Vancouver International Film Festival - Film & TV Forum: New Filmmakers' Day
Nine in the morning on a Saturday, and I'm sitting in the Vancouver International Film Festival's Vancity Theatre listening to Telefilm Canada staff describe the ins and outs of their funding application criteria. Exciting stuff, yes? It must be, because the theatre is packed. Hundreds of emerging filmmakers are sinking their teeth into New Filmmakers' Day - the final day of VIFF's Film and TV Forum.
Despite being the biggest film festival (350 films, attendance around 150,000) in one of the biggest production centers in North America, VIFF remains more about the audience than the industry. Still, the Forum's programming has been strong for years, and the 2010 edition doesn't disappoint. Today also has a substantial genre flavour. (Even our good friends from Telefilm, in response to the perception that historically they have mostly funded "fucked-up family dramas", freely acknowledged that times have changed and they have a lot more leeway to support good comedy, thrillers, and horror.)
Fifteen minutes and one coffee after the Telefilm session is done, Sean Anders and John Morris (She's Out of My League, Hot Tub Time Machine) are hilariously relating the pitfalls of working in Hollywood, comparing some studio feedback to hiring a contractor who tells you that you need to put a toilet on your roof. They also relate how to get fired using the "He goes or we go" ultimatum, how to get hired by telling people you don't want to do their project, what every script in Hollywood needs (and almost all lack) and why Reno might be the angriest little town in America. It's an entertaining whirlwind of knowledge they acquired the hard way.
Fifteen minutes and another coffee after learning the impossible-to-duplicate secrets of career success, we're back in the theatre for a session on web series, listening to the creators of sci-fi franchises Riese (a slick-looking endeavour, recently pulled from the web now that SyFy has acquired the rights to a TV series) and After Judgment (now being reworked into a feature). The business planning alone behind these projects has some heads in the room spinning, but the creative content is compelling, as is the discussion explaining why Vancouver is a nearly unmatchable hot spot for creating sci-fi, yet a burdensome place to create a professional series for the web.
There's an hour break in the programming to allow people to grab lunch. Anders and Morris haven't even left the lobby. They're still talking to a dozen people - reworking pitches, offering feedback. They're still there at the end of lunch. The next seminar is editor Stephen Mirrione (Ocean's Thirteen, 21 Grams, Traffic), brimming with passion about his craft, and the sometimes wild challenges thrown his way (anyone feel like cutting a feature that actually printed 400 hours of 35mm film?) At the end of Mirrione's session, Anders and Morris are still talking script in the lobby, and debating whether a phone call they missed is telling them that their adaptation of Walter The Farting Dog is back on again, or back off again. VIFF staff has been attempting to feed them so that talent doesn't die of starvation, but no-one at a festival trusts a bowl of shiny fruit.
Closing the day on an absolutely compelling note, director David Slade (30 Days of Night) tells tales of how he prepares for... everything. Fastidiously. Film is expensive, but "paper is cheap". True when he was putting Hard Candy together for $900k, and still true when sitting at the helm of Twilight: Eclipse. Taking scenes from both of those films and explaining his decisions, Slade leaves no doubt that his jump from music videos to features was no fluke.
5pm - drinks, food, drinks... end of the Forum's final day. You'd be hard pressed to find anyone in the place that isn't looking forward to next year already, and planning to take in even more of it. Highly recommended for anyone with an indy feature in the works. Now, on to the films!