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Kai Ryssdal: Sundance and Cannes get all the press, but the film festival circuit is pretty much a year-round operation. This week you could go to Italy for the Capri Hollywood International Film Festival. There’s one in Manila, the Phillipines, in full swing right now. Next week, it’s Palm Springs, Calif. Sadly, we just missed the one up in Anchorage, Alaska, with what has to be the all-time best festival slogan ever — “films worth freezing for.” Most of what you’ll find on the festival circuit are smaller, lower budget independent films, which is where Cash Peters comes in.
CASH PETERS: So here’s what happened. I decided to produce a short film. I mean, you can’t stay in radio forever, right? Plus, I’ve heard independent movies can make a bundle if they sell at film festivals. Well, yes and no.
According to Rebecca Yeldham — she made the Kite Runner movie and now runs the L.A. Film Festival — that used to be the case.
REBECCA YELDHAM: What happened was this kind of very seductive carrot got dangled in front of artists, you know: Become a filmmaker, go to Sundance, get in competition, win a prize, and sell your movie for $10 million advance. That was a very kind of sexy concept.
And it still is because that’s exactly what I want. Ten million dollars. Unfortunately, so does everyone else, apparently.
Trevor Groth runs the Cinevegas Film Festival.
TREVOR GROTH: Movie making has opened up to the masses, and you have a huge range now of the kind of films that are made.
PETERS: Yeah, but it doesn’t mean you want to see them produced, though. I mean you must get a huge amount of garbage.
GROTH: Well, one man’s garbage is another man’s…
PETERS: Oh, you’re way too forgiving.
GROTH: No, no, of course, of course.
Of course. But here’s the thing. Cameras are so cheap these days. I mean, it only costs about $50 to enter a festival. So suddenly the entire world and his wife now think they’re Michael Moore. Trouble is, unless you really are Michael Moore, the festival circuit can be a real dead end. Especially in this economy when so few movies get picked up.
This year’s L.A. Film Festival, for instance, had 4000 entries. All competing for a $50,000 grand prize. And most importantly, a movie deal.
YELDHAM: The cold hard truth is that probably 1 percent of those films will ever see, if that, will ever see any kind of any meaningful theatrical distribution. That’s the reality of our world and the marketplace for speciality film.
So bearing all of that in mind and with my eye on $50 grand, I decided to give it a shot and make my own movie. Passion is important, of course, so I chose a subject I’m incredibly passionate about — myself. And took it to Rebecca Yeldham.
YELDHAM: The film festival is an opportunity to start to cultivate interest in you and your films, and presumably you’re an artist.
PETERS: I am. Now.
YELDHAM: And you had a story to tell. And maybe there’ll be other people in the cinema who might be able to see your incredible talent and are going to want to then give you other opportunities in the future.
PETERS: So can I show you my movie?
PETERS: It’s really short. But it’s great.
MOVIE: As of today, I’m doing the Master Cleanse to clean out my body…
Wow, could this be more exciting. Here I was showing my new movie to the producer of the Kite Runner. It’s an unusual piece. It’s mainly about me dieting. I don’t know what it was about this concept that repulsed Rebecca so much, but she didn’t like it at all.
YELDHAM: It’s a weird kind of infomercial for.
PETERS: For me.
YELDHAM: For you.
PETERS: So that’s what I’m entering into your film festival.
YELDHAM: I’m sorry, with all due respect, you haven’t got a chance in hell.
PETERS: Why is that?
YELDHAM: It’s not very good.
Clearly I’m not Michael Moore. And I’m guessing you aren’t either. Unless you are. But hey, my movie was shown in three major film festivals across the country. And you know what, I even sensed Rebecca coming around in the end.
PETERS: How would you compare this to the Kite Runner, maybe?
YELDHAM: I think you fall a little short.
Well, all right, she hated it.
In Hollywood, film capital of the world, for some, I’m Cash Peters for Marketplace.