INDUSTRY INSIGHTS: Ten Tips for Filmmakers Going to Market or Seeking Distribution
By Orly Ravid, founder and co-executive director of The Film Collaborative. Orly is committed to helping artistically and intellectually rigorous and important films reach their respective audiences via a financial model that is sustainable for filmmakers.
Going to a festival / market such as Cannes is exciting. Wine is often cheaper than water. Almost anything you eat there tastes better than almost anything you'll eat here, even though it is a tourist trap. Somehow, no matter how many carbs one eats, one usually still loses weight either because of the hustling and bustling or the fact that the French make their food lighter even when it's rich and they don't use preservatives when we do.... ahh France. But, I digress.
When searching for distribution at or in preparation for, a festival or market, be clear about your goal and the amount of responsibility you have to your investors. You should be conducting a lot of research before you ever hit the market floor to identify which companies will be a good fit for your film. Depending on your knowledge, experience, willingness to take responsibility and the type of film you have, it may be advantageous to sell your film on your own, or it may be better to use a sales agent. Much is entailed with selling a film in different territories and formats and if you do not have experience in doing so, you may be better off working with someone who does. I have some tips for you to follow regardless of how your film will be sold.
NALIPster Carmen Marron's film Go For It! In Theaters This Friday
NALIP member Carmen Marron's film Go For It! opens in theaters nationwide this Friday, May 13! Distributed by Pantelion Films, Go for It! is an inspirational hip-hop dance drama that follows Carmen, a rebellious young Latina living in Chicago, who struggles to overcome her fears and follow her dream to be a dancer. Please show your support for Latino filmmakers and Latinos in film - check local listings to see where Go For It! is showing near you!
Watch the trailer on the film's website, and check out an interview with the film's writer, director and producer Carmen Marron below.
Meet Carmen Marron, Hollywood’s Most Improbable Auteur
By S.T. Vanairsdale, Movieline
The story behind the making of Go For It! - a decade-long DIY saga encompassing three cities, two career changes, at least one extra job, untold failed locations, one broken mirror, and one of Madonna's choreographers, among other distinguishing qualities - is not necessarily so different than that of scores of other hand-to-mouth independent-film productions you've heard or read before. But it's one worth telling, if only because Carmen Marron, the woman responsible for it, is living a dream she didn't even know she had. Indeed, Marron never intended to write, produce and direct this film about a Latina college student (Aimee Garcia) struggling to reconcile her modest family life, her education and her passion for hip-hop dance.
Working as a guidance counselor for high-risk teens, Marron would have been just fine just handing her script and its inspirational message off to a professional (and, as you'll read, she has fine taste in professionals). That didn't happen, which is probably a good thing: Go For It! has since enjoyed a Cinderella run at numerous regional film festivals, eventually landing back in Hollywood, where Lionsgate caught on. This Friday, the studio will make Go For It! the first release under its new Pantelion label targeting Latino audiences.
Ultimately, it's a gamble born of Marron's even bigger gamble, one about which the filmmaker recently spoke to Movieline.
So what's your background?
Actually, I have a bachelor's degree in business, and a master's degree in educational psychology. I used to be a guidance counselor in Phoenix.
How did you wind up in filmmaking?
I guess it was by chance. I was guidance counselor in south Phoenix, and I was working with inner-city kids. I chose to work in that community because it reminded me of the community I grew up in in Chicago -- in Logan Square, which is a rough neighborhood. But as I was working as a guidance counselor, I was working with a lot of these awesome kids who reminded me of my friends growing up who just kept making the same, awful, cliched, choices that were ruining their lives. So I wanted to find a way to reach them, and I saw that what was really influencing them more than anything, unfortunately, was television and film. And so that's when I decided to write a script -- a script about characters that mirrored their lives and would hopefully inspire them to make better choices.
Had you made any short films or anything before jumping right into a feature?
I didn't realize how bizarre it is until I tell people and they look at me really weird, but no. I had no desire to ever become a filmmaker, honestly.
So how did you get to a point where you felt like you could pull this off?
