Don't Hide. Declare You Are Here & Plan To F*ck Sh*t Up

And I mean that with all the love I have for the world.

Let's be frank:

  • You want to get your movie made.  
  • You want to live a creative life.  
  • You want to give voice to the unspoken and the underheard.  
  • You know you can do it -- if only you get a chance.

What are you waiting for?  Don't ask for permission. Don't wait to be discovered.  And don't expect to get any help.  Who needs it?

John Singleton at Film Independent's Filmmaker Forum recently stated

" For someone that’s been in the business for over 20 years, it’s never easy — getting into it the business or sustaining yourself in it. You can’t be shy, you can’t be a shrinking violet — that’s not something that you should be projecting to the world when you’re an indie artist. You have to tell yourself you’re going to have to have the resolve and have to endure no matter how many doors close on you.”

Yup.  Speak up.  Louder.  Often.

No one is going to help you (generally speaking). And if you don't expect to find any help from anyone anywhere, those few times that you do, you will recognize them for the tremendous gifts that they are, and you will hold on to them, respect them, nourish them, and learn to lead from them.

Some people will take more than they give.  Some people will break more than they build.  That's what to expect and by doing so, you will be able to spot it, stop it, and drop it.  And you don't have to participate, just because that's how they play their game.  Those are some people you just don't need.

Don't waste time with the haters, those folks that block you from making, or refuse to see the beauty or the glory in that rough nasty bit of business you think is your art.  Noble failures are gems looking for some polish.  You know it and maybe one or two others. That's all you need.  And the stamina to climb up on that horse every time you get knocked off, hopefully learning from that flaw and capitalizing on that opportunity.

So what are you waiting for?  You know you can do it better.  It's their eyes that can't see the truth.  Their vision has been blurred by their experience.  You have a thousand words for snow (or is that love).  Respect the gray, and all it's shades.  Often those who stand too close can't even see where they are.  And you know what?  At Film Independent's Filmmaker Forum, John Singleton went on to say:

“I think it’s easier to make a film now than ever before, you can shoot with a 5D, iphone, ipad. Movies are experimenting with different platforms and this business is evolving and changing, distributors are popping up like weed dispensaries.  There is a lot of opportunity for independent filmmakers.  You just have to be persistent in your vision and your goals to pursue that decision.” 

So little is free.  Many gift givers seek something in return.  We are all in this together so lending a hand is not a favor.  It does take a village, but together we can build it better.  Enough with the slogans, time is a wasting.  Survival is hard but self expression is a wonderful reward that truly unites us.  Maybe one day all will recognize the value.  And that will be quite swell.  Being true to your heart and ideas is a revolutionary act.  I think the world is ready for you to get it done.

Indie Spirit Award Nominations Due Tomorrow

Now in it's 28th year, the Film Independent Spirit Awards recognize the achievements of American independent filmmakers and promotes the finest independent films of the year to a wider audience.

Regular deadline is tomorrow: September 18

Final Deadline: October 16

For entry forms, rules and regulations, frequenty asked questions and to submit a film, visit



Film Independent is now accepting submissions for the Wildfire Post-Production Sound Grant, a complimentary Sound Mix provided by Wildfire Post-Production Studios on a feature film project selected by Film Independent Artist Development.

To be eligible, applicants must be either Film Independent Fellows, alumni of the Los Angeles Film Festival or Spirit Awards nominees/winners. Film Independent will award this grant on or before November 1, 2012.

Sound Package includes:

  • 4 Weeks Supervising Sound Editorial
  • 8 Hours ADR Recording
  • 2 Days Foley Recording
  • 45 Hours Final Mix
  • 9 Hours Final Mix Playback and Fixes
  • 9 Hours Printmaster
  • Sound Deliverables provided on Firewire Drive

Value of services: $40,000. Fulfillment of services is to be scheduled anytime before March 31, 2013, with the exception of the month of January 2013.


  • Applicants must be the director or producer of a feature – narrative or documentary – that is in the rough cut stage.
  • Applicants must be either (a) alumni of Film Independent’s Artist Development programs; (b) alumni of the Los Angeles Film Festival; (c) a past Spirit Award Nominee or Winner; or (d) solicited by Film Independent.
  • All submitted films must be feature length.
  • Applicants must be current Film Independent members.

How to Apply – Applications open September 12, 2012

To be considered for the Wildfire Post Production Sound Grant, qualifying filmmakers must apply on the Film Independent website. Applicants must complete the online application form, which includes:

  • Cover letter explaining your interest in the award
  • Detailed written plan outlining the filmmaker’s post-production process and timeline
  • Budget and detailed outline of funds raised to date
  • Project status and history, including any awards the script has won, talent development programs the project has been developed in, etc.
  • Logline and synopsis
  • Bios of key cast and crew attached
  • Rough cut or final cut of the film on DVD or via URL
  • $35 application fee

Application deadline: October 1, 2012

DVD of the film (rough cut or final cut) must be received by October 8, 2012

Selection Criteria

Film Independent employs the following guidelines in making its selections:

  • Overall quality of the film
  • Strength of post production plan
  • Uniqueness of vision
  • Original, provocative subject matter
  • Well-conceived plan for how to use the award

Overseeing the Award

Film Independent staff will select the winner of the award, oversee the administration of the award to the winning filmmaker and will monitor the services rendered.

If you have questions or need more information, please contact Jennifer Kushner, Director of Artist Development:


Proof How Indie Film Requires So Much Support

If we didn't have the Indie Film support organizations, you wouldn't have indie films in the theater.  Cinereach, IFP, Film Independent, SxSW, Tribeca, Sundance, and yes, my new home, the San Francisco Film Society -- it takes more than a village; it takes a freakin' army.

The proof is in the pudding.  Look at all the films in theaters this week.  All these films were discovered at Sundance and supported by these various organizations.  Where would they be without them?  And that's just the tip of the iceberg.  And just the start.  If you don't go see them -- and soon -- our very culture will be threatened!

