Happy Holidaze!

We at the DIY Film Festival wish y'all a wonderful holiday season. 
DIY Santa

We're getting closer to the deadline for submissions - and we will be announcing the finalists in February for the awards ceremony in March.

First, sit back and congratulate yourself for having finished your film!  Not everyone does that.  Many folks want to start a film and never get around to it.  So you've won that battle.  And now that you've done all that work and have started to submit it to festivals worldwide, also consider the most logical and best ways to market your film, as well as to consider how to distribute your film.

We here at the DIY Film Festival are fans of do it yourself distribution as well.  If you've entered it into festivals and gotten great feedback from friends and the viewing public, all the better. But if you want to find your audience online, there's no better way to do that than doing it yourself.

One method we've seen work is to:

1. Consider creating a method for distribution through - they're the largest online retailer, and posting your film on their website is a logical way to do reach people you never considered reaching.  How to do that? Easy.  Use - they're the aggregator for Amazon, don't charge you anything to create and build your own catalog.  You follow their easy instructions, submit your film in the way required, submit your artwork to their easy to design covers, and within a few days you could be looking at a sample copy of your film.

Once the film is on their site, it automatically becomes linked to Amazon.  Then make sure all your friends check out your film, and if possible get them to write a review of what they thought of the film. It's a way of building interest.

Also, the film automatically is offered as a DVD, as a streaming video and a download on demand. Amazon keeps a percentage of the money collected, but it's worth checking into.

2. Consider putting your film onto - another giant retailer.  However, it's a bit harder to do so, as you must go through an aggregator to get them interested in your film.  And the aggregator has to be able to format the film in the way that apple will accept it - and sometimes they will charge money to do so.  However, offers a simple and easy alternative - they will format and put your film onto all the major outlets, and retain a percentage of what the film earns.

3. Then its up to you to consider how to create public awareness and interest.  That would be offering your film to colleges and universities to review, getting yourself onto radio shows or television outlets, or having public screenings at your local library - which usually cost very little to do.  The only thing preventing the filmmaker from creating their own tsunami of publicity is themselves.  So get to work!

And good luck with all your festival entries, including ours!
Monty Python wants you to have Holiday Fun


Independent Spirit Awards nominees are...

Congrats to all the nominees!

Spirit Awards Nominees Are Announced! Excitement Ensues

Award Season Fever is about to reach epidemic proportions thanks to this morning’s announcement of the 2014 Film Independent Spirit Awards nominees. We are excited to reveal that the Best Feature nominees are: 12 Years a Slave, All Is Lost, Frances Ha, Inside Llewyn Davis and Nebraska.  (See the full list of nominees in all categories below.)
We’re especially thrilled this year that seven of the nominees are Film Independent Members: Neal Dodson (Producer, All Is Lost); Rose Troche (Producer, Concussion); Troche is also a Film Independent Fellow (Fast Track 2011); Michael H. Weber (Screenwriter, The Spectacular Now); Jill Soloway (Writer/Director, Afternoon Delight); Soloway, too, is a Film Independent Fellow (Screenwriting Lab 2012); Morgan Neville (Director, 20 Feet From Stardom); Julie Goldman (Producer, Gideon’s Army); and Aaron Douglas Johnston (Director, My Sister’s Quinceañera).
Now comes the fun part: the big vote—don’t forget: only Film Independent Members vote; join by December 6 to cast your vote— and, of course, the big show on March 1.

