I have had the pleasure of being one of the lab leaders at
the IFP Filmmaker Lab for the past five or so years where I help run
the distribution and marketing component of the labs. Each year, the four times I travel to New York
for the labs are some of the highlights of my calendar. Yet I am continually amazed by the number of
first time filmmakers that I talk to that didn’t apply to the lab (and many had
not heard of it!).
In recent years, films such as David Thorpe’s “Do I Sound Gay?,” Leah Meyerhoff’s “I Believe in Unicorns” and Stacie Passon’s “Concussion” participated in the labs.
“Above all else, the IFP Labs taught me that I could not wait around for someone else to give me permission to make my film. I needed to decide to make it myself, on my own terms. Specifically, I learned to set a start date and not look back,” said Meyerhoff.
So as the deadline
for the Documentary Lab looms (March 6, with the Narrative application due April 3),
I thought I would take a little time to encourage filmmakers to apply – you
never know what might happen.
Here are 10 Reasons You Should Apply:
1. It’s the first of its kind. It’s a post-production, distribution
and marketing lab that helps shepherd first time filmmakers through the
difficult aspects of not only creating the best film possible but also the
often arcane post-production and delivery process.
2. It’s not a one-time
lab. It takes place over six-seven months and meets three times each session
building on your progress and what you learned the last time. The first session is focused on editing and postproduction, the second on marketing and the third on distribution. Your film is assigned a mentor who is with
you during these months. You also get continued support from the amazing team at IFP.
3. You get fresh eyes on your film. During the post-production session, you get feedback on your edit not only from a super experienced editor, but also from the aforementioned folks at IFP and your peers in the lab.
4. You’ll make connections. Speaking of peers, each lab creates a close knit group of friends who then proceed to help each other out not only through the post process but through the arduous and at
times elating and at times discouraging process of distribution and marketing.
5. You’ll develop a strategy. It is the only lab that helps you develop a distribution and marketing strategy for your
film. Many of the films in the lab receive some form of traditional distribution deal – but many – like most films – create some form of hybrid release – combining unique theatrical, broadcast, merchandising and
digital opportunities. We bring in industry experts to discuss the latest trends and workshop what might be the
best distribution strategy for your film.
6. We help you identify the audience for your film. You’ll figure out ways to connect to that audience and bring in a panel of industry experts to review and hone your
marketing strategy and materials.
7. You’ll stand out. Your project is elevated within the independent film community. Of the 50,000 films made every year – yours is one of 20 selected by one of the premiere film organizations in the world. People will pay attention to it.
8. You’ll be part of IFP’s Independent Film Week. Once accepted into the labs, you are automatically included in IFP’s Independent Film Week either in the Spotlight on Docs or Emerging Narrative. This is an amazing program designed for films that are just about to hit the marketplace – you are teamed up with top notch film festivals, distributors, aggregators, broadcasters, service providers who are all interested in your film. The marketing lab is timed to help you hone your materials and pitch right before you go out and present your film to the industry.
9. IFP will be your partner after the labs are finished. IFP will make calls on your behalf, they will help you give birth to your film
through festivals, screenings etc. Nearly every film that has come through the lab in the last few years
has received some form of distribution from the incredible DIY approach of John Henry Summerour’s “Sahkanaga” to Dee Rees’ “Pariah.”
10. It’s Free. All of the above
for the low low price of $0! Its Free – you just have to get yourself to NYC three times a year. Unlike many other labs – this is a one time opportunity – only open to first-time filmmakers with films in post-production – so if that’s not you – sorry, share it with a friend. If it is you – why not
take the plunge?
Jon Reiss is filmmaker (“Bomb It,” “Better Living Through Circuitry”) author (“Think Outside the Box Office”) and media strategist who works with filmmakers, companies and organizations to help them utilize the most recent techniques of direct film distribution and audience engagement. His upcoming books concern new models of artistic entrepreneurship and the Producer of Marketing and Distribution. He also teaches in the Film Directing Program at Cal Arts. His web site is: www.jonreiss.com or you can find him on Twitter.
READ MORE: Attention, Filmmakers: Apply to These Short Film Grants