The Really Bad Things In The Indie Film Biz 2012

I can't always be optimistic.  My apologies.

I did start this HopeForFilm / TrulyFreeFilm blog in the hopes that community action could improve things for us all.  My original lists of 75 problems of indie film remain relevant, alas; and with this latest addition we are almost at 100 such challenges.

But don't be bummed, every problem is an opportunity, right?  To quote the great Walt Kelly of Pogo:  “We are surrounded by unsurmountable opportunities.”  We just need the will, the strength, the hope, and the power to change them.  12 Steps to progress?

I admit, even blessed by my last name, even I can't be always be optimistic, at least not if I want to also speak the truth. Sometimes throwing a brick is an act of love; you know what I mean?  And granted I've thrown a lot of bricks at this indie film thing. What can I say?  There's a great deal really wrong with our culture these days and a hell of a lot that can hurt our business.  We have to work together if we want to build it better.

Let's get started and call these "opportunities" out (in no particular order); maybe they are not so unsurmountable after all:

  1. Filmmakers are unable to earn a living even when they consistently make successful films.  Budgets have been dropping over the years -- and fees go down with them.  Movies are few and far between in terms of years for their makers and without overhead deals or teaching gigs, it's hard for a creator to stay focused on film unless one is wealthy.  And of course, net profits grow more of a joke daily (although they don't have to).
  2. The acquisition price for US rights hovers around 10% of the negative costs -- and no one complains.  Sometimes doesn't it seem like a cartel where all buyers got together and said "let's just offer less"?  If no one breaks rank, other than occasionally, all the buyers benefit -- and the only thing that can drive things is passion -- and the markets are supposed to be devoid of that.  We are better than just letting a market race to the bottom.  We should be able to recognize that the health of a culture is dependent on those that create and innovate being able to live a financially secure life.
  3. "Oops, I Farted" is the dominate "specialized" title of desire in these United States Of America.  Art film be damned.  The gaseous (fictional) title is courtesy of producer Mike Ryan who used it as shorthand for what he saw as most companies' acquisition strategy: the audience-friendly falsely-transgressive youth-focused star title.  Art film is dead.  Distribution companies don't just aim to give people what they want.  They also lead as everyone knows that people generally like what they want (The White Hare syndrome).  Where are we being led?
  4. This is the last year of celluloid.  Here's HwdRptr on it. What could be a better signifier of this than the fact that Kodak filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection earlier this year.  People are writing sad eulogies & fond remembrances. Nostalgia arrives in the same year as a passing these days.
  5. Although women directors proportionally make up the as many directors as men do in documentaries, they are not even close in narrative features.  This is true even if the Sundance competition is proportionally represented in terms of gender for the first time ever.  It sure took a long time to reach this point.  And how much does anyone want to bet that it slips back fast?  And what of all the festivals that are not so progressive?  Sure, folks say it really needs to always just be the best films, and I am not arguing for quotas anyway, it's just that we need to acknowledge that the system does not grant the same opportunities to everyone.  And further, equal opportunity has never come close to providing equal outcome .  We need to further the discussion of why there are not more women, youth, and people of color in positions of power in the entertainment industry.  After all they are the top consumers; it would make sense they know better what the people really want.
  6. Great reviews -- even in the most important newspaper in the world -- have no effect.  It used to be that indie & art film was good business because it was completely review driven.  You did not need to do much advertising if the critics gave you love.  Those days are dead and gone.  Two films I produced this year, DARK HORSE and STARLET got excellent NY Times reviews, but fat lot it did them.  DARK HORSE even hit the trifecta with awesome reviews in the New Yorker and New York Magazine (Time and LA Times too), but fat lot of good that did.  Granted there are many factors to a film's lack of real cultural impact, but still: it once was that reviews like those films were worth a huge weight in gold.  And not they are not.  Critics were once our guide through the cultural landscape -- and that is how we selected our films.  Maybe it is time for a change, but for now we not only haven't found it, but losing what we once had makes it even harder to distribute what once was recognized as quality.
  7. The NY Times and others are going after the film and television tax credits.  These tax credits create jobs and spread wealth.  These tax credits keep our #2 national industry afloat.  Film is a migratory industry and these jobs will flea if they suspect tax policy is not stable. When the press goes after something in such a one-sided fashion, we have to wonder what really is afoot.  Further, we have to start to get serious about combatting such wrong-headiness.  We need to truly quantify the spend nationally in indie film.  If anyone wants to help fund this effort, I would love to undertake it at the San Francicso Film Society (hint, hint).  For more on this, see #13 below...
  8. People don't go to the movies anymore -- particularly young ones.  My tale of my 12 year old son ("I don't like movies, although I love many that I have seen") got quoted globally.  Sure, I need the statistics to back this up, and I hope you send them to me, but we all recognize that youth attendance is dropping.  Isn't it time we woke up from our dream, and started making films that had real youth appeal?
  9. Virtual print fees suck (VPFs are how digital projectors were both financed and indie films are shut out of national chains).  We had to turn down dates for DARK HORSE due to them.  Sure we have a DCP but between the traditional film rentals you a pay an exhibitor and the VPF most indie films can't expect to make money.  Let's say you pay 60% to the exhibitor and anticipate only a $2K gross.  That leaves you with $800.  And guess how much the VPF generally is?  So you  get nothing.  And it is not just in the US that the structure does not work.  Ditto for the UK.
  10. Even worse than not having any transparency in VOD numbers, there is not enough outcry about the lack of transparency in VOD numbers.  How can we make all of this public?
  11. VOD is still treated as a second-class citizen as VOD premieres can't get reviewed in major media outlets.  I am thankful we have On Demand Weekly, but when will the major media publications get wise to it?  And why is this not happening now?  Is it that they fear they would then lose the advertising for the movies?  Would they not be opening up a new advertising revenue source?  What's wrong with this picture?
  12. The US reports box-office revenue figures but not attendance.  How do we know how our business is and culture is doing if we can't get access to the numbers?  When will we truly have transparency in all things?  I thought information wanted to be free.  We were promised jet packs.
  13. We have yet to begin a real effort to quantify the spend on indie film, both directly and indirectly.  If we don't harvest the data our work generates, we don't control the power that is rightfully ours.  Since the only thing that talks in this town is money, we need to be able to speak accurately about how we create jobs, benefit communities, and generate wealth.
