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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Million-Dollar 'Valentine': IFP Market Pays Off For Filmmaker Cianfrance

I know you missed me, but I insisted on a 24-hour moment of silence following the news of Sven Nykvist’s passing to collect my thoughts and get on with life. First stop: The IFP Market‘s Awards Luncheon down in the East Village. I had missed basically the entire week of panels and films connected to this year’s event, but sending me an invitation promising a $1 million feature financing giveaway to a lucky indie filmmaker is like jamming a photo of Ed McMahon’s face in a retiree’s mailbox. I may have been late and a little disconsolate over my lost Swedish love, but fuck if I’m missing that.

Checking in: Filmmaker Derek Cianfrance clutches his budget at the IFP Market Awards Luncheon. Joining him (L-R) are Silverwood Films execs Doug Dey and Lynette Howell and the event’s host, actor Giancarlo Esposito (Photo: STV)

New to the Market in 2006, the Chrysler Film Project–a partnership between Silverwood Films and, well, Chrysler–awarded the big money to Derek Cianfrance, a Brooklyn-based, Sundance-alum director whose script Blue Valentine had previously run into a series of delays–if “series of delays” is the euphemism we are using these days for “a decade.”
“I’ve been working on my film for like nine-and-a-half years–hustling it, trying to get it going,” he told The Reeler after the awards’ ritualistic Giant Fake Check ceremony. “It’s been set up like three different times, and in that time of waiting, you prepare. So I’m prepared. I’m ready to go. I feel like I’ve been in the gym training and I’ve been hitting that punching bag a million times. Now this is my shot at the title, you know?”
And how! Cianfrance said Valentine –based on the director’s short Lately There Have Been Many Misunderstandings–is about the juxtaposition of a couple’s happy past with its tenuous future and the prospect of a non existant future. “The physicality of youth versus young adulthood,” he explained. “More of a cerebral time of being trapped inside your head. It’s all about how when you’re young, you have an opportunity to become anything and you make decisions and choices and become something. These people are trying to become something, and it’s different than what they thought they would have been.”
Casting now and partnering with producers Jamie Patricof and Alex Orlovsky of Hunting Lane Films (Half Nelson) and executive producers @radical.media, the filmmaker is prepping now for a month of pre-production and a tentative mid-November shooting date. He said he has his eye on a location in Central California, where he will attempt to relay “a place we’ve never seen before on film.” Whatever, kid, dream big, just make sure everyone drives a Chrysler.
Meanwhile, I also got a word in with IFP executive director Michelle Byrd, who recalled Cianfrance’s project rolling through IFP’s No Borders program years ago. She noted the Chrysler sponsorship’s derivation from the brand’s former Million Dollar Film Festival competition.
“Basically, IFP is interested in any opportunity that takes an individual who’s interested in putting some money into an independent film and figuring out how we serve as a conduit,” Byrd told me. “With Chrysler, we were pitched an opportunity to get involved not in an IFP program, but something they were doing.” With the Fledgling Fund Awards for emerging Latino filmmakers and socially conscious documentaries, Byrd said, the goal was to coordinate with burgeoning indie-film godmother Diana Barrett to “create a grant specific to her needs.”
And then it was over. I should have a little more from the market tomorrow, including a visit with one of 2005’s great breakthrough filmmakers and a recap of that panel I skidded through so gracelessly. At least that is the plan; I must will it done. Sven would have wanted it that way.
The event’s other winners follow after the jump.

The Fledgling Fund Award for Emerging Latino Filmmakers ($10,000): Vivian Lesnik Weisman
IFP Market Emerging Narrative Screenplay Award ($5,000, presented by Artists Public Domain): I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down, Scott Teems
IFP Market Documentary Completion Award ($5,000, presented by Artists Public Domain, and $25,000 in-kind support from Alpha Cine, Analog Digital International, Mercer Media, Showbiz Software/Media Services and Splash Studios): Waiting For Hockney, Julie Checkoway
The Fledgling Fund Award for Socially Cosnscious Documentaries ($10,000): Promised Land, Yoruba Richen
IFP/Current TV — VC2 Competition (broadcast license for Current TV): In the Frame, Leah Hamilton; More Than 41 Shots, Derek Koen; Parkour NYC, Shirley Petchprapa

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon