I am really looking forward to Fantasia this year, for lots of reasons. Seeing a few movies, of course, including my lovely friend Joe O’Brien’s Devil’s Mile. I’d also love to see Faults and Mr. Go, which are playing during our trip there. And of course there’s Goat Witch, the new short James Sizemore joint, which is screening before the midnight film (Dead Snow: Red vs Dead!!) on Saturday.
Realistically, I shouldn’t even spend too much time looking at the screening schedule because I’ll get all excited about seeing stuff and then I’ll end up seeing nothing, because my Frontières schedule will be really packed.
For anyone who is reading this and will be in Montreal on Wednesday June 23, I highly, highly recommend Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter, an absolute fave of mine from Berlin. Really beautiful movie.
I’m also excited about seeing pals from all over the world (and Montreal) and doing fun things with them, like going to eat at La Prunelle, because that restaurant was my favourite discovery of last year’s Fantasia trip. The food is top notch, and it’s a bring-your-own-wine place, so it ends up being extremely reasonably priced. Colin (and our dining companion, John) both ordered the bison rib, which was the tenderest piece of meat I ever tasted, and also bigger than his head. I can’t even remember what I ate, because it wasn’t novelty-sized.
And, most of all, I’m equal parts terrified and excited about the actual Frontières co-production market, where we will pitch Rite of the Witch Goddess to the world for the first time.
My to do list for that still includes:
- Finalizing the pitch script with James and Tim
- Waiting with bated breath for our proof of concept trailer to be completed
- Compiling (with the team’s help) a slideshow of images to play during our presentation
- Sending the Fantasia team our list of people who we want to request meetings with
- Designing and printing a Rite of the Witch Goddess postcard
- Updating and printing the Ultra 8 Pictures “slate” flyer, which has info about the other films we’re working on
- Finalizing the Rite of the Witch Goddess LookBook, where we’ll be hosting all the documents & videos that are going to be part of our presentation, so that the people we meet can access all that info even after the market is over.
- Oh yeah, and I should get my nails done.
Fantasia was so busy that I didn’t really get to see many movies or hang out with many of my Montreal-based friends. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t have fun or get to hang out with some of my favourite members of the international film festival family that I feel pretty privileged to be part of.
- Getting to hear everyone’s amazing pitches during Frontieres – seriously, even though this was part of the “business” it was still amazing to see people I like knock it out of the park, as Bobcat Goldthwait did with his hilarious pitch for a Kinks musical, and as the (truly awesome) Jason Lapeyre did with his simple, compelling pitch (he writer/director behind one of my favourite films of last year – I Declare War, which Drafthouse Films wisely picked up for distro)
- Catching up with friends from all over the world. Plus, even though Montreal is actually not far away, I don’t get there often or see my Montreal pals nearly enough, so it’s a nice treat even just to see those among them who happen to be Fantasia staffers, for a few days.
- Going to a karaoke party, not doing any karaoke, but hearing a bunch of my favourite people really giv’r. Side note: why are film festival people so into karaoke? Every fest I go to there’s a huge karaoke party and these otherwise fairly laid back and/or let’s face it super shy and nerdy people are climbing over each other to get on stage. What’s the deal, film pals? I don’t know anyone in my “real life” who is this into karaoke. I don’t really get it, but I try not to judge.
- Eating in Montreal. One night, we went down a cobblestoned side road in the Plateau and stumbled upon a restaurant called La Prunelle, where Colin ended up eating a bison rib that was larger than his head. It was amazing, and a totally random discovery that we made because we weren’t in the mood for Schwartz’s, which is where our other pals were going in the same neighbourhood.
- Getting to meet the crew of absolute sweethearts who accompanied our already-favourite Georgians, Tim and James, to Montreal for the premiere of The Demon’s Rook. I swear, the nicest group of people, every last one of them.
