Film Scouts Diaries

1996 Independent Feature Film Market Diaries
Beginner's Luck

by Kathleen Carroll

Sept. 24, 1996

Beginner filmmakers from all over the country competed for attention at the 18th Independent Feature Film Market last week. Some were, as usual, looking for a Prince Charming, a distributor who would care enough about their fledgling features to actually show them in theaters. Others were struggling to find some extra cash simply to complete their film projects.

Raising money for "indie" production requires aggressive salesmanship as well as sheer nerve. One of the panelists during the market's informative trade forum told of a filmmaker who realized that his only financial asset was his car. According to the story he managed to get into a series of minor accidents, using the insurance money to finance his film.

Resorting to insurance fraud is hardly a recommended practice. And fortunately most of the "indie" filmmakers at the Market stuck to more conventional forms of fund raising. They simply networked like mad in the espresso bar of New York's Angelika Theater.

The rookie directors automatically pounced on anyone who looked mature enough to have a possible connection with the film business. Eagerly accosting perfect strangers they instantly launched into one-minute plot descriptions of their projects. Attention spans are notoriously short at IFFM so speed is of the essence.

The filmmakers are often accompanied by relatives who, because they are probably major investors in the films, tend to get a bit carried away. Your Film Scouts reporter was enjoying a quiet chat with a friend when a woman bolted across the room, waving a publicity flyer and saying ""Come to my granddaughter's film."

The filmmakers arrived at the market, dreaming of being singled out as the next Ed Burns whose smash hit debut film, "The Brothers McMullen," originally caused a sensation at the IFFM. Burns clearly has had the luck of the Irish.

This year's freshman class naturally hoped for an equally big break. "I made it to show I can be a major Hollywood player," said Univ. of Illinois graduate Rob Pileckis while introducing a promotional trailer for his genteel romantic comedy "Dear Saint Anthony." Pileckis was among those filmmakers who were showing just fragments of their films in an attempt to raise completion money and to attract possible distributors.

Interestingly it was these "works-in-progress" that seemed to be cause the most buzz. Pileckis shyly explained the plot of his film. "St. Anthony, the finder of lost trifles tries to help a lady find a lost library card," said the film's star, writer and director. Unfortunately for all of its obvious sweetness and charm "Dear Saint Anthony" did not appear to arouse much interest, leaving one to wonder if Pileckis shouldn't be offering a special prayer to St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes.

Texan Kim Flores, the writer, producer and co-director of "Vocessitas" (Little Voices), tried a friendly, down home approach. "We are working on the movie's second cut," she explained. "It's pretty darn good." "You all come back you hear," said Floris as the lights went on.

It was Lisa Lewenz who truly electrified the jaded but polite market audience with "A Letter Without Words," her documentary-in-progress. The film contains a treasure trove of historic footage - exuberant home movies taken in pre-Nazi Germany by Lewenz's late grandmother.

Lewenz's efforts to piece together the story of her grandmother's life reveal a remarkable woman who, although Jewish, continued to capture such surprisingly jolly-looking friends as Albert Einstein on film. She dared to use her camera even in 1933 when, as Lewenz pointed out, "It was illegal to make films without the written permission of Goebbels." Not surprisingly Lewenz was surrounded by prospective buyers at the end of her teaser screening which was so compelling one can't wait to see her completed documentary.

Back to Independent Feature Film Market Diaries

Look for Search Tips

Copyright 1994-2008 Film Scouts LLC
Created, produced, and published by Film Scouts LLC
Film Scouts® is a registered trademark of Film Scouts LLC
All rights reserved.

Suggestions? Comments? Fill out our Feedback Form.