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Patty Fantasia

Filmmakers Panel at the Las Vegas International Film Festival

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Patty Fantasia


Funding is Top Issue Discussed by Filmmakers Panel at the Las Vegas International Film Festival

By Patty Fantasia

One of the highlights at last weekend’s Las Vegas International Film Festival, which was held June 4th-6th at the Hilton Hotel, was Sunday’s Filmmakers Panel, featuring a number of producers, screenwriters, directors and distribution professionals. Speakers included: Heather Yim, Phillip Marcus, George Elias, Rusty Meyers, Tony Luongo, Sam Eigen, Elizabeth Silva, Alex Richanbach, Alan Wolfe, Chris Kazmier, David Patterson and Heath Tait, a good deal of the discussion was focused on the never ending challenge of getting films funded.

Philip Marcus, who worked as a production manager at Warner Brothers before becoming an indie producer and director said, “Funding is certainly the most important facet of filmmaking, especially if you’re going to do this commercially.” He went on to explain that he and his producing partner wife Maria have had more luck having their films produced in Europe. “We find it increasingly difficult, more and more difficult to find funding in the United States, probably because of the nature of the economy right now and also because it’s just more difficult to find funding for motion picture films. It’s a high risk business. We find it increasingly difficult to find partners for financing our projects, so now what we do is we go to Europe.”

Continuing his explanation Marcus added, “Europe has a lot of programs for funding films including shorts. Shorts are much more popular in Europe. You’re most like doing shorts without thinking of how to make money with them because it’s very rare for a short to make money in the United States. If you take Europe most of the theatres over there show shorts before their theatre. There is quite a great market, so therefore there is more funding. Phillip recently finished shooting a short in Ireland, which was funded partly by the Irish Film Board. “They like very much what we did. There is great potential in making money with the project we did so we are returning over there in August or September and quite possibly doing a feature over there. The locations are great. The crews are great. Funding is available and it’s really nice to work overseas,” he concluded.

Writer/Producer David Patterson, who is perhaps best known for writing the screenplay for “Bridge to Terabithia”, recommended that filmmakers try doing more in kind service deals. “My point is ask politely and if you’re turned down say thank you. You will be friggin amazed at what you can do. A lot of the kids making films out there don’t realize that,” he commented. Contacting people you know and trying to get permission to use places you’re familiar with like a local high school was another suggestion David made. “Try to take advantage of all your old lives, not just look for money, cause it’s not out there.” One positive aspect of becoming a filmmaker today Patterson believes, however, is that technology has increased a person’s potential. “You should always plan to need more, so if you’re planning to shoot your film for100k tell them you need 200k, so you get 200,” he advised.

Alan Wolfe, the producer, director and writer of “In My Sleep”, made his feature for less than three million with private equity. He shared how he heard a filmmaker asking everyone he knew to invest in his movie and then began doing the same thing. “That’s sort of the attitude you have to have,” he asserted.

Working character actor, Tony Luongo, who has made 94 movies and started developing his own projects two years ago, explained how the times have changed from the days when people would buy or option a treatment and then write a script. He said, “The way to get funding, the quickest way now that I’ve seen happen is to literally shoot a scene from your script and that scene now literally becomes your pitch.” He added that people would rather look at a five minute scene than have you send them a script using an agent and then have a reader look at it, which is a long process. “If you love to shoot and you have the equipment, go out and shoot what you’re going to do. That’s it. You just need one scene from it. Then you have to package it and put it together and that’s the way money happens. They literally need to see that before they write the check.”

Philip Marcus further recommended, “If you do a scene or a sizzle video or anything like that keep it under two minutes, two and a half minutes max because beyond that people are going to get bored and they’ll just say well you know let’s pass on that one. I know that for a fact because I work very closely with CAA. They read our projects and they package our projects, so if you’re going to deal with these people keep it under two minutes and make something really hot, the best of what you have.”

Voicing a different type of opinion regarding foreign subsidies was Canadian filmmaker Heath Tait, whose documentary “Vancouver Vagabond” about the 2010 Olympics took home an award. “People believe Canada is more of a socialized Un-American country, much more European traditionally. And so we’ve had for many, many decades a system of subsidy for filmmakers. If anything it’s ghettoized us. It’s kept us from being realistic about the real money that is needed to not only to produce, but to promote and to effectively release movies,” Heath asserted.

Sam Eigen, Executive VP, Shoreline Entertainment, heartily disagreed. He pointed out that filmmakers have a better chance for getting their projects seen and distributed in Canada and that the government also sponsors a program providing 75% of P&A (prints and advertising) funding. In addition, Canada has pre-sale and tax credit assistance. “All of these things add up,” he said.

The panelists offered many useful tips and information about independent filmmaking. It was a lot of ground to cover and could easily have continued on for more than the hour allotted to it. Hopefully next year the Q&A will be expanded, so that more speakers will have a chance to share their knowledge.

George Elisa

Heath Tate, David Patterson and Chris Kasmier

Alan Wolfe

Phillip Marcus

Tony Long and Rusty Meyers

Heath Tate

Lisa Yinm

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