23 September, 2010

Independent Film Week Spotlights Indie Projects

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

Independent Film Week, a multi-layered program of screenings, conferences, co-production networking events and filmmaker pitch sessions has kicked off the New York film season with a vengeance. Under the auspices of the Independent Feature Project (IFP), the venerable filmmakers organization, this year's event involves both professionals and film buffs in a dizzying schedule of activities around the city of New York from September 19 to 23.

The Independent Film Week kicked off with the New York premiere of HOWL, a Sundance Film Festival favorite directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, starring James Franco as beat poet Allen Ginsberg. The film is, in fact, an alumnus of the IFP's No Borders International Production Market where it was first presented as a project in 2008. Another alumnus, TWELVE DAYS TO SUNDAY, a documentary about rural America by director Anna Farrell, had its world premiere screening this week after its inclusion in the 2009 IFP Documentary Independent Filmmaker Lab. In addition, Telefilm Canada is presenting its annual showcase of new Canadian titles.

This year, the Project Forum (formerly known as the IFP Market), continues the organization's mission to create networking and financing opportunities for independent filmmakers with a host of North American and international professionals and funding agencies. The initiative, which abandoned the actual screening of dramatic features several years ago, is more focused on assisting filmmakers through the development, financing and completion of their feature films. All projects showcased in the Project Forum are features and documentaries ranging from films in development, the early stages of production, to those nearing completion (i.e. in postproduction or at the rough cut stage). In all, 150 projects were selected to participate this year, evenly split between documentary and narrative features in development (script through post-production).

The range of credentials of the participating filmmakers is astonishing......everyone from fledgling newcomers to more established indie artists. Narrative program highlights from the 2010 Project Forum includes new work represented by producers Howard Gertler & John Cameron Mitchell (Shortbus), Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Jack Goes Boating), Lynette Howell (Half Nelson), Mark Heyman (The Wrestler), Michael Roiff (Waitress), Christine Walker (Howl), Jay Van Hoy & Lars Kundsen (Old Joy) and executive producers Ross Katz (Lost in Translation), Andrew Niccol (Gattaca), Mira Nair (The Namesake), and Ron Simons (Night Catches Us).

Several established directors with strong filmographies are being presented this year, in a bid to develop and finance their latest projects. They include new works from acclaimed directors Maggie Greenwald (Songcatcher), Tony Kaye (American History X) and Dover Kosashvili (Late Marriage), as well as follow up features by Craig Zobel (Great World of Sound), Lee Toland Krieger (The Vicious Kind) and Ry Russo Young (You Won’t Miss Me). Noted documentary directors with new projects include Andrea Nix Fine & Sean Fine (War Dance), Paul Rachman (American Hardcore), Judith Helfand (Blue Vinyl), Robinson Devor (Zoo), Sarah and Emily Kunstler (William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe) and veteran William Greaves (Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One).

Project Forum is also presenting 25 narrative scripts in early development by up-and-coming writers and writer/directors, which will be of particular interest to the producers, funding agencies, distributors and agents in attendance. IFP’s Independent Filmmaker Labs supports 20 diverse filmmakers throughout the completion, marketing and distribution of their first feature film. The program has become the leading U.S. forum for executive producers, agents and managers, sales agents and festival programmers to discover and support fresh talent on the independent scene prior to the introduction to the marketplace or at film festivals.

Over the years, No Borders International Co-Production Market has become the premiere U.S. forum for buyers, sales agents and financiers to meet with established independent producers who have strong track records for producing films in the international marketplace. All 45 projects presented at No Borders this year have at least 20% financing in place; many also have additional cast and/or principal attachments. Of the projects selected for presentation this year, 45% will be represented by producers from the U.S. including six projects from the Sundance Institute.

The other projects participating in the No Borders Market are represented by producers sponsored by the intiative's international partners and support organizations, including Filmstiftung Nordrhein-Westfalen (Germany), Film Victoria (Australia), Hong Kong- Asia Film Financing Forum (China), Israel Film Fund, the National Film and Video Foundation (South Africa), New Zealand Film Commission, Screen NSW (Australia), Telefilm Canada, and the UK Film Council, as well as support organizations ACE (France), CineMart (The Netherlands), NFDC Cinemas of India/Film Bazaar, Power to the Pixel UK, PPP- Pusan Promotional Plan, and TGP – Tokyo Project Gathering.

Documentary has played an important role in IFP’s history from the very beginning of the organization. This year's Spotlight on Documentaries program is presenting 70 documentaries ranging from those at an early financing stage (early development or in production) to those nearing completion (in postproduction or at the rough cut stage). This is of particular interest to distributors, sales agents and film festival programmers.

As important as the projects themselves, the Independent Filmmaker Conference has assembled a dizzying who's who of industry experts in the fields of financing, production, promotion, distribution, film festival strategy and new media opportunities that offer attending filmmakers a "boot camp" that rivals any 3-year film school. The sharing of information and case studies of indie films that have broken through in the past year are invaluable for filmmakers working in an increasingly difficult environment for their works.

Despite a tough economic climate for independent filmmakers and the not-for-profit organizations that support them, this year's Independent Film Week demonstrates that the indie flame is still very much alive. For more information, visit:

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