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD written by Benh Zeitlin and Lucy Alibar and directed by Benh Zeitlin


HELLO I MUST BE GOING written by Sarah Koskoff and directed by Todd Louiso


KEEP THE LIGHTS ON written by Ira Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias and directed by Ira Sachs


LITTLE BIRDS written and directed by Elgin James


SLEEPWALK WITH ME written by Mike Birbiglia, Seth Barrish, and Joe Birbiglia  and directed by Mike Birbiglia and Seth Barrish


COMPLIANCE written and directed by Craig Zobel


THE WORDS written and directed by Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal


Coping With Symposium/Workshop Brain Fry

Today's guest post is once again courtesy of Jon Reiss.  Back before Jon wrote the book on DIY distro in the digi age (literally), he and I started brainstorming on the need for a marketing & distribution lab for filmmakers, somewhat modeled on the existing screenwriting & directing labs that many organizations run.  We had some real specific goals on this and pitched it to several key entities.  Everyone wanted to do it, and I believe everyone still wants to do it.  Money and time still are limited supply though, and our dreams have been deferred.  Yet, the initial steps have been taken by a couple of organizations, and most recently Film Independent put together: Seize The Power last weekend.  Jon's post below, is a bit of  an extension from that remarkable collection of speakers and participants and information. I heard a number of comments after this weekend’s LAFF Seize the Power Symposium that people where overwhelmed – that their brain’s had been fried by so many ideas and so much information.  To me that’s a sign that we succeeded.  When Film Independent and the Los Angeles Film Festival asked me to help them devise the Symposium (and accompanying Distribution Boot Camp for competition filmmakers) we were in immediate agreement that the event would focus on: 1. Nuts and bolts practical information for filmmakers.  2.  Forward thinking thought leaders indicating what the future might be.  3. Practical case studies of filmmakers who were using the new tools of distribution and marketing.  We wanted to avoid people sitting on a panel rehashing how we got here.   I also get the same brain-fry feedback when I give my weekend workshops – and I’m delighted.  This is what I suggest to people:

1. Focus on the Inspiration and Creative Potential One of the best uber-takeaways is how a symposium or workshop can inspire filmmakers to new creative opportunities.   Allow these ideas to run through you and don’t get caught up with any of the specifics just yet – you can delve into those when the time comes for you to act.

2. Identify on What Resonates With You.  Many ideas and concepts are presented – but no two filmmakers are alike and no two films are alike.  Take a moment to check in with your gut and see what resonates most with you, what makes sense for your current project, what makes sense for your artistic trajectory.

3. One Step at a Time.   Don’t feel like you have to do everything at once.  Do one thing first.  See how it feels – works for you. The world of distribution and marketing can seem overwhelming – they each comprise an entire division at every studio.  You are one person – reread item 1.

4.  Connect and Collaborate.   Further the connection with the people that you meet at these events.  Create study groups and film cooperatives.  Film distribution and marketing does take a village.  I was really excited to hear that some of the attendees of my Vancouver workshop formed a PMD discussion group to process the information and more importantly to work with each other in order to act on it.   I still feel that cooperatives among filmmakers is one of the ways to handle all the new work and potential.

5. Revisit the information.   You can be sure that any of the speakers have written about the ideas that they have presented.  The day after the symposium Henry Jenkins posted the basics of his talk on his blog.   Subscribe to Peter Broderick’s newsletter.  Check out The Film Collaborative’s site. Read Truly Free Film.  Keep up with Film Independent’s ongoing educational program.   Heck – even check out my blog or my book Think Outside the Box Office – I wrote it so that all filmmakers could have a companion to this process.   And of course – if you are inclined, follow all of the above on Twitter – and then engage.

-- Jon Reiss

Seize the Power – Why You Should Pay Attention to the LAFF Symposium this Weekend

We are now treated to another Jon Reiss guest post.  Jon holds the world record for the most comments on a single TrulyFreeFilm post, but he is one of our New Model Gurus, helping to pave the path to the emergence of a sustainable Artist/Creator Middle Class.   We he speaks, I listen. Two weeks ago I wrote a guest post here about the need to educate filmmakers on distribution and marketing their films.  This weekend the Los Angeles Film Festival is hosting a truly wonderful event which I am proud to have developed in collaboration with LAFF and Film Independent (with strong push and support from Ted):  Seize the Power: A Marketing and (DIY)stribution Symposium.

The Symposium is designed to focus on the nuts and bolts solutions to the current distribution and marketing malaise plaguing our industry.  The intention is to provide an introduction to a wealth of new tools for filmmakers (and all artists/media content creators) as well as strategic guidance from many of the key practitioners and thought leaders in our field.  It is an antidote to the concerns of too much talk talk talk on this subject with little true education.

In addition there is a non-public component that you can participate in via twitter.  I will be giving a distribution and marketing boot camp to the LAFF competition filmmakers Friday June 18th 9am – 12:30pm and 2:30pm – 5pm and Saturday June 19th from 9am-11:30am.  All times PST.   We will be tweeting bullet points on #totbo  We have done this in the workshops I have given in the past month – and we have found that people around the world start to participate and chime in – creating a global discussion around these topics.

The Symposium: Starting Saturday afternoon at 1pm – Ted kicks it off with a presentation on the need for the artist entrepreneur to encourage filmmakers to think expansively about their creative output in order to create sustainable careers.  This is followed by a plethora of service providers (from Orly Ravid of the Film Collaborative to Yancy Strickler of Kickstarter to Bob Moczydlowsky of Topspin) that we brought together so that filmmakers could learn the best ways to put these tools into practice in their own careers.

Sunday morning will kick off with a discussion between myself and Corey McAbee (The American Astronaut and Stingray Sam).  We will explore how he uses the new distribution and marketing tools and landscape to create a viable artistic career for himself.        Caitlin Boyle from Film Sprout will give one of her incredible introductions to grassroots audience development and distribution.  I am super excited to see Lance Weiler and Henry Jenkins on Transmedia.  (somehow Lance always has a way of frying my brain – in a good way).  The inimitable Peter Broderick will lead a discussion on crowdfunding,  Colleen Nystadt and Sean Percival will present different tactics for audience engagement.  The event will cap with one of those incredible Film Independent public case study examinations of two films:  Children of Invention and Bass Ackwards.

Last but not least – it will give filmmakers an opportunity to connect with each other and the presenters.  Come on down and introduce yourself, learn and contribute.