  14. The Digital Disaster is digging in deep. There are many aspects of this, but we particularly bury our head in the sand when it comes to preservation of digital works.  Recommended best practices for digital data is to migrate it from your drives every 3 months.  If you don't do that, you can not be assured you will have an archival quality copy.  As of five years ago, very few cinema makers finished their work on celluloid -- which could preserve work for over 100 years.  So in the race for technology to save us, we traded 100+ years for 3 months.  Hooray, right?  Read this.
  15. To quote A.O. Scott of the NY Times: "By the end of this year, The New York Times will have reviewed more than 800 movies, establishing 2012, at least by one measure, as a new benchmark in the annals of cinematic abundance.”   Grand abundance is not a bad thing; choices are wonderful when you know they are there.  I even argue from a cultural point of view, this abundance is splendid.  The problem is we still haven't evolved our culture or business infrastructure to adapt for this change.  We still rely on the methods of promotion, discovery, consumption, & participation that were built in the era of scarcity and control.  Without pivoting our methods towards this new reality, more movies don't get seen, more movies don't recoup, and more frustration abounds.  Items #1 & 2 on this list are a direct result of this one.
  16. The industry undermines the possibility of creating a sustainable investor class.  We all know about the Harry Potter "net profits".  I have to admit though Napoleon Dynamite was a surprise; how can the creators only get 12.88%?  Even it being legal, it's not right.  The best thing any of us can do for our industry, culture, and community is to make sure that those that create, as well as those that support them, are able to be rewarded for the work they create.  We are so far away from this being a reality, yet I see and hear so little discussion about it.  This should be an urgent matter on all of our leaders' lips.
  17. There is not enough money to teach media literacy in the schools.  We are bombarding  kids with content and yet we don't give them tools to decipher it. let alone defend themselves against it.  It's great all the conversation that Zero Dark Thirty has stirred up, but it only underlines the support we must give our children.
  18. Blog commenting burn-out is the law of the land.  Comments were my favorite things on blogs.  I used to get a lot here.  Now we get "likes" and tweets.  I started blogging because it seemed to me to be a community building tool.  When it is one sided it is not community.  Maybe it is me.  Maybe I am writing in a style that no longer encourages commenting.  Or maybe it is the community itself.  Or maybe all the comments just end up on the facebook page.  Whatever it is, it was more vibrant when people participated.
  19. There is so little that reads as truthful in the press.  It was so refreshing to read this interview with Terry Zwigoff on The Playlist because he told it as he sees it.  And that is so rare.  It is a shame.  Imagine a world where people recognized it was okay to share how you felt -- oh what a wonderful world that would be.
  20. We limit culture by the limits of what we support.  I got to make movies because a few folks recognized that although they didn't personally like my films, there not only were those that did, but also that my films were furthering the cultural discussions.  The success -- and now necessity -- of the various film support labs for screenwriters, fiction directors, and doc directors are invaluable, but they are also limiting.  American documentaries are generally all social issue, personal triumph, and pop culture surveys as that is what our support structures encourage.  Ditto on the fiction tale of triumph over adversity.  And I love all those forms, but there is so much out there that is still being overlooked.  And we even neglect the commercial forms.  Where are the labs for horror films or thrillers, the genres that actually work in the marketplace?  Where are those that really are trying to advance the cultural dialogue?  Is there a way we can start to pivot to widen our reach?  This may sound like something minor to most, but I do think we are doing our culture and community by not supporting more of what the audience wants.  Can this be a symptom of the gatekeepers thinking they know best?  How can we give the community a bigger say in what gets advanced?
  21. The bifurcation of the have and have-nots, I mean the tentpoles and passionate amateurs, has created a possibility gap.  Indie film was once a farm team for the studios.  David O. Russel, Ang Lee, Quentin T., Spike Lee, Kathryn Bigelow, and many many more of our current greats all came through true indie work.  The next wave is being deprived of access to all the colors on the palate.  The drop out of the mid-range picture means that some of our greatest hopes for the future will never get to mix for the Atmos Sound System, will never get to play with something beyond the Cannon 5D camera, will never get the opportunity to build out a full story world architecture.  We are going to limit our dreams of the future by not giving new waves of artists access to experiment with all the tools that are available.
  22. Narrative film, despite firmly embracing micro-budget limits, has no staged-financing structure yet implemented.  Although I definitely want to do something about this, there are very little options available for filmmakers other than raising all their money upfront.  Now, many may argue that is irresponsible to shoot a film without full financing in place, one only needs to look at the doc world to see  the positive results from staged financing.  Doc films have proportional representation in terms of gender in the directorial ranks; could this be related to staged financing?  Since indie will always be an execution dependent art form, wouldn't it make sense to have a structure that allows for proof of principal?
  23. Investors have nowhere to turn to get better information regarding non-traditional film investment.  When they can only turn to the agencies for "expert" advice, they only get one side of the story.  Yes, they can hire high-priced consultants, armed with all sorts of numbers, but where do they usually find these consultants?  Why  from the agencies of course!  The agencies have tremendous insight for sure, just as these consultants do, but it is hard for change to take hold, when all our advice comes from the same source.  Imagine if we had a real investors' summit, led by folks outside of the business or power centers?  Imagine if we had services in place to train new investors in specific areas of  what might become their expertise.  Imagine if we had the structures in place which allowed these same investors to collaborate across projects.
  24. Where are the leaders in indie film?  I was very inspired by both Joana Vicente's & Keri Putnam's move into not-for-profit commitment.  Without them taking a first step, I probably would not have been willing to put down my project-producing magic wand for a time, and focus on rebuilding infrastructure for a time.  But frankly I expected many more at this point to be committed to giving more back. Those that have made a life time of non-profit counter-balance that a bit, but I expected more.  I started the blog because I thought if I spoke up, others would too.  There have been many positive contributions to the blog, and yes new leaders have emerged to some degree, but frankly I would have expected more producers, directors, executives, and screenwriters to step up and say that we have a tremendous opportunity before us and we best act on it or else that window will close.  I still believe it to be true: if you are not on the bus, you are part of the problem.  There may be 99 Problems but make it clear that you are not one.

