g The Film Panel Notetaker: October 2007

Monday, October 29, 2007

SOLOS, First Singaporean Film to Be Selected by AFI Fest, Screens November 4 & 6, 2007

My friend Florence from Singapore told me some good news about a film she produced there called SOLOS that will have its U.S. premiere at AFI Fest in November. SOLOS is the first Singaporean film to be selected by AFI Fest. If you will be in Los Angeles during the festival, please check out the film on either Nov. 4 or 6 at the ArcLight Theatre. For more info on SOLOS, read the press release below or go to http://www.solosmovie.com/.

SOLOS is the first Singaporean Film to be Selected by AFI Fest

Gay-themed feature film SOLOS will have its U.S. premiere at AFI Fest in November 2007 following international premiere at Pusan International Film Festival

BUSAN, Korea, 9 October 2007 - Following its successful international premiere at Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF) where the film screened to two full house audiences, the producers of SOLOS are proud to announce that SOLOS has achieved further distinction by being the first film from Singapore to be invited to AFI Fest in Los Angeles – the annual film festival organized by the American Film Institute. SOLOS has been selected for the International Feature Competition section where first and second-time feature filmmakers from the global filmmaking community present the US premiere of their films.

SOLOS will screen alongside new films by veteran creative artists such as Hou Hsiao-hsien, Julian Schnabel, Robert Redford and Lee Chang-dong at AFI Fest. The festival takes place at the Arclight Hollywood complex and historic Cinerama Dome.

Inspired by true events surrounding an illicit student-teacher relationship, SOLOS explores the relationship between three individuals as they struggle to open up their feelings towards each other. Directed by Singaporean directors Kan Lume and Loo Zihan, Solos is the second feature film by Kan and first feature film by Loo, who also wrote the script and plays the part of the boy. The film also stars Lim Yu-Beng and Goh Guat Kian, both veteran theatre actors in Singapore.

Now celebrating its 21st anniversary, AFI Fest is the longest-running film festival in Los Angeles and the only film festival in the United States accredited by the International Federation of Film Producers Association (FIAPF). AFI Fest features new films from emerging filmmakers, as well as new work from great film masters and provides a significant US platform for international cinema. Some of the recent films premiered at AFI FEST include WALK THE LINE, TRANSAMERICA, TSOTSI, SOPHIE SCHOLL, THE SEA INSIDE, HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS, HOTEL RWANDA, and BAD EDUCATION.

SOLOS eschews traditional story structure. The film has no dialogue, but relies on strong visual imagery and sound-design to convey the story. Each scene in SOLOS is at once highly stylized and painfully realistic, the silence between the characters symptomatic of their emotional isolation.

“We are very excited that SOLOS is the first Singapore film ever to be accepted at AFI FEST and we believe its story of love has the potential to garner attention from local and international audiences,” said Florence Ang, producer. “What makes it more special is the cast and directors were all Singaporean and we were such a small team working on the film with most times just the two directors on set with the actors. It is a very honest but modest film – a labour of love by all involved,” Ang added.

With regards to SOLOS being selected for AFI Fest, producer Gerald Herman said “I think they recognized that SOLOS is a very a brave film. Brave for two young filmmakers to attempt a realistic and non-judgmental portrayal of an inter-generational gay relationship. And brave to make the film in Singapore, where even normal homosexuality is generally condemned, and not entirely legal.”

SOLOS has not had a screening in Singapore yet due to local censors requesting for three cuts despite an R21 rating when it was scheduled to screen at the Singapore International Film Festival in April earlier this year. The producers and the film festival organizers jointly decided to withdraw the film, to preserve the principle that films at the festival should be shown uncut.

SOLOS is produced by Florence Ang of Red Dawn Productions Pte Ltd and Gerald Herman of Discovery Communications Pte Ltd, with Ricardo Uncilla as Executive Producer and Kan Lume as Co-Producer. Ang and Uncilla are both first time producers and SOLOS is their first feature film production . Sound design and music was composed by Darren NG, one of Singapore ’s most respected and acclaimed sound artists.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

2007 Hamptons Int'l Film Festival - "Body of War" - October 20, 2007

A Film Still from Body of War: Tomas Young and Robert Byrd, Washington, D.C.

On Saturday, legendary daytime television talk show host Phil Donahue sat on a panel discussion that delved into issues of science and the media during the 2007 Hamptons International Film Festival at The Ross School in East Hampton. During the discussion, Donahue plugged his documentary Body of War, co-directed by Ellen Spiro, that would be playing later that evening in Southampton. I thought it would be very complementary to attend this screening and to write about it as an extension to my notes from the panel discussion.

Body of War shifts between the members of Congress who voted for or against the war in Iraq back in October of 2002, and the devastating physical and emotional effects the war had on 25-year-old Tomas Young, who was paralyzed from a bullet to his spine after serving in Iraq for less than a week. The film is an overall well-rounded personal story. We see Young through his hardships dealing with his disability and the people that love and care for him. But we also see his strength and determination to speak out against the war with other veterans, the community and even Senator Robert Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, who was one of the strongest opponents of the war. The film features original songs from Eddie Vedder.

Earlier in the day at the panel discussion, the issue of stem cell research came up. Donahue said that “stem cell research for spinal injuries is hugely complicated. We did our best to try to explain this in our documentary, but regret that this is one area in the film that didn’t make it completely into the final cut. It didn’t move the rest of the story along.” This is pretty much the one area in the film I wish they did delve into just a little more, as I wanted to learn more about what’s being done, or what’s not being done for that matter, in terms of stem cell research in the search for a cure to spinal injuries. I don’t necessarily think it would have been an entirely different movie, as this is a very pervasive matter that directly affects Young’s life.

Before the movie, Donahue said a few words. “We hope when this is over, you’ll agree with us. This is a close up look at harm in harm’s way. Seeing the pain is the point. Don’t sanitize the war. These injuries are life-altering, not only to the victim, but to the family.”

After the movie, there was a brief audience Q&A, though only one member of the audience asked a question. That question was, will this movie be seen across the country? Ellen Spiro said that they are currently working on distribution opportunities, and Phil said that they hope their film will be picked up and have success. Then Spiro asked a question of her own for the audience, that being how did the film start and why was it made. They had met Young at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and wanted to the nation to see his story.

Donahue added that “we’re up against the most secretive administration of my lifetime. We can never let this happen again. This administration has turned its back against the constitution” and to “return America to its original vision.”

As the audience exited the theater, they were handed a little booklet of The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of the United States of America.

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2007 Hamptons Int'l Film Festival - Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Film Discussion - October 20, 2007

(L to R: Phil Donahue, David Schwartz, Stuart Firestein & Alec Baldwin)

Continuing with my science lesson, I attended the Alfred P. Sloan Film Discussion: The Diving Bell and The Butterfly. In addition to discussing the film and its subject matter, the discussion went deeper into issues concerning science and the media with lots of impassioned audience interaction concerning the environment, stem cell research, medicine, PBS, and more.

