Minnesota Indie
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Dec
06

            As I promised, this posting will be a follow up to the prior posting in which I interviewed Adam Nelson, the head of acquisitions and distribution for a company called EBS Entertainment based out of Santa Monica, California. When we last spoke with Nelson, his company had acquired the rights to the Brazilian film entitled The Pit, and was planning a trip to the first ever film market held in South America. When I caught up with him for a follow up interview, Nelson had just returned from Buenos Aires, Argentina, and the Ventatana Sur film market.

            I asked Nelson to share his experience of attending the first South American film market. According to Nelson, going into the market, EBS’s primary objective was to not only to shop their newly acquired Brazilian film, but also to meet with South American producers and filmmakers and hear proposals for new projects that they could potentially help co-produce. Nelson said that the climate of much of the film that is made in South America is mostly political, largely in part to the fact that most of the films that are made are financed by the government, and the storylines must be crafted to fit their agendas. Nelson said that his company had a hunch based on from what they’d seen from the film The Pit, that there was much untapped talent in South America, hampered by a lack of funding for their projects.

            Luckily for Nelson and EBS, they learned upon their arrival to the market that their intuitions had been correct.

            “There’s a lot of very talented story tellers in South America,” Nelson said. “One of the biggest problems they have though is that they have a very regional appeal. Most of the time, if they’re good, a local television station might pick up their films. But other than that, films don’t make very much money down there because there are so little cinemas for people to go to and many people can’t afford it…If they want to tap into those larger audiences they need to make stories with broader commercial appeal.”

            Nelson and his associates spent four days at the market. He said that networking was a major focus of the event. They spent their days at a table set up at an old Harrod’s department store that had been used for the event. At night there were multiple functions, such as cocktail parties, that gave the many industry professionals from around the world the opportunity for networking.

            Nelson said that all the networking they did at the market seemed to have paid off. They were able to meet with an Argentinean film maker who pitched them a project that they feel may possess both the quality story telling and broad commercial appeal that they sought. The project is a satire of the 1960s moon race between the United States and Russia. The premise of the film is that a man in a Chilean village has purchased the rights to land on the moon, in hopes of selling it to save his poor village. The film focuses on two agents as they work to resolve the issue, and get the truth behind whether or not this man has really purchased the rights to the moon.

            Nelson said EBS might option the film and sign on to the project as international co-producers.

Nov
17

Nov
17

Adam Nelson, the head of acquisitions and distribution for the company EBS Entertainment, helped give a glimpse into what it’s like to rub elbows with some of Hollywood’s biggest players in the film industries largest market. Nelson is a Minnesota native who attended St. John’s University. This year EBS Entertainment brought with them a slate of 9 films, which they represent, in hopes of finding distribution deals in the United States and abroad. The marquee film in their line up is called Heist. Heist was an in house production for EBS, produced under their production label Iceman Productions. The film was written and directed by the head of operations for EBS, Rick Jordan.

According to Nelson, the primary objective at this year at the market was to find both domestic and foreign distributers for Heist. The other goal on the agenda was to acquire the rights to film to add to their repertoire.

Heist is a movie that we’ve been working on for since the late 2007 when pre production began and wrapped in the fall of 2008,” Nelson said. “We’re hoping that hard work pays off this year at AFM.”

Nelson and a group of colleagues were in attendance for the opening of the market on November 4th. Luckily they didn’t have to travel far, their home office is based in Santa Monica. They set up their booth at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel in a sea of film professionals.

I asked Nelson to describe what his daily routine is like while he is at the one-week bazaar.
“It’s hectic,” he said “We stay very busy. I spend a lot of the time at the booth trying to lure in potential distributors to look at our lineup. We’re also fielding a lot of questions from producers about our company and what we could bring to their projects. Other than that you’re kind of just all over the place, meeting with people, trying to make connections, going to film screenings… It’s a lot of work and a lot of preparation goes into it…When it’s all done if we’ve done well, it feels pretty good.”

So how did EBS fair? I checked back with Nelson to see if they had accomplished their ultimate goal of finding distributors for Heist. Fortunately for Nelson and EBS their AFM experience had been a positive one. They found a domestic distributor for the film with a company called Echo Bridge Home Entertainment, which is based out of La Crosse, Wisconsin. Echo Bridge is one of largest distributors of indie films nationwide so they felt like their project was in good hands. They also achieved their second goal of finding a film to add to their list of representation, a Brazilian film called The Pit, which is about a Sao Paulo street fighter. EBS plans on brining along the newly acquired film with them to the first ever South American film market that will be held in Argentina in early December, which will be featured in my future post.

Nov
17

This past week concluded the 28th annual American Film Market (Also known as AFM) in Santa Monica, California. In this weeks blog posting I will give an in depth look the film industries crème de la crème of film markets.

For those that don’t know what a film market is, unlike a film festival where films are only screened and sometimes judged on their content, a film market is where the actual deals get made. This is where the rights to films are purchased, providing opportunities for independent films and filmmakers to be discovered by the people who will eventually pay for them or help them get paid. Everyone from acquisition and development executives, agents, attorneys, directors, distributors, festival directors, financiers, producers, writers, and Hollywood’s big wigs are in attendance.

