g The Film Panel Notetaker: April 2007

Sunday, April 29, 2007

indieWIRE presents Julie Delpy at Apple Store SoHo

***If anyone attended this event and would like to contribute notes I may have missed since I was a few minutes late arriving due to the fact that I had been attending an IFP Industry Connect panel discussion on Producing which overlapped the Julie Delpy discussion, please submit your notes in the ‘comments’ section. - TFPN

Apple and indieWIRE present actress/filmmaker Julie Delpy at the Apple Store SoHo – April 28, 2007

Actress, singer, director, and Oscar-nominated writer Julie Delpy discussed her new film, 2 Days in Paris, which she wrote, directed, edited, produced, scored and starred in. indieWIRE Editor-In-Chief Eugene Hernandez moderated the discussion. 2 Days in Paris plays at the Tribeca Film Festival on Thursday, May 3 at 9:30pm at AMC 72nd Street East Theater 1.

Eugene: What was it like shooting your film in Paris?

Julie: Everyone was really good. It’s a lovely city to shoot in. People are a little annoying, but you get used to it.

Eugene: Being this was your first feature film you directed, what were some previous experiences you took from to make this film?

Julie: You have to surround yourself with the right people. Know what you want. I asked advice from directors I like. You are the caption of your ship, but also have to listen to everyone. Be very open to what people have to say. Always listen. It’s a team work, but still need to be strong. I never felt stronger than directing a movie.

Eugene: Did you always intend to edit your film yourself?

Julie: I had to learn to use the editing machine. I did have an assistant editor, but he was not a creative editor. I really enjoyed editing.

Eugene: Did you always intend to record your own music for the film?

Julie: I first didn’t want music, but then looked at the film and it was missing something. I wrote serious, but funny music for certain situations in the film. My next film, I wrote the music for the entire film.

Eugene: What about Raging Bull inspired you?

Julie: My character is kind of like Jake LaMotta. She’s not totally like that, but sometime I’m inspired by characters that are the opposite.

Eugene: What were some of your most challenging roles?

Julie: Before Sunrise. I wrote a lot of the scenes in the film. It was a great occasion for me.

Audience Q&A

Q: What kind of roles do you like?

Julie: I read the script and look at who’s directing it. It has a lot to do with the director. Sometimes parts are good, but if the director is not interesting, it’s not going to work.

Q: What’s the difference between directing American and European actors?

Julie: I can’t judge them. I only directed one American actor, Adam Goldberg. Actors want to be nurtured. You have to be kind and caring to them. They’re fragile little flowers. I’m careful with actors. In every actor, there’s sometimes a little diva.

Q: How do you accomplish everything?

Julie: Being creative comes with a price tag. It’s usually very simple. Transfer your dark side into something creative. When you’re really down is a good time to write music. It gets the pain out. Sometimes enjoy painful moments.

Q: What was the budget of 2 Days in Paris?

Julie: About $1.5 million. Next film will be about $5 million.

Q: What aspects of Paris do you like filming?

Julie: The stuff most Parisians don’t like to see. The real Paris, not just the tourist attractions.

Q: What was your writing process like?

Julie: Used Final Draft software. Think of an idea. Write the storyline. Create the character. Write scenes. Didn’t storyboard the film.

Q: Do you ever talk to Jean-Luc Godard?

Julie: Once or twice a year. I’m not really close to him. I don’t want to beg people I like so much. I respect him too much. It feels weird. Doesn’t feel right.

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IFP Industry Connect: Producing 101

***If anyone attended this event and stayed through the entire audience Q&A and wants to add any questions and answers I unfortunately missed because I had to leave to go to another panel discussion (Julie Delpy at the Apple Store Soho presented by Indiewire that I'll post soon), please post them in the 'comments' section. Thanks! - TFPN

IFP Industry Connect
Producing 101 & Benefit for the
Adrienne Shelly Foundation
Saturday, April 28, 2007

IFP Executive Director Michelle Byrd opened the program by introducing Andrew Ostroy, husband of the late actress and filmmaker Adrienne Shelly, who died last year and for whom The Adrienne Shelly Foundation is named. Andrew talked about the Foundation, which “supports the artistic achievements of female actors, writers and directors through a series of scholarships and grants, providing recipients with financial support and consultative access to the Foundation's advisory board of actors, directors, producers, composers, law, publicity, academic and trade professionals.” Shelly’s last film, Waitress, premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival and opens in NYC on May 2 from Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Lydia Dean Pilcher (LP) – Producer, The Namesake
Peter Saraf (PS) – Producer, Little Miss Sunshine
Michael Roiff (MR) – Producer, Waitress

Jason Guerrasio (JG), Managing Editor, Filmmaker Magazine

(JG) How did you become producers?

(MR) Finished school in Boston. Worked as a management consultant. Did theater, improv and writing. Boston wasn’t the place to make a mark in entertainment, so went to Los Angeles. Mostly sat at coffee shops and talked about what I wanted to do. Did theater in L.A. Not a good idea. Goal was to be in film/tv. Raised money to make a film through business contacts. Went back east. Solicited scripts, mostly bad ones, until someone slipped him the screenplay for Waitress and he met with Adrienne and Andy.

(PS) Studied and worked in theater. Tried to get into film schools, but was rejected. Got a job as Jonathan Demme’s office manager. Was given a documentary to produce. Worked there for 10 years and then went out on his own.

(LP) In 1980, went to NYU Grad School around the same time as Spike Lee and Ang Lee. She was a fish out of water because she was making documentaries, which weren’t as hot as they are today. Took an entry-level job on feature films for studios and worked her way up. Started developing her own material in the 1990s. Met Mira Nair. Joined the team of Mississippi Masala as Associate Producer. Formed Cine Mosaic in 2002 to produce socially conscious feature films.

