Conference Notes

SXSW Film Conference Panelists Quentin Tarantino and Rick Linklater
photograph by Shelly Rutledge

NUTS & BOLTS: How to save money on your film production? "Don't waste it" was the consensus of the Nuts & Bolts panel, which included producers Elizabeth Avellán, Rana Joy Glickman, Cynthia Hargrave, and Joe Dishner; vendors Drew Mayer-Oakes (New Independents Film Labs), and John Schrimpf (Victor Duncan); and production mediator Tom Copeland (Texas Film Commission).

Saving money is simple: Know what you're doing and know where you're going. Know the ins and outs of all stages of production, plan ahead, and troubleshoot. Don't go into a larger production than you have the resources to accomplish. Hire a good crew who know what they're doing. Keep your locations down. Shoot on the format appropriate to your distribution objectives. Beg favors and equipment, and, finally, stay on the good side of the folks who provide them so that they'll be there to help on the next project. -- Elizabeth Peters

Traveller's Julianna Margulies
photograph by Shelly Rutledge

MAKING TRAVELLER: Recounting the making of Traveller, a SXSW Film Festival entry about Irish con artists running games in the American South, this panel featuring actors Julianna Margulies and Bill Paxton (also a co-producer), director and cinematographer Jack Green, screenwriter Jim McGlynn, co-producer David Blocker, and editor Michael Ruscio was one big lovefest. With Paxton turning on the Texas-boy charm full throttle, the audience was treated to behind-the-scenes tales of how the deal for the movie was made while swatting flies over lunch on a pig farm during the filming of Twister, how Margulies' casting occurred behind big, open menus at the Polo Lounge, and how Mark Wahlberg, aka Marky Mark, was bailed out of jail so he could be in the movie. (The last was one of Paxton's many, very funny running jokes.) If Traveller is only half as entertaining as this panel, the movie will prove quite successful when October Films launches its theatrical release in a couple of months. -- Steve Davis

FINDING MONEY IN A GRANTLESS WORLD: An experienced panel -- moderator Ruby Lerner (executive director of the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers), Derinda Dallas (president of the investment firm DV Capital Entertainment), David Liu (ITVS executive director in charge of programming and development), Elizabeth Peters (managing director of the Austin Film Society), Paul Steckler (documentary filmmaker and University of Texas professor), and Grace Ouchida (special projects coordinator for the International Documentary Association) discussed strategies for foraging for financing in a funding desert. Steckler's "12-Step Program for Accepting Grant Writing into Your Life" was a standout. Tenacity and exactitude were the watchwords. The world, it seems, is not so much grantless as it is competitive and persnickety, which heartened half the audience and depressed the rest. -- Hollis Chacona

Kevin Smith, Mike Judge, and Stever Soderbergh
photograph by SOMEPHOTOGRAPHER

IS FILM SCHOOL WORTH IT?: In response to the question of whether an aspiring moviemaker today should spend $50,000 to get a degree in film school or to use the money to make a movie, this panel featuring Drew Mayer-Oakes (Allied's New Independents Lab), Bart Weiss (film and video instructor and director of the Dallas Video Festival), director Sarah Kelly (Full Tilt Boogie), and writer-director Kevin Smith (Clerks, Chasing Amy) didn't come up with any definitive answer except to conclude that whatever you do, every chance should be made to always network and recruit. And regardless of how you get your cinematic education, one should never forget "nonreasonability," a word coined by Smith for that aggressive, can-do state of mind necessary to get your movie made, which is something more than waiting for opportunity to come to you and something less than knocking off banks to finance your venture. -- Steve Davis

BUDGETING FEATURES: From "splurging" on insurance to underestimating the cell phone bill, this panel explored the ethics, the excesses, and the inadequacies of budgeting independent features. Workshop leaders Michael Hacker (filmmaker) and Joe Dishner (producer) shed an unflinching light on the risks -- both personal and professional -- of such an undertaking while acknowledging the inexorable need to damn the torpedoes. -- Hollis Chacona

Robert Rodriguez meets his fans
photograph by Michelle Dapra

OUTSIDE THE SYSTEM, INSIDE THE SYSTEM: 3:45pm, outside the panelists' green room: "Where is Quentin?" asks Nancy Schafer, the whites of her eyes showing. I grab her cell phone. After fruitless calls to Quentin's hotel room, as well as those of five members of his posse, the other panelists decide to go on without him. I walk upstairs with the boys, feeling somewhat lightheaded in the presence of these six demigods of indie production. We post Quentin-spotters outside the convention center, and, indeed, he arrives, joining the monster panel fashionably late.

To studio or not to studio is kind of a moot point for me and most of the Austin Film Society members I represent. (We're more at the "How many credit cards can I collect?" level.) But it was a joy to see these guys (George Huang, Mike Judge, Richard Linklater, Robert Rodriguez, Kevin Smith, and Quentin Tarantino) in one room and hear them rib each other about their diverse experiences with studios. -- Elizabeth Peters

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