The best place to see the big ol’ Super Moon this weekend was probably Palm Springs, which was definitely the best place to watch the 300-odd shorts films assembled by Kathleen McInnis and the big ol’ Palm Springs International Festival of – yes — Short Films. While the locals went to the movies, the hundreds of attending shorts-makers — especially those who don’t want to remain shorts-makers — networked, partied (same thing) and availed themselves of the panels McInnis coordinates each year, in an effort to provide news-you-can-use for fledgling directors, producers and writers.
A session on marketing your existing “content” (including what exactly “content” means anymore) included Sharon Badal of Tribeca Film, Ted Hope of the San Francisco Film Society, Jonathan Marlowe of Fandor and Derry O’Brien of Network Ireland Television; a panel on actually creating marketplace-driven content was populated by James Stephenson of Nickelodeon, David Poynter of TNT, Anna Kokourina of Fox and Kevin Iwashina of Preferred Content.
Slightly less well-attended was a panel on movie-centric media, but the turnout may have been symptomatic of how up-and-coming filmmakers view traditionally-focused media outlets, including on-line-only venues. What can a trade publication, or celebrity obsessed website, do for someone with a short film? Not a lot.
Far more successful for very obvious reasons was a panel on making a pitch — to studios, TV production companies and in this case, the writers on the panel: Tommy O’Haver (“Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss,” “Ella Enchanted”), Robert Ramsey (“Life,” “Intolerable Cruelty”), Katherine Lindberg (“Rain”), Alexi Hawley (“Castle,” “Body of Proof”), plus Brian Banks, who as a production exec at Nickelodeon takes a lot of meetings. The session was largely interactive: More courageous members of the audience rose, gave a pitch and listened to the feedback, which was blunt: The pitchers either hadn’t worked out their whole story, or polished their presentation, but at the same time there was nothing at stake but a quick education.
However: The panel that always brings out the angst (and was moderated by this writer, FYI) was called “Lawyers, Gun and Money” and involved some very influential people. They included Peter Trinh and Nick Ogiony, agents at ICM and CAA, respectively; the actor’s manager Troy Nankin of Wishlab; and lawyers Matt Galsor and Stephen Breimer, who collectively delivered the most edifying information for an audience hungry for a reality check, amidst an entertainment landscape of amorphous reality: Rather than trying to get to them, they said, do the work. Make the movies they want to make. When the filmmakers had done something good, they were told, don’t worry: We’ll find you.