(JG) What tips can you give to be a successful producer?

(PS) Need to find great material. Learn everything you can technically, financially, etc.

(LP) It’s an apprentice business. Important to have mentors. Identify career path you admire. Determine what your vision is early on.

(JG) What lessons have you learned as a producer?

(PS) Just do it. Set a start date. We’re going to do it come hell or high water. People walk around saying they’re producers, but no one believes you, so you have to convince them. Your job is to be there and make sure everyone has what they want at all times. The crew should want to be there everyday.

(JG) How important is it for the producer to have good relationship with the director?

(MR) I was the luckiest guy in the world. Adrienne had an amazing vision. We worked hand in hand together.

(LP) Directing is the hardest job in the world. A great producer creates the environment for the director so he/she can make the creative process. Create a relationship of trust and collaboration. Be a third eye for the director. Teamwork brings everyone together on the set.

(JG) What’s your approach for searching for talent and material?

(PS) Through agents and by going to film festivals. There’s no one way to find material or talent. It ultimately comes back to the script. Share a vision and respect talent and the director.

(JG) Talk about your collaboration with Mira Nair.

(LP) A real privilege. Grown together in the business. Raised kids on film sets. She’s incredibly passionate. Share mutual interests in culture, arts and politics. The material is generated in man ways. For example on Kama Sutra, we read a short story, then commissioned the screenplay. Mira likes to maintain creative control, so we mainly finance her films through international markets.

(JG) How do you juggle financing with the creative side?

(MR) For Waitress, we just made the best film we could and not be stupid about it. Make a film that people want to see.

(PS) Most of my career, I had to raise the money. My attitude is that I’m working for the film. Started a new company with equity financing. Little Miss Sunshine was fully financed by company. Make decision to make a film and protect your investment. It’s a tricky balance to figure out.

(JG) What was your experience bringing Waitress to Sundance after Adrienne’s death?

(MR) Was the hardest part for me. One a personal level, I miss her as a friend, mentor and teammate. We bounced everything of each other. At Sundance, I listened to her in my head saying “Now’s not the time to be sentimental.” Had to explain her vision more than he would have, but it was easy because she had such a clear vision. Goal at Sundance was to build a strategy. Worked with sales reps and publicists. Couldn’t allow a distributor to cut the film up. Fox Searchlight was great.

Audience Q&A

Q: When raising money, what promises do you have to make to investors?

(MR) Can’t make any promises. Anything can happen. Pitch a general concept for a price. Make something with commercial appeal, but not a dumb movie. Set up that investors get their money back and hopefully a profit.

(LP) Decide if you want to finance your film with or without a distributor. A lot of equity producers would like distribution to be in place. For The Namesake, we had a $10.2 million budget with a $600,000 New York State tax credit. We brought equity to the table and had a strong position to negotiate terms.

Q: With equity investors, was that arranged as an international co-production?

(LP) It was straight equity.

Q: Why have business in New York City, and not in L.A.?

(PS) I like living in NYC, but spend a lot of time in L.A. What’s happened in L.A. is there’s a certain desperation about the film business. People start making movies there to make money, but not really to tell a good story, but that’s sort of a generalization. To get a job in the film business in NYC is hard. There’s more jobs in L.A.

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2007 Tribeca All Access Winners Announced

New York, NY, April 29, 2007 – Tribeca Film Festival, presented by American Express, along with the Tribeca Film Institute today announced the winners of the fourth Tribeca All Access Creative Promise Awards. Tribeca All Access (TAA), a program designed to help foster relationships between film industry executives and filmmakers from traditionally underrepresented communities, is made possible by Bloomberg.

At last night’s Tribeca All Access Awards at the Tribeca Film Center, the following winners were announced:

Narrative section prize – Ben Rekhi for his current screenplay, “Waste,” which tells the story of a widowed NYC sanitation worker who must negotiate his relationship with his son after he becomes a key figure in a labor dispute (Co-written by John Campo).

Documentary section prize – Dee Rees for her documentary work-in-progress, “Eventual Salvation,” which follows an 80-year-old grandmother who returns to Liberia to rebuild her life and community after years of civil war.

Screenwriting section prize – Marilyn Fu for her screenplay, “Sisterhood of the Night,” an adaptation of the short story by Pulitzer Prize winner Steven Millhauser. Caryn Waechter is attached to direct.

Honorable mentions were given to:

Documentary – Jae-Ho Chang and Tara Autovino for their work-in-progress, “Ultimate Christian Wrestling,” which follows a group of disenchanted former pro-wrestlers as they combine their passion with ministry.

Screenwriting – Roberto Marinas for his screenplay “Last Road Home,” in which a dying man flees his suburban home to live out his final days in paradise, only to be pursued by his estranged son who’s been charged with the task of bringing him home before time runs out.

Jurors for this year’s Tribeca all Access included actor Kerry Washington, who has starred in “I Think I Love My Wife” and “Ray”; actor Freddy Rodriguez, who has starred in “Grindhouse” and HBO's “Six Feet Under”; Vogue’s Editor at Large, André Leon Talley; Producer Elizabeth Avellàn; Susie Castillo, host of MTV’s “TRL,” and former Miss USA; Fashion designer Rachel Roy; DJ Spooky; Hip hop artist, actor and composer Heavy D; Entertainment executive Tracey Edmonds; and 2006 TAA alumni Milton Liu and Shola Lynch.


