Columbia Producers Are Coming to Cannes

For the second time, the entire second-year Creative Producing class from Columbia University will be coming to the Cannes Film Festival. The purpose of the trip is to have them witness first hand how the business operates, and to demystify the world’s most prestigious film event. Below is a photo of most of them in Sandra Schulberg’s Feature Film Financing class, the day that Ted Hope (the guy in the middle)was the guest speaker. Memorize those faces and say hi to them on the Croisette.

photo by Sandra Schulberg

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It’s All About Collaboration

One of the many unique attributes of the Columbia University Graduate Film Program is our emphasis on collaboration. So I found it particularly gratifying to see how many of the films that will be showing at this year’s film festival are collaborations between student directors and student producers. Here are a few interviews with the producer/director teams:

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Italian Government Closes National Film School

The following is from one of my students at Columbia. This is an issue that all film lovers should be aware of. Please voice your words of protest as per the instructions below…

Dear Ira,

The Italian government of Silvio Berlusconi decided to close the Italian National Film School (Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia) with the excuse to cut expenses and save the country from a new Greece-like financial collapse.

Even if the general intent can be considered righteous, cutting one of the main institution of the italian cinema and the most important school for the future filmmakers is definitely the wrong place where to look for restoring the budget of a state, especially in a country like Italy where the cost of politics and bureaucracy is one of the highest in the world.

Now, the Italian National Film School students and faculty are protesting against this injustice. Continue reading “Italian Government Closes National Film School”

Columbia Producers on the Croisette

Some of you are already aware that I brought 12 of the Columbia University producing students with me to Cannes this year. My goal was to demystify the event, and to give them a ground level tutorial so that if they end up coming back in any capacity, they could hit the ground running. I asked them to write up some of their experiences at the festival, and I’ll share links when they are posted. In the meantime, here is a great shot of the gang at the IFP party.

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Video from “The Conversation”

Scott Kirsner just informed me that videos of many of the panels at “The Conversation,” held at Columbia University back in March, are now available on line. Below is the video of my apparently controversial opening remarks, which many people interpreted as dashing the hopes and dreams of aspiring filmmmakers everywhere. But listen carefully to what I’m saying. It’s about pragmatism, not pessimism.

The rest of the videos can be found at Scott’s site

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Some Useful Wisdom From Branding Experts

Last week, I went to a conference at the Columbia Business School, and I saw a presentation by Columbia Professor and branding expert David Rogers. He was giving a summary of major themes the emerged from a recent branding conference that he organized. In the aftermath of “The Conversation” and “DIY Days,” I wanted to share these ideas with the indie film community as we grapple with our own branding strategies going forward. I’ll just tick off the major points here, and you’ll have to go to David’s blog to see the explanations.

1. Stop thinking of customers as individuals. Start thinking of them as networks.

2. No customer is statistically insignificant.

3. Be the influencer. Continue reading “Some Useful Wisdom From Branding Experts”

Kicking off the Conversation

The following is the outline of the kickoff speech I gave at “The Conversation,” a conference on the future of independent film at Columbia University. Sorry that it’s missing the adlibs…maybe someone taped it.

On behalf of the Columbia University School of the Arts and the Columbia Business School, I’d like to welcome you all to our campus. If you haven’t been here before, I’m sure you are a bit shocked to see that a place like this exists right in the middle of Manhattan. It’s a great place to live and to learn. I want to thank Daisy Nam at the School of the Arts and Hollis O’Rourke at the Business School for making this day possible.

When Scott Kirshner put the word out that he wanted to find a place in New York to hold this event, I told him right away that I wanted to bring it to Columbia. The reasons why are a bit complicated, but I thought they might be a good starting point for the discussion that will be going on all day. Continue reading “Kicking off the Conversation”

Steven Bach

I was very sad to read in the New York Times about the death of Steven Bach. Steven and I were colleagues at Columbia University, and we discovered we had many other things in common. We both went to Northwestern and we both worked at United Artists at the same time, although we didn’t get to know each other until we were at Columbia. Steven was instrumental in shaping what has become the producing program at the school, and even after he moved to Vermont, he came down for guest lectures a few times every year. The students loved his lectures on the history of producing and the origins of independent film.

The last time I saw Steven was at a lecture and book signing for his latest book about Leni Riefenstahl. Steven, as usual, was fascinating and entertaining, and he was genuinely pleased by the number of Columbia students who attended the event. Continue reading “Steven Bach”

Columbia Produces!

(from left to right) Shilpa Makikar, Geoffrey Booth, Sarna Lapine, Molly Pearson
(from left to right) Shilpa Mankikar, Geoffrey Booth, Sarna Lapine, Molly Pearson

Congrats to our new Columbia producers. On January 31, four of our students presented their thesis films, the final step before graduating with their MFA in film with a concentration in producing. Our February graduates are Geoffrey Booth, whose thesis film is “Cemetery Club,” Molly Pearson with “Last First Kiss,” Sarna Lapine with “Sinkhole” and Shilpa Mankikar with “Security.” Watch for their films at film festivals throughout the world.