Tom Quinn reports – After an amazing week at the IFP Market and Conference, I am prepping my film for Friday’s Sundance submission deadline. The six days spent in New York were all remarkable thanks to months of hard work by the IFP staff, especially Amy Dotson who programmed the Lab and Emerging Narrative sections. Here’s a quick overview of our week:
Lab fellows with John Sayles and Maggie Renzi.
SUNDAY: After a terrific welcome brunch organized by IFP, the 12 Lab directors had the opportunity to sit at a table discussing filmmaking with John Sayles and Maggie Renzi for two hours! When I was in college, my film professor was writing a biography on Sayles, and his films had a huge impact on my decision to continue down this path. His pragmatic approach and dedication to staying truly Independent have been inspirational. Most of our discussion was centered on their decision to self-distribute their new film, “Honeydripper,” and approaches to doing so. Afterward, they ran a conference-wide panel that covered shooting techniques, working with non-actors, ways to conserve finances, and distribution. They were both excellent teachers and very giving of their time.
MONDAY: As part of the Lab program, IFP organized six, ten-minute “speed-dating” meetings with sales agents, production companies, agents, and lawyers. Over the past week I had been reviewing their backgrounds and wrote myself a list of questions for each in case my nerves got the best of me. Although I was initially anxious, my meetings went amazingly well. Throughout the week, people connected with “The New Year Parade’s” storyline – particularly when discussing the effects of divorce on children. As I described how the characters find themselves inexplicably repeating their parents’ actions, many listeners smiled – perhaps recognizing that tendency in themselves or loved ones. Although a troubling reality, it was great to see the film striking a chord.
Next we had a roundtable with agents Mark Ankner (Endeavor) and Jennifer Konawal (The Gersh Agency). This was a great opportunity to demystify the process of working with agents to further your career. Later that evening, we were treated to a screening of Sayles’ “Honeydripper” (which is excellent) where I met a third icon of independent filmmaking – Charles Burnett. Mr. Burnett was very kind as I nervously proclaimed my admiration for “Killer of Sheep.” The day ended with a party celebrating fifteen years of Filmmaker Magazine, which was a nice opportunity to catch up with the Lab filmmakers and to make new friends as well.
TUESDAY: Tuesday began with a helpful demonstration from Kodak, one of the Market sponsors, covering the benefits of doing a digital intermediate and the importance of considering post during preproduction. I then ran over to a panel on the state of US film festivals, which included programmers from Sundance, Slamdance, SXSW, Tribeca, and True/False. They were all informative and it was great to hear their points of view as I begin submitting this month. Throughout the week, the panels were not only informative, but a great opportunity to put faces to names. That afternoon we had a roundtable with Creative Executives Karina Kliss (Curious Pictures), David Greenbaum (Miramax), and Dylan Leiner (Sony Pictures Classics). They discussed their process for finding new films, what festivals they attend, the current theatrical market, and ways filmmakers can approach them. These small sessions were incredibly informative and gave the Lab and Emerging Narrative filmmakers an opportunity to ask questions and start discussions with executives we would not otherwise have access to. It was pretty humbling to think IFP was doing all of this work because they believe in our films and potential as makers. After working so long with a very small crew and limited means, that kind of support is a rare and amazing gift.
On Tuesday evening there were several parties. The Florida Film Commission had a great sushi party where I had the opportunity to catch up with some executives and programmers in a more relaxed atmosphere. The mix of structured meeting time and freeform networking socials was great because you had the opportunity to build relationships rather than just sell yourself. I think that will be a huge asset in the long-run. Although Woodstock and Slamdance were both throwing parties later that evening, I forced myself back to Astoria at 11 to crash. Wednesday was going to be a big day.
WEDNESDAY: Another benefit of attending the Market as part of the Rough Cut Labs was that we were able to sign up for meetings with festival programmers an hour before anyone else Wednesday morning. As mentioned in the previous article, I had spent a lot of time considering my goals for the week. The number one issue on my to-do list was to make initial contact with a film festival that I am especially interested in screening at. Because of this, I was sure to start a conversation with this programmer earlier in the week so that our 10-minute pitch session could be more relaxed and I could focus on asking questions to better inform myself. In addition, I met with 5 other really great festival programmers. It can feel a bit awkward hopping from one table to the next and several of the festivals were interested in hearing my overall fest strategy to determine where they fell within it. This all led to some helpful, honest conversations about what I am looking for and what each individual festival can offer.
On Wednesday we also had two preview screenings showcasing five minutes from each project. Interestingly, we have not seen each other’s films, so this was not only a great opportunity to screen for industry folks, but also each other. I was blown away by the body of work my fellow filmmakers have created and IFP has curated. The films are diverse: comedies, dramas, and musicals shot on DV, High Def, and film. I look forward to hitting the festival circuit with these folks in the coming months – they are a terrific bunch of people and crazy talented!
The first screening was for industry and brought out a who’s who of independent film! Several prominent distributors, producers, law firms, composers, and film festivals were there to see what IFP had put together. The interest generated has been incredible and it’s fantastic to be on the map before we even begin the film festival route. That evening we had a second screening courtesy of Rooftop Films, which wrapped up their Summer Series. They have obviously put a good deal of planning and forethought into their program and it was a really cool community event. We screened in a public garden via a killer projection and sound system. It was great to hear the audio reverberate in the public space as cars and people passed by. The showcase was packed with neighborhood teenagers and industry executives. It was great to hear audience reactions to the film – especially from folks outside of the film world. Local high school students traded cupcakes and hot chocolate for donations toward a school trip and later we all convened at a local bar for 3 dollar beers. It was a great way to celebrate the week so far. If you’re in New York, I’d highly recommend checking out Rooftop Films.
THURSDAY: The main event for Thursday was a fantastic awards ceremony which also included a presentation of the Lab filmmakers as well as Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 faces of independent film (with some crossover as Georgina Lightning, director of “Older Than America” is a member of both!). Looking around the room of respected industry veterans we easily could have felt like the table of new kids were it not for all of the kind words and encouragement folks stopped to share regarding our films and the Lab program. The food was delicious and the ceremony was both elegant and a lot of fun. That night a few of us hit a local dive bar and over beers set our sights on the next phase of film festivals.
An exciting new development happened late in the week at a documentary panel. The discussion was on fair use and the topic turned to doc-fiction hybrids. This is something I have been curious about because sections of “The New Year Parade” are essentially a documentary on Mummery with our actors placed in scenes. The good news is that fair use was recently used to cover music and other legal issues on “Once” when they used a similar approach. This development could allow me to keep the original edits of the film without replacing music or changing important shots. The great thing about this development was that I could not attend the panel, but a fellow Temple University filmmaker (Ben Kalina, who produced a great doc on ocean acidification called “A Sea Change”) knew of my issue and approached the panelists afterward to discuss my film and get their contact information. This points to the greatest strength of the labs and Market: they foster a community of peers that can now go out and spread the word about each other’s films.
I can’t imagine a better week. Honestly, if IFP never called me a again after the Lab in June I would have sang their praises forever. To have them invest so heavily in our films and careers means a great deal and the Market will no doubt have a ripple effect in the months to come as the 10 of us branch out to festivals, screenings, and distribution.
Boppin’ at the Glue Factory
Directed by Jeffrey Jay Orgil
A junkie nurse stumbles into his dream job – the graveyard shift at a convalescent home. He quickly becomes a model employee and the old folks’ best friend. But just as his drugs run out, and the management starts closing in, an old jazzman discovers his secret and makes him a sweet deal, but with heavy consequences.
Directed by Sergio Palacios, Damian Rodriguez
El Coyote, a drifter with an evil past, wanders into a ghost town. Shot by the Sheriff and left for dead, he is saved by a boy and his mother. As he recovers, he learns that drug lords hold the town hostage. El Coyote renounces his dark past and seeks revenge.
The First Breath of Tengan Rei
Directed by Junko Kajino, Ed M. Koziarski
A young Okinawan woman named Rei journeys to the U.S. to confront two former Marines who were convicted of assaulting her ten years ago. She kidnaps Paris, the teenage son of one of the Marines, and holds him captive in a motel room. Rei and Paris are drawn to each other, as the boy’s father closes in on them.
General Impression of Size and Shape
Directed by Alex Karpovsky
Once thought to be extinct, The Ivory-Billed Woodpecker is ‘rediscovered’ in Eastern Arkansas. Though numerous sightings have been reported, concrete proof remains elusive. Combing the bayou with a taciturn sidekick in tow, amateur birder Johnny Neander is getting close, but what he is about to find will undermine everything about this Southern mystery, and perhaps, himself.
The Marconi Bros.
Directed by Marco Ricci, Michael Canzoniero
Anthony and Carmine Marconi, a modern day oddcouple, have been dutifully serving out life sentences in the family carpet business. Their opportunity to escape occurs during a routine carpet installation, when they meet Lou Burns the undisputed king of the Long Island wedding video business. Mesmerized by Lou’s fast talk and leggy blonde ‘secretaries,’ the brothers hustle themselves jobs as his new assistants and set off on the ride of their lives.
Directed by Chris Bower
Moon Europa centers around the life of Bria Living, a test subject for the Nevco Corporation’s clone experiments. It is her life and love that inspires a young revolutionary, Osias, to kidnap the Nevco scientist Archer Claezon. Osias attempts to use Archer to initiate a rebellion against the corporation, freeing the human and clone population from the grip of tyranny.
The New Year Parade
Directed by Tom Quinn
After learning that their parents’ separation may be permanent, Jack and Kat McMonogul find their self-confidence shaken. Kat believes they will reconcile, and keeps the situation secret at school. Meanwhile, Jack is forced to mediate as his father becomes consumed with leading their band to victory in Philadelphia’s Mummers’ Parade.
Older Than America
Directed by Georgina Lightning
Spirits from a Native American boarding school appear to a woman whose mother attended it. The town’s long-time, corrupt mayor is opposed by a reform-minded Native American and a Catholic priest and is forced to confront the terrible secrets that he kept hidden for thirty years.
Rainbow Around the Sun
Directed by Kevin Ely and Beau Leland
Zachary Blasto is a hard-drinking, talented songwriter and performer who creates vivid musical fantasies in order to avoid dealing with the downward spiral of his personal life. When faced with the impending death of his father, Zach must choose whether to face the loss or surrender fully to the madness of his imaginary musical world.
Tales From The Dead
Directed by Jason Cuadrado
Tales From The Dead is a terrifying Japanese-language anthology of four ghost stories told by Tamika, a strange young girl with the ability to communicate with the dead. Each tale deals with loss, pain and vengeance as the spirits who tell them attempt to put things right in the world of the living: a family, newly reunited with their estranged son, faces the remnants of their bad marriage, and evil intentions, of their home’s previous owners.
Tom Quinn grew up in Bucks County, PA, where he directed his first feature, Lusting for Dust Words, several shorts, and freelanced as a camera assistant. His film, Via Bicycles, was a 2006 Eastman Scholars finalist and received a Motion Picture Association Award. His current feature film, The New Year Parade, was one of ten projects selected for the 2007 IFP Narrative Rough Cut Labs. He is currently working toward his MFA at Temple University.BTS event festivals production promotion resource