(Watson-Guptill Publications, 218 pages, $18.95)
By John Anderson and Laura Kim
Making a film is only half the battle. Getting it seen is the other half. For directors of independent films that battle is uniquely challenging. Ideally, they must generate buzz by getting their film into one of a select handful of film festivals like Sundance or Toronto and then successfully navigate their way through the acquisitions minefield. The goal: to attract a major distributor and become the next crossover hit like Napoleon Dynamite or the next Oscar winner like Boys Don’t Cry. Authors John Anderson, film critic for Newsday, and Laura Kim, executive vice president of marketing and publicity for Warner Independent Pictures, know the ropes of this world and throw a lifeline to young filmmakers. After years of observing what works and what doesn’t in the indie arena and seeing some good films torpedoed by bad positioning in the marketplace, Anderson and Kim illuminate this essential, but often neglected, part of the filmmaking process–sales. The writers introduce the key players, who share their experiences throughout the book. Indie godfather Ted Hope, producer of over 50 films, including Friends With Money, In The Bedroom and American Splendor, talks about guiding actor Ed Burns’ directorial debut, Brothers McMullen, from a lengthy film that played like a melodrama, to a more comedic Sundance hit and one of the most commercially successful independent films ever released. Part of his strategy included orchestrating a ‘technical difficulty’ during an early screening of the film, so he only had to show the buyers in the audience the first, strongest 20 minutes of the film, thereby whetting their appetite and setting the table for a Sundance debut that played like gangbusters. Jeff Dowd, a consultant to indie filmmakers and a producer’s rep, talks about enticing journalists to come see a film at the Toronto Festival by throwing an all-you-can-eat lobster party–the director’s father was in the lobster business. Though independent films are now big business and serve as the launching ground for studio filmmakers such as Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins) and Bryan Singer (Superman Returns), there’s still a bit of crazy, shoot-from-the-hip attitude that goes into creating that success, as this book knowingly demonstrates.
Review written by Gloria Norris.