May 11, 2012

The World of Movie Distribution Is a Tough Place

Written By: Sid Kali

The world of movie distribution is a tough place. After fighting and sweating to finish a movie you're mentally and physically exhausted.

You just want to take a break and rest, but you can't because finishing a movie is only half the battle. It's time to enter the world of movie distribution.

Movie distribution is a tough place for filmmakers new to the grind. It's hard to switch off the creative mind to deal with the business side of selling movies.

What I've learned the hard way is the movie distribution really starts with promoting and marketing a movie.

Social media is an inexpensive way to get the word out about your movie and create a killer viral buzz online.

It's cool to go the film festival route to get your movie seen by viewers and potential film buyers, but over the years from talking to other filmmakers there is a common feeling that the film festival scene is too crowded now.

U.K. filmmaker Wayne Daniells from LiarDice Films told me his last trip to The Cannes International Film Festival was a ruthless feeding frenzy.

There were a glut of movies and producers were fighting to get the attention of movie distributors.

All in all Wayne expressed that it was a waste of time and money pitching his film there. I've heard the same opinion from other filmmakers that are frustrated with the film festival scene and no longer see it as a good way to secure movie distribution.

I personally like the direct route of contacting movie distributors to see if they're interested in being sent a screener. This is where it helps if you have already been promoting and marketing your movie online using social media.

Movie distributors are more interested in acquiring movies that already have a strong online presence.

I'm strictly speaking from a true independent movie perspective. Studio budget movies are an entirely different animal when it comes to the world of movie distribution.

When it comes to movie distribution for an indie produced film the way it normally happens are independent producers and filmmakers take the risk making the movie without any guaranteed movie distribution deal in place.

They usually have to shop it around to sell it. That's been my personal experience so far. I've never created content with a movie distribution deal in place.

It's like writing a screenplay on spec, but you're dealing with a movie. Promoting and marketing a movie through social media is an absolute must.

Start early before you're movie is even finished. That way when you begin contacting movie distributors you're movie will already have more appeal because people are talking about it.

Movie distributors that cater to releasing independent movies do very little marketing for most of the titles they release.

If you're movie doesn't have any actors or celebrity names attached to it then it won't get marketed outside of the standard insert in a movie distributor catalog.

So once you do secure a movie distribution deal you're already giving your movie a boost by promoting and marketing yourself.

My mind is all over the place today, so let me get back to finding a movie distribution deal. Hold up please. A nice Miller Lite would help me focus right now.

That's much better now. There are different ways to land a film distribution deal. You can spend the money doing the film festival route. Deals get struck all the time at film festivals.

But honestly there is a glut of film festivals. The number of film festivals is way out of whack compared to the number of movie distributors that release independent films.

Skipping the film festival circuit works for many independent movie producers that don't have name actors in their film or know their story won't appeal to an art house crowd.

Hiring a film sales representative is a good call if you skip the film festival scene all together. A film sales representative or producer's rep has contacts with movie distributors to get your movie screened.

Plus many of them can get you into magazines like Indie Slate and MovieMaker to make your movie look more appealing to movie distributors.

They also watch your back when it comes to movie distribution agreements. When filmmakers look at movie distribution agreements it can be overwhelming.

There is lots of legalese "mumbo jumbo" in there designed to lessen the amount of money you make from movie royalty payments or a straightforward buy-out of your movie.

Unless you have experience reading movie distribution contracts it's easy to get taken advantage of. I'm in the habit know even if I have a films sales representative like "El Tigre" watching my back I still read all contracts completely.

You will be surprised at the hidden fees and costs some movie distributors try to get over on a filmmaker with in of all places, the contract definitions section. 
My film sales rep and I once found a flat fee of $50,000 for marketing costs in the definitions section.

Hiring an entertainment attorney is another good move, but usually is too costly for a truly independent filmmaker. Plus from my own experience an entertainment attorney is not as helpful as a film sales rep with securing a movie distribution deal or getting you some press.

That's not really the job an entertainment attorney. They're great when it comes to negotiating your movie distribution contract. But most won't get you a deal like a film sales rep. You can bring them in after you have a deal on the table.

I had two sharp entertainment lawyers that saved my ass from getting burned when it came to sell a reality show I produced called "America's Wildest Bachelor Parties." They got me a producer friendly contract and got me paid on time each quarter. I'm glad I hired them.

If it's just not in your budget to hire a film sales rep or entertainment lawyer you can still secure meaningful movie distribution hustling hard yourself.

Promoting and marketing your movie online is followed up by putting together a clean and neat film package to send to movie distributors. Keep it simple with a DVD screener, one-sheet artwork, tight synopsis, tagline and very short bios for key cast or crew that have previous IMDB credits.

To get a list of potential movie distributors see what companies are releasing movies in the same genre as yours. The Internet makes it pretty easy to find contact information nowadays.

Movie distribution companies usually have a contact page for film submissions. Follow the guidelines and mail off your film package. They get a flood of film submissions, so be patient if you don't hear back right away.

Movie distributors have certain times they are aggressively seeking films to fill their catalog and other times they have all they need for now. I have the buying months written down.

Once they get your film package they will Google your movie. That's where having been promoting and marketing your movie online really stands out. It takes more than only having a website or blog.

You need some press and backing from online film bloggers to make your movie standout in the eyes of movie distributors.

I dedicated a chapter about movie distribution in a book on indie filmmaking I wrote. It might help you with more detailed movie distribution information. All the best with marketing and selling your movie.

Get the inside scoop on writing, producing, directing, and movie distribution at Slice Of Americana Films. Check out the life and times of filmmaker Sid Kali.

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May 11, 2012

8 Mistakes Filmmakers Make That Kill Their Career

 Written By: Elliot Grove

As your filmmaking career starts to grow, it's crucial that your actions don't strangle it in its infancy.