Best Feature
12 Years a Slave, All Is Lost, Francis Ha, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska
Best Director
Shane Carruth, Upstream Color; J.C. Chandor; All Is Lost; Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave; Jeff Nichols, Mud; Alexander Payne, Nebraska
Best Screenplay
Woody Allen, Blue Jasmine; Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke & Richard Linklater Before Midnight; Nicole Holofcener Enough Said; Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber, The Spectacular Now; John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave
Best First Feature
Blue Caprice, Director/Producer: Alexandre Moors; Producers: Kim Jackson, Brian O’Carroll, Isen Robbins, Will Rowbotham, Ron Simons, Aimee Schoof, Stephen Tedeschi; Concussion, Director: Stacie Passon, Producer: Rose Troche; Fruitvale Station, Director: Ryan Coogler; Producers: Nina Yang Bongiovi, Forest Whitaker; Una Noche, Director/Producer: Lucy Mulloy, Producers: Sandy Pérez Aguila, Maite Artieda, Daniel Mulloy, Yunior Santiago; Wadjda, Director: Haifaa Al Mansour, Producers: Gerhard Meixner, Roman Paul
Best First Screenplay
Lake Bell, In A World; Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Don Jon; Bob Nelson, Nebraska; Jill Soloway, Afternoon Delight; Michael Starrbury, The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete
John Cassavetes Award (best feature made for under $500,000)
Computer Chess, Writer/Director: Andrew Bujalski, Producers: Houston King & Alex Lipschultz; Crystal Fairy, Writer/Director: Sebastiàn Silva, Producers: Juan de Dios Larraín & Pablo Larraín; Museum Hours, Writer/Director: Jem Cohen, Producers: Paolo Calamita & Gabriele Kranzelbinder; Pit Stop, Writer/Director: Yen Tan, Writer: David Lowery, Producers: Jonathan Duffy, James M. Johnston, Eric Steele, Kelly Williams; This is Martin Bonner, Writer/Director: Chad Hartigan, Producer: Cherie Saulter
Best Female Lead
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine; Julie Delpy, Before Midnight; Gaby Hoffmann, Crystal Fairy; Brie Larson, Short Term 12; Shailene Woodley, The Spectacular Now
Best Male Lead
Bruce Dern, Nebraska; Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave; Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis; Michael B. Jordan, Fruitvale Station; Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club; Robert Redford, All Is Lost
Best Supporting Female
Melonie Diaz, Fruitvale Station; Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine; Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave; Yolonda Ross, Go For Sisters; June Squibb, Nebraska 
Best Supporting Male
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave; Will Forte, Nebraska; James Gandolfini, Enough Said; Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club; Keith Stanfield, Short Term 12
Best Cinematography
Sean Bobbitt, 12 Years a Slave; Benoit Debie, Spring Breakers; Bruno Delbonnel, Inside Llewyn Davis; Frank G. DeMarco, All Is Lost; Matthias Grunsky, Computer Chess
Best Editing
Shane Carruth & David Lowery, Upstream Color; Jem Cohen & Marc Vives, Museum Hours; Jennifer Lame, Frances Ha; Cindy Lee, Una Noche; Nat Sanders, Short Term 12
Best Documentary
20 Feet From Stardom, Director/Producer: Morgan Neville, Producers: Gil Friesen & Caitrin Rogers; After Tiller, Directors/Producers: Martha Shane & Lana Wilson; Gideon’s Army, Diretor/Producer: Dawn Porter, Producer: Julie Goldman; The Act of Killing, Director/Producer: Joshua Oppenheimer, Producers: Joram Ten Brink, Christine Cynn, Anne Köhncke, Signe Byrge Sørensen, Michael Uwemedimo, The Square, Director: Jehane Noujaim, Producer: Karim Amer
Best International Film
A Touch of Sin, (China), Director: Jia Zhang-Ke; Blue is the Warmest Color, (France), Director: Abdellatif Kechiche; Gloria, (Chile), Director: Sebastián Lelio; The Great Beauty, (Italy), Director: Paolo Sorrentino; The Hunt, (Denmark), Director: Thomas Vinterberg
17th Annual Piaget Producers Award
Toby Halbrooks & James M. Johnston, Jacob Jaffke, Andrea Roa, Frederick Thornton
20th Annual Someone To Watch Award
My Sister’s Quinceañera, Director: Aaron Douglas Johnston; Newlyweeds, Director: Shaka King; The Foxy Merkins, Director: Madeline Olnek
19th Annual Stella Artois Truer Than Fiction Award
Kalyanee Mam, A River Changes Course; Jason Osder, Let the Fire Burn; Stephanie Spray & Pacho Velez, Manakamana
Robert Altman Award
Mud, Director: Jeff Nichols, Casting Director: Francine Maisler, Ensemble Cast:  Joe Don Baker, Jacob Lofland, Matthew McConaughey, Ray McKinnon, Sarah Paulson, Michael Shannon, Sam Shepard, Tye Sheridan, Paul Sparks, Bonnie Sturdivant, Reese Witherspoon


Tis the Season for Critical Darlings

It's moving into that time of the year when people start voting for their favorite Independent film or filmmaker.... highlighting those films that for whatever reason, were able to go from dream to reality.

The Independent Spirit Awards will announce their nominees in a few days, Criticwire has announced their favorites.  It appears there's a wonderful batch of films out there in the world - and many of the filmmakers are moving from independent films to Hollywood films, and back again.  We at the DIY Film Festival are happy to tout and highlight those who pursue filmmaking with a passion, whatever their budget.

But just as an incentive;

Jennifer Lawrence of "Catching Fire" was only 3 years ago, and independent darling in the indie film "Winter's Bone." Budget was 2 million.

David O Russell, director of "Three King's" and "Silver Lining's Playbook"'s first film "Spanking the Monkey" was made for $200K.

Richard Linklater, director of "Before Midnight" first film "Slackers" was shot for 23K.

The point is - you've finished your first film, or your second film, and you've found the right genre for your work, whether it's comedy, drama, horror, thriller, etc.  And you've made your short film and gotten rave reviews and great audience reaction for it.  It's your best calling card for your career.  Take a similar screenplay or book around with your short film and submit it to an agent or producer through an attorney or agent if possible.  The worst they can do is say "yes" and then you'll have to make the film.  But barring that, let people know you're going to make the film with or without them - and offer them the chance to make it with you.

We're getting in some amazing films from filmmakers across the globe - from as far away as New Zealand, on topics from the future of the planet, to the future of a relationship.  Excellent work filmmakers!  "And may the odds ever be in your favor!"

Criticwire Members' List of Highest Ranked 2013 Indie Movies Adds 'Nebraska' and 'The Great Beauty'

