applicants must reside in the New York Tri-State area from August through April of 2010/2011.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

IFP's Interim ED, Joana Vicente, to Judge Shooting People's May Film of the Month

IFP's Interim Executive Director and noted independent film producer Joana Vicente will be judging our partner organization Shooting People's Film of the Month this month. Along with her producing partner, Jason Kliot, Joana has produced over thirty films by directors such as Jim Jarmusch, De Palma, Hal Hartley, Steven Soderbergh and Todd Solondz. Included among the many films that Vicente and Kliot have produced are acclaimed pictures like Tony Bui's Sundance Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award-winner THREE SEASONS, Jim Jarmusch's cult classic COFFEE AND CIGARETTES, Niels Mueller's THE ASSASSINATION OF RICHARD NIXON, Todd Solondz's Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winning WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE, Brian De Palma's controversial REDACTED and Alex Gibney's Academy Award nominated documentary, ENRON: THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM.

Vicente's films have garnered numerous accolades and awards over the years,including twenty-three total Independent Spirit Award nominations and four wins. In 2007, she was the recipient of the 'Made in NY' Award for individuals who have made outstanding contributions to New York City's entertainment industry.

If you'd like the chance of having Joana watch and review your film, just join Shooting People (IFP members get a free membership) and upload it to your profile before 27 May.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

iPadding from Doculand - IFP Member Carolyn McCulley's HotDocs Whirlwind

My first day at Hot Docs was a whirlwind of pitch meetings, presentations, and desperate hunts for caffeine. I had anticipated all of those. What I hadn't anticipated was the effect of my iPad. Whipping that out was better than having a cute dog for making new friends. Which was very helpful as I knew hardly anyone when I came. I gather it was also a relief to people used to being pitched all day to have something else to talk about.

Speaking of pitches, I started my day at the Rendezvous pitch session. It was impressively run by volunteers who kept us all on time. I followed that with a number of co-production panels and micro-meetings. One of the most noteworthy items of the day came from the staff of Canada's TVO public broadcaster: It is no longer sufficient to think through your film's development and concurrent marketing. Facebook pages and websites are expected. They are the norm and bare minimum. Rich media, or interactive media, is now expected. And filmmakers should hire for that role early on. In fact, rich media should have a shelf life of two to six years with evergreen content. An example of this would be the geo-tagged photos and other interactive media on the site of Budgets for these kinds of projects were mentioned in the $150K to $400K range.

Another steep learning curve looms!

At the end of the day, happy hour in the Burwash Hall was a steamy event. Not due to anything inappropriate, but simply due to the warm temperatures and the closed windows. But the crowd didn't budge. While I demo'd my iPad to new acquaintances, Documentary Channel CEO James Ackerman showed a few of us the pictures of his flooded Nashville home and neighborhood. Fortunately, the flood remediation is already underway, because those were some sobering pictures.

Despite my weariness, I made it to the Cumberland cinema to see the 9:30 showing of "My Perestroika." It was a packed house and the director, Robin Hessman, was on hand. She began this film five years ago, but the idea of profiling the generation who came of age during perestroika developed when she was in film school in Russia during the '90s. It had a compelling open--I was immediately engaged. However, the long day and the happy hour took their toll on a subtitled movie. I look forward to the film's PBS broadcast this fall to see the conclusion.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Hot Docs U.S. Delegate (and IFP Member) Carolyn McCulley Blogs Hot Docs

It is Sunday night. I just arrived in Toronto for my first ever Hot Docs event. I have my iPad pre-loaded with trailers from my film and am looking forward to finding out now well it will work to ditch my heavier laptop and just use the iPad for the week.

Already the Hot Docs staff has saved me time and money. I carefully read the FAQ and noted the tip about the Airport Express coach service. I booked online, saving another 10 percent off the $19.95 trip, and rode in from the airport connected to the free wifi aboard this comfortable coach. If you don't have your ride already lined up to go home, you may want to check it out.

I'm working the reward points angle this week, migrating from hotel to hotel with free stays. Tonight I am at the Hilton. I have a beautiful view of the city from the 26th floor. I arrived too late to get my event credentials, so I can't join the swing of things until tomorrow. But I anticipate getting precious little sleep for the rest of the week, so tonight's enforced rest is probably a good thing.

--Carolyn McCulley, producer/director CityGate Films

Sunday, May 2, 2010

IFP Member and U.S. Delegate Christa Boarini Blogs Hot Docs.