By avoiding the mistakes that so many filmmakers make you have a far greater chance of succeeding well beyond the first 2 years of the launch date of your career.

1. Doing Too Much Yourself

Business owners as well as filmmakers fall into this trap as they attempt to minimize costs. It can mean that you will get bogged down in the day-to-day nitty gritty, keeping you from stepping back and taking a good hard look at the future. Future planning, and with it, the ability to anticipate problems, are two important areas successful filmmakers have to keep control of. Doing too much can mean that the fire-fighting cycle just keeps repeating over and over again.

Coupled with that is the guilt associated with neglecting family and personal relationships. This often leads to exhaustion and collapse.

Why not call for extra help before you need it, and not after the cracks have begun to show, and usually, it is too late.

2. You Don't Know What You Don't Know

Most filmmakers start their career because they are really good at something. Some are really good at directing action, others have a flair for working with actors, and others are just good solid all-rounders.

What many filmmakers forget is that it is a business which involves a host of different skill sets. They forget that filmmaking requires the basic business management skills such as: sourcing new clients and work, marketing and publicity, recruiting new crew and staff, and managing the cash flow questions that any small business has. Add into this the creative mix and you have the potential for a meltdown.

Running and more importantly, developing and expanding your movie career is like growing and developing any type of business. It is unlikely that you will have the expertise to do everything needed yourself.

Successful filmmakers learn to recognize their own skills and knowledge and take action to fill the gaps in their career plan.

3. Quitting The Day Job Too Quickly

A filmmaker or screenwriter's passion in what they are doing is usually so high that they enjoy some initial successes and revenues. They then quit their day jobs and hire premises and staff - only to face psychological and financial ruin when their early successes have been a minor blip on the long hard haul to a successful career.

Everyone needs money in order to survive. Make sure you are able to cover your monthly expenses before you ditch your day job.

Done correctly, you might be able to apply for funding or enjoy certain strategic tax benefits depending on your personal profile and the geographical territory you live in.

4. You Haven't Got Anyone To Talk To

Filmmakers have career issues which often require discussion and debate. The difficulty facing most filmmakers is that they find it very difficult to find anyone they can relate to.

Certain legal and technical challenges can be discussed with an accountant or lawyer. But issues of creativity are not the issues you want to discuss with inappropriate people.

Having no network is potentially very damaging. Discussion with a trusted adviser or friend is where one finds new ideas and perspectives. Having your project and ideas endorsed is also nourishing for one's ego. Lukewarm receptions can indicate that your ideas are not developed enough.

A small network of trusted people able to 'get' you and to listen and discuss ideas with you is an essential part of a filmmaker's success.

5. Working With The Wrong People

Filmmaking is a passionate business. It is also almost always very last minute. Add on top of that, the chronic fatigue. Under these circumstances it is tempting to hire people for production and other jobs quickly without properly interviewing and checking references.

Remember, no matter how good someone is, if there's a difference in values, then the only questions that matter are "When will the row happen?" and "On what subject will it be?"

Always be asking yourself: how much real experience do they have? Is it relevant to what you need? Are their skills and experience complimentary to yours? Do you have mutual respect? How important will you be to them? Do they know their own limits? What networks and contacts do they bring? Will they let you talk to their previous employers/collaborators to get a feel of how they work?

As always, don't agree to work with anyone until you feel comfortable. And make sure you have written contracts in place for any creative collaboration.

6. Lack of self awareness

Many filmmakers are afraid of admitting their fears and inadequacies because they don't want to lose the mantra of praise that they want to follow them everywhere. They won't take any criticism from anyone because they don't trust them and because they believe they know better. When confronted they usually nitpick ridiculously fine details and refuse to entertain the creative or practical suggestions from anyone else.

This makes it very difficult to develop a team, and as the word spreads, they find fewer and fewer people willing to collaborate with them.

Successful filmmakers are brutally honest about themselves. Get some vital feedback from that special and trusted friend.

7. Staying In The Comfort Zone

Most filmmakers work with the same team members over and over again. There is nothing wrong with this - except - who is challenging and testing you and your ideas?

It's an easy trap to surround yourself with 'yes' men. Working with people who challenge you may be uncomfortable, but it's a whole lot easier then attending a disastrous screening of your movie because no one around you had the courage to say "hang on a minute - what about XYZ?"'

Hip, innovative filmmakers pick up those cool ideas from outside their conventional thoughts. They learn to accept constructive criticism and learn how to deal with negative criticism.

Mixing with others will increase your chances of doing this. The more diverse your contacts (whether by sectors/age/ethnic group/gender), the more you'll also be able to "narrow the angles" on potential incoming problems; someone in your group will have had experience of issues that you haven't - better to learn from others' mistakes than get extra battle scars yourself!

8. Not Knowing Why You Want To Make Movies

Filmmakers make movies for many different reasons. It doesn't really matter why you want to make a movie. Some make movies because they want to make money. Others make movies to get a message across. Others make movies because they are attracted by the allure and glamor.

Decide what your ambitions are before you head off and attempt a career in fillmmaking. Realize that your real reason for making movies will predetermine much of what you try and achieve.

By avoiding, at least to some degree, these eight common mistakes your filmmaking career has a much more decent chance of success. Analyze each of these eight areas and take appropriate action.

Elliot Grove founded Raindance Film Festival in 1993, the British Independent Film Awards in 1998, and Raindance.TV in 2007.

He has produced over 150 short films, and 5 feature films. He has written eight scripts, one of which is currently in pre-production. His first feature film, TABLE 5 was shot on 35mm and completed for a total of $278.38. He teaches writers and producers in the UK, Europe. Japan and America.

He has written three books which have become industry standards: RAINDANCE WRITERS LAB 2nd Edition (Focal Press 2008), RAINDANCE PRODUCERS LAB (Focal Press 2004) and 130 PROJECTS TO GET YOU INTO FILMMAKING (Barrons 2009). His first novel THE BANDIT QUEEN is scheduled for publication in 2010.

Open University awarded Elliot an Honourary Doctorate for services to film education in 2009.

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May 13, 2012

Olloclip Lens Review And Comparison

At IFD, we've just gotten the iPhone filmmaking bug. Since we sell film equipment, our first thought was to start retailing iPhone gear so we can have some office goodies to play with.

So far, we've picked up an iPhone stabilizer - which we will post a footage of soon - and the Olloclip lens system. For now we will review the still photo capabilities of all three lenses (wide angle, macro and fish eye) verses the standard iPhone lens. 

These photos were downloaded directly from the iPhone without any touchup to simply show the difference between each lens. 

First, we will look at the wide angle lens. This photo was taken approximately three feet away from the 'subject' - in this case a bookshelf below my television - and added nearly a foot of coverage on either side of the photo. The photo turned out well, however the focus does seem slightly softer than the standard lens and we experienced a slight 'fisheye' effect - mostly around the top and bottom which would most likely be cropped - while in photo mode. This lens seems more effective in video mode upon first use. More to come on that in the video review of these lenses. Overall, it is an effective lens that definitely captures more in each shot for a great price, one of the best wide angle lenses we've tested that is made specifically for the iPhone. 



Second in the lineup is the fisheye lens. For this test we decided to use the exact same subject in the exact same location. The effect is great, it reminds us of our days making skate videos with a Sony VX1000 and a fisheye lens. Oh the nostalgia! The edges to blur and soften a bit but the drop is very slight when you consider the miniature and affordable glass you are working with. We definitely plan on using this for some fun city shots and maybe we'll create an awesome little clip during our upcoming video test!



The third and final lens in this kit is the macro lens. To test the macro we needed a different subject. We noticed that we could use the carrying bag that the Olloclip comes with. So we decided that would be a perfect test subject. With one look at the comparison photos you will realize that if you want to get some great detailed shots, this lens will completely dominate the capabilities of your standard iPhone lens. We will take some additional photos soon as we believe this lens will make the iPhone a serious tool for beautiful close up shots!



Overall this is a great set of lenses. The kit is small enough to fit in your pocket without really noticing. We are using them and would definitely recommend them. They are really fun for stills and great for video. In our upcoming video reviews we will use the iPhone stabilizer - which you can purchase here - as well as the Olloclip lenses - purchase here - which have slightly different results when you are taking video. Check back soon for a video review and video footage!

December 05, 2011

The Lookout; Film Review

High school hockey star. Popularity. Friends. Babes. Parties. Life in the fast lane. Hard to attain. Easy to lose. One mistake, and 'poof' it's all gone, just like that. Mr. Popular, Chris Pratt, played by Joseph Gordon Levitt, is living the life. It's prom night and four friends are headed to a party. But before they do, they have to see the mating ritual of these fireflies that light up once a year at the same time, just before they die. Of course driving past them is not enough, all the Mustangs lights must be turned off. It's beautiful. Like driving through the stars. The lights are left off a little too long and the night turns from a thing of beauty into a night of life altering destruction, leaving two friends dead and his girlfriend without a leg.

Four years later, Chris is still struggling with the wreck. He's had some brain damage that made him a little bit slower physically and mentally than he was before the wreck. The change in is life style is drastic. He has one friend. He's not popular. No more sports car. No more girls. Life in the fast lane? He's not even on the freeway.

Extremely guilt ridden over the accident and the change in status has made him bitter and angry. He's fighting with all his being to get back to the way things used to be. He hasn't accepted his new way of life, even though not accepting it is causing him more pain and heartache. He wants things to come as easily as they once had. And therein lies the problem. Never before has he had to be patient, to struggle, to fight, to fail over and over, and to stick it out and hang in there to get anything in life. It was all so easy. But now he's on his own. Nothing is going to be given to him on a silver platter, and since he hasn't learned how to struggle and to be patient to get what he wants, he heads into a little bit of trouble, trying to make it happen.

His best friend and roommate, Lewis, played by the charismatic Jeff Daniels, is blind. His blindness has made him more perceptive with all his other senses. He brings a comic light to the movie with his talkative nature and his witty dialogue. He cares for Chris and genuinely wants to help him as a friend would. Chris is taking a class to help him with his day to day tasks. He has a hard time remembering what he has to do throughout each day and also with sequencing events that have happened. He keeps a notebook on him that helps him to remember if he has any appointment or if there is anything that needs to be done. Lewis gives him some tips to help him out with his sequencing. His tips are working for Chris.

Chris get very angry throughout the beginning of the film whenever he is incapable of completing a simple task, and justifiably so. Constant disappointment would eventually begin to wear down on anyone. Itís said that the last thing that we lose is hope, and constant disappointment can be a precursor to losing it. Chris also wants to return to his glory days. He is continuously fighting against thinking about his past. The way his life once was. People with troubled pasts are always told to stop thinking about the past and focus on the present and the future. Well for Chris, the same could be said about people that had a considerable past and lost it.

Chris works at the local bank as a janitor, though he wants to move up and become a teller. His boss doesnít think he can handle it and when asked about moving up, heís very condescending to Chris and pretty much tells him to stick with being a janitor.

Chris decides to go out to a bar one night and meets Gary Spargo, played by Matthew Goode, who says he was two years ahead of Chris and that he was in the same class as his sister. They get to talking and having a good time. Chris opens up to Gary. Soon Chris is hanging out with Gary more often and is introduced to Luvlee, played by the beautiful Isla Fisher. One thing leads to another and Chris and Luvlee are a couple. Gary and Luvlee are leading him down a road of their choosing, with Gary convincing Chris that attaining what he once had is possible.

