Scene on the Screen

by Liz Garone

Spike Lee, Jim Jarmusch, Ed Burns. The first two are household names. The third may be fast on his way to becoming one with the recent success of his "The Brothers McMullen." These are the guys who have made it big in the independent film circuit. Their films have crossed into the mainstream, showing at Sony, across the country, and even as far away as Europe and Japan.

But what of the others, the directors of lesser-known films, the little guys of the New York independent film world? Are their films destined to be shelved next to the family videos, never to be seen again except for Fourth of July reunions? Sometimes, yes. But with a little perseverance -- and a little cash -- the answer can also be no. New York tries to do right by those toilers who haven't quite made it, to let them feel like King Spike -- at least for a day.

On any given night, throughout the city and at venues of varying stature and exclusivity, student films, first films, and experimental films are screened. Venues range from friends' living rooms complete with Jiffy Pop to the more advanced and more costly screening houses that dot the city. With a little cash, perseverance, and a few connections, less-than-box-office-smashes are no longer destined for dust-gathering but can have a life of their own.

In the New York game of films, the dilemma is not whether your film will be shown -- but how and where and to whom.

Possible New York venues for where to see and be seen:

Independent Features Project 465-8200

The Independent Features Project runs the yearly Independent Features Film Market, which is held in September. Anyone can submit a film for screening at this event. The price tag: $375 plus a $100 ($65 for students) annual membership to IFM. Eighty percent of feature films submitted are accepted and seen before distributors, agents, other filmmakers, the press, and anyone interested enough in film to pay the week-long attendance fee of $200.

Tribeca Film Center 941-4000

Available for rentals, the Tribeca Screening Room holds 72 people and has a 9 by 22 foot screen. It has both film and video capabilities. The projectionist and equipment are included in the hourly fees, which are on a sliding scale. Tribeca is one of a dozen or so screening rooms available around the city.

First Look, sponsored by the Tribeca Film Center and Eastman Kodak Corporation, is also housed in the center. While it's not open to the public for screenings, First Look offers filmmakers an unprecedented opportunity. Currently, eight full-length films are screened each year by industry insiders. There is no fee for submitting a film, but competition is fierce with 250-300 films vying for only eight spots. Works in progress are strongly encouraged because early screenings can give filmmakers both direction and, if they are lucky, financial backing.

Anthology Film Archives 505-5181

A film museum dedicated to experimental and classic films, the Anthology shows Independents Thursdays through Sundays. Filmmakers can submit their films for consideration to Jonas Mekas, the Anthology's artistic director and curator. Two screening rooms are also available for rental. The current cost is $425 for a two-hour time slot and includes a party following the screening.

Film Forum 627-2035, 727-8110 (film schedule)

The Film Forum has three screens with Film Forum 1 dedicated exclusively to Independents and documentaries. Filmmakers can directly submit their films (preferably on video) to director Karen Cooper, who decides what gets shown.

Angelika Film Center 995-1081

The Angelika prides itself on only showing Independents and foreign films. (Of course, the definition of what is and what isn't an Independent is debatable.) The Angelika also plays host to the September Independent Feature Films Market.

Film Society of Lincoln Center 875-5610

Once a month, Independents' Night is held at the Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theatre. Showcased are American works in progress and recently completed features and short films. After the screening, there is discussion time with the director. The event is open to the public. Films can be submitted to Richard Peņa, director of programming.

Also, the Film Society co-sponsors the New Directors/ New Films Series with the Museum of Modern Art each March and April. While not exclusively dedicated to independent films, the event focuses on up and coming talent and first and second time directors.

Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Film Center (slated to open later this year)

Owned by New York University, the theater, part of the film center, will be housed in the currently vacant Eighth Street cinema and will showcase both student and alumni films.