g The Film Panel Notetaker: June 2007

Thursday, June 28, 2007

dinomonster’s animated short "Corporate Whore" finalist at SXSWclick Festival

I am very excited to announce that Contributing Notetaker A.M. Peters' short film Corporate Whore is a finalist in the 2007 SXSWClick Festival, a year-round initiative created to showcase short-form storytelling via mobile devices and the web presented by South by Southwest (SXSW) Conferences & Festivals.

Corporate Whore is one of 15 finalists in the festival, and one of three finalists in the “Animate It” category. To view Corporate Whore, got to http://sxswclick.com/watch/corporate_whore/ and to vote for it in the Popularity Contest, go to http://sxswclick.com/vote/. You can vote once daily until midnight on Friday, July 27th. Jury winners in each of the five categories, including the Grand Jury Prize winner, will be announced August 1st.

Corporate Whore is a stop-motion animated short film that tells the story of a female professional. Strictly crafted with elements found in an office setting such as PowerPoint slides, photo copies and fluorescent lighting, this film is perfect for when you’re feeling penciled in.

Peters’ first foray into stop-motion animation was with her 2005 Two Boots Pioneer Theater Short Film Slam winning Jack Quack: The Path. The short also made its way around the festival circuit including Indie Memphis and was also a finalist on Kevin Smith’s MoviesAskew.com.

Peters is currently in post-production on NO Cross, NO Crown, a timely and engaging feature documentary that examines whether New Orleans’ music and culture will survive the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

dinomonster films is Peters’ indie film banner, which produces feature films and documentaries, as well as music and corporate videos offering a fresh style and perspective on characters and culture. Peters also worked as the assistant to Academy Award®-nominated director Nanette Burstein (On the Ropes) on her upcoming documentary American Teen for A&E Indiefilms.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

"Date Number One" - DC run, July 12-18

DIY filmmaker Sujewa Ekanayake's feature comedy, Date Number One, about several first dates, will run from July 12-18 in Kensington, MD, right outside of our nation's capital.

Last summer, I worked with Sujewa to publicize his NYC debut at the Two Boots Pioneer Theater. Here's my original blog post about that.

On Sujewa's blog today, Sujewa talks about how The Washington Post called him to talk about his film. Way to go, Sujewa!

If you live in the DC area, or are planning a trip there during July 12-18, make sure to check out Date Number One.

Here's more details:

Date Number One
Thu July 12 - Wed July 18, 2007
Armory Building
3710 Mitchell Street
Kensington, MD 20895
7:30 PM daily

Sunday, June 24, 2007

POV 20 - "Revolution '67"

On Saturday, I saw an important documentary at the Museum of the Moving Image (MMI) called Revolution '67, about one of the many riots that took place in several urban areas throughout the U.S. in the 196os, this one in particular in Newark, New Jersey, where racial tensions, economic disparities and political corruption were among many other elements that lead to the tragic days in the summer of 1967. According to a press release, "After six days, 26 people lay dead, 725 people were injured, and close to 1,500 people had been arrested." Revolution '67 is a production of Newark-based husband-and-wife filmmakers Marylou Tibaldo-Bongiorno and Jerome Bongiorno. They document the account of various people from all sides of the story who lived through the tragic days with animated charts of statistical data and re-enactments. Revolution '67 will air on the PBS television series P.O.V. as part of its 20th season on July 10. Check your local listings.

(Left to right: Revolution '67 Filmmakers Jerome Bongiorno & Marylou Tibaldo-Bongiorno with MMI's David Schwartz)

On a side note, after the Q&A, I spoke with Marylou and Jerome outside the museum where I talked with Marylou about one of the other cities where riots ensued during the '60s mentioned in the film, that being Rochester, NY, where my father grew up and my late grandmother worked at the city's public library. I told Marylou that my family has a collection of books from the city's late historian, which I have yet to read, and I'm interested to find out if they talk about the riots that occurred there. I plan to look through these books next time I go home to visit my family.

And on an even less related, but not too far between note, Marylou introduced me to her friend Luci, who I recognized from somewhere, and so I asked Marylou if the guy Luci came with was Scott, she said yes, and I realized they were Luci Westphal and Scott Solary of Good Hard Working People, the folks that shot The Reeler TV videos during the Tribeca Film Festival. Big thanks to their friend /writer/actor/filmmaker Jason Nunes who gave me a lift back with them to Brooklyn.

My notes from the Q&A follow.

Astoria, NY
June 23, 2007

David: (Marylou) grew up in Newark. What did you know of the riots of 1967?

Marylou: I don't have a memory of it. I was only four years old. I grew up in the shadow of city that was scarred, but the events that took place were palpable.

David: What did you learn from making Revolution '67?

Marylou: It was very much an eye opener. It wasn't just about a single day. It stemmed back several decades.

Jerome: Before making the documentary, we made a short film at NYU called "1967" about a black sniper shooting at vigilantes. We thought it was true. People asked us to re-examine the facts of the events.

David: What did you learn from going back in history?