Just remember: Lists like this only make the foolish despair.  We can build it better together.

And if that is not enough to get you through the night, I did write a couple of antidotes.  You can always read "The Really Good Things In The Indie Film Biz 2012"

Why Go DRM-Free? 6 Reasons To Start

We want to make sure you have the best gift in the best form to give all your friends, family, and loved ones this holiday season.  That's why we put DARK HORSE up in a DRM-free form.  You can order it now right here.  We respect you -- and we want you to still love us in the morning after the magic of the first time has gone.  Get up and ride again.  Giddyapp! It makes me wonder: when will DRM-free be the usual way?  Sure you can get Dark Horse on iTunes or on Amazon but why not order it in a form that you can put on all your devices.  You know you will want to watch it again and again.

Here's 6 reasons why everyone should release there work DRM-free:

  1. -DRM is a false sense of security.  People that are determined to not pay for your film will find a way, no matter what restrictions you put in place.  
  2. -DRM-free enables you to take advantage of social activity on-line and in the real world.  There is always an element of sharing that happens with art and entertainment, and social networks have made it that much easier and created more opportunities for filmmakers to find an audience.  You need to be part of the ongoing dialogue happening around your film, and instituting restrictive DRM limits that.
  3. -The only people who lose with DRM are your customers.  Why hurt people who have already given you money?
  4. -Giving customers the option of DRM-free shows you trust and respect them, and want them to enjoy your work with the least restriction possible.  This is a critical part of positively building your audience.
  5. -DRM-free files are the most compatible, and can be played flawlessly on any device, any platform, and anywhere in the world.  It's also much easier to implement features like subtitles and commentary tracks using available open standards.
  6. -By using open, DRM-free standards, you ensure your files are future proof and will never be incompatible with future technology.

I hope you will help build this list.  Many thanks to Adam Klaff of VHX.tv for getting it started.

Ask Me Anything: Wed 12/19 at 1PM EST

In celebration of DARK HORSE's Online VOD (via VHX) release, some of the actors & I are doing a AMA (AskMeAnything) via Reddit on Wed 12/19 at 1PM EST. Please get your questions ready and join in. We are on the schedule here: http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/

The film will be available online at $9.99 starting Wednesday. DRM free. Perfect Holiday gift!

Todd Solondz Is In San Francisco To Talk To YOU!

Yes Dark Horse in galloping around the bay this weekend.  And I know you want to know where you can meet our jockey.  Put on your pink polo and bring your action figures.

TODD SOLONDZ IN PERSON: filmmaker Todd Solondz will speak at select opening weekend shows:

Q&A Friday (7/20) at the EMBARCADERO after the  7:35
And an intro prior to 9:40 pm

SATURDAY , 7/21 , at the CAMERA 3 in SAN JOSE ( Q&A AFTER the 3pm only )

SATURDAY , 7/21 , SHATTUCK in BERKELY Q&A after the 5:40pm show and
Intro to the 7:50pm 

SUNDAY , 7/22, the San Rafael Q&A After the 7pm only.      

PLEASE JOIN US!

DARK HORSE Saddles Up More Some More Love

As we gallop into our 3rd week of release, the critics are still beckoning the audiences to come along for the DARK HORSE ride.  We are happily eating their hay in Providence, RI, Chicago, Long Island, and of course New York City.  If this keeps us I am going to run out of good horse puns...  Check out what the crickets are chirping. Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times : "Dark Horse" (3.5 of 4 Stars)

"Abe is the latest in a gallery of walking wounded populating the films of Todd Solondz, who has never met a character he didn't dislike. And "Dark Horse" is another of his portraits of anguish in suburbia, joining "Welcome to the Dollhouse" and "Happiness." There are times when it is dark humor, and then times when it is simply dark. But there is something more going on here, something deeper and more … hopeful?"

John Anderson, Newsday: "DARK HORSE Plays Irony Well"

""Are you for real?" Miranda asks Abe, after his proposal has registered. "I mean, you're not being ironic? Like performance art?" "Dark Horse" is certainly being ironic. Which doesn't mean it isn't a fully realized performance -- or art, of a rather perverse variety."

Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune: "DARK HORSE Director Finds Humanity In Unsympathetic Lead " (3 of 4 Stars):

"In a compact, wittily humiliating 84 minutes, "Dark Horse" does a smart thing: It transforms from realism into a string of dreamscapes taking place in Abe's imagination, involving the sex life of his fellow office worker (Donna Murphy, on the money) and other bittersweet fancies."

