About this blog
The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view
Friday, March 9, 2018
This blog posting was written by Alex Coburn, FLEFF Intern majoring in Cinema and Photography with minors in English and Honors from Louisville, Kentucky.
Vanessa Domico encompasses almost every side of the film industry.
She started out as a film major and transitioned into photography. She now runs Outcast Films, a unique hybrid distribution company.
“I have a degree in film from University of Pittsburgh, but I realized that filmmaking was not what I wanted to do,” she remembers.
She took up photography for a while and got her M.F.A. from Cornell. When she left Ithaca, she began working for Women Make Movies.
“I learned a lot about the educational business through them,” she reflected. “I could be involved in films without making them.”
Like most successful people in the film industry, Domico was embroiled in the business world before crossing over into film distribution. Her many years of experience with what she calls, “totally not film-related” business opened the door to working in film without actually being a filmmaker.
“I combined my newly found love for film with my business experience,” she explains.
Domico describes Outcast Films as a hybrid distributor.
“You can do a traditional distribution deal where you give up all of your rights for X amount of time in a certain territory for X amount of money, and then you walk away,” she elaborates.
But with the film market’s oversaturation, more and more filmmakers opt for self-distribution. With self-distribution, filmmakers can control their own audience and marketing.
Somewhere in the middle of these two extremes rests Outcast Films. As a hybrid distributor, Outcast reserves some rights for the filmmakers and some for the company.
“It’s a two-way street,” Domico says. “Either filmmakers are looking for distributors, or distributors go to film festivals and try to find films that fit their mission.”
Outcast picks up only a few films per year. In comparison, Women Make Movies usually distributes around 50 to 100.
“Being more of a filmmaker, I sided more with filmmakers and wanted to work more closely with them,” she says.
The hybrid model fits Outcast Films’ vision, too, by providing distribution opportunities for filmmakers from marginalized communities. For Domico, marginalized can include demographics as diverse as women to trans people to incarcerated young men of color.
She’s A Boy I Knew, a 2007 autobiographical Outcast documentary, epitomizes this model.
“She’s a Boy I Knew was one of the first films about the trans experience,” Domico reflects. “It was also one of my first acquisitions, and it taught me so much about that world… It was the first film that made me think what I was doing was really important.”
Outcast Films’ role doesn’t end as a film distributor. It also aims to educate through media.
“Outcast started as a queer film distributor, and even though I’m gay, that’s not the only thing I am,” Domico asserts. “I felt pigeon-holed into this category.”
She started picking up other films from other marginalized communities and found that community outreach naturally followed.
One film in particular, 15 to Life tells the story of a young black man coerced by his mother’s drug dealer to commit robberies.
“He was sentenced to a harsher time in prison than the actual drug dealer,” Domico remembers. “It tugged at my heart strings, and I wanted to help.”
15 to Life galvanized Outcast Films to reach out to law schools and prisons regarding the high incarceration rate of young black men.
One Outcast film featured in FLEFF 2018 presents another hot-button issue affecting marginalized communities that also coincides with the theme of geographies. Remittance chronicles migrant workers in the Philippines, casting migrant workers themselves as the lead actors.
“Remittance tells a story that is really poignant and often overlooked,” Domico reflects.
While Outcast Films does an excellent job of providing a platform for marginalized films, the efforts to diversify the industry can’t end there.
“Women across the board have always been marginalized in this industry,” Domico said. “I’m lucky to be involved with Outcast and Women Make Movies. The vast majority of my films are made by and about marginalized communities. It’s way too late, but I’m glad it’s happening now. I think it’s a tipping point.”