Alec Baldwin – Movie & TV Star, Beetlejuice, The Cooler, 30 Rock

Phil Donahue – Co-Director, Body of War & Legendary TV Talk Show Host
(DS) David Schwartz –
Museum of the Moving Image
(SF) Stuart Firestein, PhD - Professor, Biological Sciences, Columbia Neuroscience

Doran Weber of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation opened the panel by talking about the Foundation and its initiatives. He was followed by Hamptons Film Festival Programmer David Nugent who introduced everyone on the panel. Alec Baldwin, who moderated the discussion, joked and said, “I’m Alec Baldwin, noted neuroscientist.”

(AB) What was the significance of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly? Is there a distinction between films dealing with education and science?

(DS) It’s a remarkable film. A portrait of Jean-Dominique Bauby who devised a way to write using his eye. What’s amazing is that it’s a movie about perception, looking at the world, and finding a way to communicate very much by art. What’s great about The Sloan Foundation is that it sees the connection between art and science. This film makes us question the old dictionary definition of the word “vegetation.”

(SF) Most of the science we don’t know. It’s a locked-in syndrome caused by a cerebrovascular accident (CVA). A bleed in the brain that can cause a great deal of collateral damage. These things are likely to be congenital in nature. They’re almost always fatal.

(AB) From a historical standpoint, at what point did society decide to care for these people?

(SF) Don’t know. Look at the case of Terry Schiavo a couple of years ago. There’s a great deal of work now where MRIs or FMRIs (Functional MRIs) look at the activity of the brain. Trying to map the brain in this way to learn whether or not it’s conscious. It’s difficult to work out.

(PD) No other nation on earth faces the issue of taking Darwin out of text books. Film is a way to change this. Film fills the void left by corporate media. If you don’t understand Darwinian theory, you will never contribute to science. There’s a challenge by independent filmmakers to stand up to right wingers. Stem cell research for spinal injuries is hugely complicated. We did our best to try to explain this in our documentary (Body of War), but regret that this is one area in the film that didn’t make it completely into the final cut. It didn’t move the rest of the story along.

(SF) Stem cell research is a critical issue. You can blame the religious right, but also on scientists and educators who haven’t taken the time to teach it. One of the greatest books is Darwin’s The Origin of Species.

(AB) Science and its relationship to the media seem to be eclipsed by environmental science. Do you agree that science through the media is too top-heavy with the environment instead of stem cell research?

(DS) With Terry Schiavo, we had politicians and people diagnose her based on how she looked in videos of her. She really was vegetated. Politicians were interpreting her, not science.

(SF) Research is done through taxpayer money. I used to get money from NIH to study the sense of smell in salamanders. Your nose is one of the very few parts in the brain where you make new brain cells.

Audience Question: Media and the environment is sexier. Stem cell research is a political hot potato. Why isn’t it represented in television and film as much?

(PD) The people who are rewarded in this business are those who draw the largest crowds. Science in the States has been silent. There are very few people of power to speak out against this phenomenon.

Audience Question: If Bauby had his stroke today, would we be able to take care of him?

(SF) There have been advances. We know there’s more mental capacity than we thought.

(AB) Does memory come back?

(SF) We don’t know. There’s a great deal of work now for neuralprosthetics.

Audience Question: Where do you see the great strides in medicine going?

(AB) People do look at medicine like it’s Detroit auto making.

(SF) It’s so hard to see. Popular science magazines always put out issues relating to what’s going to happen in the next 50 years. It’s difficult to tell. The big issue is basic/fundamental research versus translational research. Basic research is what’s made biomedical research in the U.S. so great.

(AB) For someone who works in the media, my greatest criticism is public television. It was the mission under Nixon’s administration to address issues not addressed by commercial network television. It’s so horrific what they’re doing with public television. What is your opinion?

(PD) PBS is totally politicized. You need a politically active young group to make media reform and saying that corporate media is ruining our democracy. On PBS, you couldn’t be on the air and talk against the war unless you’re funded. You couldn’t be Bill Moyers. There was a Darwin series on PBS narrated by Neil Armstrong that no one watched.

(AB) Funding for public television has been cut. I had a program called “The History of Food” about the copious examination of where your food comes from.

(Doran Weber) I disagree respectfully. The Sloan Foundation supports science. The bottom line for PBS is, is the show entertaining? They care about the audience. The Foundation co-funded a Frontline special on nuclear power. It works both ways. I don’t think PBS is controlled by the right. There’s a lot of science on PBS.

(AB) The New York Times has been very brave on issues of campaign finance reform, but it doesn’t make a dime in political advertising. NYT has been disgraceful on the issue of nuclear power.

Audience Question: TV is for old people. You want to get a large number of younger people to watch.

(AB) Public television is free television. Only about 40% of people in the U.S. have cable TV. Flyover America watches public TV.

(SF) The critical issue here is what we do with information and now how we access it.

(AB) Another issue today is how many drugs are given to children with juvenile emotional disorders. Is this scary?

(SF) We don’t worry enough about the side effects of drugs. Drugs have become a lifestyle issue.

(AB) Are we doping our kids as a better relationship than parenting skills?

(SF) Parenting is a hard thing to do.

(AB) Perhaps we should leave it at that.

(PD) Big Pharma is playing a large roll in our lives. 1 pill can net $2 billion a year. It can save or make a company. There’s pressure to get it out, forgetting the side effects.

Audience Question: Is it a challenge for the media to re-engage the industry?

(DS) The is some science on dramatic shows like CSI and Numbers.

(Audience Answer) I produced a news series on ABC called Hopkins 24/7. The media is doing it, once in a while. Hopefully, when you do it, you get good results. I understand Alec’s point that the political environment has geared the channels. Funding is so reduced.

(PD) I produced and hosted a five-part series for NBC in the 1980s called The Human Animal. We went to rat labs to learn how we’re behaving. First episode was about love and sex, which had the highest ratings. Second was ware and violence, third was nature and nurture, and I forget the other two. The shows made it into the Top 20 on network TV. I was hot then. I had more power than I’ll ever have again. If we can find someone current and hot, it can be done again. We need a star, but one that’s promoted and assembled cleverly.

(DS) It’s 50th Anniversary of Sputnik. Science brought the community together then. We should support real science.

(SF) I second that. There are plenty of cases where science is entertaining. Entertainment is something science provides. The public will watch. We’re a scientific civilization. People are genuinely interested.

(AB) I’ve helped raise money for The Ross School. People have the right to step outside the public school system. My point is that people have the means to go to private schools that pay taxes for public schools, too. People need to turn their attention to what’s going on in public schools. If the cure for cancer exists in the brain of an African-American girl in Alabama, we have to get it out of her brain. We have to make a college education free for people who qualify because society is going to benefit from that.

(PD) I had 16 years of Catholic school education. My science education was a leaf in the dictionary. We weren’t inspired to see the mystery and fascination of science. This curiosity came late in life to me. We have not turned our kids into the excitement of this exploration.

