IHFF Filmmakers Panel: Kickstarters, Area Codes and an Import/Export Imbalance 

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There are numerous ways to gauge the success of a film festival—none of them definitive. Sundance looks to draw celebrities. Cannes attracts the fashionistas. Toronto sees how many award contenders it can pack into its schedule. According to film data blog stephenfollows.com, more than 9,700 separate film festivals ran at least once between 1998-2013, 75 percent of them created between 2003-2013.

When it comes to most film festivals, it's all about audience engagement. Judging from the number of people wearing passes to the Idaho Horror Film Festival on Saturday night, the 2015 edition has been a major success.

Fans spent the past 48 hours streaming in and out of screenings, lectures and workshops, and filling Boise bars and restaurants. The festival began with a citywide pub crawl Oct. 15, continuing with multiple bump-in-the-night screenings and a two-day class on "no budget" filmmaking. IHFF organizers said they were thrilled with this year's slate.

Perhaps the most provocative event during the festival was a highly opinionated panel discussion Saturday evening on the stage of the Egyptian Theatre, featuring eight filmmakers—writers, cinematographers, directors, technicians, you name it—who deconstructed Idaho's film scene.

"Let's just state the obvious: Idaho doesn't have film incentives," said Celeste Matika, producer, assistant director and panel moderator, lamenting the fact that many other states offer financial incentives and tax breaks in order to bring film productions to their locales.

That triggered a robust debate of best practices when it comes to financing an Idaho film project, with widely differing opinions. 

"I really want to push back against the Kickstarter model," said writer/director/actor Will Von Tagen, arguing that his production of Almosting It was funded through equity-based investment, thus holding his feet to the fire to produce a product sooner than later. Von Tagen said crowdfunding requires a disproportionate amount of focus on Internet updates rather than actual filmmaking. 

Writer/director Christian Lybrook—whose latest production is the Idaho-based Carbon, funded through a grant from the Sun Valley Film Festival—disagreed with Von Tagen, arguing that a Kickstarter campaign, "actually has an extra benefit. It provides a built-in fan base as you're producing your film."

While the panel encouraged more Idaho projects, big and small, screenwriter Elizabeth Rodgers, who moved to the Gem State from California several years ago, said her career still revolves around work in southern California.

"I still have kept my 310 area code on my phone so that people think I'm in Los Angeles," said Rodgers, who has crafted screenplays for Paramount Pictures and Showtime Television, and is currently working on a script for Killer Films. "I honestly don't think people would answer my phone call if they saw 208 as my area code."

Rodgers quickly added that her real desire is to write and produce more Idaho-based films, but John Eames, director/cinematographer at Boise-based North by Northwest Productions, weighed in, saying many of his company's film projects still come from outside of Idaho.

"A lot of people here in Idaho that are the most qualified in their craft don't work here very often," said Eames. "They go elsewhere for their work. But they come back here to live."
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