Friday, June 18, 2010

YELLING TO THE SKY director Recaps the Narrative Labs

The most common song sung throughout cineland the past few years is how"excessively difficult it is to get an Indie resourced and released in this climate." Ask anyone, two decades thick into Indie and you'll hear, long-ago-era-of-abundance stories.

Putting us, up and coming filmmakers at an anemic crossroads of [what once was] and [what isn't, just yet].

People often react to members of our production team as if we're aiming to build the Taj Mahal upon three melting icicles and a strand of retrofitted dental floss. Since hearing countless experiences on forty layers of nonconventional choices from our IFP fore-filmmakers and peers all last week, I now feel a buoyant sense of one [single] buck solid absolute.

I am absolutely, to the core certain that the old rules forever drummed into celluloid's "how to" lexicon, no longer dictate a film's platform or shelf life. The paradigm of yester-decade is not today's rule. More excitingly, this very second in time, there-are-no-rules! How rejuvenating, to be walking within the precise moment where a shifting industry, has yet to take shape. The worldwide web has miraculously leveled the playing field, decimated the platinum curtain and reinstated the long lost nectar of an almost deceased term; I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T.

YELLING TO THE SKY is jumping off in a time where there's no playbook. There's no sole structure, fold out, process, formality or convention to define film or to exhibit media.

For every one of grandcinema's decaying "must", there are twenty-two thousand present day, counter success hymns.

It is the wild wild East, and as such the only viable requirement for flight, is a willingness to play.

Not play along, not play by ideas, not play accordingly or fitfully. Just schoolyard-proper, sleeves up, love of the game "play".

That ripe smashing of old law, is taking shape as my entire team and I, continue walking thru post. As Billy and I, proceed to pick sales agents, navigate our launch, seek support and more crucially as we demand visibility.

(I'm sitting on a plane next to BIlly Mulligan, my producing partner; Billy, what's the strongest component you are leaving the lab with?

BM: At my fingertips, I feel empowered by the knowledge that was bestowed upon us. In the more micro sense, I can't stop thinking through what we learned about the ever growing and expanding opportunities for distribution and how the distribution landscape is changing at such a fast pace. I am surprised at how much, theoretically, I am embracing it.)

During such a crucial stage of our film's maturation, it's impossible for he and I, to sum up all the moving parts of this lab experience. To have the IFP team roll out point by point discussions on every single tiered aspect of post production is the filmmaking equivalent of Wonka's golden ticket. Entry in this case, seems based upon a healthy ratio of talent, discipline, sacrifice and isolation.

It's not possible to cohesively sling consonants, vowels and syllables into quantifiable expression; mirroring the density per battle, per month, per week, per day.

How do we t h a n k y o u; Amy Dotson, Scott Macauley, Rose Vincelli, Susan Stover, Tricia Cooke, the hourly speakers, the year long staff, the fellows, past and present...

How do we "self starters" thank you insightful few, for generously offering a post-pro home with which we may f i n i s h.

-Victoria Mahoney

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Darren Dean, KINYARWANDA Producer, on the IFP Lab Boot Camp

Darren Dean (front left) and other fellows soak up knowledge at the Labs

Whew. I’m sure most everyone would agree when I say, “What a week!”
Sort of like filmmaker boot camp.

My only regret was not being able to celebrate with everyone on the Labs’ final day because I had to attend my wife’s boss’ daughter’s wedding (NOTE: We filmmakers should always defer to the needs of our significant others. Should this well of filmmaking dry up, as everyone keeps predicting – we will all need an employed person in our household. And we don’t want to piss them off!). Nevertheless, we all probably started drinking around the same time and – rest assured – I certainly raised my glass to all of you.

Was it just me, or did it feel like our noodles were turned inside out by week’s end? While I went into this hoping that I’d learned much of what would be discussed over the last few years, I was easily disarmed by that which I didn’t know.
And while it was abundantly clear that I’ve made (as we all probably have) mistakes along the way, it was refreshing to hear about the regrettable decisions of our mentors and the mistakes they made along the way. For me, it is pretty bold to be as successful as Scott and John and Amy and Rose and peel away the layers in an effort to better us all. When a mentor tells you about some grave move they made in years past, followed by an “I never thought I’d work again,” it is not only revealing, but relieving. It’s kind of like your dad admitting he dropped acid or your mom admitting that she regrettably slept with the captain of the football team. It doesn’t make our own mistakes go away, but simply serves to elucidate how fallible we all are. More importantly – and all egos aside – it reminds us, too, of how much we need to learn.