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Hamptons Int'l Film Festival - Screenplay Reading of "Wonder Drug" - October 20, 2007

("Wonder Drug" screenwriter Caitlin McCarthy and scientific advisor P. Harry Jellinck)

I hopped on the
Hampton Jitney free shuttle bus from The Hunting Inn in East Hampton at about 1:45 pm, and arrived at The Ross School a bit early for a panel I planned to attend starting at 3pm. Upon exiting the Jitney at The Ross School, I saw Hamptons Film Festival Programmer David Nugent heading into the building. I went over to say hello and he invited me to the screenplay reading for Wonder Drug. It was already a bit past 2pm at that point, and I told David thanks, but I didn’t want to enter a screenplay reading if they already started reading it, as I missed the beginning, but then I read the program and noticed that Steve Guttenberg was participating, and I thought to myself, I can’t miss the opportunity to see Steve Guttenberg for the second weekend in a row (read last weekend’s notes from The Actors Dialogue panel at Woodstock Film Festival), so my theory about missing beginnings of screenplay readings went right out the window, and I went in. I probably only missed about the first 5-10 minutes, but was able to catch on pretty easily. This was the first of my science lessons for the day. More notes coming soon from the Sloan Foundation Film Discussion: The Diving Bell and The Butterfly.

Screenplay Summary:
Wonder Drug is a scientific drama of how DES (diethylstilbestrol), the world’s first drug disaster, harms the lives of a Big Pharma executive, a feminist doctor, and a thirtysomething newlywed across different decades. Screenplay by Caitlin McCarthy.

The Cast:

Steve Guttenberg
Alysia Reiner
Suzanne DiDonna
John Lenartz
Rita Rehn
Kathy Searle

A Few Notes from the Q&A:

Screenwriter Caitlin McCarthy and P. Harry Jellinck, scientific advisor of Wonder Drug, answered some questions from the audience. McCarthy began by explaining the background for her screenplay. Two years ago, she found out that she had been exposed to DES. She researched it and wrote the screenplay. Jellinck said his job was to find out what happens to people with DES.

Q: What was the original intent of your screenplay?

(CM) For menopausal women or women with hysterectomies. One reason she wrote the screenplay is that she wants women to make informed choices.

Q: Where did you get your screenwriting skills?

(CM) Masters of Fine Arts from Emerson.

Q: Where will you go from here?

(CM) The script is a finalist in the Sundance Screenwriter’s Lab.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Indiepix and NetworkedPlanet Launch World’s First Knowledge-Based Navigation Database For Independent Film

Indiepix and NetworkedPlanet Launch World’s First Knowledge-Based
Navigation Database For Independent Film

Today, I listened in on a press conference given by Indiepix and NetworkedPlanet where they announced the launch of Discovery, “the first knowledge-based navigation of the world’s largest database for independent films.” On the call was Bob Alexander, Indiepix President, and Kal Ahmed, Founder of Networked Planet. Some examples of films in this new system are Jennifer Venditti's Billy the Kid and Michael Tully's Cocaine Angel. Below is a press release about this new venture sent to me today with all the details.

New York, US and Oxford, UK - October 17, 2007- IndiePix, the ultimate resource for independent film fans and filmmakers, and NetworkedPlanet, the leader in topic mapped file management and search systems, today announce the launch and availability of the world's largest intelligent database of curated independent films that uses state-of-the-art web technology to power the service. Underlying the presentation of over 3,000 titles, Discovery enables film lovers to discover and explore the world's best films from independent filmmakers, as well as order and download films of interest on the IndiePix website (www.IndiepixFilms.com).

Discovery is a revolutionary, intelligent navigation system. It allows the IndiePix team of film experts to manage information about a film and to add information based on their expertise and the system creates relevant, content-based links between films. The graphical display based on this process is designed specifically to expand user choices by helping create intelligent pathways through the large and growing world of independent film.

“The process expands choices in ways that are unexpected and opens up paths for exploring IndiePix's rapidly growing catalogue of film titles,” says Bob Alexander, president, IndiePix. "There are a variety of so-called ‘recommendation engines’ that suggest films a consumer may like, but we suggest choices that are related to a consumer’s starting point. “

The Discovery process is powered by NetworkedPlanet's TMCore information management engine, a topic mapping system that identifies, calculates, and manages the relationships among the films in the database in an enterprise database. In the IndiePix implementation, the TMCore engine is managing well over 200,000 relationships among 3,000 titles, and the number of relationships expands exponentially as new films are added.

“TM Core is a server platform for enterprise knowledge and information management applications; it stores and manages 'topic maps' of the entire content of the IndiePix website. This map is then the basis for driving the Discovery display,” says Kal Ahmed, co-founder, NetworkedPlanet. “TM Core delivers a detailed index of information resources across systems via a single unified information portal, and IndiePix’s implementation led to the development of special algorithms to weigh and manage the data as part of the display process.”

The Discovery process can be launched from the IndiePix website at www.indiepix.net/discovery.
A flash presentation summarizing the Discovery process from a users point of view will be available soon on the corporate information page at the IndiePix website at www.indiepix.net/info/press.

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Patricia Clarkson & Steve Guttenberg Join Actor's Dialogue at 2007 Woodstock Film Festival

2007 Woodstock Film Festival
Actor’s Dialogue
October 14, 2007

(L to R: Martha Frankel, Patricia Clarkson & Steve Guttenberg)

The Actor’s Dialogue panel discussion at the Woodstock Film Festival was my favorite I attended there. Martha Frankel was an excellent moderator. She was very prepared with her questions and kept the discussion moving along smoothly. She was able to bring out revealing and candid answers from both Patricia Clarkson’s and Steve Guttenberg’s lives and careers. They both had an extremely great sense of humor about things, and Steve was also very metaphorical. It would be great to see more panel discussions in the future run like this one.

Join some of today's most prolific actors as they chat about their lives and work.


(MF) Martha Frankel has been writing about film for over two decades. She has contributed to DETAILS, The New Yorker, Redbook, Cosmopolitan, and The New York Times. She is the author of Hats & Eyeglasses: A Family Love Affair with Gambling, published by Penguin/Tarcher.


(PC) Patricia Clarkson studied drama at Yale. She stayed on the East Coast working in theater production before her feature film debut in The Untouchables (1987) as the wife of Elliot Ness. Continuing to work in film, she gained attention for her role as the drug-addicted Greta in the independent film High Art. Her career in film continued to shine, giving memorable performances in Todd Haynes’s Far From Heaven, Larry Fessenden's locally-shot Wendigo, Lars von Trier's Dogville, All the Real Girls, The Station Agent, Pieces of April, The Dying Gaul, Good Night and Good Luck, Married Life and Lars and the Real Girl, to name a few.

(SG) Steve Guttenberg…star of the Police Academy movies, Cocoon (1 & 2), Three Men & A Baby (& A Little Lady), and more.


Martha began by mentioning some of the films Patricia and Steve starred in over the years. Patricia came to her attention in the independent film High Art. She’s made a series of great films ever since. Martha saw Steve on Broadway before seeing him in the movies. She joked that his movies have grossed more than the GNP of America. She also interviewed Steve in Los Angeles several years ago.

(MF) What’s the coolest thing you ever had to learn for the movies?

(PC) Playing a drug addict in High Art, I had to learn to snort. (Patricia explained that it was some form of powder, not actually cocaine). I went home at night with headaches. It was very foreign to me. I have never done any drugs before. I’ve done so many indie films. I’ve had to pee in the woods many times because there were no bathrooms.

(SG) I learned to play the saxophone in the Neil Jordan film High Spirits. Neil hooked me up with his friend who was a heroin addict that taught me how to play.

(MF) What was the most fun you ever had on a film set?

(SG) (Jokingly) Movies aren’t that fun to make.

(PC) On every movie, you party and form friendships, although they never last. On The Station Agent, we stayed at a Howard Johnsons in New Jersey and had the greatest time. We had a poolside view and stayed up all night drinking beer. It was joyous.

(SG) Making movies is so great. If it wasn’t this, I’d be a salesman at a mall. I always thought I’d be a stage actor. People feed you on movie sets.

(PC) (Regarding getting fed on movie sets) Studios! It’s a great job. If we complain, we should be shot. We’re very lucky. Even when you’re doing emotional, dark journeys, it’s still a joy.

(MF) Two of Patricia’s movies opened the Woodstock Film Festival in the past – Pieces of April and Far From Heaven. To me, Pieces of April is the ultimate holiday movie. Patricia plays a woman with cancer who’s so mean. Usually these characters are angelic.

(PC) Pieces of April was such guerilla filmmaking. Made for around $200,000. Shot on a camcorder, in essence. Oliver Platt would sit in the car with me and the director would yell cut, and we had no where to go.

(MF) Wendigo won Best Picture at Woodstock a few years ago. It was a very scary horror movie that takes place on my road.

(PC) I don’t even know if there was any money involved with this film. It was very low budget, but beautifully shot by the director of photography.

(MF) Talk about your roles on television. Patricia played Aunt Sarah on Six Feet Under. Steve had a role on Veronica Mars. There seems to be money on TV, but not like movie money.

(SG) I never did TV before this. They said they had an interesting part for me as a child molester. I thought, what experiences can I draw on for this? I went into the experience and loved it. They shot it fast. I was always in character. There was no time to go down and become me again. As a kid, I had one experience where someone sort of tried to molest me. It changed the tenor of the part or the way I played the character.

(PC) They used to call us the Three Tenors (Me, Frances Conroy and Kathy Bates in Six Feet Under). I only did six or seven episodes in about four years. They always shot around me. They were so accommodating. It was so incredibly well-written. The character was complicated and funny. We are at the mercy of the writing as actors. The tone and timber of Aunt Sarah’s voice was always right. My dearest friends in the world are writers. It is the most difficult job of all.

(SG) I believe in writers as the king of the set. It’s magical when you can connect to the vibration coming out of each writer. It’s an artistic touch that’s intangible. You’re writing together in an interesting way.

(MF) Aren’t you writing something for yourself right now?

(SG) Yes, a romantic comedy about the TV dating world.

(MF) Everyone said Patricia was going to be huge after The Untouchables. What’s it like to be in a big movie? What does success do to an actor?

(PC) The Untouchables was the very first movie I ever did right out of drama school. I went to casting wearing no make up. The director Brian DePalma liked that I was a little irreverent about this part. Brian read with me in the audition. It was a very small part. I probably only made about $3,000. Brian wanted to make my part a little bigger, and included me in the courtroom scene, so I made a little extra money. Things were good then. Then things went not so good for me for a while, then went good again. That’s how the business is. In my early 30s, I did a lot of theater. I was always shifting. It something you have to get used to.

(MF) I did an interview with Steve many years ago in L.A. Everywhere Steve and I went, people were plotching over Steve on the street.

(SG) Success and failure are both illusions. You’re in a machine. Actors paint a picture. Then all of a sudden, no one wants those pictures. Success is the people who love you and liking who you are. Whether it’s The New York Times saying you’re great or an executive at Paramount, the danger is believing the bull. Very early on, I went to L.A. to make some money. I was starting to get cast, and saw how people were treating me because I was the lead in a movie. It felt like people loved me. They were not the same as you’re really family. Whether they buy your paintings or not, as long as they love your painting, it doesn’t matter.

(MF) I talked to River Phoenix three days before he died. He said “they loved me.” I said, “no, they love what you do.” Nowadays, teen actors are offered drugs and entry into clubs. Success at a young age can be a recipe for disaster.

(SG) I was saved. I had great parents. I learned how to do deal with Machiavellian people. You have to have a really strong core to deal with it. I’ve always liked to educate young actors.

(MF) Just because I write for magazines, I have a great following in jail. One guy told me I seemed to have found the job that fits me. What’s the greatest fan mail you ever got? (Martha reminds Steve of one of his female fans who sent him a naked picture of herself and Steve flew this woman out to L.A. and at one moment in their rendezvous, he had to hide her in the closet.)

(SG) On coach! (Steve jokes about how he flew her there.)

(MF) Since then, what’s happened?

(SG) I think she’s a skeleton.

(MF) What’s the greatest fan mail you ever got?

(PC) I got a frightening letter once regarding Pieces of April. It was so upsetting. I didn’t respond, because they were cowardly. In the film, Katie Holmes dates an African-American man. It was a scathing letter asking me how I could be in a film where you’re white daughter is dating a black man. I was doing “A Streetcar Named Desire” at the time at the Kennedy Center. I got the letter there. Maybe they came to see me in the play. By far, it was the most disturbing letter I’ve ever gotten. On the brighter side, people have sent me pictures of their kids and their animals. Sometimes, I get letters from 25-year-old guys saying, “Hey, Miss Clarkson, Can I be your assistant?”

(MF) Do you still surf? Have you seen the documentary Surfwise that’s playing at Woodstock about the Paskowitz family? Do you know them?

(SG) Yes, they are a great family.

(MF) What projects are you working on now and in the future?

(PC) Lars and the Real Girl (out now). Married Life (coming out in March or April 2008). Elegy with Sir Ben Kingsley. It’s a very sexy part. My father could never see me in this film. Blind Date directed by Stanley Tucci. Phoebe in Wonderland with Elle Fanning. A Woody Allen movie that doesn’t have a title yet. I was already doing three movies and couldn’t say no. I loved working with Woody. Now, I’m doing nothing. I’m taking a break.

(SG) I just gone done doing a movie with Jessica Simpson (the audience rips out in laugher). It’s a comedy. Sort of a Private Benjamin. She plays a movie star who can’t get out of the army. I play her agent. She was very low-key and well-mannered. Terrific to work with. It really surprised me. Also working on a film called The Well, a serious drama about a family who loses their child. I don’t get offered a lot of psychological, serious stuff. The few dramas I do get, I really enjoy it. I just don’t get a lot of these roles, because I’m mostly in comedies. I don’t learn as much from comedies as I do from dramas.

Audience Q&A

Q: In an interview with Lauren Becall, she talked about acting with Marilyn Monroe. Becall says that Monroe had an annoying habit of looking at Becall’s forehead instead of into her eyes. Are there any things like that which make it harder for you to act?

(PC) (Jokingly) Nowadays, it’s all about the Botox. You’re really looking at their forehead. It’ rare, but disconcerting when working with an ungenerous actor. Those experiences have been few and far between. I’m capable of sharing space and emotional thought.

(SG) It’s sort of like a tennis game. When someone hits the ball way over your head, you’ve got to deal with it. Jump up really high to hit the ball back.

