How Are These Funders "Fast Tracking" Independent Films to Market?

Peter Ringbom's "Shield and Spear" was a 2013 Film Independent Fast Track selection.Talk to most directors and they'll tell you that the actual process of making a film, in the grand scheme of things, can be pretty easy. It's all the back-end money and business stuff that makes them lose sleep.

Artistically inclined filmmakers generally don't like navigating through the complex maze of financiers, agents, managers, distributors, and—just for good measure—catering companies in order to bring their movie to the general audience. But that's the way the game is played, for better or worse.

Fortunately, reluctant and bewildered would-be hustlers have an ally in Film Independent's Fast Track film finance market. Now in its 14th year and held during the L.A. Film Festival, Fast Track is designed to help producer-director teams propel their projects forward through meetings with top industry executives, including previously listed players, plus granting organizations and production companies (but probably not catering companies).

Film Independent just selected the 10 winners of this year's Fast Track program, which you can see here. Participants gain valuable exposure and build vital relationships as they fast track their films towards completion during three days of what Film Independent calls "intensive meetings."

Fast Track is supported by Film Independent Artist Development lead funder Time Warner Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, NEA Art Works, EFILM | Company 3, and Loyola Marymount University School of Film and Television.

Now, we've looked at Film Independent programs in the past at IP, and one common theme across their offerings is the idea of immersion (a far more palatable term, in our opinion, than "intensive meetings"). For example, they also provide an equally immersive film directing lab fellowship.

As noted, film Independent also has strong relationships with other funders in the cinema space, most notably the aforementioned Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Loyal IP readers will know that Film Independent partners each year with Sloan to provide, among other things, a $25,000 Sloan Producers Grant for the development of narrative films with scientific, mathematical, or technological themes.

And so it should come as no surprise that the very same press release touting the winners of its Fast Track lab also announced that at the annual Film Independent Fast Track Welcome Dinner, Film Independent presented the eighth annual Alfred P. Sloan Fast Track Grant to writer, director, and producer Mark Levinson for his fiction feature film in development, The Gold Bug Variations.

The $20,000 production grant supports a film that "explores science and technology themes or that depicts scientists, engineers and mathematicians in engaging and innovative ways."

Not coincidentally, we wrote about Sloan back in late April after the grantmaker awarded a three-year, $399,824 grant to the New York City-based Museum of the Moving Image for the continued support and expansion of its online publication devoted to the intersection of science and film.  

Our commentary at the time suggested that in a fast-changing and fragmented funding landscape, filmmakers would be wise to hone in on issue funders. In the case of Sloan, the "issue" in question, quite naturally, is the intersection of film and science, and their recent "fast track" support for The Gold Bug Variations futher corroborates this thesis.