Tag Archives: Independent Film

Watch My Movie from NOVAC

Here’s a cool video put together by the good folks at NOVAC in New Orleans. This is from a conference to years ago that they called “Watch My Movie,” and featured such notables as Gianna Chachere of the Hamptons International Film Festival, Andrew Mer of SnagFilms, Janine Saunders of the Workbook Project, Todd Sklar of Range Life Entertainment, Jolene Pinder of the New Orleans Film Society and Film Festival. Oh and yours truly.

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The Most Influential Indie Films of All Time, As Seen from 1996

John Cassavetes' "A Woman Under the Influence"I just stumbled across an old document on my computer, in which I was responding to a request from Filmmaker Magazine for a list of the “Top 10 American Indies.” The timestamp indicates that I wrote this in July of 1996, and I have no recollection of whether it actually ran in the magazine. However, I thought I would throw it up here and see if I can get a rise out of anyone.

I think the list holds up well, and the only film I would be tempted to add is “Pulp Fiction,” which I would characterize as the film that started the decline and eventual end to what we used to call American Independent Cinema.

For what it’s worth, here is the list. Feel free to comment with your own ideas.

These, in order, would be my choices for the top 10 most important (as in influential or breakthrough) American Independent Films:

1. “A Woman Under the Influence” While there are earlier, and arguably better Cassavetes films, this one is particularly significant in that Cassavetes mounted an ambitious and successful self-distribution effort, setting the stage for much of the independent distribution movement.  (more…)

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A Panel from 2005: My, How Things Have Changed!

DigimartIn 2005, I was invited to a conference in Montreal called Digimart, organized by Daniel Langlois and his team at Ex-Centris. It was a very early attempt to deal with the coming convergence of entertainment technologies, and they invited a star-studded array of speakers that represented the cutting edge of that time. I met many incredible people at the event, and even more the following year, when they invited many of us back for a second time. Some of the folks I met are now good friends and collaborators.

Recently it was pointed out to me that the videos of the conference sessions were no longer on line, so I contacted the good folks at La fondation Daniel Langlois, who are now trying to restore access to those videos. They’ve put back the sessions from the 2005 event, and are trying to locate the ones from 2006. Watching these videos, it’s incredible how far ahead of the curve many of the speakers were, and equally incredible how much has changed. You can find all the 2005 videos at the Digimart site. For a quick taste, below is the panel I was on, which was called, “More Digital Cinema Networks – Alternative & Independent Spaces.” I’ll post again if and when the 2006 videos reappear.

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One Great Movie Can Change You

One of the great things they do at the Traverse City Film Festival is that every year they create these powerful, inspirational videos that are are riffs on the theme of that year’s festival. This year it was “One Great Movie Can Change You.” Check it out…

TCFF 2013: One Great Movie Can Change You from Traverse City Film Festival on Vimeo.

Oh, and yes, that was me at the beginning. You can comment after the break… (more…)

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The New Professionalism – A Flight Toward Quality

Filmmaker MagazineThis article was originally published in the Winter 2013 issue of Filmmaker Magazine.

Over the last decade, as the tools of filmmaking became less expensive and more generally accessible, there was much excitement about what came to be known as the “democratization” of filmmaking.  Suddenly, one didn’t have to be rich or the relative of a studio executive to get a movie made.  In addition, web sites such as YouTube and others opened up distribution to the masses, creating a new paradigm that was dubbed “user-generated content.”

All of this sounded great on the surface, but like other seemingly positive advances—remember the “thousand channel universe” or the “long tail theory?”—there are always unintended consequences. While it was true that more people were making “movies” than ever, I would characterize the change not as democratization, but rather as “amateurization.” These market forces—an oversupply of product and seemingly endless channels of accessible distribution—caused the bottom to drop out of the professional marketplace. Content in all its forms was being commoditized. Why should distribution channels pay for content when it could be provided for free? If audiences could be attracted by offering them quantity, why worry about quality? In other words, the so-called democratization of filmmaking was ensuring that no one could make a living at it. (more…)

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Before You Finalize Your Oscar Predictions…

oscarI should start this by saying that I hate Oscar prognostications. It’s a ridiculous exercise that only feeds the massive publicity machine that the studios and mini-majors do their best to manipulate. When I come across yet another column that offers up daily updates on the “race,” I tend to cross my eyes and turn the (sometimes virtual) page.

The one and only time that I start paying attention is when I’m preparing to participate in various Oscar pools, which by the way, I almost never win. I know who I voted for, of course. But I also know that my votes are likely to be way outside the mainstream, and therefore offer no clues as to what the majority of Academy members will do. I find myself guessing differently with each pool that I enter.

That said, I’m probably the worst person to turn to for advice about filling in your Oscar pool choices. But I’m going to do so nonetheless. (more…)

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Gateway to Cinema – Digital Distribution Case Study

Here’s a video of a panel discussion that took place at the Cannes Film Festival this past May, at the UK Film Center. It’s a fascinating look at the various initiaves that are taking place to reinvent the theatrical experience by virtue of digital technologies. It’s a subject that, as you all know, is dear to my heart. And yes, I’m on the panel.

Gateway to Cinema-goers: A Digital Distribution Case Study from UK Film Centre on Vimeo.

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Video from Cannes Film Festival 1987

John Tilley sent me this great video he took with his brand new camcorder at the Cannes Film Festival in 1987. I edited it down, and added names for everyone John and I could identify. There are a lot of familiar faces if you’ve been in the film business long enough to remember that far back. Check it out. Maybe you are in there somewhere.

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More bad news about VPFs…or is it?

I ran into an exhibitor friend at the Toronto Film Festival (who shall remain nameless) and he went off about how unhappy he was about having signed a VPF deal in order to convert his theaters to Hollywood’s version of digital projection equipment. We talked about all the various implications of the deal, which I’ve outlined in a previous post. But he brought up another angle that I hadn’t realized before.

In order to be eligible for a VPF deal, an exhibitor has to guarantee a certain number of “turns” per screen per year. A “turn” is when you dump the film you are playing and bring in a new one, which then requires the distributor of that new film to pay a VPF fee. The more “turns” the more your equipment has been subsidized. (more…)

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Getting Ready for your premiere at TIFF

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to be the keynote speaker at the Filmmakers Bootcamp, an annual event at the TIFF Lightbox to prepare the Canadian filmmakers for their experience at the Toronto Film Festival. Given the nature of the event, I decided to emphasize practical advice about making the most of the experience. Since the audience was limited to Canadian filmmakers, the good folks at TIFF recorded the session and have made it available on line. Here it is in its entirety, with the hope that it might be of help to others of you who might be navigating Toronto for the first time.


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