We hosted Anna Boden as an Artist In Residence at The San Francisco Film Society recently. I found it interesting to hear her say she and Ryan Fleck had been inspired by Peter Sollet's RAISING VICTOR VARGAS and the prize-winning short that preceded it 5 FEET HIGH & RISING. They had written the HALF NELSON script and in trying to figure out how to do a short that could help get the feature made they decided to shift the focus away from the focus on the teacher (later played by Ryan Gosling in the feature) and put in on Shareeka Epps the student (and who stars in each the short and feature). This is the short GOWANUS BROOKLYN that helped get the feature HALF NELSON shot.
Today's guest post is from filmmaker Matthew Porterfield. Matt's contributed before, and his feature PUTTY HILL opens tomorrow. We had the good fortune to screen it recently at our screening series and had a packed house that all stayed for the Q&A. Matt blends a variety of techniques, from documentary and observational camera, to the more experimental. A portrait of a small town but through a Nan Goldin-ish eye, it is not one to miss. It’s been a long and winding road, but this week PUTTY HILL opens theatrically in New York City.
PUTTY HILL spent the last year touring festivals and was picked up along the way by Cinema Guild, who will handle all U.S. rights, beginning with a theatrical rollout on February 18th at Cinema Village. We’re very happy to be in such strong hands and feel confident that our timing is right: if Sundance is a barometer for the state of indie film, audiences are embracing stories about America outside the mainstream.
That said, it’s hard for a little film to get noticed without substantial buzz. I remember back five years, when my first feature, HAMILTON (2006), opened at Anthology Film Archives the same day HALF NELSON hit theatres. I went around the LES with my wheat paste and posters trying desperately to find some free space beside the ubiquitous Ryan Gosling, hoping to share some of that limelight. Or, I think of Stockholm, when HAMILTON played right after a sold- out screening of OLD JOY and I thought, this is good: a perfect double feature until OLD JOY ended and everyone left the theatre but me and 11 people (one of them Ryan Fleck). Point is: I like these movies and I think audiences that like these movies will like my movies.
So how do I connect with them? I’m not certain there’s one answer, but I’m hoping PUTTY HILL will prove we’re doing something right this time around. No matter how limited our resources or reach, it’s a fact that audiences beget new audiences. It’s called word-of-mouth.
So far, this has been at the core of a fairly simple strategy: make good work, share it with everyone we can (friends, filmmakers, programmers, press), and let it speak for itself. If it speaks with honesty, people will listen and respond.
For the theatrical premiere of PUTTY HILL next week, we hope to cultivate the dialogue that’s taking place around the film and carry it into the theatre. Each weekend night, Cinema Village will host three post-screening discussions with the filmmakers and some very special guests, friends of the film from inside and outside the industry. The idea is to join new audiences in conversation with audiences we’ve found along the way.
I hope you, reader, will join us opening weekend. Bring your friends! The events culminate Sunday the 20th with a celebration at Lit Lounge, featuring some of the best music coming out of Baltimore right now: Co La, Dustin Wong, and Dope Body, all collaborators on PUTTY HILL.
You come to my indie, I’ll come to yours.
- 5pm screening: conversation w/ Yancey Strickler (Kickstarter), Matt Porterfield and Sky Ferreira
- 7pm screening: conversation w/ Jonathan Caouette (TARNATION), Sky Ferreira, Zoe Vance and the PUTTY HILL crew
- 9pm screening: conversation w/ Yance Ford (POV), Esther Robinson (ArtHome, DANNY WILLIAMS: A WALK IN THE SEA) and Ross Kauffman (BORN INTO BROTHELS)
- 5pm screening: conversation w/ Jeronimo Rodriguez (NY1 News) and Matt Porterfield
- 7pm screening: conversation w/ Richard Brody (The New Yorker) and Matt Porterfield
- 9pm screening: conversation w/ Amos Poe (filmmaker) and Matt Porterfield
- 5pm screening: conversation w/ Amy Dotson (IFP) and Matt Porterfield
- 7pm screening: conversation w/ Chris Keating (Yeasayer) and Matt Porterfield
- 9pm screening: conversation w/ Jem Cohen (filmmaker) and the PUTTY HILL crew
Matt Porterfield studied film at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and teaches screenwriting, theory, and production in the Film & Media Studies Program at Johns Hopkins University. His first feature, Hamilton, was released theatrically in 2006. Putty Hill premiered in 2010 at the Berlinale's International Forum of New Cinema.