COLLABORATOR NY Screenings

This June COLLABORATOR will have two special screenings here in New York City before its July theatrical release. The first is June 18th at the IFC center, and the second is on June 19th at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens. Hal Hartley will be there to present on the 18th, and Martin Donovan, David Morse, and Ted Hope will be there to answer your questions on both nights.

June 18th IFC Center 7pm Buy tickets online.

June 19th Museum of the Moving Image Buy tickets online.

Find out more about Collaborator on Prescreen.

Collaborator premiered at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival in the Czech Republic, winning several awards including best actor for David Morse.

Read director, writer, and star, Martin Donovan's thoughts on creating Collaborator.

Check out Collaborator's Facebook page, and find more information about the film and its upcoming release from Tribeca Film on VOD, iTunes, Amazon, VUDU on June 19th here.

And read about previous coverage of Collaborator on Hopeforfilm here, here, and here

LITTLE ROCK Is That Rare Indie That Consistently Defies Expectations

Truly Free Indie Film lovers get a rare treat this weekend; that is IF they are in NYC. I got to screen MIke Ott's LITTLE ROCK for my HopeForFilm series at Goldcrest earlier this year, and am pleased to see that it opens today at Cinema Village. Mike will be there in person on Friday and Saturday. Don't let his modesty mislead you: this kind of thing is not easy to achieve -- as natural as he makes it look.

When we screened it at Goldcrest, I wrote the following:

I have something I would like you to consider: How do films defy expectations? They have to create such expectations first, right? And then still surprise you but also ideally make everything feel inevitable and part of the underlying concept. It is no easy task and so few films are able to do it these days. But we have one for you that does.

Mike Ott's LITTLE ROCK was all of that -- right up and through its end. I suspected things to come that didn't and was given consistent pleasures that I didn't even know were on the menu. Road trips seem to have become uncommon ground for indie films for some reason, but Ott's trip was all about taking me to somewhere unknown and doing it in a very quiet way. We are brought into the world, almost becoming one of the characters in the process, so personable is the filmmaking approach.

Winner of the Gotham Award for Best Film NOT Coming To A Theater Near You and the John Cassavettes Indie Spirit Award, the film has has had no shortage of acclaim. Ott's tale follows a brother and sister from Japan to Little Rock; we are never quite sure where they are heading or what they are looking for, but getting lost has always been part of the journey--and maybe all of the plan. Perhaps it's improv'd, perhaps scripted, it all seems real with a deep connection to place. Cast with locals, unfamiliar faces, and non-professionals, Ott's actors, like all other aspects of the film, feel entirely authentic, forever beckoning you into their circle.

It may not seem like a lot goes on in Little Rock, but Ott and his characters walked away with some part me, leaving me glad for the giving and happy for having been able to dwell there for each and every minute.

Please see it this weekend. These are rare films. We must vote for the culture we want with our dollars.

Another Great Poster

If you have been reading the TFF post on the sale of Septien, you know that IFC bought it for Sundance Selects.  What you may not know is that it is up on VOD now but it's only on the market until February 24th, though it will be VOD-able later in the year once it gets a theatrical release and has a (hopefully) healthy spring/summer festival run.

Sundance Sales Dissection: Septien (Part Two)

Today's guest post is from George Rush, producers rep and attorney.  Yesterday George started telling us about how he engineered the sale of Michael Tully's Sundance At Midnight hit, SEPTIEN.  Today's post concludes the dissection. I had been to Sundance before with Midnight films and know it can be difficult to get good buzz.  Sundance audiences are not reflective of real audiences.  It is a mixture of film nerds, rich party people, and earnest do gooders seeking some culture.  I’ve found most people want to see the buzzed about stereotypical Sundance films—The Are All Right, Winter’s Bone.  These tickets are hard to come by.  However, midnight screening tickets are easier to come by and thus people get stuck with them.  They come in hoping for some culture and get blood and guts and farts.

I’ve seen packed houses at Midnight screenings pretty empty by the time the lights came up.  Because Michael’s film, SEPTIEN,  is so different, I felt a good number of the audience and some critics would dismiss it outright because it did not fit their expectation of what a Sundance film should be.  It sort of reminds me of a friend of mine who hates Wes Anderson movies because he expects Bill Murray to always play the Bill Murray of Ghostbusters.

Those who stayed, who bought in, would be massively rewarded by SEPTIEN, but there would be some naysayers.  So my feeling was Sundance was going to be a wildcard, with champions and detractors.

With a small film without a cast, getting positive buzz is essential.  With so many high profile star driven films at Sundance, it is easy for a non-buzzed film to be overlooked.  Michael’s film is hard to describe—you just need to experience it.  Screening at Sundance would mean a buyer getting it, and having the balls to take a risk on something new.

