Wake Up Early & Join Me Tomorrow...and maybe I will give you a free gift (seriously)...

I know told you before, but why say something once when you can say it two or three or more times? I am here to help. I am here to share what I have learned. I am here to offer some hope. At least for the moment... So tomorrow I am participating in two public events. One is free. The other you have to pay, but the money goes to support a great organization (IFP). And to someone who knows the secret word and meets me at either of the events, I have a gift to give you. So if you come to either....


And by either I mean:

tomorrow's IFP ScriptToScreen conference where I will be moderating a case study of MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE with Borderline films, including writer/director Sean Durkin, and producers Antonio Campos and Josh Mond.

DIY DAYS NYC where I will be conducting a conversation with indie film producing legend Christine Vachon.

Come find me and stand on one foot while you tell me the actual name of the Lou tune that Mike Connel in the movie I did with Greg Mottola butchers the title of, and I will give you a couple of DVDs and other swag, and of course thank you for coming. I might as well as start clearing out those closets, right?

Sometimes I feel like I am an infomercial, so why not give out the indie equivalent of a knife set?

How I Spent My Sundance Non-Vacation

To think I once got to see movies when I went to film festivals...

I had one film to share with folks this time around, Sean Durkin's MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE, which I had the pleasure and good fortune to Executive Produce -- even still I did not plan to see any others.  I knew I was going to be too busy with the work that festivals have become for me.

The reception for the film was great -- which has generated a lot of meetings (and which has yielded some nice announcements ).  I forgot to read the latest Exec Prod job description though and did not realize it now means moderating press conferences.  Check out the video here, and let me know how you feel I did.

When I wasn't dealing and celebrating Sean's movie, I was doing my part to aid in the promotion of indie film.

Christine Vachon and I have been doing this talk show on and off now for several years, now dubbed KILLER / HOPE.  Hulu's got it up on their Sundance page. Please check it out while you still can (at least in all its glory). New episodes will be added daily throughout the festival.  Additionally, we were invited to talk to Eugene Hernandez for the local NPR station.  Gotta get the word out, but man does all that yapping, make for some seriously dry mouth.

But man, what a test of will power it is.  I admit I am an addict for great film, and even noble failures.  To be in Park City and to have booked myself into back to back meetings to extent that I am unable to watch movies, leaves me quaking and shaking.  I want to see some movies!

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Frontier Blues: Beautifully Strange

Today's guest post is from Afterschool's director Antonio Campos. I met Babak Jalali in the summer of 2006 when we were both accepted into the Cannes Residence. We then spent close to 5 months living in a glorious Parisian apartment working on our scripts, me on Afterschool, Alexis Dos Santos on Unmade Beds, Fien Troch on Unspoken, Sebastian Lelio on Navidad, and Babak on Frontier Blues. Though we are all very supportive of one another in the Residence, we were all nervous about showing one another our scripts until the very end. I think both Babak and I both had the feeling that we liked one another's scripts but weren't sure how it was all going to translate to screen. And when did see each other’s films, we were all pleasantly blown away.

I sent out an email to everyone I knew in New York to entice them to come see Babak’s Frontier Blues (his first feature) playing at New Directors/New Films this weekend. I mentioned that the film was not only beautiful but “beautifully strange” and unlike anything I had seen before. This intrigued Mr. Hope, and he asked me to expand.

What is so wonderful about the film, and also his previous short, “Heydar: An Afghan in Tehran”, is that he is showing us a view of Iran that most of us here have never been exposed to— a perspective free of politics and chaos in a part of Iran that most of us could only see in photo books. And while those photographs reveal the beauty and majesty of northern Iran, they cannot reveal the humanity that Babak is exploring in his film.  There are no photos that could capture that monotony of every day life for Alam who works on a chicken farm but who is desperately in love with a girl he has never spoken to. Or Hassan, the village idiot, who’s best friend is his donkey and his uncle Kazem who owns a small clothing store where nothing quite fits any one who comes in. And the minstrel who tells the audience of his wife, stolen from him by a man in a green Mercedes years ago.

Growing up in Gorgan, the town where the film takes place, and returning frequently after leaving there in his teens, these are the people around which he grew up.  Babak is fascinated with the people that most of us walk by everyday but don't notice. Walking through New York with Babak, he can not help but stop and appreciate the long, wrinkled face of an old man whose eyes stare off into the distance with a sense of loss for a life full of regrets and what if’s. Or the bus boy in a restaurant bustling from one table to the next and back and forth to the kitchen. Who or what does he go home to every night? What are his dreams? Who does he love?

The people that inhabit Frontier Blues are settled but lost. They long for something better or long for what they could have had, but they continue to live and work every day. The majestic beauty of northern Iran is merely a backdrop, one that doesn’t impress them anymore the way they do outsiders. They are stoic and laconic men, maybe more so than if they were not on camera, but in some ways, that is the point. Babak is looking deeply into them and this often requires a bit of silence and focus, and what he finds is truly beautifully strange.

