g The Film Panel Notetaker: May 2008

Friday, May 23, 2008

Manhattanites Take Over Tribeca Cinemas

Cast and crew of Manhattanites at Tribeca Cinemas May 22 screening.

Last night, I attended a cast screening of the independent film Manhattanites at Tribeca Cinemas. Director Gregori J. Martin , who also stars in the film, and screenwriter Roger Newcomb introduced the film about the lives of a group of assorted characters in New York City over a period of several months. Stars of the long-running daytime television serial dramas One Life to Live and All My Children make up much of the film's ensemble cast including Ilene Kristen, Forbes March, Aiden Turner, David Fumero and Jill Larson. The film is co-directed by All My Children's Darnell Williams, who was also in attendance. Martin, who jets off to L.A. soon, said he wanted the cast to see the film before his departure. "Without you, this could not have happened," he said. Executive Producer Lyle Kamenir told me that once post-production is completed, the team will begin submitting the film to festivals and shopping it around to distributors.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Stranger Than Fiction - "When We Were Kings" - May 20, 2008

Stranger Than Fiction
When We Were Kings
IFC Center
New York, NY
May 20, 2008

Tuesday night at IFC Center, a second week of nonfiction film programming co-presented by the Woodstock Film Festival for the weekly series Stranger Than Fiction, showcased director Leon Gast's 1997 Academy Award-winning documentary feature When We Were Kings, about the events surrounding the famous 1974 fight between Muhammad Ali and George Forman in Zaire.

Gast was on hand for a Q&A, along with producer David Sonenberg and editor Jeffrey Levy-Hinte. A sneak peak clip of Levy-Hinte's companion piece Soul Power, that focuses on the music festival that occurred in Zaire before the big fight, was also screened.

Meira Blaustein, WFF co-founder, who moderated the discussion, started out by mentioning how the film had been finished in 1974, but took nearly 22 years to come to the screen. She asked Gast to talk about how that came to be? Gast said the film had been hung up in litigation for many years. Don King had decided to sue the film production. Gast couldn't even get a work print of his own film. Levy-Hinte added that Gast eventually got physical possession of the film, and 17 years laters, finally got the copyright.

Now that he had both possession and copyright of his film, Gast was ready to show it to distributors. Gast said he first showed a cut of the film to Island Films' Chris Blackwell, who loved it and made an offer. But Gast went to Sonenberg it wasn't a good deal. They eventually showed it to Taylor Hackford who also loved it, but wanted to bring it more into the present by showing interviews with more contemporary artists such as Spike Lee, who Sonenberg felt had street credibility.

Blaustein then asked about Levy-Hinte's approach to the great cris-crossing of the music and fight scenes in the film, to which he replied Gas had already done a tremendous amount of work by the time he came to the project. He was in an interesting position, because he didn't know much about the fight at the time. He had this wonderful opportunity to take his editing into the storyline by showing a poetic and rhythmic value. And the reason it took so long to edit was because it was won enjoyable to cut.

And finally, Gast said the lesson he learned from Ali was that dreams do come true. Gast said that no sports writer or boxing fan thought Ali had a chance against Forman to win that fight, but he prevailed. Gast alluded to a moment when Ali hypnotized himself by pounding his fists together and repeating to himself, "There's no way he's going to beat me."

Be sure to attend next week's third and final co-presentation of STF with the WFF when Jonathan Demme will be there for his 2003 documentary The Agronomist about Haitian radio journalist and human rights activist Jean Dominique.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Silverdocs Announces 2008 Competition Films

Just received word on the 2008 competition films of Silverdocs. New this year, Silverdocs adds a World Competition in recognition of the richness of documentary storytelling globally and the value of diverse perspectives on the human experience. Overall, Silverdocs will present 108 films representing 63 countries selected from 1,861 submissions with six World, eight North American, six US, seven East Coast Premieres and two retrospective programs. The Festival will again honor the best film in the Music Documentary section.

Films screen in six sections: US Feature Competition, World Feature Competition, Music Documentary, Short Film Competition, the to-be-announced Silver Spectrum and a special thematic side-bar for 2008.

SILVERDOCS confers three additional awards presented annually at the Festival.
· The Cinematic Vision Award will be given to a feature film that exhibits excellence and innovation in the craft of visual storytelling ($2,500).
· The WITNESS Award in honor of Joey Lozano will be awarded to a theatrical documentary that addresses human rights and social justice issues ($5,000).
· The SILVERDOCS/American Film Market Award will be presented to a film of exceptional promise in the media marketplace and will include special access to the American Film Market and accommodations ($5,000 value).

SILVERDOCS and ACE/Animal Content in Entertainment will again present a development grant, initiated in 2006, which has increased to $25,000 for 2008. The awards join those for films in competition. The new awards bring the combined cash and in-kind prizes at SILVERDOCS to $65,000.

Award winners will be announced at the SILVERDOCS Award presentation on Saturday June 21, 2008. All films are also eligible for Audience awards for Best Feature and Short, which will be announced on Sunday June 22, 2008.

BULLETPROOF SALESMAN / USA, 2008, 70 minutes (Director: Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein)

CHEVOLUTION / USA, 2008, 90 minutes (Director: Luis Lopez and Trisha Ziff)

FOUR SEASONS LODGE / USA, 2008, 109 minutes (Director: Andrew Jacobs) World Premiere

THE GARDEN / USA, 2008, 95 minutes (Director: Scott Hamilton Kennedy) World Premiere.

HARD TIMES AT DOUGLASS HIGH / USA, 2007, 112 minutes (Director: Alan and Susan Raymond) World Premiere.

HERB & DOROTHY / USA, 2008, 85 minutes (Director: Megumi Sasaki) World Premiere.

IN THE FAMILY / USA, 2008, 83 minutes (Director: Joanna Rudnick) US Premiere.

KASSIM THE DREAM / USA, 2008, 87 minutes (Director: Kief Davidson)

PRAY THE DEVIL BACK TO HELL / USA, 2008, 72 minutes (Director: Gini Reticker)

TROUBLE THE WATER / USA, 2008, 95 minutes (Director: Tia Lessin and Carl Deal)

US Feature Jury: Sandi Dubowski, Filmmaker and writer (TREMBLING BEFORE G-D); Ramona Diaz, Filmmaker (IMELDA, SPIRITS RISING); Mila Aungh Thwin, Filmmaker and Producer (CHAIRMAN GEORGE)


COMEBACK / Germany, 2007, 79 minutes (Director: Maximilian Plettau) North American Premiere.

CORRIDOR #8 / Bulgaria, 2008, 74 minutes (Director: Boris Despodov)

THE ENGLISH SURGEON / United Kingdom/Ukraine, 2007, 94 minutes (Director: Geoffrey Smith) East Coast Premiere.

FOUR WIVES – ONE MAN / Iran, 2007, 76 minutes (Director: Nahid Persson) North American Premiere.

HEAD WIND / Iran, 2008, 65 minutes (Director: Mohammad Rasoulof)

THE INFINITE BORDER / Mexico, 2007, 90 minutes (Director: Juan Manuel Sepúlveda) US Premiere.

MECHANICAL LOVE / Denmark, 2007, 79 minutes (Director: Phie Ambo) US Premiere.

MILOSEVIC ON TRIAL / Denmark, 2007, 69 minutes (Director: Michael Christofferson)

MY LIFE INSIDE / Mexico, 2007, 120 minutes (Director: Lucia Gaja)

THE RED RACE / China/Germany, 2008, 70 minutes (Director: Chao Gan) World Premiere

World Feature Jury: Steve James, Filmmaker (HOOP DREAMS, STEVIE); Almadena Carrecedo, Filmmaker (MADE IN LA, WELCOME, A DOCU-JOURNEY OF IMPRESSIONS); Igor Blazevic, Director, One World, International Human Rights Documentary Festival and co-director of ten documentaries for Czech Television.


HI MY NAME IS RYAN / USA, 2008, 78 minutes (Director: Paul Eagleston and Stephen Rose) North American Premiere.

LA PALOMA / Germany/France, 2008, 88 minutes (Director: Sigrid Faltin)

LIFE. SUPPORT. MUSIC. / USA, 2008, 79 minutes (Director: Eric Daniel Metzgar)

SONG SUNG BLUE / USA, 2008, 87 minutes (Director: Greg Kohs)

THROW DOWN YOUR HEART / USA, 2008, 97 minutes (Director: Sascha Paladino)

WILD COMBINATION / USA, 2008, 71 minutes (Director: Matt Wolf)

Music Documentary Jury: To Be Announced.


The Festival also presents a Sterling Award for Best Short, in recognition of this increasingly acclaimed art form. The Short Film program will be released in the subsequent program announcement. Shorts programmed in SILVERDOCS have gone on to be nominated for an Academy Award each year of the Festival. THE BLOOD OF YINGZHOU DISTRICT, directed by Ruby Yang, which had its world premiere at SILVERDOCS 2006, received the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short and 2007’s FREEHELD won the Oscar.

Short Film Jury: Ryan Harrington, Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund; Sarah Price, Filmmaker (SUMMERCAMP, THE YES MEN); A.J. Schnack, Filmmaker and Writer (KURT COBAIN ABOUT A SON)

The Festival’s signature program, the Charles Guggenheim Symposium, honors the legacy of the late four-time Academy Award winning filmmaker, Charles Guggenheim, by recognizing a filmmaker who shares the same artistic excellence and profound respect for humanity and democratic values. In 2008, the Symposium will honor Spike Lee, an Emmy Award-winning and Academy Award-nominated director, producer, writer and actor with more than 35 films to his credit. His documentary work includes: WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE: A REQUIEM IN FOUR ACTS (2006); 4 LITTLE GIRLS (1997); and WE WUZ ROBBED (2000).


Thursday, May 15, 2008

"Able Danger" To Open Brooklyn International Film Festival

Last month, The Film Panel Notetaker did a One-on-One Q&A with Paul Krik, writer and director of Able Danger, which was just announced as the opening night film of the 2008 Brooklyn International Film Festival (BIFF). Able Danger will make its U.S. premiere at BIFF on Friday, May 30 at 8pm. For tickets, click here.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Frenzy of Nonfiction Films at IFC Center

Q&A after screening of Barbara Kopple's My Generation at IFC Center.

This week I saw some really incredible nonfiction films at IFC Center. Monday night was a travelling festival of short documentary films called doxita, and last night was Barbara Kopple's 2000 feature documentary My Generation, about all of the Woodstock music festivals (1969, '94 & '99), which played as part of the Stranger Than Fiction series co-presented by the Woodstock Film Festival (taking place Oct. 1-5, 2008).

The six amazing little documentaries that made up doxita completely transfixed me into another world. All telling such simple, yet profound mostly personal stories from around the globe. The films included:

Vángelo Monzón (Argentina/Sweden, Andréas Lennartsson, 8 min.) - A visit with Vángelo Monzón who's been making bricks in Argentina since he was a boy.

Cross your Eyes, Keep them Wide (USA, Ben Wu, 23 min.) - An invitation into the San Francisco "Creativity Explored," a work space for artists with development disablilities

The Guarantee (USA, Jesse Epstein, 10 min.) - Through animated drawings, a man tells how he considered plastic surgery for his ballet career.

El Cerco (Spain, Ricardo Iscar/Nacho Martin, 16 min. ) - A breathtaking look at tuna fishing in the Mediterranean sea where the fight is a ritual of blood and death.

Martin Thomas (UK/Wales, Dylan Wyn Thomas, 31 min. ) - The sometimes painful yet ultimately joyous journey of one man's quest to stop his stammer.

Shit and Chicks (The Netherlands, Kees van der Geest, 10 min. ) - A portrait of a traditional method of feeding chickens in Ghana, done with gentle restraint.

To top that off, I really enjoyed watching the transition of music and generations from the late 1960s to the 1990s all in under two hours during the screening of Kopple's My Generation. Kopple was in attendance and did a Q&A along with the producer of all the Woodstocks, Michael Lang, who had asked her back in 1994 if she wanted to make a documentary about the 25th anniversary music festival. Kopple said that since the festival was being funded primarily by Polygram Records and the festival was going over budget, the film itself was nearly not made. Kopple said she wouldn't have that and somehow managed to work on it for the next five years up through next festival in 1999.

When asked if it was a problem getting the rights to the music for her film, Kopple said that Polygram already had the rights for the music in 1994. It was more difficult getting rights from Warner Bros. for the music from 1969. In 1999, she went individually to each band. For instance, she spent nearly six months leaving pleading messages with Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit. The experience to her was difficult, but well worth it.

Lang was asked what he thought while watching the film go from one era to the next and how he picked the bands to play each time around. He responded that when you look at such a long period of time, you see how you have changed. Things that felt the same from the first Woodstock through the last are the emotions. The different generations blended so easily together. In 1999, the kids who attended Woodstock felt lost. It was two years before 9/11 when the world would change again. The experiences from the first festival was similar to the later festivals in that the experience was re-created for a new generation. And as for the music, Lang picked the bands to perform in 1969 that he liked, while in '94 and '99, he picked the bands that both he and his kids liked.

Finally, Lang was asked what he felt about Woodstock '94 and '99 being sponsored by corporations. He said he would have preferred not to have corporate involvement, but there's a reality to making this happen. Had they not had those sponsors, tickets probably would have been as much as $300 a piece.

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"Bi The Way" Making New York Premiere at NewFest

Speaking of the NewFest film line-up, be sure to check out the New York premiere there of Brittany Blockman's and Josephine Decker's documentary Bi The Way. I caught the film down in Austin, TX, during the South by Southwest Film Festival. Here are my notes from that Q&A.

Bi The Way is a documentary on bisexuality and the whatever generation featuring Dan Savage (sex columnist), Michael Musto (Village Voice), Jonathan Caouette (Tarnation) and 100 other people from across the US and across the sexual spectrum.

Screening: FRIDAY, JUNE 6th at 5:45 pm in the NEWFEST Film Festival, Loews 34th St Theater (at 8th Ave), New York City.

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Silverdocs Announces Opening & Closing Night Films

More news from Silverdocs on their opening and closing night selections below. The Film Panel Notetaker will be in Silver Spring, MD, to bring you notes from the filmmaker Q&As and panel discussions. Stay tuned.

Silver Spring, Maryland, May 14, 2008—SILVERDOCS: AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival announced the opening and closing night films for SILVERDOCS 2008. The Festival will open on Monday, June 16, 2008 with the US Premiere of Adrian Wills’ ALL TOGETHER NOW and close with THEATER OF WAR on Saturday, June 21, 2008. SILVERDOCS presents eight days of programming showcasing 100 films plus special screenings, music performances, and dozens of panel discussions featuring hundreds of filmmakers, subjects and media professionals. Now in its sixth year, SILVERDOCS and its concurrent International Documentary Conference honors excellence in filmmaking, supports the diverse voices and free expression of independent storytellers and celebrates the power of documentary to enhance our understanding of the world.

ALL TOGETHER NOW, Adrian Wills’ faithful behind-the-scenes story of the unprecedented partnership between The Beatles and Cirque du Soleil, explores the making of the “LOVE” stage production at the Mirage in Las Vegas. The film captures the collaborations of Sir Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono Lennon and Olivia Harrison, Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté, LOVE director Dominique Champagne and producers Sir George Martin and his son Giles Martin as they create an homage to the vision and music of The Beatles. Director Adrian Wills is scheduled to attend along with other special guests.

The Festival will close with THEATER OF WAR, directed by John Walter (HOW TO DRAW A BUNNY), a mesmerising examination of the intersection of art and politics at the creation of The Public Theater’s 2006 outdoor performance of Bertolt Brecht’s anti-war play Mother Courage and Her Children. The play, directed by The Public Theater’s George C. Wolfe from a new translation by Tony Kushner features Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline. THEATER OF WAR offers an intimate glimpse into the creative process and offers a raw and powerful exploration of war and capitalism. Director John Walter is scheduled to attend. Special guests to be announced.

“ALL TOGETHER NOW is a testament to the power of great music to endure over decades and the risk, rewards, and sheer drama, of creative collaboration,” said Festival Director, Patricia Finneran. “THEATER OF WAR is a riveting modern media take of a classic cultural exploration of conflict. Whether music or theatre, both films offer a rare insight into the creative process and invite audiences to reflect on the present through the prism of our artistic and political history.”


NewFest Announces 2008 Line-Up

The New York Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Film Festival (NewFest) announced earlier this week the program of films and events for the 20th annual festival to be held June 5-15. Among the activities at NewFest are several panel discussions planned during the 5th Annual NewFestFilmmakers Forum on June 14-15 at the John Outcalt NewFest Lounge. Six panels will cover a variety of topics, ranging from LGBT networking to the practical money side of filmmaking. There will also be a panel called Acting Out, which is a discussion with out actors and filmmakers.

NewFest will take place from June 5-15 and will be hosted by AMC Loews 34th Street Theater (312 W 34th St. at 8th Ave). Full program, schedule, and ticketing information will be available online at www.newfest.org by May 16.

The Films of NewFest 2008:

Feature Films

2 Mums and a Dad
14 Degrees Eastwards
The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela
Another Gay Sequel: Gays Gone Wild!
Ask Not
Be Like Others
Before I Forget
Being Proud Black & LGBT in America
The Beirut Apt
Between Love & Goodbye
Between Something & Nothing
Bi the Way
Butch Jamie
Chip & Ovi
Clapham Junction
Daddy's Love
Don't Go
Drawn Out Love
Dream Boy
Dreams Deferred: The Sakia Gunn Film Project
Drifting Flowers
Ebony Chunky Love: Bitch Can't Get a Date!
Eleven Minutes
Equality U
Fairytale of Kathmandu
Fashion Victims
Fatherhood Dreams
The Houseboy
In Sickness and In Health
An Island Calling
It's STILL Elementary
Japan Japan
Just As We Are
Karl Rove, I Love You
King Size
La León
Looking for Romeo
The Lost Coast
Love My Life
Mom, I Didn't Kill Your Daughter
The New World
No End
On the Other Hand, Death: A Donald Strachey Mystery
Out In India: A Family's Journey
Out Late
Ready? OK!
Saturn in Opposition
Searching 4 Sandeep
The Secrets
Seeds of Summer
The Sensei
Sex Positive
She's a Boy I Knew
Simply Love
Suddenly, Last Winter
Sugar Rush
The Taste of Nothingness
This Kiss
U People
The Universe of Keith Haring
What Love Means
When I Knew
The World Unseen
Wrangler: Anatomy of an Icon
You Belong to Me


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Film Writers (and Quite Possibly Guy Maddin) to Appear at KGB Next Month for Book Reading

Here's some really interesting news sent my way from Ray Privett, President of Cinema Purgatorio and General Manager of Queensbridge Theater. Ray sent me an email about a reading and book party at the KGB Complex on June 11 where film writers Michael Atkinson, Ed Halter, B. Kite, Stuart Klawans, and David Sterritt are expected to participate, and also quite possibly filmmaker Guy Maddin.

Here's Ray's note:

A few years ago a lot changed at the Village Voice, including in the film section. Soon after the Phoenix-based New Times chain purchased the paper in late 2006, the section could no longer find space for such longtime contributors as Michael Atkinson; New Times fired longtime section editor Dennis Lim soon thereafter, along with many other familiar Voice bylines.

Read on here.

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IndieGoGo Teams with IFP During Internet Week NY in June

I received the announcement below from InieGoGo today about its new partnership with IFP. In March, The Film Panel Notetaker reported that the film The Lilliput had raised approximately $10,000 through IndieGoGo.com. Since then, six films have raised approximately $50,000 through IndieGoGo. Now IndieGoGo is teaming with IFP during Internet Week NY in June that includes a panel discussion with digital filmmakers and Internet pioneers at the Apple Soho store on June 8th at 3:00 pm.


Six Projects Find Fundraising Success on Online Social Marketplace for Filmmakers and Fans
Berkeley, California, May 7, 2008—IndieGoGo, the online social marketplace that connects filmmakers and fans to make more independent film happen, announced the Independent Feature Project (IFP) as a new addition to its partnership network. IndieGoGo and IFP kicked off their collaboration this week with a seminar at the IFP Documentary Filmmaker Lab discussing DIWO-(Do-It-With-Others) filmmaking and the online trends affecting film financing, production and distribution. Since launching in January, six projects have successfully used IndieGoGo to raise funds and IndieGoGo has become home for 260 projects, thousands of visitors, and nearly $50,000 in fan contributions.

“IFP has helped to find and cultivate some of independent film’s top talents. Their programs and IndieGoGo’s tools are an exciting combination for emerging filmmakers”, said Slava Rubin, IndieGoGo Founder and Chief of Strategy and Marketing.

IFP is a 30-year old membership organization which has supported 7,000 films and engaged more than 20,000 filmmakers in its activities, including Michael Moore, Kevin Smith, John Sayles, Spike Lee, Mira Nair and others. Annually it fosters the development of 200 feature and documentary films through Independent Film Week and its Labs; offers educational seminars and mentorship in the art, technology and business of independent filmmaking; publishes Filmmaker Magazine; and celebrates independent films with the Gotham Awards.

“No one makes an independent film on their own,” says IFP Executive Director Michelle Byrd. “IndieGoGo has been immensely proactive in reaching out to the indie community with their DIWO message and we’re pleased to partner with them on our Independent Filmmaker Labs and Internet Week NY.”

IndieGoGo and IFP will be participating in Internet Week NY, June 3-10, 2008, hosting a series of events under the banner, Where Internet & Film Collide. “Best of the Internet” will be presented at the IFC Center on June 5th at 7:30pm, a panel discussion with digital filmmakers and Internet pioneers will be at the Apple Soho store on June 8th at 3:00 pm, and a party celebrating the collision of Internet and Film will commence later that evening at Chinatown Brasserie.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

8th Annual Screenwriter's Lab In Hamptons Announced

The Hamptons International Film Festival announced today that it will host its 8th annual Screenwriters’ Lab co-sponsored by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation this May 9-11 in East Hampton. Last fall, I sat in on the screenplay reading of Caitlin McCarthy's Wonder Drug during the 2007 HIFF. Looks like a great group of screenwriters have been selected for this Lab coming up this weekend. Coincidentally, I've been to a couple of screenplay readings in the last few weeks. First was Jay Paramsothy's and Catherine Torphy's The Emperor Has Arrived on April 21 and next up was Leah Meyerhoff's Unicorns on May 1. If anyone has any more screenplay reading announcements that will take place in and around New York, please send them my way.

More from the HIFF Screenwriter's Lab announcement below:

The Hamptons International Film Festival will host its 8th annual Screenwriters’ Lab cosponsored by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation this May 9-11 in East Hampton. Over the course of one long weekend, emerging screenwriters will benefit from the expert tutelage of seasoned mentors who will advise them on how best to revise their scripts in preparation for production.

During the lab in the Hamptons, our emerging screenwriters will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one each day with established screenwriting mentors who will advise them on how to develop their scripts. Within this intimate environment, our screenwriters are encouraged to take risks and discover new possibilities for their projects. Participants also attend group discussions over meals, while evening events bring them together with board members, sponsors, the local artistic community, and other friends of the Festival.

Following the lab, The Hamptons will assist writers in making contact with friends of the Festival, including industry producers, agents, and development executives, and continue to support the writers as they revise their scripts. We will hold screenplay readings and eventually invite films developed at the Screenwriters' Lab to screen at the Hamptons Film Festival. This process allows the Lab in conjunction with the Festival to establish a community and ongoing support structure that develops and promotes diverse voices, artistic ambitions, and the audiences that rejoice in both.

“The Screenwriters’ Lab consistently provides one of the most exciting and fulfilling aspects of the Hamptons’ year-round activities,” states Director of Programming David Nugent. “The level of talent from both the writers and mentors is outstanding and the weekend is always a highly charged forum of ideas, creativity, discussions and great work. As always it is a pleasure partnering with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Feature Film Prize in Science and Technology originated at the Hamptons. With the Screenwriters’ Lab, we have established a year-round collaboration supporting selected filmmakers who turn their narrative talents to the realm of science and technology and explore those themes in fresh, innovative ways and depict scientists and engineers in a realistic and compelling fashion.”

Our 2008 Lab Participants, Screenplays and Project Descriptions:

Cookie Rodriguez had just started driving the night shift for a Brooklyn car service when her niece turns up dead in the Williamsburg waterfront. Frustrated with the police investigation, she starts one of her own and finds that her niece was caught up in a corrupt world of gentrification, bribery, and Brooklyn real estate.

2) JAMES PONSOLDT - REFRESH, REFRESHThree teenaged sons of Marine reservists fighting a distant war must prove to themselves their worth as men. In measures of heartbreak, brutality, and humor, REFRESH, REFRESH takes an honest, unflinching look at the unforeseen repercussions of violence and how we inherit a war at home.

BOOK OF WATER combines historical fact with a vibrant magical realist style to tell the story of the life of Leonardo da Vinci. An Alfred P. Sloan supported script.

In creating an intelligent machine out of discarded computer parts, a young woman uncovers her grandmother's long-buried secret of her survival from Auschwitz and finds a release from her own haunting memories. An Alfred P. Sloan supported script.

2008 Screenwriters’ Lab Mentors Are:

1) MARIA MAGGENTI (filmmaker/screenwriter) Maria Maggenti began her career in 1995 as writer/director of THE INCREDIBLY TRUE ADVENTURE OF TWO GIRLS IN LOVE. Her second feature film, PUCCINI FOR BEGINNERS, produced by InDigEnt premiered in competition at Sundance in January 2006 and was released by Strand Releasing in February 2007. In January 2007 she was one of five filmmakers selected for the Sundance Global Short Film Project for the GSM Congress in Barcelona, Spain. Maggenti recently sold “The Beard”, a half-hour single camera comedy series to Showtime. She has also adapted Jane Green’s bestseller “Jemima J.” for Lifetime Television, and spent three seasons as a writer on the hit CBS/Bruckheimer drama “Without A Trace”. Maggenti received her MFA in filmmaking from the NYU Graduate Film Institute and received her undergraduate degree in Philosophy & Classics from Smith College. In 2001-02 she was an adjunct professor of feature screenwriting at the NYU Graduate Film Institute.

2) IRA SACHS (Ira Sachs is a filmmaker living in New York City. His most recent film, MARRIED LIFE, starring Rachel McAdams, Chris Cooper, Pierce Brosnan and Patricia Clarkson was produced by Sidney Kimmel Entertainment and Anonymous Content and was released by Sony Pictures Classics in March 2008. MARRIED LIFE screened at the 2007 Toronto and New York Film Festivals. His previous film, FORTY SHADES OF BLUE, starring Rip Torn, received the Grand Jury Prize at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. In 1999, Sachs was given a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship. His first feature, THE DELTA, was released theatrically in 1997 by Strand Releasing, after screening at the Sundance, Toronto, and Rotterdam Film Festivals.

3) JEFFREY SHARP (producer) Jeffrey Sharp, President and CEO of Sharp Independent, has produced numerous feature films, including BOYS DON’T CRY (1999), YOU CAN COUNT ON ME (2000), and PROOF (2005). Those adapted from books include NICHOLAS NICKLEBY (2002) adapted from the novel by Charles Dickens, A HOME AT THE END OF THE WORLD (2003) adapted by Michael Cunningham from his novel, THE NIGHT LISTENER (2006) adapted by Armistead Maupin from his novel, and EVENING (2007) adapted from Susan Minot's novel by Michael Cunningham and Susan Minot. Sharp Independent recently partnered with HarperCollins to develop and produce feature films from the publishers’ vast list of book titles. This partnership is called Sharp Independent at HarperCollins. Jeff holds an MFA from Columbia University and a BA from Colgate University.

4) WHIT STILLMAN (writer/director/producer) Whit Stillman is a former journalist and fiction writer who in the 90s came out with three films on “doomed” bourgeois youth – METROPOLITAN, BARCELONA and THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO. Taking the characters from the latter and extending their story, he wrote the S.F. Chronicle bestselling novel “The Last Days of Disco, with Cocktails at Petrossian Afterwards” (Farrar, Straus), winner of the first and last “Nightlife Literature Award.” Since 1998 he’s lived in Europe writing the scripts for a cycle of films on foreign subjects.

The Hamptons International Film Festival was founded to celebrate the American Independent film - long, short, narrative and documentary - and to introduce a unique and varied spectrum of international films and filmmakers to our audiences. The festival is committed to exhibiting films that express fresh voices and differing global perspectives, with the hope that these programs will enlighten audiences, provide invaluable exposure for filmmakers and present inspired entertainment for all.

The Sixteenth Annual Hamptons International Film Festival will be held Wednesday, October 15 through Sunday, October 19, 2008.

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Monday, May 05, 2008

Tribeca Film Festival - Lou Reed's Berlin - May 4, 2008

Sunday marked the last day of the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival and my final Conversation in Cinema I attended, Celebrating Berlin – a discussion lead by Vanity Fair’s Lisa Robinson with rock musician Lou Reed and Academy-Award nominated director Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) whose documentary, Lou Reed’s Berlin, made its New York premiere. The film opens in limited release at New York’s Film Forum and NuArt Theatre in Los Angeles on July 18. Tribeca Film Festival Co-Founder Jane Rosenthal introduced the film saying, “This has been a really long 13 days, but what a better way to end our festival.” This was my first true foray into the music of Reed. I was only familiar with his song “Walk on the Wild Side,” and many friends over the years have mentioned how brilliant a song writer and performer he is, but for some reason I never really had the chance to sit down and listen to an album or watch one of his performances until Sunday. I found the music to be absolutely riveting and the lyrics profound, though he seems to have more of a spoken-word component to his vocals, rather than just pure singing, which I understand because the lyrics are very poetic in nature, but just took me a bit to get used to hearing up against such a vibrant sound.

After the film, which was met with much applause from the audience, Robinson asked Reed and Schnabel how they came to collaborate on this film. Schnabel responded that he felt a responsibility to do it. He had heard the record back in 1973 when it came out and it made a huge impact on him before he ever knew Reed. When making The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Susan Feldman asked him if he would direct a staging of Berlin at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn. But since he was busy directing another film, she asked him if he would at least design the sets. Schnabel had some 18th century Chinese prints and blew them up and also some photos of a hotel with greenish walls. There was no money for the art. The budget was $16,000. He couldn’t stretch the canvas for that. But Schnabel acknowledged two people sitting in the audience who contributed their own film work to Berlin – the first being his daughter Lola, who he said shot all the good stuff in the film (with actress Emmanuelle Seigner as the character Caroline whom Reed’s songs in Berlin follow the story of), and the second being his brother-in-law, who shot the sequence with stuff flying around in a fish tank.

Robinson noted the great sound heard in the film and asked how they achieved it. Giving props to John Harris for the sound, Reed said he had never heard rock sound so good in a movie before. It usually sounds disjointed and he didn’t want to get volume dependent. He just wanted to get the tone.

When asked by Robinson why Reed chose Schnabel to direct this film, Reed responded that he asked Schnabel to at least do the sets, but Schnabel told him how could he do the sets without directing it, too? Schnabel brought in cinematographer Ellen Kuras, who Reed called fantastic. Schnabel said he didn’t want there to be any fancy filming with cranes. He invited an audience and told them there would be a camera person on stage who would be shooting the performance.

Robinson mentioned that Susan Robinson had brought Berlin to St. Ann’s Warehouse. Reed commented that Robinson had always wanted him to stage Berlin there. Schnabel elaborated saying that he thought Reed had a really bad experience with Berlin a long time ago and he was absolutely sure if people hear this anytime, it would be relevant. Reed hadn’t played this ever before in public.

Robinson asked Reed if there was a luxury in doing this more than 30 years after the album was released. Reed said he wasn’t even going to do this and that Schnabel knew the record better than him. Schnabel added that what’s in the film is the first time Reed played Berlin, which he eventually went on to play other performances of throughout Europe. What’s interesting about the first time he played it, it was like watching Christopher Walken performing open-heart surgery on himself, he said. Schnabel noted that Reed lives across the street from him and asked Reed to come look at his daughter’s and brother-in-law’s films. Reed said it was serendipity the way these films matched his music. The sensitivities were just so similar, he said.

One song performed toward the end of Berlin was “Rock Minuet,” that’s not in the original record. Robinson asked Reed if he felt he could have made that song back then. Reed said he could have done it then, but Schnabel said he asked Reed to do it for the film. Reed said Schnabel really loved that song, which is kind of visual and Schnabel thought it was kind of an anthem like “Walk in the Wild Side” was.

Robinson opened the discussion to the audience. One audience member asked Reed what he thought about music critic Lester Banks’ original comments on the Berlin record back in 1973 that it was “the most depressed record ever made,” to which Reed replied, “I don’t have any thoughts on Lester Banks’ comments.”

Reed was also asked by another audience member if there was anything in the film that surprised him about his performance when he saw it. Reed said in the old days, he used to wear sunglasses on stage, but now he can’t wear them or he’ll trip over the cables. He said the performance is what it is and that he wanted to write these monologues for himself because he likes acting. Schnabel also said there’s a level of trust that Reed has had to endure. Things have happened to him in his life that have probably been dissatisfying to him.

When asked what the production and rehearsal process was like, Reed said they didn’t have very much time. “We were on the seat of our pants,” Schnabel said. The concert footage was shot in three days. Lola’s film was shot in four days. The editing took approximately four months.

Schnabel called his film sort of a hybrid. It’s not just a concert movie. To him, it was making a portrait of Reed whom he loved. That was his intention. Reed concluded by saying for him it was "an amalgam of when a woman does a certain thing to you, you end up with Berlin.”

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Saturday, May 03, 2008

Where in the world is Leonardo DiCaprio?

Naomi Campbell is honored with an IREO Diamond Award at the United Nations on May 2.

Supermodels, a billionheiress, a music executive and...a movie star? They are not the cast of the new Gilligan's Island. They are among the attendees (and one non-attendee) at last night's International Renewable Energy Organization (IREO) Diamond Awards for Renewable Energy presented by Paolo Zampolli and The Friends of Climate Change at the United Nations in New York.

I would like to thank Kahraman Halisçelik of Kanalturk (a news organization from Turkey) for inviting me to this ceremony. I met Kahraman earlier this week at the International Filmmaker Press Meet & Greet at the Tribeca Film Festival. I was intrigued by this event for several reasons. First, I am always interested in learning about ways to sustain our environment through renewable resources. Second, I had never been to the U.N. before. And third, the invitation mentioned that Leonardo DiCaprio would be amongst the guests. Alas, Leonardo did not make it to the reception. Low and behold this morning, I finally found Leo down at the Tribeca Film Festival Family Street Fair, though it was only a realistic looking wax sculpture of the actor courtesy of Madam Tussauds.

Fans adorn Leonardo DiCaprio's wax sculpture at the Tribeca Film Festival Family Street Fair on May 3.

Supermodels and Goodwill Ambassadors Naomi Campbell and Petra Nemcova were among the honorees at last night's awards, along with Roc-A-Fella Records Co-Founder Damon Dash. Also spotted was Ivanka Trump.

As I was leaving the event last night, I met Jeffrey Rodman, owner of the Water Street Restaurant in Brooklyn's DUMBO neighborhood. Jeffrey mentioned to me that his restaurant had been rented out during the shoot of the environmental documentary The 11th Hour, which DiCaprio narrates.

More pictures from the IREO Diamond Awards can be found here.

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Friday, May 02, 2008

Tribeca Film Festival - Behind the Screens - "Confessionsofa Ex-Doofus-ItchyFooted Mutha" - May 1, 2008

Legendary independent filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles (Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song) participated in a discussion lead by film producer and DVRepublic Founder Warrington Hudlin during the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival after a screening of Confessionsofa Ex-Doofus-ItchyFooted Mutha, written and directed by Van Peebles. Confessionsofa “chronicles the adventures of a man who, armed only with a can of contingency cash, swims his way to New York, joins the merchant marine, romances women of all ages (and an amorous gorilla), and dances for his life in the court of Zampoughi.”

Before the screening of Confessionsofa, Tribeca programmer Aaron Dobbs welcomed Van Peebles to the stage. The always humorous and candid Van Peebles laid out some ground rules to the audience saying “laugh a lot” and “white folks don’t have to be scared or nothing.”

Confessionsofa has been my favorite film I've seen so far at Tribeca. It's hard to put a finger on exactly how to describe this film. It's sort of an epic low-budget experimental comedy musical filled with Van Peebles's trademark charm and bravado, but with less of a political message than previous works.

At the conclusion of the film, festival volunteers collected ballots from the audience for the Cadillac Award. Dobbs then welcomed back Van Peebles to the stage along with Hudlin. This is the second time this year I’ve been to a discussion that Hudlin moderated. The first was back in February at a Tribute to St. Clair Bourne at the Museum of the Moving Image, which Van Peebles also attended. Hudlin’s moderating style remained the same, that being of a more participatory nature by allowing members of the audience to jump in anytime.

Hudlin: Other black filmmakers stand on the shoulders of Van Peebles who literally founded black cinema. You paved the way, but how did you find your own way?

Van Peebles: I’m known somewhat as a fighter. People ask me, how did you know you could beat this guy? I didn’t know. A courageous person is never without arms.

Hudlin: You went ahead and did it your way. What is your creative process?

Van Peebles: In an old Mad Magazine, there was a section called “Things you’d like to see in the movies.” I just make the things I’d like to see. I don’t try to be clever about it. I just try to say what I have in mind. If something’s funny to me, how can I put that funniness in cinema?

Hudlin: In both Sweetback and Confessionsofa, there seems to be this character off camera. What resonates with you in having this character?

Van Peebles: This makes me think of a funny situation. [Before Van Peebles continued to answer, he asks his cast & crew to stand.] Momma told me to praise the bridge you stood on. Paul, my second assistant editor, a young white man from Minnesota who doesn’t have a lot of ‘hood in him, called me the other day. I told him to add in a lot of “um hmm” into the film. I just put in what I’m thinking. This movie was on a constraint with finances. I thought it would be easier to do the music first. Music is an integral part of the story. I find it interesting to let people see the trajectory and evolution of it. My choice is not me, but clarity for the subject.

Hudlin: A lot of your film’s titles allude to the anatomy. Is this a coincidence?

Van Peebles: The title explains the story. The memoirs of a wanderlust…let’s translate that to Confessionsofa Ex-Doofus-ItchyFooted Mutha. I like the iambic pentameter and the cadence of it. A question I often get is what is the message? There are a lot of subliminal messages. People will pick them up at different levels in their life.

Audience Question: Why does the opening title sequence give credit to the Diaspora?

Van Peebles: A zillion people helped me make this movie and they’re not all on camera. I wanted to do a shout out to those folks. I had a huge amount of assistance all over the world.

Audience Question: Where are we now in terms of black cinema?

Van Peebles: I am pretty much a loner and a maverick. What I wanted to do was no just open the door for black cinema, but for all independent cinema.

Audience Question: Was the sex scene with you and the character Rita uncomfortable?

Van Peebles: I liked it. When you shoot sex scenes, there are always problems like; I have to make sure the lighting is right. When I made Sweetback, I caught the clap, but that’s beside the point.

Audience Question: How long did it take you to do this project?

Van Peebles: 75 years, duh!

Audience Question: How did you use technology to paint this film?

Van Peebles: The credits at the end say “edited and painted by.” It’s like a painting to me. I started as a painter and sculptor. The texture, color and shading tell the story subliminally. All these tools are there. Why fight a battle with one hand? You have a zillion hands. People don’t use them.

Audience Question: What were some of the challenges in making Confessionsofa versus Sweetback?

Van Peebles: This technically was much more ambitious than Sweetback. This time I didn’t have to carry a gun. Everything was a challenge.

Audience Question: How did you go about casting? Has your process changed since Sweetback?

Van Peebles: No, sometimes you cast people for their experience and sometimes for plasticity. Sometimes you take a person who doesn’t have acting experience, but they can play for the character.

Audience Question: Why did you premiere Confessionsofa at Tribeca?

Van Peebles: Tribeca is in New York and I’m lazy. Tribeca is a great vessel. Jane Rosenthal and Robert De Niro funded Panther when no one else would.

Hudlin: Tribeca has a sense of mission of international diversity that’s distinct from other festivals. Peter Scarlet (Artistic Director) really gets that we’re a world community. As Tribeca continues to grow and mature, it will be a premiere festival.

Audience Question: When will you make your next film?

Van Peebles: That’s dangerous. I open the door and all these ideas come out, so I slam the door shut. I’m hoping to make my novel The True American as a film next. I’m harnessed by the finances. Confessionsofa had no financers or distributors. I wanted this film to be made this way. When I sell it, then I’ll do another one.

Audience Question: Have you developed a strategy to get past constraints?

Van Peebles: My strategy is not a single way. I started off writing. The great advantage of writing is it’s not that expensive. As a writer, I didn’t know why people were so difficult with me when I pitched it to them. Learn your craft so you can do what you have to do and how to manipulate your media, then make it within the confines of your budget.

Hudlin: If you watch what he does, there’s a DNA in his work. He takes people that are off camera and takes them on a journey. He lets black people win. Sweetback is a perfect example. He fights the power and prevails. That’s the lesson we as filmmakers have to take.

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Unicorns Spotted At NYU's Tisch School

Leah Meyerhoff and cast of Unicorns staged reading at NYU's Tisch School.

Last night at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, Leah Meyerhoff's 2008 Sundance Screenwriters Lab finalist Unicorns was performed during a staged reading presented by the Chairs Workshop. Unicorns tells the story of an awkward teenage girl who escapes to a fantasy world when her first romantic relationship turns increasingly abusive. You might have first heard about Unicorns here on The Film Panel Notetaker when I interviewed Leah last month. It was a great pleasure to see Unicorns read aloud last night by a talented group of actors.

Unicorns, expected to begin production this summer in Idaho, is being executive produced by Allison Anders (Gas, Food, Lodging) and produced by Heather Rae (Frozen River) and Alexis Fish (Shortbus).

Among the cast of last night's reading were:

Sarah Steele starred as Adam Sandler’s daughter in SPANGLISH, had a lead role in MAN (Sundance short 2008), and recently appeared in the off-Broadway productions of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Speech and Debate.

Josh Caras played the lead in BUGCRUSH (Winner Sundance short 2006), and has also appeared in GRACIE, THE ASSASSINATION OF A HIGH SCHOOL PRESIDENT and DEFINITELY MAYBE.

Rufus Tureen recently appeared in TRUE ADOLESCENTS, directed by NYU alumni Craig Johnson.

Lily Medville recently appeared in the music video Team Queen, directed by Leah Meyerhoff.

Cody Lightning played the lead in FOUR SHEETS TO THE WIND and had supporting roles in SMOKE SIGNALS and BRICK.

Jessica Ryan was recently seen in the music video Eternal Flame and is currently performing in Retrograde. [Mondays, May 5 and 12 @10pm; Wednesdays, May 7 and 14 @ 10pm, Thursday, May 15 @ 10pm; Friday May 16 @10pm- Under St. Marks Theater, 94 St. Marks Place b/w 1st Ave & Ave A.]

Karl Jacob is best known for his lead role in Showtime’s THE ROOST and his recent work in Young American Bodies.

Elizabeth Dahmen recently played the lead in Ex-Antoine and Behind the Harmony and is currently starring in her own web show.

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