I guess depending on your level of experience in film festivals and your degree of success within the film industry, you view festivals quite differently. I, Christa Boarini, am a New York based filmmaker, working on my first feature length doc. Needless to say I am more of a buzz-following festival goer than one who is buzzed about. At least for now.

It is day 3 at Hot Docs International Documentary Film Festival, here in Toronto. True, the real heavy industry stuff begins tomorrow, Monday, but even in these past three days there has been a lot of mingling, theatre-going, crying, laughing and badge-reading. Things may have been a bit slow here in the Filmmaker Internet Lounge/Sales Desk (the first couple of days offered only complementary water, while now there are tables decked out with coffee and gourmet local teas). But now fellow Industry Pass holders wander in an out, having meetings, checking their email, having some coffee or trying to sort through the three or four thick textbooks of information that came in the goodie bags they give us at registration. We get a Program Guide, an Industry Guide, a guide of attending commissioning editors, etc etc etc. All great and useful information, but it takes a while to sort it all out.

Oh, and if you are coming to Hot Docs later next week, be sure to ask for a flexible badge holder. The others break.

In any case the festival so far is has proven to have nicely balanced programing, combining the heavier humanity-is-awful features with equally as compelling docs that leave you feeling happy to be human. For example, yesterday I watched Talhotblond, a cautionary film where a cyber love triangle of people who have never met ends in a 23 year old man's death. The young man's parents were there, they cried, we cried, it was wonderfully heartbreaking. I then walked over to the screening of Wasteland and my broken heart mended and soared to see a mixture of art and opportunity and good things happening for good people. You simply must see Wasteland and you will instantly understand why it has won the Audience Awards of basically all the film festivals it has been at.

Another great thing to take advantage of is a new program added to Hot Docs this year called "Ripping Reality: Essentials from Documentary's New Wave". This compilation of great documentaries made in recent years gives us the opportunity to see these wonderful films on the big screen. Whether you've seen the film a million times and it is the reason you decided to quit your job and go into documentary filmmaking, or if it is a movie you've heard of but never got around to seeing, Ripping Reality has so far been a great success.

So, between the regular film screenings, the Industry Only events, the parties, the Rendezvous meetings, the Documentary Forum, the International Co-Production day etc, I have had to make out meticulous schedules for every day, reminding me of what I am going to see, what meetings I have and what are the must-attend events of the day. So far it has been a great experience and I plan to take full advantage of it. By the time I get back to New York on May 10th I plan to be absolutely exhausted.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Mentorships in New York, Delegations in Toronto - IFP on the move

Two very exciting programs of IFP are showing the diversity of our organization and commitment to filmmakers of all stripes. This past week, we announced the conclusion of the inaugural year of our “Made in NY” Mentorship Program, a career development program supporting and promoting diversity in the New York City entertainment workforce through mentorship, workshop and networking opportunities and job placement support. The “Made in NY” Mentorship Program grew out of the Mayor’s Task Force on Diversity in Film, Television and Commercial Production, commissioned to explore initiatives and opportunities that would help to diversify employment in the City’s production industry.

Drawing from a highly competitive candidate pool, fifteen below-the-line participants representing an inclusive range of race, gender, ethnicity and physical ability were selected for an eight-month fellowship specifically designed to build the professional networks of its participants to ensure long-term career growth.

Among the mentors to participate in the program were costume designer John Dunn (I’m Not There, HBO’s Boardwalk Empire), cinematographer Frederick Elmes (Synecdoche New York, Blue Velvet), Production Designer Mark Friedberg (Across the Universe, Darjeeling Limited), producer Ted Hope (Adventureland, In the Bedroom), cinematographer Ellen Kuras (DP Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), cinematographer Harris Savides (Milk, Zodiac), and producer Frida Torresblanco (Pan’s Labyrinth), among many other dedicated artists and technicians. Over half of the cycle’s participants had the opportunity to directly apprentice with or shadow a mentor on set or in the production office.

This program is inspiring in that it focuses on those below-the-line film professionals and nurtures their skills in careers in a way that no other program has. We look forward to an exciting second year of the program.

In other news, this past Thursday was the opening night of Hot Docs, North America's largest film festival devoted to non-fiction film. For the first time ever, thanks to IFP's partnering with Shooting People and NYWIFT, we are able to bring a U.S. Delegation to this international festival. he delegations, each made up of established producers and broadcasters working in social, cultural and political documentary genres partake in the wealth of networking opportunities, market events and conference sessions offered. Official delegations also network with other delegates through specially-scheduled parties and receptions, and through International Co-Production Day, at which delegation members will be featured participants.

We look forward to keeping you posted about the success of all our members!