Who could have imagined that IFP's new Independent Film Week would come at such a fitting moment, during a week when local New York theaters are literally jammed with debuting specialty and independent releases all competing for an audience. "Its really crazy," noted the head of a leading studio specialty division in email comments to indieWIRE on the Friday before the first Independent Film Week. He was reacting to the intense competition in theaters this week.
"Look at this weekend," the Indiewood chief said, "You've got 'Thumbsucker', 'Everything Is Illuminated', 'Proof', the Paul Reiser/Peter Falk movie and 'The Corpse Bride' all OPENING head to head in NY/LA this weekend AND competing for the same audience as wide releases like 'Lord Of War' (also opening today), 'An Unfinished Life (which is doing biz) and 'The Constant Gardener'. ITS INSANE. Why couldn't any of these movies have gone out earlier?"
The 27th IFP Market, now branded as the industry component of the broader Independent Film Week that is aimed at drawing New Yorkers to local art house movie theaters, continues through today (Thursday) here in Manhattan with attendees and observers bemoaning the challenges of the business today and trying to figure out ways to navigate a challenging business. The Puck Building on Lafayette & Houston is the hub of Market activity this week as the revamped event highlights meetings over screenings; film showings are ongoing down the street at the nearby Angelika Film Center.
Wednesday at the Market, organizers tapped IFP board members who are active film producers for a panel discussion exploring new federal, state and city tax incentives. Kicking off the discussion, Katherine Oliver (Commissioner of the NYC Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting) made some news by unveiling a new initiative aimed at supporting on-the-job film production training. The workforce training program, to be administered by IFP and the Mayor's Office, will provide up to $25,000 to lower budget New York City based productions (under $3 million), as part of a $150,000 of federal workforce training funds for the pilot program, according to Oliver. She added that they hope to launch the program in the coming weeks.
Anthony Bregman from This Is That, Jeff Levy-Hinte from Antidote Films, Susan Stover from HeadQuarters, Tim Williams from Greene Street Films, and Joana Vicente from Open City Films/HDNet participated in Wednesday's discussion about incentives. Opening the discussion, New York City's Oliver took a moment to tout the success of this year's Made in NY tax incentive program that she said has generated more than $450 million in new business, creating some 6,000 jobs. And she emphasized that the boost has been fueled by independent productions in the city.
A large crowd gathered Wednesday at the Puck for a discussion about the challenging specialty film business today, with Marie Therese Guirgis from Wellspring, David Koh from Palm Pictures, and Nancy Gerstman from Zeitgeist Films on hand. The group chatted about deals, film reps, and box office grosses, with Guirgis later reassuring the crowd, "Most of us at this table, and a lot of people in the business are not in the business of screwing over filmmakers. We love films."
Later in the day, Rosie Perez, Mary Kay Place, and Yolanda Ross talked about the craft of acting during a SAGIndie panel session, comparing their work on indie v. bigger budget movies, talking about the challenges of being a working actor in the business, and more. Asked about why there are so few good roles for women of color, Yolanda Ross offered, "A lot of times studios don’t know how to market women of color, we don’t always have to be a prostitute or a crackhead...there are all of these stereotypical parts. We can just be the girl next door."
One of the ways that these actors are branching out to find better roles is by creating the parts themselves. Place talked a bit about her own writing, as did Ross, while Rosie Perez teased a new documentary that she said will air on IFC next year, it’s a film about the relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico, to air on the network next June.
At lunches earlier in the week, attendees mixed and mingled in between the many panel discussions and formal meeting sessions. On Monday, A & E IndieFilms hosted a B Bar lunch welcoming doc filmmakers, while on Tuesday, a group gathered at Rialto for the Canadian Producers Luncheon hosted by Telefilm Canada.
Thursdays lunch, to be hosted by SAGIndie and The Hollywood Reporter, will include the announcement of this years IFP Market award winners.