Tribeca Film Festival - April 28, 2007 Recap

From Midtown to SoHo to Tribeca, I was all around Manhattan today. My first stop was at the IFP Industry Connect panel discussion Producing 101 at the Helen Mills Theater on West 26th Street that was also a benefit for The Adrienne Shelly Foundation. There, I sat next to producer/actress Judee Wales. (I will post my notes from the Producing 101 panel soon). I then headed over to the Apple Store in SoHo on Prince Street for a talk with actress/director Julie Delpy that was presented by Indiewire (I will also post those notes soon). I finally made it to "Tribeca" in the evening for the Tribeca All Access Awards Party at New York Academy of Art on Franklin Street where I met up with several of the same Tribeca All Access filmmakers I met yesterday at the Documentary Meet & Greet including Edwin Pagan and Bienvenida Matias of "Bronx Burning" and Tze Chun of "Artificial Dissemination." I also made some new press friends there including Dr. Sue and Yuri Shevchuk, PhD, the director of the Ukranian Film Club at Columbia University. I ran into Fast Forward Founder & President Paola Freccero. And I met Jeff Hirschorn, a director of photography and his friend Diana Holtzberg, VP - USA Operations - Sales, Acquisitions and Project Development, Films Transit International, who told me her company is representing "The Sugar Curtain" at Tribeca, and also that she just came back from Toronto where she was repping several documentaries at HotDocs such as "Manufacturing Dissent." Also in attendance were Tribeca All Access Creative Promise Award Narrative jurors and stars of the silver screen Freddy Rodríguez and Kerry Washington (see pics below).

Actor Freddy Rodríguez at Tribeca All Access Awards Party ("Grindhouse/Planet Terror," "Six Feet Under")

TFPN Research Associate Sarah Stanfield with fellow George Washington University alumnus and actress Kerry Washington ("Ray," "The Last King of Scotland")


Saturday, April 28, 2007

Tribeca Film Festival - April 27, 2007 Recap

Today, I started out at the Documentary Filmmakers Press Meet & Greet at the Target Filmmaker Lounge next to Tribeca Cinemas where I spoke with several filmmakers whose documentaries are playing at the festival and a few others who are part of the Tribeca All Access program (see pictures below). I also spoke with Jeremy Taylor of Film Festival Today magazine. I then moved along to BMCC TribecaPAC where I picked up A.M. Peters who had been taking notes there at the TribecaTalks "Bringing Home the Bacon" panel discussion. (She'll be posting those notes here soon). We then headed over together to the Broad Street Ballroom for the Documentary Filmmakers Party where I ran into Karina Longworth of Vidiocy who told me she'll be blogging on Spout.com during the festival, and also met Ryan Harrington of A&E IndieFilms and Stephen Wyden of Wyden Media Pix. Also in attendance was Alexis Arquette, the star of the documentary "Alexis Arquette: She's My Brother" that's playing at the festival.

Michael Apted- Director, "The Power of the Game" playing at the Tribeca Film Festival. Apted also directed the acclaimed "7 Up" series, most recently with "49 Up." His narrative features include "Gorillas in the Mist" and "Amazing Grace," which is currently in theaters.

Tribeca All Access Director Tze Chun, "Artificial Dissemination" & Director Dara Bratt, "In Vivid Detail"

FYI, Dara told me she may attend the TribecaTalks Sloan Panel Discussions.

Tribeca All Access Director Edwin Pagan & Producer Bienvenida Matias, "Bronx Burning"

Alan Gary & Luis Pedron of FanclubX

Carolina Cruz-Santiago, Director & Laurent Alfieri, Cameraman - "Aloha New York"

Mohammed Ali Naqvi, Director/Producer - "Shame"

Henry Priest, Co-Producer - "Beyond the Mat"

Melissa Davis, Robbie Cavolina, Ian McCrudden - "Anita O' Day, The Life of a Jazz Singer"

Vivien Lesnik Weisman & Friend - "Man of Two Havanas"

Nancy Jundi - Runway.com & TheSpout.com


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Tribeca Film Festival - April 24, 2007 Recap

Tonight, I attended a pre-festival press screening of the narrative feature "West 32nd," a crime drama about the Korean underworld in New York City directed by Michael Kang (The Motel) and starring John Cho (Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle). Then I headed for the NY Filmmaker Party where I snapped the following pics.

Julianne Cho, NYC Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting & Pat Swinney Kaufman, New York State Governor's Office for Motion Picture & Television Development, at NY Filmmaker Party.

Tim Sternberg, Director of "Salim Baba," a documentary short playing in the Family Legacy Series at the Tribeca Film Festival


Monday, April 23, 2007

Life on the Film Panel Circuit - Jeffrey Abramson, VP of Film, Gen Art

Life on the Film Panel Circuit - Jeffrey Abramson, VP of Film, Gen Art

Jeffrey Abramson with Christian Slater at premiere of "He Was a Quiet Man" at 2007 Gen Art Film Festival

1. Name
Jeffrey Abramson

2. Website
www.genart.org/film and www.genartpulse.com

3. Bio
Vice President of Film for Gen Art. I oversee the film division of Gen Art which includes the Annual Gen Art Film Festival in New York, our new Gen Art Chicago Film Festival, Screening Series, Cinema Circle and various shorts programming and contests. Been with Gen Art seven years (+5 years of volunteer work). Previously: Market Research Associate at Miramax Films, producer of several award winning short films.

4. What was the most recent film panel discussion you participated in? Where did it take place?Were you a panelist or moderator?
Moderator of the two panels at the Gen Art Film Festival . . . "Media Ecology: The role of media and the arts in saving the planet" and "Making It! A discussion with some of the filmmakers and casts from this year's festival".

