A Lot Like You

A Film by Eliaichi Kimaro

12/10/2011 ~ ADIFF Panel Discussion ~ Monetizing Independent Cinema

December 10, 2011

fuel for the panel

First up, Oren’s Daily Roast — the best coffee I’ve ever had away from home, hands down!  And can we just note that:

Tanzania is Coffee of the Day
(to commemorate Tanzania’s 50th Birthday??)

Love the description:  “sweet berry fragrance, medium body, good clear acidity…”   With that much care given to balancing the bitter with the sweet, they might as well be describing our movie!

Teacher's College, Columbia University

Next, on to Teachers College for the African Diaspora International Film Festival panel discussion on “Monetizing Independent Cinema.”  What a huge topic!!  As Renee Conly (the panel moderator) put it, this conversation could just as easily be called “Hey, I’ve finished my film!  Now what??!”
(Sound familiar?)

I’m grateful that ADIFF videotaped this discussion, because it covered a lot of ground.  Each panelist examined this issue of how to monetize the post-completion phase of a film’s life through their own unique lens.  And while I could never do justice to the entire conversation, here are a few tasty takeaways…

Milton Tabbott (IFP Senior Director, Programming), Caitlin Boyle (President, Filmsprout), myself, Maria Breaux (Director, Mother Country), Diarah N'Daw-Spech (Co-Director, ArtMattan), Renee Conly (panel moderator)

Milton Tabbot (IFP Senior Director, Programming) addressed the ever-changing distribution landscape, and both the opportunities and challenges indie filmmakers face as they consider the marketing and outreach options for their films.  IFP’s capacity building initiatives (including Independent Film Week and their Filmmaker’s Labs) are some of the most highly sought after opportunities, providing emerging filmmakers with both the access and support they need to produce and share their work with a wider audience.

And I appreciated how candidly Milton spoke about the challenges of reaching out to traditionally underserved communities without being tokenizing, and/or compromising IFP’s level of support.

Caitlin Boyle (President, FilmSprout) supports filmmakers in broadening the social impact of their film through creative community engagement campaigns and innovative screening events that extend beyond the traditional theatrical release model.

Quick side note:  Caitlin dropped serious gems when considering whether digital media has had a positive or negative effect on a filmmaker’s ability to monetize their film.

Fellow mixed/mama filmmaker Maria Breaux (Director, Mother Country) addressed the dilemma filmmakers face when portraying people of color whose stories, images, character fall outside of mainstream norms and expectations.  So the stories that end up getting made, that turn a profit and find a wider audience are ones that perpetuate this monolithic story about the experience of people of color…making it difficult for filmmakers to break out of this mold, using their films as a vehicle for expanding and deepening the discourse about the diversity of human experience.

Diarah N’Daw-Spech (Co-Director of ADIFF and ArtMattan) spoke of the need to have festivals and distributors who are particularly well-versed in the conversation of the African Diaspora.  ArtMattan is especially well-versed in finding innovative ways to package, market, and pitch films that resonates with the American audience (by making them feel relevant to the US experience.)

As part of her speech, she also presented A Lot Like You the only award that the African Diaspora International Film Festival offers, which is Best Film Directed by a Woman of Color.  (And given that it’s a generous cash award, the honor fit well within the topic of our panel.  Brilliant!)  This award was such a surprise, and a tremendous honor.  We’re so very grateful to have been able to share our film with ADIFF, and look forward to exploring possible future screening opportunities with them!!

And of course, as always, I can’t remember a single damn word I said.  We’ll have to see the video when it’s posted…

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