Monday, March 05, 2007

True False then sxsw

I love film festivals. Love immersing myself into the multiple screenings, and the high impact socializing. At any festival I can reconnect with someone I'm happy to see from the last 30+ years, and meet new people I find interesting and talented. It's generally a short connect but intense, and often memorable. Good friendships really develop that way over the years. My brother-in-law used to debate me on this. "They're just your work friends", he'd say. "Not your real friends." And I'd disagree. I don't see it that way at all.

This past weekend found us at True False, a great new fest on the landscape for non-fiction films. Far away from the film biz and media, in a small kind of wonderfully arty midwestern college town, the festival can screen gems from Toronto, IDFA, and Sundance, and sneak films that are premiering at Sxsw, Tribeca, Fullframe and beyond. Premiering your film has become a bloodsport - doors opening and closing accordingly. True False has positioned itself out of that competitive fray, and therefore, yields a more enjoyable experience for actually watching the films. Talented filmmakers come from all over the world to share their work with the enthusiastic audiences. It's a terrain often neglected, not possible with the current distribution system. You get the feeling they're really grateful you've made the trip. And the filmmakers get to hang with one another and decompress a bit from the more pressurized festivals. It's a lot of fun.

This year marked the debut of their Swami program. The acronym doesn't make any sense but the program does. It matches a select group of new filmmakers with some industry professionals (aka swamis) for some informal conversation. We spent the day meeting together and individually. The swamis spanned a nice range of experience. Fun for us to see each other, really wonderful for the filmmakers to get the overview.

In our conversations John and I discovered a pretty hilarious disconnect. Used to American filmmakers charging up their credit cards to complete their work, we first asked an Israeli, then some Basque directors if they had any debt. ??? was their reply! Every other nuance we'd been able to communicate. "Debt" and "loan" and "having to pay back investors" brought back only stares. Then laughs as we finally got our point across. It's only the Americans who gamble that way making their films.

Now on to sxsw starting on Friday, always a great time, with the Austin Film Society Texas Film Hall of Fame kicking off the festivities. Lots of films and people I'm excited to see.

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