2023 FilmNorth Forum
September 23 @ 10:00 am - 3:00 pm
ENVISIONING A NEW INDEPENDENT FILM ECOSYSTEM
The WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes have highlighted the need for dramatic changes in the film industry – and, as if often the case, independent filmmakers are leading the charge for more equity, innovations, and calls for change. This year’s FilmNorth Forum focuses on Envisioning a New Independent Film Ecosystem, anchored by our Keynote Conversation with independent film icons and innovators Ted Hope and Effie Brown.
With generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the St. Paul Cultural STAR Program, FilmNorth is able to hold this year’s Forum free of charge. ASL interpreters will be on hand for all Forum events at FilmNorth, CHS Field, and The Lost Fox.
SPACE IS LIMITED – REGISTER HERE.
Friday, September 22
STAR SEEDS KICKOFF EVENT @ FILMNORTH
Address: 550 Vandalia Street #120, St. Paul, MN 55114
Join us for an evening presenting the works of Emmy-nominated filmmaker and Interdisciplinary artist Missy Whiteman and Co-producer and filmmaker Darren Alexander Cole for this special networking event for filmmakers, artists, and community. This special event will feature works produced by Whiteman and Cole and artists from The Coyote Way X: Expanded Cinema Experience collective in the realms of 360 filmmaking, AR/VR, XR, web3, and interdisciplinary arts.
An ASL interpreter will be present for this event.
Saturday, September 23
FILMNORTH FORUM PANELS & CONVERSATIONS @ CHS FIELD’S SECURIAN CLUB
Address: 360 N Broadway Street, St. Paul, MN 55101
Parking at Union Depot Lot C recommended and is FREE with validation provided by FilmNorth to the first 100 attendees to check in at the Forum. Validation is good at any Union Depot lot – Lot C recommended for location and availability. Regular rate is $4.
ASL interpreters will be present for this event and the post-Forum mixer.
10:00–11:00 am | Registration/Coffee Hour
Arrive early to network and enjoy coffee and light snacks in downtown St. Paul’s beautiful Securian Club at CHS Field, with its gorgeous views of the St. Paul Saints home field.
11:00 am–12:00 pm | Staying Put: Building a Film Practice Wherever You Are
Sustaining a documentary career has always been a grind, but even more so if you’re trying to build one at the end of the “Golden Age of Documentary.” Join ITVS in uplifting stories of building a filmmaking practice and community outside of the big media hubs and challenging established models of what it takes to succeed in this business. Moderated by Michael Kinomoto, Senior Manager of Production and Supervising Producer at ITVS.
12:00–12:15 pm | Short Break
12:15–1:15 pm | The Future of Theatrical Exhibition and Streaming for Independent Film
Institutions and programmers that support independent film have a special relationship with both filmmakers and the larger film industry, lifting voices up from underrepresented communities and focusing the industry on new voices and stories. Join a distinguished panel of leaders who are changing the ways we think of film exhibition. Moderated by Film Streams Executive Director Deirdre Haj, whose innovative See Change initiative challenges the programming status quo.
Panelists: Lela Meadow-Conner (Producer, Founder mamafilm, Board Chair, Art House Convergence), Brian Newman (Founder of Sub-Genre, producer, former CEO Tribeca Film Institute), and Craig Rice (Programmer, Filmmaker).
1:15–1:30 pm | Short Break
1:30–3:00 pm | Envisioning a New Non-Dependent Independent Film Ecosystem: A Spirited Conversation with Effie T. Brown and Ted Hope
The 2023 FilmNorth Forum highlights how the independent film community can come together and create lasting change that is centered on equity, fair compensation, sustainability, and putting the artist first. Our Keynote Conversation brings together two independent film icons and innovators—and “good troublemakers”—Effie T. Brown and Ted Hope, for an industry rattling discussion that promises to disrupt the status quo.
Longtime advocate and voice for diversity and inclusion within the film industry, Effie T. Brown is the CEO of Gamechanger Films and the Interim President of the Producers Union. Effie’s impressive credits include The Inspection, Rocket Science, Real Women Have Curves, and the Minnesota-shot features Dear White People and The Inheritance. Ted Hope has been a producer on over 70 films, helping to launch the careers of Ang Lee, Nicole Holofcener, Hal Hartley, Michel Gondry and many others. His most recent film is Roger Ross Williams’ Cassandro (opening Sept 15). Ted’s Keynote Speech at the 2023 Locarno Film Festival and recent writing on his sub stack platform Hope for Film are leading the conversation for substantive changes in how we finance, produce, and distribute independent film.
