Fantasia 2018: Why Every Indie Horror Filmmaker Should Know About Frontières

Photo Credit: Vivien Gaumand

Born out of the premiere North American genre festival known as Fantasia, Frontières is a unique co-production market that specifically caters to filmmakers and financiers in the horror, sci-fi, and fantasy communities. It’s a venue where you can start a conversation with, “My script is a throwback to 70’s Euro horror with a Jean Rollin aesthetic and giallo storyline,” and not receive vacant stares in return. Designed to unite independent genre filmmakers within the industry, Frontières is a networking platform for projects at various stages of development.  If you’re on the hunt for financing, a distribution partner, or trying to assemble a dream team of producers for your project, then you need to know about Frontières.

Frontières first came to life in 2012 and since then, the market “has really developed as an important connection point between North America and Europe,” according to Executive Director, Lindsay Peters. “Fantasia is the largest genre film festival in North America, and with each year the festival was welcoming an increasing number of the international industry to Montreal. A lot of connections were made at the bar each night, so it only made sense to create an official space for doing business during the day and getting some really cool projects made – while keeping the conversation going each night at the pub, of course.”

Still from Turbo Kid

With a let’s-grab-a-beer-and-chat sensibility, Frontières has developed a strong community full of talent and passion for the genre. Though the market has grown over its six years, boosting notable projects including Raw and Turbo Kid, the team is dedicated to maintaining a sense of intimacy. “Relationships are everything when getting your movie made,” explained Peters, “and at Frontières we work to ensure that our filmmakers and our industry participants really get to know each other—through pitch sessions, one to one meetings, and icebreaker networking sessions.”

[It] is a place that connects you with a lot of the industry and also puts you through a little bit of a bootcamp.”

“There’s a strong sense of inclusiveness at Fantasia,” said Producer Heather Buckley. For her, the market is an example of  “how business and creativity intersect,” serving a as “a hub” for connections she has made within the horror community. “We’re all here to make things with each other and that’s what the Frontières co-production [market] feels like to me.” Buckley produced The Ranger, which was one of 20 projects selected for pitch sessions in 2016 and is now tearing it up on the festival circuit, including its Canadian Premiere at Fantasia in July. Next up, the slasher will receive a theatrical run in New York (August 17th – 24th at IFC Center) and Los Angeles (September 7th – 14th at Laemmle  Theaters). Buckley credited the Fantasia and Frontières teams for helping the film hit the screen, “They’re magical, amazing people. I don’t know where my career would be without them.”

Still from The Ranger

“They put your project on a pedestal,” added The Ranger’s director, Jenn Wexler. “It’s always awkward when you’re at a party and you’re trying to pitch your project to somebody, or they’re trying to pitch their project to you, and it just never quite feels like the right time. It’s just hard to have those conversations in those situations, but when you’re at Frontières, everybody is there to hear about those projects.” Frontières provides opportunities to connect with representatives from large companies that are normally difficult to access for independent filmmaker. Wexler said, “As somebody who is looking to get their film off the ground, it is a place that connects you with a lot of the industry and also puts you through a little bit of a bootcamp.”

The experience of preparing and pitching at Frontières not only has the potential to kickstart your film, but it also provides valuable tools for emerging filmmakers. “[W]e have an amazing team of mentors and industry experts who will provide guidance and feedback, and help you structure and hone your pitch,” said Peters. For Wexler, Frontières provided motivation to shoot a teaser for The Ranger and craft a compelling presentation that ultimately played a crucial role in getting the film made. Vital to Wexler’s pitch was developing common language for talking about and presenting the movie. “Frontières really prepared me,” she told us, “It’s all about communication when you’re directing, going through pre-production, production, the festival circuit, and with press. Being able to go through training at Frontières was really helpful.” Buckley seconded this, “As we’re in the marketing and distribution phases for the film, those initial conversations—how we positioned it at Frontières—have moved throughout the process.  It’s the things you’re going to take with you for every film you make going forward throughout your entire career as a filmmaker.”

This emerging talent has begun to include previously marginalized voices more and more.”

With the adventurous spirit of a fantastically artful festival at its core, Frontières is well-situated to contribute to the future of the horror genre. With 32 projects and 1277 meetings at 2018’s event in Montreal, we will undoubtedly be cheering on new filmmakers and fascinating films bolstered by the Frontières platform in the years to come. “This emerging talent has begun to include previously marginalized voices more and more, which is very exciting,” celebrated Peters, “though we do have to consciously work together to make sure that these voices are given permanent space, which I think is achievable.” Buckley stressed the importance of championing these voices in the horror genre: “[We need] a special, sacred place to exist to talk about horror movies; to talk about rubber monsters with people that understand they can be socio-political metaphors, or that they stand in for womanhood, or fear, or mourning.” Frontières is an avenue where these evocative concepts are sought after material for the genre films of tomorrow.

Photo Credit: Vivien Gaumand

If you’re an independent filmmaker with awesome ideas that you’re struggling to get off the ground, then I hope you’re reading this and plotting your own Frontières journey. Buckley and Wexler encourage anyone interested in making genre movies to participate in as many film events and engage with the community as much as possible; and in particular, if it’s viable, attend Frontières to watch and learn. Wexler presented her film in 2016, but observed other pitches the year prior. She attested, “You learn so much about pitching just by watching all the pitches…It was so helpful and so beneficial in preparing the pitch for The Ranger.” Producer Raynor Shima from Luchagore Productions, the team behind Fantasia selections like El Gigante and La Quinceañera, finds value in Frontières events, regardless of whether he has a specific project to pitch: “From opening to closing, your time there can be busy with meetings and pitches, but also attending certain valuable industry sessions, that help to gain inside knowledge of where the market is gearing itself towards…Personally, I really enjoy the great vibe and energy that I get, while attending the market, and it doesn’t always necessarily mean your project will be taking off there, but it’s those connections you make that are very important.” 

Peters offered additional suggestions for those interested in applying, “Start with your most creative and innovative concept” and “spend some serious time plotting out how this concept can be realized in a practical way.”  Evaluate the scope and budget of your story in relationship to the experience of your team. “Don’t be afraid to push boundaries,” Peters advised, “but be sure all the parts of your package are well thought through and work together to tell a coherent vision of your project.” Conduct research by visiting genre festivals, film markets, and reach out to the organizers of these events via email if you can’t go in person, as Peters said, “It’s all about the networking.” Shima and the Luchagore team are examples of how this advice has paid off. “[Frontières] is the place that taught us really how to network, when we went for the very first time 3 years ago, and it has helped shape us to who we are today, ” he explained, “It has helped us keep a huge web of connections.” 

If you don’t think you should submit, submit anyway…If you are not chosen, show up anyway.”

For anyone still pondering whether or not their project might have a destiny at Frontières, Buckley offered these words: “You take every shot you can; so submit. If you don’t think you should submit, submit anyway. That goes for anything when it comes to film or art. Do your work. If you are not chosen, show up anyway…to just hang out and meet everybody. I go to film fests that my movies don’t play at, just to hang out and be part of that world. Now you’ve prepared your entire film to show to other people and other investors. You went through that process. You thought about your film. You went through that practice and that’s incredibly value. That’s as valuable as standing on stage and talking about it.”

Frontières is an incredibly unique platform to develop new voices in the horror community. It’s not only a potential pathway to bring that neo-slasher-rock-opera idea to fruition, it’s an opportunity to find your “film family” that will share enthusiasm for your Phantom of the Paradise references. Take your chances and show up again and again, regardless of rejection. Forge relationships with people who share your passions. This is what Frontières is about: connecting the ideas and people that will shape the future of horror cinema. 



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