- Jon Reiss


Film Independent sent out the following email:

We have spent the last ten years making the Film Financing Conference an invaluable experience for filmmakers, and as the industry is swept by very significant changes, we want to rise up to meet those changes with programs that meet filmmaker needs at this moment.  With that in mind, the Los Angeles Film Festival has created Seize the Power: A Marketing and (DIY)stribution Symposium, a new program specifically designed to help filmmakers navigate marketing and distribution in the growing age of new media and to promote an open dialogue on the impact and exciting possibilities the changes in our industry bring.

Seize the Power: A Marketing and (DIY)stribution Symposium will be held June 19 - 20 at the GRAMMY Museum at L.A. LIVE, and will host the same insight, quality of information, and caliber of speakers that has made our Financing Conference a vital stop for filmmakers.

Are you looking for financing?  About to shoot? It's time for filmmakers to think about their marketing and distribution from the moment they get the green light. Remember, distribution begins NOW.

If you want to MONETIZE YOUR ART, you can't miss this event.

Get the full schedule here.

Support Your Family! Give To Indie/Art Film Infrastructure

I have always supported the idea that you need to vote for the world you want with your dollars. I am the odd bird that believes in both optional and mandatory contributions to a better world; what's all the beef about taxes? If our tax dollars really went to things I cared about, I would be all for more of them (as long as there was REALLY HEAVY penalties for corruption too that is). Hey, I'd even vote for mandatory conscription if it had more options than just military and if they provided some real training to the participants. But that's a different subject, better suited for rants elsewhere. Let's get back to the world of cinema...

Here on TrulyFreeFilm the goal is to find a way to build an infrastructure that can support diverse work (and promote it -- the work, the participants, & the infrastucture). To that end, I think everybody that partakes in and benefits from the infrastructure, should give back to it. Sometimes this giveback comes in the form of labor and participation, and sometimes it depends on $$money$$. It costs to build the world that we want and being responsible means accepting that fact, and recognizing that it is our place to contribute.
By that standard, how much show one give to build the infrastructure for the culture we want? Should it be 5% of your income like they encourage in some churches? Perhaps even more is mandated when it also is your livelihood that needs support, right? If we don't support our industry's infrastructure, how can we expect it to be around to support us?
Beyond money though, we must fight for what we want with our actions. The phrase "stand up for what you believe" always felt off to me. Shouldn't it be more "Step forward for what you believe". Even if you are broke (it is indie film afterall) then hopefully you still have some time you could you give weekly to move the culture a bit closer to the one you want. Why don't more people use their labor in this way?
So... what should we all be doing? Well, I have made that list before.
Maybe it's time to air our laundry. Show our true colors. Perhaps we should discuss what we each really do, and figure out what more we can do. I am pretty public with my thoughts already, and with most of my actions too. But is it enough?
So... this is that list of mine as to what I have done this year to support indie film in terms of donations. I am showing you mine, not so much in hoping you show yours too, but to motivate you & others to do likewise). I recognize this list is just a start. I want to get more on the ball. I hope this list doubles next year -- particularly in the artist support category (this is the dawn of crowdfunding). We all have to do a whole lot more. I know I have to give more money for a more diverse and vibrant cinema. I need to do more to support the existing apparatus. So this is that list in hopes that maybe you will be motivated to give a little more.
Exhibition Membership: Film Forum
Sundance Creative Producer Lab Mentor
Made In NY Mentor
This is that Internship Program
Active Membership In Organizations
The thing that I have been wrestling with is that I do not participate in any organization. I have previously been on the board of the IFP and have been on various advisory boards, but as of now I am not on any other than the Adrienne Shelly Foundation. I have thought hard about becoming more involved in the PGA, the IFP, & FIlm Independent but for various reasons of my own, haven't thought my time is best spent there, as much as I admire each organization. I think this is a failing on my part but am not sure how to best to resolve it. I like to work where I am most needed and those organizations have a lot going for them already -- although personally speaking I still think it is a lame excuse.

Supporting More Artists
Hopefully this will become easier to both identify and give in the new year with the rise of crowdfunding models.

Supporting More New Model Exploration
Hopefully this too will become more widespread and easier with crowdfunding in the new year.
Note to self: resolve to do better in 2010.