Effie and Ted are committed voices for empowerment and for building something better. Their 2023 FilmNorth Forum Keynote Conversation is assured to not only inspire us all about the future for independent filmmaking, but also happily ruffle more than a few feathers–highlighting innovative ideas and pathways forward that create an industry that values and supports us all.
3:15–5:00 pm | Forum Mixer @ Lost Fox
Address: 213 4th Street East, St. Paul, MN 55101
Enjoy Happy Hour with FilmNorth Forum attendees and panelists at The Lost Fox. The first drink’s on us! Here’s a chance to continue the discussion, network with other filmmakers, and continue the conversation on how to create a new independent film ecosystem, with Minnesota and Minnesota filmmakers playing a pivotal role.
7:00–10:30 pm | After Hours: Star Seeds @ Bell Museum
Address: 2088 Larpenteur Ave W, St. Paul, MN 55113
All FilmNorth Forum guests and the larger community are invited to experience After Hours: Star Seeds at the Bell Museum. Join Missy Whiteman and Co-Producer Darren Cole for an evening of Expanded Cinema. Whiteman’s Expanded Cinema programming focuses on community to put cinema in context. Whiteman will show her new work, Star Seeds: We Are The Star Nation Virtual Reality Experience, in the Whitney and Elizabeth MacMillan Planetarium. Created during a four-month residency at the Bell, this is a cinematic experience that includes XR, 360 video, animation, virtual reality, and healing sound frequencies. For more information on this event, click here. For discounted tickets that include museum admission, click here and follow these steps:
- Enter the promo code FilmNorthSS23 and click GO to apply
- Select Daily Museum Admission for September 23, 2023
- Select ticket quantity for FilmNorthSS23 and click Continue to complete order
Admission is free for Indigenous peoples (click here for info).
The 2023 FilmNorth Forum will also include two original conversations made available via Zoom to all Forum attendees. Providing Zoom access to the Forum allows for wider participation – statewide and nationally, with a special emphasis on connecting with filmmakers who are working outside of traditional film centers and urban areas.
From Funding to Distribution: Indie Film Disruption
Filmmakers Liz Manashil and Naomi McDougall Jones have spent their careers working to forge new, better, more sustainable models for independent film. From Liz’ work at the Sundance Creative Distribution Fellowship and as an independent sales and distribution consultant to Naomi’s work launching The 51 Fund—private equity to finance films by women—and her paradigm-shifting Joyful Vampire Tour of America self-distribution of her second film to their collaboration on Constellation Incubator, which brought 60 filmmakers together to redesign the independent film ecosystem, these two trailblazers have amassed nearly 30 years combined experience in disrupting the status quo and now gather for a conversation about the most promising pathways ahead.
Another Virtual Documentary-Focused Conversation TBA Soon!
GUEST SPEAKER PROFILES
Effie T. Brown is the CEO and majority owner of Gamechanger Films, where she leads the charge in producing, developing, and financing content by and about women, POC, LGBTQ+, and people with disabilities. Prior to joining Gamechanger Films, Brown produced such Sundance Film Festival winners, Real Women Have Curves, Dear White People, and Rocket Science. Turning to television, Brown appeared and produced HBO’s Project Greenlight, as well as executive produced Lee Daniels’ Star on FOX and Disney Channel’s Zombies.
In 2021, Gamechanger Films co-financed Netflix’s Passing, starring Tessa Thompson. Last year’s projects include Amazon’s Run Sweetheart Run, and The Inspection, which was a co-financing and producing venture with A24. The Inspection received three Independent Spirit Awards nominations, was honored at the GLAAD Awards, and won Outstanding Independent Motion Picture at the NAACP Image Awards.
Gamechanger’s 2023 slate includes climate justice documentary Save Yourself! in partnership with TAZO Tea, Sorcerority, starring and co-produced by Taraji P. Henson & Gabrielle Union, and Haant, a horror feature rooted in Gullah-Geeche mysticism.