According to AFM, each year over 800 million dollars worth of business transactions are made at the market, making it a must attend destination for all members of the independent film community. This year, over 500 films were screened, 100 films had their world premier, over 1000 film projects were brought to the market, and nearly 400 production and distribution companies were in attendance.

Nov
04

After the festivities concluded, I had a chance to sit down with the festivals founder, Rick Vaicius, to discuss with him how he felt the festival turned out, what it takes to coordinate an event such as this, and where he sees the festival headed in the future.

Vasicius passion for film came when he was a college student at the University of Minnesota. He would stuff envelopes for the owner of the Rivertown Theatre, David Lee, in exchange for free admission to the independent films that were screened the theatre. He founded the film program for the Lake Pepin Art and Design Center, which screened independent films at the gallery twice a month, and later spawned the creation of the Flyway Film Festival. Although he dreams of one day directing the festival as a full time job, for now all Vaicius’s work with the festival is voluntary.
The festival is young but growing. This year was the first time Vaiscius attempted to do multiple venues, expanding the screenings to the town of Stockholm in addition to those in Pepin. The feedback he’s received from the community has been positive, “The community has been outstanding. I had conversations with multiple business owners in Stockholm. Everybody bas been very encouraging in wanting to work with us to logistically figure out how, especially the restaurant owners, how to serve film festival goers.”

With the backing of the community, Vaicius says he envisions growing the festival even further, “I’d like to grow the festival. I’d love to see it have venues all the way around Lake Pepin and all the communities. Maybe there would be things that would screen in Red Wing, there would be things that would screen in Lake City, Wabasha, Nelson, Maiden Rock, and you know just get it all the way around the lake.”
Vaicius said that putting together the festival has been a year round commitment. He says only those who are close to him know the extent to how much work it really is. Friends and family have helped him along the way; his wife Nancy also plays a big role in coordinating the event. Friends of his have volunteered to help out in the running of the festival as well as tackling the monumental task of selecting the lineup from over 400 entries. After taking a few months off after the festival concludes, the grueling process will start over again in January, when the entries start coming in.

Looking back on the week’s festivities, Vaicius felt very satisfied overall with the festivals turnout. He said there was a good turnout from festivalgoer’s, both locally and abroad. A panel that included Vaicius and three others selected the winners of the festival.

Nov
04

Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Flyway Film Festival, a second year festival that is based out of Pepin, Wisconsin. The festival featured 69 films from over 14 different countries.

First I’d like to give a look in to what the overall experience of the festival was like. Pepin, Wisconsin, for those that don’t know, is a quaint small river town in southeastern Wisconsin located on a Lake Pepin, which is conjoined to the Mississippi River. A portion of the event was held in the nearby town of Stockholm, which had an eclectic mix of shops and locally owned eateries for festivalgoer to dabble from. The screenings for the films was held at the Lake Pepin Art and Design Center and a screening room crafted above the Stockholm Pie Co.

The first set of films I attended was the festivals short films segment at the Art and Design Center. The showing screened 10 short films with an array of styles and themes. Stacy Harrison, the director of the film Last Chance Romance, was in attendance for the screening of her film. Stacy is a filmmaker who currently lives in the UK but is originally from the United States. Her last film was the award winning short Gorgeous Labor of Love. My personal favorite from the group was Woman’s Work, a comedic and visual remarkable fusion of comic book and live action footage. The film tells the tale of a mundane housewife turned superhero. The director is Chad Benton, a graduate from North Carolina School of the Art’s and a native of South Carolina.

The best narrative feature went to the film Storm, directed by Hans Christian Schmitt. Typeface won best Documentary, directed by Justine Nagan. The winner of the Minnesota and Wisconsin Showcase Award, which is award to the best film directed by a filmmaker from either state, went to Cheese Wars, directed by Taylor Pipes.

Sep
27

Star Tribune’s “To Coens, Minnesota roots are big deal, you betcha”

Sep
27

Joel and Ethan Coen returned to Minneapolis this weekend to promote their newest film “A Serious Man” at the Walker Art Museum. The Star Tribune ran a great piece on the event that include a short bio of their careers. Their film, “A Serious Man”, debuted at the Toronto Film Festival earlier this September to rave reviews. The film was set and shot in St. Louis Park , Minnesota, the city in which the two brothers spent most of their childhood, as well as other locations around the Twin Cities. They shot the film on a limited budget of only 15 million dollars. Despite the minimal budget, the film is already receiving Oscar buzz after its unveiling in Toronto. For those of you who don’t know or don’t remember, the pairs previous Oscar winning film was “No Country for Old Men.”  As a cult Coen fan myself I am eagerly anticipating their newest addition. I actually found a copy of the script I’ll begin reading it immediately. I’ll share my thoughts on my blog as soon as I’ve finished.

Sep
23

My name is Chris Nelson and welcome to my blog. I’m currently a Senior at Winona State University, studying Mass Communications with an emphasis in Broadcasting and a minor in Creative Writing. I am a film enthusiast with a fascination and deep admiration for those who work in the craft of filmmaking. Having written the scripts for a few short films myself and an older brother who works in the indi-film business, I hope to further my interest by giving my readers giving readers a peak into the independent film industry in Minnesota.

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