Author: Michael Connelly
If you are one of those people who went to film school and still cannot understand why they did not teach you how to get a job in the film industry, then I suggest that you stop complaining, gather up all the creative, hard working film production people you know, make yourself an independent film and enter it in some film festivals. If you win an award at a prominent film festival your life may change very dramatically for the better. Even a small award at a small film festival will more than likely set you on the path to having a career in the film industry.
Most people attend film schools with big dreams of working in the Hollywood film industry and possibly even making a name for themselves. They have visions of red carpet interviews, Academy Awards acceptance speeches and stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. However, most of them will never see those dreams come to fruition and they will face endless frustration and disappointment instead.
After graduating from film school most people are expected to break into a business that is considered to be one of the most difficult in the world to find employment, unless you have connections, of course. For the ones without connections, it can be very frustrating. Unfortunately for them, the Hollywood film industry is run by a tight knit community that practices nepotism and rarely opens the door to newcomers.
If you want to break into Hollywood but your last name is not Barrymore, Begley, Cyrus or Sheen and the only connection you have is a cousin who manages your local movie theater, then your best chance of success is to make an independent film and enter it in film festivals. If you place in the top three of any category you enter you will usually be asked to send a film print of your movie so it can be screened to audiences that attend these events.
Film festival audiences are a combination of film critics, media reporters, film distribution representatives, film fans, celebrities and local residents. These are the people that can create a buzz about a movie after they see it. When a buzz is created about a movie at a film festival it usually starts in the theater lobbies and then works its way out into the media where it can take on a life of its own. If this happens to any independent film it is destined to succeed, and the independent filmmaker who made the film springboards into a career in the film industry. Just ask Robert Rodriguez or Quentin Tarantino about the value of film festivals and they will tell you.
Winning a top award at any film contest is a good thing for anyone who makes movies. With an award comes publicity, and publicity is the life blood for filmmakers and their careers.
Film distribution companies send people to film festivals to purchase products and they always follow the publicity to find their products. Many of the purchases they make are small movies made by people with very small budgets. An independent filmmaker can make a good profit from one of these distribution deals and make themselves bankable at the same time. If they can sell their movie to a distribution company, there is a good chance that they will be able to make more films with bigger budgets using money from investors, instead of their own hard earned money.
It is very important that you choose the right film festivals to enter your movie if you want to increase your chances of winning an award. Of course it would be nice to win a major award at an event like the Cannes Film Festival, The Toronto International Film Festival or the Sundance Film Festival. But you have to be realistic and set your sites on a contest that is friendly to small independent filmmakers and their independent films. Worldfest Houston International Film Festival and the Austin Film Festival are two examples of the type of film festivals that are friendly to this type of people who work with small budgets and big ideas. There are hundreds more contests out there and they come in all shapes and sizes.
The Cannes Film Festival, The Toronto International Film Festival and the Sundance Film Festival are the biggest and most publicized movie contests in the world. Unfortunately, they are also the most difficult ones for small independent films to be accepted into because of the high standards and politics that they employ.
Most of the films that win awards and get screened at the Big Three film festivals are made by independent film production divisions of the Big Six film studios like Warner Bros and Disney. By definition they are still considered to be independent films if no more than 50 percent of the funding comes from a major studio. But that fifty percent is usually millions of dollars, and this puts the production value in a whole different league than the movies that are made by small time independent filmmakers with miniscule budgets. Also, most of these big budget festival films have big Hollywood stars attached to them which makes them irresistible to the contest judges and management.
The Big Three film festivals have been invaded by the Big Six film production studios with big budget movies masquerading as independent films. This makes it very hard for a film that was shot with a digital camera on a shoestring budget to compete at Cannes, Toronto and Sundance. These kinds of films have a much better chance of winning an award at a film festival like Worldfest Houston or the Austin Film Festival because they are more interested in showcasing film talent than they are catering to the Hollywood film industry. Choose your film festivals wisely and you will increase your chances of winning an award and securing a distribution deal.
Reclusive US director Terrence Malick clinched the Palme d'Or at the Cannes film festival for "The Tree of Life", a fantastical family drama uniting Brad Pitt and Sean Penn on screen.
Malick did not turn up at the gala awards ceremony Sunday, after which jury president Robert De Niro said the epic had "the size, the importance, the intention, whatever you want to call it, that seemed to fit the prize".
Kirsten Dunst won acting honours for her turn as a depressed bride facing the apocalypse in "Melancholia" by Denmark's Lars von Trier, who was expelled from the festival for making an awkward joke about his sympathies for Hitler.
"Well, what a week it's been," she quipped, referring to the scandal which marred what critics otherwise hailed as a vintage year at the world's top cinema showcase. She skipped a post-ceremony press conference.
Despite impending jail-time, two convicted Iranian filmmakers, Mohammad Rasoulof and Jafar Panahi, are screening new films at the Cannes Film Festival this week that could put their legal situations in jeopardy. But both filmmakers were willing to take the political risk.
“The worse case scenario is that I’ll have to go back to jail if the Iranian authorities don’t approve,” Rasoulof said on the phone Wednesday from Tehran, speaking through a translator. “Hopefully, I’ll be able to bring some books.”