As a distinguished member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Brown also serves on the Academy Museum Inclusion Advisory Committee and the Producers Branch Executive Committee.
Joua Lee Grande is a filmmaker and community educator whose work elevates marginalized voices and experiences. Her work has been supported by organizations like Kartemquin Films, Center for Asian American Media, Jerome Foundation, and more. Her work screened on WORLD Channel, PBS Digital, CAAMFest, and PBS Short Film Festival. Her short film “On All Fronts” received an Honorable Mention for CAAMFest’s Loni Ding Award for Social Justice Documentary. The film is part of a television series that won a Silver Anthem Award and was nominated for a Daytime Emmy (2023).
Joua is a True/False Confluence Fellow (2023) and a PBS Accelerator Fellow (2023). She was previously a news editor at WCCO-TV 4 News, a Jerome Hill Artist Fellow (2021-23), MediaJustice Network Fellow (2021-22) and Diverse Voices in Docs fellow (2019). Joua currently serves on the steering committee of Asian American Documentary Network (A-Doc). She spent over ten years working with marginalized storytellers, families, and youth in nonprofits and has run media education programs in the Twin Cities for many years, supporting underrepresented community members in telling their own stories.
Leya Hale comes from the Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota and Diné Nations. She is a multiple regional Emmy award-winning documentary producer for Twin Cities PBS. Her work brings visibility to Indigenous lifeways and issues impacting her community. She is best known for her feature films, The People’s Protectors and Bring Her Home, both distributed by PBS. In 2020, Leya was awarded the Sundance Institute Merata Mita Fellowship for Indigenous Artists and Bring Her Home was selected to represent the US at INPUT 2022 in Barcelona, Spain. When not producing features, Leya works on a variety of short form content in efforts to highlight underrepresented stories within the Upper Midwest region.
Deirdre Haj is a board member of The Art House Convergence, and one of the first film festival leaders to join the Festival Forum at IFP, which became the Film Festival Alliance, where she served as the first Vice President of the organization. Deirdre joined Film Streams Cinemas in Omaha, Nebraska in May 2021 and has centered her leadership around Film Streams’ See Change program, the only cinema is the US striving for 50% gender parity among the films screened on its four screens. Her recent conversation with Kasi Lemmons was the second annual fundraiser for the See Change initiative. Other moderated discussions have featured Deirdre in discussion with Katie Silberman, the late DA Pennebaker, Barbara Kopple, Jehan Noujaim, and others.
Deirdre’s tenure in Nebraska follows an outstanding run at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, which she led since January 2010. Under her leadership, Full Frame developed into a prized, Oscar-qualifying festival. Achievements during this time include the creation of the nationally acclaimed School of Doc teen filmmaking course, the Teach the Teachers documentary literacy program for educators, and the festival’s celebrated Speakeasy Conversations, including an annual panel addressing the lack of diversity in the documentary filmmaking field, #DocsSoWhite. Haj also developed resources to build new offices and the Full Frame Theater.
Haj served as Senior Advisor for Television and Film at Duke University for over five years. Prior to this, she worked between the MPA and government agencies, drawing together Hollywood professionals and federal agencies to create onscreen solutions for public health issues. She most recently spoke at SXSW in 2023, where she has served as a mentor. She is a devoted Rotarian and has served on numerous juries and panels.
Ted Hope has been a producer on over 70 films, studio executive on over 60, CEO of a start-up streamer, co-head of three production companies, executive director of a film society and festival, a Professor of Practice at two universities, and founder of a post-production facility, two websites, two think tanks, and an app. He launched Amazon’s foray into feature film production, leading them to 19 Oscar nominations and five wins. As a producer, his films have received 25 Oscar nominations, with six wins. Ted’s memoir and newsletter Hope for Film are both must-reads. He helped launch the feature film careers of Ang Lee, Nicole Holofcener, Hal Hartley, and many others. His most recent films include the first narrative, Cassandro, from Oscar-winning documentary director Roger Ross Williams, as well as the documentaries: Evgeny Afineevsky’s Ukraine War documentary Freedom On Fire, Marina Zenovich’s Jerry Brown: The Disrupter, and Vanessa Hope’s Invisible Nation on Taiwan.
