Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Art Film Lives


I hate people. I really, really hate people. But I LIKE YOU...
--overheard in bar on 1st Ave.


It was an exhausting weekend. I've been in the thick of preparing for our t-shirt launch, chasing down funding leads, applying for grants, trying to squeeze in paid work, and planning a two-week hiatus to begin visualizing the film. But there was networking to be done, and networking is the name of the game. So bye-by weekend.

Friday morning, I took the Chinatown up to NYC. I visited my accountant, caught up on emails, overheard a conversation between a playwright and her collaborator (Natalie kills Marty? hunch it was Off-Broadway but couldn't figure out who?), ate ramen with Annie, learned there's a cloud of fenugreek perfume wafting over the isle of Manhattan, watched Wendy and Lucy, discussed Wendy and Lucy, drank beer and then a whiskey and soda that was very coconutty, ate wurstl & fries, slept with a snowwhite cat, and (to quote my friend Nathaniel) watched the twenties fly out of my hands, all while shlepping my computer, notebook and change of clothes everywhere. This was my mini-vacation before two rigorous days of panels hosted by IFP.

"Script to Screen" attracted over 200 screenwriters, producers, directors, and multi-hyphenates to squish knee-to-knee in a sea of director's chairs at NYFA to listen to the likes of James Schamus (The Ice Storm), Ted Hope (American Splendor), Jerry Kupfer (30 Rock) and Scott Franklin (The Wrestler) reveal the often elusive inner-workings of the businesses of television and film, particularly paths for writers.

Of course there were the crackpots, the egomaniacs, the kooky hats, the flashing cameras, the self-loathing, the resentment, the stalking, the smug comments and a fair share of snarky ones. It was a roomful of filmmakers. But the event was also a hotbed of creative, intelligent, hard-working and humble members of the independent film community. People who are still taking risks and hoping to make a significant contribution to world cinema.

The frank, articulate discussions had by each panel were a great way to take the temperature of American independent film. Yes, technology has changed viewing habits and splintered audiences; yes, a new profitable distribution model is still unclear; yes, there are too many films being made for them all to survive. Yes, yes, yes, it's expensive and intimidating. Yes, we have a love/hate relationship with Sundance.

The spirit of independent film may be a little clammy right now, but it's not dead. In fact, we may be on the brink of a new generation of film. But perhaps more importantly, stories that do not adhere to Hollywood formula are still being told--by veterans and newcomers alike, and more women then ever. I was particularly impressed by Ted Hope's refreshing reverence for the art film. Art and film. My favorite things.

But here is my main takeaway, and this one's for you, aspiring filmmakers: the (majority of) producers, agents, festival judges, etc. who hold court at these industry events are not the gatekeepers to your success; they're in the business not because they enjoy rejecting you, but because they're as passionate about film as you are, if not more. They are your friends. If you're open to sharing and honing your passion, commitment, talent, discipline, insanity, social skills, and practical understanding of the business side of film, you will find others like you, not to mention friends, advocates, collaborators and funders. Stick with it. We're trying to. And hats off to IFP for bringing together such an informative group of people.

1 comment:

Merrel Davis said...

I agree, the IFP script to screen conference ultimately proved a fruitful weekend.

In conversation, some attendees indicated that the comments by certain lawyers and agents were disarming and discouraging. I disagree. I thought it was an important, albeit coldly realistic panel.

I don't think I got a chance to introduce myself to you over the weekend. Perhaps we'll cross paths at another IFP event.

Cheers,
Merrel Davis