Lewis starts questioning Chris about his new friends and Chris doesnít give too much information because he knows Lewis wonít approve. Lewis smells a rat and questions Luvlee. She clams up also. Lewis doesnít like the situation but thereís not talking Chris out of it. Gary finally reveals to Chris that they are planning a heist and that they need him to help, since he works at the bank. The rest of the movie sees Chris slowly being lead down the wrong path, but will he realize it before itís too late?

This is a great film that is more focused on the character study of the protagonist than on the actual heist, which is refreshing in a way. Though heist films that focus strictly on the heist are usually great, the drama and plot of this story make it great in its own right. Superb acting all around with talented actors that have impressive resumes and skills, great locations, and wonderful direction make for one very entertaining movie.

December 05, 2011

Graffiti Verite : A Series

Hip-hop is a familiar phrase that can encompass a variety of meanings. For some it is a form of dance, for others it is a style of clothing. For director and producer Bob Bryan it is a culture that is misunderstood by many, including those involved in it. In response, Bryan created the Graffiti Veritè series that dispels mainstream assumptions and reflects the creator’s passion and love, not just for hip-hop, but people as well.

“My series is meant to engage people intellectually and otherwise,” Bryan said in an interview. “…Hip-hop is much broader than big booties, gang-banging and bling-bling.”

Specifically looking at “GV9 Soulfulways: The DJ,” Bryan is able to reveal the technical skills required in a turntablist as well as the impact spinning has on the hip-hop movement. He interviews a variety of people from DJs to emcees to painters and allows them to express their own opinions about the subject.

“I kept the narrative strictly from the mouth of those who were actually doing the actions,” Bryan said. “I really wanted to be inside.”

By creating a film fueled by the artists, Bryan is not just telling a story about spinning. He is telling a story about people, who create the sounds that the untrained ear mistakes for background noise. He is telling a story about a culture that is not just limited to DJs or rappers or painters or dancers. It is a movement that includes all of the above.

Bryan started his series after moving from New York, where he grew up with a specific notion about graffiti art. He described trains as moving art galleries and was used to seeing these styles from his upbringing.

“When I came to LA, I realized the expression…is completely different from New York,” Bryan said. “After being exposed to LA graffiti, I decided if I didn’t know the true story of LA graffiti art, nobody did.”

Bryan completed various jobs for various companies and gradually moved up the ranks and gained enough experience to start his own company. His first project was “Graffiti Veritè: Read the Writing on the Wall.”

Since the first film was released in 1995, the series has expanded to 11 films, which cover all facets of the hip-hop culture. The latest production, “GV11: Don’t Believe Da Noize,” is the first film in Bryan’s two-part series that looks at hip-hop as a whole.

It allows viewers both inside and outside of the culture, to see hip-hop in a way other than through the eyes of mainstream media. The film acknowledges pioneers of the underground movement and the difficulty such artists can encounter with mainstream competition.

GV11 explores a world that Hollywood historically exaggerated or misconstrued. It brings to light deeper aspects about hip-hop and points out that this movement is unique its applicability to so many different forms of expression.

“Hip-hop is a dialogue, is an expression, is a communication medium,” Bryan said. “It’s a multi-intelligence model…Various people with various skill sets are able to come to hip-hop and express themselves. It’s not like any other art form you’ve ever seen.”

The series has gained critical acclaim from sources at Harvard University to the LA Times according to Bryan. He attributes this success to his desire to “turn people’s lights on.”

“I just want the dialogue,” Bryan said. “I think very few people talk about things anymore. They’ve been silenced for whatever reason.”

Bryan brings dialogue. His series is fantastic in the way it exposes the grime and glamour of hip-hop. The movement is not about fame and fortune, though sometimes people assume it to be. The movement is about expression, and Bryan is doing his part in expressing himself.

He said everything reflects its creator, and for the Graffiti Veritè series, we can see the passion and love Bryan has for his work and people. The realist in him comes out in the film’s style, but his compassion comes out when you understand why he has created such films.

“If you really look a my work, it’s literature,” Bryan said. “Everything I do is about positivity and love.”

The twelfth film is currently in production, which Bryan said looks at the darker side of hip-hop. He said he will explore materials like gangs and racial slurs, and how the hip-hop movement was able to give ownership to these otherwise hurtful things.

The films need not be watched in numerical order, but they should be watched for anyone interested in hip-hop. The series gives an invaluable look at the culture through the eyes that are living it and will be certain to open your eyes no matter if you are inside or outside the movement.

For more information on the Graffiti Veritè Series please visit :

November 20, 2011

Reservoir Dogs: Review

Welcome to the criminal world, Tarantino style. Plenty of blood, violence, and swearing and a great story in the middle. Beautifully written and shot this movie grabs your attention and never lets go. Job: Steal a shipment of polished stones - diamonds - that came in from Isreal. Location of job: Local jewelery shop. Number of men needed for job: five. Time needed to complete job: 2 minutes. Sounds easy enough right? Maybe not. Joe, the big boss, and his son Eddie, played wonderfully by the late Chris Penn, bring together five of their most trusted criminal friends and aquaintances for a diamond heist.

None of them know anything about each other which is how Joe wants to keep it. He instructs them not to offer any personal information about themselves to each other. No names, no history, nothing. That should keep everyone safe in case one of them isn't as trustworthy as they thought. He also gives each one of them an alias. Mr. Brown, Mr. Blonde, Mr. Blue, Mr. Orange, Mr. White, and Mr. Pink. "Why do I have to be Mr. Pink. It sounds like Mr. P****y. Can I pick my own name. I'll be Mr. Purple." "No you can't pick you're own names becaue everyone will want to be Mr. Black. You will be Mr. Pink. Be thankful you're not Mr. Yellow." It's great dialogue like this that make this movie that much more entertaining to watch.

Mr. Brown, who we don't see very much of, is played by Tarantino, and he's the wheel man. He waits patiently in the car for the rest of the crew to complete the job. Mr. Blonde, Mr. Blue, and Mr. Orange played by are crowd control. They keep everyone in check. "Someone steps out of line, smash the butt of your gun into the bridge of their nose. That will keep everyone too scared to be a hero." Just like Mr. Brown, we don't see too much of Mr. Blue either, but we see Mr. Blonde throughout. He's the crazy one. The man with no boss. The old term that someone has blood as cold as ice, well that's him. Calm, cool, calculated. Will he ruin the plan by going too far? Mr. White and Mr. Pink, played by Harvey Keitel and Steve Buscemi, are the men who'll take the manager to the back to get the stones. Mr. White plays the character that is lead by his emotions. All the decisions he makes seems to be based on emotions whether it be anger or empathy. Mr. Pink is the opposite. Rational. Straight to the point. Doesn't let emotions get in the way of making decisions, and he usually seems to be right.

November 20, 2011

Usual Suspects: Review

The greatest trick the devil ever pulled, was convincing the world that he didn’t exist. New York. Five felons put into a line up for the theft of a truck load of gun parts bound for destruction. We have Dean Keaton, played by Gabriel Byrne, a former NY Police Officer who was kicked off the force and jailed for criminal activity and who is now trying to go straight. Then we have Michael McManus, played by Stephen Baldwin, the crazy one. He likes to stir things up, and doesn’t hesitate when it comes to violence or killing. Fred Fenster, played by Benicio Del Toro, is McManus’ right hand man. He’s a wise ass, slickster type with his unbuttoned shirts and slicked back hair. Next come Todd Hockney, played by Kevin Pollak, who cares for no one but himself. He’s good with bombs and afraid of no one. Rounding out this group of misfits is Verbal Kint, played by Kevin Spacey, who is a physically handicapped, zero confidence having man.

But what happens when you put a group of criminals together in one cell? They plan their next job, of course. They end up doing a job together and when it’s complete, they go to California to make the delivery and collect the payment. When the same people offer them another lucrative job offer will they take it? And will it be one job too many? Is there more going on than is being told? And who is behind the strange events that seem to keep occurring?

This is a complex story with a lot of turns that keeps you guessing throughout viewing. Written by Christopher McQuarrie and directed by Bryan Singer, this movie is meant to be entertaining and that it definitely is.

November 20, 2011

Pioneers of Independent Film: Wes Anderson

If the names Dignan, Zissou or Tenenbaum sound like alien attributions, then Wes Anderson must be just as foreign. If these names are in fact familiar, you be familiar with this director’s work and at least have a vague idea of his contributions to the independent film industry.

The closing of the 20th Century marked the initiation of Anderson’s film legacy. At the beginning, he created low-budget pictures that audiences could laugh at and relate to. He contributed to the foundation of independent film making recognized today through these characters and how he portrays life in a quirky, off-beat manner.

Anderson’s interest in film started when he was a kid according to an interview with the British Publication, the Guardian. He started filming homemade thrillers and trying to create pieces like Indiana Jones, Star Wars and his favorite filmmker, Alfred Hitchcock.
His first film for the silver screen started out as a short, which he co-wrote with his friend from the University of Texas, Owen Wilson. The humble beginning included Wilson in the role of the heist-wannabe, Dignan, and his younger brother Luke played Dignan’s friend Anthony.

Less of a caper comedy and more of a movie that reflects the light-hearted nature of its creators, “Bottle Rocket” is about nothing more than three guys trying to fill their time in their hometown. The cinematography is nothing fancy nor are the scenes, but the simplicity of the piece is what makes the film so relatable.

It was initially released at festivals like the Sundance Film Festival until James L. Brooks saw it and fueled the full production, which was released in 1996. Critics were generally approving of Anderson’s fresh take on film making and accepted the sporadic storyline.
“ ‘Bottle Rocket’ is entertaining if you understand exactly what it is: if you see it as a film made by friends out of the materials presented by their lives and with the freedom to not push too hard,” Roger Ebert reviewed. “Its fragile charm would have been destroyed by rewrites intended to pump it up or focus it; it needs to meander, to take time to listen to its dialogue, to slowly unveil character quirks, particularly Dignan's.”

Ebert predicted the creators’ next movie would be better, but called this a good start and encouraging for would-be filmmakers.
From this humble beginning, Anderson went on to create the 1998 comedy “Rushmore,” which began the extensive partnership between himself and comedian Bill Murray. Three years later Anderson collaborated with Murray and the Wilson brothers again to create “The Royal Tenenbaums.”

In his signature fashion, Anderson created a series of events tied together with idiosyncratic dialogue and likeable characters. This movie does set a precedent for him in the realm of character development. He takes risks with allowing them to change in drastic ways throughout the movie and following their changing interactions with the environment

Tenenbaums marked his first Oscar accolade, being nominated for best writing directly for the big screen. Also notable is his acquisition of well-known names for this movie like Ben Stiller, Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Danny Glover. The entire ensemble worked well together on screen to make each of the characters believable yet unique.

Many of these actors would continue to appear in future Anderson endeavors like “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou,” which casts Owen Wilson, Murray, and Huston.

The year 2007 marked his release of the full feature production “The Darjeeling Limited” and a short, “Hotel Chevalier,” which acts as a prologue to the first. Again, he staffs people he was familiar with and this time co-wrote with “Rusmore” star Jason Schwartzman.
Most recently, Anderson’s first animated feature, “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” in the 2010 Academy Awards. Based on a novel by Roald Dahl, Anderson again brings real-life stories to the screen in his charismatically odd way.

