From “The Diary Of A Teenage Girl” To “Results” Sundance Production Highlights

State of the Slate panelists from left to right: Joe Chianese (EP Financial Solutions), Celine Rattray (Ten Thousand Saints), John Hadity (EP Financial Solutions), Carroll Morton (New Orleans Film Commission), Jeremy Kipp Walker (Mississippi Grind), Kim LeBlanc (Texas Film Commission), Houston King (Results), Susannah Robbins (San Francisco Film Commission), Amanda Marshall (The Diary of a Teenage Girl), Bonnie Curtis (The Last Days in the Desert), Julie Lynn (The Last Days in the Desert). Photo credit: Marjorie Galas

By: Marjorie Galas

Independent producers and film makers attending the 2015 Sundance Festival fueled themselves with coffee early Sunday morning, January 25th, at the New York Lounge. The crowd gathered to hear the eleven panelists in attendance for the fourth annual State of the Slate: Films at Sundance production Incentive webinar.

Presented in partnership by Variety 411, EP Financial Solutions, Producers Guild of America, Association of Film Commissioners International and Oakwood Worldwide – the provider of first rate temporary housing for film and television productions in the US and abroad – State of the Slate: Films at Sundance brought together producers of the top films in the Sundance Film Festival and the film commissioners who assisted them in obtaining the incentives needed to complete their projects.

Producers on the panel include Bonnie Curtis and Julie Lynn (Last Days in the Desert) Houston King (Results), Amanda Marshall (The Diary of a Teenage Girl), Celine Rattray (Ten Thousand Saints) and Jeremy Kipp Walker (Mississippi Grind). Joining the producers were Susannah Greason Robbins, Executive Director of the San Francisco Film Commission, Kim LeBlanc, Production Consultant for the Texas Film Commission, Carroll Morton, Manager, Entertainment Industry Development, City of New Orleans and John Hadity, Executive Vice President for EP Financial Solutions. Joe Chianese, Executive Vice President of EP Financial Solutions, moderated the hour long panel.

A New York based producer, Walker’s Mississippi Grind presents a journey from Iowa to Mississippi, locations that he simply could not find in New York. Lured by Louisiana’s strong incentive package, Walker was able to shoot 90% of his film in the state utilizing locations in cities including Shreveport, Baton Rouge and New Orleans (he also used the Mississippi tax credit for remaining locations). Timing his production before larger films including Jurassic Park and Terminator, Walker hired local crew for all departments, brining only five outside members for major department head positions.

“Working in Louisiana was a pretty easy transition. I feel the history and culture is much like New York’s” said Walker. “Overall it was a very positive experience.”

Rattray has produced over thirty films, including Bernie and The Kids are Alright. Based in New York, she takes pride in developing as many independent films in the state as possible, and has been able to find locations that double for Austin and Chicago as well as many other US locals.

“I try to make everything in New York. There is a great talented crew base as well as group of actors,” said Rattray.

Ten Thousand Saints was set in New York City’s Lower East Side in the 1980s as well as parts of Vermont. Rattray was able to utilize locations in upper New York that doubled as Vermont, and maintained the qualifying shooting days for the New York tax credit.

“Incentives make the difference between a movie happening or not,” admitted Rattray.

Results marked King’s third Texas-based collaboration with director Andrew Bujalski (winner of the 2013 Sundance Alfred P. Sloan Directors Award for Computer Chess). Shot in Austin, King also brought in key department heads and utilized local crew for all other positions. While the incentive may not be as lucrative as some other states, he felt the service the Texas Film Commission provides is an incentive in itself.

“The film commission helped us work out (issues) with Guy Pierce’s visa within a day, so he was able to come into the country,” said King. “Guy later said that Austin provided one of the most pleasurable shoots and experiences he ever had.”

Working with very small budget indies, Marshall is often forced to go to whatever state she can get the incentive in. The Diary of a Teenage Girl had to be shot in San Francisco to maintain authenticity to the graphic novel on which the film is based. While she wasn’t able to secure the California tax credit, she was able to obtain the local San Francisco tax credit, allowing her to get the movie made.

“We were concerned about crew. There is a lot of commercial production in San Francisco and they can make a lot of money on commercials, but they came on our film for the love of the material,” said Marshall.

Curtis and Lynn required a tax credit to get The Last Days in the Desert shot. While they looked at foreign locations including Israel, they really wanted to remain in California, and fortunately were selected in the lottery. Having shot a number of films in California, they had a strong crew base to pull from, and believe shooting at home is just as valuable as an incentive.

“It’s a non-financial benefit. We know the crew has families or loved ones, and it is destructive to have to leave them for extended periods of time,” said Lynn. “There is a reason that great crew who can work on $100 million dollar movies come to work on our little indies. They want to be with the people they love.”

The complete panel was recorded on the latest JVC camera equipment provided by Craig Yanagi, Manager, JVCKenwood USA Corporation, and presented as a web event Thursday, January 29th. The full web version is no available in an archived format. To view this free archived event, please visit:
http://engage.vevent.com/index.jsp?eid=1584&seid=63