Ideally, the Sundance formula is the buyers see a screening at the fest, the crowd loves it, the press loves it, the energy in the room reaches a fever pitch and the buyers lose their sense and overpay or get in a bidding war and the filmmakers all buy new jetskis (“the jetski scenario”).  Conversely, you have a bad screening, and that energy is sucked out of the room and it is more of an uphill battle.  Given the originality of Michael’s film and the fact it was a midnight screening, I was concerned.

However, I also thought the film was completely awesome.  I had spoken to IFC about another film I was repping about possibly including it in their Sundance stunt, that is IFC acquires the rights to the film before the festival and launches it on VOD at the same time it premieres on IFC.  I had a sense of what the range was of what they were paying, and also knew that they planned to have five films for the stunt.  Most filmmakers or reps don’t consider this option because they are holding out for the jetski scenario.  However, I felt if we could get IFC interested, perhaps we could get the other buyers interested and do something before the fest.

I have done a couple of deals with Jeff Deutchman at IFC and contacted him about Septien.  Describing the film sounded borderline crazy, so I really had to stress how much I believed in it, which I actually did.  We had a pretty good rapport, and he checked it out.  He too understood how good it was and that there was potential for a bigger film if given the chance.  It quickly was screened by the IFC team and they made a pretty decent offer.

Once we knew they were interested, we quickly got screeners to other distributors we felt might have an interest in the film, letting them know that we had a time sensitive offer.  Meanwhile, our conversations with IFC continued and the terms of the offer seemed reached our goals—recouping the costs of the film and a theatrical commitment.  IFC had a certain urgency because of their Sundance stunt and were more motivated to make this happen than I believed they’d be at Sundance.

So we were at the crossroads of taking a good deal from IFC, or rolling the dice and seeing what happened at the screening.  I know Michael was at first conflicted, but ultimately I believe quite strongly that this was the right choice and the right partner.  As we expected, Septien divided critics.  It is not a genre film, not a typical Sundance film, no stars, weird, but nonetheless an exciting cinematic experience.  I have to commend IFC for taking a chance on this.

So that’s how it went down, and I am proud to have been part of it.  There is nothing more rewarding in what I do than seeing a little film, with little to no resources, actually succeed as a film and better yet with a buyer.  It is like witnessing a miracle.  So much of the indie content is so similar in tone, style, issues and setting.

When I read summaries from film festival catalogs to my wife she thinks I’m just making up joke indie summaries.  These films are good, and what drew me to indie film in the first place.  But outside the indie film world, most people don’t care, or worse yet, hate indie films.  But to see something new, to hear a fresh voice, to have a film be outside my expectations and exceed them actually gets my adrenaline flowing.

Commercially speaking, the goals for all indie films is to breakout of the indie audience and find a larger broader audience.  Maybe I’m wrong, but I believe if our business is going to reach a new and larger audience, there needs to be more risk taking films like Septien.  I constantly hear filmmakers bemoan the state of the business, but I would also bemoan the state of most content.  Budgets are lower, buyers pay less, so if you’re going to make a bold move in your filmmaking, there is no time like the present!

Now go and order Septien on VOD!

George Rush is an entertainment attorney and producer’s rep in San Francisco.

Cage Match: Are the Kids Alright? Youth Audiences in the Art House - Independent Film Conference 2010

Are independent and art-house film doing enough to draw young audiences away from the multiplex and the computer screen, or is the theatrical experience for a older demographic? On September 19th I was invited to participate in a "cage match" with Jeff Lipsky as part of Independent Filmmaker Conference's panelist speaker event last month. We were able to agree on one thing: independent filmmakers need to draw a younger audience. Moderator: Liz Ogilvie, Crowdstarter

Panelists: Ted Hope, This is that Jeff Lipsky, Filmmaker, TWELVE THIRTY

Watch it here:

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IndieWire also covered the debate in an article here.