Whitney Matheson, Pop Candy, USA Today: "With DARK HORSE, Solondz Issues Another Darkly Comic Tale"

" While it's not the feel-good movie of the year, fans of the director wouldn't expect such a thing. Solondz, however, does succeed in making thoughtful commentary on the fleeting nature of youth, and our desperate need to be loved."

You can read more of our early critic love here.

UPDATE Sunday 6/24

Brett Harrison Davinger, California Literary Review: "Dark Horse Is A Contender"

"Dark Horse isn’t your typical man-child comedy. It’s something greater, more honest, and significantly more powerful."

Hollywood Chicago: "Todd Solondz Brilliantly De-Constructs Man-Child Pathology":

“Dark Horse” brilliantly deconstructs Abe’s “man-child” pathology, exposing the frailties within his good-natured façade and barley concealed rage."  

TimeOut Chicago:"4 out of 5 stars"

"Dark Horse insists you look past its caricatures and see human beings-- it is the director’s tersest, most troubling study of desperation."

A Wonderful Round-up Of DARK HORSE Cricket Love

You have a baby. You think it is beautiful. You watch it walk out into the world the proud father, but as it steps down the path a bully or two throws some bricks. He gets fired from a job. Maybe crashes a car. Gets dumped. Makes you wonder if you are delusional. Maybe he is sorta of ugly after all? But the nice thing about producing movies, is after you unleash your hard work on the festival circuit, you get another chance when you release it to real audiences. Sure we had some mixed reviews, but we also got a HUGE AMOUNT OF LOVE. And we were the #1 per screen box office average of all debuting films. Our little pony "trounced" the competition.

Can't help but notice some trends. All three outlets that dare to feature our city's name as theirs in full, share the same recognition: go see the movie. That's The New York Times, The New Yorker, and New York Magazine. Here at the pony rides, we call that a Dark Horse New York Trifecta Of Love.

Also check out how both the legendary stalwarts renown for their general dislike of most cinematic output, Mr. Hoberman & Mr White, also agree that you should saddle up to the Solondz corral. 'nuff said.

NEW YORK TIMES, by AO Scott
http://movies.nytimes.com/2012/06/08/movies/todd-solondzs-dark-horse-stars-jordan-gelber.html
‘Mr. Solondz brilliantly — triumphantly — turns this impression on its head, transforming what might have been an exercise in easy satirical cruelty into a tremendously moving argument for the necessity of compassion.’

NEW YORK MAGAZINE, by David Edelstein
You should see it not just for the sake of Solondz and Hope, but for the sake of American independent cinema. It’s that vital.’
http://hollywoodandfine.com/reviews/?p=5033

CITY ARTS (May 29, 2012) / “Zombie Mantra.” By Armond White.
http://cityarts.info/2012/05/29/zombie-mantra/
"if Dark Horse was indeed produced on stage rather than as an independent film, it would probably receive enormous acclaim"

SALON.COM (Tuesday, June 5, 2012) / “Todd Solondz: I’m Judd Apatow’s dark side.” By Andrew O’Hehir.
http://www.salon.com/2012/06/06/todd_solondz_im_judd_apatows_dark_side/singleton/
DARK HORSE "clearly among his (Solondz's) funniest & most affecting "

TABLET MAGAZINE (Thursday, June 7, 2012) / Positive review by J. Hoberman in, “Solondz’s Schlubs - The funny, sad Dark Horse adds a creepy loser in love to the director’s catalog of misanthropes.” By J. Hoberman.
http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/101722/todd-solondzs-sad-comedy
"With its lovingly detailed caricatures, fondness for extreme scenarios, and snarky nerd’s-eye view of ordinary misery, cinema Solondz is a successor to the underground comix of the 1970s."

TIME.COM (Thursday, June 7, 2012) / “Summer Arts Preview: This Season's Must-See Films, Shows, Art and More.”
http://entertainment.time.com/2012/06/04/summer-arts-preview-this-seasons-must-see-films-shows-art-and-more/slide/dark-horse/#dark-horse
"Solondz’s most endearing film, his gentlest triumph."

WNYC.com (Thursday, June 7, 2012) / Ran Ian Buckwalter’s positive NPR review.
http://www.wnyc.org/npr_articles/2012/jun/07/dark-horse-love-among-the-deeply-damaged/
"as yet another installment in Todd Solondz's career-long examination of the lust for love and security among the deeply damaged... a newfound maturity in his work, told through the story of a man desperately in need of growing up."

MOVIELINE.COM (Thursday, June 7, 2012) / Positive review, “Todd Solondz Spins a tale of an unlovable but compelling loser in Dark Horse.” By Allison Willmore.
http://movieline.com/2012/06/07/review-todd-solondz-spins-a-tale-of-an-unlovable-but-compelling-loser-in-dark-horse/

6/23/12 UPDATE: The love continues to come:

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times : "Dark Horse" (3.5 of 4 Stars)

"Abe is the latest in a gallery of walking wounded populating the films of Todd Solondz, who has never met a character he didn't dislike. And "Dark Horse" is another of his portraits of anguish in suburbia, joining "Welcome to the Dollhouse" and "Happiness." There are times when it is dark humor, and then times when it is simply dark. But there is something more going on here, something deeper and more … hopeful?"

John Anderson, Newsday: "DARK HORSE Plays Irony Well"

""Are you for real?" Miranda asks Abe, after his proposal has registered. "I mean, you're not being ironic? Like performance art?" "Dark Horse" is certainly being ironic. Which doesn't mean it isn't a fully realized performance -- or art, of a rather perverse variety."

Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune: "DARK HORSE Director Finds Humanity In Unsympathetic Lead " (3 of 4 Stars):

"In a compact, wittily humiliating 84 minutes, "Dark Horse" does a smart thing: It transforms from realism into a string of dreamscapes taking place in Abe's imagination, involving the sex life of his fellow office worker (Donna Murphy, on the money) and other bittersweet fancies."

Whitney Matheson, Pop Candy, USA Today: "With DARK HORSE, Solondz Issues Another Darkly Comic Tale"

" While it's not the feel-good movie of the year, fans of the director wouldn't expect such a thing. Solondz, however, does succeed in making thoughtful commentary on the fleeting nature of youth, and our desperate need to be loved."

And if you want to hear it from the horse's mouth, here's some interviews with Mr. Solondz:

FILMMAKER MAGAZINE (Thursday, June 7, 2012) / Todd Solondz interview, "'Dark Horse' Writer/Director Todd Solondz." By Livia Bloom.
http://www.filmmakermagazine.com/news/2012/06/dark-horse-writerdirector-todd-solondz/

Love All The DARK HORSE Love

And by LOVE I mean celebrity Twitter Love...

Come See DARK HORSE (And Win A Chance To Have Dinner With Todd Solondz)

See Dark Horse THIS WEEKEND and you could earn a dinner for 2 with Director Todd Solondz! For your chance to enter, simply buy a ticket to any screening of Dark Horse the Angelika between Friday 6/8 and Sunday 6/10. After the film, leave your ticket stub and email address in the box next to the poster in the Angelika's main lobby. Two lucky recipients will be picked at random to have dinner for themselves and one guest!

AO Scott & NYTimes LOVES "Dark Horse"!

Wow. When you love cinema and know how privileged you are to spend your life and labor creating work you love, how can you not give your all to your films? Even still, when you've worked hard, compromised your fees, dealt with errors and mistakes, problem people and people problems, you don't always know it was worth it. Nothing tells you that it was like a good review in your hometown paper, particularly when your home is New York City. I am thrilled with the love that has been bestowed upon our film DARK HORSE. We open today, at The Angelika in NYC. One screen. Hopefully we will play for months. Hopefully this review will fill the seats. Wow. Wow. Wow.

It's nice when something you've worked years on, sacrificed a chunk of your fee on, that you've chosen to distribute, goes off and gets one of BEST REVIEWS EVER from AO Scott & the NY F'n Times!

http://movies.nytimes.com/2012/06/08/movies/todd-solondzs-dark-horse-stars-jordan-gelber.html#

"Mr. Solondz brilliantly — triumphantly — turns this impression on its head, transforming what might have been an exercise in easy satirical cruelty into a tremendously moving argument for the necessity of compassion."

Maybe I Should Leave Film, And Go Into Theater...

"if Dark Horse was produced on stage rather than as an independent film, it would probably receive enormous acclaim, like Mike Nichols’ current rehash of Death of a Salesman or shows like Other Desert Cities and The Lyons. But Solondz’s film does what those plays don’t; he dramatizes the spectacle of Abe’s lack of self-consciousness, the moral perspective that contemporary culture drowns out."

So says Armond White in City Arts in a great review of Todd Solondz's DARK HORSE. Our screening tonight at the Film Society Of Lincoln Center is sold out, but there's always are a few seats to be sold twice to the lucky few who show up empty-handed. The film opens in NYC on Friday at the Angelica. As wise as White is, there's one thing in his review that may not be clear, DARK HORSE is still very much a comedy (as wise as it is too)>

"Theaters should NOT be used as mere marking platforms for home release."

So said National Assn. of Theater Owners prexy John Fithian in regards to Day & Date Theatrical VOD releases. "(It) devalues the content and tells the consumer that the involved movies will never be a big deal," he added. Granted Fithian is looking out for the Exhibitors, and he rarely is focused on Indie or Art film. But then again, when the trades start singing the praises of D&D VOD they are generally looking out only for top titles, and not your little heart-felt work of passion. In this Saturation Point Era when all face a super-abundance of content, how do you expect people to not develop a "want-to-see" desire for your film, but to actually prioritize it and move themselves to actually make a transaction?

I agree that you need to be available when the desire strikes. I also agree that you want to be eventually readily available everywhere. But that doesn't mean that you want to reach that goal prior to manufacturing the desire.

We are doing the exact opposite of VOD/D&D with DARK HORSE.

See it in Theaters! Support your local arthouse!! Vote With Your Dollars For The Culture You Want!!! We can build it better together!!!!

Like us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/darkhorsemovie

Film Society at Lincoln Center and Double Hope Films Present: Indie Night Screening Series - DARK HORSE - Wednesday June 6th

Dear Film Friends,

I think you know of my passion & commitment not just for indie film but also to the community that supports it -- and that community is you! You also probably recognize that I feel independent non-corporate culture is under siege and we have yet to determine a clear path out. I trust that you, like me, have the faith and hope that by keeping the big picture in focus, we can maintain cinema as a cultural force & social activity at the top of everyone's list.

So what the hell does this have to do with seeing a good movie next week you ask?

You probably know I have enjoyed a long producing relationship with Todd Solondz and his films. In the past (on the film HAPPINESS for example), my partners & I had to buy his work back from the distributors to make sure it could reach an audience. These are different times, but perhaps even more stark.

I have gone to greater lengths (although perhaps not as celebrated) than ever before to make his new film accessible in the most appropriate & fullest of ways for our community. I have chosen with DARK HORSE to extend the producer's job description still further, and produce the distribution. I am in no way doing it myself. We've pulled together an incredible team to make this happen. You might have read about that already here.

I confess: distribution is brutal. But it is going to be worth it. If we love indie culture, we can't just give it away for the privilege of putting it in front of an audience. We are focusing on theatrical first, generally holding onto the rights, and trusting the community will support it.