Twitter Posts: Another week gone by

  1. @nathanwrann I am glad you thought Adventureland was excellent. I guess now I can offer you the $ back guarantee. Thx 4 not stealing it!
  2. Rob Zombie grew up in Haverhill, MA I blv. I grew up next door. How come we make such dif movies? We drank the same h2o but dif koolaid..
  3. Intnl Panl on Climate Chg (IPCC) predicts up to 30% of species worldwd r @risk of extinctn @a glbl temp increase of a few degrees Celsius.
  4. @FrontAve I recommend you contact an Indie Film mag or blog and offer to cover it for them if they can get you press credentials.
  5. Throw out ystrdy's papers & reYer yr brain: IndieFilm v3.o is blossmg right now & if u aren't participatg in u r 2late
  6. Wow. My A Thousand Phoenix Rising speech for Film Indep. has just been translated into Spanish:
  7. Hey, whoever sent me the box set of LoveTrain: The Sound Of Philadelphia, thank you! But it seems an intern threw away any note that went w/
  8. RT @prachman: the more we learn things on our own through inspiration, the more we own them.
  9. Even when it is more questions than answers, it is worthy. It is part of our process of discovery.
  10. Great co Adventureland is in! Goodbye Solo, Life Is Hot in Cracktown, Nights & Weekends, Rudo y Cursi, Sunshine Cleaning, Trouble the Water
  11. With this I pass Babe Ruth's HR ttl & Quaalude's ID# in # of tweets. Old Good Machine office was 417. What is it all about? GadDagGodDog?
  12. Forget about exhib glut, what about DVD glut. So many great DVDs came out on Tuesday!
  13. @vdovault min wkly amount of intros is bcz IndieFilmBiz crumbling needlessly. We have tools content & knowhow but every1 is solo. Why?
  14. the P2P user attends 34% more movies in theaters, purchases 34% more DVDs & rents 24% more films than avg Internet user.
  15. What would happen if we all introduced 10 of our associates, friends,comrades, contacts to each other every wk? This wk I've done >20.
  16. Qualities Of Better Film #29 of 32: LEAVING SOME THINGS UNEXPLAINED now up at:
  17. I used RSS feeds to gather info but my mailbox just filled up unread. Now I use Twitter for the same thing & I like it better.
  18. @chlotrudis U R right! "COLD SOULS was really good! Witty, funny, moving, visually stunning and original." Everyone MUST see this film.
  19. @JavianAshtonLe Thanks 4 help on Adventureland. Still wondering how many others optd to help t artist vs stealing (& thus how to survive).
  20. Mike Goodridge is going to moderate conversation w/ Thomas Mai & me at Toronto Intl Film Financing Forum 9.13.09 I hope you can come.
  21. I am a fan of t "my mind's been blown by the life I've chosen" genre of film. There's been a bunch, but WeLiveInPublic does it really proud!
  22. My wife just said (lovingly) that in the Adventureland bts featurette my hair looks like PeeWeeHerman's, only sideways! & she's right...!
  23. Bordwell: Storytllg is * all about control. It smtmes obliges t viewr 2 take advntrs she couldnt imagine. http://trulyfreefilm.blogsp...
  24. @prachman Ah, don't go looking for the brightside. It's one of the reasons why most films are redundant and dull. Same thoughts retold.
  25. Thx @SportaboutSarah! Thx @dom_lefebvre Thx @CineVegas I love that you love Adventureland! The world should follow all of you!
  26. Avg Studio director? male, 93% white, prev directed 6.1 films, age 45.62. Hmmm... Ready for a change?
  27. Big Fan opens 8/28. I loved it. Patton Oswald & Kevin Corrigan are the best screen team since, since, since... just the best period.
  28. @filmstudiesff Thanks & I dig your stuff 2. Here's to more thoughtful mindful film consideratn! Btw check out
  29. Want to help out a struggling IndieFilm producer? Tweet; "I love Adventureland". Also "Buy the Adventureland DVD now!" Thanks muchly.
  30. Completed my Adventureland Tweet Sentiment check with Gives clearest presentation of 3 but still more to be done w/.
  31. We need to put "love" next to Adventureland more often. Just checked http://twendz.waggeneredstr... and many mentions w/o sentiment.
  32. “The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dreams shall never die.” ~Ted Kennedy
  33. September 4th at 8pm, Alec Baldwin hosts WILLIAM KUNTSLER: DISTURBING THE UNIVERSE at Guild Hall in East Hampton.
  34. Here is something I really like about some films: http://thesearethosethings....
  35. Want to see a whole lot of great stuff? Check out: http://marcschiller.postero...
  36. RT @MarcDSchiller "This fan created vide for Grizzly Bear's "Two Weeks" is absolutely lovely " I 100% agree!
  37. Wondering what's the best way for composers & musicians to break into FilmScoring? Surely there is some easy way to access filmmkrs.
  38. The best thing to do when you don't have the money is work on the script. But what's the second best thing to do?
  39. Our next Goldcrest Screening is Wed Sept 2nd. NY Premier of Pastor Brothers' CARRIER starring Chris Pine & Lou Pucci. A Likely Story Prod.
  40. Tweetfeel says 71% of TwitterUniverse feel the right way about Adventureland -- they love it! What did I do wrong that its not higher?
  41. I wonder how many ppleare going to race out & buy the ADVENTURELAND DVD when it hits the shelves today? How soon until it is on BitTorrent?
  42. Adventureland DVD hits the streets tomorrow. I am definitely putting this one in my collection.
  43. Just met with my IFP MADE IN NY mentoree -- who's great. You can't SAVE INDIE FILM without being a mentor or 2 or 3. Better get yours asap.
  44. @kvpi print is a different sort of attentn & commitmt, & thus pleasure. We lose much with its loss. We gain w access & speed but lose more
  45. Fantastic! Harvey Pekar has a new comic up for free over at Smith: & follow him at:@PekarProject
  46. No News IS bad news. I nvr thought that havg a hometown newspaper was a privilege. I hope the NYTimes nvr goes bust:
  47. "The tree of crazy is an ever-present aspect of America's flora.": Rick Perlstien on Birthers, HealthCareHecklers etc:
  48. @alisap27 tipped me to Poland's Why Twitter Doesn't Matter (Much) To Film Marketing:
  49. How great Costume Designer Arianne Phillips got started (& why she's successful):
  50. Top Indie Distribs this yr? First Run & Zeitgeist. Then: Argot, IFC, Koch Lorber, Regent & Strand - @indigochameleon
  51. RT @gflahive By Michael Erard: A Short Manifesto on the Future of Attention #filmmakers MUST READ
  52. Bordwell: "Storytelling is artistic tyranny, and not always benevolent."
  53. RT @noahharlan Bordwell on transmedia, specifically work of @lanceweiler and @tedhope (& HT's @filmmakermag) - Must Read
  54. Bordwell: Storytelling is crucially all about control. It sometimes obliges the viewer to take adventures she could not imagine.
  55. Chris Jordan AGAIN does some great art that dramatizes the real story well:
  56. 90% Americans don't listen to music on cell: but Blkbstr puts movies on some cells:
  57. @powertothepixel 's position on digital innovation should be adopted by all:
  58. American consumers looking for less exp alt to local cineplexes (click twice to enlarge: (thanks to Reed Martin)

Update: Screenwriter Labs & Writers Colonies

Hmmm.... Is the Facebook community more activist, participatory, and just generally helpful than the blogging world? These comments came in on my FB page via my inquiry here on behalf of a filmmaker about other labs & colonies.

Producer Jack Lechner pointed out:

The colonies aren't labs -- they're just places to write. There's no mentoring or criticism involved, although colonists sometimes present their new work to each other.

Cornelia Ravenal made a comment that:

Waiting to be accepted by one of the more prestigious labs often takes 2 or 3 tries, as in years. Best guidance to get started immediately is John Truby's book THE ANATOMY OF STORY: 22 STEPS TO BECOMING A MASTER STORYTELLER or his genre CDs. In fact, anything he offers at is useful.

Filmmaker Rodney Evens added:

Hi Ted- I just finished the Binger FilmLab's Director's Coaching Programme which was fantastic (; They also have a screenplay development program as well which is 6 months.