According to the nearly 500 critics listed in Indiewire's Criticwire Network, there are over 70 indie films that have been released in theaters or on digital platforms this year worth checking out. Of course, 2013 still has a few more months to go. The following list, updated on a weekly basis, contains all films released in 2013 that currently hold a B+ average or higher on Criticwire as long as they have been graded by at least 15 critics. 
You can also browse a list of the top-rated documentaries released in 2013 here
Cannes can be a tough crowd. Just ask the two films that join the ranks of Best Reviewed Indies of 2013 this week.
Alexander Payne's "Nebraska" and Paolo Sorrentino's "The Great Beauty" both made their debuts in France back in May, both receiving tepid acclaim. Reviews and overall response were somewhat underwhelming against the backdrop of "Blue is the Warmest Color," "Behind the Candelabra" and "Inside Llewyn Davis." In fact, neither film was able to crack the Best Feature top 10 in our festival-end poll
Fast forward to the New York Film Festival last month, where "Nebraska" experienced an influx of support from stateside audiences. Along with Sorrentino's latest, other advanced screenings have netted them both a "B+" average, good enough to put them alongside some of the best from around the world in 2013. 
Payne's latest is drawing specific attention for its contemplative sense of humor, anchored by two strong performances from Bruce Dern and June Squibb. Meanwhile, the Playlist's review of "The Great Beauty" compared the lavish excess of its many party scenes to the work of another Italian director, Federico Fellini. Both films are now available for viewing in limited release, with expansions planned as the month of November progresses.
Because critics can grade films at their leisure, all averages are subject to change; this list will grow or shrink on a regular basis to reflect fluctuating averages and new releases. The list is ordered in terms of letter grades first, followed by the number of grades a film has received. Duplicate numbers reflect ties in volume of grades and totals in italics reflect changes from the last update.

Head to a film page to browse reviews and other information pertaining to each film. For more rankings, check out the top documentaries of 2013 and the top foreign language films of 2013.

1. Before Midnight (Film Page), directed by Richard Linklater (2013 Sundance Film Festival; June 2013 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A (108 grades)
2. The Act of Killing (Film Page), directed by Joshua Oppenheimer (2012 Telluride Film Festival; July 2013 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: (48 grades)
3. Upstream Color (Film Page), directed by Shane Carruth (2013 Sundance Film Festival; April 2013 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (93 grades)
4. Frances Ha (Film Page), directed by Noah Baumbach (2012 Toronto International Film Festival; May 2013 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (89 grades)
5. Stories We Tell (Film Page), directed by Sarah Polley (2012 Venice Film Festival; May 2013 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (64 grades)
6. 12 Years a Slave (Film Page), directed by Steve McQueen (2013 Telluride Film Festival; October 2013 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (61 grades)
7. No (Film Page), directed by Pablo Larraín (2012 Cannes Film Festival; February 2013 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (60 grades)
8. Blue Is the Warmest Color (Film Page), directed by Abdellatif Kechiche (2013 Cannes Film Festival; October 2013 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (56 grades)
9. Fruitvale Station (Film Page), directed by Ryan Coogler (2013 Sundance Film Festival; July 2013 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (55 grades)
10. Blue Jasmine (Film Page), directed by Woody Allen (June 2013 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (52 grades)


DIY Film Fest winner Cody Blue Snider wins Austin Short Film Festival

It's always good to trumpet DIY filmmakers' successes. 

Cody Blue Snider

In this case, our 2011 festival winner COY BLUE SNIDER has won the short film category of the Austin Film Festival (which makes his new film eligible for Oscar consideration)  Congratulations Cody from your pals at the DIY Film Festival!!!! Continued success!!!

Here's another look at his film All That Remains which won the festival that year....


ALL THAT REMAINS - Directed by Cody Blue Snider

Synopsis: Cody Blue Snider tells the powerfully disturbing story of a WW2 Veteran with dementia, endlessly suffering in a confused world of the past, present and a lifetime of painful losses with Death as his only companion. When salvation presents itself in the form of a compassionate hospital nurse, a glimmer of hope is rekindled in the joyless old man’s heart. It all comes crashing down when the old man becomes convinced that Death intends to take this simple joy away from him as well. To end his misery, he strikes a deal with Death to wipe out a gang of mobsters, only to find Death has no master …and his own salvation. (from All That Remains site)

We've seen his latest film FOOLS DAY and it's equally brilliant.

Austin Film Festival Announces Jury and Screenplay Awards

Audiences still have chances to catch screenings


Beside Still Waters
Beside Still Waters
Though the 20th anniversary Austin Film Festivalruns through Thursday, Oct. 31, you don't have to wait for some of the biggest news.
The festival announced the winners of its annual screenplay and teleplay competition, as well as who's taking home jury awards, this afternoon. Keep an eye on all these winners, but especially the screenplay winners, who have been known to bring their final films back to AFF for premieres, as in the case of this year'sCoffee, Kill Boss. Check out the full slate below, and congratulations to all!

Jury Awards

• Dark Matters Feature: OXV: The Manual (W/D: Darren Paul Fisher)
• Young Filmmakers Program Competition Grand Prize: "HB" (D: Imogen Pohl)
• Narrative Student Short: Pistachio Milk (D: Avram Dodson)
• Documentary Short: "Blinde Liefde (Blind Love)" (D: Jenny van den Broeke)
• Animated Short: "A Cautionary Tale" (D: Erica Harrison)*
• Narrative Short: "Fool's Day" (W/D: Cody Blue Snider)* 
• Documentary Feature: Political Bodies (D: Christopher Englese)
• Narrative Feature: Beside Still Waters (W/D: Chris Lowell)
*Note: AFF is an Oscar-qualifying festival for shorts, which means the Narrative and Animated Shorts winners are eligible to be nominated for an Academy Award this year.

