Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Edinburgh International Film Festival, Part II

Please note that this is Part II of a three part post. Part I is here, and Part III is here.

Day 3: Monday 22nd June
Back at Filmhouse for 08:30, and this morning was the only time there was actually a big queue in front of me – it seems like people were really excited about the prospect of seeing Darren Aronofsky in conversation...

First up was the industry screening of
Süt at 09:30. The film started with a fantastic opening scene which ranks along my personal festival highlights. Unfortunately, the rest of the film didn’t continue in such a strong manner: the final scene felt especially weak, and I have to admit that I got lost amongst the symbolism along the way. I felt like the film definitely had something, but if I’m honest I’m not sure what...

11:30 bought along the first proper industry event that I attended: Compromise or Commerce? Packaging and Selling Your Project for International Markets. The panel was moderated by Ali Jaafar, and featured Peter Trinh (ICM), Jeremy Barber (United Talent), Samantha Horley (Salt) and Tanya Seghatchian (UKFC). I thought that the session was very interesting, and appreciated the candid honesty of what the panellists had to say. A few key points from the discussion were as follows:
• There are now more films being made than can be distributed, which means that people are paying less for the films that they are buying.
• There is a worldwide market for action movies and thrillers, but dramas are a tough sell and need big names to work. When writing a drama it is important to think about the essentials which make it universal.
• Getting a theatrical release in the US will help the film’s performance in foreign markets.
• Blockbusters are actually doing very badly in US right now, but are doing very well in export. They are not being solely funded by the studios. Private investors have less investment options with their money than they used to, so they are now willing to put cash into films.
• There are going to be fewer buyers in the independent sector and there will be a lot less private money for arthouse films and ‘brave’ work.
• Right now, the European market is strong enough to be able to make a film financially viable without having to target it at the US market. Some films are being made only for the UK market.
• New media and multiplatforming has paralysed the industry as people aren’t yet sure how to make money from it, but it’s clear that the traditional theatrical model will not stay.

Straight from this I rushed to the delegate centre for another industry event: Film Funding in the UK. This event was split into three different panels: ‘National Organisations Funding Film’, ‘Funding from the UK’s Nations’ and ‘Regions and How to Cast Public Funding in your Film’. The first detailed the facts and figures behind what Film4, the UKFC and BBC Films can offer, and also what kind of work they’re looking for (essentially the same for all: director lead projects which stem from a unique vision and contain an individual voice). The second panel did the same, but focusing on each of the regional agencies (best tip: find someone Welsh to work with). The panel also discussed how we need to start thinking regionally with our projects and conceive projects which embody the culture of a specific town or region, so that we can get local funding in exchange for promoting the local culture. There was also talk of the changing distribution models and the need for the industry to adapt to the potentials of new media. As Suzanne Alizart of EM Media rightly stated, we need to see the rules for ‘premieres’ change, because we no longer live in that kind of linear world. In the third discussion, the panellists talked about the ways in which people can use public money in their films. By the time it started the audience had thinned, and it felt like it was the least successful of the three panels, despite the interesting panellists. At the end of the session it was possible to book a one-two-one session with one of the panellists. I gave in my CV and project pitch and found out the following day that I was lucky enough to get one....

Following this event, I spent some time catching up with an Edinburgh-based friend, before heading off to the Cineworld to see
Darren Aronofsky In Converstaion at 18:30. At the risk of seeming blasphemous, I want to be upfront about the fact that I have only seen two of his four films (π and Requiem for a Dream) and that I don’t hold either in particularly high regard (so I was very amused when he was introduced as ‘one of the best directors in the world’). Still, I have to admit that the talk was very interesting, and I’ve since purchased a copy of The Fountain to see if I can get into his more recent work. When they showed a clip from π during the talk he said ‘I haven’t seen it for a long time. It’s pretty humiliating’ as soon as it had finished, and then spoke about how he saw Requiem again recently and didn’t recognise the director that he was when he made it. This self-deprecating vein came across as very genuine, and when the interview started he seemed very shy and quiet, though he did warm up as the talk went on. Overall, I thought he was a very unassuming presence, and in fact I heard several stories about people not recognising him during parties and screenings.

One thing he said that struck a chord with me was that ‘If you do your job and you make a good film, there is an audience for it’. As well as talking more specifically about each of his first three films (they didn’t have time to discuss
The Wrestler!), he also spoke more generally about certain things; for instance, how he tries to express emotion with the camera, and how every setup has to say something about the story. In short, he sees himself as an impressionist rather than a realist. He believes in the power of collaboration and he is loyal to his collaborators. Everyone involved in π – from the director to the actors to the grips – was on the same percentage, having worked for a stake in the film rather than money. Now that they are in profit everyone gets cheques; something like $1,200 every six months.

He spoke about his opinions on 3D, which I found particularly interesting. Like me, he finds wearing glasses on top of glasses a terrible idea, stating that it ‘sucked’. Overall, he finds the whole thing very annoying, and stated that he thinks it’s a gimmick which doesn’t actually represent the world any better than 35mm. His main reason for this was that both foreground and background elements are sharp, which isn’t like life. He said that he would love to see someone like John Waters do something with it as it has that sort of kitsch value! On a more serious note, he does think that James Cameron will do something amazing with it.

He also spoke a little bit about his time on Batman, stating that he wasn’t that interested in doing it, but worked on it in the hope that it would help him get funding for The Fountain. He was only going to write it and wasn’t going to direct it. Apparently, the version he was working on was even more realistic than what Nolan did with it and it would have featured a ‘duck tape’ Batmobile. Finally, he refused to discuss what he was going to do next, and when someone asked him about Robocop, he claimed not to know what they were talking about...

Next up, at 20:30, was a public screening of
Spread, which I thought was perfectly well made, but just not very interesting. It had a strong ending, but up to that point was fairly predictable and uninspiring, while never being less than serviceable.

Finally, the day was rounded off by the Trailerblazers Party. Although I met some great people and had some good conversations, it was essentially a loud, crowded bar, which isn’t really my idea of fun (or Aronofsky’s apparently: he headed off early!).

Click here to read Part III of this three part post.

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