The line-up for the Sarasota Film Festival has been announced and I am very proud of what we’ve been able to put together. 168 films from 30 countries, dozens of filmmakers and industry scheduled to attend, our Filmmaker Tribute to a resurgent John Landis, our Opening Night celebration of The Extra Man, our Closing Night screenings of Saturday Night and on and on. But of all of the things we’ve worked on this past year, nothing is more important to the festival and its future than our new Investors Lab, which we are launching this year.
Over the years, artists have been able to come to Sarasota and leverage their attendance at the festival to make connections with private film investors. While those relationships have always been casual, that informality has seen the festival pinned with a strong reputation as a place to find investment, for better (introducing investors to film projects and companies) or worse (various peripheral figures seeking to use the platform of the festival to leverage our event for their own purposes). In 2007, I wrote a proposal to the festival’s leadership seeking to formalize this process into an Investors Lab, as a way to legitimize the process of connection projects to investment and to eliminate third party issues that invariably arise when the smell of money is in the water. The idea was flirted with as people and proposals came and went until this year when, with the full support and under the leadership of the Sarasota FF’s Board members, I was finally given a green light to explore potential creative projects to fold into a Lab environment.
In a series of meetings this past winter, I was able to find a great deal of interest among production companies and artists that I have long admired (and with whom the festival has worked in the past) and once we had these creative participants in place, members the Board began the push hard for financial entities to attend and get involved. One of the things that distinguishes this Lab from the good, creative development process of other Labs (like Sundance) or investment markets (like the important work of the IFP) is that it is a focused, highly curated assembly of artists with a proven track record of creative success and a good mix of professional institutional film investors with individual investors which, we hope, will foster relationships and the development of new films from leading voices in the independent film community.
Somehow, it has all come together and we’re set for April 16-18, 2010. And the location isn’t bad either; we’ve got longtime Sarasota FF supporter The Longboat Key Club and Resort to host the event..
Poolside at The Longboat Key Club
Our lineup of projects and companies is as follows:
Ira Sachs, Marie Therese Guirgis, Michael Ryan (The Goodbye People)
Anthony Bregman and Stefanie Azpiazu (Likely Story)
Joshua Astrachan and Lucy Barzun Donnelly (Locomotive)
Steve Buscemi, Stanley Tucci and Wren Arthur (Olive Productions)
Josh Braun (Submarine Entertainment)
Ted Hope and Anne Carey (This is That)
Ben Foster and Oren Moverman (The Third Mind)
Lab participants will be meeting with top investment executives from the leading film finance organizations including Akin Gump, Aladdin Capital, Cantor Exchange, Comerica Bank and Myriad Pictures, among a host of other executives and individual investors. Speakers and panelists include Dennis Rice, Alexia Garcia of WME, Roger Friedman of The Hollywood Reporter among many others.
In addition to the private meetings and panel discussions at the Lab, we are highlighting one of the projects at the Lab as a sort of Centerpiece. This year, we’re hosting an intimate staged reading of the screenplay Queer , directed by Steve Buscemi, written by Oren Moverman based on the novel by William S. Burroughs on Friday April 16, 2010. Steve and Olive Productions are casting the reading now, and it promises to be a very special cast for this very special screenplay. The hope is that, seeing the project on its feet in a Lab environment will provide a safe platform for exploring the script while generating interest in the project.
While other festivals have decided to dip into day-and-date and/or VOD distribution models (and, in some cases, into direct competition with the distributors and the DIY filmmakers who feed their programs with films), it is our hope that we can make an impact at the opposite end of the cycle, nurturing projects and fostering support for artists as they seek to create work that will give shape to the cinema we love. It is not a financial decision for us– the festival is not participating in any deals. Instead, it is very important to us that we realize our vision of helping artists and continuing to develop our festival into a meaningful place for business to take place. Investment is a natural fit for us, and while am looking forward to see where this goes, I can’t say for certain that deals will happen. That’s the nature of the beast, but in my mind, it’s better to do this now than never to have tried.