Keep up with all our AFF coverage at


DIY Film Makers - in Toronto

The latest from the Toronto Film festival... sounds like some great low budget films (Dallas Buyer's budget reportedly 4 million) based on stories that moved the filmmakers.  Worth noting the latest in news from a prestigious film festival with an independent tone:

2013 Toronto International Film Festival Recap

Source: Edward Douglas 
September 10, 2013
17 0
This has been a shorter than usual Toronto International Film Festival for as we were only up in Canada for six days, but we did squeeze in 13 movies and a bunch of interviews, and for the most part, it was all great stuff with very few movies that outright stunk or made us want to run screaming from the theater. More importantly, the season's Oscar race started to come together with a number of great movies and performances that are sure to be talked about over the next few months, some of them not being released until later in the year. We'll share a number of full reviews and interviews with you over the next couple weeks, but before the festival winds down, we wanted to give you a quick recap of our thoughts on the movies we were able to catch.

One of the big standouts is Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity, a film that's so technically astounding on every level that you may set aside any negative feelings you might have towards Sandra Bullock--or maybe those are just mine after this summer's The Heat--to fully appreciate what he's created. You may already know the premise, which follows Bullock as an astronaut on her very first space mission when something happens that leaves her stranded in space trying to survive. We won't say too much more about the plot because it's one of those movies you have to see to believe, but it mixes absolutely enormous set pieces with more intimate sequences to create a fairly tight and fast-paced 90-minute thriller. George Clooney plays one of the other astronauts and the only other actor with any significant screen time, but he basically "Clooneys" his way through that role and it's Bullock's show for the most part as we watch her trying to survive in space. Gravity is a movie that's going to be talked about for months and it's going to elicit repeat viewings if only to try to figure out how Cuaron pulled off such an incredible feat of cinematography and visual FX to create the illusion of being in space.

I absolutely loved Ron Howard's new movie Rush--you can read my full review here--as it successfully mixes adrenaline-fueled Formula 1 racing sequences with heavy drama in the form of a rivalry between Chris Hemsworth's James Hunt and Daniel Bruhl's Niki Lauda. Although it's an entertaining movie that should be able to appeal to a mass audience, putting Chris Hemsworth's face on the posters is a it deceiving since the movie really is as much Lauda's story as we watch him get through a horrible accident to fight his way back to the race track. You don't have to be an F1 or racing fan to appreciate what an amazing filmmaker like Howard can do with great source material, which is the case with Peter Morgan's screenplay, and I hope that moviegoers will give this one a look.

John Wells (Company Men) directs an impressive ensemble cast in the film version of Tracy Letts' award-winning play August: Osage County starring Meryl Streep as the cancer-stricken, pill-popping matriarch of a dysfunctional family who reassembles when her husband disappears. Even with the likes of Julia Roberts going toe to toe with her, there's no question that Streep not only steals the movie but she IS the movie, creating a character so abrasive and outspoken in Violet it's likely to win over even the most skeptical Streep critics (which would probably also be me). She also brings out the best in the rest of the cast with every single actor from Chris Cooper to Benedict Cumberbatch being given a great moment to shine. It's especially great to see veterans like Julianne Nicholson and Margo Martindale having such great moments to show that they're highly talented and underrated when compared to some of the bigger names. Of the movies we've seen, August: Osage County has the strongest chances for a Best Picture nomination because it's so driven by the actors (and that is the largest branch of the Academy), putting it in a similar boat as Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave(discussed below), but we think Streep (in whichever acting category she gets nominated) and the screenplay are strong enough to be serious contenders.

Stephen Frears' Philomena starring Dame Judi Dench and Steve Coogan (who co-wrote the screenplay with Jeff Pope) is a terrific smaller film that spends most of its time with these two very different actors. Dench plays the title character, a woman whose son was taken away from her by nuns and given up for adoption fifty years earlier, while Coogan is the journalist who tries to help her find him. It almost starts out like an awkward buddy comedy with the two of them trying to find her missing son, taking them from Ireland to Washington, D.C., but as they get closer to learning the truth about her son's whereabouts, the film gets far more poignant and moving. It's Frears' best movie in a long time as he did a great job making the most out of the material, probably because he was working from one of his best screenplays since The Queen. Dench and Coogan are both fantastic in a film that could easily surpass it's potential indie arthouse potential because it does such a good job mixing the humor and drama.

One of the festival's more pleasant surprises was Ritesh Batra's The Lunchbox, starring Irrfan Khan as a retiring accountant who mistakingly receives the lunchbox meant for another man and is treated to some of the most delicious food he's ever tasted. Those lunches are made by a troubled housewife who is having marital problems, but with the help of her auntie (who lives upstairs and is heard but never seen), she assembles this meal to smooth things over, only to build a connection with Khan's character as they exchange notes back and forth. This is a true crowd-pleaser, the type of movie that certainly can do well among American audiences and I can definitely see this getting India's vote of approval to represent the country at this year's Oscars. Here's hoping that distributor Sony Pictures Classics can help this find a larger non-Indian audience.

Dallas Buyers' Club, directed by Montreal's Jean-Marc Vallée, is a daring look at the AIDS crisis of the ‘80s through a red-blooded heterosexual male, Texas rodeo engineer Ron Woodroof, as played by Matthew McConaughey in a performance that should turn a lot of heads this season. While McConaughey is once again playing a charming womanizer, he's almost unreconizable, having lost dozens of pounds for the role of a guy who contracts HIV and AIDS and turns his inability to get safe and reliable prescription drugs into a profitable business as he begins to smuggle them in from other countries. Being a rare straight male with AIDS (and being quite homophobic), it takes him some time to adjust to his main clientele being gay men, one of them being Ron's flamboyant cross-dressing partner in crime Rayon, an absolutely amazing role and performance from the rarely-seen-on-screen Jared Leto who loses himself into the part. Some of the film's medical aspects hit a bit too close to him but it was generally well done and not as dour as one might expect from a film about AIDS with a nice supporting role by Jennifer Garner as Ron's doctor.