I didn't know! I just knew that I had something I felt so strongly about that I had to give it my all. But my first process was that I took books out of the library. I had met screenwriters with degrees from top film schools, and they said, "Honestly, you don't need a degree; you need to have a story that you're passionate about, and you have to be very visual." So I started reading those books, and I started writing.
When I moved to L.A., I would go to a lot of filmmaking seminars, and I would tell people on the panel what I was trying to do, and I would ask them to read my script and give me feedback. That helped get it to the place where I was ready to go into production. But honestly, I had no plans whatsoever to make the film. I really wanted to give the script to somebody who would take it and make it into a film.
How long ago are we talking about?
This was 2003 or 2004. Anyone I told, "I want to make this inspirational hip-hop dance film; it's going to be a multi-cultural, all-minority cast," everybody would just shy away from it or tell me films with minority leads don't make money. Especially Latinos. They just have a track record of not making money. So nobody was interested. Then I would say after about two years of people closing the door on me and telling me to give it up. I saw Bread and Roses [Ken Loach's film about two Latina sisters' struggles to unionize a janitorial staff in Los Angeles]. Have you seen it?
It's been a while.
Well, I saw Bread and Roses, and I was inspired to no end. I wrote a letter to Ken Loach. He's in England. I found him and I told him I wanted to make this film about these issues of social responsibility, this is what I see, this is what I'd like, can you please, please direct it? If he'd direct it, I thought I could get funding. So I sent him the letter, and about two weeks later, his assistant calls me from London. It was like a turning point in my life. He wakes me up at, like, 7 in the morning and he says, "Ken and I read your letter, and we were very moved. And we really wanted to reach out to you and tell you that you must direct your film yourself." And I just was like, "Say whaaaa?" And he said, "Honestly. You have it all already in your head, and you're so passionate about it. Nobody can tell this story the way you can. The hardest part is finding the money, but once you get the money, it'll all fall into place. Just figure out how to make it low-budget."
I got off the phone with him and was in kind of a state of shock. I remember I called my husband at work, and I said, "I'm going to direct this film. I'm going to make it." And I was going to direct it Robert Rodriguez-style, for like a dollar, and I'm going to get it out there even if I have to take it to one theater at a time across the country. Then my neighbor said, "If you really want to earn money for your film, you should do what I do: I'm a pharmaceutical rep. You can produce your film, and you can create your own hours." And that's what I did. I fudged my resume -- I don't really know a thing about science -- but I applied and started doing that. My husband took a second job, God bless him -- he's an IT consultant. And we spent five years saving.
So in that five years we were saving, I just started watching tons of films -- a lot of director's commentaries. I went to seminars. I took snapshots of films through this program my husband taught me, so I could put together files of how I wanted a scene to look in my film. I started driving around L.A. and Chicago, which is where I knew I was going to film, and I started knocking on doors and asking people, "One day I'm going to make a movie; can I use your location?" Some places went out of business in those years, but the other ones that were around were really supportive.
This is incredible.
It was amazing. And my movie cost more than I thought, because it's a dance film, and I had 17 dancers and four choreographers. I really wanted to do it well, because I wanted people to take it seriously. I shot on the RED, which had just come out. I spent a year casting; I was really fortunate to have all these actors and choreographers. The dancers agreed to work for $100 a day; they just really connected to the script and what the purpose was, I guess.
Once you were on the set, and the film is suddenly a reality, was there ever a point where you actively realized, "Hey, I've got the hang of this"?
I would say it was probably a few days in. The first day was a fiasco because it was my first external day in Chicago, and we filmed in literally 13 hours of rain. It was insanity. And so I was working really hard to make my day. Really, every day was a challenge. We shot the movie in 19 days! But definitely by the end of production I was unfazed because of everything that happened.
