g The Film Panel Notetaker: June 2008

Monday, June 30, 2008

Tagging Along on "The Indie Film Bloggers" Shoot

Yesterday, I tagged along with Sujewa Ekanayake to Brooklyn to meet up with filmmaker and blogger Tambay Obenson, whom Sujewa interviewed for his documentary The Indie Film Bloggers: A Portrait of a Community. Sujewa will also soon be interviewing me for the film. Tambay's blog is The Obenson Report, which not only reports on African and African-American cinema, but also on "a delicate mix of complex ingredients including, but not limited to, random thoughts, reminiscences of the day, memories from the past, love, friendships, relationships and all those 'ships,' songs I heard, things I saw, and other peronals..." I'll be watching the DVD of Tambay's self-distributed indie film Beautiful Things and will then do a One-on-One Q&A with him about it. Check back for that soon.

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Zeitgeist 20th Anniversary Salute at MoMA Presents Two Films From Todd Haynes

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York began a celebration this week of the distributor Zeitgeist Films 20th anniversary with a retrospective of some of their best releases from over the years. Friday night, Todd Haynes presented two of his earlier films from the Zeitgeist collection, the short Dottie Gets Spanked and the controversial feature Poison , both shot by the great indie cinematographer Maryse Alberti, who most recently lensed Alex Gibney's documentary Taxi to the Darkside and whom I've had the personal privilege to work with on two short films in my own early days of independent film, a mere eight years ago compared to Zeitgeist's, Haynes' and Alberti's longevity. As an aside, Dottie Gets Spanked stars two former One Life to Live castmates, J. Evan Bonifant (ex-Al Holden) and Barbara Garrick (Alison Perkins). I state this because a few weeks ago, I posted notes from from the OLTL 40th anniversary panel discussion (speaking of anniversaries) at the Paley Center. Haynes also cast Garrick in his 2002 film Far From Heaven. She is a great character actress and I hope to see her in more of Haynes' films. Where is this aside going, you might ask? I suppose it just shows the point I addressed in my intro to the OLTL notes where I said "both genres (that being soaps and independent film) when done right, are often bold, risky, and deal with thought-provoking socially relevant issues." Nuff said. For more reading on Haynes, check out The Film Panel Notetaker's notes (here and here) from last year's New York Film Festival. And here are my notes from Friday night's discussion featuring highlights from the opening remarks and audience Q&A:

Todd Haynes' Dottie Gets Spanked and Poison
New York, NY
June 27, 2008

Haynes opened by thanking MoMA for bringing him to New York from Portland, Oregon. "This was a once in a lifetime opportunity to pay tribute to these two unbelievably talented, brilliant, smart and innovative distributors." Haynes is speaking of course of Zeitgeist co-founders Emily Russo and Nancy Gerstman, who were also present. "They are without a doubt the best distributors and best people I've ever worked with in distributing any of my films," Haynes said. On his films, Haynes said Poison was conceived, financed and approached at the time as an art project, outside the realm of traditional film financing and production. Russo and Gerstman were so committed to what Haynes was doing (along with Apparatus Productions partners Christine Vachon, producer of many of Haynes' films, and Barry Ellsworth, who shot the black and white scenes in Poison) that they wanted to distribute Poison even before it was completed."We had distribution of this art film at a time when that isn't something that filmmakers in their right mind should ever expect," he said. The film became the subject of great discourse and debate. It was one of the early films that sort of "branded with the new queer cinema mantle" that fell into a lot of controversy from the far right. On Dottie, which Haynes said was sort of the most autobiographical film he ever made, came three years after Poison and was made for ITVS , then was picked up for distribution by Zeitgeist. Haynes also dedicated the screening of Poison to Jim Lyons who both stars in and edited the film, and passed away last year.

Immediately following the screenings of Dottie and Poison, Haynes took some questions from the audience. Here are some of the highlights:

Q: Which of the Jean Genet stories (in Poison) were related to which of the stories you wrote?

Haynes: The clearest source for the film was Miracle of the Rose. It's sort of encapsulated in the prison story. I felt in a more general sense that I was interpreting aspects of Genet in all of the stories and I was very clearly interpreting the two more American genres...the horror film and the tabloid documentary story...into a vernacular that I felt I could speak in which is an American one. A lot of the same kinds of questions about transgression, about issues of the outsider, about issues of disease and the monster and so forth were things that I had encountered in Genet's writing. I felt this interest in bringing to a discussion that related to what was happening at the time, which is very much in the height of the AIDS scare. I was living in New York. It was sort of the center for a lot of political activity and activism and a lot of struggling that went on around those issues. I was also very much aware as we all were of how the media was beginning to depict AIDS and creating this sort of comfortable us versus them boundary. Those were the kinds of things I wanted to challenge, but I think even more than that, I felt that the gay community, which at that point was in a state of shock, where it wasn't being expressed through activism and through political activity. There was a retreat. There was an almost sense of culpability following the experimentation of the 70s and sexual experimentation that characterized that decade that people sort of felt that they had brought this on themselves. Genet had only recently died around that time and I felt like he was somebody that I could try in my own humble way to apply to some of these questions and embolden some of the issues that I felt might have been getting lost in the public assault around HIV.

Q: Genet did a film (Un Chant D'Amour) in the late 1940s or early 1950s which had a prison sequence in it. Was that an inspiration?

Haynes: I knew the film well when I made Poison and I love that film. Un Chant D'Amour is an exquisite work on film by this playwright and fiction writer and poet Jean Genet. I didn't want to literally re-produce those scenes. They're too specific to that film. There are some proverbially erotic scenes in that film that were shocking for it's time. Maybe the most provocative is the one you described where one inmate sticks a little piece of straw through a hole in the granite wall and smokes a cigarette and exhales the smoke into his neighboring inmates cell who inhales it and blows it back out. So simple and so minimalist...so powerful.

Q: What was it about the early 1990s that allowed you to push the envelope and make the kind of films you wanted to make? Why did you decide to make a feature after making so many shorts?

Haynes: I don't know if anyone would do that today. I bet it would have even been easier in the 60s and 70s to conceive of and get support for and get interest behind a film like this possibly. For me, and I think this is true for many ways Christine Vachon and Barry Ellsworth, were interested in aspects of experimental filmmaking...had all gone to Brown University where there was this very interesting theoretical program where any film classes were taughtwhich was called at the time semiotics. It has since expanded in a full-fledged department called Modern Culture & Media. We've seen these kind of departments of critical theory expand at universities throughout the country and the world. We were being exposed to critical theory, post-Freud and feminist, that looked at Hollywood classical cinema from the critical perspective. We were also witnesses the end of that purist era of American experimental film...the Stan Brakhage era, let's say, which was amazing work, but very anti-narrative. That period was beginning to be re-examined by some experimental filmmakers like Sally Potter whose film Thriller we had all seen in college. It was these filmmakers who were beginning to take genre and references to Hollywood film and references to narrative formulas and formats and applying them to experimental strategy. I think that excited all three of us in different ways. For me, in a weird way, my education was even more in Hollywood traditions and classic genre traditions than even experimental traditions. This melding of the two opened up our eyes. At the same time, Blue Velvet came out in theaters. You sort of saw in a sort commercial venue or parallel platform, something very similar where in a narrative film, experimental strategies...and playing around the idea of artifice and pushing the boundaries was being played out in commercial cinemas with great critical response and great potential for a lot of filmmakers. Probably gave birth to a whole generation of filmmakers. With all of that in mind, I think we sort of informed what Apparatus was about, a non-profit organization aimed at what we call the experimental narrative where narrative was being accepted from a critical perspective. It was something that was very much a part of that time and a real sense of necessity...some political response to the climate of HIV. And yet all of those films approached their narrative strategies with a sense of innovation and different from one to next.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Silverdocs - "Herb and Dorothy" - June 21, 2008

Silverdocs AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival
Herb and Dorothy
Silver Spring, MD
June 21, 2008

(L toR: Megumi Sasaki with Dorothy and Herb Vogel)

Last Saturday afternoon at Silverdocs, I thought it would be a nice change of pace to sit down and watch a more light-spirited documentary given that I had watched several hard-hitting and more serious docs on current events and social issues (all very good by the way). So I went to see Herb and Dorothy, Megumi Sasaki's first film about Herb and Dorothy Vogel, a couple in New York City who have been collecting artwork on a modest living and displaying it in their tiny little rent-controlled Manhattan apartment since they were married in the early 1960s. Their collection became so well known, that the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC ,decided to acquire their entire collection as evident in the film, an entertaining and inspiring story that all are sure to enjoy, even if not art aficionados. Sasaki along with the Vogels and Ruth Fine, Curator of 20th Century Art at the National Gallery of Art, talked about the film during a Q&A. Here are some of the highlights:

Q: When is your next visit to Washington, DC?

Dorothy: I hope we'll come November 16 because the National Gallery is planning something.

Fine: On November 16, we're going to have an interview with Herb and Dorothy and another showing of the film. The collection is being given to 50 museums throughout the United States in addition to the National Gallery. We're hoping in November the book documenting these gifts will be ready to talk about in a bigger length than now.

Q: It's a film about looking and seeing. Were there any particular technical challenges in bringing what might be abstruse works of art immediately clear to an audience on the screen?