Michael Kinomoto is Senior Manager, Production and a Supervising Producer for ITVS, where he oversees documentary films in production. Some highlights include the Academy Award-nominated and Peabody Award-winning Minding the Gap, the Emmy-winning Best of Enemies, as well as recent festival award-winners Free Chol Soo Lee, Hidden Letters, and The Tuba Thieves. Earlier, he worked with filmmaker Steven Okazaki as an associate producer, assistant editor, and post-production supervisor on the Academy Award-nominated documentary short, The Mushroom Club, and the Emmy award-winning feature documentary, White Light/Black Rain, both for HBO. Kinomoto holds a MFA in Film Production from San Francisco State University and has also taught film production and studies at several Bay Area universities, where he currently lives with his family.
Liz Manashil is an independent feature filmmaker who works in artist support. She managed Sundance’s Creative Distribution Initiative during its entire tenure and now consults with her fellow filmmakers (independently and through The Film Collaborative) on how best to navigate the labyrinthine-like world of distribution. She is incredibly proud to have contributed to both the Distributor Fact Sheet and the Distributor Report Card and is in the process of making and documenting the making of her third feature, a horror comedy called Best Friends Forever and has just produced her second child. She regularly does panels, public speaking, and educational workshops at fancy places like Sundance, Rotterdam, Film Independent, and Doc NYC. She lives in Los Angeles with her partner, son, daughter, and dog, Laura Palmer.
Naomi McDougall Jones is a storyteller and changemaker. She has written, acted in, and produced two award-winning feature films. The first, Imagine I’m Beautiful (2014), collected 12 awards on the film festival circuit before receiving a theatrical and digital distribution deal and is now available on AmazonPrime. Her second feature, Bite Me (2019), was released via a paradigm-shifting three-month, 51-screening, 40-city Joyful Vampire Tour of America that took the country by storm, and is now available on iTunes, GooglePlay, and Amazon. She is currently at work on her next two feature films: Hammond Castle, an adult fairytale for which she received the honor of being the first artist in residence at the final home of Ernest Hemingway in Sun Valley, Idaho, and The Control Room, a psycho-sexual thriller co-written with Christian Coulson.
Naomi is an advocate and thought leader for bringing gender parity to cinema. Her writing on this has appeared in The Atlantic, Ms. Magazine, and Salon.com, and she gave a virally sensational TEDTalk, What it’s Like to Be a Woman in Hollywood, which has now been viewed over one million times and can be seen on TED.com. Naomi’s first book, The Wrong Kind of Women: Inside Our Revolution to Dismantle the Gods of Hollywood, debuted as a #1 Amazon bestseller and received an electric critical response, with The Christian Science Monitor calling it, “…an outpouring of passion that will change the ways in which movies are seen,” and is now available wherever books are sold.
Naomi has been a guest speaker at NYU, Columbia, Harvard, and Cambridge Universities and her book is on the curriculum at colleges and universities around the globe. Naomi is currently at work on her second book, Wytx: Vivisection of a White Woman by the Ghost of Ernest Hemingway and a Whole Host of Ancestors. She is a Founder of The 51 Fund, a private equity fund dedicated to financing films by women. Their films Cusp and Shayda both premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and won a Special Jury Prize and the Audience Award respectively. More at www.naomimcdougalljones.com.
Lela Meadow-Conner is Producer and Founder of mamafilm, Cofounder of rePROFilm, and an award-winning producer. She has held leadership roles at many film festivals. Her current producing projects include Sav Rodgers’ Chasing Amy (Tribeca, 2023) and Nitzan Mager’s Run Amok. She has several projects in development, including The Spice Poet with LunaMax Films and Priyanka Chopra’s Purple Pebble Pictures; and the Green Tide Rising podcast, an audio and video documentary series following the seismic shift in abortion rights in Latin America.
Lela has participated in The Industry Academy (a program of Film at Lincoln Center and the Locarno Film Festival), the Brand Storytelling Certificate Program, and holds a degree in the culinary arts. She is a recipient of both 40 Under 40 and Women in Business honors from the Wichita Business Journal and has served on film juries, including AFI and the NAACP Image Award. She’s a frequent panelist for The Gotham, South by Southwest, Ghetto Film School, and others, and has been quoted as a trade expert in the New York Times, Filmmaker magazine, IndieWire, Box Office Pro, and more.
