Thursday, March 17, 2011

Reel Dialogue: SXSW Spotlight

On Wednesday, in the midst of all of the SXSW festivities [madness] Reel Women had the pleasure of hosting a Dialogue with an esteemed panel of filmmakers and film programmers. The guest speakers consisted of programmers Jennifer Wilson with Film Independent and Los Angeles Film Festival, Jane Schoettle from Toronto International Film Festival, and filmmakers Janet Grillo who directed “Fly Away”, Anne Buford who directed “Elevate” and Mike Nicholson, editor/co-producer of the documentary, “Better This World,” all of which screened at SXSW.

Sherry Mills, Reel Women’s Executive Director and moderator of the Dialogue, got the conversation rolling by asking some general questions about film festivals. In the end, the Dialogue largely centered around the significance of festivals, taking chances and, basically, the fact that there really is no ‘I’ in ‘team.’

Film programmer, Schoettle urged everyone, educate yourselves about the festival world.” For example, the panelists said that it is important to bear in mind that some festivals only want your film if it’s the world premiere. Make sure you’re clear on what you want out of a festival.

“Ask yourself, ‘who’s the audience?’ ‘What do I want out of the festival?’ And shoot for the top,” added Schoettle. “No guts, no glory!”

Even if you don’t get in to the festivals of your choice, all’s not lost. Mike attributed a lot of his motivation and hard work to festival deadlines. The panelists also stressed the importance of budgeting for festival fees (e.g. admission fees, travel expenses, copies of the film for submission.)

Moreover, don’t underestimate the significance of legal counsel and (the boring, though necessary) procedures. One example they used is this: You and a friend are making a movie—what happens if you break up?” Who gets the rights to the movie? Make up a contract. Certainly something to think about, lest some great movie be tied up in litigation and never come to fruition …

During the Q&A session, one attendant asked Anne Buford advice for a novice filmmaker. “Talk to people,” Buford urged. Ask questions…Ask those that you admire to talk to you for even ten minutes, and go to things like this [meeting].” All panelists agreed that you’re only as good as those you surround yourself with. Grillo compared the system to that of a bicycle wheel—the director is the center where all the spokes connect, but you need all those spokes for things to go round.

“No one should be above getting coffee,”
said Anne. “I’ll get coffee. I’ll carry the bags.”

This statement was coming from someone who looked as if she had stepped off a New York runway; and you can tell she meant it. To put it in perspective, she quoted Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine and fashion icon: “We’re all hired help, you know.”

Remember what Alma Kutruff said about ‘everyone being a PA on the Coen brothers’ set’? Synergy is what makes a great film work, and no one seems to be able to stress that enough. The general consensus from the numerous meetings, dialogues and interviews that are on my radar is that equality is key, and making a movie is truly a team effort.

So remember, kids…be willing to learn and work hard, and be humble, but shoot for the moon.

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