Film festival held for independent video stores -- Had To Be Made attempts to establish a network of indie retailers with the help of online voters

By William Stevenson
Updated June 11, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT

Call it Sundance for the average Joe. Says Had to Be Made cofounder Richard Green: ”Our goal is to establish a network of independent retailers.” Two six-month festivals have been held at some 100 video stores — among them Kim’s in New York, New Concept in Miami, Video Journeys in L.A., and Pauwela in Haiku, Hawaii — featuring 10 DVDs that each include a never-released film, two shorts, a director interview, and a celebrity introduction from the likes of Jon Cryer and Andy Dick. ”We’ve had talks with Naomi Watts,” says cofounder Mike Kyle, ”and we’d love to get Parker Posey, the indie queen!” ”American Idol”-style, renters go to to vote for their favorite films (polls are still open for the current competition). About 7,800 voters logged on for the first festival; the winner of the Audience Award was Matt A. Cade’s comedy, ”Graduation Day,” whose producers are now negotiating with distributors. Starting with the next festival, in January, Had to Be Made will also offer a limited-run theatrical release, a wide DVD release — and, hopefully, inclusion in a cable series and expansion into more than 5,000 retail outlets. ”About 27,000 films are made every year in this country,” says Green. ”The indie-film movement is a giant wave, and we’re riding it.”