“There Was No Going Back”: IFP Talks Change, Innovation, Circumstances and the 2020 IFP Week
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"When we said, 'We're going to do this,' there was no going back," said IFP Executive Director Jeffrey Sharp earlier this week, recalling the moment last March when he and the organization had decided on the 42nd edition of the IFP week to be held virtual. IFP Week, which started today, was one of the first film industry events to definitely go live this fall, and it was a risk. "At that moment, nobody knew anything," Sharp said of the progression of the pandemic and its impact on the industry. "But it was our board of directors that really encouraged us to act quickly and definitively." The decision was solidified when the IFP sponsors agreed to revert to the newly configured event. "We told them, 'We need you more than ever,' and they are pretty much back to full strength."

The result, five months later, is an IFP week that continues the networking and programming activities for which the event is known, even as it expands into new areas. (Disclosure: IFP is the filmmaker's editor.) The project forum, which connects independent film, series and audio projects with buyers, producers and distributors, has moved its meetings from tables in DUMBO to Zoom this year. The first audio hub to present 36 audio projects to the industry, ranging from traditional podcast series to radio plays and chatcasts, joins the market for unlimited co-productions and puts documentaries at the center of the project forum.

The public program of IFP Week consists of panels, workshops and networking opportunities. It started this morning with a conversation led by journalist, writer, and philanthropist Soledad O & # 39; Brien (an IFP board member), documentary filmmakers Dawn Porter, Garrett Bradley and Ursula Liang, and the co-host and producer of Throughline, Rund Abdelfatah, relationship between independent film and political engagement and activism.

While IFP was one of the first organizations to move their programming to virtual for the fall, their planning was helped by the experience of organizations whose events were scheduled earlier, said Charlotte Reeker, senior program manager, nonfiction at IFP. She said the team learned from events like the CPH: DOX in March and the Sheffield Doc Fest in June. "The Doc Markets are sharing all their ways to hold these meetings in the Zooms," she said, noting that IFP, in turn, will share information from its event with the upcoming 2020 edition of IDFA.

Does this learning include ways to combat the "zoom fatigue" we will all experience five months from now? "I feel like we're not necessarily doing much to combat zoom fatigue," said Zach Mandinach, IFP's senior program manager and producer, of the project forum meetings. "We're probably leaning into it a lot! Each meeting day is actually longer than in previous years," he explained, noting that the 10-hour day – 9:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. – has to accommodate participants who are now made up of several The project forum has also been extended by one day from four to five days, and more activities will take place next week. "In recent years the project forum has become so compact, and this year we only give ourselves the opportunity to use the Time to play around, "he said." And we leave more space every day so we don't overfill. "

Given IFP's spring deadlines, the IFP staff I spoke to largely said it was too early to see the coronavirus pandemic as an item in the projects submitted. But the moment in which we live naturally affects all projects here, regardless of the topic. Gabriele Capolino, Senior Manager and Producer, International and Episodic, said: “I have some projects whose development or even production has been seriously affected by COVID. Filming was canceled for three projects that were about to shoot their proofs of concept. One of them, based in Canada, was able to shoot safely with all logs in place last week. We have projects from Brazil and we all know what the situation is like with public funds and the government. "

Despite all the current adversities, Sharp found that the 2020 Project Forum had the highest number of submissions in years. Mandinach said he moved the US feature deadline up the calendar and received 80% of the submissions in the past week. "People were at home with a script they had pinned on," and were forced to apply, he said. Milton Tabbot, Senior Director, Programming, agreed, whose documentary later ended: “By the end of May, more people were hungry to get out, meet people, and talk about their projects. And people had more creative development time. "

The only department of the project forum whose projects can easily be adapted to this moment is the Audio Hub. Alexandra Blair, Project Manager at Audio Hub, said, “Audio was a huge asset for the moment. I have projects that we picked this year from celebrity filmmakers and documentary filmmakers and even Broadway and theater folks who chose audio to connect with their audiences in new ways. "

Today's opening day of IFP week's public program has been designed to now make a statement about the industry, says Kia Brooks, IFP's assistant director, as well as the way filmmakers interact with the wider world. "You mentioned the transition between filmmaking and activism," said Brooks, who ran the public program, "and that's one passage all week." In thinking about the program, it was important to be able to speak in some way about the world we live in. We saw this (wish) in the audience for IFP programming all year round. Our audience – filmmakers and creators – came to us and said, "I have this idea for a project, I capture the moments that are happening in my world right now." What is the best format for it? “And that's why we start the day with this panel that talks to Dawn (Porter) who has obviously made feature films and Garrett (Bradley) who has made both feature films and shorts and shorts, gallery work. "

Brooks said: "It is also very important to examine how the industry is affected by COVID, but also by Black Lives Matter. And how other parts of our lives are affected on a daily basis. We try to do this as much as possible from one to look at positive perspectives rather than “doom and gloom.” So there will be a panel discussion on how theaters see what happens to the theater experience and ways to recreate that communal experience online. The festival panel will examine how programmers and filmmakers work together to imagine the future of the festival world.

Finally, Brooks notes the diversity during IFP weekly programming. "Women, people of color, filmmakers with disabilities – it is important that the (programming) reflects the range of today's filmmakers." Brooks also cites the fiction day opening panel of the event, "The Story of an Independent Black Filmmaker: The Journey to Reach the Audience" – with Huriyyah Muhammad (Farewell Amor), Phillip Youmans (Burning Cane), Channing Godfrey Peoples and Neil Creque Williams (Miss Juneteenth) – as a major question that addresses the imperative to connect stories about different communities with those communities, rather than generic notions of art house audiences.

"I just want to say as much as I can that this was a collaborative effort for public programming," added Brooks, noting that IFP has hired seasonal programmers in the past to help build the film week program. "This is truly an IFP employee production and I'm grateful to everyone here."

With this 42nd edition of IFP Week, the event joins a series of annual live events that are reconfigured for that moment, rather than canceling and just taking a year off. There's always an institutional need to just keep going, but perhaps these nonprofits serve their deepest purpose when the industry is at its frayed. Mandinach said, “Regardless of the catastrophic events across the industry, we all felt in our early conversations that it was imperative for us to have this event and to really lean on us. There's always this (question) about how much programming do we do for the industry – bring (projects) to them in some way a Silver platter. I tend to be against it and I think one of the main goals of the event is to hold the industry accountable because I think it's very easy to turn your back on them, especially at times when it's for the industry does not have physical gatherings, there are smaller type of independent films. This event is supposed to force (industry and filmmakers) into the same room – and if not into the same room, then into the same zoom room! "

Reekers added, "It's an uncertain time for everyone. A lot of distributors, sales reps and filmmakers don't know what they're going to do or what their business models will be. I hope there will be time (for them) in their meetings to just think about ideas Talk about where we are with our industry. I think maybe that's why so many industries are here this year. "

Sums up Sharp, “There was a risk that a whole group of filmmakers, an entire generation, might have been left behind if we'd taken just a year off. Just because the COVID hit doesn't mean that new artists aren't added every day, this imperative has driven us. And what I love about Alexandras (programming) and the Audio Hub is that it really comes full circle for this event. Forty-two years after Film Week began, we are still building on the original vision of Sandra Schulberg and the event's founders – to create a marketplace for new ideas and new voices. The fact that the event can encompass a whole new industry – absorbing and incorporating it and making it feel like it was part of IFP Week for much longer than before – is exciting. Whatever this ship is, it's indestructible and it's moving on in ways that I think will amaze us all. "

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