By Ray Pride


First Time Directors Selected for Highly Successful Year-long Mentorship

New York, NY  (May 13, 2013) – The Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) announced today the ten documentaries selected for the 2013 Independent Filmmaker Labs, IFP’s  annual year-long fellowship for first-time feature directors.  The key creative teams of the selected films, chosen from a national pool of 200 submissions, will participate in three week-long sessions over the course of 2013, with the first – the Time Warner Foundation Documentary Completion Lab – taking place May 13-17 in New York City.

“Now more than ever, it’s essential that independent filmmakers have the knowledge and tools to define and reach their audience through multiple platforms, as well as the time and space to make their work the best that it can be,” says Joana Vicente, IFP Executive Director. “With more than 80% of our previous Lab projects debuted in festivals and being released worldwide, the impact of this program has been significant for its participants. We are also thrilled that our longtime supporter Time Warner Foundation has significantly expanded its support of the program, allowing us to provide increased support and crucial mentorship to filmmakers working in the ever-changing landscape of filmmaking, marketing and distribution.”

Two former Lab documentaries will soon premiere on the upcoming season of PBS’ P.O.V. (Herman’s House and High Tech, Low Life), with other alums having recently premiered in 2013 at top festivals – SXSW (12 O’Clock Boys; Big Joy; These Birds Walk), New Directors/New Films (Our Nixon); Tribeca (Alias Ruby Blade; Big Joy), and Hot Docs (12 O’Clock Boys, American CommuneLucky; Northern Light; Our Nixon; These Birds Walk).  Of these, 12 O’Clock Boys and These Birds Walk have been acquired for distribution by Oscillocope Laboratories and Our Nixon by Cinedigm and CNN Films.


Lucky director Laura Checkoway says “As a first-time filmmaker, making my documentary has been an isolating process, and it was wonderful to be surrounded by a community of filmmakers and experts as obsessed with their work as I am with mine. The support and encouragement was overwhelming. I’m so thankful to IFP for believing in my film and offering the push I needed on the steep climb to completion.”


The Independent Filmmaker Labs are a highly immersive, free mentorship program supporting first-time feature directors with projects in post-production as they complete, market and distribute their films. Focusing exclusively on low-budget features (<$1million), the Labs provide filmmakers with the technical, creative and strategic tools necessary to launch their films. Twenty projects (10 documentaries and 10 narratives) are selected for the Lab fellowship. Narrative Lab selections will be announced in June.

The labs provide multiple levels of mentorship throughout the process. The supervising 2013 Documentary Lab leaders are producer Lori Cheatle (112 Weddings51 Birch StreetThe Edge of Dreaming); producer and author Maureen Ryan (The Gates ; co-producer Man on Wire and Project Nim;Producer to Producer), and Jon Reiss, director and author (Bomb It!; Think Outside the Box Office).  Individual workshop leaders include, amongst others: editors Penelope Falk (Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work; Maidentrip), Jonathan Oppenheim (The OathParis Is Burning); Mary Manhardt (American Promise,Street Fight), Jean Tsien (A Place at the TablePlease Vote for Me), and Adam Zucker (Carol Channing: Larger Than Life), composer T. Griffin (Dragonslayer; Informant ), music  supervisor Barry Cole (Marley), and experts on web presence, audience building, outreach, and distribution: Sara Kiener and Merrill Sterritt of Film Presence, Caitlin Boyle of Film Sprout, Erin Owens of Long Shot Factory, Erick Opeka of Cinedigm, and Diana Holtzberg of Films Transit. Additional individual mentors include filmmakers Doug Block (The Kids Grow Up), Heather Courtney (Where Soldiers Come From), Kirby Dick (The Invisible War), Marcia Jarmel (Speaking in Tongues), Tia Lessin (Trouble the Water), and Marlo Poras (The Mosuo SistersRun Granny Run).


Since 2005, 148 documentaries and narrative features have participated in the Labs, with 82% of the projects completed and premiered at major US and international festivals, with 60% having distribution on a variety of platforms beyond festivals. As part of IFP’s ongoing commitment to diversity, the Independent Filmmaker Labs also seek to ensure that at least 50% of the participating projects have an inclusive range of races, genders, sexual orientations, ethnicities and physical abilities in key creative positions.

The Independent Filmmaker Lab program is supported by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Ford Foundation, Heineman Foundation, Hollywood Foreign Press Association, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, New York State Council on the Arts, SAGIndie/Screen Actors Guild and Time Warner Foundation. Lab partners include The Adrienne Shelly Foundation, BMI, Rooftop Films, and 92YTribeca.

The selected projects for the 2013 Documentary Lab and Lab Fellows are:

Approaching the Elephant

Given uncommon freedom and individual rights, a group of young children enroll in a newly opened ‘free school,’ where rules are created democratically – students and teachers have an equal vote – and classes are voluntary. Fellows: Amanda Wilder (Director/DP), Jay Craven (Producer). Brooklyn, NY

Bringing Tibet Home

Tibetan artist Tenzing Rigdol sets out on a mission to bring Tibet closer to Tibetan exiles through an unprecedented art project, inspired by his late father’s unfulfilled wish to breathe his last breath in his homeland. Losing his father made Tenzing realize that wishing to return home is common among all Tibetan exiles.  Thus an art project was born to make this common dream a reality as the artist struggles to bring 20,000 kilos of native soil from Tibet to Tibetan exiles in India. Fellows: Tenzin Tsetan Choklay (Director/ Producer /Writer/DP/Editor); Milica Zec (Editor). Queens, NY

Do I Sound Gay?