This weekend at New Directors/New Films: Fri Apr 2: 6:15 (MoMA) 
/ Sun Apr 4: 5:30 (FSLC

Ten* Filmmakers I Would Crowd Fund*

In celebration of Arin Crumley & Keiran Masterton's success using Kickstarter to fund development of OpenIndie.com, I thought I would launch my annual grants. Or rather my annual promise of grants. Money! $ For Films! Free!*

If any of the following filmmakers had a crowd funding page for their next film (provided the film was $300K neg.cost or less), I would donate some money to get it made. And I would encourage others to do so.
Who would you fund?
I know there are more than ten* I could have listed, but I thought this was a good start, and you have to draw the line somewhere. Plus, being an indie film producer in a land that does not demonstrate that it values what I do, I don't have enough cash to go beyond this list! And even still, my contribution would not be significant financially; it would be more of a vote of support in hopes that others would be encourage to support the culture they want. I would give in order to become part of their team, to hear what they are up to, to get updates.
I listed artists who have are all early in their careers -- but have already directed a feature. I listed filmmakers whom I was confident could deliver a whole lot for a little. I listed filmmakers whom I am not already involved with.
Yet before I gave to any of these filmmakers, I would want to see a commitment to building audiences PRIOR to filming -- say a pledge to not commence until they had collected 5000 unique fans. I would want to know that they had a plan to market and release their film that went beyond bringing it to festivals and hoping for the best. I would want to know that they would set up an e-commerce site on their websites -- and that they had a website (which they refreshed with regular content). And of course I wouldn't transfer the money until they had reached their goal in pledges. Then I would gladly give money to them to get that next film made (and not ask for anything in return other than the satisfaction of having helped).

My Plea For A NYC Directors Support Group (on behalf of AFTERSCHOOL)

I sent the following email blast out this morning. Word's got around and others have asked to see it. So here it is, albeit with a change or two....

Hey there NY Director Person,
Sorry for this group email but times are tough.
You are getting this email because you are one of 120 people whom I have identified as a film director residing at least part time in NYC. I know that there are a lot more of you than that, but hey, I am just one person standing in the forest without much beyond my laptop and a few minutes at my disposal as I drink my morning coffee.
You are also getting this because I am asking you to help facilitate some real change in the NY Indie Film World, and I know you can do it. Maybe not by yourself, but hey, you do have each other.
I know that you directors don't really have a group that you are organized around. I know that this non-existent group doesn't even have a name. But with receipt of this email I would like you to band together and make people go see adventurous & ambitious independent cinema again.
There is a great movie opening on Friday at Cinema Village. Antonio Campos' AFTERSCHOOL debuted at the NYFF last year. When I saw it, I felt it was the strongest debut work to come out of NYC in a long, long time. It was counter to current trends, yet commented insightfully on our current culture. It took bold steps to find it's own voice, but was aware and respectful of film history. It took risks on all aspects of its design and execution, but used each of the elements to build a united whole. It was aggressive in its approach but heartbreaking at its core. In short, it blew me away.
AFTERSCHOOL was one a small handful of films that inspired us to start our screening series at Goldcrest. I found it virtually criminal that great work was not being seen -- particularly by those involved in film creation. We can complain about how tough it is -- or we can actually do something about it. Right now as I understand it, IFC who is distributing the work, has no specific plans to take it beyond NYC theatrically. It will be however on VOD on Wednesday (is it a coincidence that is my birthday?) but it won't see the glory of projection elsewhere if people don't turn out here in NYC. It is a tough film, and not for everyone, but it is great work that should not be missed.
Please go see this movie in the theaters. Please publicize your appreciation for the work-- that's what Facebook and Twitter are for (in case you were still wondering). If anyone of you could write a few words of support for the film, I will eagerly publish it and promote it on one of my blogs/websites. Really, please do this. WE NEED TO SHOW COMMUNITY SUPPORT. Just send me your thoughts.
In fact, I suggest all of you director-folk utilize this new unnamed club of yours and put this kind of weight behind six films a year by truly free filmmakers. It would have considerable impact if this unnamed group of yours awarded six citations annually to new films. In these days of media over-saturation, we all desperately need filters. Who would the public trust most: unknown bloggers or artists whose work they already appreciate it? It's up to you to preserve an active film culture in this country.

And there's even more that you can do. See it once and then if five of you -- ideally those have that have a huge fan base -- could agree to lead a Q&A one night next week after a screening that could really make a difference too. I am going to do it on Monday night but I am sure it would mean more if you do it. We have to get people out to see this movie. We have to show that theatrical is still alive. Imagine if you did this with each of the six films you will now award annually. I know that time is in short supply, but we do need to vote for the culture we want -- and the only way we have to do this is with our labor. This is my plea for you to exercise it.
But maybe you are not the writing type nor the public speaking type; maybe you are more the drinking type. I have an option for those of you too. I have arranged for Vanessa's Mom's bar, WINED UP (on Broadway between 20th & 21st) to offer a third drink free this Friday night after the first show (say 10PM) and Antonio is going to hang out and talk with anyone who shows. It would mean a lot to him if you were there. Please go as my proxy as I will be up in Woodstock for the film festival there.
If you like any of these ideas, or just want to talk about these issues with other directors, just let me know if I can share your email address with each other and I will try to put together an intro email for you to all speak. If you want Antonio to reach out to you, let me know and I will put him in touch. If there is anything I can ever do to help you, please also don't hesitate to ask.
And just in case you are wondering, I had absolutely nothing to do with this film. Antonio is one of the guys behind Borderline Films. They are one of several new film collectives blossoming in our city. Antonio is now producing his producer Sean Durkin's feature debut. Sean's short is DORIS is online for viewing at their website. Jody Lee Lipes has shot all their work and has also directed an excellent doc: BROCK ENRIGHT: THE GOOD TIMES WILL NEVER BE THE SAME. Josh Mond has produced all their work and will continue to do so. Sure, these twenty-somethings have banded together and have each other, but they need you too. We all do. The whole world does. C'mon: Let's save ambitious film culture.