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NYC Screenwriters Collective Message Board › Review: IFP Filmmaker Conference 2013 by Scott Simpson

Review: IFP Filmmaker Conference 2013 by Scott Simpson

Scott S.
user 12842584
New York, NY
Post #: 4

IFP Filmmaker Conference 2013

A review by Scott Simpson

My five-day conference ended with an art opening down the street and then a flight down to Oaxaca the following day for the Film Festival, so I apologize in advance if my memory of events is a little jumbled.

The Sunday morning sessions began with a case study of Fruitvale Station, featuring the director Ryan Coogler, and how its timely release coincided with the Trayvon Martin events. The entire day was titled Future Forward and how emerging technologies making production costs much lower and distribution opportunities more available.

The highlight of the festival was on Monday at a full capacity session “When Documentaries Disturb the Power Structure” (or “When Koch Brothers Attack”) particularly the events surrounding the non-distribution of “Citizen Koch.” This panel devolved into a moment from the Jerry Springer Show with gadfly and Second Coming Eugene Jarecki (The House I Live In) ‘splaining to Koch directors Carl Deal and Tia Lessen that PBS’ and CPB’s refusal to air the Koch documentary because the Kochs are large donors to PBS is the best thing that could have happened to a doc. Tell people they can’t see a movie and watch what happens. And then we had the wonderful Q&A session where the programmer for PBS, Kathryn Lo, follows Deal and Lessen around insisting that the directors have never even asked PBS or Front Line to air “Citizen Koch.” A fun time was had by all. The day ended with the absolutely stunning 13 minute opening clip from Lucien Castaing-Taylor’s “Leviathan.”

Tuesday was probably the most useful day, with panels focusing on establishing a sustainable career in filmmaking. The day’s panels involved working with investors, creating publicity for your project, and ended with screenplay readings from four scripts from the RBC’s Emerging Storytellers program, the screenplay section of Independent Film Week. I had never heard of this program, but it is definitely worth a google or bing, if writers in our group are interested in getting more exposure for their work.

Wednesday was the Sundance Institute’s #ArtistServices program with panels “Soft Money, Uncle Sam, Equity and Crowdfunding,” “DCP Roadmap for Indies” “Designing Key Art for the Digital Marketplace.” A takeaway from this panel was to make sure you have still photographer on the set at some point for those publicity stills you will need later on. Taking them from the dailies doesn’t work too well. In other words, we do judge a movie by its poster.

Thursday, the final day, was Re:Invent, with the producers from Hollow, an interactive documentary about rural West Virginia, one of the places in America that is literally dying off. This too is worth a google for producer/director Elaine McMillion. The other very interesting panel was that afternoon’s “Neorealist Features & Hybrid Documentaries” (or Did that really happen or are they just making shit up?) From this session, Damon Russell “Snow on tha Bluff” is another google-worthy name. The conference ended with a conversation with David Hershkovits (Paper Magazine) and DJ Spooky. Topics tended around ip and sampling, borrowing and outright theft, ie Napster. This session, too, was another highlight.

In summation, this was a very necessary conference for emerging filmmakers with a DIY attitude. Times have certainly changed since I was in film school and the good news is that it’s never been easier make and distribute content. The bad news is that since now everyone and their grandmother is producing and distributing content, getting noticed in the clutter still requires filmmakers to be nimble, ahead of the curve, and talented.

However, if you are in a situation similar to mine, where I have never been fortunate enough to come up with a great idea I can do on a shoestring, then most is really not applicable. It is for independent filmmakers, after all. But if you want to write/direct and go for the guerilla shoot, then this is the conference to attend. Before, and especially AFTER, you have something in the can. I will lament the lack of networking opportunities in the evenings. There were two after parties, Monday and Wednesday off-site (ie. Brooklyn and the LES) which I was unable to attend.

Note: all these sessions are, or soon will be, on the IFP website on their resource tab, as podcasts and videos.

Other takeaways: Laurie Lamson interviewing Julia Stemock of Greenstem Entertainment. If you want to establish a rapport with a management company, offer to be a reader. People are always looking for readers, and they will gladly let you read for them for free. No better way to get your foot in the door. Contact a manager and offer to read for him/her.

The Tiffany Shlain manifesto Google it.

The Social Media Handbook on the Seed and Spark website.


Scott Simpson
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