Lela serves on the board of Los Angeles’ iconic Vidiots Foundation, as Board President of the Art House Convergence, and is a member of the Brown Girls Doc Mafia. Most importantly, she is a mom to two daughters, Edie and Margo.
Brian Newman, founder of Sub-Genre, consults on content strategy, development, distribution and marketing for some of the top brands in the world. Current and former clients include: The Climate Pledge (Amazon), GoDaddy, IBM, Keen, Mud\Wtr, New York Times, Oatly, Patagonia, Purina, REI, Shopify Studios, Sonos, Stripe, Sundance, Tazo, Unilever, Yeti Coolers, and Zero Point Zero. Brian is also an independent film producer. Projects include: If You See Something (narrative, in post); The Outside Story (narrative, Tribeca Film Festival 2021 premiere, theatrical distribution by Samuel Goldwyn Films, 2021); Love & Taxes; (narrative, 2017 theatrical release); and executive producer of Shored Up, The Invisible World (docs) and Remittance (narrative).
Brian has served as CEO of the Tribeca Film Institute, president of Renew Media (known for the Rockefeller Fellowships) and executive director of IMAGE Film & Video (producers of the Atlanta Film Festival & Out on Film). He is the founder of the Brand/Foundation Alliance and serves on the advisory board of the Camden International Film Festival. He has served on the boards of Grantmakers in Film & Electronic Media (GFEM, now Media Impact Funders, as Vice Chair and Treasurer); Muse Film & Television, Rooftop Films (Chair) and IndieCollect (Co-Founding Board Member).
Brian is a frequent keynote speaker on branded content and the future of film and new media, and writes a popular weekly newsletter on these subjects. He was born in North Carolina and has an MA in Film Studies from Emory University.
Named one of Out magazine’s “Out 100,” PJ Raval is a queer first-generation Filipino American filmmaker whose work examines social justice issues through the voices of queer and marginalized subjects. PJ’s body of film work has been distributed widely on platforms such as Netflix, PBS, and Showtime and has been supported by the Arcus Foundation, Bertha Foundation, Center for Asian-American Media, Firelight Media, Sundance, Tribeca Film Institute, and the Ford Foundation. PJ is a 2015 Guggenheim Fellow and a 2021 Soros Justice Fellow. He is a co-founder and former board president of the queer transmedia arts organization OUTsider, and is an Associate Professor at the University of Texas at Austin in the Department of Radio/TV/Film. He serves on the steering committee of the Asian American Documentary Network (A-Doc) and is a member of the Producers Guild of America and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
Craig Laurence Rice is a long-established award-winning, internationally-recognized music executive and filmmaker with a distinguished career in film, video, television, theater, and music. He has directed and produced 30 music video productions with artists including Prince, Mavis Staples, Mazarati, Patti LaBelle, BrownMark, Greg Grease, and Sounds of Blackness. He has also directed and produced dozens of commercials for clients such as Amoco, Nike, Target, Kraft, United Way, McDonald’s, and the Partnership for Drug Free America. He most recently produced two Silver Clio award-winning spots for General Mills.
Craig executive produced and directed the widely revered feature length documentary Half Past Autumn: The Life and Works of Gordon Parks for HBO, which was nominated for three Emmy awards, the winner of the Tree of Life Award from The Friends of the Motion Picture Academy, NAACP Image Award, and was selected to the Museum of Television and Radio in 2000.
Craig has served as a second unit director and assistant director on about 20 productions, including Purple Rain, Graffiti Bridge, Brother From Another Planet, and Joe Somebody. Notable television credits include Producer of We Teach Our Children for CBS, the 90-minute PBS variety show A Prairie Home Companion 30th, and new dramas for television for the Eugene O’ Neill Theater Center for 4 seasons. He was also Executive Producer on the nationally syndicated series Million Dollar Idea.
Craig was a professor at McNally Smith College of Music from 1994 to 2016 and has been an adjunct professor of film studies and filmmaking at Minneapolis College of Art and Design since 2007. He holds degrees from the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, Filmmaking from the Minneapolis College of Art & Design, and a Liberal Arts degree from Minneapolis Community and Technical College.