Sasaki: I started making this film four years ago and six months into the production, I had this big challenge after I did my first interview with Herb and Dorothy asking them questions like 'what do you like particular about this artists...what's so great about Richard Tuttle?' And the only answer I could get from them was 'because they're beautiful...because I like them!' I was like, oh my g-d, how can I make a film about art collectors who couldn't explain or articulate about the artworks or artists? That was my first obstacle. Then I interviewed Lucio Pozzi, the brilliant Italian artist. He said 'that's why the Vogels are so special...why does art have to be explained and verbalized? Herb and Dorothy only look at the art and that's the way they communicate with art. Isn't that the way it should be?' And that was such a hard moment. That was right before we went to the National Gallery to shoot the main scene of the viewing room. Every cameraman I worked with...I worked with more than a dozen...I told each cameraman to pay attention to Herb and Dorothy's eyes how they look at the artwork. Specifically Herb, when he looks at the art, his eyes get so tense. First I thought that was an obstacle and a challenge and it turned out as a very important overall theme of this film. From that moment I learned that obstacles you have to welcome. You don't make enemies out of the obstacles because for filmmakers we just constantly run into challenges and difficulties in many aspects. After a certain point, I realized that obstacles force you to work harder, to be more creative and I should appreciate that.

Q: One of the things you said in the opening of the film was that there was quite a movement in the late 1960s/early 1970s in New York against the institutionalization of art. Should art be on walls in museums or in people's homes?

Dorothy: I think it should be all over. If you bought it and enjoy it then when you can't enjoy it anymore...you move or die...give it to a museum. I think you can do anything.

Q: Do you agree?

Herb: Absolutely! (Audience LOL)

Dorothy: We buy for ourselves. I'm glad other people enjoy it. I'm glad to give it to museums so they will be able to enjoy it. We first buy for ourselves. We have to like it. We live with it and then it goes on and that's the evolution.

Q: I want to know what happened to your artwork (Herb's and Dorothy's own artwork) that was in the trunk? Is that on display anywhere?

Dorothy: Herb's work is in a trunk on the terrace. I don't know where mine is. I think I gave one to my brother and sister-in-law. I don't know what happened to my paintings.

Q: What are your favorite ways of discovering new artists?

Dorothy: I think we see a work someplace like a gallery, someone's studio or home. We find out who the artist is and we make a connection. As simple as that. A lot of dealers gave us phone numbers and said, 'call the artists yourself.' They realized we weren't going to sell. Because we went with the National Gallery, people knew we were sincere what we were doing.

Q: Tell us some more about sending the works to all 50 states. How is that working? Do you have museums beating down your door to get them?

Fine: We do have museums beating down our door. Unfortunately, when the contactors announced in The New York Times they got one fairly important fact wrong, which was they published that the museums had not been selected when in fact they were. We're hoping by the end of 2009, the first 10 museums will be identified publicly and the gifts are on the way and we're just to send the letters out to the next 40 museums sometime in the summer. We're hoping by November 15, it will all be arranged. It's become a very exciting project. It involves not only the National Gallery, but the National Endowment for the Arts. We're publishing a book related to the project. We're also setting up a website. The idea will be that eventually the entire set of 50 gifts will be available on the Web. It's truly a nationally interactive project in a way that I never worked with anything else before.

Q: Are you able to get out and about these days to continue collecting?

Dorothy: Unfortunately not. My husband can't walk too much. Unfortunately, we're in the process of distributing work, not adding to it.

Q: If you could do it, what would be happening in New York right now?

Dorothy: We really don't follow what's going on too much. I read the newspapers. We get some magazines. We talk to people. I'm very uninformed right now. At one time, as you can see in the picture, we knew what was going on. We were very much involved. That's no longer the case.

Ruth: I just want to contradict a little bit, because the artists have stayed very close in touch. The artists you already have long standing relationships with are still very strong.

Dorothy: People come to us.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

CWNY/NYWIFT Present "The Cake Eaters" - June 24, 2008

CWNY/NYWIFT Screening Series Presents...

(Jayce Bartok, Mary Stuart Masterson & Jesse Scolaro talk about The Cake Eaters. Photo by Maria Pusateri.)

(After Party at No Malice Palace. Pictured L to R: YLANA KELLAR, CWNY board member, MARIA PUSATERI, CWNY board member/programming director screening series, MARY STUART MASTERSON,
JULIE PRAETZEL, CWNY screening team intern, GERALYN ABINADER, CWNY Co-President, and JOSEFA JAIME, NYWIFT membership & screening coordinator. Photo by Maria Pusateri.)

Tuesday night at Two Boots Pioneer Theater in New York, CineWomen NY and New York Women in Film & Television co-presented a screening of Mary Stuart Masterson’s directorial debut, The Cake Eaters. Masterson discussed the making of her film (and in the end commented on the current state of the independent film industry) during a Q&A along with screenwriter/co-producer Jayce Bartok and producer Jesse Scolaro.

The Cake Eaters is a quirky, small town, ensemble drama that explores the lives of two interconnected families coming to terms with love in the face of loss. The ensemble cast includes Bruce Dern, Jayce Bartok, Elizabeth Ashley, Miriam Shore, Jesse L. Martin, Aaron Standford and Kristen Stewart.

It premiered at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival (read A.M. Peters’ notes
here from the Bringing Home the Bacon panel at Tribeca where Masterson was a panelist) and later played at the 2007 Woodstock Film Festival (where I took notes at the Amazing Women in Film panel that Masterson also spoke on).

Below are some highlights of the questions asked starting with Cinewomen NY’s Maria Pusateri.

Pusateri: What steps did you take to make yourself ready to transition from acting to directing?

Masterson: I think sometimes people think directing is a promotion from acting, and that’s just not it. I didn’t want more control or power. If I had been in the movie and I was directing it, maybe. I’ve always wanted to direct. I’ve always written. I had a bunch of projects for years…sixteen years since I wrote the first draft of one script that had three casts, four production companies, people with suitcases full of money, Japanese attaches, girlfriends…and it’s all true. None of those movies got made. Two that I was directing that I didn’t write that I was working on with various producers. In part, I’ve been writing a lot for a lot of years…re-writing mostly is what writing is…and developing material. I spent a lot of time doing that, sort of like my day job for 10 years, despite the fact that occasionally I had to take work to making a living as an actress. A lot of times projects that I was working on would fall apart when I was taking a job as an actress. For The Cake Eaters, Jayce and I had the same agent and he gave me the script and I thought it was wonderful and had great characters and great heart. We started working on the script together for a number of months and I was presented the opportunity to do a Broadway musical and I said, if I do this, this is going to fall apart again. So the gamble paid off. I did a lot of homework, a lot of reading working with great actors, great directors over the years, and really bad directors. And then I directed a half-hour film for Showtime that is a science fiction short. That’s great training, a half-hour short…a stupid length. It’s too long, it’s too short. Don’t do it, don’t try it. But it was great training.

Q: What about this material spoke to you and how involved were you in the casting process?

Masterson: The material I thought was very unusual in that it had an innocence and timelessness about it. Instead of trying to change that, we just embraced it full on. For one thing, the names, come on…Beagle, Easy! These are great character names. I think it’s a world that is lovely and kind of rare. The struggle that we had in terms of developing the script to be ready to shoot was he wrote so many stories in this one story and it was hard to tell, was this The Last Picture Show or Nashville, that kind of many, many character stories. That was a challenge that we both struggled with. I was very involved with casting. We had a casting director and casting sessions. The horrible part was sometimes they brought people in that I already knew or had worked with or liked or was friends with to read a three-line part. I wouldn’t have asked my friend to read that part for me and put it on tape. It’s embarrassing. And yet the amazing thing was that the people who did come in and read that I didn’t ask to read…the incredible preparation and the choices that were made, it was really beautiful how many people came out and wanted to be a part of this. Then there were people who didn’t audition. Kristen, I had just met. She loved her character and was willing to go the distance with the research and didn’t in any way, shy away from extra time spent on the role. And I also I just met Aaron. Bruce, I wrote a letter and Elizabeth claims I seduced her, but I think it was the other way around. The woman made me drink a half a bottle of wine.

Q: Was pre-production or post-production more difficult?

Masterson: The obvious answer for this project might be post because we made some changes and actually went back and did a little extra shooting. We just re-wrote the material and restructured it a bit. In a way, that was more difficult, but we had a great situation where we had support from our producers and our financiers to really get it right and approach it in the most thorough and appropriate way. It was never terrible. I loved prep. We had months and months together working on the script before we even got a green light to do it, so that wasn’t hard. I think a movie is made in three drafts for a director. Your first draft is in prep…how you visualize it on the page, how you set it up so you can shoot it realistically on budget and on time. And then your second draft is what happens when you’re actually shooting. And the third draft is in the editing room. You just see it fresh and start from scratch. Hopefully it all fits the way you planned. You just have to embrace that as part of the process.

Q: How did you get Duncan Sheik to compose the music in the film when he was working on the Broadway musical Spring Awakening?

Masterson: I was interested in the idea. His agent made that a possibility. He’s really got a great sensibility for this because he’s very sensitive to these characters in this world and gets it and writes mostly beautiful melodies. He also understood in particular Beagle’s character and his not wanting to make it sound too small town and hokey. He used electric instruments instead of just acoustic. I thought his instinct sounded really good. It just seemed right, however, her was about to go into rehearsal for Spring Awakening. I had done a Broadway musical a couple of years prior and thought, dude, do you have any idea what you’re about to go through?

Q: What kind of dynamic did you and Mary have on set in terms of actor and director? What was the most difficult process of directing?

Bartok: We had a good dynamic on the set. The pre-production I think was very intense. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. We spent countless hours talking about it passionately trying to find the story. Once the process of was over for me as an actor, then I went to the set to take on another job. I think that was great relief. It was like a whole other chapter in the process.