- And, last but certainly not least, getting to sneak away for a portion of an evening and attend an amazing event put on by our friend Philippe Spurrell – a 16mm screening of animal-themed shorts and animations in a beautiful west end church. Getting to see old stop motion, Oscar-winning animation from ’80s Russia, old Loony Tunes, and a weird black & white live action film about dogs that can walk tightropes and do other crazy tricks was a MAJOR treat!
Now the countdown is on before I get to do it all over again, but as the home-turf-host, because TIFF is in just under four weeks. Eeeeeeeeeeeeek.
Note to self for next time: take more actual photos of your friends, because you’ll want to remember those moments later. Milkshakes, maybe slightly less so?
I didn’t intend to take two weeks to write about my Fantasia experiences, but there ya go. It was busy, I was super tired afterwards, and now I’m finally catching my breath with a couple of weeks of fresh country air (still working, but in an idyllic setting on beautiful Elbow Lake).
To recap for those who haven’t been obsessively following my life and times: I went to the very awesome Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal for two reasons.
Reason #1 was to attend Frontières, the international co-production market. It was the second year of Frontières, and I’ve wanted to submit a project since last year.
I pushed hard to get the team behind Manborg to put together an application for their next film, The Void. The project got in on the strength of their awesome concept and story, but I did a lot of the coordinating to ensure our application was on time and complete, and to coordinate meetings and set a schedule for us once the project was selected as one of the “official 12” that were going to be profiled and featured in the market.
Reason #2 is because a very cool horror film that I executive produced, The Demon’s Rook, was having its world premiere there. I’ll write more about that rewarding experience in a future blog post.
In addition to those two reasons to be there, we were also hanging out with and introducing another set of filmmakers we’re working with to some people who may be able to help with their project – a doc about the psychology of horror called Why Horror? A team from the film was in town for unrelated reasons, attending the Just for Laughs fest, which coincides with Fantasia (oh, Montreal, why are you so busy?!), so we managed to squeeze in a meeting and a bit of strategizing with them as well.
On the whole, I would say that Fantasia was a huge success. Our pitch was well received and the meetings were all very positive and hopeful. While Colin sat with the Void team and took meetings about their project, I circulated the speed-dating-esque room and met with some of the other projects that were being pitched, and talked up Ultra 8 Pictures to the other producers in the room.
The schedule at the market was as follows:
- 9:30am – 3:00pm – meetings every half hour with a brief break for lunch.
- 3:45pm – 5:00pm – panel discussions / industry sessions on topics such as indie film financing and distribution
- 5:00pm – 7:00pm – cocktail parties on the terrace of the Concordia building we were in – a chance for participants to schmooze and get to know each other in a more informal setting
- 7:00pm – midnight – dinners and movies – people either went off to eat and keep chatting or to experience some of the films in the fest
- midnight – ??? – everyone descends upon the Irish Embassy, the festival’s official pub, which has a delightfully huge back patio and serves booze till 3am (I guess that’s a Montreal thing, not a that-bar thing).
I was pretty conservative with my late nights at the Irish Embassy – even though it’s a great place to meet people and even though team Demon’s Rook was representin’ there most nights, I knew there was no way I would be able to make it for a 9:30am meeting if I didn’t stumble out of a bar until 3am. Maybe in my 20s, y’all. But no longer.
Anyway, I left Fantasia feeling very optimistic about everything. But I also left feeling like “oh god, now the real work begins”.
First and foremost, the work of figuring out some basic agreements with the filmmakers we’re currently collaborating with on a totally friendly basis, to provide a bit of mutual comfort and protection should things suddenly develop faster than we anticipate. Or even at the exact pace that we anticipate.
There’s nothing more awkward than having to draft up a legal document among friends that basically says “hey, we’re working on this together and we agree not to screw each other over”, but sometimes it’s necessary. Everyone seems to have at least one horror story of working with friends and getting shut out of some amazing thing that they helped develop, or having their idea taken away and produced by someone else, or being promised something big that never materialized, or whatever.
