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New York: Independent Film Week

Formerly known as the Independent Feature Project Market, the Independent Film Week now consists of the Independent Filmmaker Conference and the Project Forum celebrated its 32nd anniversary from September 19-23, 2010 at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology. Arranged by IFP it is the longest running networking and educational event for independent film makers. According to IFP the organization has been involved in the production of 7000 films and has assisted 20,000 filmmakers since its founding in 1979. IFP represents currently 10,000 filmmakers and reaches 200,000 other registered parties though its Festival Genius internet platform.

Independent Film Week provides the matrix for more than 2000 industry meetings between actual and aspiring filmmakers and decision makers from the industry including numerous international representatives. The Independent Filmmaker Conference offered 30 panels on all aspects of film production and distribution in addition to several industry sponsored workshops over a period of five days. Themes for each day covered the Future of Film, Marketing and Distribution, The Truth About Non-Fiction, The Reel World: Doc and Fiction, Sustaining a Film and Sustaining a Film and Media Career featuring distinguished industry experts like HBO’s Sheila Nevins.

Among the noteworthy features of IFW was the Project Forum with pre-arranged meetings in which filmmakers pitched their projects which had been pre-selected through the IFW Project Forum Online, covering Emerging Narratives with 43 scripts. It included the Independent Filmmakers Labs supporting documentary and narrative feature films by first time directors through the completion, marketing and distribution phases of their productions. Equally important components were the “No Borders International Co-Production Market” connecting 37 US and No Border participants’ projects with foreign buyers, distributors, and funders representing a dozen countries and the special Spotlight on Documentaries covering 76 non-fiction documentaries in progress. All documentary projects included trailers, thus allowing easier access to their themes. Compared to prior years when previews were held in cinemas, the 2010 IFW used three small Micro Cinemas in converted class rooms, providing intimate settings for up to 20 viewers.

There is no question that IFP plays a crucial role in the independent film world. Apart from organizing IFW it publishes since 1992 FILMMAKER Magazine, produces with UN agencies the annual Envision Forum, offers the well established Gotham Independent Awards, and initiated the valuable Festival Genius online program guide to festivals, to name just some of the IFP programs. Overall IFP is a steadily growing successful enterprise.

Listening to the panels with well established successful filmmakers and industry experts benefitting from the independent sector, I do wonder as I have in past years about an apparent lack of realism. One IFW panel dealt with ‘Sustaining a Film and Media Career’. Yet, how many IFW participants and thousands of students graduating each year in the United States with a BA in film or video production will actually make a living producing films? Most colleges embrace departments granting such degrees but few keep data as to the success of their graduates. The magazine STUDENT FILMMAKER has a subscription base of close to 110 000 aspiring filmmakers. Compare this to Denmark; the National Danish Film School which admits about seven Danish students each year has only sixty students studying film, including foreigners. Several years ago I asked the director of the Danish film school about the admissions policy and received the obvious answer; Denmark cannot absorb more than seven trained film directors each year. This pragmatism is absent on the independent film scene in the United States.

Claus Mueller
New York Correspondent


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