I love this film. It is Todd’s most accessible film yet. To quote Todd "I suppose I just wanted to see if I could make a movie without rape, pedophilia, or masturbation. I always think it's important to challenge oneself." Have no fear though: it is still very much a Solondz joint, populated with damaged souls, dark humor, and delightfully depressing antics. As usual, the actors' work is amazing to watch. As he did with Paul Giamatti and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Todd has launched a star of a wonderfully particular sort with Jordan Gelber. Tony Award-winner Donna Murphy is transcendent and complex. Selma Blair, Justin Bartha, Mia Farrow, and Christopher Walken not only deliver the greatness you'd anticipate from them, but do so in unexpected ways.

In many ways, I am betting the future of film on this movie and how we are handling it. With your support, maybe we will win the good fight. Thanks for joining us on the battle lines. Culture is always worth a little risk…

Order tickets: www.filmlinc.com/films/on-sale/dark-horse Watch the trailer here: www.darkhorsemovie.com/trailer.html Like DARK HORSE on Facebook: www.facebook.com/darkhorsemovie Check out the website: www.darkhorsemovie.com Follow DARK HORSE on twitter: @darkhorseabe

See you Wednesday June 6th at 8:00 PM at the Elinor Bunin Monroe Film Center at the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

Q&A after the film with Todd Solondz!

Wed, June 6 8:00 PM Elinor Bunin Monroe Film Center 144 W. 65TH St New York, NY 10023

Please mark your calendars for upcoming Indie Night screenings: Tuesday, July 17, 2012, 8 PM: KID THING Wednesday, August 1, 2012, 8 PM: FRANCINE Wednesday, September 5, 2012, 8 PM Wednesday, October 17, 2012, 8 PM Wednesday, November 14, 2012, 8 PM Wednesday, December 19, 2012, 8 PM

Most sincerely, and forever hopeful about film,

Ted

Video: TIFF 2001 Moguls Talk With Ted Hope (aka Me)

At the Toronto International Film Festival this year I had the privilege of being asked to partake in their "Moguls" talk. Anthony Kaufman interviewed me. I think I set a record taking up the first sixteen minutes or so with my first answer. Granted it was about how MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE and DARK HORSE came together, and neither one was a simple story -- but then never are, are they? Well, it does boil down in each instance to making the movie for less than what the apparent value is, but that's the film business today, isn't it?

Just in case you are wondering, the class that I mention isn't happening when I said it was. It's happening soon though, and we will announce it sooner.

I talk about SUPER around the 35 minute mark. 41 Min: budget agnostic, genre agnostic, medium agnostic, platform agnostic. First and foremost, I want.... 42 Min: What makes a good film? 43 Min: When I was falling in love with my wife Vanessa... 44 Min: That list is this one. 45:50 Reverse engineering of Film 46:45 How can film mirror free will? 47:30 The End Of The Auteur Era Of Film 54:30 "Making Independent Films is a crime." 57:20 "There's never been a better time to shoot celluloid than there is today." 58:10 "Independent Film is a luxury good."

If you want to help me index this further, I would appreciate it.

Allow Me To Take YOU To Venice To Experience DARK HORSE

It's pretty crazy how fast everything moves these days. We are able to leap countries and time to find what we missed continents away. Today DARK HORSE has it's press and industry screening in Toronto. Tomorrow is the North American Premiere. But I know how to make you feel like you are with us. Let me take you to Venice...

My flight out of Venice was evidently the only one that left for the United States on Tuesday. Our film DARK HORSE premiered there to a very nice standing ovation the night before. I arrive here to find interviews and press conference clips already up online. Check it out (and of course I rant a little bit). You even get to see the photo call and a NEW clip at the end!

Want more press conference? More Todd? There's a bit of a spoiler in this one, although it is more philosophical spoiler than actual content.

You really should have been with us on the red carpet. I couldn't resist photographing a smooch with my wife there, and well, "they" caught it:

Even our entrance at the screening is posted.

If it is specifics you want, here's Selma Blair talking about working with Todd:

Jordan Gelber offers up his view of the collaboration with Mr. Solondz (6.5 min) and then Selma adds a bit more of her perspective (6 min.):

I am sure there is more to find. But I have to say there's a particular pleasure getting to relive your pleasures moments after you've had them.

Are you ready to ride DARK HORSE?

Perhaps you have already heard..... We are taking Todd Solondz's latest film to Venice, Toronto, Deauville and a few other festivals. This is Todd's 1ST film without a rape, molestation, masturbation, or anything truly icky. Well... If it wasn't for the language I think we'd get a PG rating. We don't anticipate having it in theaters in the US until springtime, but I do have a few things related to this pony to amuse you along the way (and even more to come).

What's it all about? Well... Thirty-something guy with arrested development falls for thirty-something girl with arrested development, but moving out of his junior high school bedroom proves too much. Tragedy ensues.

Who is in it? Justin Bartha, Selma Blair, Zachary Booth, Mia Farrow, Jordan Gelber, Aasif Mandvi, Donna Murphy, Christopher Walken, and others.