Though his career may not be as readily recognized as the works of Quentin Tarantino or Michael Moore for their riskiness, Anderson’s films bring just as much originality to the independent film industry. He covers dark subject matter, but in a light way and proved that quality humor can come in the form of a relaxed, easy-going movie. Anyone looking for a matter-of-fact series of movies that reflect a unique perspective on life should turn to Anderson and will be thrilled.

November 16, 2011

We Went to Hollywood and Got A Facelift!

Hey there, welcome to the all new IFD! As you can see we have just launched a brand new layout that allows us to bring you the latest products and information, improving your overall experience. Take a look at the product store - a great place to find the gear you need at competitive pricing. We accept all major credit cards, PayPal and Google Checkout to make your shopping experience smooth and easy. In addition to the product store we are completely re-working our streaming platform to relaunch in early 2012. Stay tuned for more details. Bookmark IFD and follow us on Twitter for updates, inside information and special deals!

November 12, 2011

Eight Great Independent Documentary Films That You May Not Know

Written By: Brandon Stevenson

"Is Everybody Happy" directed by Tim Marklevitz
"Is Everybody Happy?". The documentary is from first time director, Tim Marklevitz. It is the heartbreaking true story of four friends, their band "Bless You Boys" and the thirteen day tour that changed their lives forever. This film takes a look at the less glamorous side to being an independent band on the road and highlights the difficulties that we all must endure as we try to turn our dreams into a reality.

"American Movie" directed by Chris Smith
In the town of Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin man Mark Borchardt fights to achieve his lifelong dream to become a filmmaker. Despite the fact that he is unemployed, deeply in debt and a borderline alcoholic, he is extremely driven to complete the short film Coven in an attempt to raise money for his feature film Northwestern. After suffering numerous mishaps, mostly due to his poor planning skills and lack of crew - which is limited to his best friend Mike Schank - he begins production and convinces his uncle to help finance his film. Exciting and hilarious, this documentary should not be missed.

"Man on Wire" directed by James Marsh
This British documentary crafts the feel of a high profile heist while retelling the story of Philippe Petit's high-wire walk between New York's Twin Towers during their construction in 1974. Daring and illegal, the near 45 minute high-wire walk was planned as though it was a high profile heist as well. An exciting story about a Frenchman in New York City, this film - without claiming to be so - is a touching tale of a well remembered and important event.

"Herb & Dorothy" directed by Megumi Sasaki
To call them art collectors would be an understatement. Herb and Dorothy Vogel lived a normal life together in a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan. Working as a postal clerk and a librarian, they spent years building a world-class contemporary art collection of ore than 4,000 pieces valued at several millions dollars. The two are extremely modest and quite endearing as the speak about how their lives. This documentary is a truly interesting and exciting story of two amazing people, a simple life and an obvious love for art as well as each other.

"Darkon" directed by Luke Meyer and Andrew Neel
Most of you have probably seen the movie "Role Models" with Paul Rudd and Sean William Scott. If so, I'm sure you found the LARP (Live Action Role Play) scenes to be quite funny. Now imagine that. . .only real. Now you know what Darkon is about. This is a 'real-life game' that allows hundreds of adventure-seekers to escape their everyday lives and become warriors, knights and kings. Entertaining and interesting, these people do not allow their normal jobs to define them instead they allow their imaginations to take control as they escape reality and enter Darkon.

"Jesus Camp" directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady
Controversial and shocking, "Jesus Camp" follows several young children as they attend a Christian summer camp. More well known than some of the other documentaries on this list, "Jesus Camp" has received plenty of media attention due to the content and some of the extreme scenes where numerous children are weeping and promising to stop sinning. Different viewpoints obviously offer varying opinions. One very obvious question that has been asked time and time again, "Are they brainwashing these children?" Their is no doubt that this documentary offer plenty of shock value and causes eyebrows to be raised. Watch it and let us know what you think.

"Dark Days" directed by Marc Singer
Director Marc Singer joins a group of squatters who have been living next to the Amrtrak tracks near Penn Station in New York in order to tell the story in this documentary. Living in near total darkness, they use leaky pipes to clean themselves, they cook, sleep and live their lives here as they have been doing for years. They are given a 30-day eviction notice by Amtrak during the filming of this poetic documentary. There were many struggles to complete this documentary as this first time filmmaker spent years in post production and insisted on maintaining creative control in order to protect the documentaries homeless subjects that he lived with for months. Having won several awards, this is a great documentary that should not be missed.

"Dogtown and Z-Boys" directed by Stacy Peralta
Another great documentary which was Directed by one of the original Z-Boys, Stacy Peralta, I actually found this film after watching the 2005 film "Lords of Dogtown". Focusing on a group of young surfer/skaters out of Southern California, "Dogtown and Z-Boys" tell the story of the Zephyr Surf Shop and the creation of the Zephyr Skate Team. A small group consisting of mostly rough necks living in the urban community of Venice, CA. This documentary was financed by Vans and tells an amazing story of a quick rise to fame, fortune and how quickly it can go away.

November 12, 2011

Indie By The Decade

Written By: Jamie Loftus

What is independent cinema? Ask anyone off the street and you may get an answer that’s universally disappointing—that is, the kinds of movies with a handwritten title and an acoustic soundtrack instead of what it truly can be. There has been a recent trend in mainstream movies making films appear more handcrafted while still being funded by gigantic Hollywood machines in a sea of high-budget franchises, leaving the landscape relatively dismal. Who has conquered the real indie landscape in the past? Here’s a classic from each decade built from the ground up that isn’t to be missed—no fakers (we’re looking at you, Juno).

The 1960’s
Or, the New Wave conquers all!