I can also recommend Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA), Hambidge, the Vermont Studio Center and the Edward Albee colony (in Montauk during the summer). I have also heard good things about The Millay Colony, Ucross, Djerassi and Blue Mountain Center but haven't been to those. Chateau de La Napoule in the south of France is great and people have also said good things about Sacatar in Brazil.; is a good website for international residencies and here is a book for domestic places:

I write a lot at art colonies and residency programs and find it very helpful to get away from the distractions of everyday life. They definitely work for me.

Jade Wu these additional Screenwriting Labs & Colonies recommendations:

Film Independent (LA) - many projects graduate to production and festivals(LA Film Fest and Spirit Awards)

IFP Narrative Lab (NY) - a younger program, but has helped projects move to the next level and most have played the festival circuit

BlueCat Seminars (throughout U.S. cities) - the contest is run by Gordy Hoffman (Love Liza) and has garnered reputable status. Didn't do the seminars, but I placed as Semi-finalist - no cigar in the reality scheme of things, but I was thrilled nevertheless. Ballast won a BlueCat Award.

Disney/ABC Writing Fellowship (and they pay you to learn). I was a Fellow in the Daytime Drama Series Writing Program.

Marilyn Horowitz, whose on FB, is a great teacher/mentor. She's teaches at NYU, in addition to her own seminars (private/group/online).

The answer really depends on what this filmmaker expects/wants out of a lab and where he/she falls on the writing level scale. "Learning how to write" and "developing a screenplay" are very different goals.

Screenwriter Caitlin McCarthy (and TFF blog contributor) said:

The Atlanta Film Festival Screenwriters Lab is amazing. They accept six people each year. I participated in their inaugural lab in 2007 with Joy Lusco Kecken and Michael Lucker as my mentors. I can't think of any other screenwriting labs out there, other than what's been posted. This is why more labs are needed in the industry for up-and-coming screenwriters who want to develop their craft and find mentors. Without labs, budding writers are on their own. MacDowell and Yaddo won't accept budding writers, from my experience. They seem to want more established artists with at least one produced work. The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts is supposed to be more "budding writer" friendly, but I've never applied to it, so I don't know how it really is. The San Francisco Film Society has a Djerassi/SFFS Screenwriting Fellowship which provides a one-month residency for emerging or established screenwriters in the Santa Cruz Mountains. But it doesn't provide mentors like the labs. More labs, please!!! The fact that no one can rattle off a list of labs here speaks volumes. The film industry as a whole is not actively trying to mentor new talent. The question is WHY? So no one new can break in unless by some miracle these days? Makes you wonder....

Not bad, considering we have yet to have a comment directly here. Dang.

Maybe It Shouldn't All Be Free

I find the current debate regarding micro-payments for print journalism fascinating.  Each morning, I work to talk myself out of a panic that we will soon be deprived of all the great newspapers, writers, and journalists.  A friend chimed in that after the papers fall then next up is the free internet.  The line of dominos is really easy to imagine. 

But maybe it shouldn't all be free.  I, like all my film friends, are looking for a model of survival, no longer success.  Reading Steve Brill's defense of micro-payments makes me wonder if there is anything that film fans and workers are really committed to paying for.  Variety & Hollywood Reporter start to feel like real luxuries these days.  Guilds and unions, like membership in IFP and Film Independent, are crucial in the same way that if you want a vaccine to work, virtually everyone has to partake -- but my son still screams with every shot (maybe if vaccines had a networking attribute like these organizations my son would respond better...). 
But what will we pay for?  My Netflix subscription seems like a better value with each new film that is available for streaming, even if I still prefer DVDs.  As they just hit 10 Million subscribers it seems that everyone will pay for access to every film.  As a devourer of new international film, I need a festival diet of projected new work from around the world every two or three months.  It's one of the reasons I can never leave NY.  Jaman may offer it online but I need to see it large in a room full of people.  And as much as I like to see it, I like to talk about it, read about it.  So what will I pay for?  I honestly don't know.
Anyway, read Brill's suggestion, and ponder the applicability to our world of film.  I am.

Film Independent's Project Involve

We've had a fair amount of discussion about the need for producer training programs here.  The need for training programs in other film-related disciplines is equally pressing.  The need for training programs that focus on diversity and champion under-represented groups is particularly of need.  Let's face it, the film industry remains a bastion of privilege, and unless serious efforts are made, everyone just keeps helping out people that are like themselves.

Luckily, one of the longest running training and most successful programs is dedicated to increasing diversity in the film biz, and that is Film Independent's Project: Involve.  THERE IS A FEBRUARY 23rd DEADLINE so best download your application here, fill it out, and submit it pretty damn quick!

Project:Involve is Film Independent's signature diversity program, dedicated to increasing cultural diversity in the film industry by cultivating the careers of under-represented filmmakers. The program, which runs from October through June, selects filmmakers from culturally diverse backgrounds and filmmaking tracks. The Fellows are paired one-on-one with a mentor from the film industry. In addition to the mentorship, the Fellows also attend filmmaking workshops, community screenings, and receive career development assistance.

During the nine-month program, the Fellows are assigned a 2-minute short film project. They work in pairs to develop and shoot a short film that incorporates the concept of diversity in our every day life.

40 Fellows are selected for the program each year.

Project:Involve Fellows receive:

A one-year membership with Film Independent
A pass to the Los Angeles Film Festival (Westwood Pass)
Alumni support
Applications are accepted in the following categories:

Acquisitions, Acting, Agent/Manager, Cinematography, Composing, Costume Design, Development Exec, Directing, Documentary, Editing, Entertainment Law, Film Programming, Marketing/Distribution, Music, Producing, Production Design, Screenwriting, Sound, and Writer/Director.

Read more about here.  And again, download the application here.

Hope For The Future pt. 10: The List #'s 39 -42

39. Producers are being recognized for doing more than just sourcing or providing the financing and administrative structure to a production. A good producer makes a better film and not just by making it run smoothly. Sundance – who has been recognizing producers’ contributions for years -- just held its first Creative Producing Initiative. There still remains a lack of clarity in the public’s mind as to what a producer does, but when leading organizations like Sundance take the effort not only to clarify that producing is a creative act, but also help producers to build their creative skills, change will come. This clarity and the restoration of the integrity of the producer credit won’t just restore producers own recognition of self-worth, but will lead to stronger films.