5. What lessons did you take from this most recent panel discussion?
One thing we have learned over the past several years is that people don't come to Gen Art for the panels - they are mostly excited about the premieres. So we started to video tape the panels and put them online . . . next year I may just do it in a studio environment with a "live audience." Maybe partners with NYCTV or something . . .

6. What was your favorite panel discussion you ever participated in and why?
A discussion at IFP on breaking into the business. Several of the guests were indie filmmakers whose first films had been successful. The audience was full of excited and curious and ambitious filmmakers. I felt this disconnect between the stories the more seasoned filmmakers were telling and what the audience wanted to hear - it was almost as if the more seasoned filmmakers forgot what it was like to be sitting in that audience . . . so I broke down the wall. I made the panelists explain the "how" behind every step they took to get where they were . . . when asked how one filmmaker got to direct a particular film he said "my agent got it for me" . . . so I asked how he got his agent, how the agents assistant ended up at the screening of his short film and how he ever got his film into that screening in the first place . . . THIS is what audiences need to know . . . and too often panels are vanity plays or panelists are not very sharing people . . . . Another great panel was when I moderated a discussion with acquisitions executives from New Line and Fine Line (also at the IFP). I grilled them about why a certain movie they acquired at Sundance hadn't been released yet . . . and learned it had basically been shelved. I felt the audience needed to see that signing with major distributors isn't always the best way to go for all film projects.

7. In general, do you have any favorite or least favorite questions asked of you by either the moderator or the audience?
I am curious about the personal lives of filmmakers . . . where they live, what they do for fun and what inspires them . . . I think my favorite questions are related to such things. Least favorite question: How much did it cost? Usually asked by people who don't know a single thing about movie making . . . almost as if they saw it once in a promo for Sundance and so they think it's standard to ask. Mostly I hate it because nobody ever answers it!

8. If you could program your "dream" panel discussion, what would it be about and who besides yourself, should be on it?
Right now it would probably be a face off between filmmakers like the ones behind "Four Eyed Monsters" and an indie studio exec like Bob Berney (Picturehouse). Panels are usually made up of peers, if panelists do not know each other already - they are usually on the same level in their careers or their companies are . . . I think it's more exciting to mix it up . . . like I'd love to see a panel of cinematographers and company reps battle it out on the aesthetic of film vs video. Drama dammit!!! This is the movie business!!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Life on the Film Panel Circuit - Filmmaker Rob Stewart, "Sharkwater"

Life on the Film Panel Circuit - Filmmaker Rob Stewart, Sharkwater

1. Name

Rob Stewart

2. Website, blog, or podcast, etc.

Sharkwater.com, blog: abandonfear.com

3. Bio

I'm a biologist and wildlife photographer that became a film maker in the process of making the award winning documentary, Sharkwater.

4. What was the most recent film panel discussion you participated in? Where did it take place? Were you a panelist or moderator?

2007 Gen Art Film Festival (NYC) - Panelist on the Media Ecology discussion

5. What lessons did you take from this most recent panel discussion?

Best to keep panel discussions interesting and engaging - upbeat, informative and fun.

6. What was your favorite panel discussion you ever participated in and why?

not sure

7. In general, do you have any favorite or least favorite questions asked of you by either the moderator or the audience?

Favorite question is, "aren't we doomed, or too far gone already?" because this brings out the beauty of humanity, and the power of the human brain and culture to effect change.

8. If you could program your "dream" panel discussion, what would it be about and who besides yourself, should be on it?

Myself, Einstein, Yoda, and the Dalai Lama, and President Bush.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Role Media and the Arts Play in Saving the Planet

The Role Media and the Arts Play in Saving the Planet
2007 Gen Art Film Festival
Saturday, April 14, 2007

Alexandra Wheeler (AW) – Planet Green Game
Morgan Clendaniel (MC) – Senior Editor, Good Magazine
Rob Stewart (RS) – Filmmaker, Sharkwater
Isaac Brown (IB) – Filmmaker, Gimme Green

The panel discussion was moderated by Jeff Abramson (JA), VP/Film Division, Gen Art, who explained that the festival wanted to create an evening with a social/environmental theme. They formed a partnership with Starbucks’ Planet Green Game to create the Gen Art Online Film Festival where people submitted green-themed short films and the winner will be awarded $2,500. Good Magazine is a co-sponsor. The bi-monthly magazine launched in September 2006 with an environmentally-responsible and politically active theme packaged into something exciting and palatable, said Morgan Clendaniel.

(JA) What was the inspiration for your films? What did you do before making your films?

(IB) Background was in journalism. Co-directed Gimme Green with Eric Flagg who is an environmental scientist. Was fascinated with consumption in American culture. Frustrated with how journalism was so disposable. Wanted to illustrate American consumption without turning people off and by entertaining.

(RS) Was a wildlife photographer. At age 19, went to the Galápagos Islands. Cut long lines that sharks were illegally trapped in. This opened his eyes. Spent two years doing photo stories on sharks. Used print articles to get the word out. Received only $1,300 in donations from magazines to help the sharks. Nobody really cared for protecting sharks, so he made Sharkwater to show how beautiful sharks really are so people will care about their protection. Sharks are killed for just their fins, and thrown back into the ocean. Used HD camera to shoot film that also was used for still shots sent to magazines. Was never a filmmaker before this. The film allowed him to deliver a more powerful message that with his print articles. Didn’t want his movie to be just an “activist” movie. Movie was made to effect change. It first sucks you in as a cool movie and then hammers you with conservation. The whole experience was a learning curve. After shooting the film, it was very conservation-oriented. Discovery Channel asked if it had any shark attacks in it.

(JA) What else beside the magazine is Good involved with?

(MC) Good had a movie company first before the magazine was published. The magazine was created to continually update people.

(JA) What’s Planet Green Game about? Have any other ideas been conceived for Planet Green Game beside your web presence?

(AW) An online game about the day in the life of a character in a place called EverGreen. Character makes choices that have impacts. Learn lesson that have global applications. Tools to talk to the community. Trying to achieve the greatest reach possible in an authentic and engaging way so people take something meaningful away. Showing the seven short films from the Gen Art Online Film Festival. Also created an Earth group on Facebook for students about climate change.

(JA) What web presence do your films have? Anything else you’re doing to promote your films?

(IB) GimmeGreen.com has updates and facts. Three months ago, started an Alternative Lawn of the Month Club. Haven’t been getting too many hits. The message is sheik now, bow hasn’t really changed his personal habits. People are just talking about it, but not doing much about it yet.

(RS) SharkWater.com and the AbandonFear blog. People have made movies about the movie he made. Encourage everyone to talk about it. On Myspace, YouTube, Facebook. The Environmental Minister of Canada jumped into the cause. SavingSharks.com where you can choose which organizations to support. EcoVision Asia. Also helping to protect the endangered spiny dogfish, which made into flake.

(JA) What causes do Good Magazine’s subscribers’ contributions go to?

(MC) Subscribers choose where their money goes out of 12 not-for-profit organizations including: Ashoka (social entrepreneurship), City Year (civic service), Creative Commons (technology & sharing), Donors Choose (classroom needs), Generation Engage (political engagement), Millennium Promise (poverty alleviation), Oceana (clean seas), Room to Read (library building), Teach For America (needed teachers), UNICEF (children’s health), WITNESS (human rights) and World Wildlife Fund (climate change).

(JA) Did your subjects in Gimme Green know the direction of the film?

(IB) Didn’t have to manipulate people. Didn’t tell people it was about obsession with lawns, but love of lawns. Wanted everyone to share their perspective.

(JA) What do you think of Michael Moore’s style of documentary filmmaking. Can this hurt a cause?

(IB) Moore polarizes people. We need documentaries to unite people. Moore preaches to the choir. Documentaries should speak to all people.

(JA) Has there been any flack by liberals that Planet Green Game is run by Starbucks, a corporation?

(AW) Starbucks is a pretty admired brand and does a lot of good things. Try to be approachable and authentic.

(JA) Can the media be too manipulative of content? Is it inappropriate?

(MC) If it’s too earnest, people won’t want to read it. Have to find a news way to approach engaging readers.

(RS) Honesty is important. The other side feeds on deception. Environmentalists should hold a stance of honesty without distorting the picture. If the public understands the impact, they can make better decisions.

(MC) Show people how they can be affected and offer them a solution.

(JA) Can you go back to just shooting pretty pictures underwater?

(RS) No. More facts came out while making the movie. Conservation has to become cool. There’s nothing cooler than make the Earth a better place to live in. Connection with the natural world is essential for our survival.

(JA) Who can advertise in Good Magazine?

(MC) Anyone. Some advertisers who advertise on the magazine do so because of corporate responsibility. For example, if Exxon wanted to advertised, it means someone there feels it’s important. You can’t demonize companies for their past. Allow businesses to change and evolve.

(JA) Did you seek out assistance from individuals or organizations that were more in the know than you while making your films?

(IB) Read newspaper articles and books. Spoke with the authors. Talked with Beyond Pesticides, a lobby group. Didn’t seek funding from these sources, just information.

(RS) Teamed with conservation groups that gave him access to footage and research.

Audience Q&A

Q: How do you connect environmental issues to your audience? How are you getting your message out through grassroots?

(RS)The impetus of the movie is to make people care so much about protecting sharks. The audience will want to affect change. Give out cards to people to make responsible seafood choices.

(AW) Similar approach. There are a lot of people who don’t know about global warming and climate change. Trying to reach the critical mass to make both small and large changes.

(MC) Change people’s mindsets by getting them to a place to seek out solutions to make changes.

(IB) Our lifestyle is not sustainable. We’ll have to make compromises.

Q: Because you’re messengers, where are you going to go now? How will you become more visible? [Asked by Josh Dorfman, host of The Lazy Environmentalist on Sirius Satellite Radio.]

(RS) Hit young people. Devised a reality TV series about 15 young conservationists and biologists on a boat. Has sex and skin to suck people in, but hammers the audience about conservation.

(IB) Negotiating with the Sundance Channel’s “The Green” to show Gimme Green. Next documentary will be about the life cycle of a computer from being built in Third World countries and how the finished product is used.

(MC) Putting out more magazines. Company also produced some films: Son of Rambow that premiered at Sundance and The Power of the Game that premiers at Tribeca.

Q: What is Starbucks doing about fair trade coffee buying?

(AW) Not the best person to articulate this. Starbucks is the largest buyer of fair trade coffee. Buys coffee sustainable and responsibly.

Q: How can we affect or address change across cultural boundaries?

(RS) Difficult. Most people in China who eat shark fin soup, don’t know that it comes from sharks. Cultures have evolved in the past out of necessity. With enough pressure and education, things will change. Shark Water will be release in Asia. No celebrities are serving shark fin at weddings anymore. There’s a big initiative there. Jackie Chan is on the cause. Trying to get someone from every major territory.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Attention film panelists & moderators!

"Life on the Film Panel Circuit" is a chance for film panelists and/or moderators to share their experiences with the film panel notetaking and attending community.