I've been a Metallica fan for quite some time but even I did not realize how much I'd love Metallica Through the Never, which is way more than your typical 3D concert movie, as we get to see the band--now ten years after the inner band turmoil depicted in the doc Some Kind of Monster--at a new peak as they run through some of their most popular tunes. What makes this film so unique is that there's a concurrent narrative storyline that runs through the film as it follows Dane DeHaan as a roadie on a quest from the band who encounters abandoned city streets, riots and a horse-riding visage of death, all images that go beautifully hand in hand with Metallica's music. And then there's Metallica stage show that has been greatly enhanced just for the 3D cameras and is quite amazing to watch as well. I had a chance to sit down with drummer/co-founder Lars Ulrich while up in Toronto an interview I hope to share soon, and we'll have lots of stuff leading up to the movie's September 27th IMAX 3D release.

I've already written a review of Denis Villeneuve's Prisoners, which you can read here, but as one of my most anticipated movies of the festival (and year), I have to say that I wasn't disappointed by the way that Villeneuve and his cast realized what ended up being an intricate and complex mystery about two missing girls and how it affects those looking for them. Hugh Jackman plays the father of one of the girls who kidnaps and tortures the prime suspect (played by Paul Dano in another creepy role) while Jake Gyllenhaal's Detective Loki is on his own quest to find someone who knows the girls' whereabouts. It's the latter part of the movie that's really riveting to watch, almost like David Fincher's Zodiac as you watch Gyllenhaal's character trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Look for my interviews with Jackman, Gyllenhaal and Villeneuve very soon, since the movie opens nationwide on September 20.

Some of the biggest buzz going into the festival and at nearly every screening came from Steve McQueen's third movie 12 Years a Slave, a tough and relentless documentation of one man's journey through the Southern slave system during the mid-19th Century. Based on the autobiography of the same name by Solomon Northup, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, McQueen's most ambitious film follows this free black man as he's tricked into slavery by a couple of unscrupulous men and proceeds to witness and experience some of the most horrendous atrocities at the hands of a ruthless slave owner played by Michael Fassbender while trapped in the system. While Ejiofor's performance will get a lot of awards attention, I was more impressed by newcomer Lupita Nyong'o, whose performance as a slave named Patsy who is degraded and humiliated by both her master and his jealous wife that leaves a lasting impact. We have little doubt this will be in the Oscar conversation although I personally had a few problems with the movie, more in the writing and the manipulative recycled score by Hans Zimmer, but there's no denying that it's quite an engrossing achievement to bring light to one of the biggest blights on American history. 

Jason Reitman returned to TIFF with his fifth movie Labor Day, an adaptation of Joyce Maynard's novel with the A-list casting of Kate Winslet as a single mother with a 13-year-old son, played by Gattlin Griffith, whose lives are disrupted when an ex-convict, played by Josh Brolin, decides to use their home as a hideout for the long Labor Day weekend. With none of the dark cynicism that's often permeated Reitman's work, this period piece set in the suburbs in 1987 is essentially a romantic drama as we watch the relationship between the three characters unfold. Winslet's performance is as terrific as ever, but I'm wondering if the material will connect with the audiences that liked Reitman's previous films Juno and Up in the Air, because this is so different. While it was a beautifully-made film it wasn't entirely my cup of tea, so I was more mixed on it than some of Reitman's past work.

The same can be said for Bill Condon's The Fifth Estate, a look at the formation of WikiLeaks by Julian Assange, as played by Benedict Cumberbatch, who is likely to get two SAG nominations by virtue of being part of the ensemble casts of August: Osage County and 12 Years a Slave. His portrayal of Assange is quite eerie and the film offers another strong role and performance by Rush's Daniel Bruhl as Assange's long-time collaborator on Wikileaks but the story is only interesting until it gets to the part of it that we already know i.e. the leak of thousands of military documents and then it doesn't offer anything that new except to cut away from the two leads to less interesting characters within the FBI and media. As hard as the movie tries to be The Social Network, it just doesn't work as well, but you can look for our full review and interviews sometime before the movie opens on October 18.

It wouldn't be a Toronto International Film Festival without the premiere of a new movie from Toronto's other son Atom Egoyan, and this year he debuted Devil's Knot, an adaptation of one of the many books about the 1993 West Memphis Three case of three teenagers accused of murdering three younger boys. This one is concurrently told from the viewpoint of Pam Dobbs, the mother of one of the murdered boys, as played by Reese Witherspoon, and an investigator for the defense played by Colin Firth, who is trying to find new evidence to keep the teenagers from going to jail. Anyone who knows the story will realize that those efforts failed as they spent 18 years in jail, which makes you wonder what the point of this movie was, especially since there have been four excellent docs about the subject that seemingly covered all the bases. This was one of the films I saw that didn't have distribution but Witherspoon and Firth's presence should help it find that fairly easily.

Of course, there were a lot of movies I wanted to see that I just didn't get a chance due to my limited schedule—Idris Elba's performance in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom received a fair amount of buzz--but hopefully the ones without distribution like Villeneuve's other film Enemy will come out sometime in the next year and I'll have another chance. 

In the meantime, look for my thoughts on Eli Roth's The Green Inferno and Ti West's The Sacrament, which will be posted on sometime soon.


