g The Film Panel Notetaker: October 2009

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My Interview With Andrew Bujalski

Hello Everyone,

I covered the 2009 SXSW and Woodstock Film Festivals for The Film Panel Notetaker.

On Monday, I published an interview I did with Andrew Bujalski in The Ithaca Journal's blogs section, in preparation for a screening of Beeswax at Cornell Cinema this weekend.

To read the interview, just click on the picture of Andrew.

Erin Scherer

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Documentaries: Then & Now @ The Woodstock Film Festival, October 4, 2009

Documentaries: Then and Now
October 4th, 2009, @ 10am
Utopia Studios, Bearsville, New York

L-R: Rachel Grady, Molly Thompson, Barbara Kopple, Leon Gast, and Emily Kunstler
Not Pictured: AJ Schnack

Molly Thompson, VP, A&E IndieFilms

AJ Schnack, Director, Convention
Rachel Grady, Director, Jesus Camp
Barbara Kopple, Director, Woodstock: Now and Then
Leon Gast, Director, When We Were Kings
Emily Kunstler, Director, William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe

When Molly Thompson asked what this panel was supposed to be about, she was told that the panel was to discuss how documentaries have evolved over the last decade: the length of time that the Woodstock Film Festival has been in existence.

Thompson asked Barbara Kopple how she thought documentaries had evolved the past ten years. Kopple responded that she thought that documentaries had started to evolve well before then. For Kopple, the beginning of the evolution of the documentary dated back to the advent of Cinema Verite, and filmmakers like D.A. Pennebaker and the Maysles Brothers, whom she considers to be a primary influence.

Leon Gast took it a step further back to Robert Flaherty, and his films like Nanook of the North. Gast first saw Flaherty's films as a student at Columbia University, where he studied film.

Barbara Kopple

Barbara Kopple posed an interesting hypothesis: maybe it isn't so much that documentaries have evolved the past ten years so much as the audiences have. "Documentaries are hot now, and people want to see them. We just spent the last eight years under the cobweb of the Bush Administration. We're just trying to break clear, and I know that Obama has his job set out for him. It's even more important for us at this point to keep on making films about the things we're passionate about, whether it's health care, Afghanistan, Iraq, hunger, or just subjects that we can shed a light on."

In spite of audiences having evolved, however, AJ Schnack mentioned that people often complain about how much staging goes on in documentaries, but pointed out that "People have an idea of what documentaries are supposed to be. Some people believe there are rules, or a rulebook, or a guidebook that you're supposed to follow. I don't think they understand the history of documentaries from Flaherty all the way to where we are today. There's a belief that there must be some method, some agenda, or that you have to have an exact document. Documentaries are an art form."

Kopple cited Tom DiCillo's When You're Strange as an example of how documentaries continue to evolve: "Everyone from The Doors thought, 'Okay, we should be interviewed, or this should happen.' But he was like, 'No. No interviews. We're just going to let you play. We'll have a wonderful narration behind it, and the images are what will mezmerize you, and take you into it, and I think it works."

Gast and Kopple, the veterans of the panel, discussed the complications of having worked on documentaries in the past. Kopple mentioned that when her movie American Dream was in its theatrical run, her mother had no idea where it was playing.

"When I was doing Harlan County and American Dream, no one wanted to fund me. 'Who wants to make a film about Coal Miners or Meatpackers?' At the time, I found this incredible place called 'The Foundation'. You had to be non-profit, tax exempt, and you could write to different foundations, different individuals, who would send money. You didn't have to pay it back, because it was a donation."

Kopple continued. "Now I think it's much easier because distributors like A&E and HBO are always looking for films. Other times, people will call you up and just ask, 'How would like to make a film on Woodstock '69?' They'll give you a budget that's not quite enough, and you'll argue. But I think there's just a real opportunity out there for people who want to make really interesting documentaries."

One of Leon Gast's early films was about Salsa music and culture. At the very most, Gast expected his movie would play the barrios, then maybe play parts of Mexico and South America.

They also discussed the advantages and disadvantages of video v. film:

Said Kopple, "I think with film, you are more diciplined because it costs more. With video, you can just go for it. I don't know that many people that are still shooting documentaries on film."

Leon Gast

Gast believes that technology has made shooting much easier: "One of the benefits of shooting today vs. the benefits of shooting then was when you were shooting on film, you had 10-11 minute rolls, and today, you have one hour rolls."

Many of the documentarians had interesting stories about their experiences making their movies. Rachel Grady recalled an event during the making of The Boys of Baraka that while, heartbreaking, felt it changed the course of the movie's story for the better.

Rachel Grady

"We were following this group of kids as part of a program, which was discontinued. We were so sad, so heartbroken that this happened, but it was really interesting, because a lot of things happened because of that. First of all, it made the movie more relevant because I couldn't think of a better metaphor of what happens to kids like this, who are really disenfranchised, and don't get a lot of opportunities."

"They get disappointed a lot because opportunities dry up and die away. For them, this is par the course, but because this happened, it made it a bigger story. But on a personal level it was also significant because Heidi (Ewing, Grady's collaborator) and I were devastated--the children ended up trying to comfort us. Which is why the amazing thing about filmmaking is that your subjects are constantly teaching you about yourself."

"It changed the whole film. It made it a bigger film. All the kids survived it, and created something that was more interesting."

During the making of Harlan County, USA, Kopple found herself as part of the coal miner's picket line: "The women were having a meeting, and they were saying, 'So who's going to be on the picket line tomorrow?' and everyone had to say their names. This woman named Lois turned around to me and said, 'Barbara, are you going to be on the picket line?'"

Kopple responded, "'Lois, of course, but I'm not supposed to be here. I'm invisible.' And she said, 'I have to write your name down. I need to know that you're going to be there.' Sometimes when you have a camera, it makes people more focused as to the kinds of ideas and what they want to do because somebody cared about what was happening."

Leon Gast had a story about Kopple. "Barbara had a Nagra she called 'The People's Nagra'. She had two Nagras. One that she used for her films, and then she had a 'People's Nagra' that she lent to filmmakers who didn't have the money to rent one."

The filmmakers gave a lot of valuable advice for aspiring filmmakers.

AJ Schnack, Rachel Grady, and Molly Thompson

Barbara Kopple advised one filmmaker to write a treatment: "Of course, you got to know that this is a documentary, real life, and things are subject to change, but you make so that it's one of two pages of your basic idea. It doesn't mean you have to deliver that."

When it comes to the editing room, Kopple encouraged filmmakers to put effort into displaying their progress: "For Harlan County and American Dream, I put together little scenes, and different people would come in and look at it. Always bring people into your editing suite. Don't ever send a DVD to them. Make them come in so they have the power of you being in an editing room, looking at material."