If you have ever participated in a film panel discussion as either a moderator or a panelist, please take a moment to fill out the survey below. I will post a new survey on The Film Panel Notetaker everytime someone fills one out.

1. Your Name

2. Your website, blog, or podcast, etc.

3. One- to three-sentence brief bio about yourself

4. What was the most recent film panel discussion you participated in? Where did it take place?Were you a panelist or moderator?

5. What lessons did you take from this most recent panel discussion?

6. What was your favorite panel discussion you ever participated in and why?

7. In general, do you have any favorite or least favorite questions asked of you by either the moderator or the audience?

8. If you could program your "dream" panel discussion, what would it be about and who besides yourself, should be on it?

If you would also like me to post your headshot or perhaps a picture of you at a film panel discussion, please send me a JPEG image.

Thank you very much!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

14th Annual New York African Film Festival panel notes

Last night, I attended a panel discussion of African filmmakers & scholars as part of the New York African Film Festival at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater in New York. What follows are my notes from that discussion.

14th Annual New York African Film Festival
“Celebrating 50 Years of Independence and Cinema”
Panel Discussion
April 9, 2007

Prior to the discussion, excerpts of the filmmakers’ films were screened. These included:

* Testament by John Akomfrah (JA)
* Max and Mona by Teddy Mattera (TM)
* A Love During the War and The Forgotten Man by Osvalde Lewat-Hellade (OLH)
* Menged by Daniel Taye Workou (TW)
* Colonial Misunderstanding and The Once and Fading King, by Jean-Marie Teno (JMT)

The panel discussion was then moderated by Mamadou Niang (MN), a journalist and television producer.

(MN) Is filmmaking in Africa a child of political independence? How do you encompass it?

(JA) African cinema is a product of post-colonialism in Africa. We’re seen as part of the de-colonization of the content. The first wave of filmmakers was geared in that direction. In the beginning, maverick voices tried to subvert dominant images from the 1940s on, largely set up to educate principally in West Africa. They tended to be concerned with health and education. In the 1950s, filmmakers tried something different, offering more of a range. Diversity then and now was set by rigid continental restraints. How to get funding and to reach audiences.

(MN) Are you satisfied with the way filmmaking is progressing in Africa?

(JMT) Hard to answer. Diversity has become more visible. Cinema tried to challenge representation before independence. There was a conflict between tradition and modernity. More documentaries are challenging many things in society. New technology offers more possibilities. We’re at a crossroads now. Political issues are not really being solved. These questions are still present.

(MN) Osvalde, what brings you personally to your subjects as a woman?

(OLH) Shocked by the question. Find it sexist. The facts draw her to her subjects. I don’t select topics because I’m a woman. I’m interested in documenting injustices. One film is about a man in prison for 33 years for committing a minor crime, and the other film is about the effect of rape on women, which is an injustice. As a filmmaker, what interests me is the life of the people around me. I select stories according to encounters I make and that call my attention. When I met that man and those women, I didn’t ask myself if I could make a film, but did regardless of difficulties filmmakers have in Africa.

(MN) Are there any difficulties encountered in making films in South Africa?

(TM) I’m very cautious about the idea that South Africa is a savior as it relates to cinema. We as filmmakers are not even born yet with respect with what happened in the gate opening of 1994 with the rest of the continent. There is lots of technical support and government intervention in cinema production. There is a clear coherent effort by individuals and organizations to make an imprint in retelling the visual history of our country. In 1890, one of the first of three cameras made in the world was in South Africa, but it was not in the hands of Africans. The Mandella honeymoon is over. Africans are looking at us as brothers and sisters, not as saviors.

(MN) Daniel, where does Ethiopia stand in African cinema?

(DTW) The first 35mm film to be autonomously produced in Ethiopia was in 1991. The idea to make films in Ethiopia came late probably because of Haile Selassie. He liked films and eventually created the Ethiopian Film Corporation mainly for documentaries. The socialist government after the revolution used documentaries to educate the masses. Filmmakers were sent to places like Russia to learn the craft. There have not been many films made since 1991, accept for beginning about three years ago.

(MN) There are about 700-1,000 films made a year in Nigeria under the term “Nollywood.” These films are very popular and accessible and are not on the par of artistic/independent films. How can we reverse this trend?

(JA) Not sure you want to reverse it. In fact, Africans were some of the first to be at the table of cinema. Images of Africans exist throughout the archives of cinema. In the 1970s & 1980s, curfews came in place. You couldn’t go out at night so cinemas closed down then. The idea if Nollywood is artistic or not is neither here nor there.

(MN) How valid is the academic argument that Northern financing is part of the films made in Africa?

(JMT) May be true in some cases, but we’ve gone beyond that. Everyone chooses to make films for his or her own personal reasons, despite where the money comes from.

(MN) Is there any pressure from combined sources of financing?

(JMT) The more you ask for, the more you have to compromise. It’s complex. Need to find a balance.

(OLH) Agrees with JMT that everyone works with his or her own concept, but may continue to still receive money. These questions come up at all festivals if funding is tied to demands. I’m a member of a fund in France for the past two years. To get funding, questions are answered about the quality of the film and what the filmmaker wants to say. Decisions are made by a vote. They never exert political pressure. More interested in commercialization.

Audience Questions & Answers

Q: Who were your influences as a woman filmmaker?
A: (OLH) haven’t been influenced by any particular woman filmmaker because my background is as a journalist.

Q: Is Nollywood the wave of the future?
A: (JA) don’t think so. Nollywood is not the only form of cinema in Nigeria. It was an outgrowth of something that was happening. There is a demand for popular films.
A: (JMT) Nollywood also started because there was no access to television, so they brought films directly to the people.