"Reaching The Impossible" Indie Prod Battle Diary: MADE IN CHINA

Today's guest post is from the star of 2009 SXSW Grand Jury Prize Winning film MADE IN CHINA, Jackson Kuehn.  I had the good fortune of being on the jury (with Scott Foundas and Anne Thompson) that year and was delighted how ambitious, inventive, funny and moving the film was.  As great all of those qualities were, the film also was centered by Jackson's comic and committed star turn.  Jackson and Judi (Krant -- the director) are both the real deal.  I will make a point of watching whatever they do.  And lucky for you: MADE IN CHINA is now up on IFC VOD.  If you love Indie Film, if you believe in ambitious film, if you want a diverse & unique film culture, if you want some good laughs, or just want to see how much can be created with very limited means, PLEASE make sure to watch MADE IN CHINA this month (and tell all your friends likewise). ‘One Hundred Year Old Egg’

by Jackson Kuehn

I was suffering from gastric pain, malnutrition, hot weather conditions, incoherence of thought, so three Lomotil pills later, I decided to stand up for myself and address the situation to Judi Krant during the casting process of our beloved Dorothy.  I let Judi know that agitation had gotten the better of me and I felt that at any moment I was going to die in Shanghai, China; commonly known as the Paris of the East.  At that precise moment, Judi’s highly concentrated eyes shifted my way like a famished, bloodthirsty wolf who had one last shot to feed her babies and to get it through my head that she’s the leader of the pack.  She said, “Jackson, now is the time to fight through it all.  I don’t want to hear any more excuses.  You need to toughen up now.”  I nodded my head and agreed.  Then she said, “For the next three weeks, you’ll be sharing the queen sized bed with Mr. James Choi.”  I replied, “But I need personal time to recover from all of our feverish activity!  I need plenty of time to listen to Mozart and time to take my bubble bathes!” Once again, she stared at me very similarly to a king cobra about to strike a blind burrowing rodent.  The consciousness of one’s own dignity was at stake, so I concurred.

It was time to make our movie ‘Made in China’- indie style.

With exceptionally clever Judi at the helm and a crew comprised of New Yorkers, Austinites, Californians, English, Swedes, Africans, Koreans and Chinese (all posing as an Italian Documentary Crew I might add) I knew that shooting under the radar from Chinese Authorities was risky.  However, tension mostly resulted from adverse, out of the box ideas, but that’s where natural aptitude is born.  No one was going to deny Judi’s astute, artistic temperament and shooting in Shanghai was a must, not camera-friendly Hong Kong.  Most days hit record highs of 100 degrees, accompanied by heavy rain in the evening.  The humidity was unbearable, even the camera broke out in a sweat.  Up at 5am, home by 1:30am.  Day after day.  I just finished shooting possibly one of the most pivotal scenes for the movie, a scene that captivated the intrinsic nature of the characters soul, a scene so powerful that Daniel Day Lewis and Charlie Chaplin would have been proud.  A couple of minutes later, the scene disappeared from the camera. Due to lack of sleep and ten, fifteen hour long days in a row, I remember throwing up in the train station before we boarded our train to the ancient water city. With all of my doubts and second-guessing, was I suffering the consequences of indie filmmaking?  Nevertheless, I was in Shanghai to examine the mind of a young novelty enthusiast, explore his fundamental core.  All of us were on a mission to prove our unbending indie principles and strong diet of independent filmmaking.

The days unfolded quickly and the 15-day shoot came to a halt. After we wrapped production, I remember sitting in the back of a taxi purposefully staring at neon lights and wondering about how much we all love independent film stories that proceed from genuine feelings.  My eyes welled up because I knew that this was my fate and kept thinking a sense of pride in oneself will only survive through self-sacrifice and widespread respect for others in the indie world.  The universal ‘indie-spirit’ theme we all shared was built upon trust and warm approval of each other’s actions, desires to explore human behavior and to seek the powers of our own imaginations.

The journey back to Los Angeles started.  After all the trials and tribulations in Shanghai, I found myself in the City of Angels directionless and in a consistent state of feeling bored.  I missed the culture, literature, the performing arts, food, the artistic awareness, the good times, the bad times and most importantly the warmth of the Chinese people.  What an ungratifying life not being apart of something you truly feel free doing.  A week passed by and my phone rang, it was Mr. James Choi or Judi, I couldn’t remember.  “Ni hao”, I said.   They replied, “Pack your bags, your going back to Shanghai.”

“Reshoots”.

Made in China is now available on VOD through IFC Films. Check your local listings at: http://www.ifcfilms.com/films/made-in-china

Jackson Kuehn was born in Austin, Texas but was raised all across the U.S. from California to New York. He attended New York University Tisch School of Arts and MADE IN CHINA is his first feature as a leading man. Jackson currently resides in Hollywood.

Wow! This is great! "Please Say Something"

Thanks to IFC's Independent Eye I have now seen my favorite film of 2009.  David O'Reilly's PLEASE SAY SOMETHING won the Golden Bear for short films at Berlin this year.  It's about ten minutes long but packs a wallup of emotion, innovation, and experimentation into those ten minutes.  My day has been made.

IFC has some more information on their site, along with excerpts from an interview with O'Reilly.  Check it out.