Well, besides the pouring rain, on the second day of production, a couple of PA's dropped a mirror. That scene where she's practicing in the garage? And the mirror in the scene is all cracked up? That was actually a nice, big, rectangular new mirror. But they dropped it, they cut their hands, and I was yelling, "Get them to first aid!" Another of the actors had kidney stones, and they day before we were supposed to film in Irvine, he was in the hospital. I had no idea if he was going to show up or not. But I was trying to coax his brother to bring him to the set -- to make sure he shows up. He was a trouper. And we lost a location. The house where we were shooting four days, we lost it, like, the day before. So at 5 or 6 p.m. on the day before we're supposed to shoot, I found a location in Van Nuys. I took photos and sent them to the crew members and said, "Everybody meet here at 6 a.m. the next day." But it's indie. That's how it is.
How did it wind up with Lionsgate and Pantelion?
This is actually inspiring for all those indie filmmakers. Here, I made this film myself. I'm the only producer. I didn't get into Sundance, I didn't get into Toronto, I didn't get into Cannes. Everybody told me, "If you don't get into one of those three, it's the kiss of death. Be happy if get a straight-to-video release." So I said, "I need to find a way to put my movie on the map." What I did is I applied to as many reputable festivals as possible -- ones that had been around for a while. And I started marketing the hell out of the movie on Facebook, or in local community papers. I'd work with a festival marketing person as well.
And we started selling out. The buzz just started getting around because one festival director would tell another festival director. People in Texas would hear about it from their friends in New York. And we started winning audience awards. By the time I got to maybe my sixth festival -- in L.A., just a regular festival -- it was at Mann's Chinese Theater, and it was a Tuesday afternoon at 5 p.m., and we sold out. Literally. People were standing. And somebody at that screening happened to have a friend who worked at Lionsgate, and they said, "You really need to see this movie." Then that festival wound up adding a screening the next day, and the person from Lionsgate came. About 20 minutes into the screening, they texted me and said they wanted me to come to the studio to screen for the execs. I don't even know how he got my number. Probably from the festival or something.
And they were into it?
They fell in love with it. So... you don't have to have a sales rep. Everybody kept telling me that, so I was a nervous Nellie: "I don't have a sales rep! I don't have an agent! I don't have anything!" But it can be done. It can be done.
So after spending years on Go For It!, do you want to continue to direct? Or is this the story you wanted to tell?
You know what? As much as I hated going through all this... Because it was really hell. It was definitely trying for my husband and I, too, because we were spending our life savings on something that my husband was certain wasn't going to go very far just because he knew the odds -- more than I did, really. But honestly, this was my destiny. I feel so connected to my audience and my demographic -- women, teens -- and the stories they want to tell. I'm already writing two more scripts, and I'm hoping to get another one into production before the end of summer. And I can't wait.
Call for Entries: Cinereach Summer 2011 Grant Cycle
Cinereach is accepting Letters of Inquiry (LOI) for its Summer 2011 Grant Cycle. The not-for-profit film foundation and production company supports feature-length nonfiction and fiction films that are at the intersection of engaging storytelling, visual artistry, and vital subject matter. Grant amounts can range from $5,000 – $50,000 per project and can be awarded to support any stage of production, including research and development, production and post-production. There are two grant cycles per year (Summer and Winter). Within each cycle, between five and fifteen projects are selected to receive support.
The LOI submission deadline is Thursday, June 9 at 11:59pm (EST), and full proposals will be requested from select applicants by August 1. Visit Cinereach's How to Apply page to get started.
Call for Submissions: The Economist Film Project
The Economist Film Project is an initiative by The Economist, in partnership with PBS NewsHour, to share the work of independent, international documentary filmmakers with global audiences interested in learning more about our world and its untold stories.
On April 28, 2011, our first selected film, The Edge of Joy, was featured as the subject of a news segment on PBS NewsHour. Films selected for the Project in the future will continue to serve as the subjects of these special news segment on a regular basis through the rest of 2011 and into 2012.
Six to eight minutes of footage from selected films will be included in the news segment. And, The Economist will provide a grant of $4,000 to selected filmmakers to assist with editing the appropriate footage.
Log on to film.economist.com to learn how to submit your film.
It is our mission at The Economist to promote new perspectives, insights and ideas - ideas that help us make sense of the world while also provoking thought and debate. Our shared goal with PBS NewsHour is to support filmmakers who share these values.
