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?
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.