Producer-turned-festival programmer and overall champion of independent film Ted Hope has lately been percolating with ideas for how to energize independent film and ensure that up-and-coming filmmakers receive both the financial and critical attention they need. In two recent pieces on his blog, aptly named Hope for Film, Hope has proposed a couple of innovative ideas to support indie filmmakers: one involves established filmmakers reviewing new filmmakers work (see details below and read the full post here) and the other idea suggests that we all support crowdfunding campaigns for our favorite filmmakers' latest projects. Read more about that here.
One of the big failures I see in #IndieFilm these days is the lack of real peer review and support. There are some nice exceptions, like Paul Thomas Anderson's support of "Breakfasts with Curtis." But more of us need to champion the work we love of others. We are in this all together and we have to reach beyond our personal boundaries. I want to help change that. So...
Years ago I helped start HammerToNail.com with the idea that it would be filmmakers posting reviews and interviews of the films they loved. I felt we could be the filter and curator for the true indies -- as they weren't (and still aren't) getting the coverage they needed to succeed. I am very pleased the site is still going. Filmmaker Michael Tully (who has Ping Pong Summer at Sundance this year) has done a great job as editor. Still though even with that as an example the idea of filmmakers championing each others work has not caught fire the way I hoped.
So here's what I will agree to do: Any filmmaker with a movie at Sundance or Slamdance this year, be it a feature, short, doc, or narrative, that would like either myself or a well known filmmaker to review your film, email me and provide a password protected link. If you want another filmmaker to review it, tell me your top three recommendations to do it. If I like your film, I will then do my best to get either one of your recommended filmmakers or someone like them to review it. I know a lot of great filmmakers, so I can be of help here. If you want me to do it, just say so. I will agree to watch and review at least 8 films. We will run the reviews on HammerToNail.
I will also provide links and additional commentary here. WE WILL ONLY RUN POSITIVE REVIEWS. If we don't like your film or would write negative things, we won't write anything. We will never tell anyone you sent it to us.
We will run the reviews when you want us to run them, but I would recommend we do it BEFORE the film premieres so that we can help build buzz for your movie. For years, when I was still producing for my living, and thus taking films regularly to Sundance, we would set up screenings or send DVDs to major critics to make sure we would get covered in their Sundance round up -- this was particularly key when the film might be a lower profile title. It helped tremendously.
Granted, calling the films from Sundance or Slamdance "disadvantaged" is a bit off, but still many of the best films at each festival fail to develop an audience. And as these fests come at the start of the year, why not get off on the right foot?
Good films do not get seen. It's time other filmmakers stepped into to help lift the good work up.