Who were some of our brilliant collaborators? I produced it with Derrick Tseng. Nick Quested was our Executive Producer. Cinematography: Andrij Parekh Production Design: Alex DiGerlando Editor: Kevin Messman Casting: Ann Goulder & Gayle Keller Costume Design: Kurt and Bart Production: Craig Shilowich (Craig was our Assoc. Producer, Production Mgr. AND Post Supervisor -- how awesome is that!). Poster: Andrew Percival and Mojo Sales: Penny Wolf / Goldcrest Films

Where can you see it? Well come to Venice. It's really beautiful there. Official Premiere In Competition Screenings Press & Industry Screening - Sunday, 4 September @ 19:30h - Sala Darsena Official Screening - Monday, 5 September @ 22:15h - Sala Grande Public Screening - Monday, 5 September @ 22:30h - Palabiennale Press & Industry Screening - Tuesday, 6 September @ 11:45h - Palabiennale

I know Venice is expensive, and we are all under budget restraints so maybe you can come in Toronto? PRESS & INDUSTRY 1 SCOTIABANK THEATRE 2 SATURDAY, 10 SEPT 3:00PM PUBLIC 1 VISA SCREENING ROOM (ELGIN) SUNDAY, 11 SEPT 2:30PM PUBLIC 2 ISABEL BADER THEATRE MONDAY, 12 SEPT 4:45PM PRESS & INDUSTRY 2 SCOTIABANK THEATRE 2 WEDNESDAY, 14 SEPT 7:45PM PUBLIC 3 ISABEL BADER THEATRE SATURDAY, 17 SEPT 6:45PM

Okay, maybe travel will be a bit hard, but there's still ways to hop on the ride... Our first clip: Yes, our first trailer will be forthcoming.

Todd on Twitter (although he doesn't use it). http://twitter.com/#!/toddsolondz

Our Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/darkhorsemovie

Our IMDB Page where you can add it to your Watchlist. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1690455/

Some blog posts I like where you can see how Todd is responsible for all of indie film and all of the cool poster designs of recent years.

Want more? Well, I have had the pleasure of collaborating with Todd many times in many ways through the years. I love this film. It is both pure Solondz and something that represents a leap in his art. And it is really really a lot of fun -- and truly emotional. It surprises me in new ways with each viewing. When we are awarding the "Cinematic Treasures" medals, Todd should be an early recipient.

Solondz Shoots HORSE

Ah, every movie has a good story behind it...  But for now I can only provide you our official release:

Todd Solondz Shoots Star-Studded ‘Dark Horse’ This Fall in New York

Critically acclaimed Indie auteur Todd Solondz (Welcome to the Dollhouse, Happiness, Storytelling), fresh off the success of Life During Wartime (winner of the best screenplay award at the Venice Film Festival), is rolling cameras on his latest feature, Dark Horse, with an all-star cast featuring Justin Bartha, Selma Blair, Mia Farrow, Jordan Gelber, Donna Murphy and Christopher Walken.  Dark Horse commenced principal photography on Monday, October 11th, 2010.

Veteran independent producer Ted Hope is producing under the banner Double Hope Films, his new Gotham-based production company. In addition to over sixty other films, Mr. Hope produced Mr. Solondz's Happiness andStorytelling. Derrick Tseng, who collaborated with Mr. Solondz on Life During Wartime and Palindromes is co-producing. Goldcrest Films has climbed aboard Dark Horse to ride herd on international sales.

Mr. Solondz helms the tale of Abe (Jordan Gelber), a 30-something who lives with his parents, reluctantly works for his father (Christopher Walken), and avidly collects toys. When Abe isn’t playing backgammon with his mother (Mia Farrow), he’s trying to romance Miranda (Selma Blair), another 30-something who has moved back in with her parents after her literary/academic career crashed. Out of desperation, Miranda agrees to marry Abe, and the two begin to plan their life together. But, just when it looks like things are starting to go right for Abe, everything goes horribly wrong.

Mr. Solondz exclaimed: "I am so lucky and grateful to have financing, and such a wonderful cast and crew, and on top of that to be reunited with producers Ted Hope and Derrick Tseng."

"We would drop whatever we were doing to get a chance to collaborate with Todd again.  He is one of a kind and always delivers both a unique film and a fun shoot," said Mr. Hope & Mr. Tseng.

Ms. Blair was thrilled to be rejoined with Mr. Solondz on the picture. "Todd has long been one of my favorite writers and directors, so this is the biggest gift I could be given right now. To work with him again is heaven,” said Ms. Blair. “He has such a sensitivity that it makes all of our jobs so much easier. It is rare to have a director so specific and brilliant in all his choices.”

Goldcrest Films International Executive Director Nick Quested was also elated about his company’s involvement with the project. "Goldcrest's close involvement across the financing and production of this wonderful project gives us the perfect opportunity to show what support we can offer to extraordinary talent like Todd and Ted," said Mr. Quested.

As is consistent with Mr. Solondz’s awardiwinning scripts, Dark Horse has corralled an ensemble of the highest pedigree.

Christopher Walken (Jackie, Abe’s dad) won an Academy Award and the New York Film Critic's Circle Award for his performance in The Deer Hunter. Mr. Walken also received an Academy Award nomination and won BAFTA and SAG awards for Catch Me If You Can. He has appeared in such films as Annie HallPennies From Heaven,The Dead ZoneAt Close RangeBiloxi BluesKing of New YorkMan On FireMan of the YearWedding Crashers, HairsprayTrue RomancePulp Fiction, and Batman Returns. He was recently nominated for a 2010 Tony Award for his performance in A Behanding in Spokane. International Creative Management negotiated the deal on behalf of Mr.Walken.

Mia Farrow (Phyllis, Abe’s mom) has appeared in such memorable films as Rosemary’s BabyThe Great GatsbyDeath on the Nile, as well as numerous Woody Allen films, including Hannah and her SistersCrimes and Misdemeanors, and Alice.  In 2008, she appeared in Michel Gondry’s Be Kind Rewind.  Ms. Farrow has been a high profile advocate for children's rights, working to raise funds and awareness for children in conflict-affected regions, predominantly in Africa. Judy Hofflund and Laura Berwick at The Hofflund Company negotiated Ms. Farrow’s deal.

