Monday, June 30, 2008

The 2008 LA Film Festival

It was a blast. I worked the Red Room a few times and the Hellboy reception, which was cool. They let us party a lot. I did something like 12 shifts and got a free ticket for each one.

I met and spoke with Lori Petty. That was a highlight. I thought her film, The Poker House, was by far the best film there, although I haven't seen them all. But this would be hard to beat. With it's unique female writer-director's voice, it's original, powerful and has a surprise ending that knocks your socks off, something like No Country, but this one leaves you in tears instead of confused, and it's equally thought provoking. I swear the whole audience at the premier was in tears by the end of the film. It was a bit of an emotional roller coaster with comedy and heartfelt drama. Yet this film has yet to get picked up for distribution as far as I know. That's a crime.

I asked Lori about the distribution obstacles she has to face with this kind of subject matter, similar to Hounddog, which disappeared from the limelight after it's Sundance acclaim, until it's upcoming limited release this month, no make that September 2008.

This kind of thing is exactly what sets Lori Petty off. She's a very nice person and the cast was so happy to have worked with her. They kept saying what a family atmosphere it was. But when someone in the crowd asked her why Jennifer's character, Agnes, was so smart and yet could allow something like a rape to happen, Lori went off on him and then Jennifer chimed in to her defense.

Young girls are not sexually mature, she said, despite their academic and physical development. That's why there is a separation between adults and children, she explained. Jeniffer added something about her character and how it wasn't a choice to be raped, I think she said. Anyway, this is the hard hitting theme and obviously it's over some people's heads, which makes for some great material for people to see.

To my question on distribution, her response was, 'fuck 'em' in no uncertain terms. She's incredibly strong on this point and I hope she can find a distributor with HBO or something more widespread than a limited release. Her film deserves it. But I think she shouldn't have to defend her position and that the film stands on it's own merit. I threw out the idea of getting a publicist. She didn't seem to think she'd need one.

You might remember Lori Petty as an actor in A League of Their Own, a great film.

The rest of the festival was pretty cool too. I saw an awesome Russian dark-wave comedy horror called Cargo 200. I'd say it falls into a genre like Pulp Fiction, if that were a genre. It hits on cops and returning war veterans, or their bodies (as opposed to underworld figures). It's completely off the wall. I doubt it could be made in the US depicting US cops or US troops. There would be a huge backlash. But that would be cool.

Another wild dark wave film was X-Cross, a Japanese horror about young girls disappearing at a remote resort. That's typical horror fare. But there's nothing typical in this film. Everything that happens is completely unexpected. It was fun.

Another cool film was Medicine for the Melancholy, which begins with a one night stand and progresses from there. It's a nice rom-com of sorts but not a chick-flick. It's more heavy, like real life. Not a fairy tale. I think it got a jury award. It was very well done on a shoestring in San Francisco, which was something of a character.

The Prince of Broadway was really interesting too, about a New York man dealing with his street trade as a fashion knock-offs vendor when he's confronted with a kid he didn't know he had. The mama drops the kid on him and takes off and his world is turned upside down. It was great.

I saw The Wackness with Ben Kingsley, who was cool to see as a stoner shrink that takes payment in pot from his young drug dealer client played by Josh Peck (of kid's TV show Drake & Josh fame). I wasn't too impressed with this story. It's a coming of age sordid rom-com and probably a good millennial marketable film. Although, it does have some witty dialog, the actors are all great, and the premise isn't bad. It just doesn't go anywhere. But millennials will like it.

Speaking of millennials, that term is the current incarnation of Gen-X, which I found out about at a film financing conference there. The big theme of the conference was the failing independent distributors like Warner Independent. This conference impressed me with some good knowledge on what it takes to make a film and get it distributed, and I realized that a lot of filmmakers work to see their films make it to a festival and get that IMDB credit. But if they don't have distribution, and only 1 out of 9999 filmmakers do, that's the end of the line. So what's the point? I wrote up a blog on it called The Film Distribution Gamble: 9999 to 1.

Anyway a big point made was that you need a film to be marketable if you want to find financing for it. But my contention is that these guys don't really know themselves what is marketable, hence Goldman's 'no one knows anything.' One even admitted that distributors put out trailers that lie about what the story really is, just to get people into theaters, proving they don't know what they're doing. But we all knew that.

There was another very interesting doc called Finishing Heaven, about 70s era filmmaker and NYU Scorsese student, Robert Fineberg, who is just now getting around to finishing a film he started back then with his girlfriend Ruby Lynn Reyner, who was the driving force behind making the original film and getting it back on track now.

The film had no script. It was just a set of scenes Fineberg had in mind and a lot of improve, which Ruby is like so awesome at doing. She even wanted writing credit and I think she deserves it.

They ran the film he now has almost finished, Heaven Wants Out. It's very funny and a throwback to the 70s. They added her narration to tie the scenes together, which they cross cut throughout. It's amazing.

It was also very emotional for them and they were in tears talking about all the changes they've gone through over the years, how they regret blowing it the first time around, and now finally getting this thing together. HBO picked up the doc.

And that's just the highlights. I missed some other great ones. I met a lot of very nice people. It was a very cool festival.

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