So, agreements. They’re awkward, but they’re necessary. Right now, I’m knee deep in trying to sort them out for various projects, most of which are progressing pretty slowly, so there’s no urgency. But the ones we were at Fantasia with – those are actually moving along at a decent clip, and if we have no paperwork to reassure everyone of their role, someone’s going to end up feeling mistreated in some way.
I’ve spent the past week collecting sample agreements and templates and having phone calls with producer friends. I think I’m starting to wrap my head around it?
Their opening night is a week away, and my trip to Montreal doesn’t start for another five days after that, but what can I say, I’m really excited!
So, what am I looking forward to most?
1) The movies, obviously! There are a lot of great films playing throughout the fest, but here are my top five most anticipated, which happen to be playing during my week there:
- The Machine (I’m pretty sure it’s about a robot babe, so I’m sold already)
- Big Bad Wolves (I’ve never seen a horror film in Hebrew, but I can’t wait to see this one, which was one of the most buzzed about films in the Cannes market, at least among my horror-fan/genre-programmer pals)
- L’Autre Monde (a Richard Stanley documentary about mystical stuff? sure!)
- Rewind This (how can I resist a doc about ye olde VHS? I CANNOT)
- The Complex (new film by the director of the original Ringu – I’m in)
- OH YEAH, AND ALSO THE DEMON’S ROOK, EH?
2) Seeing international pals. It’s a blessing to have good friends from all around the world, and it’s an even greater blessing to be able to take a short, cheap train ride to Montreal and see dozens of them all at once.
3) The BUSINESS. I’m obviously super excited about all the stuff that I talked about in my last blog post, including the premiere of The Demon’s Rook and the Frontières International Co-Production Market. I hope it’s really informative and interesting and fun and fruitful. If last year’s inaugural edition is anything to base my expectations on, it will be – and more.
4) The amazing Fantasia gang. Seriously, the programmers and staff at this festival could not be more smart, funny, delightful, welcoming and genuinely enthusiastic. What a bunch of super great adorables.
5) Eating all the foods. Montreal has some delicious snacks to offer. I intend to have four of each.
6) The fact that this year, unlike every other time we’ve gone to Fantasia, Colin will be travelling without any TIFF programming tasks hanging over his head (which makes for a stressful and work-filled trip), because by the time we leave town, his slate of films for this year’s fest will be fully locked. A July getaway and we aren’t packing TIFF screeners? A very rare summer treat.
I only wish I’d been able to extend my trip by a few days in order to spend more time with my Montreal pals who aren’t Fantasia staffers or film types. Alas, the schedule is tight.
The news is finally in and I am free to talk about one of the big things that I’m super excited about this month: the super fun horror film from Georgia that Colin and I are Executive Producing, The Demon’s Rook (remember all that stuff about colour correction? that’s the one) has been accepted into Fantasia, and will be having its world premiere there on July 27th.
In case you’re not familiar with it, the Fantasia International Film Festival is a wildly fun and very well programmed (if I do say so myself!) three week genre-film-a-thon in Montreal. It usually starts around mid-July (this year it starts on the 18th – my birthday, and clearly a good omen) and goes until early August. I don’t know how the staff manage to maintain their crazy enthusiasm throughout. Ten days of TIFF, Cannes or Berlin wipes me the hell out and I’m not even officially “working it”. The stamina of those Québécois film buffs is impressive.
ANYWAY, GO BUY A TICKET AND COME TO OUR PREMIERE, EVERYONE!
