Theo Le Sourd (BFA Film 2018) was selected to screen his Dusty winning film at the yearly SVA Premieres event in LA. Here, he describes his four day journey mingling with studio executives, agents, and classmates.
SVA Premieres in LA is a beautiful event full of networking, meetings with filmmakers, producers, and executive directors, all offering us great insights on what could be our future after SVA. It’s the question we have all asked ourselves and that our parents have probably raised too many times: what are you going to do next? We were all in film school cocooned in our creative cloud, more preoccupied with our Thesis films than anything else. But we rapidly all face the same wall: what’s my future? SVA Premieres LA gives us a good glimpse of what it could be.
We start the program in LA with a breakfast amongst all the recent graduates featuring their work over this four day adventure. In a few days, we are screening our films in the Linwood Dunn Theater, the Academy Awards’ newest theater to an audience full of agents, managers and hopefully our next employers. I can’t wait to see the diversity of all our films screening in a few days. I’m always amazed when I meet other students from the other SVA departments. In the end, we are all storytellers striving to tell what fascinates us.
The day is packed with meetings, endless car rides, and more meetings. After rapidly finishing our breakfast we arrive at the Deutsch Agency, a creative agency that is here to “change the game in advertising.” The Chief Creative Officer, an alumni of SVA Pete Favat, quickly introduces the company and the inspiring campaigns he has worked on such as the Truth anti-tobacco campaign. Advertising suddenly becomes this beautiful world of ideas, changing the world and making an impact on our future. Pete tells us about the importance of big ideas and that sometimes an advertisement is not an advertisement. For some reason, I now want to work in advertisement. Wait! He’s a Chief Creative Director selling me the world of advertisement. No wonder I am sold on the idea.
We continue our studio tour of the Deutsch Agency, visiting both the futuristic soundstage and the newest post-production facilities. In LA, everything seems cooler and better planned than NY. Definitely the pros of not having a landlord raising the rent every month. The Deutsch Agency is a firm believer of one place does it all, and as we walk through the huge facility, Pete reveals a speakeasy hidden behind a large painting. Apparently, it’s for the rare times when a client will buy an idea on the day of the pitch. LA fulfills its promise once again, a world full of dreams and wonders.
While circulating through the billboards of Sunset Boulevard, I wonder how people can know about every TV show on every channel. After riding through Sunset for ten minutes, I begin to understand. Posters assault you everywhere you look and I am amazed by the amount of content out there. Good news everyone, we’re arriving at the right time.
Our next meeting is with Alonso Duralde, the Senior Programmer of Outfest, Claire Aguilar, The Director of Programming & Policy at IDA and Evan Ward-Henninger, the Associate Director of Membership at Film Independent. Throughout our meeting, we talk about the different strategies of film funding, festival programming, and the values of film communities. It’s very inspiring to learn about all those groups striving to help filmmakers. Sometimes filmmakers feel alone, lost in their creative world and thanks to nonprofits organizations like Ida and Film Independent we can see the light at the end of this sometimes never-ending path.
I finish the meeting and finally have the chance to relax. The Premieres screening is tomorrow and everyone is preparing their introductions of their films. Loglines are hard to write, and even skilled filmmakers can take a few hours figuring out the perfect string of words for a one sentence pitch. After going to a very LA Mexican restaurant that only has enormous – but so delicious – Barbacoa tacos, we all go to bed thinking like any good New Yorker how many steps we had done through the day. I was just short of 1000 steps. Well, now I understand why everyone works out in La La Land.
Day 2, the screening! I am almost more excited to see the works of my fellows classmates than meeting all the filmmakers, producers, directors, managers, agents that are coming. After a few days of talking with all the participants of this program, we are all wondering how all our films are going to look like in this “state-of-the-art” and “reference standard presentation for both image and sound quality” screening facility. Maybe I should have spent a bit more time working on the sound mixing of my film. We’ll see how it goes. The cards have been played. Now we can only watch our films with the rest of the audience.
The screening is beautiful and I am sincerely amazed by all the talented work of my classmates. There is something quite inspiring about seeing all our films next to each other. All our works are so diverse, full of imagination, and authentic. We’re also not used to seeing live action short films next to animation shorts, computer art pieces, short documentaries and experimental films. A sense of pride starts to settle in me. I am part of this program and this very talented SVA community. After a series of applauses, chuckles and the full range of emotions, the screening seems to be quite a success.
The reception that follows is full of interesting people all praising us in every possible way. Many people tell me it was the best short film screening from a school they have ever seen. Some are touched by the authenticity of our films, others by the imagination and playfulness of our stories, and a few by the technical abilities of our work. Managers, agents, film buyers suddenly want to talk with us, asking what is coming next. In a few hours, we have gone from struggling filmmakers to interesting storytellers that everyone wants to talk to. We all go back to the hotel with glitter filling our imagination. From now on will it be easier? It’s only the beginning.
The next day begins with a networking brunch, meeting with a TV studio, and finally the big empire we had all waited for, Amazon Studios. Through a few pastries and a couple cups of coffee, we pitch our films again, this time with more polished sentences. There is a certain beauty of retelling the same story again and again. Every time it becomes better, more vivid and more concrete.
After talking to inspiring filmmakers and directors from the next big studios, we all went to Starz, an American pay television channels. It was the first time that I’ve glimpsed the TV world. Even though I know that TV shows are already the next big thing, I never quite grasped the magnitude of this factory of content. What’s slightly different from the industry of theatricals films is that agents, writers, and showrunners are the kings of this empire. Directors are merely employees of writer/producers. Showrunners are superhumans that write, develop, produce, and supervise post- production. Apparently, directors can only direct one episode because they would get too tired otherwise, but showrunners can do everything. An interesting way of working. I will probably have to get used to it and change my European author perspective on filmmaking.
Our meeting at Amazon Studios is located in what looked like the house from Gone With the Wind. Compared to other content studios, Amazon Studio focuses more on quality and theatrical releases than the quantity of content. In many ways, it’s becoming more like a traditional studio, but with a bigger appetite to tell good stories by interesting filmmakers. In a world of the Marvel monarchy, there are still a few people willing to tell beautiful and moving stories. The two executive directors of creative development broke us down in a very eloquent and elegant manner what really meant behind these two abstract words. In short, they read books, develop characters, and write stories all day. Basically, the dream job. Their biggest advice was to make our voices heard, find an agent and make that first low budget feature film. Even though the road was going to be difficult, now we know where we were heading.
We come back to our hotels still dreaming of what can happen and what will happen next. The beauty of SVA Premieres in LA isn’t only the fact that we are meeting all these inspiring people and seeing the talented work of our fellow classmates, but it’s that it showed what we can become, and that is priceless.