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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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“I always thought that once I had lived in Chicago for a while, it would be interesting to do a portrait of the city – but to do it at a significant time. Figuring out when would be the ideal time to do that was the trick. So when this election came around, coupled with the Laquan McDonald trial, it seemed like the ideal time to do the story. Having lived in Chicagoland for thirty-five-plus years and done a number of films here, I’ve always been struck by the vibrancy of the city and its toughness. Its tenderness too. I’ve always been interested in the people at the center of all the stories. This is a different film in that regard, because we’re not following a couple of individuals over the course of the project in the way that a lot of the films I’ve done have, but I still feel like people’s voices and aspirations and hopes are at the center of this series.

It wasn’t easy. We started back in July 2018, it was actually on the Fourth of July – that was our first shoot. It’s like most documentaries in that the further you go along the more involved and obsessed you get, and you just start shooting more and more and more. We threw ourselves into this crazy year in Chicago. We got up every day and tried to figure out if we should be out shooting or not, and what it is we should shoot. We were trying to balance following this massive political story of the mayor’s race and these significant moments like the Laquan McDonald trial with taking the pulse of people in the city that we encounter along the way and getting a sense of their lives and what it means to live here. By election day, Zak Piper, our producer, had something like six cameras out in the field. You could double-check that, it might have been seven. We had this organized team effort to hit all the candidates as they were voting, if they hadn’t already voted. We hit tons of polling places, were at the Board of Elections and then were at the parties for the candidates that we had been able to follow closely. Then of course, we were trying to make sure we were at the parties of the candidates who made it to the runoff. So, yeah, it was kind of a monster.”
~ Steve James On City So Real

“I really want to see The Irishman. I’ve heard it’s big brother Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece. But I really can’t find the time. The promotion schedule is so tight, there’s no opportunity to see a three and a half-hour movie. But I really want to see it. In 2017, right before Okja’s New York premiere, I had the chance to go to Scorsese’s office, which is in the DGA building. There’s a lovely screening room there, too, with film prints that he’s collected. I talked to him for about an hour. There’s no movie he hasn’t seen, even Korean films. We talked about what he’s seen and his past work. It was a glorious day. I’ve loved his work since I was in college. Who doesn’t? Anyone involved with movies must feel the same way.”
~ Bong Joon-ho