First a confession: I really like Ed Carroll. He’s bright, engaging, refreshingly candid and one of the most subtly funny people in cable. I say that so that what follows doesn’t even remotely seem like a dig. But when I think about Ed, whom I first met years ago when he was a genial publicist-turned-marketer, as a power broker in the independent film world – a man with whom maverick directors would kill to get a pitch meeting, and a guy whose name merits bold type face at Cannes – I giggle. It’s so cool. But make no mistake. As head of IFC, Ed’s a player. He matters. That was made clear to me this weekend when, as the credits rolled at the end of Slasher, a mesmerizing documentary about a used-car "liquidator" from director John Landis (Animal House), I read the words: "Executive Producer, Ed Carroll." So how did he evolve from cable marketer to film producer? "It’s funny," Carroll said. "Our head of documentary programming, Allison Burke, came to me with this pitch for a movie about a used car salesman, and I said, ‘I don’t know, Allison. I have to be honest. I’m just not seeing it.’" Fortunately, on Burke’s suggestion, Carroll talked to Landis and got caught up in the director’s passion for this story of a manic, hard-drinking salesman who travels the country and helps dealers sell cars they just can’t move. Carroll green-lighted the project and, based on glowing reviews, Slasher promises to further IFC’s reputation as an island of freethinking in a sea of profit-driven, cautious and painfully predictable movie making When I asked Ed how he made the transition to the content side of the business, his answer brought to mind what former co-worker David Dombrowski told me about what he found to be the key to becoming a good major league general manager, despite not having played pro baseball: "Hire great scouts and listen to what they tell you." In Carroll’s case he said, "The first thing you do is to surround yourself with great development people," and specifically named Burke and IFC’s head of original series Debbie Demontreux. "They have great instincts." I then asked Ed to explain the difference between an independent and mainstream movie. It’s in the telling of the story, he said, adding that what he looked for in a pitch was two fold: not only an interesting story, but a storyteller with the ability to execute it. "That’s one thing you learn," he said. "Something can sound great in a meeting, but the authors of the idea really have to have the wherewithal to pull it off." Carroll discussed the genesis of "Z Channel," an IFC doc about the short, sweet life of an LA-based pay channel, whose founder died in a murder/suicide. "When I was first pitched the idea of a movie about a regional cable network, I thought, with all due respect, outside of CableFAX readers, who’s going to be interested in this?" But the movie was a hit at Cannes, Ed says, because, not only was the back story compelling, but director Xan Cassavetes proved to have a lot of her father’s remarkable talent for weaving a tale. I finished by asking Carroll how he felt the offbeat films on IFC might fare in a world driven by VOD, consumer choice and big name titles. "In an environment with more choices, it will ultimately come down to people’s affinity for, and trust in, a brand. And when they look for an alternative to the Hollywood blockbusters – when they grow tired of that sort of big budget movie experience – they’ll know IFC will be there to navigate the other stuff for them." M.C. Antil can be reached at [email protected].

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