40. Senior film organizations, like the IFP, Film Independent, and IFTVA/AFM are working together, along with advocacy organizations like Public Knowledge to try to maintain key policies crucial to indie’s survival like Net Neutrality and Media Consolidation. If everyone with common interests learned to work together…. Wow.

41. There appears to be real growth beyond navel gazing in terms of subject matter among the new filmmakers. Filmmakers aren’t just interested in whether the boy gets the girl or the boy gets the boy. We seem to be moving beyond strict interpersonal relations in terms of content and looking at a much bigger picture. Chris Smith’s THE POOL, Sean Baker’s PRINCE OF BROADWAY and TAKEOUT, Lance Hammer’s BALAST, and Lee Isaac Chung’s MUNYURANGABO to name a few, point to a much more exciting universe of content to come.

42. New technology makes it all a whole lot better. Whether it is new digital cameras or formats, digital projection, or editing systems, it just keeps getting better, faster, lighter, cheaper. Reduced footprints, sharper images, and quicker turnaround: who amongs us does not believe all these things lead to better films?

What Got This Blog Started (For Me)

The conditions were there.  People were already talking.  Everyone over at The Workbook Project and FH2A were already leading the charge.  More voices were needed though.  And I was asked to give this talk, see...

Now you can truly see how much I need my hands to be able to speak.  This is just part one of six.  And  yes, it is my way to stay nasally through all six.  The rest are all there on Vimeo -- so I just learned.  Check them all out, or not.

What of course will keep this blog going in the new year will be your participation.  We have so much ground to cover.  What is working well?  What isn't? What are the goals and what are the steps to take us there?  We can't wait for someone to lead us.  We must collaborate.  
Independent film culture -- its content and its infrastructure -- is at stake.  
I tell my son that it is a great time to be young because there is so much exciting stuff that MUST get done to save the planet.  Okay, so I give him a bit bigger agenda.  All I want from  you is to save indie film.  Happy New Year!

Wanted: A National Collection Agency

Over the years I have heard filmmakers, executives, and lawyers profess the need for a public collection agency to work with international/territorial film licensors.  The concept is that there would be a neutral party that the licensors pay their contracted fees to, and in return for both collecting these fees and dispersing them out to the contracted parties, the agency takes a small percentage.  Although there is no US body doing this on American filmmakers behalf, these collection agencies do exist in other countries.  It remains a good idea, but the need has morphed and expanded with all the activity in the DIY distribution arena.

It's hard enough to think all the bookers at the the various theaters want to hear from all the filmmakers eager to screen their work.  It's harder still to imagine the theater owners want to squabble with these filmmakers over how much they are owed.  What's needed is a neutral party to collect and distribute the theatrical receipts and a set of rules on what needs to be provided to demonstrate earnings.
This would be a great undertaking for either the IFP or Film Independent to embrace.  Frankly though it could be done just as easily as a for-profit venture and is the sort of low-cost infrastructure build that is perfect for the risk adverse type that still wants to be in the media space; I have to imagine that for less than the cost of another Sundance-wannabe feature, an investor could create a self-sustaining entity that benefits the entire community and our culture as a whole.
Such an agency would also be a very unique entity in terms of its data mining potential.  How great would it be if the funder embraced an open source attitude too?  Well, a guy can dream can't he?

On The Soapbox For Net Neutrality

I spoke at The New York Film Academy on Oct 21 to a room of thousands.  Well, not quite, but I did speak, and I got to speak out about the issue that is most crucial to all "independent" filmmakers these days.  This is part two of three.  Part One is mostly focused on what Truly Free Filmmakers need to do in this day and age.  Three is how to keep your passion for filmmaking alive in this cruel, cruel, cruel world.  Check them all out.

Film Festival Plan A: Still Need To Hire A Publicist

When I first started going to Sundance, it was just a bunch of filmmakers and a bunch of filmlovers.  Filmmakers had no entourage.  No one told them what to do or what they thought was right; instead they shared information and secrets.  But that was then.

For the last ten years, it has seemed that filmmakers arrived at major festivals with a horde in tow: lawyers, agents, managers, producer's reps, foreign sales agents, and publicists.  The list actually goes on from there.  But that was then.
These days, recognizing that a sale is very unlikely, how much do you really need?  There's definitely another few posts worth of material in that question, but I can tell you that the one I think is critical is the publicist.  After all, it is all about getting the word out about your film.
The traditional media still holds the most weight (okay, that's debatable), and any a publicist worth their salt will know how to reach them.  More importantly, the publicist will know what these critics and journalists look like, and will be able to find out what they thought of the film immediately.  Their opinion matters as it influences everyone: buyers, festival programmers, independent bookers, and other journalists.
The publicists also know the distributors and as long as you want to keep Plan D (sell your film) alive, that is invaluable as the publicists can help facilitate meetings with the buyers.
A publicist will help you draft your press notes in advance of the festival and arrange key interviews.  Sometimes they can even help find a corporate sponsor for a party (more on that later).  The publicist will collect all of the press you receive, and survey the journalists on their response.  They will collect all this material so you can share it with everyone you reach out to later.
How do you find your publicist?  Well these days they often find you if you get into Sundance or a major festival.  The key filmmaking community organizations like IFP and Film Independent can also help direct you.  Maybe I can put together a list and post it here (I will get back to you on that).

The Effect Of The Vanishing Film Critics

This is an earlier post from Let's Make Better Films.  I started that blog to discuss the films and filmmaking process.  Sometimes we all just feel like we want to bury our head and avoid the biz altogether.  I started TFF to help build and rebuild the infrastructure to support those better films.

We started Hammer To Nail because we found it hard to get go analysis of what Truly Free films that were out there were truly worth watching. The mainstream critics had stopped covering the smaller films.

Ad Age is now running an article on the effect of all the firings of the established critics on the specialized film business. The loss of established voices has brought a serious drop at the box office.