The mob scene of a couple thousand critics pushing and shoving, pleading and shouting, to get in; the hushed anticipation as the film began; and at the end, the belligerent booing answered by defiant applause. What stoked the rucks? Not a Brad Pitt movie, though the dreamboat star has a central role, but a Terrence Malick film. And who, ask the children raised on Spielberg and Michael Bay, is Terrence Malick?
This morning's world premiere of Malick's The Tree of Life — hands down the most avidly anticipated film at Cannes 2011 — had all the angry urgency of legendary Festival screenings from the 1970s. Mary Corliss recalls the congestion at the old Palais at the first showing, in 1979, of Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now: the crowd was so tightly packed that it lifted her when it surged forward. As she was swept from the lobby into the auditorium, Mary's feet literally did not touch the ground.
Crowd-sourcing – getting audiences to pony up to finance films – is the latest buzzword in Hollywood financing circles. But the new English romantic comedy A Tortoise in Love has taken the idea one step further with an entire village stepping up to bankroll a feature.
In a scene right out of, well, English romantic comedies, the residents of Kingston Bagpuize and Southmoor (pop. 2,000) banded together to write, direct, finance and star in Tortoise.
The story follows lovelorn local gardener Tom. When his very English attempts to woo Polish au pair Anya fall flat, the whole village chips in to help.
Before the packed SXSW world premiere of The Beaver, the new Jodie Foster movie starring Mel Gibson, there was an interestingly anxious energy in the air. What would it be like to see Gibson on screen again? Could an audience give themselves over to his portrait of a severely depressed man who copes by communicating with the world with a beaver hand puppet? Or would his ugly tape-recorded voice, which too many indulged in listening to when his rageful phone conversations with ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva went public last year, play as background noise?
Here’s the thing: In the film, Gibson plays a man who hates himself, a flattened, desperate father who has made a wreck of his family (Foster plays his wife; the deeply interesting young actor Anton Yelchin his teenage son). His demons are dark and powerful, and yet the performance is quiet and dear. In some ways, it’s the only role I can imagine inspiring any compassion in audiences for Mel Gibson.
This movie you are about to read about was shot on a $1700 Canon DSLR camera.
The first big sale at Sundance went down in an all-night bidding session, and the one walking away with "Like Crazy," the festival's hottest movie, is an unusual player on the indie scene: Paramount Pictures.
At the studio's celebration of its new Insurge Picture label (held just off Park City's Main Street Saturday night), a horde of ski-jacketed would-be party-people crammed the lobby outside a roiling, thumping venue.
While revelers pushed to the front of the line, the studio was across town trying to do the same for director Drake Doremus' heartbreaking long-distance love story about a young couple trying to stay together despite circumstances keeping them half-way around the world from each other.
Paramount chief Adam Goodman emerged from the bash with a cat-who-ate-the-canary smile, having heard praise about the movie all night from those who caught its Saturday afternoon premiere.
He had just made an offer. By dawn, his company had sealed the deal.
Sources close to the sale tell EW exclusively that the movie sold for $4 million -- a solid number for a Sundance pick-up.
It sounded like a dream job: plop down on a couch, throw some popcorn in the microwave and spend your days watching movies.
That's what Christine Davila thought, anyway. The 32-year-old Los Angeles resident had spent years toiling as an assistant to a number of Hollywood producers before she finally got a shot at her ideal gig — working as a programming associate for the Sundance Film Festival, the annual independent movie mega-event that kicked off in Park City, Utah, this week.
Davila landed the job in 2008, and every year since, she's been paid to screen hundreds of hours of film for the festival's international section. From June to November, she has to meet a quota: watch 200 films. After viewing each, she fills out an elaborate "coverage" form — writing a synopsis of the plot, sharing her opinion on the film's production quality or storytelling, noting if any famous actors or directors are involved and ranking it overall from 1 to 5, with 5 being the best. Her comments are used to help determine which movies make it into the prestigious festival.
Filmmaker Kevin Smith went on a two-a-half-hour Twitter rant Monday, defending his decision to handle distribution for his religious horror film "Red State."
In the profanity-laced messages, he denied that he misled distributors at a Sundance screening Sunday night when he promised to auction off his $4 million movie after its premiere, only to buy it himself for $20.
"In the Tweet that launched a thousand angry bloggers, I VERY specifically said "... I plan to pick my distributor in the room — auction style..." Then, EVERYONE ELSE said I was selling the movie. But I never said that. Very specific wording," his message began.
What the Venice film festival lacks in star power this year it hopes to make up for with an unusually young list of directors and the appearance of some of Hollywood's more enigmatic figures.
With the irrepressible Quentin Tarantino heading the jury that hands out the coveted Golden Lion at the end of the September 1-11 event, it is fitting that mavericks and misfits more than movie royalty look set to steal the headlines.
"In a way Venice can still hold itself up and say 'we've got the edgier American people coming, as you have Vincent Gallo and Monte Hellman, for example," said Jay Weissberg, film critic for trade publication Variety who is based in Italy.
"It makes it look as if they are holding up the art side of cinema."
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