Thoughts on Crowd Source Filmmaking

We at the DIY Film Festival encourage filmmakers to make films because the topics move them.  We're fond of saying "You don't always pick up a paint brush to pay the rent" -- meaning - find your passion and follow it because it moves you.

But there's also the secondary part of the equation - raising money for your projects if you have something more ambitious in mind.

Enter crowd source funding of films and creative projects.  IndieGoGo was an early place for filmmakers to go, and of course there's the Kickstarter model.  People have complained about the celebrities who've used the same system - but why not? If you have a good idea and you put it into the marketplace, people respond.  They may see their investment, the way film studios do, as more protected if they invest someone tried and true - or at least with enough cache' to get their project into theaters and onto media sites.

It's not unlike walking down a long promenade, in perhaps a city like Santa Monica or Boulder and noticing the various buskers who sing, dance, play music.  You're free to stop where you like - you may gravitate to the larger crowd, or perhaps you'll focus on someone a bit more unique.  It's up to you, without the annoying ads telling you where to focus your attention.  Crowd sourcing can be a bit of all that - but we here at the DIY Film Festival will add a note of caution - if you've never done it before, it can be a daunting or exhausting task to fulfill all the promises involved. Here's an article from the Wall Street Journal by Ellen Gamerman, that goes into the pitfalls.

But that being said - don't let anyone dissuade you from doing what it is you're on the planet to do.  And if it's making your documentary, telling your story, focusing your camera in places its never been - do that.

The Trouble With Kickstarter

The only thing worse than having to watch your friend's arty movie is having to pay for it, too; the crowdfunding backlash

Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter have revolutionized financing across the art world, resulting in many creative triumphs. The phenomenon has also led to an awkward new dynamic that allows people to raid their social networks for cash. Ellen Gamerman reports on Lunch Break.
For aspiring artists, crowdfunding sites that raise cash from the masses can make a dream project come true. For contributors like Annabelle Gurwitch, they're a potential minefield.
The Los Angeles actress and comedian is worried she'll create personal or professional bad blood if she ignores the constant requests for money. So she funds nearly every one she gets—from a show by a director friend (she might want a role one day) to a web series by a fellow actress (they shared a dressing room at the time). An old classmate she hadn't seen in 30 years asked her for "quite a bit of money" while another campaigner complained that she didn't offer enough. Ms. Gurwitch, who gives up to $1,000 a year, considers this the art-world equivalent of paying protection money to the mob. "I'm terrified not to contribute," she says.
Sean Fine
The Oscar-winning short 'Inocente,' was partly financed by Kickstarter.
Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have revolutionized financing across the art world, contributing to two Oscar-winning movies ("Inocente" and"Curfew"), a best-selling book (the zombie-filled graphic novel "FUBAR: Empire of the Rising Dead") and many other creative triumphs.
The phenomenon has also led to an awkward new social dynamic when would-be Scorseses pressure their family, friends and colleagues for cash. The transparency of crowdfunding sites makes things worse. Campaigners are free to scour their backer lists to see which uncle went cheap, which best friend "forgot" to contribute and which former co-worker turned out to be surprisingly generous.
There's also a growing wave of bona fide movie and TV stars pressuring their fans to back their pet projects. A cadre of self-styled experts, offering advice on crafting the ideal pitch, has sprung up to add fuel to the fire.
In 2011, Steven Parke sought $16,000 to print his fantasy book set "Medusa's Daughter." Mr. Parke, who shot the photographs and came up with the concept for the books, appealed to 2,000 family members, friends and strangers. He sent 800 emails that opened with the line, "Hi!! (I feel like Jerry Lewis on a telethon)" and asked his contacts to buy the books and repost a link to his campaign.
Mr. Parke, a 49-year-old Baltimore photographer who has worked for the musician Prince, summoned his fundraising nerve by imagining himself as a salesman in a loud sports jacket. "I literally felt like I was putting on a character, because otherwise I think I'd feel kind of bad just bothering people constantly," he says. When he "dug deep" with messages to his Facebook FB +0.90% friends, he says, he ran into the site's anti-spam system and was temporarily blocked from sending any more messages.
Getty Images
James Franco | The actor promises to have dinner with anyone who coughs up $10,000 for his new $500,000 Indiegogo movie campaign.
Close friend Leslie F. Miller said she gave Mr. Parke money after he "guilted the entire world" into backing his ultimately successful campaign. (The book set shipped last month to more than 100 backers.) Ms. Miller, a 50-year-old Baltimore writer, says when Simon & Schuster published her baking history/memoir "Let Me Eat Cake" in 2009, she had no way of identifying the people who didn't buy it. But her pals with crowdfunding campaigns know if she ever holds back. "There's a little bit of private shaming," she says.
Kickstarter, which raises funds in categories such as art, technology, fashion and food, has driven much of the crowdfunding growth online since its launch in 2009. Fundraising highs include more than $10.2 million for the Pebble Smart Watch, a customizable watch that allows wearers to receive texts and other notifications on their wrists, and enough lows to fill an unprintably named site devoted to ridiculing such projects. The crowd has funded a "RoboCop" statue for Detroit, a dance performance by Texas public power workers in bucket trucks and "Chug," a travel show featuring a guy drinking beer and other spirits (it raised $591,804).
Campaigners create a pitch, often with a video, with a stated fundraising goal. On Indiegogo they have the option of keeping as much as they make; Kickstarter is all-or-nothing, so campaigns that fall just short of their goal don't get any of the pledged money. Backers are not investors and don't get a cut of any profits. Instead, they receive rewards pegged to dollar amounts—from a simple thanks to a walk-on role in a film or a private concert. In a new $500,000 Indiegogo movie campaign by James Franco, perks for $10,000 contributors include dinner with the actor and his production team.
This spring, Kickstarter campaigns for a movie based on the Kristen Bell TV series "Veronica Mars" soared to $5.7 million and Zach Braff's proposed film "Wish I Was Here" hit $3.1 million, raising more money than any other movies on Kickstarter and unleashing criticism that people who need these sites the least are the ones benefiting the most. Kickstarter counters that the two campaigns drew hundreds of new contributors who have gone on to back other projects.
"Veronica Mars" creator and executive producer Rob Thomas, who launched the movie project after Warner Bros. passed on it, said there were "almost daily" conversations about how to avoid the whiff of panhandling. The key was to make backers feel as if they'd joined a private club with first access to casting news, video clips and updates from the set. The campaign, which drew 91,585 backers pledging $1 to $10,000, requires intensive follow-up: Mr. Thomas estimates it will cost around $2 million to send T-shirts, DVDs and other perks to supporters. "If we get bad press at the end of the movie because of poor fulfillment, I think it would scare off other studios from doing this," he says.
Celebrity children have an especially hard time keeping the crowd happy. Zosia Mamet, 25, of the HBO series "Girls," and her sister Clara Mamet, 18, daughters of playwright David Mamet, recently launched a $32,000 Kickstarter campaign to make amusic video showcasing their vocals, "body percussion" and banjo skills. The campaign failed when it raised less than $2,800. On their Kickstarter page, one person wrote sarcastically that given the size of their funding goal, their video ought to be 213.33 times better than the one he did with a $150 smartphone. The Mamet sisters declined to comment.
Colin Hanks, son of actor Tom Hanks, didn't appear to have any trouble winning over his 1,686 backers—he raised $92,000 in a 2011 Kickstarter for a documentary about Tower Records, nearly double his original goal. Funders, however, now want to know why he's not working faster. "It's a little frustrating because this has been almost two years," says 31-year-old New York backer Marisa Jeffries, who gave $40. Mr. Hanks, who was not available for comment, has posted recent updates on Kickstarter about his ongoing work on the movie.
[image]Steven Parke
'Medusa's Daughter'
Fans are even testier with Josh Dibb, known as Deakin of the experimental rock band Animal Collective. In 2009, Mr. Dibb raised nearly $26,000 on Kickstarter for a project to create a book and CD about slavery in Mali. Mr. Dibb said that he changed the campaign shortly after it launched so that all funds would go to charity rather than to cover costs that included his travel expenses to Mali. The campaign met its goal, and Mr. Dibb flew to West Africa.
His backers are still waiting for the record. Los Angeles media entrepreneur Dan Rollman called the campaign results "truly disappointing" on Mr. Dibb's Kickstarter page. In an interview, Mr. Rollman said he offered Mr. Dibb a desk at his office so the musician could work on the album. Mr. Dibb says he's almost finished with the project and encourages disgruntled fans to contact him, adding that he has met with some personally.
About four in 10 Kickstarter projects reached their funding goals last year, with more than $274 million distributed to creators (Kickstarter and credit-card processing in the U.S. take about a 9% cut total from successful projects).
