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A vanguard organization set in the Silicon Valley, Cinequest’s uniqueness and impact result from being ahead of the curve in the powerful integration of creativity and technology. Cinequest fuses the world of the filmed arts with that of Silicon Valley’s innovation to empower youth, artists and innovators to create and connect - driving transformations and a better tomorrow. Cinequest does this through Cinequest Picture The Possibilities and Cinequest Film Festival.




Cinequest 17 Wraps

Monday, March 12—The Cinequest Film Festival may not generate buzz about industry distribution deals or celebrity sightings, but a record-breaking 70,102 indie film lovers joined several hundred filmmakers and technology innovators in downtown San Jose for the 12-day salute to all things maverick. Writer-director-cinematographer Stephane Gauger, Executive Producer Timothy Linh Bui (director of GREEN DRAGON, co-producer of THREE SEASONS) and actor Cat Ly (JOURNEY FROM THE FALL) closed the festival last night with their drama shot in modern-day Saigon, OWL AND THE SPARROW (CÚ VA CHIM SE SE).

Guess what? The Cinequest vision thing has snapped into sharp focus.

For years, Cinequest has branded itself as a festival of “discovery, empowerment through knowledge and the latest in technologies, and revolutionary distribution.” Cinequest 17 proved that its ideas touted for more than a decade are no longer just wishful thinking. The revolution has begun.

About two thirds of the 160 feature and short films selected from 1,850 international submissions were produced with digital technology. More significantly, the creative voltage was high. Although festival-goers have always applauded Bill Maxey’s shorts programming, this year the features slated by Mike Rabehl, Cinequest Associate Director and Director of Programming, hit a new level in terms of excellence and global reach. Emerging and established film artists represented 40 countries, including Bolivia, Brazil, Malaysia, Serbia, Croatia, the Philippines, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cuba, Indonesia, Vietnam, Iran, Hungary, Mexico, China, Finland, Denmark, Romania and the Czech Republic.

Perhaps no one personifies the ideal of the maverick more than producer Christine Vachon (BOYS DON’T CRY, SAFE, HAPPINESS, FAR FROM HEAVEN), the recipient of Cinequest’s highest honor, the Maverick Spirit Award. If anyone deserves a big, sold-out event, she’s the one. According to Jens Hussey, Director of Public Relations, the printing deadline for the festival program guide arrived before Vachon’s attendance was confirmed, so her Maverick Spirit Event was not listed in the hard copy that everybody carries with them. Despite the updated online guide—and daily postings of screenings and events on the windows of the Camera Cinemas—many festival attendees bemoaned that they missed Vachon’s deserving tribute.

Maverick Spirit Award recipients Minnie Driver (GROSSE POINT BLANK, GOOD WILL HUNTING, and FX Network’s THE RICHES) and composer-drummer Stewart Copeland (RUMBLE FISH and EVERYBODY STARES: THE POLICE INSIDE OUT) drew the biggest Silicon Valley crowds, as both events packed the 1,100-seat California Theatre in downtown San Jose.

At the more intimate San Jose Repertory Theater, J.J. Abrams (ALIAS, LOST) and Christopher McQuarrie (THE USUAL SUSPECTS) received the first and the last of the five Maverick Spirit Awards, respectively. On the stage, each was as witty and entertaining as on the page. J.J. Abrams regaled the audience with tales of working with Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg, and conveyed the often-heard festival mantra that if you have love and passion for your work, “the odds are overwhelmingly in your favor, it will succeed.” Such upbeat statements can roll off his tongue easily. Abrams grew up in a position of Hollywood privilege, hanging out on the set of his father’s television productions, before making his co-producing debut with REGARDING HENRY in 1991.

Christopher McQuarrie had an entirely different perspective. He grew up in New Jersey, far removed from an inside track to the industry. McQuarrie and high school friend Bryan Singer had co-scripted PUBLIC ACCESS, the indie thriller that opened Cinequest in 1993. The feature shared the Sundance Grand Jury Prize with RUBY IN PARADISE that year, and McQuarrie joked, “There were only four judges, so only two people liked it. Everyone else at Sundance hated it.”

McQuarrie continued with the stranger-than-fiction development tale of THE USUAL SUSPECTS. The former security guard and law office employee had read a magazine article with that title and thought it would be cool for a movie. He designed a poster and called up Singer. A few days later, a producer happened to ask Singer about his next project, mentioning that he had all this money. The director lied, saying that he had a great script. Then he called McQuarrie, asking if he could write a movie to go with the poster.

“Yeah, we’ve got a poster,” McQuarrie replied. “How hard could it be?”

The future Oscar-winner had three days to come up with a story. McQuarrie drew inspiration for Verbal Kint’s interrogation from what he observed at the law office, and he got caught up in the “dumbest writing exercise.” He looked around a room for things to incorporate in his story—the very process that would provide THE USUAL SUSPECTS with its unforgettable ending.

Despite a series of funding and marketing fumbles, the movie gods smiled down on THE USUAL SUSPECTS. McQuarrie wasn’t so lucky during the seven years he and Peter Buchman developed their biopic of Alexander the Great. He said, “It took me ten years to realize that I don’t write movies. I write screenplays, and screenplays don’t get movies made.”

McQuarrie talked about the economic factors that drive the high-stakes motion picture industry, the seven directors who “trigger movies and everything else in the studio universe and executives who only care about signing “whatever star was huge that day” to minimize risk and feel safe in their decision making.

Addressing strategies for shopping around scripts and the Hollywood-herd mentality, McQuarrie quipped, “If you go to Los Angeles and put a red rope around a dumpster, everyone will want to get in the dumpster.”

Imagine if Cinequest had put J.J. Abrams and Christopher McQuarrie on the same stage.

For years, Cinequest panelists in the Filmmaking and Technology Forums have promoted creative fundraising, digital technology and new delivery systems. Everyone agreed that digital tools could empower creativity and provide film artists with global exposure. But could filmmakers make money while bypassing traditional distribution channels? In November of 2006, the festival launched Cinequest Distribution, a DVD catalogue of 35 titles. A partnership with Jaman offers Cinequest video-on-demand selections, and Cinequest Online recently introduced the Cinequest Exclusive Collection of 29 features and 28 shorts available as pay-for-view, on-demand downloading, as well as 9 features and 101 shorts under the Cinequest Discovery Collection banner. Features are priced at $4.99 and shorts at $1.99.

In today’s cluttered Internet and theatrical marketplace, the competition for eyes and ears is intense. Current wisdom stipulates that expensive studio marketing campaigns and theatrical box-office success drive revenue in the ancillary home video and television markets. Can long-tail economics wag the niche-market online distribution dog? And will users pay for online video content instead of watching films, often illegally, via file-sharing and streaming formats—or for free on YouTube? New entrepreneurial endeavors such as Cinequest Distribution and Jaman offer movie lovers more choice and filmmakers the opportunity for profit. But their success may depend on two key elements: branding and the quality of films in their catalogues.

On closing night, co-founders Halfdan Hussey and Kathleen Powell declared that Cinequest 17 had been an absolute joy. All the maverick filmmakers in attendance were herded onto the California Theatre stage for the award announcements (see "Cinequest 17 Awards"). They didn’t particularly look like revolutionaries, but they certainly looked happy to be there.

--Susan Tavernetti

Photo credit (Stewart Copeland): Craig vanWaaden


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About Cinequest

Colon Antonea

CINEQUEST is a vanguard organization that fuses creativity with technological innovation to empower, improve, and transform the lives of people and communities.

CINEQUEST FILM FESTIVAL: February 28 - March 12, 2017

United States

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