The Resurgence of Film Stock, Local Filmmaking for National Impact & A Filmnation Keynote – Notes from IFP Indie Film Week Day 3

New SchoolIt was something of an abridged day for IndieWood/Hollywoodn’t on the third of IFP Independent Film Week, being held at the Film Society of Lincoln Center; nonetheless, another filled with useful information provided by a nicely diverse array of panelists and speakers.  The theme of the day was “Crafting a Career“, a motif mostly relating to the beneficial subjective decisions creators can (and should) make on the otherwise volatile path of career building.  Our first event was in the “Blitz Wisdom” series, this time with innovative animator Dash Shaw, a graduate of New York’s own School of Visual Arts, who’s epic graphic novel ‘New School‘ utilizes color in much the same way a film uses score.  ‘New School’ is a 340 page journey into ClockLand, a main street amusement park priced out of the marketplace in a dystopian world comprised of the most diabolically magical of fantasy kingdoms.  With an engaging and relevant plotline, the graphic novel’s use of color is more reminiscent of a coloring book for artistic prodigies than the (now) banal naturalistic palettes seen throughout the visual arts.

Want The Film Look? Shoot Film” featured a panel of Cinematographers and Producers discussing the stylistic necessity of shooting film stock and an urge to resist the (seemingly) financially friendly urges of sensor-based digitized production technology. ‘Circumstance‘ DP Brian Rigney Hubbard, ”Daddy Longlegs‘ Brett  Jutkiewicz, ‘Franny‘s Andrew Renzi, as well as ‘Pariah‘ producer Nekisa Cooper, who were moderated by Kodak (acting as the panels sponsor) Sales & Technical Manager Bob Mastronardi. The conversation was a (somewhat) expectant mix of stylization exclusives and, in an unveiling of sorts, film stock’s ultimate financial practicality. Facts, such as film’s resemblance to 6K digital sensors and its unquestioned superiority on the skin tone/palette front (thus leading many on the “A” list talent roster personally requesting its use), were all presented, forming a technologically leaned discussion.  From a producer perspective, Nekisa Cooper discussed the use of film stock as a welcome choice in the path to ultimate filmmaking freedom, however also stressing the importance of a communal on-set environment.  In the case of ‘Pariah‘, the majority of the film’s crew sacrificed portions of salary in order to shoot on celluloid.  The trust stock provides also featured in the discussion, as well as its place in on-set dynamic (the sound of the film running through the camera gate; the freedom of limitation in the absence of a “delete” button).

Building on the days first “Blitz Wisdom” came a brief conversation with film composer Peter Nashel, this time courtesy of BMI. Nashel’s presentation was geared towards the directorial question of original score vs found (existing) audio, especially in a current age heavy on “non-film” composers composing (independent rock bands, for example) entire film scores.  Clips from ‘Children of Men‘, ‘There Will Be Blood‘ and (surprisingly) Steven Speilberg’s ‘War of the Worlds‘ were shown, all of which (in their own way) represented a point within the spectrum of score development, decision and implementation.  In ‘Children of Men‘, the score was written to the screenplay; ‘War of Worlds‘ featured a more collaborative creative effort between John Williams and Speilberg; ‘There Will Be Blood‘ used the contemporary composition style of Radiohead’s Johny Greenwood when not in alt-rock mode.  Also referenced was the dubstep heavy wonk and wobble of ‘Spring Breakers‘ pounding Skrillex soundtrack (again, as an example of established musicians featured work replacing originally produced film scores).

The “Local Filmmaking for National Impact” panel was a welcome collection of non-coastal states, each providing their cases for the benefits of localized film offices.  Representatives from South Arts and the New York State Governor’s Office for Motion Picture & Television Development were joined by producers from ‘An Oversimplification of Hear Beauty‘ and ‘The Happy Poet‘, moderated by Ward Emling of the Mississippi Film Office.  As it is common knowledge amongst the creative, as well as tech, industries that Los Angeles and New York monopolize the thought of production hubs, but many lesser recognized states (Michigan, Louisiana, Georgia, etc) provide some of the most all encompassing, and financially practical filmmaking incentives.  As a panel, the discussion spoke to the many benefits of (specifically) the lower Hudson Valley and the states of Georgia and Mississippi, ranging in emphasis from tax incentives to location management.  Of particular interest was the multi dimensionality, as well as ambition and genuine-looking love, of the facilities represented.  I see state film offices potentially factoring into the entire development process at an even earlier stage in the equation.  For example, as the Mississippi Film Office accepts raw scripts, a certain amount of creative collaboration and financially minded collaboration between office representatives and the filmmaker is possible.  As major markets over saturate, and under represented ones hold the ability to operate at well below nationalized market value, yet offer virtually comparable crews, facilities and locations, there is no reason to think office representatives cannot hold producer-like credentials.

The days Keynote address came from Filmnation CEO Glen Basner, in the vane of a career retrospective, highlighting mentorships, inspirations and advice from a true industry insider.  Starting as a garment merchant and childhood friend of Edward Burns, Basner’s career unofficially began with a failed internship interview with Ted Hope.  From Burns studio “Good Machine” onward to Focus Features, heading The Weinstein Company International Operations and then launching his own all encompassing production facilitator Filmnation.

– Steve Rickinson



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