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SXSW Links Filmmakers With Distributors


By Billy Gil | Posted: 02 Mar 2009

The 2009 South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin will feature panels with both film distributors and filmmakers, connecting the two in what panelists call a warm and intimate environment.

“The festival does a good job of connecting people, whether it’s through panels, Q&As or parties,” said David Fenkel, co-founder and partner of Oscilloscope Laboratories, a New York-based distribution company co-founded by Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys. “People like myself can go to a barbecue and talk to filmmakers in a very relaxed environment and have fun.”

Fenkel will appear on the panel “The State of Distribution: What You Need to Know,” (March 14, Room 16AB, 11 a.m. to noon). It will cover what buyers are looking to acquire and how movies are distributed, from release windows and timing to rights and updated distribution philosophies. It’s just one of several panels that will cater directly to both filmmakers and distributors.

Also appearing on that panel will be Michael Barker, president of Sony Pictures Classics.

“Austin is a unique town, and it’s a celebration, not just of film but of music as well, and so the crowds are very lively and energetic and volatile, which is great,” Barker said.

Indeed, Barker pointed out such highlights as the historic Paramount Theatre in Austin, which will screen the Sony Pictures Classics film Moon, an off-kilter sci-fi film starring Sam Rockwell, March 14 at 7:30 p.m. He said SXSW, with its theaters that serve alcohol and its music venues, provides the ideal opportunity to screen such a film.

March 14 and 16 will feature distributor panels dubbed “Mentors: Distributors,” giving filmmakers face time with the people who could eventually disseminate their films. Joe Amodei, president and founder of Virgil Films and Entertainment (who appears March 14; Room 18A, 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.), said he loves mentoring, typically with six to 12 filmmakers, sharing his experiences in the industry and giving tips.

“A lot of the filmmakers I’ve done this with, I’ve actually kept up relationships and helped them out in the future with getting their films placed,” Amodei said. “The business is like a corn maze, trying to figure out what to do with your film once you’ve made it, and that doesn’t seem to be what is taught in schools across the country.”

Also of interest is the panel “The Future of the DVD and Digital Distribution” (March 16, Room 12AB, 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.), which will cover the lifespan of DVD and Blu-ray Disc, selling films through iTunes and other digital outlets, digital revenue and peer-to-peer networks. The panel will consist of filmmakers, tech folk and distributors, and is being moderated by Scott Kirsner, editor of CinemaTech.

“Whether its Netflix streaming, iTunes [or other means], I think this is the year we’ll really see some momentum on the digital side,” Kirsner said.

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