(PC) I’m not the most method of actors. I approach most of my roles emotionally, but you can only act so much as an actor. The energy that exists off stage, play on as well. I have to know the other actors and feel them emotionally. Have a comfort with them.

Q: HBO’s new series Tell Me You Love Me and Ang Lee’s new film Lust, Caution have a lot of sexuality in them. What’s your experience like with sexuality and nude on film?

(PC) I wasn’t required when I was younger to do wild, intense scenes. But now at the age of 47, I’m being asked to. Why now? I am lucky. It’s difficult when shooting these scenes. They’re not graphic, but there is nudity. I felt at ease and comfortable working with Ben Kingsley. It was a closed set. Just the director, me, Ben, the DP, the sound, etc. (laughingly). It is difficult for young actors to be thrust into these highly sexual situations. It’s all about how you value yourself as an actor. Be a good actor and have confidence.

Q: What did you learn from working with the older actors in Cocoon?

(SG) I asked Hume Cronin and Jessica Tandy for advice. They told me to save my money. (The crowd laughs). A lot of time, older people have so much value. Our culture /L.A./Showbiz is so youth-oriented. Once you’re past 30, you don’t have any value. I fell in love with the Cocoon actors. I would not let go of them. I was lucky. They unloaded on me every night.

Q: In High Art, what did you draw on for your character?

(PC) I was in a trench with my career before that. It was a great script, but I thought no one would ever cast me as this character, a German lesbian drug addict, but there was something about the character. It was a glorious shoot. When I met the director, I felt like I knew her my whole life. It was a great environment to work in. The greatest thing was wearing these pleather pants. They were so hot. It was like being in an oven.

Q: How do you tap into your process when you have an ungenerous director or you can’t tap into the writing?

(PC) It’s difficult, but few and far between. I’ve worked with hostile directors at times.

(SG) The director’s biggest job is creating the environment in which to work. It comes back to your self-confidence and integrity as an artist. The more experience you have and good teacher you have, it’s all going to come back to you.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

"Salim Baba" shortlisted for Best Short Doc Oscar

Tim Sternberg, who I met back at the Tribeca Film Festival, received some really good news this past week. His short doc, Salim Baba, has been shortlisted for a Best Short Documentary Oscar nomination. Read all about it here. Salim Baba also won the Maverick Award for Best Short Doc this weekend at the 2007 Woodstock Film Festival.

Blog Action Day

Today is Blog Action Day. According to the Blog Action Day website, today "bloggers around the web will unite to put a single important issue on everyone’s mind - the environment. Every blogger will post about the environment in their own way and relating to their own topic. Our aim is to get everyone talking towards a better future."

In honor of Blog Action Day, here's a re-post of notes from a panel discussion I attended earlier this year at the Gen Art Film Festival:

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 A Band of Fear blog (Unable to find URL). 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.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Back from the Woodstock Film Festival

I just returned from the Woodstock Film Festival in Upstate New York. Look out this week for our notes from the panel discussions. In the mean time, here's an announcement below from the festival press office about some of the festival's award winners. You can read about the rest here.

Presented To Packed House Of Filmmakers and Industry Leaders.


*** THE COOL SCHOOL, directed by Morgan Neville takes BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
(Honorable Mention: Constantine’s Sword, directed by Oren Jacoby AND Run Granny Run, directed by Marlo Poras)

Presenters included Lili Taylor, John Sloss, Ron Nyswaner, Giancarlo Esposito, David D’Arcy, Sabine Hoffman, Bill Plympton, Patrick Smith, Robert Stone, Gill Holland, Alexie Gilmore, Thomas O’Donnell, Amy Gossels, Leon Gast, Melissa Leo, Julie Goldman, Meira Blaustein.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Amy saw a movie in Woodstock

2007 Woodstock Film Festival
For the Love of Julian
Saturday, October 13, 2007

I kicked off my jaunt at the Woodstock Film Festival in Woodstock, NY with a special screening of the feature documentary, For the Love Of Julian, directed by Meira Blaustein and narrated by Susan Sarandon. Per Amazon.com, it is “an inspired and personal documentary about multiply handicapped medically fragile children. At once impassioned and unsentimental, For Love of Julian is a recognition of the humanity in these children, and a plea for the rest of us to honor and nurture humanity in all its myriad forms.”

Even though I hesitated watching such a heavy film at 10am on a Saturday morning, I couldn’t help but be intrigued and not allow myself to pass up the chance of seeing a great-sounding doc right across the street from where I was staying in town.

After seeing the film, I was moved by its raw honesty and emotional intensity but more so by the fact that it asked questions I wanted to hear pondered by filmmakers covering such a topic. Is it ethical to keep a child alive when basic tools of survival such as eating and breathing obviously pained him? How can you not help your child when every fiber of your parental being urges you to?

I loved the elements of the film where a roundtable of mothers shared their emotional turmoil with their handicapped children, and the follow through to see how Julian grew up, got an education and positively affected his caretakers was phenomenal. It was well edited and quite simply surprised me in its ability to thoughtfully explore what I assume is a frightening and taboo subject matter.

Meira, also a co-founder of the Woodstock Film Festival, attended the screening as the film was inspiration for WFF. It was also in response to Julian’s recent passing. He was eighteen years old.

Q: At what point did you decide to make this film?

A: When Julian was 2 years old, Meira went away for 8 days and that gave her perspective. She needed to change things because it was all too much, so upon returning she began the adoption process but found it was impossible to follow through. That was the catalyst.

Q: Where can we get a copy of the film?

A: You can find it at Amazon.

Q: What facilitated the Mother’s Support Group (or roundtable) featured in the film?

A: Meira assembled it for purposes of the film.

Q: In the 1990s, when Julian was young, was there help or support for multiply handicapped children?

A: There was a system that helped children and parents, but it was not yet enough. There were a lot of residential schools around, but only two were that good. Meira went away again when Julian was 4 and decided to move him to a facility where Julian was accepted off the waiting list when a bed freed up. This school was featured in the film.

Q: How has technology impacted these kids since the 80s and 90s? (A lot of technology was utilized in educating children in the film).

A: The Discovery Center pushed for advances in technology as it was crucial in getting through to these kids and improving their quality of life.

The producer of the film surprised Meira and the audience by attending and saying that Meira was the one who inspired the film and Julian. She said, Meira never stopped. Everyone learned what life is. She questioned our values and though Julian was the impetus, Meira was the driving force.

Q: What was her experience (in film) that informed the film’s production?

A: Meira had done some shorts and documentaries, but none had the meaning that this one had.

Q: How did the film inspire Woodstock Film Festival?

A: All the people who helped with film are from the area and still around to put on the festival.

Miera closed with saying that there’s no one answer in how to cope with these kinds of children. Meira grappled with the ethical question of keeping Julian’s life. She thought during every moment of every day, “why?” But the power of these children is in what they give to others. Julian was not given a chance—his fate was in the cards before birth. But what he gave to others was more than life, but meaning in life.


