Downtown Manhattan's IFP Markethas undergone a radical face-lift that will see the week-long US indie filmbazaar transformed from years of being a large and somewhat haphazardclearing-house for completed features into a much more selective showcase whosenarrative focus will fall exclusively on works-in-development and scripts fromemerging filmmakers.
With the demise of SanFrancisco's IFFCON international co-financing conference, New York's IFP Market now becomes the only event on North American soil primarily dedicated topitching feature-length films as projects to potential buyers, co-financiers andtalent scouts as opposed to screening them to the industry in their finishedform. Rotterdam's CineMart might be considered the nearest equivalent- although even that co-production forum runs in parallel with a fullprogramme of film festival screenings.
The IFP Market'sparadigm shift was revealed on Monday by Michelle Byrd, executive director ofthe Independent Feature Project (IFP), the non-profit organization that has runthe annual event for the last 23 years.
The groundbreaking changeswill take immediate effect this autumn when the market kicks off on Sept 26with the IFP Gotham Awards gala and runs through until Oct 4th.
The decision to stopscreening a broad array of narrative features represents a significantdeparture from the market's historical open-door policy to indiefilmmakers, but one that Byrd feels reflects the reality of the marketplace.Film festivals everywhere are tussling for the privilege of premiering thelatest films from up-and-coming indie talents, and dragging distributorattention away with them, while completely unknown filmmakers are finding fewerand fewer opportunities to break through.
"Rather than keeptrying to be all things to all people, we wanted to be identified with a particularniche, which is introducing the industry to emerging filmmakers," Byrdtold ScreenDaily.
Although the IFP Market hadcarved something of a reputation as an early warning system for the festivalcircuit and Sundance in particular - Kevin Smith's black-and-white16mm debut film Clerks, forexample, was famously discovered by an eagle-eyed scout at a poorly attendedmarket screening in 1993 - the huge volume and variable quality of filmsscreened in New York had made it too much of a needle-in-the haystack affairfor most industry executives.
From now on, however, therewill be a vast reduction in the number of projects presented at the IFP Market.The ceiling has been set at 220 projects, representing a 40% reduction over2001. With that reduction comes also a much more rigorous selection criteriathat will take into account a project's artistic merit and commercialstrength. In addition, more than $50,000 in cash and services will be madeavailable to filmmakers through juried awards.
In yesterday'saccompanying press release, the IFP noted that the changes represent theculmination of a five-year period of critical self-evaluation and focus groupsled by Byrd and IFP Deputy Director Ellen Cotler. "Once we were able tolet go of our historical embrace of projecting completed narrative features, wecould visualize a new world of services and opportunities," explainedByrd. "We are committed to our niche of piquing industry interest at thedevelopment stage, and we do not want to compete for finished films which areon their way to the festival circuit."
Charged with getting out thenew message on the new-look IFP Market is Patricia Finneran, who has beenpromoted from associate director to the newly created position of artisticdirector of the IFP Market. According to Finneran, "Our goal is toheighten attention around a select group of talented, emerging filmmakers- particularly those still seeking production and completionfunding."
The overhaul leaves the IFPMarket with four principal sections. They are: