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At Independent Feature Film Market

Studio reps search for that one great movie

In this story:

At the library

Needing good projects

Many films, long odds


NEW YORK (CNN) -- Lisa Fragner finishes up a Tuesday panel at the Puck Building, a site of the Independent Feature Film Market. As head of East Coast production and development for Fox Searchlight, Fragner had spoken to a roomful of people about how she looks for movies, what type of movies she's looking for, how she markets movies.

But now, before she can step down from the stage, she and her assistant, Matt Wool, are faced with the opportunity Fragner has presented to these people. They are suddenly surrounded by desperate filmmakers and screenwriters who want to pitch their ideas, their scripts, their films. It's overwhelming.

"Fax me," Fragner says as she slowly makes her way through the crowd. "I promise, that's the best way to do it."

People don't listen. "Hi, I know you're busy," says one persistent seller, handing Fragner a flyer advertising a film, "but I just wanted you to take a look at this." Others follow.

Fragner, 30, takes the flyers and keeps moving. A festival representative eventually escorts her and Wool to the safety of a private room.

"That was really terrifying," says Wool, 21.

Fragner just smiles. A former actor, she tried for years to break into show business before beginning her ascent at at Fox Searchlight. She understands.

"You want to try to be nice," she says. "You don't want to be a jerk. But at the same time there's that line. There's only two of us and we're covering the whole IFFM, and there's 5 million people with scripts.


"And I understand what that's like for them," she continues. "It's the most unfair, horrific thing about the business, but it's part of the job."

At the library

While Fragner and other representatives of studios and production companies are here to find marketable films or talent, they're staying away from places where filmmakers can bombard them -- at screenings, for instance. Instead, they go to the market's library, which houses all IFFM projects -- about 400 of them -- on VHS. They spend most of their time sitting in small booths, watching movie after movie.

The filmmakers who created the movies aren't allowed in, so people like Fragner can make their judgments in peace.

A fellow searcher is Susie Lupert, a story editor hunting for "something very commercial" for USA Films. She spends a good deal of time in the market's library, having learned her lesson last year after getting pitched in the bathroom of the Angelika Film Center, the location for public IFFM screenings.

"I'm not that social," says Lupert, 23. "It's a lot easier to come to the library and watch what you need to watch and if you like something, you try to go meet the person."

Needing good projects

Both Lupert and Fragner truly want to find something, quick, because now is a unique time in the film business. Following a less-than-stellar summer at the box office, and before a threatened writer's strike scheduled next year, studios feel an urgent need to get legitimate projects into development.

"There is a lot of pressure," says Lupert.

"The pressure has been to find scripts that are already written and we can realistically start production on before March," Fragner says.

She's also looking for completed films that might find an audience.

"For us, the market represents the hope of finding the low-budget hit like 'Clerks,' or finding filmmakers that maybe we have missed" earlier, she says. "This is more of a place to find out who's out there that might not get access to us otherwise."

Smaller companies are looking, too. Caroline Risman, an acquisitions executive with the Web site, is here, hoping to find a short film, or films, worth buying. She's keeping her options open.

"We're not looking for any particular genre," Risman, 26, says. "We're just here to check out what's available."

Many films, long odds

But not that much may be available. While the IFFM is a must-stop for studios, "80 percent of the films screened here are never screened for a public audience again," says one market organizer who wishes to remain anonymous.

"The chances of finding something commercial here are slim to none," says Lupert. "But out of obligation to film festivals in general we try to cover everything."

Fox Searchlight also is looking, but Fragner declines to say exactly for what the studio is searching; telling too much, she says, would invite a blitz of scripts and films of a particular genre. When pressed, Fragner allows that most studios are always looking for romantic comedies and "good teen films."

"Also, when I have an idea of what's hot, I can act on it," she says.

Fragner is spotted Wednesday morning in the library, an array of VHS tapes before her.

"I'm watching all the movies alphabetically," she says. "I'm up to 'S.'"

She queues another tape, and the search commences again. The haystack is immense; the needle, tiny.

NYC film market gives hope to indie auteurs
September 18, 2000

The Independant Feature Film Market

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