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Independent Films Compete for Attention at Texas Festival


The South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, is an especially important event for independent filmmakers seeking an audience and the magic substance called “buzz.”

If a movie has a big star like Robert Duvall, it generates a lot of attention.

But even Duvall's film, A Night in Old Mexico, has to have buzz, widespread talk of its worthiness, to succeed.

Generating buzz

Marketing and filmmaking go hand-in-hand for the still-in-production Brazilian film, Rio Eu Te Amo, or Rio, I Love You, according to website developer Pedro Levier.

“The movie itself has become just like this festival," said Levier. "It is a movie and it is the Internet and it is interactive, a project with music, art, everything.”

Most independent films shown here are small budget productions with no well-known actors and no money for promotion.

Veteran film critic Leonard Maltin attends festivals to find the gems among them.

“The indie films have an uphill battle just to make themselves known, to build a reputation, to inspire someone to want to see them and that is what festivals are all about,” he said.

Marlon Johnson, who co-produced and co-directed a documentary film called Deep City, the Birth of the Miami Sound, came to South by Southwest to promote the film and himself.

“We want to show our work, but we also have to keep in the back of our minds that we are marketing ourselves for future projects,” Johnson said.

Online opportunities

Many of the independent films shown at South by Southwest will not get theatrical distribution, but many of them will be seen online on sites such as Netflix, Hulu and Vimeo.

Vimeo has created a $10 million fund for independent filmmakers and is sponsoring a filmmaker tour.

“We are going to support the films and support the tour, so it is just a matter of trying to figure out how to create new models and how to bring audiences together,” said Vimeo's Jeremy Boxer.

Pay-for-view, either online or through cable TV companies, offers an important outlet for both filmmakers and viewers.

“The video on demand is bringing a lot of films to people who do not have a specialty theater or an art theater in their community, and while I would always prefer people to see films in a theater, and I think the filmmakers would, too, it is a very good second best,” Maltin said.

And good words from critics and movie fans who see a film here at South by Southwest can help make the flick an online hit.
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