Emily Kunstler

Kunstler talked about the obstacles posed to novice filmmakers. "It's harder for a first-time filmmaker. I think that in addition to a treatment, they also want to see something, because it's hard for them to believe that you could actually pull it off if you don't have a track record. So actually, starting to shoot, and showing them what your vision is can be very helpful. That's how we persuaded people to believe in us from the beginning."

William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe began as a personal archival project for future generations of her family, and was funded through ITVS. "They never accept your funding the first time you apply. You sort of have to knock on the door three times. For someone in my group of ITVS films, it was the fifth time they applied for funding. But what they do do is when they deny funding, they have a one-on-one consulting with the jury. They tell you what they loved about your film, and why they ultimately denied it. They encourage you to re-submit the next year, and that process really forces you to hone your ideas."

Thompson chimed in. "I heard a guy say to me, 'What about Flip cameras? Everyone can use a flip camera now and shoot your subject!' It's like, 'Yeah, you can get an image and footage of a person, but can you really sell your film with it?' I think you should be really careful and not show something that's not good enough."

AJ Schnack

At the end, AJ Schnack touched upon the proliferation of activist documentaries, such as movies by Michael Moore and Robert Greenwald, and suggested that documentarians needed to move away from that. "These films seem to wear you down with scolding about whatever they believe is the end of the world, and giving us a ten point plan as to what we're supposed to go out and do. There are tons of those films, and a lot of people are making them, and they can go make them. But I'd like to see movies where filmmakers find out why some parents want their kids indoctrinated into this Christian ideology. That's filming."

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Music in Film Panel @ The Woodstock Film Festival, October 3, 2009

Music in Film
October 3rd, 2009, @ 2pm
Utopia Studios, Bearsville, New York

L-R: T. Griffin, Jonathan Demme, Doreen Ringer-Ross, Tom DiCillo, and Tze Chun

Doreen Ringer-Ross, VP, Film-TV Relations, BMI
T. Griffin, Score Composer, Children of Invention
Jonathan Demme, Director, Neil Young Trunk Show
Tom DiCillo, Director, When You're Strange
Tze Chun, Director, Children of Invention

Late in the Music in Film Panel, moderator Doreen Ringer-Ross addressed the audience and said, "I really believe in the independent film scene as the artist development forum for our business. So I think you're in the right place being at this festival. Go see all the shorts, go meet all those filmmakers and work it. Because I think there's a very fertile ground for new collabortations."

The Music in Film Panel at this year's Woodstock Film Festival was mostly devoted to directors who have made distinctive choices when incorporating music into their films, and why they've made the choices they have.

T. Griffin, the sole composer on the panel, fell into score composing by accident. He had been in a band called The Quavers, which a lot of filmmakers liked, and that led to scoring some of Jem Cohen's short films. In 2008, Griffin was a fellow at the Sundance Composers Lab. He scored Children of Invention, which was directed by Tze Chun.

Griffin says that he does not approach film music as a career, but in the same way he approaches writing his songs, and alternates between working on film scores and his own music. "I spend a lot of time on lyrics and stuff, and I consider building the production around them. I let the characters and songs speak through it, no matter how unusual it is, no matter how much wavering static there is. I try to take the same sensitivity when I work with someone, and that I think is the thing that has brought me to work with filmmakers."

On why he chose Griffin, Chun felt that Griffin possessed a point of view that score composers often lack. "Sometimes if you look at a composer's website, it seems like a publisher's clearinghouse. It's like 'You want sad? I got sad! You want happy? I got happy! You want hip hop? I got hip hop!" Todd's, was just, like, his music, which I really, really liked. As a director, you have to try to control everything. It's such a blessing when something unexpected happens, something mysterious. That's one of the things I really liked about Todd's music. A lot of the stuff I was hearing, you could tell that it was composed in Garageband."

Tom DiCillo thought that the reason why Chun chose Griffin was interesting, and lamented on the lack of originality in contemporary movie scores. "If you think back to some of the scores that Ennio Morricone did in the early 1960s, where he was just having the sound of bells, a guy whistling, a choir, and a snapping whip in his soundtrack. I happen to feel that we really have not progressed too far from then."

DiCillo added, "It seems to me that the movie going experience has changed. I really believe that. I think that it's become in its own way less emotional. And so the music tries to put this artificial feeling and emotion into something that has no emotion whatsoever."

Jonathan Demme and DiCillo shared some interesting anecdotes about working with studios, score composers and prerecorded music.

After the success of the film Beloved, Demme wanted to work with composer Rachel Portman again on the movie The Manchurian Candidate. Paramount contacted Demme, and told him that they had vetoed the idea of using Portman on the film. Why? She was a woman.

Demme recalled being livid. "You hear this, and you can't believe that this is the 21st Century, and you hear, 'Well, women can't do suspense!' Did you hear what you just said? And what woman you're ascribing that to?!?" Demme eventually won out.

As Demme and Portman began working together, Portman would send music to match scenes, and at first it didn't work. After having advocated for her, Demme was embarassed. "The horrifying truth was, 'You know what? Maybe Paramount wasn't right that women couldn't do suspense, but maybe Rachel can't do this hardcore, dark movie. Maybe it's just not in her.'"

"I said to Suzana [Peric], 'I don't think this is going to work, and I think we have to find a new composer, because you know what? I think at the end of the day, Rachel doesn't have a dark side.'"

Peric promptly replied, "Oh, Rachel has a dark side. Wait until you see what happens when you tell her!" He had a conversation with Portman where he told her that "if we didn't get something that really scared the shit out of us within a week, we're going to have to do something different. And the stuff just started coming in. I think Rachel stopped writing so much, and started feeling."

When seeking source music for The Manchurian Candidate, Demme dove into his record collection of homemade tapes and imports from the 1980s. "So much stuff by so many well known artists have gotten so expensive." Peric tracked down members of punk bands like Desperate Bicycles and The Prats, and asked if they'd accept $500 to use 30 seconds of one of their songs. Demme also used a song by the band TV On The Radio before they were more widely known.

Tom DiCillo remarked, "I think Jonathan is a prime example of someone whose music in his films has always, always taken on its own life. I doesn't just supplement the material. It's a marriage."

DiCillo got screwed over by the first composer of his movie, Box of Moonlight. "This guy was famous! And the producers were saying, "Yeah, okay, he's good. He's done a lot of work in the underground, and he's done films from the New York Independent Scene, and I said, "Okay, great!" I knew him, but from the onset, he only wanted to do what he wanted to do. I respected that. I said, "Fine, this guy's got talent, some experience, I should let him do that, instead of stopping him. The movie was about juvenile delinquency in Rural America. The music came in sounding like it was written after a bad heroin fix."