Call for Entries: HBO/NYILFF Short Filmmaker Competition
New York International Latino Film Festival and HBO have announced that their Short Filmmaker Competition is back! The winner will receive $15,000 to be used to produce his/her film.
In addition, an HBO executive will mentor and consult the winning filmmaker on all aspects of the production. NYILFF will provide round-trip travel and hotel accommodations for the winner (one person) and a guest during the 2011 NYILFF, such travel and hotel accommodations to be determined by NYILFF in its sole discretion.
Deadline for submissions is June 10, 2011.
Submit today on the Withoutabox page for the competition.
"Let's Talk!" With a Latina POV Premieres on TV
Let's Talk!, produced by Latin Heat Media makes its broadcast premiere on Thursday, May 12th, 2011 on KJLA. The ground breaking daytime talk show scheduled to air weekly Thursday mornings at its 7:30 AM time slot, gives its audience a fresh, new perspective on universal topics that everyone can relate to.
The English-language talk show featuring four dynamic and opinionated Latinas including Emmy-award winning journalist Naibe Reynoso; Actress-comedienne Dyana Ortelli (Curb Your Enthusiasm); Bel Hernandez, Publisher of Latin Heat, a print and online magazine; and Actress and Y-Generation/Green Gal Kikey Castillo is sure to get viewers going first thing in the morning as they prepare to take on the world.
Let's Talk! has what no other network television talk show has, the English speaking Latina perspective in daytime talk. With the U.S. Latina consumer market at more than 23 million strong and a spending power of $479 billion dollars (Hispanic ventures 2010), it is unclear why this very important consumer group continues to be ignored.
Let's Talk! television launch will kick-off with a private VIP celebration on May 11th, 2011 at an undisclosed location. Guests will include Let's Talk! hosts, previous show guests, celebrity friends and sponsors. "We are thrilled to bring our show to the small screen and very excited to celebrate this achievement with everyone that has worked so hard on this project and share this experience with all our friends and supporters," said Bel Hernandez, Executive Producer of Let's Talk!.
The Let's Talk! TV talk show is a celebrity driven talk-fest featuring some of Hollywood's hottest talent. The Let's Talk! broadcast premiere episode will feature actor Benito Martinez (The Shield) who shares his career achievements, current and upcoming projects and also reveals a very personal story about his wife's bout with breast cancer. As part of Let's Talk! commitment to bringing responsible programming to its bilingual/bicultural audience, the show is dedicated to addressing issues that otherwise may not be discussed in Latino households.
Latinos are a large and influential segment of the U.S. population and as such have plenty to say regarding issues affecting all Americans. It's time the US Latina voice was heard and Let's Talk! is the first to do so in this kind of format, expressing the opinions of first and second generation Latinas across the country.
Not only will you be able to see Let's Talk! locally in the Los Angeles area on KJLA (check your local listings) but you will also be able to see these same episodes in the Houston area on MCB-54 and on the web at www.letstalkshow.tv and www.OVNTV.com. For more information regarding Let's Talk!, please visit: www.letstalkshow.tv
Deadline Approaching: Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF)Submissions are now being accepted for the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF). One of the most prominent Latino International Film Festivals in the USA, the festival promotes the richness and diversity of Latin Cinema by showcasing films from the United States, Latin America, the Caribbean, Spain and Portugal. LALIFF celebrates the work of existing and emerging Latino talent while creating a bridge between filmmakers and the film industry in Hollywood. LALIFF serves as a catalyst for the promotion and distribution of Latino films.
The final submission deadline is May 27, 2011.
For details visit www.latinofilm.org
LALIFF presents feature films, documentaries, shorts and special screenings. The films showcase a wide variety of themes by Latino filmmakers, producers, writers and actors, as well as movies that depict Latino culture. It is a competitive festival with prizes and a venue where filmmakers come together with Industry Executives, Latino and general audiences. LALIFF also offers industry panels, workshops, networking receptions, educational programs, and hosts some of the best Galas in Hollywood. We hope you will join us this summer!
The Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival is a qualifying festival for the Narrative and Animated Short Film categories of the Academy Awards.