SATURDAY JULY 27, 11:55PM, IMPERIAL THEATRE
I was already going to Fantasia between July 23 and 29 for Frontières, the international co-production market. I am there representing (along with four others) the new project by Steve Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie, the fabulously talented filmmakers who brought you Manborg. Their new project is called The Void, and we’re quite excited about pitching it to some potential international partners in Fantasia. The To Do List for The Void is very long. It includes sending info about our project to the Fantasia team, finalizing copy for a brochure & info packet we hope to print, keeping on top of everyone else to ensure they meet their deadlines (finishing the script, the teaser trailer, etc), putting together a temp website / online EPK (electronic press kit, yo), and waiting for information to be published about industry delegates who will be attending the event so that I can pounce on it and start requesting meetings left, right and centre. I will also be writing the “script” for Colin’s portion of the pitch session, putting together a rough budget and contacting a bunch of last year’s participants to talk to them about their experiences and hopefully end up with a better presentation thanks to their feedback.
Of course, I’m not the only one working hard. The writer/director duo have been crazy busy as well. They’re finishing the script, revising the treatment to reflect some changes they’ve made to the story, and – get this! – shooting a bunch of amazing prosthetic effects tests into a two minute teaser trailer specifically for this event, just to show that they’re able to pull off the ambitious FX stuff they say they want to do. It’s impressive, and I am pretty proud to be affiliated with such a creative and ambitious (and productive!) team.
File under “unpaid work I do in exchange for a credit and the opportunity to keep learning about my new-ish chosen profession”.
We’ve been incredibly lucky that Fantasia scheduled The Demon’s Rook on the same weekend that we will be there to participate in the co-production market, so that we didn’t have to take two trips (not that I mind spending more time in Montreal, but time and money are in short supply these days). This means I will not only be able to be there to support The Demon’s Rook team, but I’ll also be able to invite all of my international film industry friends to see the film, since they’ll be there for the market anyway. It’s pretty much the definition of win-win.
The market is starting to draw to a close, and I am starting to feel incredibly guilty for not seeing more movies. Self doubt is creeping in. I’m wondering if I did this all wrong, if focusing on only meetings was a bad idea and if I should have been scouting the market more. I talk to journalist pals who’ve been cramming five films a day into their schedules, and festival programmers who’ve managed to achieve a decent balance of two to three films a day in between their meetings. I’ve seen a few in the market and a few out of Director’s Fortnight, but nowhere near as many as I’d hoped.
Yes, there are still a few days left and the official films are being replayed, so I’ll get my chance to catch up on many of those, but all this is just to say that I’m not an expert at managing film markets yet, and I’m not sure I did this one as well as I could have. Next time, I’ll be striving for more balance between business and … business.
Other than my sudden panic over seeing too few movies, this rainy Wednesday was a success. Attended the Fantasia Frontieres cocktail, where lots of people turned up to toast to the upcoming co-production market in spite of the rain. Since I’m representing a project that’s been selected for Frontieres this year (The Void, by team Manborg), I wouldn’t have missed the cocktail for all the rain in the world.
In the evening, Colin very nearly got us a pair of tickets to the red carpet screening of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives, but they turned out to be for an afternoon screening that had already passed by the time we were given the envelope. Boo!
It did save us the trouble of racing back to our apartment in the rain to change into formal wear, so instead we caught up with some friends over drinks on a lovely terrace over (what else?) rosé.
At midnight, we overcame our sleepiness and went to the Only God Forgives party & drank champagne. I probably would have rather seen the film, to be honest. Since the film was screened at 10:30pm, the party didn’t start until midnight, so it was quite brief. As in most places, Cannes has a few strict rules about noise & such, so all beach parties have to be shut down at 2am sharp. Other places will keep serving alcohol until much later into the night, but the high-end beach-front clubs and restaurants where most of the films end up having their premiere parties can’t go past 2.
The party was reasonably subdued, but we were still in a bit of a social mood, so we strolled to the Petit Majestic to end our night at the rowdy street party full of festival hooligans (probably the last truly packed night at the Petit of this fest, since lots of folks are already leaving). Two drunk steamed hotdogs later, we managed to get home to bed around 3:30am. Finally a truly late night out in Cannes! We waited long enough.