IFP's Independent Film Week

by Matthew Curtis
September 20, 2008 5:49 AM
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The 30th anniversary of the IFP was celebrated this week with the latest edition of Independent Film Week, formerly known as the IFP Market and before that the IFFM (Independent Feature Film Market). A number of changes besides the name of the event were evident right off the bat, the largest being the new location--after years in residence at the Angelika Theater and Puck Building on the edge of the Village and Soho, the IFP has taken their act to Chelsea and the Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.) on 28th St. between 7th and 8th Avenues. So gone were the afternoon lunch sojourns across Houston to Katz' s Deli (sigh)), as well as the technical issues and subway noise so prevalent at the Angelika (yea!). The IFP did use the far superior Chelsea Cinemas for some of their "Showcase" screenings, but the majority of the projects had to be seen in either the video library or in their 1/2 hour work-in-progress slot in one of three classrooms ("microcinemas") set up with 18 - 32 chairs and a 50" plasma screen. Once you got used to it, it wasn't so bad, and the chairs were certainly much more comfortable than the Angelika as well.

Regrettably, the dozen or so Doc shorts and full-length rough cuts of Doc features that were part of the program last year were also history. But despite the increased emphasis on development meetings for the filmmakers and panels, there were still over 130 different projects (by my count) that had anywhere from a 2 minute trailer to over 20 minutes of footage that could be previewed. These would include the Doc features works-in-progress, the UK Film Council showcase, the Perspective Canada showcase, the NextGen NYC short film screenings (selected from a number of local colleges), the Independent Filmmaker Labs "Sneak Preview" screenings (both Doc and Narrative), the Nokia Short Film screenings, and a couple of special screenings of full features like IFC's MEDICINE FOR MELANCHOLY for Opening Night (which I really liked in Toronto last week) and the acclaimed new doc, TRINIDAD, as an alumni screening.

Another nice touch was getting Kevin Smith for the opening Sunday late afternoon "break-out-the-big-guns" slot that was filled by the cast of THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND and John Sayles and Maggie Renzi the last couple of years. Smith's "a Conversation With..." was a hoot, consistently funny, informative and profanity laced. While taking questions from the crowd of mostly fresh young filmmakers, he touched on a number of subjects, including his latest project, RED STATE, a story so dark and with so many unsympathetic characters that even the Weinsteins won't give him money for it. He did say it will test his mettle as a filmmaker after 8 comedies and he seemed genuinely excited at the prospect. Other topics that came up included Bob & Harvey, being pigeonholed as an artist, meeting Ben Affleck and how he ended up co-executive producing GOOD WILL HUNTING after reading it on the crapper, his rationale for buying a Dodge Neon with his CLERKS profits, and how to cast a porn star.

Though the Market is dominated by first-time directors, I was excited to see quite a few familiar names, old friends, Enzian and Florida Film Festival veterans, and filmmakers of note with brand new projects (that all need financial help to be fully realized of course). Doug Block (51 BIRCH STREET, HOME PAGE) poignantly turns his camera on his family once again in ALMOST GONE, this time concentrating on his daughter in her last year at home before she leaves for college. Gill Holland (FLOW, WERE THE WORLD MINE) is one of the producers on Michael Sladek's CON ARTIST, an outrageous look at the ridiculously famous "business artist" Mark Kostabi. Susan Kaplan (THREE OF HEARTS: A POSTMODERN FAMILY) is chronicling a small group of dedicated individuals who are trying to shut down the country's oldest nuclear powerplant in FALLOUT. Brian M. Cassidy and Melanie Shatzky (GOD PROVIDES) turn their cameras on the elderly residents of an assisted living facility in the poetic and disturbing THE PATRON SAINTS. Peter Friedman (DEATH BY DESIGN, SILVERLAKE LIFE) documents yet another brilliant reinvention of Voltaire in CARSEN'S CANDIDE: THE BEST OF ALL POSSIBLE SHOWS. Academy Award nominee Laura Poitras (MY COUNTRY, MY COUNTRY and FLAG WARS) is working on a film about Al-Qaeda called RELEASE. And Oscar nominee and recent FFF juror Daniel Anker (SCOTTSBORO: AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY, IMAGINARY WITNESS: HOLLYWOOD AND THE HOLOCAUST) turns his camera on one of our greatest living directors in SIDNEY LUMET: THE MORAL LENS.

And that's just scratching the surface of the offerings this week, the majority of which won't actually be finished for another year or two. But what Independent Film Week does successfully do for programmers like myself is provide great opportunities to network, meet the filmmakers face to face, and get a little taste of what's going to be coming down the pike in the months (and probably) years to come.

--Matthew

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