"It's the consistent relationship [with a critic] that gets people to go to these movies," said Mr. Bernard. "[Editors] felt they should get critics that connect to that younger audience that's getting its news online, but they're not looking at how the box office is affected when the critic changes."

Of course, the loss of these critics had no effect on the revenues of all the interesting and great films that weren't getting the theaters or coverage in the first place. For those films, just go to Hammer To Nail.

For a discussion on the state of film criticism, check out Greencine's podcast here
And to keep a vast and diversified culture alive, vote with your dollars, and go out to see a movie today. Seriously. We will lose it otherwise.

There's a great new program in NYC that bumps the film experience up a notch with direct contact with the filmmakers and a post screening celebration. It also confronts head-on the over emphasis the exhibition biz puts on the first weekend revenues.

Credit the IFP and Michelle Byrd with putting their money where their mouth is an truly supporting both Independent and Truly Free films with their new First Weekend series (all done without corporate backing -- c'mon you sponsors, follow suit!). Read about it here.

And guess what their inaugural film is? BALLAST! Did I tell you how much I admire this film? How great it is? How much I like it? I think I have. Go see it.

Film Independent's Filmmaker Forum's Keynote Speech

I was the keynote speaker at Film Independent's Filmmaker Forum yesterday in Los Angeles.  This is the full text of my speech.  And it is the final draft, as an earlier draft got posted a few places accidently.



"How The New Truly Free Filmmaking Community Will Rise From Indie’s Ashes
Film Independent Filmmakers’ Forum Keynote 9/27/08

I can’t talk about the “crisis” of the indie film industry. There is no crisis. The country is in crisis. The economy is in crisis. We, the filmmakers, aren’t in crisis.

The business is changing, but for us –us who are called Indie Filmmakers -- that’s good that the business is changing. Filmmaking is an incredible privilege and we need to accept it as such – and accept the full responsibility that comes with that privilege.

The proclamations of Indie Film’s demise are grossly exaggerated. How can there be a “Death Of Indie” when Indie -- real Indie, True Indie -- has yet to even live?

Yes, there’s a profound paradigm shift, and that shift is the coming of true independence. The hope of this new independence is being threatened even before it has arrived. Are we going to fight for our independence and can we even shoulder the responsibility that independence requires? That is: will we ban together and work for our communal needs? Are we ready to leave dreams of stardom and wealth behind us?

When someone says, “Indie is dead”, they are talking about the state of the Indie Film Business, as opposed to what are actually the films themselves. They can say “The sky is falling” because for the last fifteen years, the existing power base in the film industry has focused on films fit for the existing business model, as opposed to ever truly concentrating on creating a business model for the films that filmmakers want to make.

This is where we are right now: on the verge of a TRULY FREE FILM CULTURE, one that is driven by both the creators and the audiences, pulled down by the audience and not pushed onto them by those that control the apparatus and the supply. We now have the power and this remarkable tool for something different, but will we fight to preserve the Internet, the tool that offers us our new freedom? Can we banish the dream of golden distribution deals, and move away from asking others to distribute and market it for us? Can we accept that being a filmmaker means taking responsibility for your films, the primary responsibility, all the way through the process? That is independence and that is freedom.

Indie, True Indie, is in its infancy. The popular term “Indie” is a distortion, growing out of our communal laziness and complacency – our willingness to be marketed blandly and not specifically. Our culture is vast and diverse, and we need to celebrate these differences, not diminish them. It’s time to put that term “Indie” to rest.

Independence is within our reach, but we but we have to do what we have never done before: we have to choose.

It’s a lot like the Presidential election. And it’s also a lot like psychotherapy: we have to ask ourselves if the pain we are experiencing presently is enough to motivate us to overcome the fear inherent in change itself.

We have to change our behavior and make that choice. We have to choose the type of culture we want. We have to choose the type of films we want available to us. We have to choose whether the Internet is the corporations or ours. We have to choose whether we decide for ourselves whether a film is worthwhile or whether we let those same corporations decide. We have to choose who are audiences are and how we are to reach them. We have to choose how we can all best contribute to this new system. And as we act on those choices, we have to get others to make a choice too.

For the last fifteen years our Community has made huge strides at demystifying the production process and providing access to the financing and distribution gatekeepers. Some call this democratization, but it is not. This demystification of production was a great first step, but it is not give the filmmaker real power; generally speaking we are still there with our hat in our hands. In some ways, understanding the great behemoth that is production is also a distraction. It has distracted us from making really good films. And as it has distracted us from gaining the knowledge and seizing the power that is available to us. We have learned how to make films and how to bring them to market. We now have to demystify how to market and distribute films, and to do it in a way truly suited to the films we are making and desire to make.

Don’t get me wrong the last fifteen years have been great. The Indie Period – as I suspect history will call it --- has brought us a far more diverse array of films than we had previously. It got better; we got more choices – but that is still not freedom. We are still in a damn similar place to the way it was back when cinema was invented 100 years ago. And it’s time we moved to a new term, to the period of a Truly Free Film Culture.

If we want the freedom to tell the stories we want to tell, we all have to start to contribute to build the infrastructure that can support them. We need to step back from the glamour of making all these films, and instead help each other build the links, articulate the message, make the commitments, that will turn us truly into a Truly Free Film community. We have to stop making so many films.

The work before us is a major readjustment that will require many sacrifices. We must redesign the business structure for what the films actually are. We have to recognize that a Truly Free Film Culture is quite different from Studio Films and even different from the prestige film that the specialized distributors make. But look at what we gain: we will stop self-censoring our work to fit a business model that was appropriated from Hollywood and their mass market films to begin with. We will reach out to the audiences that are hungry for something new, for something truthful, for something about the world they experience, for something that is as complex as the emotions they feel. We can let them guide us because for the first time we can have real access and contact with them.

Presently, we are divided and conquered by a system that preys upon our dreams of success, encouraging us to squander collective progress on false hopes of personal enrichment. We follow the herd and only lead reluctantly. If we want Truly Free Films we have to stop dreaming of wealth, and take the job of building the community and support system.

For the last decade and a half, we have been myopically focused on production. Using Sundance submissions as a barometer, our production ability has increased eight and half times over -- 850% -- from 400 to 3600 films in fifteen years.