Marylou: Went back as far as slavery. Never heard of bank redlining before. This put everything into an economic perspective.

David: Can you talk about the music choices in the film?

Jerome: The music was very important. It added inspiration. We used a lot of jazz, because Newark is a big jazz town.

Marylou: The music is eclectic, from all over the world. It made for a hard job for Jerome to edit the film.

David: How long was the process of making the documentary?

Marylou: It took us four years. Every interviewee led us to someone else.
David: In the film, you show a map of other cities where riots occurred in the 1960s. What's this film saying about that?

Marylou: There were 150 cities in 1967 alone. 3,000 altogether in the 1960s. We're trying to get the federal government to help situations in cities where there's poverty, which is a big issue.

David: Can you talk about how the documentary is being adapted into a narrative feature film? What will be different about the narrative version?

Marylou: Before the documentary, we made a short film at NYU. Spike Lee was my teacher. The script for the feature has been written, and Spike Lee is the executive producer. The narrative version will have more characters.

Audience Q&A

Q: Where did you get the archival footage from? Were there any problems getting it?
Marylou: Just the cost. Most of it is from ABC News, because we negotiated a rate with them instead of having to go to many other networks. Also got some footage from Internet Archive, which has free images in the public domain. Got some photos from the Library of Congress and National Archives, all free. The footage of the National Guard in Newark in '67 firing at an apartment building was from Universal Newsreel.

Q: How did you get funding?

Marylou: We started modestly. Received grants from the New Jersey Historical Commission for $3,000. Did some grass roots efforts in Newark with local corporations there. The first was with Prudential. ITVS came in later with a larger grant, then P.O.V. came aboard as a co-producer.

Cynthia Lopez (VP of P.O.V. in audience): You can go to the "for producers" page at pov.org and pbs.org to learn about ways to apply for public funding.

Q: How has the Newark community accepted the documentary?

Marylou: People have been really emotional. At other screenings in Newark, there really haven't been any Q&As. People talked more about the anger they had in an open dialogue. Some people suggested the film should be shown in schools. The Mayor of Newark will have free screenings of it in the Central Ward.

Q: Did you have an idea of what you wanted the story to be about before you began?

Marylou: It changed a great deal. It started out all being chronological, but then became more epic by adding more dimensions.

Jerome: What's on screen was our own education of what the riots meant.

Note: An audience member also commented on Former Newark Mayor Sharpe James’ probable indictment for corruption. The filmmakers leave Sharpe James to speak for himself in the film when he says that “You have to evaluate those who serve in elected positions, see if, in fact, they are about the community; they are about bringing about change that will benefit the entire city and not just themselves.”

Friday, June 22, 2007

Still in Motion's article about "Filmanthropy" panel at Silverdocs

On Friday, I received an email from Shooting People member who asked me if I took notes at a panel discussion at Silverdocs called "FILMANTHROPY" - CREATIVE FINANCING & MAVERICK MARKETING FOR DOCUMENTARIES."

I unfortunately wasn't able to make it to that one myself, so I emailed some folks I met at Silverdocs to see if they might have attended, and I received a reply from film blogger Pamela Cohn of Still in Motion. She wrote an article there that talks about the concept of what Filmanthropy might mean. Check it out.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Silverdocs 2007 - "The Gates" (Companion notes from June 10th's Maysles Films Program at BAM)

Following up on my notes from June 10th's Maysles Film Program at BAM with Albert Maysles (Grey Gardens), I would like to include the below notes from a Silverdocs Q and A with Antonio Ferrera, co-director of The Gates, as a companion piece. I was so moved by the presentation at BAM last week that I just had to see "The Gates" at Silverdocs. I missed it when it premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. But before I present my notes, here's my review:

The Gates is an incredibly engaging, dramatic work of documentary filmmaking with footage spanning more than 25 years of artists Christo's and Jeanne-Claude's struggle and ultimate victory to display their work of art entitled "The Gates" in New York City's Central Park from filmmakers Antonio Ferrera and Albert Maysles. A most dramatic and clever edit occurs at the beginning of the film when we see Christo and Jeanne-Claude as they were in 2005 and all of a sudden, they're back in 1979 as they prepare to talk with the then Parks Department Commissioner Gordon Davis, who turns their exhibition down. The duo take their presentation to various communities throughout New York City from Harlem to NYU, each time getting dissent from skeptical residents where a major argument was that they were going to destroy a piece of natural art by putting their own art over it. Christo's and Jeanne-Claude's response was that Central Park is man-made. Finally, in 2005, mayor Michael Bloomberg approved their exhibition, and in February of that year, "The Gates" went up for two weeks. I happened to see "The Gates" in person, and I personally didn't know what to make of them at the time. Whether or not one agrees that they were a beautiful work of art, one can't help but to admire how they brought an entire city together. Perhaps that is what the art really is, and that is exactly what is captured in the documentary The Gates. The last half-hour of the film shows the two weeks in 2005 when people came to Central Park. The filmmakers capture their natural reactions, excitement and confusion so beautifully.

Photo courtesy of Silverdocs.