Selma Blair (Miranda, Abe’s girlfriend) first catapulted to prominence with her breakout comic performances inCruel Intentions and Legally Blonde.  She followed those films working with a diverse body of directors including Guillermo Del Toro (HellboyHellboy 2: The Golden Army), Robert Benton (Feast of Love), and John Waters (A Dirty Shame).  This is her second film with Mr. Solondz, following her performance in the award-winningStorytelling. Leslie Siebert at Gersh and Troy Nankin at Global Creative negotiated the deal for Ms. Blair.

Having beat out far better known names for the hotly contested lead of Abe, Jordan Gelber follows in the footsteps of relative-unknowns-turned-stars cast by Mr. Solondz on a list that numbers Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti. Mr. Gelber was most recently seen in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, appearing in the first three episodes under the direction of Martin Scorsese and Tim Van Patten. Jordan is no stranger to great directors, having worked with Sidney Lumet (Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead), Penny Marshall (Riding in Cars with Boys), Tony Scott (The Taking of Pelham 1,2,3), Roger Michell (Changing Lanes) and Jim McKay, the writer/director of 2004 Sundance entry Everyday People, for which Jordan was nominated for an IFP/Gotham Award for Breakthrough Acting. On stage, Jordan is perhaps best recognized for originating the role of Brian in the Tony Award-winning Avenue Q, for which he received an Outer Critics Circle Award. Paul Reisman at Abrams Artists negotiated the deal for Mr. Gelber.

Fresh from his success as the lead of the Tony-nominated farce, Lend Me a Tenor, Justin Bartha plays Abe’s brother Richard.  Mr. Bartha is perhaps best known for his role as the wise-cracking Riley Poole in the National Treasure franchise, and for his turn as the lost groom pals Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms are desperately searching for in the 2009 blockbuster The Hangover.  But he also loves the independent world, and showed his range this year in the well-received Sundance drama, Holy Rollers, with Jesse Eisenberg.  He is currently in production on The Hangover 2. Mr. Bartha is rep’d by George Freeman at WME Entertainment and Evelyn O’Neill at Management 360.

Donna Murphy, playing Abe’s father’s secretary Marie, is an accomplished and respected actress who has been building a career of striking range and diversity. Ms. Murphy has won two Tony awards, three Drama Desk awards, a Daytime Emmy, and appeared in such films as The Nanny Diaries, Spiderman 2, and The Door in the Floor. Innovative Artists’ Ken Lee and Brookside Artist Management’s Emily Gerson-Saines negotiated the deal on behalf of Ms. Murphy.

Aasif Mandvi, who plays Miranda’s semi-ex-boyfriend Mahmoud, is a correspondent on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Mr. Mandvi is the recipient of the 1999 OBIE Award for his critically acclaimed play,Sakina’s Restaurant. His feature film, Today’s Special, which he co-wrote and stars in, is being released in theaters November 19, 2010. Recent features include The Last AirbenderGhost Town, and It’s Kind of a Funny Story, which is currently in theaters. International Creative Management negotiated the deal on behalf of Mr. Mandvi. He is managed by Sweet 180.

Zachary Booth, playing Abe’s easygoing cousin Justin, is a rising star in film, television, and theater. He has appeared in Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock and Peter Sollett’s Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist as well as onDamages and Royal Pains. He is currently starring in the New York Premiere of Edward Albee’s new Me, Myself & I. Stephen Hirsh of Gersh and Laurie Smith of Smith Talent Group negotiated the deal on behalf of Mr. Booth.

Independent Spirit Award-nominee Andrij Parekh (Blue Valentine, Cold Souls) is the cinematographer, Alex DiGerlando (The Answer Man, Pretty Bird) is the production designer, Kevin Messman (Life During Wartime, Palindromes) is the editor, Kurt and Bart (It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Step Up 3D) are the costume designers, Ann Goulder (AdventurelandThe Nanny Diaries) and Gayle Keller (Welcome to Academia, Life During Wartime) are the casting directors, and Atilla Salih Yücer (Kick Ass, 3 Backyards) is the first assistant director.

Mr. Solondz is a favorite of the critics: his 1996 Welcome to the Dollhouse won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival; his 1998 Happiness won the International Critics Prize at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay; and his most recent film Life During Wartimewon the best screenplay award at the Venice Film Festival in 2009.

Ted Hope is the co-founder of Good Machine, This is that, and, most recently, Double Hope Films, his new production company. His most recent production was Super, one of the hits of the recent Toronto Film Festival and the first sale there this year. He has produced over sixty films, including three Sundance Grand Prize winners and the first features of Alan Ball, Michel Gondry, Hal Hartley, Nicole Holofcener, and Ang Lee. He blogs atHopeForFilm.com and co-founded the Indie Film review site HammerToNail.com.

In addition to Life During Wartime and Palindromes, Derrick Tseng has co-produced films for award-winning directors Robert Altman, Steve Buscemi, David Gordon Green, Brad Anderson, and Kevin Smith, including Tanner on TannerLonesome JimAll the Real GirlsHappy Accidents, and Chasing Amy.

Goldcrest is a fully integrated film company providing finance, production, international sales, rights management, and award-winning post-production facilities to major US studios and renowned film companies around the world. Established in 1977, Goldcrest has financed, produced and/or distributed over 100 titles that have won numerous prizes including 19 Academy Awards and 28 BAFTAs. Celebrated titles include GandhiThe Killing FieldsThe MissionChariots of FireA Room with a View, and All Dogs Go To Heaven.

Dark Horse is shooting in Westchester and Long Island, New York this October and November.

Life During Wartime is currently in theatrical release and available on IFC On Demand.