I have to say that I don’t agree with one of our mentors this week who implied that we are all in competition with each other. Yes – there will be festivals. Yes – there will be distributors vying for our work. And, yes – we all want to be the best that we can be. But here, as we learn – not only from our mentors, but each other – we grow into each other’s work.

The most telling line I heard all week – repeatedly, from different filmmakers – was, “I wish I’d made that film.” When you can look at the efforts and works of others and wish that they were yours, it means that you are akin with it.
I’m sure Alrick and Tovah would agree that, while we leave this week having made one film, we wish we had made nine others. And, in the year(s) that come, we will likely find ourselves championing each of your films as much as we do our own. They are all as much a part of us as KINYARWANDA.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

KINYARWANDA's Alrick Brown on Wisdom, Honor, and Digesting the IFP Narrative Labs

Lab Workshop leaders Alan Chan, (producer, Half-Life), photographer, and Josh Mond (producer, Afterschool) and Alrick Brown (director, Kinyarwanda) Photo by Mike Cerda

The storm has passed, the lights have dimmed, and we are left standing holding our films in our hands. The 2010 IFP Narrative Lab is over, and in 1 short week I have gathered more information on the Finishing, Marketing, & Distribution of a film than I have in my previous 8 years in the film game. I really don’t mean to kiss up but you gotta give credit where it is due. The lab, the filmmakers, the mentors, the guest speakers, and the work of the IFP are all solid. Honestly, I underestimated you coming into this. I just didn’t know. I have since perused the website -- watched the videos, learned some of the history, and now I feel even more honored.

Actually I just lied. Not about the solid or honored thing. Do people lie on the Internet? Along with that film in our hands we walked away with some other pieces of the puzzle that will help our films find their audience and in the sentiments of Alfred Hitchcock, “Why make a movie if nobody is going to see it?” I think all the filmmakers wanted to get back to work but we were given the sound advice, by Amy, of taking this week off - away from our films so all the information can marinate. Well it’s marinating like a mutha*@#!

The task now is to finish the best possible versions of the projects with the time and resources we have and then give them their chance to be seen by as many people as they can. It seems pretty straightforward, right? But how many amazing films have come and gone that you we were clueless about. Finishing a film but not marketing it is like building a car with 3 wheels. It might go somewhere, it might get recognized, but you might not travel as far as you could. And you certainly won’t travel without scraping your ass on the asphalt. Does this mean our journey will be easy cause we are in the independent film ‘in crowd?’ Hell no. After the success of INSIDE MAN, Spike Lee was still struggling to get his films made. Many well known filmmakers can’t get their project’s marketed properly much less get the projects themselves off the ground. Spike got there because of the WORK. The hard and smart WORK. We got there because of the WORK and there is no substitution for the WORK.

During the last few workshops my brain was fried as I processed the info and I looked ahead at ALL the additional work that needed to be done. And I was stressing thinking about the next project. What would my next film be? Paola Mendoza (Writer/Director/Actress of Entre Nos) reminded us to enjoy the process and savor this accomplishment. Wisdom is simple.

Today, I told a pretty religious dude about my IFP experience, about all the amazing people I met, worked with, all the potential in the room, and he quoted something his pastor said in church on Sunday, “Things move at the speed of relationships.”

In the words of the great philosopher Bruce Lee, “Running water never goes stale.” So, fellow lab mates, mentors, and all of our collaborators, do the WORK and lets keep it moving…together.
Peace Love & Respect

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Lucy Mulloy of UNA NOCHE reflects on her Labs Experience

(left) Lucy Mulloy, John Henry Summerour (SAHKANAGA), and Daniel Mulloy (producer, UNA NOCHE talk shope with Nekisa Cooper (PARIAH) - Photo by Mike Cerda

The first day, sitting in the cinema, I really had no idea what to expect. I love the feeling of being taken by surprise at the images and the emotions projected. Getting a teaser fired us all up to see the full movies. During the week I gained further insight into the projects and into the details of what we have to contend with to bring our movies into the world, from the finer points of deliverables and legalities to finding our audience and making it possible for them to find us. There is some great work that is going to get a lot of attention coming out of the lab this year. The overwhelming feeling I have is that it was wonderful to be selected amongst a group with such raw determination and talent, executing their visions independently. The people involved were an inspiration - from classmates, and lab leaders to our mentors. We are so lucky to gain the direct insight of Scott Macaulay, Susan Stover and editors like Sabine Hoffman. I feel like we met at a perfect, critical stage in the process of finishing the film.