The Gates - Q and A with co-director Antonio Ferrera
SILVERDOCS AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival 2007
June 16, 2007

Q: Can you talk about the editing decisions? How much footage was there?

A: 400 hours of the actual event [the two weeks in 2005], about 200 hours from the preceding year, and 30 to 40 hours from 1979. We had access to a lot of great sensibilities. Captured the journey for the audience. Spent two years editing the film from 2005-2007, myself and Matthew Prinzing. I lived in the park for 16-17 hours a day. The story is all about the light.

Q: Did you find the original people who were against "The Gates" in 1979?

A: We hung out with Gordon Davis, who originally turned it down, but turned out to be one of its greatest advocates.

Q: Did Christo and Jeanne-Claude make any money from "The Gates"?

A: The drawings go toward the final work of art.

Q: Did Christo and Jeanne-Claude adjust the opening of "The Gates" because of the snow?

A: What ever happened, happened. It was incredible. It was just mother nature and our discipline to capture it.

Q: Will Christo and Jeanne-Claude do any art exhibitions in the Washington, D.C., area?

A: As soon as you tell them an idea, they don't do it.

Q: What are your thoughts on David and Albert starting the shooting and you finishing it?

A: It's a long story. It was a whole archaeological job.

Q: What was your decision not to showcase Christo and Jeanne-Claude once "The Gates" were fertile.

A: At a certain point, the expression has to take the foreground. I was scared I wouldn't be able to pull it off. We don't interview subjects. An example is the scene with the Trinidadian kids sitting on a rock in Central Park just talking about "The Gates." You can't interview shit like that. You just listen. I remember 9/11 when everyone looked up in horror. At "The Gates," everyone looked up in delight.

Q: What was the decision behind not showing in the film the taking down of "The Gates" in Central Park ?

A: We wanted to capture that feeling when you left the park.

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Silverdocs 2007 - "What's It Worth": Value vs. Values

When I stopped in at the Silverdocs Cinema Lounge on Saturday, I happened upon the panel discussion "What's It Worth": Value vs. Values. Below are some notes I took. Unfortunately, I missed the final portion of the discussion, because I was heading back over to the AFI/Silver Theater for the Sterling Awards Ceremony. If anyone else was at the panel and would like to submit additional notes, please do so.
DocaGora and International Documentary Conference Wrap
"What’s It Worth": Value vs. Values
Silverdocs Cinema Lounge
June 16, 2007

Peter Wintonick and Neil Sieling, Co-Moderators

Cameron Hickey, Session Producer


Pat Aufderheide - “New Deal 1.5” paper from The Center for Social Media and The Independent Television Service

Tamara Gould - Vice President of Distribution, ITVS

Yvette Alberdingkthijm - Joost Executive Vice President, Content Strategy & Acquisition

Angela Wilson Gyetvan - Revver VP, Marketing and Content


Wintonick: The idea behind Docagora is to bring what's best and beautiful about the linear documentary world into the digital age. It's been a quest for me since the mid-1990s to find diverse financing for documentaries from the new world of "now" media. Trying to get festivals, corporations and philanthropic communities to come together.

Sieling: A recent recruit to DocsGora. Works for The Center for Social Media. Did a debate at HotDocs. Introduced the three different presentation at this panel. 1) "New Deal 1.5", 2) Revver.com and 3) Joost [***This is the portion of the panel I missed and if you have notes, you're welcome to submit them]

Aufderheide: The significance of "The New Deal: Verson 1.5, Monetizing and Mission" is how rights negotiations are changing so independent filmmakers can measure their goals against business practices. Worked with ITVS on it. Tamara Gould was the contact at ITVS. Pamphlet is titled "1.5" because there has only been a small change since last year.

Gould: The theme is energy, excitement and confusion about digital platforms versus traditional distribution models. The mission is to fund and bring documentaries to public television, as it is considering how to reach audiences, and to work with PBS to develop ways to reach all audiences across America. Last year, there was a lot of hype from producers about rights without a clear understanding of what they could do with them. "1.5" answers questions like: What can producers expect? What does this mean for independent filmmakers? What kind of revenues can you expect? What expenses? What rights to clear? There's also 164 right terms and distribution platforms such as traditional home video and download-to-own rights. The marketplace is confusing, uncomfortable and unclear, but we recommend you to find partners and experiment to earn a living, make revenues and distribute films to audiences.

Gytevan: Revver.com slideshow presentation:

A unique new chapter in media:
- Monetization and distribution platform for content
- A moderated environment; no copyright infringement
- Open syndication network; Allow content to flow freely around the Internet
- A powerful platform for advertisers

Capitalist Content Democracy – Open system to power the best form video content

Press Coverage – ex) sited in Time Magazine

Who’s Using It? – Best-of-breed creators who want to leverage this new medium

- Ask a Ninja (supported by Ask.com)
- My Name is Bill (picked up for a CNN segment)

What’s Unique?
- Content is sticky and safe
- Customize programming
- Share revenue with content creators and syndicators

Unique Open Syndication Network

Unique Dynamic Advertising System

Unique Open API and Blog Plug-Ins:
- “video portal in a box”
- blogging tools – wordpress plug-in

Unique Content Review Process

Rewarding Creativity (Why we exist)

Audience Q&A

Q: What happens to copyrights?

