Indie Filmmakers Face Long Road to Fame

That also means the number of independent releases are growing, as many distributors try to find the next The Blair Witch Project or Pulp Fiction. Exhibitor Relations currently tracks around 50 more independent films per year than it did five years ago.

"For major studio films, there might be some 150 films in a year," says Dergarabedian. "The other 300 might be the smaller independent films."

But it's not just money driving the growth of these upstart films. Many of the films made outside of the major studios are critical successes. Some of this year's Oscar nominations and winners came from independent films like Lions Gate Entertainment's Monster's Ball and In the Bedroom, which was picked up by Miramax Films after debuting at last year's Sundance Film Festival.

That notoriety is not lost on young filmmakers, who are trying to get noticed and make a name for themselves at the growing number of independent film festivals like Sundance or the recently launched Tribeca Film Festival. L.A. Film Festival director Raddon says his event has received some 2,500 feature film entries compared to 1,700 just two years ago.

Big Names, Big Notice

Getting noticed at these festivals is no small feat. Distributors want movies that are unique but commercially viable at the same time. Some filmmakers have been able to land big-name talent for their projects, which inevitably gets them more notice.

Keith Snyder, director of Emmett's Mark, which also premiered at Tribeca, was lucky enough to get Tim Roth, Gabriel Byrne and Scott Wolf from the Fox Network's Party of Five series in his film.

Snyder's movie, about a terminally ill man played by Wolf who hires someone to have him killed so he won't have to end his life suffering in pain, was inspired by a conversation he had with his father, who theorized once that JFK was assassinated in the same manner.

Even though he did not leave the festival with a lucrative distribution deal, he says the publicity and exposure stemming from his debut at the festival were a boost, especially in light of high-profile jurors like Kevin Spacey and Frances McDormand, who were both spotted at the screening of his film last Friday.

Of course, most of the attention on Snyder's movie focused on how he got such big names to star in his film. He says the secret was not connections, but simply sending the scripts to the actors' representatives.

"I just really spent a lot of time writing a script that I thought would be interesting," says Snyder. "All of the actors' representatives really responded to that and subsequently, the actors did. That's it."

Indeed, Snyder's father, who passed away two months ago, often ribbed his son about the time he was taking to write his script during the two years he worked on it. "My Dad was a big fan of telling me the story of how Sylvester Stallone wrote Rocky in three days," says Snyder. "It got a day shorter every time."

Struggling for Success

Snyder would not comment on how much it took to produce his film or how much he paid the actors, but he and his producers are in the process of selling the film for both overseas and domestic distribution.

"I'm confident it will get purchased, the question is at what level and for what market," he says. "All independent filmmakers want to get at least a limited theatrical release and tell our moms that they can see it at the local multiplex."

The LaPorta brothers will only say that One Man's Ceiling, which stars Robert LaPorta and his real-life wife, actress Alexa Fischer, cost as much as "a nice wedding with chicken and a cover band" to produce.

And while they also did not walk away from the festival with a prize or a juicy distribution deal, the exposure at the star-studded event was enough positive affirmation to keep them going for now.

"We just want to keep making films," says Richard. "That's the goal."

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