The ’60’s did a lot more for the rise of indie cinema than the decade gets credit for--between the crop of directors that came to prominence thanks to B-movie auteus Roger Corman, audiences were becoming more receptive to the weird and the unexpected--that is, what Hollywood couldn’t give them. So when George Romero’s cult classic Night of the Living Dead was released in 1968, a film the would ultimately earn back its budget over a hundred times over, audiences were alternatively shaken and delighted at a film so masterfully combining the gross and the entertaining and engagin in the racier cinematic conversation that would continue into the 1970’s. Combining political subtext, an original vision, a little humor, and buckets and buckets of blood, there’s no way this movie could go wrong.

The 1970’s
Or, the decade when a porno shot in your garage could become a lucrative commodity.

You’ve probably never seen Sweet Sweetback Badassss Song (1971), and it’s for a good reason. A great example of all of what a blaxploitation film should be- - that is, something written with stirring controversy and angering the white public in mind, Melvin Van Peebles’ film is hardcore rife with themes still taboo in film today. Despite all this, including a still-controversial scene featuring a 13-year-old boy having sex with a prostitute, the movie was a success and stands as proof of what an indie film could accomplish during this mainstream porno heyday (or, before anyone could afford a VCR or knew what a hard drive was). Sweet Sweetback was a raunchfest, but one that was made for cheap, got people talking, and dealt with everything traditional Hollywood turned its eyes to, as well as heavily targeting a black demographic with success.

The 1980’s
Or, when franchises held the industry in a vice grip.

The 1980’s brought us some classic movies that still have gigantic surroundings to this day, but few came at anything less than a staggering cost. As many indies drowned, the end of the decade brought some well-deserved recognition to the movies people were missing all over the world, exemplified in Giuseppe Tornatore’s Cinema Paradiso in 1988. The film, written and directed in Tornatore with a distinct auteur feel and following the life of fictional Italian filmmaker reflecting upon his childhood during World War II, the movie takes on a homemade and heartfelt feel that can only be achieved through singular vision and lack of distraction from the studio machine.

The 1990’s
Or, the decade festivals make indie cool.

It’s easy to choose a Tarantino film and call it a day, but Hal Hartley’s wonderful Heny Fool sneaks in just before the turn of the century with a fresh perspective and a success not unusual for an indie in the 1990’s. With the rise of Sundance and the success of films like Tarantino’s and Stephen Soderbergh’s sex, lies, and videotape, audiences were becoming more receptive to new voices in film and trusting where to find them. After winning the best screenplay at Cannes, Henry Fool became a shoo-in for a cult favorite. The story of a socially challenged trash collector and uninspired novelist, it’s no wonder this provocative film was received so well.

The 2000’s
Four Eyed Monsters Or, the decade where new media changes everything.

This film, made by Susan Crumley and Arin Buice, is a great example of finding ways to extend a film’s life beyond the too-short festival circuit. Originally made in 2004 and following the filmmaker’s relationship closely, the film garnered a lot of positive attention in the 2005 festival circuit, significantly at Brooklyn International FIlm Festival and South by Southwest, but fell flat from there. What comes in the wake of this critical praise? Podcasts, Youtube, Kickstarter campaigns, and anything a modern filmmaker can do to reach out and engage with their hungry fanbase.

Oh, and did we mention it’s a damn good movie to boot?

As this decade develops, there’s no clear way to tell what way independent cinema is headed as filmmakers continually struggle with finding success beyond the festival circuit. Will we continue to support these endeavors, or fall victim to the Hollywood handwritten-titled movies of yore? Time can only tell.

November 12, 2011

Cashing In

Written By: Claire Philipi

I think I figured out why the economy stinks. Everyone is trying to make a movie. I am reading more and more stories about people leaving the financial world, literally running from money, and running off to make a movie. As romanticized as an idea this may be, it is no easy feat. It’s no bailout. But, there are those few that have taken their destiny into their own hands and taken a strong run at Hollywood.
Brit Marling, the “it girl” of this years Sundance, valedictorian of her Georgetown class, and former intern at Goldman Sachs, has carved out a path for herself unlike any other young starlet. She co-wrote and starred in Another Earth, part sci-fi, part melancholy love story. A story of a promising young student who on the eve she is accepted to MIT a new planet, “Earth II” is discovered. While driving home from a celebration she crashes into a family, putting the father in a coma and killing the wife. Instead of going to college she goes to jail.

“I always started writing in order to act,” Marling explains. “I don’t know that I could have the discipline to sit down and write if I was going to give it away. That would be too hard. But I love to act in stories that are outside my imagination because I can only conceive of so many things from my point of view. The thing that’s intoxicating about being an actor is that you get to live in someone else’s world for a while and I hope to do more of that.

“But I think I’ll never stop writing now because I’m wondering why there aren’t more representatives of women that are like the women we know," she said. “Where’s the film with the women who are complicated and strong and beautiful and sexy and interesting and of all body types? You don’t get to see enough of them. So there’s something important in attempting to write them for myself and for the insanely talented women out there.”

Bryan Hopkins left his career as a Quicken Loans banker to try something more creative. He cashed in his savings and enrolled in film school. “I was working to get paid and trying to have fun on my off hours,” he said. “I decided that philosophy wasn’t working…Now I’m trying to claw my way up and make up for 30 years I spent doing other stuff.”

The force behind the Sarah Palin documentary, The Undefeated, is Stephen K Bannon: former Goldman Sachs Mergers and Acquisitions Investment Banker turned filmmaker. He has produced documentaries on Ronald Regan and why liberal social changes were behind the economic meltdown and not institutions such as his former employer. He has become a darling of conservative documentaries. "because unlike (leftist gadfly filmmaker) Michael Moore, we don't have the $20 million in print and TV ad money from the Weinsteins and Disney. We really have to do everything kind of bootstrap."

November 12, 2011

The Arbor

Written By: Jamie Loftus

When walking into “The Arbor”, one doesn’t expect anything radical; after all, it’s listed as a “documentary”, so one prepares themselves for two hours of voice-over footage over clips of this and that, leading to a heartwarming conclusion. It wasn’t until the movie began that I realized I had learned to expect all these tried-and-true techniques in a documentary, and the film was certainly able to put me in my place.

