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By Mark Bell | September 22, 2010

Is the film festival panel system too slow for the speed of the conversation nowadays? Is the system too skewed in favor of older ideas and models, and not open to newer exchanges of ideas? Are some topics too taboo for even a festival or market to cover? A conversation broke out on Twitter this morning between myself, marketing/engagement media strategist for indie film Sheri Candler and Atlanta Film Festival 365 Communications Director Charles Judson about the film festival panel system, and when all was said and done a new idea was born: Film in 140, a bi-monthly film panel series held live online via Twitter.

Our first Film in 140 panel, entitled “Film Piracy: Does It Help or Hurt?” will take place Wednesday, September 29, 2010 from 9-10pm EST. Look for the hashtag #filmin140 to follow the panel or contribute to the conversation, and Follow Filmin140Panel and FilmThreat for updates. We’ll be announcing the guests on our inaugural panel later on this week, as well as posting instructions on how to best be a part of the conversation, links to educate yourself on the different opinions about film piracy and anything else we can think of that will make being a part of the Film in 140 panel series that much more exciting for you.

I’m a firm believer that if you’re not a part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem. This is just one attempt to be part of the solution, to create an ongoing conversation throughout the year, as opposed to just once-in-a-film-festival. Hopefully we’ll be able to hit on topics that are not only important, but timely, for those of us interested in film, or who make film our lives. Join in the conversation, and let us know what you’d like to see a panel on!

For those who are curious, or who don’t necessarily follow our Twitter account (or follow so many on Twitter you missed the conversation altogether), I’ve created a handy transcript of the impromptu conversation that started the ball rolling here:

It all started WAY earlier this morning, when I read, and re-tweeted, an article written by Sheri Candler for Ted Hope’s website,

RT @edward_burns: Read great new post at #hopeforfilm. the NEW INDIE FILMMAKER –

Later on, I found a tweet by Sheri that I felt was equally as interesting, the thought that ideas that could be beneficial for filmmakers can be found in other areas besides filmmaking, and therefore a broader base of panelists may be necessary to truly wrap our heads around the changing landscape of the film industry, so I re-tweeted and responded:

@filmthreat: RT @shericandler why can’t we have these people speaking on film panels instead of the legacy people? follow new business models

@filmthreat: @shericandler You’d have to do a mix. Legacy gets the audience to the panel, newcomers blow their minds.

And thus, the conversation began. To eliminate the line-for-line regurgitation started above, I’ve combined tweets that came in succession to one another during the conversation, which was eventually joined by Charles:

@shericandler: @filmthreat I think if you marketed it right, ppl would gladly come. Just like the fests to want to play up name over content besides, most of the innovators aren’t coming from the film industry. We can learn much from outsiders

@filmthreat: @shericandler I’m agreeing with you, but as fests have learned, giving one or two “name” film (or panelists) a slot to draw in the audience allows you to preach the new word to them once they’re inside. You’re right in that the education has to come from outside the regular niches right now, but the audience won’t know that instinctively so you need to use old tactics to educate on the new. Then, when enough are informed, focus on the new.

@shericandler: @filmthreat hm, or just write off those who are only interested in the old. Clinging to the old stops us from embracing the new. mixing old world and new world only props up old world that much longer. It still gives voice to those who can’t change in fact, I am starting to think panels aren’t that useful if they are only a platform for old thinking, they seem to be those who want new perspectives can search them out everyday, no need for panels at events If fests want to mix old and new world, let’s see some more cage matches. I want the old to tell me how out of touch they are

@filmthreat: @shericandler Yeah, but “new for only new” and “old for only old” are both mindsets that are insular and exclude the possibility of the “answer” or “truth” coming from anywhere. The old is as invaluable in education as the new. Embrace the best of both. But segregating ideas does more damage than it illuminates. Does the current panel system lend itself to propping up old ideas? Yes, it can, but it doesn’t have to do so. Plus, the honest fact of life is that what is new today will be old tomorrow, and we’ll be talking about this again, hopefully with better ideas, in a few years.

@shericandler: @filmthreat the people chosen to speak are chosen because they have an in, not because they offer valuable insight and it is the same people over and over. I want to hear from people who have found success that you have never heard of going forward it is success in the niche, in the tribe, that I am interested in hearing about. Not in the mass, bought audience the bought audience is too fickle, not loyal and costs too much to have to keep buying it over and over

@filmthreat: @shericandler Is the film festival audience really a “bought” audience? Maybe on a Sundance level, where the brand is huge, but on a regional level? That’s all about community, and tribe as you and Seth put it, and maybe that’s where the “new” ideas need their discourse to begin. While I admire, and understand, the passion behind the “burn the old” process I’m still too optimistic a person to think that exclusion, in any form, is the answer.

@shericandler: as an example of a regional fest still holding talks on the old model, I give you Sidewalk Moving. Look at their panels whenever a local fest still programs distrib execs talking about how to attract them, the interest flicks off for me.

@filmthreat: @shericandler Change is scary; businesses, and I’m including film festivals in that, do what works. If an audience always turns up for a certain type of panel, fests will program a panel like that. Many fests do a bit of both: cater to the old, cater to the new and then mix ideas. From there, the audience makes or breaks the experiment. Whenever people ask me why Hollywood makes s**t movies, I say it’s because people still watch them. Change has to come from all sectors. And it can, but it usually is slow. I’d say your vocal voice is a strong one, that will convince many to come along (again, I agree with your ideas). I just hope the discourse opens up more so it’s not dismissed as the same “old vs. new” debate we’ve seen since time began.

@shericandler: we should do hashtag discussions once a week. Everyone has a perspective and can bring examples we may not be aware of. Panel via twitter

@atlfilm365: @shericandler Not a bad idea. A paper in Birmingham does a weekly chat on city issues via twitter using a hashtag each week.

@shericandler: @atlfilm365 but participation should be contingent on what you can offer to the discussion, not to just bitch, moan and knock ideas

@atlfilm365: @shericandler The people that whine/moan are needed. They force others to think & defend their points. Seen conversations die without them. Let’s stop debating & let’s get this virtual online panel idea started. 🙂 1st things 1st the hashtag? Then a time. @filmthreat Hey, is FT down to participate in a regular virtual film panel via twitter?

@filmthreat: @atlfilm365 Of course. I think we can expand upon the idea, though. Check your DM… in a minute. I’m a slow typist 😉

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  1. Dan Pavlik says:

    I know the Sundance & Slamdance 2011 lineups come out in a few weeks, and my feature comedy, Nominated, is entered in both. I made this film for about $25k, and got Carl Lumbly (Alias, Men of Honor) to co-star, but I have no grand illusions that I have a Park City snowball’s chance in hell of getting in. It’s frustrating – not because I won’t get in – because of the difficulty of being taken seriously enough to even get on the radar of some of the second-tier festivals. I’m entered in 32 fests for 2011, and I’ve already discovered that if you don’t have an “in”, it’s very difficult to get any attention. I just want a level playing field that judges a film on its merit alone. If my film sucks, then so be it. Here’s my trailer:
    P.S. great podcasts!

  2. DL Smith says:

    I’m about to launch a teaser trailer for my debut feature Liberty. We are using strategies from other filmmakers for social media. But also other ideas from marketing people who are outsiders but have fresh perspectives. I say we can learn from all sources if we are open minded.

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