So far in 2013, Kickstarter has seen nearly $200 million go to successfully funded projects across the site. Indiegogo does not make its financial figures public, according to a spokeswoman, who noted that the site's campaigns raised 20% more in 2012 than the previous year. The crowdfunding site RocketHub, which is pairing with cable channel A&E to highlight projects in short features between programs, reports 20% growth in campaign postings every month.
It's difficult to tune out an appeal by someone's mother. The Kickstarter campaign for a "Moby Dick" card game Tavit Geudelekian cocreated recently closed at $102,730, more than four times its original goal—thanks partly to Houry Geudelekian, Tavit's mom. After giving $300 herself, she enlisted her Facebook friends ("People! Let's do this!") and stuffed her purse with 4x6 cards bearing the Kickstarter project's Internet address. Ms. Geudelekian, who represents nonprofits at the United Nations, even snuck in a Kickstarter pitch during a seminar for high-school students about her work with the international organization.
Ms. Geudelekian, whose friends and co-workers often reported to her exactly how much they gave, is fighting her urge to find out whether certain cousins contributed.
One name that's missing: Tavit's dad. Vartan Geudelekian isn't so comfortable with the Internet. Mr. Geudelekian jokes that his father turned him down over the phone with something like, "I pledged with college, OK, goodbye." His dad says it took him awhile to figure out what the "Moby Dick" project was all about. "I don't understand computers," he says. "I don't know how these things work."
As tricky as it can be to attract backers, delivering their rewards later can be even tougher. To fund his indie-folk-pop album, "He Said She Said That's What She Said,"Jeff Harms had offered personalized songs for pledges of $50 or more. The 39-year-old Chicago musician made $6,000, twice his Kickstarter goal, but in the year since then he's had to write 30 songs for his backers (including three about cats—"Delilah you hunt 'em down, Delilah you've outdone all the other cats in town," and so on).
Mr. Harms still owes his contributors three tunes and a rock opera. He calls his time-consuming rewards system "really naive," but he adds that his fan base has grown to include people around the country and abroad. Mr. Harms, who is still working on the double album his backers funded, sends them new songs and regular updates about his work. "Now I have this captive audience," he says.
Not everyone wants to join the crowd. When Darlisa Black promoted a Kickstarter campaign for an album by her daughter, Leannan Sidhe, she asked one of her oldest friends if she'd had a chance to listen to the music. The friend leveled with her. "She flat out told us she didn't like my daughter's music," says the 55-year-old photographer from White Salmon, Wash. "That one did hurt my feelings. At least you could pretend."
It didn't end up mattering much. The campaign was a success, and soon Ms. Black was back promoting her daughter's Kickstarter for her next album, which Ms. Sidhe describes as "a mix of dark fairy tales and passion, wrapped in a labyrinth, sprinkled with enchantment and served with a side of whimsy." Ms. Black reached out to plenty of strangers this time: more than 2,000 people on Facebook, Google+, Flickr and Twitter. Her efforts did not go to waste. The campaign reached its $3,000 goal—with $330 to spare.
Here Come the Crowdfunding Consultants
One sure sign of crowdfunding's growth: The emergence of self-styled experts who, for a piece of the action, say they'll shape a successful campaign.
Lucas McNelly, a 34-year-old part-time filmmaker from Waldoboro, Maine, is part of a band of crowdfunding consultants. He handles about 10 campaigns at once—double his business a year ago—and provides services ranging from advice on advertising to running a campaign's day-to-day operations. He gets a 5% to 13% cut from projects that meet their goals, taking home between $20,000 and $30,000 a year.
Rob Hauer
Consultant Richard Parks
Campaigners rely on creating buzz through their social networks. Mr. McNelly has gotten kicked off Twitter at least once while promoting a client's campaign. After he sent more than 100 tweets in an hour during a final push for a client and the site stopped him from sending more for a while. (Twitter temporarily prohibits users from sending any more tweets after they hit a rate limit.)
To avoid irritating friends, Mr. McNelly tells them to unfollow him before a campaign's final push. "I just say, 'Look, it's going to get bad.' "
The campaigns are getting glossier. Milana Rabkin, a digital-media agent at United Talent Agency, has helped young filmmakers and writers hone their Kickstarter pitches. She has introduced some of her clients to the site's executives and was involved in the high-profile "Veronica Mars" movie project. (Of the more than 100,000 projects launched on Kickstarter since 2009, only a fraction have been produced with professional help, according to a site spokesman.)
Campaigners promote themselves on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr, but those with little social-media presence can try to buy buzz from a number of new services. One of them, CrowdFund Promotion, offers customers access to 21 Twitter accounts with 90,000 followers. For $74, customers are also promised at least 1,500 retweets. Campaigners stay mum about employing such services so their traffic doesn't look phony. "They don't want to admit they used us," says company founder and CEO Matt Morris. (Mr. Morris says the company complies with Twitter's requirement to label all sponsored tweets.)
[image]Joe Shapiro
Lucas McNelly gets a 5% to 13% cut of projects.
BackerKit, a software tool released this year, helps campaigners send out rewards on schedule and maintain relationships with contributors. The idea: Backers are ripe to become long-term fans and customers since they've already spent money on the concept. "Money can't buy that kind of loyalty," says Maxwell Salzberg, a co-founder of the startup.
Los Angeles filmmaker Richard Parks says he gets a few calls a month from people asking him to make their videos—one such Kickstarter video cost more than $10,000 to make, he says. Some campaigners ask Mr. Parks to appear in their pitches, too. With his scruffy mustache and plaid shirts, the 31-year-old filmmaker has made a few Kickstarter videos for himself and others, so he believes he knows how to hit the right note. "It's like asking for something in a not-annoying or entitled way," he says.
The King of Kickstarter
Sultan Saeed Al Darmaki wants to be the Cecil B. DeMille of Kickstarter.
The 30-year-old horror-movie fan from Abu Dhabi has given to 90 Kickstarter campaigns, making him one of the site's top backers. He often contributes at the top tiers (funding levels run up to $10,000) but won't disclose a total because he says he doesn't want to belittle other supporters.
Sultan Saeed Al Darmaki
Sultan Saeed Al Darmaki
"He bought one of the highest rewards we had," says filmmaker Jared Butler, who launched a Kickstarter campaign this spring for a postapocalyptic zombie movie, "Undying." Though the film fell short of its $45,000 goal, Mr. Butler was heartened that a stranger would pour money into his idea. "I thought it was someone playing a joke. It sounded too good to be true."
Word of Mr. Al Darmaki's largess is getting around. Campaigners send him reverent emails calling him "Your Highness." They don't realize that "Sultan" is his first name, not a title.
Mr. Al Darmaki is owner and managing director of the Al Darmaki Group, a family company based in Abu Dhabi that he describes as a variety of businesses from children's clothing retail operations to construction. He hopes his Kickstarter patronage will help him network in the film industry. Indeed, he is now listed as a producer on, the heavily trafficked Hollywood database. (Backers who spend enough can get a movie credit as a perk.)
He also has been offered walk-on roles in return for his cash. "I wouldn't mind doing that," he says. "I just want to get in better shape."
Outside of Kickstarter, Mr. Al Darmaki is currently involved in three independent films, including one he wrote and plans to direct. Kickstarter is still an obsession, though. He checks the site about every six hours, he says, adding that it has gone a long way in replacing another online habit: "It did help me quit World of Warcraft."