The story is not terribly complex, following the life of young playwright Andrea Dunbar, a British woman from the slums who is faced with the near impossible task of juggling success, single motherhood, and her losing battle with alcohol. However, her story ends less than halfway through the film when she dies of a brain hemorrhage (in none other than a pub) in 1990 at age twenty-nine; the focus then shifts, and we see how this death came to affect her three children.

Thanks to debut director Clio Barnard’s challenging of what a documentary is, this story transition is both seamless and engaging, straying as far as possible from typical Biography Channel fare. Barnard, who has directed several documentary shorts in the past but never a feature, spent two years gathering authentic interviews with those around Andrea—most importantly her eldest daughter Lorraine, whom the latter half of the film revolves around, but we are not subjected to face-on footage of Dunbar family members shifting awkwardly. Instead, Barnard introduces us to a staged reality, using the genuine audio of Andrea Dunbar’s family lip-synched by a series of actors. This accomplishes an aesthetic unheard of in most documentaries, using a variety of angles and lighting techniques to achieve emotive visual effects while still telling the story in an authentic way.

As the film progresses from coping with Andrea’s death to her daughter Lorraine’s forays into heroin addiction and ultimately the death of her addicted son Harris in 2007, Barnard digs into archival footage of Andrea Dunbar’s career to live performances of her most famous play, “The Arbor”, right in her hometown. These elements blended with the striking performances of the actors and a diminished reliance on music—how many times has a story been drowned out by emotive synth music?—and keeps the story moving. The play, which concerns a teenage mother coping with her alcoholic father, begins to parallel Lorraine’s life to spooky proportions as the story continues.

However, the most important character in “The Arbor” never says a word. This is the setting itself, a slum in Bradford, West Yorkshire at their home, Buttershire. For the Dunbars, all roads lead back to Buttershire whether in the racist, heroin-laden 1980’s or its current bleak, recovering image. Poverty is the norm and anyone who, like Lorraine, shares any heritage that is less than white is shamed and bullied. Barnard makes it clear that Lorraine faces this struggle alone, as her two siblings, Lisa and Andrew, were parented by white men, but still leaves it to the audience member to decide which Dunbar they side with. Lisa and Andrew resent their older sister for actively speaking out and blaming their mother Andrea for her problems later in life, while Lorraine sees it as simple fact. Barnard makes her point at the film’s climax in which Lorraine’s foster parents and partial caretaker for her lost son Harris break down—at the end of the day, pointing fingers will not make a difference. With unlikely beginnings, two-year-old Harris is a poignant reminder of the destructive results of poor parenting, and whether the fault lies in Lorraine or Andrea will not bring him back.

Clio Barnard has done extensive work in studying the construction of a documentary and what makes one effective, working as an installation artist for many years before she began to create documentaries herself. By being receptive and willing to entrench herself in the depths of the Dunbar family controversies while bearing in mind her personal knowledge of the documentary structure, Barnard is able to create a masterful, heartbreaking work that pioneers the field. “The Arbor” has won Clio Barnard the Douglas Hickox Award at the British Independent Film Awards, as well as a crop of nominations from BAFTA and the London Critics Circle Film Awards, acknowledging newcomer Manjinder Virk’s masterful playing of Lorraine Dunbar and Christine Bottomley’s equally moving portrayal of middle child Lisa Thompson. Released in 2010, “The Arbor” continues to make its rounds although it never received a wide theatrical release, remaining in Boston for a few weeks and then moving on to New York.

November 12, 2011

Buried, An On Demand Film Review

Written By: Brandon Stevenson

For a film that started with a budget of about five grand, Buried has gone quite far.

From landing well known star Ryan Reynolds in what is by far the best performance of his career, to gaining a slightly (sarcasm) larger budget of approximately 2 million and grossing nearly 20 million worldwide this film is sure to become the calling card for many of the obviously talented individuals involved in the production. I would imagine that the Director Rodrigo Cortés and writer Chris Sparling must be quite proud. While I would like to know how much of the budget went toward the actual production of the film and how much went toward Ryan Reynolds' salary, it is quite irrelevant as it is obvious that someone made great decisions based on the final product. Reynolds' performance is amazing and it isn't a stretch to say that he is the film. It is just over 90 minutes and the opening scene, closing scene and everything in the middle remain in the coffin with Paul Conroy, played by Reynolds.

For those that are already feeling claustrophobic watch this film at your own risk, the entire film remains inside of the coffin. While this is the most serious role of his career, it is not 100% smirk free. You may be curious how one would create a reason to laugh, smirk or create any form of comedy while buried alive. If I had not seen the movie, I would most likely be thinking the exact same thing as the mere thought of being buried alive is a scary enough premise to make me cringe. However, you must watch the film as I believe that revealing the quip would require far too much explanation and therefore result in spoilers.

While I watched this film last year in the cinemas it wasn't until my second watch, at home, on demand that I felt prepared to write about the film. Honestly, both viewing experiences were bothersome to me. Cortés has an ability to shoot this film in a way that keeps you interested from the very beginning. The writing by Chris Sparling is nothing short of incredible. Match that with Reynolds' acting chops that you never knew he had and you've got yourself a movie. One that could easily have you attempting to tell the television what you want to happen next.

After writing an article that relentlessly pitches the film, I will say that I don't believe it is flawless. There is one small detail that bothers me. However, yet again this revelation, I feel, would result in another potential spoiler and I am not willing to approach that possibility.

That being said, those of you who are looking for something rare in the days of explosions and special effects should watch Buried during your next movie night. This Hitchcock-influenced piece of cinema is created by matching a character driven story that is nearly non-existent in modern films with camera angles and lighting that will entertain you in a way that no other coffin-based experience will.