Sunday, April 15, 2007

Return from Full Frame

For a while, the weather made it look we might be staying in Durham a lot longer, but we managed to make our flight out in a small jet and land in La Guardia. A few highlights from the festival:

During the Question-and-Answer session for Jessica Yu's Protagonist the inevitable "What was your budget?" question came up, and the answer was "somewhere between $500,000 and $750,000." The strange thing: I saw eyebrows go up on some of the people who work in documentary (since that's a lot of money by most doc standards and a big investment to have to earn back) and at the same time a man sitting near me frowned deeply. I read his name badge, which makes me think he's from narrative Hollywood production. Was he thinking, "How do you make a film on that?"

During the Show Me The Money Panel, I don't think there were any clear answers on how new models of distribution will eventually shake out, but there were a few things that seemed agreed by consensus:

that the people who want to see your hip new doc after it gets a NY Times review from a screening at a film festival don't want to wait for it to go to ten other festivals and then hit a few theaters in Manhattan and Los Angeles. They want the DVD, and they want it now.

that the likelihood is your film won't make its money back in the theater, but might on the DVD

that several panelists felt promotion on sites like YouTube might be double-edged -- it might make an audience aware of the film, and it might leave people feeling they don't need to see it

The panel made up of Full Frame alum programming for the Power of Ten series was also interesting. Michael Moore sat next to D.A. Pennebaker and I couldn't help but thinking they could be mistaken for father and son. Moore took an entertaining swipe at the "need" for film releases. "Did he see your camera?," he asked. "Did he come over and talk to you?" He went on to note that he's faced an interesting problem in his latest film: festivals and theatres and distributers won't release a film without "Errors and Omissions" (E & O) insurance, which you can't get without nicely-filed signed releases. So in making a film about health insurance companies, he would be asking insurance companies to give him insurance to make a film about insurance companies -- an unlikely event.

I come away from the experience thinking of Full Frame as an excellent festival, and I've already got the dates for next year on my calendar.

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