Josh Mond, Producer, AFTERSCHOOL with Lab Leader Scott Macaulay - Photo by Mike Cerda
The comfort and encouragement created in the lab atmosphere allows for ideas to flow. The concise and direct guidance from Amy Dotson and Rose Vincelli has enhanced our vision of where we are heading and what has to be done along that route. It is good to know that there are others going through this with us and the sense of support is tangible. I am excited to return to the editing room to get Una Noche out for people to see. Thank you all!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Kinyaranda Crew Reports from IFP's Narrative Labs

From Writer/Director Alrick Brown:

I am not as articulate as my producer Darren, nor is my vocab as vast, so I will say that it has been a kick-ass 1st two days at the IFP Lab. I’ve been in the game with my shorts for years now and this feature marks my coming out so to speak--and what a way to come out. You have mentors and other filmmakers guiding, pushing, and blocking for you. I feel a little like someone just let me in through the front door after years of knocking at the back………..or maybe we kicked it open.

We are in very good company. As we get glimpses of each other’s work I could not help but think I wish I had made that, done that, had a shot like that, had that actor, or that dolly move. It was not jealousy but humble respect and admiration. The other films and filmmakers come with a lot.

IFP uses the words ‘diverse’ to describe the filmmakers and films. The people and films here, represent the actual world. This is not the exception, but rather, it is the norm. The world is colorful and viewpoints are vast. These filmmakers and films though ‘diverse’ share something important--our films show the different perspectives of all of our humanity. Shouldn’t we be the norm? Shouldn’t this LAB make up be the norm? Shouldn’t the range of stories we have be the norm?

I feel like I am in a BONUS grad film program. A supplemental course to my NYU grad school journey but in this case, we are asked to think about marketing & distribution as the other 50% of what we have to do aside from finishing our films. Thank you John for that profound insight. We have no choice but to handle the business side of our product the way we handle the art. That’s just one of the many gems I have taken away in just a few days. My notebook is full.

It’s crazy how supportive and informative the lab leaders and mentors actually are. The COMPETITION of film is so often emphasized that we forget that there is a very healthy & supportive community there as well. IFP represents that community. I think we are making each other better. How can I say this after two days? I have lived a long life and I spoke to previous participants before arriving this week and many were pleasantly surprised at the amount of GIVING they experienced at the Lab and have experienced since the Lab.

Tuesday my editor Tovah and I got to work with editor Lee Percy. (The dude cut BOYS DON'T CRY amongst many other great films.) How sick is that? Years before going to film school I saw that film and was blown away. And that dude was working with us and our Lab fellows. It was a rich and informative session, and made us want to leave the Lab and go back into the editing room.

If I have any regret it is that the whole KINYARWANDA crew could not participate. Those in Rwanda, LA, the UK, and here in the states would have really taken a lot away from this experience. But, as it is in my nature I will take this knowledge with me and try to share it with others.

Thank you IFP and thanks to my fellow filmmakers for your vision.

Peace love and mad respect -
alrick brown, Writer/Director, KINYARWANDA

From Producer Darren Dean:

As someone who had the good fortune of being thrust into the world of film – almost by accident – for my first feature, by the time I was invited to produce Alrick Brown’s KINYARWANDA, I had already experienced many of the “trial by fire,” DIY themes that currently populate the medium. There’s no doubt that I was able to benefit significantly from being thrown to the wolves the first time around. However, the urgency of having to navigate post-production, marketing and promotion, distribution and the film festival circuit was on gut instinct alone. I could have easily saved myself more than a few headaches with the aid The IFP Narrative Filmmaker Labs – taking place this week in NYC.

The Labs, now in their sixth year, are a seminal part of the indie film world, although – in the words of one of the event’s organizers – they remain a bit of an untapped resource. It would seem that many emerging filmmakers would rather surrender their efforts to film festivals than face the scrutiny of their peers and mentors – in an effort to create a better final abandoned draft of their work.
But while film festivals (outside the big 10 or so) yield many niche films, The Labs’ diversity is abundantly evident. While one is immediately struck by (and I, for one, am abundantly pleased by) the presence of so many female and minority directors – which make up the bulk of the works-in-progress here - the features are also as diverse and compelling as they can be. Above all, from my first impressions of Day 1, I am taken aback by the courage of all the filmmakers present to have the good sense to ask, “How can my film be better?”

Seemingly more than simply an effort to promote emerging filmmakers or IFP as an organization, The Labs are replete with commas, conjunctions and consideration upon consideration. A veritable “What if?” scenario for each film, and with the help of its well-rounded group of mentors, The Labs seek to prepare filmmakers for every variable imaginable. Cut from the same cloth as Ted Hope’s “Hope for Film” campaign, they are not only concerned with our work, but in perpetuating independent filmmaking as a whole. For, if we are not making good films, how can the medium hope to survive?