Masterson: This dynamic in a way was the most difficult because we were both equally passionate about it. Some things we disagreed about, ultimately fighting for the story and the characters. And then to step into the other relationship, which is I want to nurture you and love you and help you do your best. The other part of that relationship is that some of this material is personal to Jayce and I didn’t want to know how that was personal to him, because I tend to be a bit of a caretaker, and I wanted to be kind of a hard ass if I needed to be and not know that’s my brother you’re talking about. I probably inadvertently was kind of hard core about things.

Bartok: In a good way.

Masterson: I still don’t know. Most difficult in general is probably not losing your own vision and voice as you go through with a lot of people’s opinions coming at you…mostly in post. I don’t think I lost that at all in any point till post. Everybody’s got a valid point and were all talking about different things, and I was losing focus. I just wanted everybody to get along.

Bartok: It was good for me to have that perspective because it was my first script and was personal. If Mary Stuart hadn’t come along and had that perspective, it wouldn’t have become a film. That’s just the reality. These processes are very artistic and intense. When you get through them, you’re like wow, I’m really proud I went through that process and didn’t go cuckoo.

Pusateri: You worked with your brother who was the cinematographer. What was that like?

Masterson: He did a great job. I love my brother a lot. We have a short hand and it’s very easy. He was actually living at my house while we were doing this. We drove 40 minutes to and from the set every day and talked about the work, what happened or what we could do better. We shot on HD. My brother is sort of a technological wizard and hadn’t shot HD before and did a lot of homework. Fortunately, we made sure to do some camera tests. We both learned a lot about HD and what we could do to get more of a film look.

Q: Can you talk about the title of the film?

Bartok: It’s a term that was used in Pennsylvania where I grew up to describe the wealthy and those who had their lives kind of laid out for them…the cake eaters who live up on the hill in a nice house. When I wrote these characters, I thought they are so not the cake eaters. And through the course of these couple of days, they sort of get the cake and eat it too. I liked it as this sort of mysterious metaphor for this kind of band of misfits. It definitely raises some opinions. People get excited and passionate about The Cake Eaters title.

Q: What are your plans for distribution?

Scolaro: We started a distribution company and are going to put it out ourselves. This came after a lot of research and talking to a lot of different distributors out there and getting their take on what they would do with the movie versus what we wanted to do with the movie collectively, and what the audiences were telling us as we traveled around the country showing it. It was the first movie I’ve ever been involved with where theater chains were saying, we want to show your movie, but distributors were not really putting forth anything that was very sensible. In lieu of that, we said, we’re filmmakers so why not do that part of filmmaking that very few filmmakers do and actually distribute the movie as well. This way we know everything from development through distribution and we don’t need to rely on other people to tell us if our movie is good or bad. I think more filmmakers are going to start doing that. They’re going to say, if my movie has an audience, which hopefully it does, there are ways to get your movie to that audience and it’s not brain science. It just takes hard work and some thought and a lot of time. It’s going to be released around Valentine’s Day next year. We’re going to start in the South in Arizona, Texas and Florida. We’re going to work our way north as the weather gets a little better.

Q: With the culture of independent film being what it is with the small independents folding into their bigger studios, what is the future of independent film and distribution?

Masterson: The state of things is a little scary right now. I think everybody’s wondering what’s going to happen with digital downloads? All the deals are being re-negotiated for direct output deals of DVD sales or the payroll companies even. Everything’s up for review all at once, and of course all these strikes. Everybody’s kind of trying to figure out where the money coming from…who gets part of what revenue. Financiers specifically don’t know how to break even anymore. There’s a lot of new models for distribution being presented. I think some combination of all of these things is definitely going to work differently for each film. It used to be, when I started out, you market a film doing regional junkets. You went to Chicago, Dallas, New York, LA and sometimes Japan and Europe. You actually did a lot of press everywhere that you went. You didn’t just rely on these giant pipelines of Time Warner or whatever these massive companies bring to bare. For independents to try to penetrate this crazy market, it’s really hard. There will be more and more ways. It’s just going to be, I think, on an individual basis. You have to decide what makes the most sense for your film. I don’t think films at film festivals are really going to necessarily get advances for theatrical release anymore. That’s kind of a thing of the past. Maybe it will come back. Eliminating the middle man makes a lot of sense for an independent film that’s living so close to the bone. Like Jesse said, on our film, we had personally gone to all these different places and talked to people about what they did and didn’t like. We’ve seen age group responds and which ones are less interested. We kind of know how to target it pretty much. Who cares more than us about it? Nobody. Nobody taking a fee is going to care more than we do. If there is a way to get it into theaters or whatever DVD deals we make later, then why don’t we just do it ourselves? I think a lot of people will if they have the opportunity. They’re making more service deals than ever before where some company takes a percentage and find a creative way to release the movie. I think it’s a scary and very interesting time. It frees up a lot of bandwidth for people whose movies have just gone to festivals and not been released. There’s going to be an alternative…I hope.

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Silverdocs Announces 2008 Festival Winners

As you've been reading, The Film Panel Notetaker was at Silverdocs last week. Many more notes to come from panel discussions and filmmaker Q&As. In the mean time, here's the winners of this year's festival:

THE GARDEN Wins Sterling US Feature Award

Special Jury Mention to TROUBLE THE WATER

THE ENGLISH SURGEON Wins Sterling World Feature Award

Special Jury Mention to THE RED RACE


Honorable Mention went to GROUND FLOOR RIGHT and ONE DAY

Music Documentary Award Goes to THROW DOWN YOUR HEART

THE ORDER OF MYTHS Wins The Cinematic Vision Award


KASSIM THE DREAM Wins the American Film Market/SILVERDOCS Award

Writers Guild of America Documentary Screenplay Award to FORBIDDEN LIE$

Feature Audience Award to be announced Monday, June 23, 2008

Short Audience Award to be announced Monday, June 23, 2008



2009 Cinema Eye Honors Announced at Silverdocs

Here's some news from the 2008 AFI Silverdocs Film Festival. On Friday, a reception was held to announce the 2nd Annual Cinema Eye Honors for Nonfiction Filmmaking that will take place in March 2009. (The Film Panel Notetaker attended the very first Cinema Eye Honors this past March.) Friday’s announcement was made by Cinema Eye co-chair AJ Schnack and Danielle DiGiacomo, documentary coordinator for Indiepix, which returns as the partnering sponsor for the awards through 2010 and will once again produce the awards ceremony. Thom Powers, Documentary Programmer for the Toronto International Film Festival, and Schnack, a filmmaker (KURT COBAIN ABOUT A SON) and author of the popular nonfiction website All These Wonderful Things, return as award co-chairs.

(Pictured: AJ Schnack & Danielle DiGiacomo)

Here’s more of the announcement:

"Thom Powers and I are extraordinarily pleased to be partnering once more with Indiepix in presenting the Cinema Eye Honors," Schnack said Friday. Indiepix Documentary Coordinator Danielle DiGiacomo added, "Indiepix is thrilled to build upon the amazing success of the first Cinema Eye Honors and are proud to announce our commitment to the Cinema Eye Honors through the first three years of its existence. We look forward to working with Thom and AJ for the next two years."

It was also announced Friday that the 2009 Cinema Eye Honors will add a new award for Outstanding Composing for a Nonfiction Film. Nominations for the 2009 Cinema Eye Honors will be announced in Park City, Utah during the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.

In an effort to broaden the eligibility criteria for the 2009 awards to include more films from outside of North America, Powers and Schnack have added IDFA, the influential Amsterdam documentary festival, and Cannes to the list of qualifying festivals. In addition, they have added four new festival programmers to the Cinema Eye Nominating Committee - Ally Derks of IDFA, Heather Croall from Sheffield DocFest, Maxyne Franklin of BritDoc and Meira Blaustein from Woodstock Film Festival. Also joining the nominating committee for 2009 is SXSW Film Festival producer Janet Pierson.

Returning to the nominating committee for 2009 are a cross section of the top documentary festival programmers in North America - Phoebe Brush of Full Frame, Sean Farnel of Hot Docs, Tom Hall of Sarasota Film Festival, David Kwok of Tribeca, Cara Mertes of the Sundance Documentary Film Program, David Nugent of Hamptons Film Festival, Rachel Rosen of the Los Angeles Film Festival, Sky Sitney of Silverdocs, David Wilson of True/False and Brit Withey of Denver Film Festival.

To date, more than 75 feature films have qualified for eligibility for the 2009 awards - a number that matches the total number of eligible films for 2008, including 25 films that are currently screening at Silverdocs:


The inaugural Cinema Eye Honors were held March 17, 2008 at the IFC Center in New York City. Top honors for Outstanding Feature went to Jason Kohn's MANDA BALA (SEND A BULLET), which also received Cinema Eye Honors for editing and cinematography. Alex Gibney won the directing prize for TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE. Additional awards went to GHOSTS OF CITE SOLEIL, THE MONASTERY - MR VIG AND THE NUN, BILLY THE KID, CHICAGO 10 and THE KING OF KONG (A FISTFUL OF QUARTERS).

Full list of currently eligible titles for 2009:

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

One-one-One Q&A: Lucia Gajá- Director, "My Life Inside"

In May, I met Lucia Gajá at the Tribeca Film Festival during a press meet and greet at the filmmaker lounge. She told me about her documentary My Life Inside, about a woman from Mexico named Rosa who was sentenced to what basically equates to life in prison on the counts of homicide and injury to a child she was looking after. I was unable to see the film at Tribeca, but soon learned that it would also be playing at Silverdocs, so I got in contact with the Silverdocs press team and they sent me a DVD screener of the film, which I watched and found very compelling. While the film focuses on Rosa's personal story, it also makes a bolder statement on how illegal immigrants are treated in the American judicial system. I met up with Lucia at Silverdocs for a One-on-One Q&A.

One-on-One Q&A
Lucia Gajá- Director, My Life Inside/Mi Vida Dentro

TFPN: How was it getting access and permission to shoot inside both the courtroom and the correctional complex? Did you face any difficulties?

Gajá: The whole process was made by Carmen Cortes. She's the one from the consulate in the film who explained all the things that happen to women when they go to jail. She had really good relationships with the jail and in the courtroom. We asked for permission from the judge because he was the only one that allowed cameras inside the court. We said we were making this documentary and he said, 'OK, we'll see how it goes,' and slowly we were able to shoot the whole 12 days of the trial. We also went several times to the jail to interview Rosa. Each time, they treated us really well. They gave us permission to be with her as long as we needed.

TFPN: How come they were more fair to you than they were to Rosa?

Gajá: I don't know. That's one really interesting thing. It depends on different people. Hank, the policeman who's in the movie, talks about how he helped Mexicans to live better by asking the home owners to improve their houses. I think there is a very important movement in Austin that's supports migrants. This is different than what happened in the film. We never had any problems to make this movie. The film commission helped us when he had to get shots on the street. That's the thing that's contrary to what happened to Rosa in court.

TFPN: Did you originally start out doing a documentary just about Rosa or was it more about illegal immigration?

Gajá: Originally I wanted to do a documentary about Mexican men on death row in the U.S., but it changed when I started reading a lot of books about Mexican women in American jails. So it became about conditions in jails in another country with another language and another culture without their families and how that changed their lives more drastically than being in jail in their own country. I spent four years looking for someone in the Mexican government who wanted me to make this documentary. It was really hard for me to find the cases. It was really hard for me to get access to the women. And then I met Carmen and she was very interested in me doing this film and got me these interviews with women who accepted to meet with me, and Rosa was one of them. I never heard or read anything about Rosa's case until I got to her. Carmen told me Rosa and other women like her in maximum security, could only make calls once every six months for five minutes. There is no physical contact or conjugal visits allowed. All those things, I couldn't imagine for a Mexican woman. Most of their families back in Mexico are never going to have a visa, so they're never going to see their mothers and fathers again.

TFPN: Did you have access to the family of the boy who killed?

Gajá: I've been reading things that I should have interviewed the family. This was really tragic and the mother was really upset. I really didn't want to go like a reporter to ask her how she felt, because I knew how she felt. I heard her testimony in court. She never said anything bad about Rosa. You can see the Uncle's testimony at the end. He is crying and asking for Rosa's forgiveness. He never expected for her to be sentenced this way. He was never really sure that she did it.

TFPN: What message do you want people to take from watching your film?

Gajá: At the beginning, I wanted to talk about migration and how there are some consequences that could end in a story like Rosa's. Maybe it's better not to go. Then I learned that's impossible. People are going to keep coming from Mexico and Central and South America because they are really trying to get a better life. The main message of my film is, they have rights and they don't know they have rights. They have a right if they get caught by the police, they can ask for someone from the consulate if they don't have a lawyer. They don't have to answer questions if they are not detained or arrested. This is just to be aware of what can happen.

TFPN: This theme also resonates in Juan Manuel Sepulveda's film The Infinite Border that also played at Silverdocs. What did you think of it?

Gajá: I really loved it. It's been in my head since I saw it. It's beautifully told. It is what he said he wanted to do. To put you a little bit in these people's time and place and state of mind. They are trying to cross Mexico to get to the United States. It's very important because that's another awful part of what happens when they try to cross Mexico.

TFPN: What's your next film project?

Gajá: I think I'm going to do something about domestic violence against women focused mainly in Mexico, though I know it's a problem all over the world.

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Silverdocs - "The Infinite Border" - June 20, 2008

Along the lines of my One-on-One Q&A with My Life Inside director Lucia Gajá, I saw another film at Silverdocs that dealt with the similar theme of illegal immigration to the U.S. called The Infinite Border, directed by Juan Manuel Sepulveda, who spoke to the audience after the screening of his film.

Silverdocs AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival
Silver Spring, MD
June 20, 2008

Q: How did you explain to the people you followed what you were doing?

Sepulveda: We always explained that we were not with a major broadcast company? We are not getting rich making this film. We only want to hear from them about their travels. The first day always we came without any equipment. The second day, we always gave them the release and told them they have to sign in order to get permission to film them. We constructed relationships with them and that’s why they trusted us.

Q: What motivated you to do this film?

Sepulveda: As a Mexican filmmaker, and as a Mexican, I related about immigration. We are a country that’s a transit country that supports a lot of migrants and give exile to a lot of migrants. We all have histories about migrants with our families and friends.

Q: What did you have to go through physically to make the film? Where did you sleep? How about the weather?

Sepulveda: At the beginning, we tried to follow them always and be with them. I made the migration travel a lot of times alone with a little camera when I was developing and raising money for the film. We realized with major equipment, the cameras and a sound engineer; it would be dangerous for them. We preferred to make the film in the places they rested and waited, not in the traveling sites. We slept in hotels. We traveled in a van.

Q: How did you select the routes?

Sepulveda: We selected the most natural routes the migrants chose. There are two major routes – the Pacific and the Mayan routes. They are very defined routes. There were lots of shelters that were always providing service.

Q: What’s the opinion of the people riding all of the trains they hopped onto?

Sepulveda: They don’t forbid these people to take the trains. Someone always was giving permission. There’s no major problem.

Q: When you edited the film, were there certain personalities that you omitted?

Sepulveda: We tried to get as many in. We always see the migrants as victims. As a documentary filmmaker, you must see them as a very complicated, complex human and not only a victim. A lot of people act like a victim. They know what we want to hear. Those kinds of characters were out of the final selection.

Q: What has the reaction been from audiences on this film in Mexico? Has there been any political reaction?

Sepulveda: A lot of people ask me what the government and police think about this film. I don’t know what they think. There were several screenings in Mexico City and major film festivals. The reaction is very diverse. You have people who related very much to immigration and said they feel this time passing. There are other people who don’t like the film very much because they say it’s like a picnic; you don’t talk about the policies that apply in Mexico.

Q: Since you’ve made this film, have you heard if any of the people in it have made it to the U.S.?

Sepulveda: We always gave them our email address and asked them to write us to tell us where they are, but unfortunately no one wrote us. I would be very glad to know what happened.

Q: How did you come about the visual tone in the film?

Sepulveda: The first thing I wanted to transmit is the feeling of the density of time for a migrant. The migrant isn’t the friend or the enemy, it’s time. I want the audience to feel the weight of time. I decided to make a lot of long shots in order to get that.

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Silverdocs - Guggenheim Symposium - Spike Lee - June 19, 2008

Prolific filmmaker Spike Lee was honored at the Charles Guggenheim Symposium on June 19th. Clips from Lee's documentary work were played including 4 Little Girls, When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, We Was Robbed and Jim Brown: All American. And a preview of Lee's upcoming narrative feature, Miracle at St. Anna (In Theater Sept. 26), was also screened. Denver Post film critic Lisa Kennedy moderated a discussion with Lee. I've read a lot on other blogs that Lee came across as arrogant, but I thought he was just responding honestly to Kennedy, who for the most part, seemed to know her Lee film history well, but often times became redundant in her questioning and struggled to come up with questions. Below are highlights of the opening remarks and some of the questions asked during the discussion.

Silverdocs AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival
Silver Spring, MD
June 19, 2008

AFI President Bob Gazzale introduced the discussion referring to Charles Guggenheim, for whom the symposium is named. Gazzale said: "Without question (Guggenheim) is one of the central figures in American film history. A documentary filmmaker who chartered a record of this nation's history, of its people and its stories across five decades... Charles made over 100 documentaries. From films that documented political campaigns: Stevenson, Kennedy, McGovern to name just a few...films about architecture, the civil rights movement. We all remember the film about the Jonestown flood...a levee that broke in 1889. His work defines you and me. The heroic struggles of every man and every woman, and the dignity in that struggle. At the very heart of all of his films, even if it's about the St. Louis arch, they are films about inspiration probably best defined a moment in the very end of the film about Bobby Kennedy when Kennedy says, 'You can do something about tomorrow.' That's Charles Guggenheim. That's the spirit that carries us into this room today...and to our honoree tonight. He arrived in our collective cultural consciousness in the 1980s a fierce and a fearless voice in American film. His narrative work is of such a singular place in our world that...I think if not he, who? Who would be telling these stories? Who would be challenging us to see America as a diverse and vibrant and complicated place that it is filled with art and music and hope and color and anger and inspiration. Who would create those characters that are smart people on screen who smash stereotypes. Each well written, well spoken, well acted work. They are people we all aspire to be. They are heroes and yet they're humble. When his name is on a film, you better be up for a challenge. Think of the end of Do the Right Thing. A quote from Malcolm X. A quote from Martin Luther King. He's a filmmaker who does not ask us to think his way, he asks us to think. This is never more true than when you look at his nonfiction work. He's made several documentaries including Four Little Girls, which is reason enough for us to gather here tonight. But then a storm began to brew out over the Atlantic Ocean and it became Hurricane Katrina, a natural disaster and a national disaster. It tore the roof off of America we had become a little too comfortable with. And if it weren't for our honoree tonight, the truth would be gone like the storm itself. The tragedy and its causes would be lost in a sea of sitcoms. But instead, we have a documentary that reminds us who we are as a nation and how far we have to go. And it reminds us of what Bobby Kennedy said that you can do something about tomorrow. So we gather tonight to honor a great man of American film and a great man of America. His name is Spike Lee.

Lisa Kennedy then made her introduction: "Because Bob did such a lovely job of contextualizing what Spike really means to us and has meant to us for more than two decades now, I want to take a moment to probably be a little bit more personal. When I started writing, Spike was also starting to make feature films. I used to think he did something along with a couple of other filmmakers that came after him called letting us in on the black 'familiar' -- little moments, conversations, looks, gestures, ways of talking, but also things like progress. It just reminded me that he got it. He got the texture of African American life. He loved it. You know, that was a long time ago when he started doing that. And I know think of that 'familiar' as our 'familiar,' the 'American familiar.' There are perfect storms of incompetence and frightening weather and bad engineering that allowed for something like the levees breaking in New Orleans. And then there's this other thing that I also think was a perfect storm, but storms the wrong word, because it's so positive and I think what better week to be talking to Spike Lee...what better year to be talking to Spike, than a time where an African-American man is running for president. (Big applause from the audience.) At the same time, there are levees that are starting to give way and have been giving way. Spike connects us to our moment. He connects us to bodies. I think he does that in this documentary. And one of the things I think is amazing about this body of work...his legacy as a filmmaker is that you look at his narrative films, they're so vibrant. They have style, they have vigor, they have music, they have so much texture and they're bold. And the acting in them is extraordinary. He works so beautifully with performance. That's his narrative work. His documentaries are just as challenging, and it's amazing. I think this is a man who makes documentaries that allow other people to tell stories...to tell their stories...to tell our stories. And it has to be in part because he has competence that he's told his stories the way he wants to and he has the peace and the wherewithal to hear someone else's story and I think that comes across in the clip reel we're going to see where he talks to the parents of the little girls that died from that bomb in 1963. This will be the 45th anniversary of that bombing a the 16th Street Church in Birmingham. Not only does he talk to them, he builds a kind of trust. I think there's a trust he also built with audiences that as I said, can think for ourselves. I think that's extraordinary. I always want to go out of a documentary having more questions. Not more questions as in, 'why didn't they do it this way?' but more questions because I think that it's a challenge. I don't want someone to answer the truth of the world for me. I think Spike Lee's done an extraordinary job with his films. When the Levees Broke is an amazing documentary. The funny thing is, whenever we told Spike this...it took me a long time to look at it because that's my family. My great aunt left there and went to Houston and she died. She was very old, but she lost something. She was the storyteller in my family about the power of New Orleans as a place to live. So I don't think I've ever said to Spike, thank you for a movie that broke my heart and challenged me. What we're going to see in this clip real is...I do think there is hope and distillation of what he does so well.

(Clip reel presented)

Kennedy: When you decided to make Four Little Girls, did you want to make a documentary? When did you start that process?

Lee: In film school, I wrote I wanted to do a narrative film about this. That was 1981. I never forgot about that story. For me, it was better to do it as a documentary. I was in Birmingham, my family's from Alabama. I spent the night (at the family's) house. They trusted me. Ellen Kuras, a great cinematographer, she shot it. She also shot Bamboozled and Summer of Sam. The hardest thing about this was I had to really pray on including those post-mortem shots. I thought about that long and hard. They were in the cut, they were out of the cut. But finally I decided that the audience should see what those sticks of dynamite did to these four girls who were never allowed to grow up. The whole thing about the documentary, how I approached I wanted to talk with the people, who knew in their own words, tell us what they thought they might have become if they had been allowed to live.

Kennedy: I saw (Ellen Kuras) talking about the interview with Maxine McNair and how moving and difficult that was as a DP. Normally, you're behind the camera and you have a little distance, and I was sort of curious...did you find moments like that as well? Where do you position yourself? Do you protect yourself?

Lee: You know what, it's not about protection, but you have to ask questions. And you know you're asking questions and people break down. You can never say the wounds heal. You're still digging up a lot of emotions. I guess being a parent, too, that on top of that, these great people talk about their loss.

Kennedy: How does a filmmaker build trust?

Lee: They see my films. If you're a documentary filmmaker and your subjects don't trust you, you're not going to have a film. They don't know me, but they know me through my work.

Kennedy: What other film films or narrative features helped you prepare for Four Little Girls?

Lee: Narratives tell the story, whether it's a documentary or feature films. For me, it's still telling the story, so I don't they there's a distinction.

Kennedy: When I saw When the Levees Broke, one of the things I loved is when you decide to let your voice enter the picture. What triggers that? When do you decide to do that? Is there a moment when you think it works? I think it's very powerful because you don't use it very much?

Lee: You need to hear my questions again to hear my answer. People who have seen my documentaries, we don't use narrators. There's no narration in any of these. Sam Pollack I'd like to thank, who's the editor.

Kennedy: How did We Was Robbed Come about?

Lee: I got approached by these people that were putting together a bunch of films by directors from all over the world. They could be about anything, but could only be 10 minutes. There was no limit on the subject matter. I read the story about how Al Gore was 10 minutes away from making his concessional speech, so I tracked all these people down and turned my camera on.

Kennedy: You're working on the Kobe Bryant film. Can you talk about the structure of that?

Lee: There was a film in Cannes three years ago about Tze Chung, the great soccer player. In that film, they have 20 cameras on him. I liked it. I said, this would work better with basketball. This past April 13, there was a game at the Staples Center, the Lakers versus the then world champions San Antonio Spurs. We had 30 cameras on Kobe. It's going to air on ESPN and ABC when they kick off the next basketball season.

Kennedy: How did Jim Brown, All American come about?

Lee: Jim's one of the most fascinating people I ever met. He's an activist. He's the greatest football player. At one point, the biggest movie star in Hollywood. He's always been relevant. It was just natural. He said, 'Spike, I don't care what you show.' He is so secure in who he is. He gave me complete freedom.

Kennedy: Let's talk a little bit about that guy who's running for president. Do you think if Obama becomes president...?

Lee: There's no if! (Rousing applause from audience.) It changes the way the world looks at the United States. It changes everything. It's going to be Before Obama (BB) and After Obama (AO). And some folks need to get used to this. It's gonna be a new day. And it's not just going to be a new day, but a better day. I'm going to be at that inauguration, too.

Kennedy: What does that mean for artists? What does that mean for you?

Lee: As artists, you reflect what you see in the world. I think you'll see a lot of art reflect the good this country is going to embark on.

Kennedy: Are there documentaries you'd like to see you don't want to make?

Lee: There are narrative films. I'd love to see a great film on Martin Luther King. I don't think I can do it. Marcus Garvey. I can't do everything. Gotta leave room for Tyler Perry. (Great big LOL from audience.)

Kennedy: I know you have the Kobe Bryant coming up.

Lee: One on Michael Jordan, too.

Kennedy: Tell me about that.

Lee: We're going to be doing it. This one about Michael is going to be about his last year in Chicago. The bulk of the filming is done. We had a camera every single day. We hope to have a world premiere in Cannes next May.

Kennedy: What are some of the things you learned from James McBride's research on Miracle at St. Anna?

Lee: Before James wrote the book, he interviewed a lot of the black men from the 92nd Division. In fact, he compiled a lot of those people into characters. Again, Judy (Lee's researcher) sent me everything she could on the war effort, the participation on land, African Americans in World War II and then the specifics on where it takes place in Italy. It takes place in Tuscany and the whole thing was happening while the country was in a civil war. The fascists run by Mussolini were in cahoots with Hitler and the Nazis. For me as a filmmaker, I can't have enough research. Judy sends me everything.

Kennedy: Don't you think there's still opportunities for documentaries about that part of the greatest generation that we haven't really heard of?

Lee: There's plenty of stuff. It's wide open. Myself and Ken Burns do not have a monopoly on the great stories that need to be told.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Silverdocs - "Trouble the Water" - June 20, 2008

Tonight at Silverdocs, Tia Lessin's and Carl Deal's Sundance Award-Winning feature documentary Trouble the Water, which tells the account of Hurricane Katrina survivors Kimberly Rivers Roberts and Scott Roberts through their home video footage, was presented at Silverdocs. Lessin and Deal along with Kimberly, Scott and their newborn baby girl were on hand after the screening for a Q&A moderated by Silverdocs' Sky Sitney. There were some questions asked by the audience, but mostly praise and "thank you"s were extolled.

Trouble the Water
AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival
Silver Spring, MD
June 20, 2008

Sitney: The role of documentary filmmakers is usually to stay objective and not get involved with stories. But when one is involved with documenting catastrophes unfolding, how do you make that decision? How do you create that balance ? What are the boundaries between recording and getting involved?

Lessin: We don't really believe in the myth of objectivity. Any filmmaker or for that matter a journalist who says they're objective is being dishonest. We all have a point of view and some of us express that point of view more strongly. But our points of view is reflected in this film very strongly. You might not hear our voice or see myself or Carl, but Kimberly's, Scott's and our points of view are very much in this film and if you can man that circumstance a week after Katrina and not have a point of view, I think you ought not to be filming.

Sitney: One other thing that's interesting is the way the film's structured time wise that you start with the moment of encounter and then you return two weeks earlier. Can you talk a little about that structure?

Deal: We felt that the entire narrative of Scott and Kim and their journey out of the city was important to tell from beginning to end because it shed so much light on the historic negligence and the bureaucratic screw ups around the storm. Kimberly and Scott filmed just heart-stopping, amazing first-hand point-of-view footage from the ground. We wanted to make the most of it and tell the complete story because there was a Hurricane going on. Kimberly, being the resourceful person she is, when her video camera died, she picked up her still camera, which can record little MPEG files, which you see some of that on the first day when they're stranded on across the street. We felt like grounding the film in the present, being two weeks after the storm when we entered the picture to help make things make a lot more sense. So that every time we went back to the storm, it was a flashback.

Lessin: What we tried to do was also incorporate when Kimberly's battery went out, there was still four more days that took them to get out of the city, so we used footage that we found that approximated what they might have seen on their journey out of the city. It was necessary for us to go back and forth in time for storytelling.

Q: I was just in the Lower 9th Ward this weekend and I was trying to pick out where your neighborhood is. I think that a lot of the 9th Ward was still under water, but your neighborhood wasn't. Can you tell us a little about that?

Scott: Our neighborhood was under water for maybe a month. We stayed basically three blocks away from the levee and the water just rushed in and stayed.

Kimberly: The Lower 9th Ward is divided by one bridge. The Lower 9th Ward is over the bridge. We were on the other side and that's two blocks from the industrial canal.

Q: How did you decide before the storm to start doing the videotaping? What was going through your mind? Why did you decide you wanted to document what was happening?

Kimberly: I purchased the camera I had used a week maybe or so before the storm came. My purpose for purchasing the camera was to record family events. I had never used a camera before in my life until the day before I started recording. That's not in the movie, but I was just playing with it. Once we realized we were going to stay, I figured that it would be history. Once we realized we couldn't leave, it was like we have no other choice but to stick it out. If it's going to happen how they say it is, we're going to record it. We were like, we can sell this to the news if we get something good. (Audience laughs out loud.) Another aspects was if we die, people would know exactly how we died if they found the tape somehow.

Q: At some point in the movie, you said you hadn't cried yet. At what point did you start crying?

Kimberly: I cry every day. It's deeper now than it was when it was actually happening. I've been seeing psychologists. Through this movie I was able to see myself as a great blessed person.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Silverdocs - "Milosevic on Trial" - June 19, 2008

Last night I arrived in Washington, DC, where Sujewa picked me up from Union Station and we headed on the Metro over to Silver Spring, where I picked up my press pass for Silverdocs. This is my second trip to Silverdocs, last year being my first. Today I saw two feature-length documentaries including Pray the Devil Back to Hell (the filmmaker was not present for a Q&A) and Michael Christoffersen's Milosovic on Trial (per the notes from the filmmaker Q&A below). I also attended a panel discussion in the morning and the Guggenheim Symposium honoring Spike Lee in the evening. I'll be posting notes from all the various events I attend here at Silverdocs, though in no particular order. And this year and actually for the first time ever, I'm now using a digital audio recorder to complement my hand written notes to ensure I get as much as possible down, though I'll continue to only post the most relevant points.

I've started with the excellently edited Milosovic on Trial, which takes approximately 2,000 hours of courtroom footage of former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic who was on trial for nearly four years for crimes against humanity including genocide. The film presents the story from all sides including the prosecution and Milosevic's original attorney before Milosevic decided he wanted to represent himself, and eventually died before the trial finished.

Silverdocs AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival
Silver Spring, MD
June 19, 2008

Q: How much of the trial footage were you given and how much did you capture yourself?

Christoffersen: The courtroom footage was shot by the tribunal. I find it a disgrace actually because I've watched the Nuremberg Trials, which was exquisite shot by Europeans. This was done six Dutch students and very bad producers. (As for what his crew capture themselves)...everything outside the courtroom.

Q: How did you deal with editing 2,000 hours of footage?

Christoffersen: It was terrifying. When Milosevic died, it was like all these tapes fell on my head. Because the idea was of course that he would have been convicted or acquitted of some of the charges. Basically it was up to me to figure out what this story was about. It also gave more freedoms to approach the material. There are different versions. There's a two-part one-hour version and a two-hour version which aired in Germany.

Q: (An audience member asks Christoffersen about one of the generals that spoke as a witness during the trial, but was never brought up on charges and is now a lecturer)

Christoffersen: When we finished the film, yes, it's amazing. It tells the story of how difficult it is for Serbia to deal with these crimes. There are quite a lot of local trials in Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia which deal with lower ranking personnel. He might have been indited since, but I doubt it.

Q: Could this film be shown in the former Yugoslavia including Serbia and what reaction do you have to any such project?

Christoffersen: It is going to be in Serbia. There is this TV station which is part of the whole organization against Milosevic called B92. We've actually also been approached by the national television station. I don't know what the reaction will be. When it aired in Toronto where there's a big Serbian minority, some people were offended. It's still hard for the Serbs to deal with all of this.Milosevic is still an extremely popular figure in Serbia. But others, especially young people are more open to deal with that part of history. It's been shown at a station in Bosnia. They're more happy with it because these trials are trying to make a record of the victims.

Q: How much time did you personally spend working with the film? Milosevic's personal lawyer who is kind of a compelling character despite his Serb nationalism...how did you get the relationship with him and what is he doing now?

Christoffersen: I think he is a young, alter ego of Milosevic. He added to his views. We approached him at the very beginning of the trial. These guys were very sophisticated to the media. It's also what he explains at the beginning of the film. It's the media trying to give their point of view. The good thing about this trial, you could follow it on the net with half an hour delay so I had the computer running. And then of course I made arrangements to sit in the actual gallery to follow the proceedings. It wasn't easy because everyone was to busy to talk to us. It took a while...also to build up a trust. They could not understand at the beginning. Several journalists did not live up to the ethics of the profession.

Q: Do you have a personal opinion on the underlying issue of justice?

Christoffersen: They're very debatable these Tribunals because can you play out a very complex political conflicts in a courtroom where the rules are basically the same as if it was a bicycle theft? Especially since they're very much influenced by the American/British adversarial system where there's sort of a battle between the prosecution and the defense. The criticism of this trial was that it was a far too extensive charge like 66 counts covering three wars over a period of ten years.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

NewFest Forum: Acting Out

Acting Out

Filmmakers Forum

HK Lounge at NewFest

June 14, 2008

Visibility matters! This panel of out actors and filmmakers explores the ways that queer thespians can access more diverse parts, overcome stereotyping and homophobia, and attain greater visibility in the industry. Panelists included Heather Matarazzo, Bobby Rivers, and Hanifah Walidah (U People). Moderated by Traci Godfrey and Jason Stuart on behalf of the Screen Actors Guild LGBT Actors Committee, who were co-presenters of this panel.

Matarazzo: Stories in the paper were “The girl in Princess Diaries comes out as a lesbian!” It gave me an incredible sense of freedom, I didn’t have to hide anymore. My publicist told me “Do not come out. Never come out. And she was a raging dyke.” (audience laughs) She said “Your career will be over.” It is said that people who are bi have a 50% higher chance of getting a date on Saturday night, that’s how I feel about straight actors playing gay roles. As a woman and as a spiritual being, I feel gay, straight, black, white, it doesn’t make a difference. We always hear about the problem, there hasn’t been lot of talk about the solution. I am interested and excited to see how we can work forward, not using voices to oppose, but to utilize voices in freedom song, about how we got to break barriers, and create change. (Loud Applause from Audience.)

Stuart: Fifteen years ago I came out, and I never thought there would be a place for me.

Walidah: My career started in music, in hip hop. In the early 90’s I was the next big female MC. I looked like a dyke and no one told me! (Walidah laughs, Audience laughs) I had a voice inside that said you need to work on something else, and that something else was coming out. My show The Straight Black Folks Guide to Gay Black Folks, I changed to The Black Folks Guide to Black Folks. People stumbled in not knowing what they were walking into. I played in the deep South. I played at Harvard. I am not gonna front, I was scared in the South, but no tomatoes were thrown. I got a lot of emails after the show that were positive. My acting and writing are married together. Most of what I’ve done, I’ve created myself. I have to create it myself. There is a film coming out called Camouflage, a mockumentary. I did it years ago, saw a rough cut, and didn’t hear anything for years. Now it is surfacing.

Rivers: Look in page 43 of your NewFest guides, I am in Ebony Chunky Love, with Keith Price, who is right here in the audience, stand up Keith. (Keith stands up) I’m the Rhoda Morgenstern in the movie. (Audience laughs) I did one other movie that went directly to European Video. I did more TV than film. I did years in local news, Good Day New York, and WNBC. I got really sick of hearing fucked up attitudes about GLBT in News Department. I would hear, if you come out you’ll never work. When I was on VH1, and was a VJ with Rosie, VH1 would tell us to keep it quiet. Anyone who saw me do my half hour talk show with Liza Minnelli and saying “Tell me about Chita Rivera!” had to know I got enough drama being black. I came out locally. Recently I came out nationally in a big way, on Wake up With Whoopi. I was working on that for two years. Last year covering the AIDS Walk for Gay Men’s Health Crisis, I said how important GMHC was to me in 1992 when my lover was diagnosed. I had to work, take care of him, and get through that crisis. I haven’t felt a backlash, but it felt good being able to say that.

Audience begins questions

Q: (To Matarazzo) How did you feel showing your body in Hostel 2?

Matarazzo: For me it was a paycheck number one. On a more important note, it was a character I had never played before. The universe works in the way that it does. Getting to own my own body, and who I am, experiencing how loving the people I worked with were. They were incredibly tasteful, there was nothing to do with sex, even though I as hanging naked upside down.

Stuart: After coming out she was playing a straight girl in a horror film, a genre geared toward young straight men. You can be in a mainstream film and be who you are.

Q: Where is Alexis (Arquette) today?

Stuart: Alexis called me a few days ago and had to cancel. She is Grand Marshall of the Gay Pride Parade in Boston. This committee actually helped to get her a job, on Californication. It’s been harder since she came out. I know 3 or 4 transgendered people who we have also helped get auditions. We lose tremendous amounts of roles to straight people. For some reason they play better straight people than we do! (Audience laughs)

Q: Are there differences between New York and LA, or TV vs. Theatre, or Men vs. Women, when experiencing this discrimination?

Rivers: I feel there is more freedom in NY and I was born and raised in LA. After VH1 I was in discussion for a talk show with Disney. I was warned before I met with the guy that he had a tendency to say stuff that is ignorant. I went in, and he said “I watched some of your work, some comes off as very gay. Should I be concerned about that?” Your current hit is The Little Mermaid, how hetero is that? He eventually was fired.

Godfrey: I lost the role of a lesbian because I didn’t come off gay enough! I’m Gay!!!

Stuart: I have played a priest, and ER doctor. I love to play the funny gay guy so I can keep working.

Q: How do you deal with closeted actors?

Matarazzo: It’s not my business. My truth is different from your truth. It’s not my business to have the audacity to say “You need to come out because of x, y, and z.” I don’t know the universe’s plan. Me as a lesbian I had fear, a range of emotions before I came out. My job is to share my experience, strength, and hope with that person.

Q: (Paul Dawson an actor from John Cameron Mitchell’s film Shortbus, is in the audience, and stands up.) It’s not about pulling people out, it is about trying to show by example. I live in LA, there are tons of closeted people. The agents, managers, publicists, they have all provided obstacles for me, many times they are gay themselves. (He goes on to commend the organization, and it is mentioned that he himself was given an award by the organization)

Stuart mention in LA on the 26th organization is hosting an event for GLBT about working with agents, managers, and casting directors. (Applause) There is a mentality that we are not going to get a job without and audition, and can’t get an audition without an agent. (References Godfrey) She has been a detective on Law and Order, and played a baby doctor on As The World Turns.

Q: Non Caucasian out actors, deal with lack of roles and such, how do you deal?

Rivers: In the early 90’s I would get called in for support roles in moves, either thug, I mean look at me! (audience laughs) or the outrageous character. It always made me mad because they were caricatures, and they were always non black writers. This is the way you see all black people? That’s when I went to T.V., and started working as an entertainment reporter.

Walidah: Sometimes, in a film, as soon as it is a black face, whites don’t relate. (Regarding racism) I am oblivious, or choose to not give it too much energy.

Q: It seems like we need to use our collective voices to offer solutions…if you don’t see the stories out there, make your own. What are your suggestions for the solutions?

Kevin from the Screen Actors Guild LGBT Actors Committee interjects: If you are a filmmaker in NY, come to Tracy, Adam, or I, and we can refer you to SAG LGBT actors.

Stuart: Stop using straight actors to play gay roles. It makes marketing harder. They don’t want to do publicity, go to the clubs, or places to promote. Having an openly gay actor in your film helps your film.

Matarazzo: I don’t look at my agent as a source, just a channel. My agents don’t get me jobs, I get me jobs, the universe gets me jobs… the minute I give my agent power is the minute I am at their mercy.

Audience Member: I find that in theater vs. TV/Film, you have more open minded agents to go to. Agents work for you. I have told agents to talk to casting directors who are open minded. It is about educating. Get open minded casting directors to talk to not so cool casting directors. On a simple individual level we can educate.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Long Live Llanview!!!

Here's to Life: A 40th Anniversary Tribute to One Life to Live
Paley Center - NY
June 10, 2008

Independent film is usually par for the course here at The Film Panel Notetaker, so you might be wondering why I decided to cover a panel discussion on the 40th Anniversary of the Emmy-Award winning One Life to Live, one of the longest running daytime serial dramas in television history. To start, both genres when done right, are often bold, risky, and deal with thought-provoking socially relevant issues (such as interracial dating, drug and alcohol addiction, rape, AIDS, homophobia, breast cancer and other illnesses) that most other mainstream forms of entertainment generally gloss over. That’s not to say soap operas don’t also deal with outrageously absurd and over-the-top storylines from time to time (ie. an underground city, traveling back in time to the wild west, going to heaven in a space ship, etc.) That’s what I find so compelling about them. They can deal with both serious and humorous topics, that and the fact that they’re never ending. I just love not knowing what’s going to happen next. Secondly, I don’t think I’ve ever committed myself to anything as long as I have to this one program. I’m going on 22 years strong now with no signs of stopping. These characters and storylines that take place in the fictitious town of Llanview, Pennsylvania, have become a part of my own life. I’ve watched them grow up in front of my eyes. They’ve become my second family. What better way to mark this milestone than seeing a conversation with the cast and creative team behind my favorite show. Along with my very excited and newest contributing notetaker Ultradevotion (who provides color commentary on the aesthetics and fashions of the evening in italics throughout the below notes), we headed to the Paley Center (formerly the Museum of Television & Radio) in New York for the tribute.

Agnes Nixon – Creator
Erika Slezak – Victoria Lord Davidson
Robin Strasser – Dorian Cramer Lord
Robert S. Woods – Bo Buchanan
Hilary B. Smith – Nora Hanen
John-Paul Lavoisier – Rex Balsom
Kristen Alderson – Starr Manning
Frank Valentini – Executive Producer
Ron Carlivati – Head Writer

Donna Hanover – Former First Lady of New York

Ron Simon, curator of the Paley Center, introduced the discussion and a reel of clips highlighting dramatic moments and musical numbers from over the years on One Life to Live. It was such a thrill to see the show blown up onto a big screen. The clips shown of episodes taped on location around the world were the very best; and were set to the song Roam by the legendary party band, The B52’s. I never realized how cinematic they could be. I got chills when I saw Clint Buchanan (as played by Clint Ritchie) on the ranch in Texas when airplanes flew over head. Ultradevotion gasped aloud when she saw Dorian in a 1980’s polka dot halter dress!

Before Hanover brought all the daytime players onto the stage, she revealed some funny news about her own personal drama, that being an item on Page Six in the New York Post which reported that Hanover had been walking down a New York City sidewalk talking on her cell phone about how she played Viki Davidson’s doctor on One Life to Live during the breast cancer storyline in 2000. As she mentioned her patient’s name and diagnosis, a woman came up to her on the street and scolded her for breaking doctor-patient confidentiality, even though Hanover isn’t really a doctor. She just played one on TV.

Hanover then called all the panelists onto the stage starting first and foremost with the show’s creator Agnes Nixon, who’s also responsible for creating All My Children and Loving. Nixon is also a recipient of numerous Daytime Emmys and a 2005 honoree in the Paley Center’s “She Made It” program.

Ultradevotion’s commentary: As the curator Ron Simon said, Agnes embodies the form of the daytime drama. This was evident as she was led to the stage. Delicately dressed in a cream colored suit, her hair perfect, was given a standing ovation led by the actors of OLTL. The women leads on OLTL are smart, powerful, and always remain classy and ladylike; a projection of Ms. Nixon. Erika Slezak, like her character is the epitome of class. In a smart blue jacket and pants ensemble, complimented by a lovely pearl necklace; she is totally put together. Robin Strasser is simply stunning. She is dressed in a light pink jacket, black pants, light cream flowered camisole. Her outfit is highlighted by gorgeous sparkling four-tier dark iridescent beaded necklace. Her skin is glowing, and her hair style is fantastic. Hillary B. Smith is very summery and youthful in a white camisole top. Natural makeup and her hair styled half up, she looks simply lovely. In a purple skinny strapped draped bubble dress and beaded necklace, Kristen Alderson is adorable and fresh faced.

Hanover (to Nixon): How did One Life to Live come about?

Nixon: I wanted to take soap operas out of WASP valley. I wanted to have multi-racial and ethnic stories. I’ve always applauded the socially relevant stories over the years.

Hanover (to Valentini): You’ve held many jobs over the years before becoming the executive producer. What’s that been like?

Valentini: In September, I’ll have worked at One Life to Live for 23 years. You learn by example and what doesn’t work. What the fans want and the contribution of the network are influences in how the show runs, but ultimately the decision rests on my shoulders. We always have Agnes Nixon’s vision in mind.

Hanover (to Carlivati): You’ve gone from a lawyer to a soap writer. How did you do it?

Carlivati: I worked in DC as a lawyer with author David Baldacci. He wrote his books on nights and weekends. This guy followed something he really wanted to do. I admitted to my parents that I really wanted to write a soap opera.

Hanover (to Slezak): You’ve been with the show for a long time and brought special things to the character of Viki. How’s that been?

Slezak: Viki started out looking up to her father Victor, then played by Ernie Graves. Only after he died, she grew up. She’s had to develop an extreme sense of humor. That’s very necessary in Llanview. It’s been an extraordinary journey, because it never finishes. It’s the closest thing to theater because we try to do it in one take. And it’s the closest thing to real life.

Hanover (to Strasser): You took over several roles in daytime including Dorian. How did you make her your own?

Nixon: Talent!

Strassser: Agnes Nixon gave me my first job and that was on Another World. Agnes said she thought I was a young Anna Magnani. I’m the third and fifth person to play Dorian. It’s a part I was allowed to put my fingerprints on.

Slezak: She’s the only Dorian.

Hanover: Have you formed long-term friendships with one another?

Slezak: Oh God yes. We’re a family. If you don’t like each other you’re in trouble. We spend more time with each other than with our own families.

Woods: The basement (in the studio where their dressing rooms are) is like a college dorm except you never graduate.

Smith: Including all the pranks!

Lavoisier: We also play poker. I’ve lost a total of $1,745 over the six years I’ve been with the show. I even lost to Eddie Alderson.

Hanover (to Alderson): You’ve been on the show for ten years since you were a little girl. How did you turn out so normal?

Alderson: One Life to Live is such a family. It’s totally like a dorm room. They welcomed me with open arms. Growing up with them is so much fun. They’re like my aunts and uncles.

Hanover: You’ve made a show that deals with things that aren’t considered showbizy. Why has this been so important over the years?

Valentini: Once, Timothy Stickney (who plays R.J. Gannon) and I were at a forum at the network and he said to me that he could remember seeing as a child a young African American man on television and running upstairs and saying “Mom, Mom there’s someone on TV who looks like me!” I’ve only been fortunate to have the best writers, Ron being the best so far. On a soap opera, you can explore entire emotions of an issue. With subjects like rape, breast cancer, and emotional abuse, the writers present them as issues interesting to the audience, and it is sensational enough for actors to sink their teeth into. Part of my job is to cess out what the issues are.

Hanover: In 1998, Michael Zaslow (who was diagnosed with ALS/Lou Gehrig’s Disease) came back to the show briefly as the character David Rinaldi. He had been let go from Guiding Light because he had problems speaking. What was it like having him back on the show?

Slezak: He could laugh. He was very happy to be back. It was very special for us. We loved him.

Hanover (to Carlivati): Do you have to be careful while writing the serious stuff to not drive away the audience?

Carlivati: There are always different storylines going on at the same time. Multiple story lines lend to multiple tones. For example, while Starr is 16 and pregnant, we also have someone going back in time. There is love, action adventure. We are not limited. The audience will go with us on the adventure, as long as the characters are staying true to themselves. Viki can go to heaven as long as she is still acting like Viki.

Hanover: Do you use focus groups to test the stories?

Valentini: Focus groups, yes are part of being a writer, just to know, right Ron?

Hanover: Is it more fun to play a bad guy or a good guy?

Slezak: I’m extremely lucky that there are six of us in here (referring to Viki’s alternate personalities.) It’s a lot of fun to play the bad guy.

Nixon: A lot of the stories are generated by people doing the wrong things for the right reasons. That’s life. That’s One Life.

Slezak: The reason Dorian works so brilliantly is because everything she’s done that so wrong is justified in her mind.

Strasser: That’s the franchise. That’s the recipe for the chicken.

Alderson: I started out as a sweet and innocent kindergartner, and then I started cutting peoples clothes up and running up credit cards. Her parents are Blair and Todd, they are bad examples but Starr has matured in a beautiful way.

Valentini: All of the actors here are able to play both sides of the personality. Even though Dorian does such horrible things, she loves her family. Viki is sweet and kind, but she’s not a doormat.

Hanover: There’s a crazy amount of lines you all have to learn each day. It’s remarkable. Do you develop any tricks?

Woods: We used to have teleprompters, which was really nice.

Strasser: 100 Years ago!

Smith: He has no short term memory.

Woods: I shrink my scripts down.

Lavoisier (To Woods): Tell them the napkin holder story.

Woods: When the crew went to strike the napkin dispenser once, a crew member said “we won’t have a show if you take it away” because I had all of the scripts taped inside. I used to write lines on white labels and stick them inside my cowboy hat and take it off to read them, or inside a coffee cup.

Slezak: Lee Paterson (who played Joe Reilly) once taped all of his dialogue on the dashboard of a car during one scene. He also writes his dialogue on a cigarette once and smoked the evidence away.

Nixon: Tony Ponzini used to write his lines on his fingers. During a scene and actor once said to him “If you’re going to write your line on a finger and shake it at me, please write my line!”

[Audience laughs]

Hanover: Do people ever come up to you and tell you how your character should be?

Alderson: When I was seven or eight, fans would yell “brat” and “devil child.” They would be serious. They would just walk away.

Woods: You should have just spit pea soup at them.

Lavoisier: When Rex was trying to steal Natalie’s money, a male fan came up to me and said “I hate you, you’re not Natalie’s brother,” and then said “I don’t really watch. My daughter watches.” I had only aired for a week at that point, so it was my first fan experience.

Smith: Men don’t want to admit that they watch.

Woods: A lot of cops, bartenders, night workers, they watch. Snoop, Athletes, Sammy Davis, all have watched.

Smith: At super soap weekend I made the men that came up for autographs say
‘I’m a man, I watch soaps, and I love it!”

Hanover: How many weddings have there been altogether for all of you on the show?

Nixon: Oh no, I can’t count that high.

Strasser: That’s a good summer job for an intern.

Slezak: We’ve been married so many times.

Woods: It’s a small town. She’s (Nora) now dating my brother (Clint).

Strasser: When you see the wardrobe, you know what’s going to happen on the show, if there’s going to be a wedding. Susan Gamie and the design team were nominated for an Emmy. Sometimes I will think, “I’m gonna be axed any minute,” and then Susan will say “Let’s go shopping.” I think I’m good for another four months. The worse things you do the better dressed you have to be.” Ultradevotion can’t get over this quote, and thinks Ms. Strasser is simply fabulous.

Hanover: (to Slezak) Viki recently worked at a diner in Paris, Texas as a waitress. What was that like for you?

Slezak: It was wonderful story when Viki went off to find out what was left after leaving her house and her money. It was a wonderful, completely different story.

Hanover: You have to kiss a lot on the show. How do you deal with that and go home to your spouses? How do you make it look so sexy?

Lavoisier: Alcohol.

Slezak: It depends entirely on the actor and the actress. We’re actors. That’s what we get paid to do.

Woods: (Someone mentions bed scenes are awkward he responds) It’s all lit up on set, there are 25 to 30 guys looking at their watches, dying to get home. You have to focus, tune it out.

Strasser: And hope they photograph you from the right angle.

Audience Q&A

Q: Do you ever think about writing stories about rare diseases?

Carlivati: We’ve done a lot. The trick is sometimes we need to make up a disease to fit into a storyline. It’s a balance. We need to make sure we have cures and antidotes. It will be a rare tropical disease if it’s an adventure story, for example. We have great medical advisors. We try to be as realistic as we can, but my answer is, it’s a soap opera.

Nixon: We don’t want to do negative prognosis. People relate so much to the characters. Irna Phillips (creator of The Guidling Light and As the World Turns) who gave me my first job, told me about having a character that was told she was going to die. Emma received tons of letters saying “My doc told me I had a chance.”

Valentini: During Viki’s breast cancer storyline, women were reminded about going to get mammograms.

At this point in the program, a woman in a bright lime green shirt, spray tan, and over processed highlighted hair, stood up as she was given the microphone. Ultradevotion knew immediately, and wrote in her notes ‘this one wants to be an actress.’ The girl began, quite transparently, “Mrs. Nixon, it’s an honor to be here,” she said, and I quote “How involved is how you are in the casting?” That is how she phrased it, folks. Then, “Would you take my head shot?” Nixon, always the lady, graciously answered “I don’t have anything to do with casting anymore.” Ultradevotion thought 'So tacky!!!' This woman should have been asked to leave. The woman continued, “How do you handle casting?” Nixon talked about auditions and said when the right person comes, “you just know it’s a magical moment.”

(Because of the time limit, Strasser briefly interjects with a few comments about Nixon.)

Strasser: This morning, I thought about how there are only four daytime dramas left in New York City employing about 2,000 people. Out of the four shows, two are on ABC and both are created by Agnes Nixon.

Slezak: I must say though, it’s an ensemble effort. What we see you do sparks new ideas.

Nixon: It’s a wonderful life on One Life.

Strasser: When you’ve landed in Llanview, you know you’ve hit the right town, because, [said in a humorous whisper] we don’t look and act like those other shows.

Slezak: What we do is harder than any part of showbiz. Not just for the actors, but for the crew as well. We do a one-hour show everyday. Essentially, there’s no rehearsal. The fact that we’ve done 10,200 shows and we’re still here is so awesome.

Nixon: It’s as you say awesome.

Lavoisier: The interesting thing is we never do the same thing twice. I go to work every day and do something different. The only negative thing I don’t like about the job is having to shave every day and put makeup in my pores.

Smith: In a movie, you learn three pages of script a day. In daytime, you make lasting friendships. You don’t get that in any other medium as an actor.

Lavosier: There are just over six million cool things about the job. You never do the same thing twice. Doctors, lawyers, bankers, they have a lot of repetition.

Slezak: It’s a grand job.

Alsderson: At school (performing arts school) it is hard, other students can study and you are learning pages and pages. But it is so worth it, fun, and different.

Carlivati: She has the problems of a normal teacher plus 40 pages of dialogue.

Q: Will Bo and Nora ever get married again?

Woods: Were you there?

Carlivati: Bo has another wedding coming up that’s not with Nora. He has to get over this wedding before he marries anyone else. I don’t close off any possibilities. I will have an idea to send Viki to Mars, and Frank will say ‘I’ll call NASA.’ Someone will say something as a joke, and I say wait, why can’t we? But I’m always up for possibilities.

Q: How far in advance is the writing?

Carlivati: We’re writing September right now.

Valentini: We have brilliant stuff for the 40th Anniversary. We are brining back some older characters too. Agnes Nixon herself is going to make an appearance.

Q: Do you ever read what people say about you on the Internet?

Smith: Unless I hear from Frank or Rob, I’m not going to pay attention to anyone who doesn’t pay my paycheck.

Slezak: I don’t go in there. They are nameless, faceless, and cruel. But on the up side, they’re watching.

Carlivati: I do go online and I’m interested in what the fans are saying. There are a group of people who do write very thoughtfully about the show, even if it’s negative. I am curious and interested.

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