The 31st edition of IFP's Independent Film Week (formerly known as the IFP Market and prior to that the IFFM or Independent Feature Film Market) wrapped today and provided some great opportunities to meet and listen to some masterful directors and industry heavyweights as well as getting a look at dozens of new documentary and narrative feature projects in various stages of completion. Some films may actually be ready for the Spring 2010 festival circuit (including the Florida Film Festival of course), but the majority of them will take another year or two to get completed. Still, it's a great opportunity to see what will be coming down the pike, provide valuable encouragement to these talented filmmakers just beginning their journeys, and network like crazy. And what a treat to get to meet Producer Peter Saraf of Big Beach Films (LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE); Oscar-winning Director Barbara Kopple (HARLAN COUNTY USA, SHUT UP & SING); Robert Downey Sr., director of the late 60s/early 70s counter-culture classics PUTNEY SWOPE, GREASERS PALACE, and POUND, films that I cut my indie/art house teeth on and went on to program at New College in the mid 70s; and the wonderful Mira Nair (MONSOON WEDDING, THE NAMESAKE, the upcoming AMELIA), whose films have been playing Enzian, the South Asian Film Festival, and the FFF for the past two decades.
Connections to both Enzian and the Florida Film Festival ran deep in many of the Documentary Works-in-Progress features here, and it was great to finally meet some of the filmmakers or see them again and find out what they're up to. Among the familiar names and faces with brand new projects were: actress/director/writer/producer/FSU grad Amy Seimetz with her freaky CITY ON A HILL; cinematographer Edward Marritz (MAYA LIN: A STRONG CLEAR VISION and YOUNG @ HEART) with BRING PRESCENCE: STORYTIME WITH MURRAY AND PAUL; JULIA BACHA (ENCOUNTER POINT, which Enzian helped qualify for the Oscars) with BUDRUS HAS A HAMMER; Jennie Livingston (PARIS IS BURNING, WHO'S THE TOP?) with EARTH CAMP ONE; SCOTT HAMILTON KENNEDY (double FFF award winner and Oscar nom for THE GARDEN) with FAME HIGH; Mark Kitchell (BERKELEY IN THE SIXTIES) with A FIERCE GREEN FIRE; Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush (FFF narrative award-winner ON THE OUTS) with HUNGRY IN AMERICA; former FFF juror and Oscar-nominated director Daniel Anker (SCOTTSBORO: AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY) with ICEBOUND; Cecilia Peck (co-director of SHUT UP & SING) with THE LINOR DOCUMENTARY PROJECT; Robert Downey's LOTTE LENYA: THE WIDOW WEILL; Owsley Brown III (NIGHT WALTZ: THE MUSIC OF PAUL BOWLES) with MIRACLE ON THE OHIO: A LOUISVILLE ORCHESTRA STORY; David Teague (editor of Cynthia Wade's FREEHELD, which Enzian helped qualify for the Oscars) with OUR HOUSE; Andrew Shea (FFF favorite THE CORNDOG MAN from many years ago) with PORTRAIT OF WALLY; Nina Davenport (FFF Grand Jury winner OPERATION FILMMAKER) with the tentatively titled SEQUEL TO ALWAYS A BRIDESMAID; Ezra Bookstein (DP on SMILE 'TIL IT HURTS: THE UP WITH PEOPLE STORY) with SHOWTIME!; and Marlo Poras (FFF award-winner MAI'S AMERICA) with her UNTITLED CHINA PROJECT (THE MASUO SISTERS?).
All this plus looks at films about industrial music pioneer Genesis P-Orridge of Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV fame (THE BALLAD OF GENESIS AND LADY JAYE), the McDonald's scalding coffee legal case (HOT COFFEE), the best damn brass ensemble w/ drums band (8 brothers under the tutelage of Sun Ra vet and father Phil Cochran) you've never heard of, HYPNOTIC, elderly sex workers in Mexico (LA MUNECA FEA) (THE UGLY DOLL), kids learning magic (MAGIC CAMP), NY underground legend Beth B's NEW BURLESQUE, a new film about the bee colony crisis, QUEEN OF THE SUN, from Taggart Siegel (THE REAL DIRT ON FARMER JOHN), the flipside of TV's "Big Love" with an expose of the hidden world of polygamy and exiled teenage boys (SONS OF PERDITION), and a dramatic feature from the UK about punk rock legend Ian Dury (SEX & DRUGS & ROCK & ROLL). Can't wait for that one as well as many of these others...
Other than some frustrations over video library availability (or lack thereof opening weekend), and the mailbox issue for both industry (none provided any more) and filmmakers (did they even know they had them?), IFP's Independent Film Week, market or not, seems as vital as ever. Now if they could only get those damned water fountains working in the hallway outside the screening rooms...c'mon, it's two years already!