Having spent the last few years on the festival circuit – often surrounded by many filmmakers who bemoan the fact that they can’t get no love - I’m looking forward to learning what I should have learned years ago – in the company of these gifted individuals who are willing to hear the truth. I eagerly – and confidently – await the results.
- Darren Dean, Producer, KINYARWANDA

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Undiluted Inspiration - Day One of IFP's Narrative Film Labs

Blogged by Victoria Mahoney, Writer/Director of YELLING TO THE SKY

Sound the alarms, talent is alive and well. We saw it; morning to evening. One behind the other, behind the other; in [nine] brave, unique, holy wow filmmakers' offerings as we each gained insight and support from the entire IFP team, mentors and advisors. More about that in a minute...

Because the bumpy ride getting there is worth telling--literally &metaphorically.

I went to bed at 10:30p (everyone who knows my nocturnal ways might respect this feat) but don't cuz I could not-could not fall asleep. Kept rolling and tossing with the most tender curiosity and excitement.

Next thing I know, I'm awakened by the phone buzzing to then hear Billy Mulligan's voice. (Please, don't tell him) but I genuinely have no idea what he said. I was so acutely panic stricken thinking, "Oh no, I've overslept for school, wait, what year is it? Didn't I finish High School? Yes, yes, I remember finishing High School and dang I really wish I kept my punk rock prom dress, it's back in style, I could've given it to my niece for her prom. Focus daggit, jump out of your sleepy haze. I know, I must be late for work. Wait no, that isn't right, we finished principal photography awhile ago. What day is it? A lil' help. Few hints. Couple clues. Above all, what's my name and what time is it?".

I hear something about "it is 8:01". Like 10 gallon paint cans to the back of the skull, I remember; Billy and I were to meet at the circle, equidistant from our apartments 7:40a, for our first day of the lab.

I dress with my eyes closed and jam downstairs.

We foot-race to the express train and spend the 20min ride, chatting and bursting with enthusiasm. So much so, that we miss our exit!

I've woken up late AND now my chatter has us missing our exit. Comedy hour, amateur central. Dodo bird on rinse cycle.

We hop out and begin willing the next train along (of course, we know that doesn't actually work, we just use it to sedate the "please don't let us be late on our first day" over-excessive adrenalin surge.)

We jump the train back uptown; one stop and arrive at our destination, in far more ways than one--with minutes to spare.

Meeting 2xdozen new people at once is odd no matter how you slice it. The warm bit is; knowing everyone feels uncomfortable. The kind bit is; we're uncomfortable--together.

Here's the thing; I love film. I could subsist on film for breakfast, lunch, dinner, midday snack and late night treat. It has something to do with the purity of a filmmaking team's need to share, reflect, communicate and offer.

I could care less about grandstanding. I'm on the hunt for specified moments when a person's desire to communicate, overrides their life. You can visibly detect a sort of "come what may, hell or high water, I will go down with this ship howl!" between pages, between financing, between set ups, between frames, between scenes, sequences, cuts, angles and breaths.

If you're reading this wee blog and are also walking through life--feeling invisible, aching for a chance to offer up a portion of your point of view, begging for inspiration and a call to play at your highest capacity; I beg you, nah scratch that "I dare you" to enter a realm of people bursting with talent, intellect, skill, will, wisdom, wit, kindness, awareness, insight and active instinct. (Whatever context or variable that translates into).

Go find the place where they keep the ones who have -- unequivocally fought for their seat.

They exist. Whatever field. Whichever profession. They exist.

The unspoken challenge isn't finding them. The challenge, is rising-to-meet-them.

Rising, late and disoriented.

Rising, lost and discarded.

Rising, light and determined.

Rising. No matter what. Rising.

Billy Mulligan and I, rode our train home; quieted by the nourishment. The gift. (After an extended stretch of brutality protecting our film from a percentile death.) We were silenced by the undeniable level of raw unconventional groundbreaking talent amongst our peers combined with the precision and forward moving communication of IFP Heads/Advisors/+Mentors.

I am excited for when the films we saw today reach you...that they may inspire you to endure the multifaceted madness of indie-filmmaking.

Until then, if you also spend nights tossing and turning with the wish and wonder of exploration. If you're going the course with bare minimum, purposefully restrapping your laces before bandaging your wounds. If you repeatedly find a portal when all the doors are closed then worry not, race not, we'll be here scattered about the Earth, in rooms labelled "Independent Filmmaker Project".

Walk strongly, without carelessness or rush, we shall save a seat, with-your-name-on-it.