C’mon! What are we doing? Wasting a tremendous amount of energy, talent, and brainpower – that much is clear. If the average budget of Sundance submissions is $500K, that means the aggregate production costs are $1.8 billion dollars a year. That’s a hell of a lot of money to lose annually. And you can bet the Indie World isn’t going to get a government bail out like Wall Street and the Banking Industry have.

We need to recognize the responsibility of telling unique stories in unique ways. We are frequently innovators and groundbreakers, but that brings additional responsibilities. Working at the intersection of art and commerce requires consideration for those that come after us. It is our responsibility to do all within our power to deliver a positive financial return. If we lose money, it is a lot harder for those that follow us. With a debt of $1.8 billion per annum you can bet it will be a lot harder for a lot of people. And it should be – but it didn’t need to be.

We don’t get better films or build audiences by picking up cameras. Despite this huge boom in production, the number of truly talented uniquely voiced auteurs produced annually remains unchanged. What’s happened instead is the infrastructure has rusted, the industry has failed to innovate, and we are standing on a precipice begging the giant to banish us into oblivion. Rebuilding that infrastructure, bringing good work to hungry audiences is a far greater glory than another celluloid trophy for only you to stare at.

There is a silver lining too in this dark cloud of over production that they like to call The Glut. As a young man I never found peace until I moved to New York City; the calm I found in New York, is explained by a line of Woody Allen’s: “in New York, you always know what you are missing”. What’s great about a surplus of options – and we have that now, and not just from movies, but also from the web, from books, from games – what’s great is that you have to make a choice. You have to commit. And you have to commit in advance.

The business model of the current entertainment industry is predicated on consumers not making choices but acting on impulses. Choice comes from research, from knowledge, and from tastes. Speak to someone from Netflix, and they will tell you that the longer someone is a member, the more their tastes move to auteurs, to quality film. Once we all wake up and realize that with films, as frankly with everything, we have to be thoughtful, and tastes will change. We have to make it a choice, a choice for, and not an impulse.

We are now in a cultural war and not just the red state/blue state, participate vs. obey kind, not just the kind of cultural war that politicians seem to want to break this country down to. We are in a culture war in terms of what we get to see, enjoy and make. The Lovers Of Cinema have been losing this war because the Makers have invested in a dream of Prince Charming, content to have him sweep down, pick us up, and sing that rags to riches refrain even if it comes but once a year to one lucky filmmaker out of 3,600.

So what is this TRULY FREE FILM CULTURE I am proposing? It is one that utilizes first and foremost the remarkable tool that is The Internet. It is the internet that transforms the culture business from a business that is based around limited supply and the rule of gatekeepers to a business that around the fulfillment of all audience desire, and not just the desire of mass audiences, but also of the niches.

We have never had this sort opportunity before and the great tragedy is that just as we are learning what it means, forces are vying to take it away from us. The principal that all information, all creators, all audiences should be treated equally within the structure that is the Internet is popularly referred to as Net Neutrality. The Telecos, the Cable Companies, and their great ally, the Hollywood Motion Picture Studios and their MPAA are now trying to end that equality. And with it you will lose the opportunity to be TRULY FREE FILMMAKERS. But they are not going to succeed because we are going to ban together and organize; we are going to save the Internet, and keep equal access for all. Right?

A TRULY FREE FILM CULTURE will respect the audience’s needs and desires as much as Indie currently respects the filmmakers. A TRULY FREE FILM CULTURE recognizes film as a dialogue and recognizes that a dialogue requires a community. Participants in a TRULY FREE FILM CULTURE work to participate in that community, work to get others to participate in that community. We work to get others to make a choice, to make a choice about what they want to do, what they want to see. We all become curators. We all promote the films we love. We reach out and mobilize others to vote with their feet, vote with their eyes, and vote with their dollars, to not act on impulses, but on knowledge and experience.

A TRULY FREE FILMMAKER -- be they producer or director -- recognizes their responsibility is not just to find a good script, not just to find a good cast, a good package. A TRULY FREE FILMMAKER recognizes that they must do more than find the funding, and even more than justifying that funding. The TRULY FREE FILMMAKER now recognizes their responsibility is to also find the audience, grow the audience, expand the audience, and then also to move the audience, not just emotionally, but also literally: to move them onwards further to other things. Whether it is by direct contact, email blasts, or blogging, whatever it is, express what you want our culture to be. And express it to all you know.

The TRULY FREE FILMMAKER also recognizes that knowledge is a true power, and that ownership is a false power. The TRULY FREE FILMMAKER recognizes that others, as many others as possible, sharing in that knowledge will make everything better: the films, the apparatus, the business, and the just plain pleasure of participating. We are walking into new territory and we best map it out together.

The TRULY FREE FILMMAKER is no longer bound to just the 5 or 6 reel length to tell their stories. The TRULY FREE FILMMAKER is no longer bound to projection as the primary audience platform and is not stuck on the one film one theater one-week type of release.

It is this thing that we once called the Independent Community that is the sector that truly innovates. The lower cost of our creations allows for greater risks. It is what we used to call “Indies” that has innovated on a technical level, on a content level, on a story telling approach, and it is this, the TRULY FREE FILM CULTURE that will innovate still further in the future of distribution.

With the passion that produces 3600 films a year, with just a portion of those resources, we can build a new infrastructure that opens up new audiences, new models, and new revenue streams that can build a true alternative to the mainstream culture that has been force fed us for years. We are on the verge of truly opening up what can be told, how it is told, to whom it is told, and where is told. We can seize it, but it requires that we embrace the full responsibility of what independence means.

Independence requires knowing your film inside and out. Knowing not just what you are choosing to do, but what you have chosen not to do. Independence comes with knowing that you have fully considered all your options. It is knowing your audience, knowing how to reach them – and not abstractly, but concretely.

I can assure you too, that this work of slowing down on our projects, learning their possibilities fully, finding their audiences, owning our audiences, not only will make our films better, but it will also get them made; for it will create that evasive air of inevitability around your projects that gets films financed. It will also lead you into the real challenge of reaching that audience and earning directly the reward of true interaction with them.

Let’s make the next ten years about seizing our independence, killing “indie” film, and bringing forth a Truly Free Film Culture.

Thank you.