Gytevan: There's no concierge who's going to tell you who's playing fair, but Revver is quite fair with it.

Q: Is there any one website where you can upload your film and it will distribute it to multiple viral video websites like Myspace & YouTube?

Gytevan: TubeMogul.com

Sieling: This is not an easy process. It's difficult to get the standards.

Gytevan: It has to support different file codings.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Silverdocs 2007 - Sterling Awards Ceremony

On Saturday, I attended the SILVERDOCS AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival 2007 in Silver Spring, Maryland. I had the opportunity to see Weijun Chen's Please Vote For Me, which won the Sterling Award for Best Feature. Please Vote For Me is about "a third grade class in Wahun province (in China) and the intense politicking in the race to become Class Monitor" and is part of " the international documentary project Why Democracy? scheduled to air globally in October 2007." A complete list of winners from Silverdocs follows.

Please Vote For Me producer Don Edkins takes the prize for Best Feature on behalf of director Weijun Chen.

SILVERDOCS AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival 2007
Sterling Awards Ceremony
June 16, 2007

Sterling Award, Best Feature - PLEASE VOTE FOR ME by Weijun Chen

Sterling Award, Special Jury Mention - ENEMIES OF HAPPINESS by Eva Mulvad

Sterling Award, Best Short - LOT 63, GRAVE C by Sam Green

Sterling Award, Honorable Mention - I WANT TO BE A PILOT by Diego Quemada-Díez

Music Documentary Award - NOMADAK TX by Raúl De la Fuente

The Cinematics Vision Feature Award - KURT COBAIN ABOUT A SON by AJ Schnack

A.J. Schnack, director of Kurt Kobain About A Son, stands behind his giant $2,500 check after winning the Cinematic Vision Award. Photo snapped by Sujewa Ekanayake.

The Cinematic Vision Short Award - MY EYES by Erlend Mo

WITNESS Award - THE DEVIL CAME ON HORSEBACK by Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg

WITNESS Award, Honorable Mention - THE PRICE OF SUGAR by Bill Haney

SILVERDOCS/American Film Market Award - BIG RIG by Doug Pray

Feature Audience Award - SOUVENIRS by Shahar Cohen and Halil Efrat

Short Audience Award - A SON'S SACRIFICE

ACE Grant Winner - THE CONCRETE JUNGLE by Rachel Buchanan and Don Bernier

My companions at the Sterling Awards Ceremony: Pamela Cohn, Still in Motion and Sujewa Ekanayake, DIY Filmmaker Sujewa & Date Number One writer/director


Monday, June 11, 2007

The Creators Series: Participatory Filmmaking - June 10, 2007

On Sunday, I attended a panel discussion titled “Participatory Filmmaking” presented by Tribeca Enterprises newest venture Tomorrow Unlimited. The panelists not only talked about their projects, but also to showed portions of their projects to the audience.

Martin Percy – Interactive Filmmaker, MovieActive.com
Matt Hanson – Film Futurist, A Swarm of Angels
Chris Doyle – Multidisciplinary Artist, 50,000 Beds

Jeremy Boxer – Director of Programming, Tomorrow Unlimited

Percy’s Presentation
On Martin Percy’s company’s website, MovieActive.com, there's what's described as Percy’s “interactive live-action work.” The sample Percy presented was “A Conversation with Sir Ian McClellan.” Percy said that every 13 year old in the U.K. has to learn a speech from Shakespeare’s Richard III. The interactive live-action work asks and answers questions about Shakespeare to the viewers. It’s a living video. More like a conversation and less like a lecture. Percy also did a piece for Tate Modern, which allows young people to not only come to the physical gallery, but also to the website. On the website, you can click on a piece of art that’s at the gallery. It’s trying to use live-action video to model a natural experience. Online, you can take your time viewing the art. The experience is best for single users with a broadband connection. It’s a lot harder to do this, for example, with a lot of people in a cinema, but not impossible. One example of a larger cinema audience is The Bunnysaver Challenge. On the screen is a host who asks questions to the audience and the audience sends a text message on their mobile phones, and the results are shown on screen. The problem before this was that people don’t believe sending text messages will work until they see it on screen. With cinema, it’s much more difficult to make it interactive, but there are huge opportunities for filmmakers by using digital cinema and broadband.

Hanson’s Presentation
Matt Hanson is the creator of A Swarm of Angels, which is described as “
a groundbreaking project to create a £1 million film and give it away to over 1 million people using the Internet and a global community of members.” Hanson said he wanted to make a feature film that wasn’t done the normal way. Hanson described several elements that formed the basis of A Swarm of Angels:

- The Blockbuster is Dead
- The End of Celluloid – a digital manifesto
- User-Generated Content, ie. YouTube
- Bridging the Divide – filmmakers like Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City and Steven Soderbergh

Hanson asks, how do we move forward? The answer: A Swarm of Angels, which is an “open-source” film licensed under Creative Commons. Hanson terms this sort of filmmaking as “crowd sourcing,” meaning creator-led and member-powered. It relies on the collaboration of all of its members. The collaboration is managed through tools, facilities, languages, rules and incentives.