Q: How do you imagine your audiences when making films? Who are they aimed at?
A: (DTW) Not for either African or non-African audiences. Just an audience. It starts with the language. Comedy doesn’t always translate. Make a film to say something whether audience gets it or not.
A: (JMT) Tired of this question.
A: (TM) The audience chooses the film.

Q: Any structural problems in distributing films in Africa?
A: (JA) Structural problems have become more acute. Government is not allowed to disseminate films
A: (DTW) In Ethiopia, cinemas are packed with people to see any film that is available.

Monday, April 09, 2007

60 Minutes Called: How to Attract Media & Major Publishers to Your Podcast, Vlog or Blog

On Friday afternoon, I was checking out some of my favorite film blogs and read on Agnes Varnum’s blog that she’d be speaking about Fair Use at a podcasting seminar called PodCampNYC, so I went over to PodCampNYC’s website and saw that they were offering several really interesting talks about podcasts & blogs. I registered for the event, which was free, and headed over to the New Yorker Hotel where I sat in on some of these panels, including Agnes’. Thanks, Agnes, for the heads up! Below are my notes from the talk I went to that was about attracting media and major publishers to your podcast or blog. While the talk did not deal specifically with film blogs, the suggestions and resources provided can be utilized towards all blogs.

60 Minutes Called:
How to Attract Media & Major Publishers to Your Podcast, Vlog or Blog
With Suzanne Falter-Barns of GetKnownNow.com

Suzanne Falter-Barns is a brand consulting and media packing expert. Suzanne talked to an audience of podcasters and bloggers about how to attract major media. The first thing she said was that you have approximately 1/20 of a second for people to decide if they want to interact with your podcast or blog.

Approximately 79% of all major media find sources from blogs. They spend about two to three hours a day reading blog feeds and watching or listening to podcasts. The media cares if you have a branded web presence that exudes credibility.

Suzanne listed several mistakes people make, and how to avoid them:

    1. NO Blog – You can’t just have a website anymore. You really only need a blog, or
      if you do have a website, you need a blog to complement it. Blogs are the
      currency of the web now.
    2. NO Fast Brand – A “fast brand” immediately
      communicates the brand. You need to have a fast brand and a targeted signature
    3. NO Sense of Audience – Will 60 Minutes go to a generic blog for
      sources or a specific niche blog? You want to match your audience to their
      audience, if that’s who you’re trying to pitch to. An example of a good audience
      may be 90% women and 10% men in the health & healing profession. An example
      of a bad audience may be everybody over the age 35. Needs to be very
    4. NO Niche – Emphasize your niche by giving your audience what they
      crave and showing them what’s different about you.
    5. TOO Vanilla – Your blog is
      either too bland or too chaotic. Too many services being offered. No new or
      original content. Too much re-blogging or re-purposing.
    6. NOT Emotionally Compelling

Suzanne made some more suggestions to help market your blog/podcast:

    • Create a Survey or Exit PollSurveyMonkey is a service that creates
      surveys for you, but it’s not free. Make sure your survey asks specific
    • Give People a Bonus – If you ask your visitors to take a survey,
      then give them something in return. Know what your audience “craves.” Example: AbsoluteWrite, which gives its
      subscribers a current list of literary agents actively looking for
    • Have a Media Room – A stand-alone page that has your 24/7 contact
      info at the top. Your bio. Downloadable headshots (B&W, Color, hi-res,
      low-res). FYI, print publications will only accept hi-res photos. Story angles.
      Press clips. Video clips. Make your media room as helpful as possible to
      journalists. Give other sources, if necessary, and they will come back to
    • Article BanksPRLeads.com. This costs about $100/month. You register keywords and get sent leads looking for experts. Also SubmitYourArticle.com.

Suzanne sited some successful blogs and podcasts that have attracted major media attention:

    • Escape from Cubicle Nation
      – Pamela’s Slim’s blog that gets about 20,000 visitor’s a month. Written up in
      USA Today. She didn’t have to pitch to the press. They called her.
    • AndyWibbels.com – His brand is his name.
      He has a Unique Selling Proposition (USP), that is that he’s “the ORIGINAL
      blogging evangelist.” His bonus to visitors is that he offers them a free
      downloadable chapter of his book.

Suzanne opened up the talk to audience members who asked some questions:

Q: What does she think of free press release distribution websites such as PRWeb.com?
A: Not necessarily good for
generating press calls, but may bring a lot of hits to your blog/podcast. Press
release must be written well and be useful with the right

Q: Should you look at your competition?
A: Absolutely.
Make up a SWOT analysis. Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats.

Q: How can you blast your blog?
A: Write about current events. Example: Sanjaya from American Idol. But primarily, your blog should have a 4 to 1 ratio. 4 (business) and 1 (junky fun). Make blog friends. Hang out on other blogs. Add GoogleAdWords to your blog. Set up an autoresponder series, which collects forms and blasts out newsletters to subscribers every 7-10 days. Examples: 1shoppingcart.com and aweber.com.

Friday, April 06, 2007

TimesTalks presents Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez

3/30/07 TimesTalks presents Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez

Collaborators in Over-the-Top Moviemaking

The whole thing started with a New York Times commercial which I found a tad excessive. But I dug the moderator, New York Times Magazine editor at large Lynn Hirschberg who seemed to have an endearing history with Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino.

