Old Problems, New Solutions: Film Fest Rock & Blues

Today's guest post is by director Allison Anders (Mi Vida Loca, Grace Of My Heart), co-founder of the "Don't Knock The Rock" Film Festival" Seven years ago I was given one of the greatest opportunities of my opportunity-rich life -- a tenured post at UCSB as a distinguished professor in the Film And Media Department at UC Santa Barbara, where I remain on faculty, teaching one quarter each year. My first quarter I created a class on rock 'n' roll films since this had long been my private passion, and called the course "Don't Knock The Rock", named for the 1956 Alan Freed, Sam Arkoff, Columbia film of the same name. I loved the experience of sharing these music rich movies so much I didn't want it to end.

With the help of producer Elizabeth Stanley who was at that time at the DGA, and who connected me to festival producer Gianna Chacere (now with The Hamptons Film Festival) , I began to lay out plans for a festival in Los Angeles showcasing rock 'n' roll movies. My musician daughter Tiffany Anders was returning to Los Angeles, after living in Brooklyn for a good chunk of her 20s, so I immediately welcomed her home and enlisted her to curate live music for my hair-brained idea. The first year she delivered Sonic Youth, J Mascis, The Tyde, Dead Meadow, Wayne Kramer, and Ariel Pink before I even knew he had been born!

We are now launching our 6th annual (we took one year off) DKTR Fest July 8th and will run every Thursday of July and August at The Silent Movie Theater, Los Angeles. From our first Don't Knock The Rock Film And Music Festival, our agenda was, and remains, the same: to showcase music films and live music performances for die-hard fans and music nerds and to get the word out to them. We are dedicated to that agenda, even though the struggles of the niche film festival like ours are many, well actually, money; the struggle is always money.

We are blessed to have returning sponsors who have been supporting us every year since our beginning, BMI Music, Criterion Collection, Globe Shoes and more. But we are finding it harder to survive, and have watched well-heeled festivals disappear while we remain the little festival that could. This year, just when we wondered if we could go on, we discovered community funding as an option. In particular, Kickstarter! We weren't sure if we qualified since we have already been established but our project was accepted and we launched our pledge drive on Kickstarter to raise additional funds to bring filmmakers to us so they can see their film with a live audience (which for many filmmakers these days is becoming a rare experience) and to be able to compensate our musicians, who perform live for far below their quote, with a token of our appreciation for giving our audience a one-of-a kind experience.

The model for Kickstarter is brilliantly simple and effective: if everyone kicks in a donation to projects they'd like to support, these films, events, books, music, art will all see the light of day. And the even more beautiful part of it is that by donating to each other, we can help bring to life a culture we want to share. For every pledge to donate money to a Kickstarter project, you will get something tangible in return. We are loving our Kickstarter project and urge everyone to check it out cause we think we have some of the very coolest rewards ever from our awesome sponsors!

And we are very excited about our line-up this summer! Whenever possible we try to open our festival with a film which exemplifies an artist band or genre of music born right here in So Cal. "The Wrecking Crew", "Chicano Rock", "Gram Parsons: Fallen Angel" and "Ghost On The Highway: A Portrait Of Jeffrey Lee Pierce" have been a few of our LA-centric openers. This year we are so happy to launch DKTR 2010 with a beautiful film by Italian filmmaker/musician Cosimo Messeri, "The One Man Beatles: Something About Emitt Rhodes" Hawthorne's own son. In 1967 upon hearing and falling in love with the first 2 singles ("Live" and "You're A Very Lovely Woman") of Emitt's band The Merry-Go-Round, I ached for more till his long lost solo records were rediscovered in the late 80s and distributed on a collection by Rhino. These are melancholic yet accessible pop melodies that will stay with you, and a story that will move you as much as the music. Emitt Rhodes himself will be in attendance and we are thrilled to be able to celebrate his work in person with him. A tribute concert will follow the screening! Merry-Go Round/Emitt Rhodes expert Rhino's own Andrew Sandoval will DJ a brilliant set including never before heard Emitt Rhodes material.

From Australia we have a restored print of 1984's "Dogs In Space" with Inxs singer Michael Hutchence, a film not screened in LA in ages, along with the LA premiere of "We're Living On Dog Food" by director Richard Lowenstein on the vibrant Aussie punk and post punk scene of the early 80s, co-sponsored by "Part Time Punks" with DJ Michael Stock spinning tunes. We also have an amazing film of one man's quest to reunite the not-on-speaking-terms band The Kinks, in the film "Do It Again", and will follow up with a unique live Charles Beardlsey Kinks clips-mix from his private collection. And speaking of private collections of clips, Target Video pulls together a unique mix of Joe Rees video live performances late 70s early 80s "So Cal Uber Alles".

And following in a tradition of honoring our electronic music pioneers, to kick off the month of August we have the LA premiere of "Deconstructing Dad", a film by Stan Warnow about his father Raymond Scott with a special tribute to Scott's varied career followed by an incredible feast of WB Looney Tunes bearing the music of Raymond Scott curated by Jerry Beck, animation historian! Scott pal Skip Heller DJs! On Saturday afternoon Aug. 7, we will host as we do each year our ever popular BMI Music Roundtable Chat with pros in the music and film businesses discussing how to get your music into films, and for filmmakers how to find affordable music for projects. Aug 12, we have a full night Lee Hazlewood blow-out with 2 ultra rare titles "Cowboy In Sweden", "Nancy And Lee In Las Vegas" coming from the estate of Swedish filmmaker Tor Axelman.

And Also in August, an evening with legendary LA filmmaker and LA cultural historian Thom Andersen (LA Plays Itself) premiering his new film "Get Out Of The Car" and 2 rare music-filled LA pieces "--- -------" and "Olivia's Place" as well as other music-related films curated by Andersen who will be present for Q&A's and hangs! And closing night we will premiere a film by songwriter Mark Sebastian and filmmaker Todd Kwait "Vagabondo" a film about legendary Greenwich Village folk singer Vince Martin. Martin will also be present for a lively Q&A, and a tribute concert to his beautiful songs will follow the film.

In a world in flux in terms of film financing and distribution, festivals have changed too. Sales agents have become far more powerful and their budgets smaller. Unless you're a major festival where they can sell their movie, and recoup for the investors, they cannot be bothered to even answer an inquiry from a smaller niche festival (this happened to us repeatedly this year). It's a shame cause this means that the very audience who would care don't get to see the film, it means the filmmakers don't get to experience their film with as many audiences, and it means that when the film comes out, if ever, no one goes to see it, cause no one knows about it, and it perpetuates this idea that music films don't make money, so less of them get made. When in fact, people would come, if they knew about it and if they were targeted as the viable audience that they are.

This is clearly a dead model. I'm looking forward to new models. And community-based funding and supporting local venues for niche festivals are a step in the right direction ahead!

For the DKTR Kickstarter page go here: http://kck.st/cmuBAi

For the complete DKTR 2010 line-up and to buy tickets go here: http://cinefamily.org/calendar/thursday.html#july

Just Like PB&J, It's Rock&Roll & Film

Founded by filmmaker Allison Anders and musician/daughter Tiffany Anders, Don't Knock The Rock Film And Music Festival, Los Angeles has been bringing amazing off the radar films and live performances to the sophisticated music nerd and diehard music fan for the past 6 years.

For those of you who don't know the fest, and don't want to take my word for it, Variety just gave them a nice shout out.

Now the festival needs your help and has started a KickStarter campaign to show you how.  If you are in Los Angeles, you particularly don't want to miss this, as the awards are, not surprisingly, a bit festival-centric.