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2007 Woodstock Film Festival - Amazing Women in Film - Oct. 13, 2007

2007 Woodstock Film Festival
Amazing Women in Film
October 13, 2007


Women in the film industry continue to carve a strong and meaningful path in a world that used to be traditionally dominated by men. With more women sitting in the Director's Chair and holding top positions as executives, producers, and administrators, has the balance finally shifted to a point of equality? Join us as a diverse group of powerful women discuss their work and the state of the film industry, from the woman's perspective.


(TA) Thelma Adams currently writes film reviews for US Weekly and contributes regularly to a plethora of publications, including The Independent, The New York Times, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, The Christian Science Monitor, The Huffington Post and Indie Magazine.


(DD) Donna Dickman is the senior VP of publicity at Focus Features, running the East Coast PR department for the Universal specialty arm.

(KD) Karen Durbin is the film critic for Elle magazine, where she writes a monthly two-page column. She also writes features for Elle and articles on film for the Sunday Arts & Leisure section of the New York Times. Previously, she was the film critic for Mirabella magazine and its arts and entertainment editor. From April 1994 to September 1996, she was the editor in chief of The Village Voice. Durbin wrote and edited at the Voice in the 70s and 80s, where she helped unionize the paper and oversaw its extensive film coverage for seven years.

(MM) Mary Stuart Masterson made her film debut at the age of seven in The Stepford Wives. She has starred in over 25 films (including At Close Range, Some Kind of Wonderful, Immediate Family, Fried Green Tomatoes, Benny and Joon), and numerous plays and musicals (including the Tony Award nominated Broadway musical Nine). Along with her brother Peter, she is in the process of launching a film production company. The Cake Eaters is her narrative feature directorial debut.

(KR) Katie Roumel began producing films in 1995. Her credits include Kiss Me Guido, Series 7, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Camp, and A Home at the End of the World. Last year, Roumel produced An American Crime, and Savage Grace with Julianne Moore (to be released by IFC in April 2008) and Then She Found Me with Helen Hunt (2008). Roumel's latest project is with writer/director Shawn Lawrence Otto (House Of Sand And Fog) and will go into production in 2008. Before producing independently, Roumel was a partner at the NYC Independent Film Production Company Killer Films with Christine Vachon and Pamela Koffler.


(TA) How did you get where you are in film? Where did you want to be when you started out?

(KD) Wanted to watch and write about films. Started writing at college (Bryn Mar) where a cinemateque. The first foreign movie I saw was La Strada there. I knew I wanted to be a journalist. Did my baby steps at The New Yorker after graduating. Worked at The Lindsey Agency for a while. Then went over to The Village Voice. Was a politics editor there. Wrote about feminism and pop culture in the 1970s. I was asked to write about film in the 1980s. Wrote analytical features about movies, ie. The Eyes of Laura Mars with Faye Dunaway. Went onto being an editor at Mirabella. Then back at the Voice again. When leaving that job, I wanted to write about films full time. Went back to Mirabella again. Then finally Elle.

(TA) What are the joys of being a film critic?

(KD) Seeing movies for a living and going to film festivals. I try to connect people with movies by filmmakers they never heard of. It makes me nuts when reviewers don’t understand movies. For example, a review in The New York Times on the Darden Bros.’ Rosetta. From beginning to end in that review, they mocked it.

(TA) Where did you start?

(DD) There are very few publicists who go into the field wanting to be a publicist. They fall into it. I originally tended to work in theater behind the scenes in the 1970s. It was hard to make money. Eventually got a job at the Theater Guild. Stumbled upon United Artists, which was an entertainment and insurance company. Went into their office, spoke to human resources who told me about a job in the publicity department. Had a couple of interviews and got the job. I loved doing it. Never went to film school. Working there was like an education. Got to work with the press who really understood films, which I really appreciated. I love getting people excited about films that I’m excited about.

(MM) Started acting at the age of eight. It was kind of an accident. Mom and dad were actors mostly in theater. Dad’s director was in our apartment. I was sick and offered him a drink. He offered me a job. When I was that young, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I spent a lot of time back stage. There’s something transcendent about working in theater. It’s an experience you can’t re-do the same way again. I feel that way on a movie set, especially working behind the camera. Everything has been a process for me, not a product emphasis. Try to tell a story. I like being behind the camera. It’s not a democracy. It needs to be a benign dictatorship being a director.

(KR) Women’s studies in college, which was pretty much useless in nature. Concentrated on feminist film criticism. I really hated to write. Also had a minute working in politics in D.C. Then moved to New York. I realized producing was where I wanted to be. Interned at Killer Films. I’m attracted to the business side of films. Support Christine Vachon’s vision. Not producing by committee, but there’s still a marketplace to be navigated.

(TA) Women who are happy are those who find their passion and just do it, even if along the way they have to make compromises.

(MM) Sometimes you have to take one job for the mortgage, and another for the art.

(TA) You can find a way to write and be risky. Writing for USWeekly makes me able to writer about movies I like. As a female critic, you really want to get out there and encourage good movies for women.

(KD) Jim Hoberman once wrote a review of a Hungarian film in the 1980s. In the film, two men rough up a woman. Jim is one of the most feminist men I know, but there was no mention at all in his review that this culture was comfortable with men hitting women. It took me out of this otherwise good film. Jim was shocked at himself that this drove by him. There are not too many women film critics.

(TA) Probably 80% film critics are men. I’ve been a member of the New York Film Critics Circle for 12 years. Have been the chairperson twice. In all that time, may only have been three women out of 30-35 people. Jamie Bernard fought me about get onto the circle. Among the group, it can be self-destructive. Women have to stand for each other and fight for one another. The movie “Laurel Canyon,” Todd McCarthy reviewed it and slammed it. It’s a woman’s story. A great movie. It got killed because 80% of critics are men.

(TA) Can you talk about some positive changes for women?

(MM) Growing up, the rules changed. Mom was traditional and stood by her man. She came to New York as a liberal artist. All her friends’ marriages were failing. I witnessed enraged women trying to be empowered. There was this resentment among some of them. Mom was one of only women to stay married. How do you balance being female and your biological clock, having a family, etc?

(TA) An issue is deciding whether you can have kids or not and still have a career. It’s easy to do as a film critic.

(KD) In an Elle Magazine roundtable discussion, women filmmakers talk about these issues. Kelly Curry (Sp?) said she couldn’t have any kids. Kimberly Pierce said you can’t be bonded as a woman and have a career.

(TA) Sometime women fall into a trap where they want to be the captain of industry. You can’t have it all, but what can you have?

(MM) You can have it one at a time. The male perspective seems to be end-focuses and driven to a goal. Even the way women write could more character-driven, and less plot-driven.

(KD) I think that men have been socialized to compartmentalize. Women don’t. Women are conditioned the other way.

(MM) As a film director, you have to multi-task. If you put blinders on, you’re going to miss something.

(TA) One thing women have is bringing people together and being collaborative. Is this our great advantage?

(KR) The skills I have are what make me a good producer. Those things innately female like the ways I am collaborative and listen. The way I was socialized.

Audience Q&A

Q: Do you have projects in mind for the future? What’s your criteria for selecting them?

(MM) Like to do lots of different things. Plays on Broadway. Acting in movies. I’m going to be directing a film that’s not financed yet with John Leguizamo set in Iraq. Also wrote a pilot that takes place in New York that I won’t be acting in, but producing. I love to write. Started a novel. Every project requires 100% dedication. It’s so hard to move forward. Try to decide what to focus on. I’m starting to film a script my husband will direct. Budget is $50,000. Starts shooting next week.

Q: We’re likely to have a female Democratic presidential nominee. Any films in support of that?

(KD) It would be great to see something like that. There was a documentary about Clinton & Dole made by a woman. One of the best movies I’ve ever seen.

Q: What do you think about younger generations are using the Internet (Myspace, YouTube) to express themselves.

(TA) That’s going to change the speed of making films.

(DD) Just hired a woman at Focus Features to track online press including social networks and blogs.

(KD) Some of the best stuff I read is online.

(TA) Reporting online is really problematic. Not going to be objective. The code of ethics is more or less followed with print journalism.

Q: How do you juggle doing multiple projects?

(PK) Keep re-assessing yourself. Ask yourself, do I need to make money or feed my soul.

(MM) Follow your bliss. Once a project is going, stick with it. Nurture it like a baby.

Q: If you’re a crafts person (I’m a composer) and see a woman filmmaker you’d like to support, but you’re blocked from getting to her, how do you gain access?

(TA) Be persistent.

(DD) Find the right person who will listen to you. Someone who works closely with the filmmaker.

(MM) Don’t expect anyone to find you.

Friday, October 12, 2007

45th NYFF- "Redacted" - October 11, 2007

Press conference with De Palma for RedactedPhoto Credit: GODLIS

Last night at the New York Film Festival, I saw Brian DePalma’s latest film Redacted, which has been met with controversy, not only for its dark, unsettling portrait of a fictionalized account of an actual incident that occurred during the Iraq War where U.S. soldiers raped an Iraqi woman, but also for a dispute that occurred a few days ago at a NYFF press conference where DePalma charged the film’s distributor, Magnolia Pictures, with censoring, or “redacting” if you will, the film’s final moments where pictures of actual wounded and dead Iraqis faces were covered with black bars. Magnolia’s Eamonn Bowles spoke out during the conference to defend the distributor’s rights to make that decision. Not 24 hours later, DePalma gives up his fight. Karina Longworth of SpoutBlog has been all over this story like white on rice. Read her latest coverage here.

There was no Q&A after the screening last night, but DePalma did speak briefly before the film began saying, “Normally, I don’t do this because you’re supposed to think these guys are real.” He was referring to the cast of Redacted. DePalma did a “role call.” Present from the cast were Patrick Carroll (Reno Flake), Ty Jones (Master Sergeant Sweet), Mike Figueroa (Sargeant Jim Vasquez), Kel O’Neill (Gabe Blix) and Izzy Diaz (Angel Salazar).

DePalma concluded by saying Redacted was a very exciting movie to make. It’s similar to his 1989 film Casualties of War, but he found a whole new way to tell the story by using the Internet.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

HBO Films Directors Dialogues: Wes Anderson - October 10, 2007

NYFF screening of The Darjeeling Limited. (L to R) Jason Schwartzman, Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola. Photo Credit: GODLIS

Wednesday at the New York Film Festival, Kent Jones (KJ), Associate Director of Programming of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, conducted the HBO Film Directors Dialogue with filmmaker Wes Anderson (WA) at the Times Center. After the discussion, a reception was held for the Young Friends of Film. What follows are highlights of that conversation and questions and answers from the audience.

(KJ) You referred once that your latest film Darjeeling Limited (that opened the 45th New York Film Festival) is a dark movie. Your films have always balanced between happiness and sadness. Can you elaborate?

(WA) My friend told me the other day that Darjeeling Limited is about the war. I don’t see myself doing a movie where we can’t try to be funny. I made an unusual, conscience choice to be as personal as we possible can. I hate to think that takes us to a dark place.

(KJ) Was Darjeeling Limited darker than your other films?

(WA) I don’t think of it that way. The film led us somewhere else.

(KJ) What were some of your personal choices on making this film? Why was it set in India?

(WA) We (Jason Schwartzman, Roman Coppola, and I) went to India mainly to write. We took very specific things from our own lives. Jason took things in his life and fictionalized and romanticized them.

(KJ) Is this true in all of your films?

(WA) It’s a natural thing, but in this case, we articulated it together. It was a real adventure for us.

(KJ) Is the way your films are made just as important as the finished product?

(WA) I like to work with friends. That theory finds its way on film. I contract my approach with William Friedkin, who I admire, who creates friction and tension on the set.

(KJ) In an interview, once you said you want to work in a way that the narrative reflects novels. Is that something you began with?

(WA) The way a novel unfolds unlike a movie. Try to overtly stimulate. For example, The Royal Tenenbaums is not based on a book, but I suggested it to be. The movie is the book. I have a filmmaker friend who questions the value of making something original. I hope to do something different. I’m drawn to that.

(KJ) Is there a feeling you go for when constructing a movie? Did you cultivate this idea over a long time?

(WA) It’s a kind of thing I don’t decide. I usually start with locations, even before the characters. It’s an odd thing. It invents a movie that’s different from other movies.

(KJ) How old were you when you’re love of movies began?

(WA) The earliest films I enjoyed were of Spielberg and Hitchcock. Loved the color of Hitchcock’s movies. Watched these movies on Beta.

(KJ) The tagline for your first feature, Bottle Rocket, was “Reservoir Geeks.”

(WA) Anything “geeks” is not wildly flattering. It set up the audience with more violence than we had in store. We would have liked “As good as Reservoir Dogs.”

(KJ) A turn was taken between Bottle Rocket and Rushmore. How do you account for that?

(WA) I was most confident when making Bottle Rocket, but our first test screening was one of the worst in modern history. That night, I had a very different feeling about my talent. My trusted cohorts didn’t even attend. After the screening, Owen Wilson said we should try to go into advertising, but first move into an efficiency apartment. When shooting Rushmore, I gained some confidence back. I was figuring out how I really wanted to do it. Bottle Rocket was more spare. Rushmore goes into more lush places.

(KJ) Since developing your confidence back, you’ve been working with bigger productions.

(WA) People were surprised at how much the budget for Bottle Rocket was. It could have been made cheaper. Rushmore needed the amount of money we spent.

(KJ) Music costs a lot of money, too.

(WA) In Darjeeling Limited, my inspiration for making the film in India was watching Satyajit Ray’s films. He composed most of the music himself.

(KJ) When the NYFF committee first screened Darjeeling Limited, it had different music.

(WA) There was Beatles music. We used the Kinks instead. They were much better. I had used one Kinks song already in Rushmore. My first plan in Rushmore was to use all music of the Kinks. I sometimes worry about repeating myself. If my movies have these links and similarities, you can put them on a DVD shelf together, and that’s ok with me.

(KJ) Your relationship with Bill Murray began with Rushmore.

(WA) In Bottle Rocket, we had James Caan who was great, but at a certain point, we had wanted Bill Murray. We couldn’t locate him. For Rushmore, we thought of someone else. At the last minute, we called Bill’s agent and had a conversation with Bill who told me how Rushmore related to Akira Kurosawa’s Red Beard. It’s never been that easy to get him for another roll since. Not sure he’s even read the scripts for the other films we’ve done together. In Darjeeling Limited, he had a small part. He’s at the beginning of the film chasing a train for a moment. We likened it to Karl Malden in the American Express commercials. Bill’s role is not even a cameo. It’s more like a symbol. He said he’s never played a symbol before. He took this symbol and made it into a character you can feel for.

(KJ) You mentioned at the NYFF press conference for Darjeeling Limited how good it was to work with Jason Schwartzman again.

(WA) He had his own way to prepare for his role. He was also a co-writer, giving him a completely different dynamic. We were better suited to work together than ever before. In Rushmore, he had never acted before. Now he has a precise way as an actor.

(KJ) Tell us about how you shape a frame.

(WA) I stage scenes without lots of cutting. I move the actors around in the frame. The way the anamorphic lens distorts the image has a peculiar property. It has a homemade feeling to it.

Audience Q&A

Q: Within your creative process, where does visual imagery come into play?

(WA) The idea of setting. In Bottle Rocket, the look of the movie came out of places we were living. In Darjeeling Limited, we went to India to discover it and it became the subject matter of the movie. In The Royal Tenenbaums it had all the things I loved about New York.

Q: Why did you choose India? Did you know it would be the setting?

(WA) I wanted to make a movie about three brothers on a train in India. I had Sajat Ray’s films in mind. Martin Scorsese also showed me a print of The River that made a strong impression on me.

Q: How do you collaborate with other writers?

(WA) I’m the stenographer. Owen and I had many years to figure out how to write. Our mentor was James L. Brooks. Noah Baumbach (co-screenwriter of The Life Aquatic) and I started writing together without planning to. Jason, Roman, and I have been friends for a long time. There was something more focused about it. It was a more emotional enterprise for us. More intense.

Q: Most of your films feature prominently male lead character, but women do have poignant things to say.

(WA) Owen and I talked about making some very strong female characters for a movie. I would like to do better. I want to write a movie with bigger female characters. I liked Natalie Portman’s character in my short Hotel Chavalier.

Q: How long is your process of making a movie?

(WA) Usually three year. Don’t know why. There’s never a script till after at least a year. I’m starting a new film, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, that’s planned for release in November 2009. It took eight years to get where it is now. I do like to spend a lot of time on the scripts.

Q: What do you say for people who criticize your films for being too smart?

(WA) People might think I’m too smart, but I don’t. You can’t focus on people’s reactions. I think about how I’m going to get a scene to work.

Q: The Fantastic Mr. Fox is an adaptation. How is to adapt a book into a film, as opposed to working off an original script?

(WA) It’s nice to have something where somebody already has it mapped out. The source material is only 33 pages long. A lot of it’s set in tunnels. I wouldn’t say my films have been accused of being too plotty. This one has some more plot.

Q: How do you relate to the characters you write for? How do you take personal experiences and fictionalize them?

(WA) When you’re writing, you get very attached to the characters. More or less, every character is a little bit of someone. Draw inspiration from someone I know. Ex) Jacques Cousteau of The Life Aquatic.

Q: How important is the rehearsal process?

(WA) It can be very important. Jason, Roman, and I rehearsed the script for months. We all lived in a house together and rehearsed at night. Work shopping a script is so rarely feasible.

Q: What’s the significance of Jason Schwartzman’s scene in Hotel Chavalier where he’s watching Stalag 17?

(WA) I liked that movie. His character is in a funk. It seemed like a depressing movie to watch alone in a hotel room in Paris. I actually first heard of Stalag 17 from an episode of Magnum PI, so it was more of an homage to Magnum PI than Stalag 17.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A Fundraising Screening & Discussion of 'Swaraj - The Little Republic'

The nice folks from Indie-India and Indiepix sent me the following message. If you will be in New York City on October 12, and would like to attend this function, please read below for all of the details.

Indie-India in association with 3rd I NY & Alwan for the Arts present
A Fundraising Screening & Discussion of 'Swaraj - The Little Republic'

Swaraj - The Little Republic is produced by Institute of Social Sciences in India and deals with the socio-political struggle of four women from lower caste in a small village in India. Funds from this event will support the Institute of Social Sciences and for the family of the Dhoola Ratnam, a lower caste woman panchayat (village council) member from Andhra Pradesh who along with her grandson was burned in her sleep in retaliation for exposing on-going corruption.

Friday, October 12th, 2007 @ 7 – 10pm
Alwan for the Arts
16 Beaver Street, 4th Flr. Lower Manhattan
Followed by Q&A with Dr. George Mathew, the Film's producer & Cash Bar
TiX price: $10

Please RSVP at Shreekant@indiepix.net

About the Film:
SWARAJ / THE LITTLE REPUBLIC (Anwar Jamal, India, 2002, 90 min)
The film is about a small village community in Rajasthan, India, where not only the low castes but even the women have little say in the affairs of the village. Four strong-willed women come forward through the democratically elected panchayats (village councils) to change the way their lives are run by the patriarchs of the community. It is a microcosm of democratic process, a parable for the world today.

This film is produced by Indian Institute of Social Sciences and directed by talented director, Anwar Jamal. It has been shot entirely on location in a remote village in the state of Rajasthan. It is inspired by the real life story of Leelavati, the elected Municipal Councillor of Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India.
The film has been screened at Palm Springs International Film Fest, Montreal World Film Festival, and won the One Future Prize at Munich Film Festival. For more information about the film: http://www2.indiepix.net/film/3081

For more info on the death of Dhulla Ratnam: http://news.oneindia.mobi/2007/08/03/405941.html

DIRECTIONS: Alwan For the Arts
16 Beaver St, 4th Fl
New York, NY 10004
Between Broad St. and Broadway, one block east of Whitehall Street and Bowling Green.
AREA MAPS AT: http://tinyurl.com/e8kd4

4, 5 to Bowling Green; J/M/Z to Broad St.; R,W to Whitehall St.; 1 to Rector St. or South Ferry
About the Presenting Organizations:
Indie-India is a not-for-profit organization with a mission to promote aesthetically rich and meaningful cinema from Indian subcontinent amongst a discerning international cinema audience, with an emphasis on independent and regional cinema from India

3rd I New York's monthly film and music salon designed by local filmmakers and experimental djs showcases the works of independent filmmakers of South Asian descent and local djs, musicians ana electronica artists. Providing alternative forums for South Asian filmmakers who often have few venues to showcase their work not only increases their visibility, but also provides a social forum for peers and audiences to participate in an ongoing discussion. www.thirdi.org/~ny

Alwan for the Arts serves the Arab community and educates the broader public by showcasing a range cultural events; thereby enriching the cross-cultural and artistic encounter.

Since 1998, Alwan for the Arts has played a leading role in promoting the diverse cultures of the Arab countries in New York City. It organized film festivals and screenings, book/poetry readings and signings, lectures and conferences, art exhibits, musical and theatrical performances, and language and literature classes. In 2003, Alwan established a center in lower Manhattan which provides a physical base for its diverse cultural activities. www.alwanforthearts.org
This event is made possible in part through public funds from the Fund for Creative Communities/New York State Council on the Arts Decentralization Program, administered by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.