Finally, Hanson described the level of phases, or amount of members, that can be involved in A Swarm of Angels:

- Phase 1: Proof of Concept – 100 members
- Phase 2: Early Development – 1,000 members
- Phase 3: Advanced Development – Up to 5,000 members
- Phase 4: Pre-Production – 25,000 members
- Phase 5: Filming – 50,000 members

Doyle’s Presentation
Chris Doyle is a multidisciplinary artist in Brooklyn. Three years ago, he created a concept called “Leap” where people contributed to the project. 11 videos of people at the end of New York City subway lines showed people jumping up and down. Chris edited all of the jumping people together. This was a way to get involved with people in a direct way. He wanted to make a video that would engage people.

Doyle did another project in Tennessee. He set up a structure with students doing work in a library late at night. He gave them headlights and a camera to shoot themselves doing their work. The next day, he edited the material, and would project it onto the side of the library the next night.

For 50,000 Beds, Doyle was approached by contemporary artists in Connecticut who were interested in a collaborative project. He submitted a proposal where hotel rooms would be used as studios. The end result was 45 artists in 45 hotel rooms, three venues, and one show. He had no idea what he was going to get. The interesting thing was he had to give up a certain amount of authorship. The end-product is a physical project or an installation.

Moderator Questions:

Boxer: How have you found the experience of building a framework that allows flexibility for collaboration?

Percy: If I shoot video and you watch it on TV and didn’t get more out of it without interactivity, then I’ve failed. Flexibility is absolutely crucial.

Hanson: A new process is being developed through the Internet. There’s a weird paradox. As a filmmaker, I’m giving a lot of control to the audience, but I’m the center of the power process.

Doyle: Opinion overlaps with Percy and Hanson. There’s an interesting tension with authorship. I am the director, but ask for input from all people. I am the creative director of the project as a whole.

Boxer: Because of the Internet, your projects have come to creation. Can you talk more about this?

Hanson: It’s about bringing like minds together and building a network effectively. How can you get the network to build a global community? You’re giving away a lot of power, but getting a lot in return.

Percy: Interactive videos began in the 1970s, but the Internet, and Broadband, more specifically, has changed everything. Think about the fundamental approach for making digital media on the Internet.

Audience Q&A:

Q: If there is a profit involved, where is it coming from?

Percy: The Tate Modern piece is part of an advertising campaign. It’s discreet branding or in other words enlightened sponsorship as the source of funding.

The concept came from the frustration of getting my work funded through normal means. Had to look at other funding sources. I had a business management degree instead of going to film school. A Swarm of Angels is funded by a £25 subscription fee.

Doyle: 50,000 Beds was funded through grant sources like the NEA and Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism.

Q: Is there a future for non-linear films. What is the future without having gatekeepers?

Hanson: My project is about creating a linear film and distributing it in a linear fashion on any screen, but there’s a non-linear aspect because people can re-mix it.

Percy: Reflect on though processes in a natural more though-provoking way.

Doyle: 50,000 Beds unfolds not just linearly, but also spatially.

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The Reeler's notes from a panel discussion with Joan Churchill, Barbara Kopple, Albert Maysles and Raoul Peck

Annaliese Griffin from The Reeler has the scoop from a panel discussion that was part of Sundance Institute at BAM on Sunday. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the panel, which was moderated by Sundance documentary film director Cara Mertes and had Joan Churchill, Barbara Kopple, Albert Maysles and Raoul Peck as panelists. Luckily, I did make it over to The Maysles Film Program at BAM right before the panel. My notes from Albert Maysles talk are here. Please also check out Annaliese's article at The Reeler for the details of the panel.

Sundance at BAM - Maysles Films Program

I went to the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) on Sunday for the Maysles Films Program, a special showcase curated just for Sundance Institute at BAM. Documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles presented clips from his and his late brother David’s archive spanning from the 1950s to a sneak peak of Albert’s latest project In Transit.

Excerpts screened included:
Russia, Moscow (1955-57), Yanki No! (1961), Untitled (1959), Showman [Outtakes] (1963), Carl Sandburg (1963), Anastasia (1962), What’s Happening! The Beatles in the U.S.A. (1964), With Love From Truman (1966)/Meet Marlon Brando [Outtakes] (1965), Off to War [Vietnam] (1965), Salvador Dali’s Fantastic Dream (1966), MGM Showreel (1966), Mother (1966), Gimme Shelter [Outtakes] (1969), McGovern (1972), Muhammad Ali in Zaire (1974), Grey Gardens [Outtakes] (1976), Maysles For Hire (1980’s and 90’s) and In Transit (work-in-progress).

Watching these excerpts play one after the other was like being a fly on the wall in a time machine of popular culture and politics in the 20th Century, but it’s not the history that you learn in school or see on the news. It’s unparalleled access to the little behind-the-scenes, candid moments from the lives of everyday people to celebrities. And how’s this for DVD commentary, without actually needing a DVD player: During the segment from Yanki No!, Albert spoke out, “I’ve taken most of the narration out because it was so full of propaganda.” If you were not lucky enough to view the program live and in person with Albert yesterday, it would be great if an actual DVD of the program was released, or perhaps an airing on PBS.

Before and after the presentation, Albert said a few words. Below are my notes from his talk.

Albert Maysles. Photo courtesy of BAM.

Maysles Films Program
Sundance Institute at BAM
June 10, 2007

Before the Program:

Albert began before the program saying that this is the most exciting time of our lives for documentaries. Suddenly, documentaries are emerging as more popular. It’s inevitable that it would happen. There’s a place for both fiction and non-fiction. There is a potential for cameras to pick up real life with out commercial people from Hollywood. It’s surprising that TV networks’ policies simply don’t take the work of independent filmmakers. Albert’s films are different because of the access. Most of his and his brother’s feature films are available through the Criterion Collection.

Albert pointed out that in 1955, he departed a career in psychology and got a visa to go to Russia to film the people there. It was important to know who these other people were that we might have engaged in warfare with. You get to see bits and pieces of impressions of the people.

Other clips Albert was about to show include a film about Anastasia from the Bolshoi Ballet. Excerpts from films of Truman Capote and Salvador Dali. A taste of his autobiography with a glimpse of his mother being sworn in as the president of Jewish women’s organization. A glimpse of George McGovern, the candidate for President of the U.S. in 1972. Albert said he might be the perfect guy to go with the perfect candidate to reveal his real character. Albert said, “Damn it! Why isn’t mass media working this way?” And finally, a glimpse of “In Transit,” where Albert traveled on several different trains in several different countries recording stories of the people traveling on them.

After the Program:

Albert told the audience that now they’ve had a glimpse into the past and the future. The image that touched him most was of his mother.

He then spoke of a friend who made a film about the war experience and showed it to The History Channel, but they didn’t accept it because it was too personal. Albert said we have to break through this nonsense. It’s about time we witness life like it is. There’s a whole world around us and lots to film.

Albert mentioned that when he shows his films to the subjects in them, they’ve had surprising reactions. He once he mad a film of a poor family in the South. It was a very loving and true story. He showed it to the grandmother of the family in the film who said, “well, that’s the truth,” but then asked, “can you make it longer?” And when Capote watched his own film, he came out crying.

In documentary filmmaking, Albert said there’s a wonderful word called “random.” That’s what goes on. He and his brother were a two-camera crew. You have to be interested to do a heart-to-heart story and ask yourself, can you really tell the truth? “I believe it,” he said. You might not be able to capture it all, but when you see something on the screen, it becomes your experience. That’s why he wanted to make his new film “In Transit.” One of the stories of a woman who travels to Philadelphia to see her mother in nearly 20 years.

“As you might have guessed, I’m excited about what I do,” Albert said. Albert’s family now lives in Harlem, where the Maysles Institute teaches kids 8 to twelve years old how to use cameras. Some of the children’s parents are in jail and send their films to their parents. This has taught them self respect.

There was only time for one question from the audience. The question asked: What made you make the transition from psychology to documentary filmmaking? Albert’s answer: Psychology is a kind of science that you everything until you find a truth. Before he started filming in Russia, he was given two pieces of advice that he didn’t follow: 1) Use a tripod and 2) follow a point of view. “Thank goodness I didn’t follow them,” he said.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

NYWIFT’s Power Player Breakfast with Leslie Holleran

This week, I had the pleasure of attending New York Women in Film & Television’s Power Player Breakfast with Leslie Holleran. Ms. Holleran has been the producing partner of director Lasse Hallström on six films over the past eight years, including the acclaimed Cider House Rules, along with Chocolat, Casanova, The Hoax and others.

Holleran was an excellent speaker with a candid personality, and she spoke very frankly about the difficulties and pleasures of being a female producer, particularly noting her audience of women in the industry.

She noted that several things shaped her life: Marriage to film editor Andrew Mondshein, having children, deciding to stay in NY instead of moving out to LA, and meeting Hallström (while her husband was editing What's Eating Gilbert Grape?).

According to Holleran, staying in NY was critical because it allowed the couple to engage with many different kinds of people besides industry folks. They could therefore rejuvanate and revitalize, which is essential to telling stories.

Her first project with Hallström was Cider House Rules, which came after years of her reading scripts and bringing him material that he wasn't interested in. The big challenge with that adaptation was distilling 40 years of a story into one movie. The key to producing any story is to find the simple human idea--what is the story really about? In the case of CHR, they had to cut some of her favorite characters from the book in order to distill the movie down to its basic story about a father-son relationship.

Here are some of Holleran's other pearls of wisdom:

--The film industry has no interest in pragmatism. It's about being a trooper and making connections with people--both industry people to get the movies made, and audiences to get them seen.

--Being a female independent producer is a very, very hard road. It's the impossible task, because even when you find a piece of material to work with, it's never perfect, so you're already starting at a loss. You are living in a world of uncertainty. Once you're on set, its like tracking a huge family tree and keeping all of the pieces together.

--Producers should embrace TV. It is the coming way to tell stories. On a personal level, its closer to a regular job where you can actually set your calendar. She and Hallström are currently pitching a TV crime drama.

--The difference between people who accomplish something and people who don't is the DOING.

Brooklyn Independent - "Johnny Berlin" & "Ten Souls Rising"

Brooklyn Independent - Johnny Berlin & Ten Souls Rising
June 4, 2007

Monday night, I attended the Brooklyn Independent Cinema Series in Park Slope and saw the documentary Johnny Berlin directed by Dominic DeJoseph, which was preceded by the short Ten Souls Rising directed by Emily Rosdeitcher.

About Johnny Berlin:
This documentary follows Jon Hyrns, a porter aboard a refurbished 1930s luxury train, on a week-long trip down the West Coast from Seattle to Los Angeles. While going about his business making beds and cleaning toilets, he expounds upon his life as a struggling writer while holding down a workday job. Simultaneously funny and dark, the film is ultimately an intimate, offbeat, and humorous portrait of mid-life crisis presented as a monologue.

FYI, Johnny Berlin is available on DVD through Amazon.com or the distributor Indiepix.net at the following link: http://johnnyberlin.indiepix.net/.

Here is the full expanded screening schedule for JOHNNY BERLIN on The Documentary Channel for June:

--Tuesday 6/12 at 3 am CST / 4 am EST *please note that the actual premiere is on Saturday the 16th. Due to the film playing on our PBS affiliate in NY on the 18th, we have to schedule a late-night play as they pick up our feed manually for play-back the following week.

--Saturday, 6/16 at 8 p CST / 9 p EST. (official premiere*) and again at12:30 a CST / 1:30 a EST

--Monday, 6/18 at 7 p CST / 8 p EST and again at 1 a CST / 2 a EST

--Sunday, 6/24 at 7 p CST / 8 p EST and again at 12 a CST / 1 a EST

--Wednesday, 6/27 at 6 p CST / 7 p EST and again at 10:15 p CST / 11:15 p EST

The Documentary Channel is currently available on the following carriers- Nationwide: DISH Network 197, Nashville: Comcast Digital 241/Charter Digital 176, New York: NYCTV 25, and Denver: KBDI PBS Channel 12.

About Ten Souls Rising:
Eight New Yorkers and two French tourists become intimately acquainted when they get trapped together in an elevator in a New York City skyscraper. When the electricians’ union and the mechanics’ union reach an impasse over who has authority to fix the elevator, the passengers take matters into their own hands and use their imagination to save themselves.

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

Sundance Institute at BAM - "Snow Angels"

Saturday, June 2, 2007

At the Sundance Institute at BAM, David Gordon Green, director of George Washington, All the Real Girls and Undertow, screened his latest feature, Snow Angels, that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. Green adapted Snow Angels from the novel by Stewart O'Nan. Together with cast members Sam Rockwell (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) and Olivia Thirlby (United 93), Green addressed the audience during a Q&A after the screening.

My knowledge of Snow Angels stems from my days attending SUNY Brockport about 10 years ago, where I took a class called The Writers Craft. If my memory serves me correct, it was actually O' Nan's The Speed Queen that I had to read for the class, and O'Nan came to do a reading at The Writers Forum . However, I read Snow Angels anyway on my own.

After watching the movie Snow Angels at BAM, I recall at least one major difference, that being that there seemed to be a lot more interaction between the characters of Annie (played by Kate Beckinsale) and Arthur (played by Michael Angarano). The plot unwinds differently in the film than it does in the book, but they both seem to have the same traggic effect.

Also in attendance at the screening were filmmakers Craig Zobell (Great World of Sound), Michael Tully (Silver Jew), Todd Rohal (The Guatemalan Handshake), and Aaron Katz (Quiet City). It was Tully's blog, Boredom at Its Boredest, where I was reminded about yesterday's screening of Snow Angels. Thanks for the reminder, Tully!

Here are my notes from the Q&A with Green (DGG), Rockwell (SR), and Thirlby (OT):

Q: What grabbed you about the story [Stewart O' Nan's novel]?

DGG: I read it in a couple of sittings. Takes place in the 1970s. Don't know how autobiographical it was to O' Nan. It felt immediate to me. It haunted me. The book goes into greater depth. I made it more comtemporary, tried to cast it appropriately and bring a humantity to the roles.

Q: How was it to adapt a novel?

DGG: It was the first thing I got paid for. This book is so full of good stuff. I took out some of the characters like Arthur's sister. In the book, Arthur is grown up and looking back.

Q: What made you cast Griffin Dunne [in the role of Arthur's father Don]?

DGG: When I was writing the adaptation, I had him in mind. Everyone in the cast is funny. It was important to allow them to breath and laugh. Griffin has had a wonderful career balancing roles.

Q: What was your favorite thing working on this film?

SR: The collaboration. One of the best experiences of collaboration I ever had working with great actors. My acting coach is in the audience. David set a tone like movies in the 1970s, ie. Hal Ashby. It was just fun. David just let me do stuff most directors wouldn't let me do.

OT: I second that. The entire crew were incredibly awesome people. That vibe translates onto the screen.


SR: The suicide scene for example. Got a lot of help from people. That scene was very technical. They put sardine oil on my neck to get the dog to lick my neck, but he wouldn't lick me. We had to deal with that. David let the last take go a long time before yelling "cut."

Q: Showing the scenes of violence between Kate Beckinsale's character of Annie and her daughter were courageous.

DGG: I wouldn't call it violence, just parenting. We didn't make it glamorous. Kate brought her own ideas into the reality of the situation, creating a more human portrait.

Q: Who did you model your character after?

DGG: People I probably shouldn't mention. A lot of the prototype anti-heroes of the 1970s. Have a friend who's a priest who helped him with "born-again" research.

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Sundance Institute at BAM - "Great World of Sound"

Saturday, June 2, 2007

The Great World of Sound director Craig Zobel and BAMcinematek curator Florence Almozini

Great World of Sound, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, screened at a special series called Sundance Institute at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) on Saturday. I attended with Liz Nord, director of the documentary Jericho's Echo: Punk Rock in the Holy Land.

Great World of Sound is directed by Craig Zobel, written by Zobel and George Smith. According to its synopsis, the film is about "when a man answers an ad to train as a record producer, he’s excited by the prospect of signing undiscovered artists only to discover his new job isn’t all it’s cracked up to be."

Zobel spoke during a audience Q&A after the screening. I took the following notes:

Q: How did you find the singers in the film? [In the film, the two producers/unaware "song sharking" salesman played by Pat Healy (Martin) and Kene Holliday (Clarence) conduct auditions in the hotel rooms their company sends them to]

A: Had a script. Identified the set pieces for the auditions. Turned some production offices into hotel rooms. Posted ads in the towns and had real people come in to audition. Some were real actors, but not everyone knew what was going on. Explained it to them after.

Q: What kind of reaction did you get from the people who auditioned?

A: Some said they got "punked." We told them they didn't have to be in the film if they didn't want to. Most people were fine with it and some people were uncomfortable with it.

Q: Will you pay the people if you make money from the movie?

A: I haven't made any money yet.

Q: Where did the choice for the ambiant electronic music come from?

A: Composer David Wingo. The electronic music grew of the scenes from the beginning training sessions, like a corporate training video.

Q: What format was the film shot on?

A: Half of the film was shot in Super 16 and the other half in miniDV.

Q: How did you find the actor who played Clarence?

A: I met him and he convinced me to go to a water park with him.

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Brooklyn International Film Festival 2007

Brooklyn International Film Festival

Opening Night
Friday, June 1, 2007

Contributing notetaker A.M. Peters and I attended the opening night festivities of the 10th annual Brooklyn Independent Film Festival (BiFF) at Steiner Studios in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Jad Abumrad, host of WNYC's Radio Lab, introduced the night's films which began with the shorts Raymond and Dog Days, followed by the feature Made in Brooklyn, "a film about the neighborhood" with "four stories woven together by a cute little girl selling lemonade on a corner." The cast includes Michael Rispoli, Peter Dobson, Costas Mandylor, Vince Curatola and Richard Portnow. Luca Palanca wrote and produced the film that was directed by Gregory Alosio, Sharon Angela, Jeff Mazzola, Joe Tabb, and Palanca. When the film was over, Palanca said during a Q&A, "It's fitting we premiered here because it was a Brooklyn film."

After the screening, I met filmmaker Nimrod Amitai outside of Steiner Studios. Amitai's short film Golden Wedding screen at BiFF on Monday, June 4 at 1pm and Wednesday, June 6 at 3:30pm at Cobble Hill Cinema.

Nimrod Amitai (Director, Golden Wedding, and girlfriend)

Stanley Cuba After Party
Saturday, June 2

Nicole Taylor and Jerry Less, who appears as Robert in Stanley Cuba

I missed the screening of Stanley Cuba at BiFF today, as I was watching the new David Gordon Green film Snow Angels, which was part of the Sundance Institute at BAM. (Click here for notes from the Q&A). Luckily, I was able to hop over to the Stanley Cuba after party in Cobble Hill where I met up with A.M. and her roommie Boris Cifuentes, who worked on the film. Directed and written by Per Anderson, Stanley Cuba is described in its synopsis as "A rectangular black obelisk, intellectual property lawyers from hell, the most gratuitous lesbian kiss ever, five Brooklyn bands, aesthetic transcendence through selling out, something about Stanley Kubrick, and Mike Birbiglia." Also at the party was actor Al Burgo. I also ran into Jerry Less and Nicole Taylor whom I worked as the publicist on a reading of the play "L.O.L." last year that Jerry directed and starred Nicole. See picture above. Nicole next appears in a reading of the play "Cattaraugus Crick" at the Workshop Theater Company on June 10th.