BIZ: Independent Feature Market Gets Down to Business with "King"
by Anthony Kaufman
Making movies is really, really difficult. Nowhere is this more deeply and painfully felt than the IFP's annual Independent Feature Film Market, now in its 21st year, where novice and experienced filmmakers gather at New York's Angelika Film Center seeking recognition, cash, and careers (and let's get this straight now, chances at getting acquired during the Market proper are about zero). This year's program includes 326 projects (51 features, 66 works-in-progress, 40 shorts, 89 scripts, and 80 documentary projects), an 18% decrease in total work and a 50% decline in screening features from last year's line-up "allowing for better opportunities for those selected," according to an IFP press release. Let's hope so.
Kicking off the one-week market tonight is a special screening of "Joe the King," actor-turned-director Frank Whaley's filmmaking debut which premiered in Sundance's Competition section and went on to garner distribution from Trimark Pictures. (For more on the film, follow our link below for our interview with Whaley.) Produced by the New York team of Robin O'Hara and Scott Macaulay ("First Love, Last Rites," "Gummo," "What Happened Was"), the film was chosen not for its affiliation with the IFFM or the IFP, but in the words of IFP Executive Director Michelle Byrd, because it "reflects the combination of innovation and experience that characterizes this year's IFFM." Let's hope so.
Of the features screening at this year's market, those with name talent attached have already garnered some trade press, but as we know from many an Amer-indie, mere actors do not a good picture make. Rosanna Arquette and Galaxy Craze appear in Tripp and Michael Swanhaus' "Pigeonholed," Soleil Moon Frye and Wil Wheaton topline Irene Turner's "The Girl's Room," "Oz"'s Terry Kinney stars in James Ryan's "The Young Girl and the Monsoon," and Penn Jilette and "Homicide"'s Melissa Leo star in Charlie Ahearn's "Fear of Fiction."
On tour from the festival circuit come a few recognizable titles: Ron Judkin's Sundance competition film "The Hi-Line," Ken Yunome's 1998 Cannes selection, "island, alicia," Tim Rhys' "Men in Scoring Position" (No Dance, Chicago Alt, Avignon/NY), Les Berstien's "Night Train" (Chicago Underground, Fant-Asia, Sitges), James Westby's "Anoosh of the Airways" (Sarasota, Hollywood), Fredrik Sundvall's "Hostage" (Hollywood), Stu Pollard's "Nice Guys Sleep Alone" (USA Comedy Arts Festival), and Michael Sergio's "Under Hellgate Bridge" (Avignon/NY).
With narratives features often a mixed bag at the market, many look to the documentary entries for the next strong project. Last year's documentary Academy Award nominees included two former IFFM participants, Matthew Diamond ("Dancemaker") and Liz Garbus and Jonathon Stack ("The Farm"). To compensate for the increased interest in docs, this year's 80-project selection is an 80% increase over the 1998 IFFM. Some notable names in this year's entries include Susan Todd and Andrew Young ("Americanos: Latino Life in the United States"), LAIFF entry "Pop and Me," directed by Chris Roe, and Bill Plympton and Walt Curtis' "Walt Curtis: The Peckerneck Poet."
Many veteran filmmakers are leaving the frenzied activity of the Angelika behind in favor of the more civilized private meetings set up within the No Borders Co-Production Market. For projects well on their way into production, No Borders serves those films seeking a helping hand for completion. Notable documentary projects in the section include "La Boda," from director Hannah Weyer ("Arresting Gena") and co-produced with Jim McKay, Jesse Moss' "Con Man," exec produced by Liz Garbus, and "Women and Genocide" from directors of "The Brandon Teena Story," Susan Muska and Greta Olafsdotter. Fiction films to look out for include "Black Enough," to be directed by Cauleen Smith ("Drylongso"), "Last Seen" from Eva Ilona Brzeski (who received praise for her shorts "24 Girls" and "This Unfamiliar Place"), "Sluts!" from "I Think I Do" director Brian Sloan and Strand Releasing, and the long-awaited return of Jennie Livingston ("Paris is Burning") with her fiction debut "Who's the Top?" about a young lesbian's wacky trip into the world of S&M.
The IFFM also includes a sidebar devoted to new films from Canada. Jeremy Podeswa's "The Five Senses" got its start in the New Voices: Canada program, though it should be noted it didn't hook up with Fine Line until after completed and well received at Cannes and Toronto. 5 new works will screen, 4 of which premiered at the Perspective Canada section this week in Toronto. Additionally, a new section IFFM Rough Cuts will showcase 10 full-length works-in-progress.
And with diverse panels all week, ranging from the popular Meet the Buyer series (where attendees get 45 minutes with reps from among others, Fox Searchlight, Sony Pictures Classics, Miramax, Fine Line and USA Films), to discussions on international sales agents, sound, editing, digital production and distribution, documentaries, et. al., you'd think the IFFM would foster some connections between cash-short filmmakers and industry-ites looking for talent. Well, let's hope so.