I love seeing good friends hanging out. I really do envision my future as a filmmaker as one working with her friends. I really enjoy those times of bouncing off ideas, going over logistics and through each other’s experiences, learning the best ways of doing things, and having a common accomplishment with battles you can recount in fun. These guys had that and I loved it. They met on the festival circuit when QT had Reservoir Dogs and Robert had El Mariachi. They then coincidentally had offices down the hall from one another and would go to the same place for lunch and spin webs about how they were taking over Hollywood.

When they spoke of the movie, I feel as though a lot what they talked about was what I’ve already read in most coverage of the film’s release. Robert had the idea when he was looking at posters at QT’s place, they then decided to make it just like the good old days by keeping the scratchy film, missing reels, double feature-with-trailers-in-between thing, yadda yadda.

They wanted to take everything that those wall-sized posters and melodramatic trailers promised about the movie and then actually make it happen… and maintain what was charming about the films. QT said it was discouraging to see all the piss taken out of movies. It’s a fucking tragedy to see that the theatre-going experience today is just renting seats and watching commercials before movies (which I found funny considering that was what happened before the talk)—it’s simply no fun getting high and watching commercials at the theatre. If it’s done right, it’s a ride; not just a movie. That's what they wanted Grindhouse to be about.

They said that Robert’s movie, Planet Terror, was a horror movie because it couldn’t happen and that QT’s movie, Death Proof, was a horror movie because it could happen. Robert had the idea of the machine-gun leg while sitting in traffic which I think is interesting for no other reason is how people really want to know where something that wacky came from. I think it’s totally hilarious—I laughed out loud when I saw her in the trailer, and apparently when he called Rose with it she said, “that’s dope.” And I agree. A machine gun leg is indeed dope.

QT said he had the idea for the Kurt Russel’s story in Death Proof from some discussion of getting a stunt team to pimp out his car and making it totally death proof with roll bars and what not. I always wanted to pimp out my car that way… and with cool hydraulics, sound system, and faux fur upholstery. None of that DVD player/Playstation crap though. If you’re driving, you’re driving. And the kids can deal. Anyway, I thought it amusing that QT said that he thought his performance in Dusk til Dawn was one of his best. Not that the other ones were great, but the best of his performances.

I appreciated one question from the audience during the Q&A because I always wonder about this in other artists because I know how I am about this stuff: Do they ever feel self-doubt and when they do, how to they persevere? I related mostly to Robert’s response, who said he always goes through thinking his shit sucks. But the self-doubt is what makes it happen—it’s part of the process. Try not to fall back on what’s easy. If there isn’t fear in it, it’s not worth doing. I’d interject that even if you do fail at what you’re trying, the process of failing is what makes you succeed. I see too many of my closest friends doing nothing because their afraid of failing. This makes me sad.

Then QT said that he gets through being scared by striving to make the best shit ever. In the case of Death Proof, he decided he was going to make the best fucking car chase ever in an effort to find the ceiling to his talent (I’ve read him saying this before). He approaches everything with trying to make it as kick ass as possible and yes he’s scared, but that push is what makes him so awesome. See, this is why I don’t care what people say to me about QT and his “bravado” because if it takes him to that genius place, just let the guy go for it. Who cares how he acts. The lesson is always, if it’s scary to you, do it.

He went on about how he hates CGI shit, he prefers the grit of real life stunts. He hates new movies where you have no sense of speed, geography, and direction. Car chases these days are jumpy as they’re covered with 15+ cameras. I see what he’s saying—can you imagine that awesome scene in Indiana Jones when Indy’s going under the truck and through the window to get to the Nazi bad guy driver? That would have been so fucked if they shot it today. Of course QT cited more sophisticated films like French Connection, Bullet and Vanishing Point, but I like throwing in how I relate.

Anyway, something QT said meant a lot to me. He was talking about how in a weird way, he could have actually been happy at his Video Store job. But he had that artist’s soul burning in him and even though he was swimming in movies and that’s all he cared about, it was burning in him to craft them. I always wonder what it would take for me to stop all this and go home, but I feel the burn too. (if only I could be as kick ass as QT!!)

The thing that made an impression on me most was their concept of having movies to sell. I love how pragmatic it is because they keep the cost down and they make movies of which they are the audience. They get to do whatever the fuck they want. There’s no body telling them no. They are allowed experiment with big time no-nos-- like in Robert’s case, Sin City that’s all black/white and voice over. That is the way to be a filmmaker. For them, it seems to be this weird balance of being and artist and selling out at the same time. I think it’s a good way to get to produce your art—make it accessible and profitable. They said that it’s people like Bob and Harvey (who were in attendance) who allow this type of filmmaking relationship to endure.


Monday, April 02, 2007

The Forgotten City

On Saturday, I visited my hometown of Buffalo, NY, where I attended a screening of the documentary The Forgotten City during the first Buffalo Niagara Film Festival.

The Forgotten City was directed and photographed by Korey Green and Addison Henderson of Knuckle City Films. The film offers Green's and Henderson's insider perspective of the once booming city of Buffalo, NY, which beginning in the later half of the 20th Century, began to see a decline in population due to the loss of industry, racial discrimination, crime and drugs, especially in their East Side neighborhood, where much of the documentary unfolds, centering on the murder of their friend.

Green and Henderson interview a wide spectrum of people, both from their neighborhood, but also city politicians and police officials. They talk to a homeless man who is trying to find a place to stay for the night with his son. Women addicted to crack. People from a neighborhood ridden by a race war between local whites and blacks. They even go into a drug house where the drug dealers are showing off a sleeping prostitute.

But despite the crime, drugs, and injustices faced in these neighborhoods on a daily basis, we see community activists who are giving their all to make a difference in hopes that Buffalo will not be forgotten altogether and that one day will become the thriving city that it once was.