Who Do You Really Need To Meet At Film Festivals?

Film Festivals are a bit like conventions or auto shows.   The bigger ones get the entire industry and they transform from a cultural celebration to one big networking showdown.   The energy is driven by the potential more than the reality: will your film be discovered and you be given a pot of gold and the keys to Hollywood?  Many try to adjust to reality and just hope to meet some agents and distributors that they can follow up with later?   The ambitious dream of meeting financiers or movie stars.

For years, I have recommended that filmmakers concentrate on just meeting other filmmakers that feel simpatico with, folks that they can share information with, that can become their de facto support group.  Forget about the distributors.  Forget about the agents.  I mean they each can be very helpful -- but mostly for a select few filmmakers.  And I still think that's good advice, but now there is another class of individual to add to the list of whom you should really want to meet.
Sundance 2009 will be remembered (among other things) for the year that the programmer and booker became rock stars.  Now more than ever, we need curators.  We need people who can filter the stream of films that come begging for our attention.  With more and more filmmakers not just recognizing the need for, but embracing, filmmaker-driven distribution, filmmakers need direct interaction with these bookers and programmers.
How great would it be to have a party or something at Sundance where filmmakers and curators could actually get to meet each other face to face?  Great for the curators.  Great for the creators.
Now's the time for filmmakers to build their checklist and try to meet the bookers who truly love art film, indie film, truly free film.  Seventy independent theaters are getting together in Salt Lake in the days prior to the Sundance festival to figure out how to make all this work better.  The Art House Convergence is a promising program; you can't tell the players without a program.  Imagine if your sales agent and rep could introduce you to these bookers, instead of just buyers who might offer you tens of thousands for a twenty year license.  Then they'd really be working for their percentage.