Independent Film Week in NYC

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending the IFP’s Indie Film Week. It had been years since I had gone and I knew that in just the last year or so, the format had changed dramatically. LEF had one film in the market this year, Banker White’s THE GENIUS OF MARION, and so I took the opportunity to see what was new at the IFP.

The biggest change I noticed was the lack of screenings. In the olden days, there used to be dozens of work-in-progress or rough cut screenings that were open for the public to attend. However, filmmakers had no idea if there was anyone from the industry in attendance with interest in the film.

This process is now much more streamlined and focused clearly on filmmakers connecting with interested industry partners. Industry attending the market make appointments with those projects they are interested in learning more about. Filmmakers then get to pitch their project one on one to funders and distributors with whet appetites who want to know more. This is fantastic for the filmmakers in their journey to gain traction for their project and get closer to the finishing line.
While the opportunities to do business were greatly improved, there seemed to be fewer avenues for filmmakers to connect directly with one another, as eyes were so clearly focused on the prize. There were a couple of events at night in an effort to provide that creative, social layer, but much of that was removed from the daytime schedule. Though filmmakers do always have a way of finding each other!
Here are just a few panels from the forum that I found interesting:

1.The non-fiction pitch workshop
I’ve seen several over the years, but I think this one was handled with particular grace, professionalism, and a real concern for the filmmakers’ success. Judith Helfand from Chicken & Egg Pictures, Ryan Harrington from Tribecca Film Institute, and a representative from Magnolia Films sat on the panel and reviewed the work. Through the course of their interaction with the filmmakers, they revealed these core questions every filmmaker should ask when preparing a pitch: What is your unique access to an untold story? Why are you the right storyteller to share this story? Why is this an important story to tell right now? Who are your characters and what makes them special? What is your story arc? Where are you in your production process and what do you need to finish?

2.Case study on the film BUCK
Very interesting as it was a collaboration of all women artists and craftspeople on the project. The sense of collaboration and camaraderie (despite creative differences) was palpable in the room. What also interested me about this panel is that the film was completed entirely with money from private investors. Not a penny from grants. And I think the panel fielded about 4 or 5 questions about this. Private investment is a TOTAL mystery to most filmmakers. How do you find private investors? How do you talk to them about your film? These are not easy questions to answer, as film investment is its own delicate art. But clearly, all filmmakers out there are looking for the right formulas for their films.

3.Conversation with Josh Braun.
Josh Braun is a producer of both narrative and nonfiction feature work, and a highly respected sales agent as well. The conversation with Josh at IFP was wonderfully revealing about distribution and marketing, getting an inside idea about how reps think about films. The strongest piece I walked away with was knowing your audience and knowing what makes your film MARKETABLE as opposed to important or artistic. What audiences might want to buy your film? Cold hard truths about the business piece of the pie were delivered by a very charming, kind, and thoughtful Josh Braun.
I was only there for a few days, but loved connecting with the filmmakers, learning about the new IFP format, and visiting New York again for the first time in a long time! I urge those of you interested in the caretaking the IFP Market can give your project to take a look at the deadlines and guidelines for next year’s Indie Film Week!

– Sara

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