Determined to overcome his shame about “sounding gay,” director David Thorpe embarks on a hilarious, poignant, taboo-shattering exploration of the phenomenon of the “gay voice.” With Margaret Cho, Tim Gunn, Dan Savage, David Sedaris and George Takei. Fellows: David Thorpe (Director/Writer); Howard Gertler (Producer). Brooklyn, NY.

Evolution of a Criminal

Deep in the heart of Texas, what begins as an innocent tale of family, sacrifice, and financial hardship quickly escalates into a true-crime thriller. Fusing together compelling interviews, striking re-enactments, and home video, we are forced to ask ourselves how a 16 year-old honor roll student evolved into a bank robber. Darius Clark Monroe (Director); Jen Gatien (Producer); Doug Lenox (Editor). Brooklyn, NY.

Farmer Veteran

Watching a chicken hatch makes combat veteran Alex Sutton smile, so he decides to become a farmer. The sense of purpose he once felt as a soldier returns, but his crippling PTSD remains. Along with his wife, Jessica, he toils through four seasons on a different kind of battlefield and wonders if, for him, the war will ever end.

Fellows:  D.L. Anderson (Director/Producer/Editor); Alix Blair (Director/DP); Mikel Barton (Editor). Durham, NC.

In Country

War is hell. Why would anyone want to spend their weekends there? “In Country” is a cinematic feature documentary following a “platoon” of historical reenactors who are recreating the Vietnam War in the woods of Oregon.  Not just a film about the aftermath of the Vietnam War or the fantasies of grown men; it’s a meditation on how the drums of war continue to draw men to battle despite devastating consequences. Fellows: Megan O’Hara (Director/Producer); Mike Attie ((Director/Producer/DP); Lindsay Utz (Editor).  San Francisco, CA; Seattle, WA.

Kasamayaki (Made in Kasama)

Shaken by the tsunami and nuclear disasters, a grown daughter returns to her rural Japanese artist community to reconnect with her estranged parents and hometown. Meditative moments at the pottery wheel punctuated by tense family conversations, sudden earthquakes and radiation level readings,Kasamayaki exposes the fragility of life and the imperfect nature of human relationships. Fellow: Yuki Kokubo (Director/ Producer/DP/Editor). Brooklyn, NY

The Life and Mind of Mark DeFriest

Mark DeFriest is an American prison legend, an escape artist who has spent 32 years behind bars, most of it in long-term isolation, with little light, hope, or human contact. When the doctor whose diagnosis originally condemned DeFriest to prison admits he was wrong, a new chance for freedom is borne. But is it too late for redemption?  Fellows:  Gabriel London (Director/Writer/DP); Daniel Chalfen (Producer); Nick Clark (Editor). New York, NY


Mateo follows L.A.’s most notorious troubadour, Matthew Stoneman, as he fulfills his most recent obsession, “Una Historia de Cuba,” a record of original compositions recorded over the course of six years piece meal style in Havana, Cuba. Ultimately, “Mateo” is a study of barriers — cultural, geographic, and moral — and a man who doesn’t believe in any of them. Fellows: Aaron Naar (Director/Writer/Producer/DP/Editor); Nicole Vaskell (Editor). Los Angeles, CA

Roots and Webs

If you lose your family, you must build it anew. Amid the desolate Oregon wilderness, the lives of two former soldiers intersect. Roger, a former US Army sniper in Vietnam, and Kouy, a platoon leader with the Khmer Freedom Fighters who fought against Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge, come together each autumn for the matsutake mushroom hunt. The two each wrestle with wounds from Southeast Asian wars, attempting to find the high-priced mushroom before snowfall. An odyssey into the woods, into the memory of war and survival, we tell a story of family from this enigmatic woodland realm. Fellows: Sara Dosa (Director); Josh Penn (Producer). Berkeley, CA.


About IFP

After debuting with a program in the 1979 New York Film Festival, the nonprofit IFP has evolved into the nation’s oldest and largest organization of independent filmmakers, and also the premier advocate for them. Since its start, IFP has supported the production of 7,000 films and provided resources to more than 20,000 filmmakers – voices that otherwise might not have been heard. IFP fosters the development of 350 new feature and documentary films each year through its Project Forum of Independent Film Week, Independent Filmmaker Labs and projects in its fiscal sponsorship program. IFP believes that independent films enrich the universal language of cinema, seeding the global culture with new ideas, kindling awareness, and fostering activism. The organization has fostered early work by leading filmmakers including Charles Burnett, Edward Burns, Jim Jarmusch, Barbara Kopple, Michael Moore, Mira Nair and Kevin Smith.


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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