I called him one night, and I said, 'Listen. I just want you to know that you're doing a great job, and the movie is going to sound fantastic. I really trust that.' He said, 'Yeah, you're right. I am doing a great job. And you know what? My music is a gift to me, and it's really, really, hard just to give it to you.' I was so stunned that it took me a second to realize and say back to him, 'I don't think you're just giving it to me. We're paying you eighty thousand dollars.'" DiCillo fired the composer, and brought in Jim Farmer, who scored the movie in two weeks. (DiCillo talks more about this story here.)

"If you do have a connection with a composer or anyone you have a real bond with, value it, cherish it, and stay with it." DiCillo advised filmmakers. "When you have the choice between someone who is famous, and someone just starting out and has enthusiasm, enthusiasm wins everytime."

For When You're Strange, DiCillo composed his own music. "There were long sequences where there were transitions happening, and I needed some sort of musical interlude, just to have something to edit with, so I started composing pieces myself. Very, very, simple stuff--I wouldn't even call it music. To my utter astonishment, The Doors heard it and liked it. So it stayed in there. It's kind of a musical palate cleanser between their music, which is so intense and rich. My music sort of bridges the gap and adds a little mystery to some of the most surreal elements."

At the conclusion of the panel, DiCillo stated, "In some ways, every film has something that music can help somehow. It's not that you want to put a Band-Aid over it, or put frosting over it. That's not the point. Making a low budget film, you're going to find an extremely difficult and chaotic process. So if you're lucky, maybe you'll get 70% of what you set out for."

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Changing Face of Independent Film @ Woodstock Film Festival, October 3, 2009

The Changing Face of Independent Film at The Woodstock Film Festival
October 3rd, 2009, @ Noon
Utopia Studios, Bearsville, New York

L-R: Peter Saraf, Scott Macaulay, John Sloss, Ira Sachs, and Richard Linklater

Scott Macaulay, Editor, Filmmaker Magazine

Richard Linklater, Director, Me & Orson Welles
John Sloss, Founder, Cinetic Media
Ira Sachs, Director, Married Life
Peter Saraf, Producer, Little Miss Sunshine

"I don't think we're back to 1985. I think we're back to 1975. Which is okay, because we have all these new tools. It's the best time ever to be a filmmaker," Richard Linklater stated at the beginning of the panel, "The Changing Face of Independent Film."

Independent Film has seen a real sea change in the last few years. As John Sloss pointed out, "It isn't that the people have lost interest in these types of movies. It isn't that piracy has become the norm. It isn't that DVD revenues have fallen off a cliff. For some reason, the studios have pulled out of the specialized business." Many studios have either downsized or eliminated their specialty divisions, choosing instead to focus on in-house productions. A lot of fingers were pointed at the studio system, who were accused of perverting the idea of what an independent film is:

Linklater: The culprit seems to be the studio's specialized divisions, who basically have taken a singular vision, an expression, and commodified it. Then [they] jacked it up, and it's gotten to a point where these films are getting $20 Million spent on them, and giving them specialized screenings. They've blotted out the possibility of pure independent film, and audiences finding independent films.

It used to be, "That's a cool little film, let's give it a go. If it makes $2 Million at the Box Office? Hey, congratulations! Big Success! Now, they're turning down all these wonderful films that can't make $20 Million. They have the mentality of , "We can't even bother!"

Linklater also lamented the loss of a current cultural dialogue that would raise the profile of smaller independent films:

Linklater: Even in my hometown (of Austin, TX), there have been four or five films from local filmmakers that I think, "20 years ago, this film would've gotten distribution, this film would've had a cultural impact. I'm thinking of Alex Holdridge's In Search of a Midnight Kiss. Wonderful movie! Where's the cultural impact? That's what I think we're missing right now.

I think we're living in very commercial times. It's just sad. Obviously, there's a graph going like, "Oh, there were commercial times where everyone cared about art." No, it's just been getting more and more commercial. I'm afraid. It used to be that you had films where it wasn't about commercial success, it was about what it was about, and what it meant to people. And it qualified to be part of a bigger cultural conversation that went on. Now, newspapers and magazines are like, "Should we cover this?" And they'll be like, "No. It's just a little film. It's not going to make a big impact."

Macaulay: What the crisis is is that of meaning and value to people, having them enter the broader cultural dialogue.

Peter Saraf, producer of Little Miss Sunshine took an issue to the demonization of the so-called "Indiewood" film, and those who irk a living from it:

Saraf: I kind of argue the idea that success is a bad thing. Maybe there's been an over-commodization and an overcommercialization of a lot of independent films. A lot of us have made a living, and that's not such a bad thing, to have a certain amount of commercial success. I think we're in danger of de-humanizing it.

I produced a movie that has often been identified as part of the problem, Little Miss Sunshine, and it's one of the films that have caused a lot of outsized expectations of what Independent Films should make. I went to every specialized division for years and begged them to invest, to co-finance to even just commit to distributing the movie. There may be a lot of things that we could point out and blame, but I don't think that success is such a bad thing.

Scott Macaulay and Ira Sachs reflected on the pitfalls of the relationships that Independent Films had with the studios:

Sachs: There was too much money, too many films being made. I think that a scarcity of capital would eliminate the films that shouldn't have been made anyway. Granted, we don't live in a perfectly economically efficient paradigm. But I do think the scarcity of capital, and I've observed this, is forcing everybody to sort of drill down and maybe go back and perfect what they're doing. It's allowing the quality films to still get made.

Macaulay: One good thing, I think, coming from this crisis is because the market is in some ways evaporating, is that some of the more pernicious effects of that market will hopefully go away, too. I think that a lot of us who got started in Independent Film were passionate, and then the business component came in, and sort of began to second guess the work, or think about the work in a certain way.

It's like, "Well, if I'm going to make a film that's going to be bought by one of these companies, it's got to be a little like this, or I might have to cast this type of person in it, or the screenplay should have these formal attributes, and in many cases, it made some great films. But there are tons of films that aren't so great, or films that should've been done in another way, or shoehorned it into the wrong form. Hopefully, these bad representatives of Independent Film will be gone.

The panelists see a silver lining in new technological developments, such as Video On Demand, but also mentioned how difficult it is to make money with On Demand and cable without the studio's pre-negotiated output deals. However, former specialized division employees have been setting up their own independent agencies to assist independent filmmakers with P&A and other services. No longer do studios and specialty divisions have "the secret sauce" that enables them to feel that they can get a movie out to the public better than the filmmaker can. Former New Line executive Russell Schwartz, for example, has set up a new company, Pandemic Marketing, to deal specifically with the marketing of movies. Panelists speculated that P&A may become an essential part of a movie's budget in the near future.

Linklater: I tell people now when they're trying to raise $250,000 to make their film, I tell them, "Raise another $150,000 for P&A, even if you end up doing it yourself."

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Frankel My Dear, She Really Gives a Damn!

The Actor’s Dialogue
Woodstock Film Festival
Sunday, October 4, 2008

Of Lucy Liu, John Ventimiglia and Vera Farmiga, which actor:
a) Received goat semen via Fedex to inseminate into his or her own goat with a straw…and also speaks Ukrainian?
b) Plays the ukulele with his or her child…and also speaks Sicilian?
c) Is unsure if his or her parents understand what he or she really does as a career…and also speaks Chinese?

Well, you’re just going to have to read on to find out… But how on earth did such revealing information ever make the light of day? The answer…Martha Frankel, the dastardly (in a good way) and charming (in a bad way) moderator of The Actor’s Dialogue…she is no James Lipton, and he is no Martha Frankel :)

But in all seriousness, and I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, Martha is just one of the best panel moderators I’ve ever had the great fortune to see lead a discussion with actors. She truly knows how to bring out the best and in some cases the most embarrassing moments in their lives and careers, but all with humor and humility. See examples from 2008 and 2007 to see what I mean, and just keep reading as I highlight some of the best moments of this year’s dialogue.


Martha Frankel - Contributor to "Details," "The New Yorker," "Redbook," "Cosmopolitan" and "The New York Times." She is also the author of the 2008 memoir "Hats & Eyeglasses: A Family Love Affair with Gambling."

Vera Farmiga – Award-winning actress in such films as “Down to the Bone,” “The Departed,” and “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.” Upcoming films include on Jason Reitman's “Up in the Air” starring George Clooney (playing at the Woodstock Film Festival) and Niki Caro’s “The Vintner's Luck.”

Lucy Liu – Film and television actress in such works as Ally McBeal, “Charlie’s Angels,” and “Kill Bill.” As both producer and narrator, Liu introduces her latest project at the Woodstock Film Festival, "Redlight," exposing and chronicling the tragedies and injustices of the international child-trafficking industry.

John Ventimiglia – Stage and screen actor. Played Artie Bucco in the hit HBO award-winning series "The Sopranos."

Below are highlights from the discussion.

Frankel: What did you have to learn from a film that you had never known before?

Ventimiglia: I had to learn how to bet on horses.

Frankel: I could have taught you that.

Liu: Any of the martial arts I had done or even the swordplay. It’s not something I grew up with at all. I had to learn all of it from the beginning in a very short period of time. It was very intensive training.

Farmiga: I think courage in general for most every part that I play. A highlight for me was wearing.. a corset while lip syncing and dancing to [a Sinead O’Connor song].

Frankel: Do you think there’s a difference between independent and studio films besides the money?

Liu: Absolutely. For independent films, you sort of treat it like a television schedule where it’s fast and furious…do a couple of takes and move on…Studio films, you work on a quarter of a page for days. There’s no luxury in independent filmmaking…Everyone teams up. It just becomes a group effort. There’s a different connection.

Ventimiglia: There’s a difference with the objective of studio films…Being at the awards ceremony last night and hearing the speeches and what people were talking about…searching for truth and community.

Farmiga: I’ve done mostly independent film. The few times that I was part of a studio picture…I was lucky enough to work with directors whose process is very similar. They are fiercely independent…I’m never made more aware of my appearance than doing studio pictures. They put such emphasis on the look and there’s so many opinions…that frustrates me a lot. What I rely most on is collaboration with my director.

Frankel: (Asks Liu to talk about her documentary “Red Light” that she narrated and produced about child sexploitation and that also played at the Woodstock Film Festival).

Liu: We follow some of the girls over a period of four years who had been basically sold into slavery and understand how (and why) that happened…Sometimes if there still in the brothel…and they have a child, become pregnant, they’ll usually take a child and that child becomes a part of the brothel as well…I think a lot of people have brought this to attention lately like the Clinton Global Initiative. They made an announcement last Friday about how violence against girls has got to end. It’s a priority for them now…A lot of people don’t know about it. It’s kind of shocking. They think of slavery as a time that’s already passed…Even in the United States, there’s an incredible sex trafficking business.

Frankel: (To Farmiga) Why don’t you tell us about "Up in the Air"?

Farmiga: It’s about a man (played by George Clooney) who actually lives his life up in the air and has a philosophy of being untethered…someone who’s hired by companies to fire people. His life’s mission is to collect 500 million frequent flyer points. His job is in jeopardy, and his company is being downsized, because a newcomer played by Anna Kendrick comes along and wants to revamp the program by firing people over the Internet.

Frankel: (To Ventimiglia) What are you working on…(and)…what was it like leaving the Sopranos after all those years…are they making a movie?

Ventimiglia: I just wrapped a film called “Ponies” by Nick Sandell…(on leaving the Sopranos)…I don’t make a big deal about it. Life goes on…I’ve developed a lot of great relationships..[on if a movie’s being made]…I doubt it.

Frankel: What are you working on next?

Liu: I’m working on an independent film..directed by Mexican filmmaker Ricardo Benet. It’s about a woman who’s a documentary filmmaker whose working on a film…it’s a romantic comedy…about why people kill themselves in the subway system…We’re shooting that in New York.

Farmiga: At the moment, I haven’t read anything that turns my head. I just finished shooting Up in the Air in April. I had my first costume fitting for that two weeks after giving birth. There’s a couple of things that may happen…but I just want to make time for cuddles with my son…I am trying to get one in development…creating my own projects…My husband just wrote his first screenplay. We each grew up with big families…It’s sort of inspired by our kooky families. It’s a story about a family coming together to mourn their grandmother’s death. It’s actually a comedy…I’m going to direct it.

Frankel: One of things I’ve read on the Internet…is that you don’t audition. You make your own little movie and send it in. Is that true?

Farmiga: (In 1999 after living in New York City’s East Village and then moving up to the Catskills)…I had a romantic association with this area. I was a professionally trained folk dancer. There was a Ukrainian resort…I had an attachment to this part of the world…This was right after I made a film called “15 Minutes”…and when I probably should have moved out to L.A… and there was a lot of energy coming my way, but it kind of freaked me out and I moved far away from it all, but it was a great vantage point, and I just love living here….It was easy enough to hop on the Metro North…and take an audition in the city, but I felt it was a better job then going into a casting director’s office…Often times the moment you walk into a room, the director has already made decisions about you…It allowed me to have fun with it and be more relaxed.

Frankel: [Asks Liu to talk about her work with UNICEF].

Liu: I’ve been an ambassador for UNICEF for the past five years. It has been really life changing…I don’t think I can go anywhere without having the memories or experiences I’ve had meeting children in situations outside of America and Europe. There’s poverty everywhere…There are cultural differences. My parents are from another country. They came over as immigrants. If you understand someone’s culture, you may not understand them, but you can respect it

Frankel: Are you a first generation American?

Liu: I am.

Farmiga: Yes.

Ventimiglia: Yes.

Liu: Do we all speak the language of our parents?

All: Yes.

Liu: Chinese.

Farmiga: Ukrainian.

Ventimiglia: Sicilian.

Frankel: When you read a script, tell me what script did you know immediately you had to do?

Liu: Lucky Number Sleven…At the time, the role was small, but I loved the script overall…There wasn’t a lot on the page for her…a perky blonde knocks on the door…They always leave the last name in so you know it wasn’t originally for somebody who’s Asian…Once I became attached to the script, he (the writer) started writing more for the character…It turned into a more, out-there, energetic, quirky girl.

Ventimiglia: A play that I did…the subject matter was horrible, but there was a real humanity…It was called “Stitching.” It’s been banned…When I was reading it, I felt emotion.

Farmiga: There always has to be some sort of something that turns my head. It’s character and storyline and not how much I’m getting paid or who’s attached or who the director is. I’ve had the best time working with first-time writer/directors.

Frankel: Has anyone here learned how to fire a gun?

Liu: A flame-thrower…Sometimes I take a role…because I don’t think I can do it, because it’s ridiculous…Maybe I should do it because I’m afraid of it…I don’t want to get comfortable doing the same thing over and over.

Farmiga: For me, there has to be an element of fear…challenging myself that way.

Ventimiglia: No matter what the role is, you have to have some sympathy…even someone who is easily judged as a horrible person, you have to find the humanity in them.

Liu: People come up to me and say, “You play such a great bitch.” I don’t feel that way….She’s honest and she’s direct.

Frankel: That’s what all bitches say…I’m kidding. I get called that a lot, too. But I’m not, I’m just being honest.

[Frankel opens the discussion to the audience for questions.]

Q: Why was “Stitching” banned?

Ventimiglia: Because it accepts abortion as part of someone’s life.

Q: What refuels you between roles?

Ventimiglia: I have kids. I cook for them…that refuels me constantly. I work on some of my own stuff. I’m writing a script right now. Mostly just living my life, trying to have a meaningful day or relationship with somebody.

Farmiga: Family. My child. My husband…I have to always be creative. Gardening is very important to me…Creating your own projects…I have goats…My Fedex guy just quit…You have these moments of frustration…We went online to GoatFinder.com [Yes people, it really exists]…we’re going to find the finest goat semen…I couldn’t find any proper suitors around here. We ordered it…We finally got the package, waited two weeks for it…got an email that said it was coming Fedex ground…It comes with this massive nitrogen tank with four straws, two for each goat…We went into the city, we left the nitrogen tanks at home…we put the straws in the freezer. The next morning, let’s see what comes next, and I think we might have compromised the integrity of it. The transfer is supposed to be a three-second transfer from the nitrogen tank into a deep freeze, not next to the Haagen Daz…and this is the stuff that just keeps me going.

Liu: I have an art studio in New York, and I’m in the process of putting together a book right no.

Q: In high school, what did you want to become?

Liu: When I was in 11th grade, I was totally lost…I was confused also because when I grew up, our family spoke Chinese, I started speaking English later…I was there, but I wasn’t there. And the fact that I got into Stuyvesant is a miracle, because it is an excellent school…I only started to understand more about life when I graduated high school and went to college…I left New York City. I left my family. For the first time, I was able to choose things on my own…when I had that freedom, I went crazy…Nothing made sense. It was sort of a goulash of education…You realize they (your parents) don’t have control over you anymore…That’s how I went into acting and that wasn’t even until after I graduated. It’s almost as if I had to give them what they wanted, which was my education, and then after that I could do whatever I want. Even then, they were not happy about it…Even we are working in our field, we’ve worked with great directors, we’ve done so much that we’re proud of, but at the same time, we still feel lost. We don’t know what’s next sometimes.

[An audience member mentions that Ventimiglia plays Ukulele.]

Ventimiglia: My daughter came to me recently and wanted to learn how to play the ukulele.

Frankel: How does he (the audience member) know that?

Guy in audience: No, there’s a film in the festival called The Mighty Uke.

Farmiga: To me, that means the Mighty Ukrainian.

[Ventimiglia puts his iPhone next to the mic and plays a song on it that has the ukulele.]

Frankel: I love this panel. You couldn’t make this stuff up.

Q: (To Liu) Are your parents proud of you now?

Liu: I’m not sure.

Frankel: You’re being honest?

Liu: I’m being totally honest… I don’t think they know exactly what it is I do. But I think they still think that I can take care of myself…It’s hard to explain, it’s a very different culture…They try to give me advice now on how to make my meals…It’s hard to know when to open up to that. For me, it’s safer to continue on with the way I’m going, and invite them to the premieres…sometimes it’s kind of racy stuff…I’d like to say yes, but I can’t.

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Friday, October 09, 2009

Woodstock Film Festival - Film Criticism & Journalism - Oct. 3, 2009

Film Criticism & Journalism
Woodstock Film Festival
Saturday, October 3, 2009

Is the issue of where film criticism and journalism going still an important and relevant topic? Absolutely. Should it be constantly beat over the head with a stick? Not necessarily, as there are lots of other interesting topics that could be explored on a panel discussion. Some of the usual suspects and a few new ones made up what could have been yet another tedious panel, however Aaron Hillis’ questions brought up even more questions and points from the panelists themselves offering a bit of a healthy and professional debate, and lots of underlining in my notebook, so this was one of the best film criticism and journalism panels The Film Panel Notetaker has covered. Please enjoy highlights of this discussion below.

Aaron Hillis – Editor of “GreenCine Daily,” and writer for the “Village Voice” and “LA Weekly” among others. He is also the Vice-President of Benten Films.

Godfrey Cheshire – Filmmaker (“Moving Midway”) and film critic
Owen Gleiberman – Movie critic for "Entertainment Weekly”
Karen Durbin – Film critic for “Elle” Magazine
Eric Kohn - Freelance film critic and entertainment journalist
Karina Longworth – Editor “SpoutBlog”

Hillis started by asking everyone how they got into film criticism:

- For Cheshire, he started writing for an alternative paper in Raleigh, NC, then moved to New York City where he worked for The New York Press, which he said was good back them, and he won’t make that claim now. Now Cheshire is making films, and still writes a column in the monthly North Carolina Metro Magazine.

- Gleiberman has been a critic with Entertainment Weekly since its inception in 1990. Before that, he wrote music reviews in his college paper in Michigan. He found it difficult to write words about music, and easier for the visual medium of film. He landed his first job at the Boston Phoenix, noting that a lot of great film critics came out of the Boston scene such as David Denby. In the last two months, Gleiberman has become an online blogger in addition to his print duties at EW.

- Durbin said one of her first jobs was as the politics editor of The Village Voice in the early 1970s. She was involved with the Women’s Liberation Movement, and wrote essays from the feminist perspective. She took over the film section in 1980 and tried to make the film section a more collaborative process with then Voice critic Andrew Sarris. Durbin brought in critic J. Hoberman, who eventually became the paper’s lead critic. In 1989, she was invited to be the Arts editor of Mirabella Magazine until the publication went under in 2000, and she was later hired at Elle Magazine, which never had a film critic before.

- Hillis said he works between print and online. One of his first gigs was writing for Premiere Magazine. He points out that it’s interesting that there are people now who only write professionally online.

- Kohn said he grew up in Seattle, WA., and went to NYU for Cinema Studies. He writes for indieWIRE, New York Press, and other places as a reporter and critic. He mentioned that despite so many writers/critics struggling to make ends meet, there are so many options now.

- Longworth who grew up in Los Angeles, was interested in film by default and wanted to be an actress until she discovered punk rock. She would read magazines like EW and Premier, and would even writes book reports about them to her dad. She went to art school and thought she’d be making films. One day in a bar in the East Village, she met a guy who asked her if she’d write for a new film site called Cinematical, where she became the editor, until it was bought by AOL. She went to SXSW and wrote down lists of companies that didn’t have a film blog, and approached one, Spout, where she works now.

Hillis said that for better or worse, film critics are cultural gatekeepers. The big change came when the Internet came about and anyone could put their opinion out there, and who’s to say their opinion is more or less valid. Film critics are just opinions or voice boxes. Does anyone agree? Gleiberman disagrees that the big change was with web critics. Any critic who writes well about films, he’s excited to read, but there is a sense of fragmentation, not just within film criticism, but everywhere, ie. arts criticism, political writing, etc. Gleiberman said he gets asked a lot of it’s if his craft is threatened in some way? Maybe yes, he answered. But there was a version of this question he would get asked even before the Internet, is film criticism threatened by the nature of the movies themselves…movies like Transformers or chick flicks or movies touting consumer products?

So, are critics really relevant in that kind of landscape, Gleiberman asks? His answer – maybe not. If that’s true, that’s because the movies themselves are becoming less relevant. More big and noisy, but less relevant as art. But he also said a movie doesn’t have to be a piece of art to make film criticism relevant. He said what’s more threatening is that they are all struggling to write meaningful pieces about a popular art form…the middle ground of movies that are really terrific and popular at the same time is fading.

Durbin said she doesn’t entirely agree. Even though Elle Magazine is a long-lead publication, she still goes to festivals and looks for indie movies to write about. She reviews five or six movies a month, because of this timeline, there are all these movies she can ignore. She can’t write about films she doesn’t like, because she only has two pages, unless there’s something morally outrageous. She points out that Gleiberman’s favorite movie at the Toronto Film Festival was Up in the Air (which was also the closing night film of the Woodstock Film Festival). Gleiberman said that we’re in a moment now where it’s going to be harder to make movies like Up in the Air, but when they come out and they’re as good as this, it’s their jobs as critics to write about these movies with a certain depth. That is the purpose of criticism.

Kohn debated Gleiberman’s question of whether movies are becoming less relevant, saying this isn’t quite as new as Gleiberman portrays. Kohn referred to a panel discussion he saw that Durbin was on a few years back that then The Reeler editor, now with Movieline, S.T. Van Airsdale moderated, who asked could a film that was shown on something like YouTube qualify to be in a critic’s top 10 films of the year list? This year, when he compiles his top 10 list, Kohn will put a movie on it that was posted on YouTube called Sita Sings the Blues. Kohn said it’s harder for voices to stick out, but only within this “pre-existing hierarchy.” Online critics especially are leaving that tower. The art form is surviving, but we have to look in the right places for them.

Hillis moved the discussion to the bloggers, who don’t have the space limitations that print critics do in newspapers and magazines. Is there a new role for the film critic online? Longworth said films like Transformers or even Up in the Air don’t really need her at all, because people will go to see them no matter what. What she tries as much as possible to do is write about movies that do need her. Her job is not just to review what’s out there, but she’s made it her thing to find things that people don’t know about, or if they do know about them, why they care about them. Kohn said that film criticism could be expressed in many ways. If you’re a reporter, you can advocate film and express criticism in that way. Being a film festival programmer is also a unique way of selecting a film you think is good.

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Woodstock Film Festival - "Eyes Wide Open" Q&A - Oct. 3, 2009

“Eyes Wide Open”
Q&A with Director Haim Tabakman
Woodstock Film Festival
October 3, 2009

“Eyes Wide Open” is a beautiful and sensitive film set and made in Israel about a ultra-Orthodox man, married with children, who inherits his father’s butcher shop. His life becomes complicated when he meets a drifter, a young man who was kicked out of the Yeshiva, and the two secretly fall in love. The film never judges any of the characters, but shows both sides of how this forbidden and adulterous relationship organically develops, and the consequences they face once rumors begin to spread, ultimately leaving the butcher to make a choice between family/tradition and true love.

Director Haim Tabakman spoke after the screening for a Q&A. When asked if he had any problems getting authorizations to shoot the film within the ultra-Orthodox community, Tabakman said it’s a problem to shoot any kind of movie, not just this one. So much of it was sort of shot guerrilla style. His director of photography had a lot of experience working in documentaries.

Did Tabakman consult with any religious people to get their points of view? He said it was really important for him to be respectful to everyone. His goal was to look for things he knew in his own life and do research. He said it’s interesting to him that everyone has his or her own justifications, and there is no right or wrong.

He was also asked about why the film ended the way it did. I will not spoil the ending of the film here, but will point out that Tabakman said that for the butcher’s character, sexual identification is equal to the way religious life gave him meaning. It is the only way he can make his life meaningful. For the rest, you’ll just have to see the film when it comes your way.

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Woodstock Film Festival - "Children of Invention" Q&A - Oct. 3, 2009

“Children of Invention”
Q&A with Director Tze Chun, Cast & Crew
Woodstock Film Festival
October 3, 2009

CHILDREN OF INVENTION HD Trailer #1 from Children of Invention on Vimeo.

The second half of “Children of Invention,” Tze Chun’s touching drama about two inventive Asian-American children, older brother Raymond (played by Michael Chen) and younger sister Tina (played by Crystal Chiu), who must take care of themselves after their mother disappears after her involvement in pyramid scheme, received great applause from the audience after its screening at the Woodstock Film Festival. I missed the first half of the film (as indicated in my previous post), so I hope that I will soon be able to watch it in its entirety. By the way, “Children of Invention” received the festival’s James Lyons Award Honorable Mention for Best Editing of a Feature Narrative to editor Anna Boden (“Half Nelson,” “Sugar”).

Others who came up for the Q&A, in addition to Chun, included producer Mynette Louie, actor Michael Chen, composer Todd Griffin, and Peter Brogna, the filmmaker whose short, “A Lot of Chocolate” played before “Children of Invention.” The Q&A was lead by Lincoln Blogs’ Michael Lerman, who threw out the first question to director Chun, how autobiographical is the film? Chun said between the ages of eight and 14, he spent a lot of time going around to pyramid scheme seminars with his mom and little sister. While there are some personal aspects of his life in the film, a lot of it is fabricated. His mom is very loving. After a screening of the film in Dallas recently, a woman came up to him and offered him to be a part of her pyramid scheme.

An audience member asked Chun how he found the two child actors, and what was it like to work with them? For his previous short film “Windowbreaker,” he and producer Louie went to Chinese schools to find kids, but for “Children of Invention,” a much more scripted and demanding film, looked at 250 kids from various Chinese schools in New York, but they couldn’t find anybody. With luck, a friend of his who was casting a scene for Transformers 2, showed them the audition tapes with Chen and Chiu who are innocently eating ice cream in front of a green screen, until a giant robot appears. Their reaction was so genuine, so they brought them in. He said they thought they would improvise a lot of the movie, but the two actors had memorized the entire script on the first day of shooting. They even changed the way they filmed the movie based around these actors. They really wanted to showcase them. There are longer takes and whole pages of dialogue where they’re just walking around.

When asked if “Children of Invention” will be receiving a commercial release, Chun said there might be a limited self-release in New York and Boston. Louie said they actually have been selling the DVD while they’ve been on the festival circuit, and they’re really happy they decided to do this, because they’ve basically doubled the advance that any of their friends films.

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“Children” Cut in Half by Amazing Women in Film

Amazing Women in Film
Woodstock Film Festival
October 3, 2009

I know the headline for this blog sounds a little macabre and something you might see in Weekly Weird News, but it’s just a pun for saying that I watched half of Tze Chun’s “Children of Invention” and half of the panel, Amazing Women in Film. How is that even so? Well, the Woodstock Film Festival has such an amazing array of both films and panel discussions that it was so hard to choose between what to see and what to do. I had originally anticipated seeing “Children of Invention,” which started during the panel’s timeslot. On my way to see the film, I ran into a festival press rep that wondered why I wasn’t at Amazing Women in Film, because Uma Thurman (who was in Woodstock for her new film "Motherhood") and Mira Nair had been added to the panel at the last minute. I was torn. So like King Solomon in that story in the Bible (which I don’t exactly remember the whole story), I was presented with the offer to cut the child in half, just like the mother in the story, except the mother begged the king not to cut her child in half, and I actually ended up cutting both “children” in half…in a way…I guess...which makes me a horrible mother. The point is, I saw the last half of Amazing Women in Film, and then because that cut into "Children of Invention"’s timeslot, I got the see the last half of “Children of Invention,” which by the way, I loved, and also stayed after for the Q&A (notes coming soon)…and Tze, if you’re reading this, I hope to see your film in its entirety really soon. In the mean time, below you will find some highlights of my notes from the second half of Amazing Women in Film. (As a result of this panel, I really want to go see Mira Nair’s new film “Amelia”).

Thelma Adams

Marian Koltai-Levine
Pamela Koffler
Katherine Dieckmann
Uma Thurman
Signe Baumane
Barbara Hammer
Mira Nair

Adams mentioned that the Sandra Bullock film “The Proposal” was number 10 at the box office this year so far, and has grossed $286 million worldwide. This isn’t necessarily a validation for women dominating the box office, but an interesting figure, she pointed out. Koltai-Levine said there are opportunities out there for women, but it’s a re-tooling. Ancillary markets will support theatrical. If a film breaks even, then it’s ahead of the game.

Nair talked about her latest film she just completed, “Amelia,” starring Hilary Swank. It will be released on between approximately 1,800-2,000 screens. She said this is not an over-the-top women’s movie. It’s a full-on action/adventure about Amelia Earhart’s life through her final flight. Nair questioned, what is a film about a woman? Can these films make money at the box office? Her film is about a woman who balances her life on a see-saw. In Nair’s version, Amelia is the beloved and her husband is the lover, which would probably be reversed in most other films. The film is marketed like an action/adventure, like Out of Africa. It’s a very organic film with that epic sweep. Nair said she was intrigued by Earhart’s goofy humility. She just wanted to be flying. People don’t know how to be humble. Nair likes the idea that a young girl can dream it and actually do it.

When the panel was open to questions from the audience, one question was about the feminine journey. Is it different than the hero’s journey? Dieckmann, the director of “Motherhood” (that was part of the Woodstock Film Festival) starring Thurman, said she’s more interested in the internal complexity of a character. It’s not necessarily a gender thing. Thurman asked how does one dramatize an internal battle? Adams recalled a scene in “Motherhood” where Thurman’s character becomes ecstatic when she connects with who she was when she was 18. Through this external action, you see an internal struggle. Dieckmann said one of her favorite performances of Thurman’s was in Nair’s film “Hysterical Blindness.” She loved the moments of patience watching an emotion happen. Nair said an actor has to be brave enough to be absolutely raw. That’s what she was going for. It’s a simple story of a woman looking for love in all the wrong places. Nair said Thurman had to create the ability to be truthful and honest. Thurman said that both Nair and Dieckmann are two of some of the only female directors she’s ever worked with. She added that it’s difficult for a male director to tell a woman what he wants for the woman. They still can’t help to objectify a woman.

Another question asked was if there are any plusses or minuses working for a studio versus an independent? Nair said that a director has to have conviction or purpose and a point of view. She said you have to have a heart like gossamer, but your skin has to be elephant tight when working with the studios. She said you have to dance with them, and to pick your battles. Thurman reminisced about when she worked on Stephen Frears’ “Dangerous Liasons.” Frears told her, “Always say yes!”

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Monday, October 05, 2009

What is "2B" in the future?

This may be one of the most unique film panels assembled in recent history, but how will it measure up to the future? Well, that was sort of the question debated in this very interesting and informative discussion. In conjunction with the World Premiere of Richard Kroehling’s science fiction feature film 2B at the Woodstock Film Festival (that played later on that evening where Kroehling and actor Kevin Corrigan appeared for a post-screening Q&A), leading experts, authors, and scholars in the fields of technology and science weighed in on the probability or lack thereof of the existence of “transhumanism” (virtual eternal life) in the future.

2B Summary:
New York, soon. Technology’s exponential growth is fast and furious. Human life is in the process of being transformed. Mankind stands on the verge of re-engineering its biology—merging with the incredibly intelligent machines it has created. Mia 2.0 (Jane Kim), the world’s first ‘Transbeman’ and her inventor, the eccentric Dr. Tom Mortlake (James Remar), conduct a bold political experiment designed to prove that human reliance on the fragile flesh body is over and ‘eternal life’ is at hand. [The film also stars Kevin Corrigan (Harmony and Me) as the unauthorized biographer of Mortlake and Florencia Lozano (One Life to Live) as the detective trying to capture Mia 2.0.]

Moderator: James J. Hughes, Ph.D. Associate Director of Institutional Research and Planning at Trinity College in Hartford

Martine Rothblatt – Ph.D, MBA, lawyer, author and entrepreneur.

Ray Kurzweil – One of the world’s leading inventors, thinkers and futurists, with a twenty-year track record of accurate predictions.

Wendell Wallach – Lecturer and consultant at Yale University's Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics.

Below is a summary of the highlights of this discussion.

Hughes asked Rothblatt to talk about the notion of cyber consciousness, to which she replied that for her, it had its roots with both Hughes and Kurzweil. In 2001, she received a copy of Kurzweil’s book, The Age of Spiritual Machines. It hadn’t occurred to her why the word “spiritual” could be juxtaposed next to the word “machines,” but she became convinced after reading his book that machines could and would become spiritual. At that point, she decided that there was a secular vision of utopia that to her was tangible and realistic. A few years later, she came across the World Transhumanist Association, which is dedicated to building a popular social movement. She said that cyber consciousness in a nutshell is the consciousness that everyone feels in their minds, but it’s based in software and computer circuitry. Reflecting on the idea of putting together facts or pieces of our lives in such a search engine approach, Rothblatt said if one were to create a copy of one’s consciousness, it’s possible to do that by having in a software form, a robust inventory of your most important memories and feelings. She believes we’re approximately 10-30 years aware from developing what she calls MindWare, a software that will think the same way a human being thinks.

Hughes, a Buddhist, said that in Buddhism there is a notion of self, which resonates in an aspect of this discussion. Hughes went onto ask Kurzweil about this idea of singularity. But first Kurzweil reminisced about his days at MIT when everyone had to share one computer, which have vastly improved since then. He said this is not an episodic phenomena, and actually very predictable. The world changes quickly, and we can anticipate where it’s going. The underlying properties of information technology has predictable trajectories, but some people are startled by his visions and projections of the future, one of which he said is the most important revolution that is coming, that being artificial intelligence. He said it’s not going to be an alien invasion of intelligent beings to compete with, but will extend who we are. There are cyborgs walking around today with computers in their brains, such as Parkinson’s patients. This technology will be a billion times more powerful in 25 years. Kurzweil said that we are a pattern of information in our brains, but it’s not being backed up. People might question about putting a computer inside of our brains, would that be really a part of ourselves? Some Parkinson’s patients with computers in their brains now feel that it has become a part of them. He reminded us that these developments are at an early stage, and they’re going to develop at an exponential pace, and so he feels by 2029, a computer will match human intelligence.

But what of the skeptics? Hughes asked Wallach, whom he called a “friendly” skeptic of the timeline, to share his point of view. Wallach said he’s skeptical because no one has convinced him yet what the progression will be. He’s also confused how the term “singularity” is used. He said there’s no question that a computer can do all kinds of things he cannot do. But looking at other aspects of intelligence, the surface hasn’t even been scraped. Things like consciousness or emotion that are important to human intelligence, it’s not clear that there with the kinds of technologies being developed. When he talks about his skepticism, he talks about it in three different terms: complexity, thresholds and ethical challenges. The complexities are being downplayed a little bit, creating a tight deadline. There may be some wishful thinking and pitfalls. His main concern is how we’re going to navigate these technologies. There are also an enumerable amount of technological thresholds that need to be crossed. And with the societal and ethological challenges, he said science doesn’t develop on its own. He thinks that we still have some ability to make concrete decisions about which pathways are dangerous to go down. Another issue encountered is that some technologies today aren’t getting funded. They are plausible, but unless there are resources being putting into them, they won’t pass quickly.

Speaking of funding, Hughes moved on from the fundamentals previously discussed to the plot of 2B, a science fiction film that deals with the legal status of an electronic version of our personality with a protagonist who is really rich. Hughes asked, what do we need to do to prepare for the prospect over this conflict of inequality? Rothblatt said that the point of view that would be taken by virtually everybody in society is that once they are persuaded that cyber conscious beings value their life, that life will be respected. The value of a life is the value shown by that life. Rothblatt also thinks that Kurzweil has demonstrated that the great thing about technological advances is that there is a corresponding democratization of the access to it, alluding to the rise in popularity and use of cell phones. Kurzweil added that 20 years ago, it was wealthy, rich guys who could only afford to have a cell phone. He said there is a 50% deflation rate in information technology. These technologies start out unaffordable, but they don’t work very well.

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Woodstock Film Festival Hands Out Awards During 10th Anniversary

Woodstock Film Festival held another impressive showing of films and panel discussions in the artistic hamlet of Woodstock, NY, in the Catskills, during the festival’s 10th anniversary. Notes from panel discussions and filmmaker Q&As will be posted in the coming days.

Awards were handed out Saturday night during a ceremony at Backstage Studio Productions not far away in Kingston, NY. Giancarolo Esposito MC’d the event, giving kudos not only to Meira Blaustein, one of the festival’s founders, but also to the rest of the staff and to independent film as a whole, so in a way, everyone in attendance received accolades.

But the biggest prizes of the evening were handed out not only to the best films and honorable mentions at the festival, but also to two luminaries in the business – First to producer Ted Hope, who received the Honorary Trailblazer Award, and second to filmmaker Richard Linklater, who received the Honorary Maverick Award, handed to him by six-time star of his films, actor Ethan Hawke.

Below is a list of all of the Woodstock Film Festival awards winners. Congratulations!

- The Lee Marvin BEST FEATURE NARRATIVE AWARD: DON’T LET ME DROWN, directed by Cruz Angeles. DON’T LET ME DROWN tells the story of a blossoming friendship between two New York City high school students whose immigrant families must endure turmoil just after 9/11. (This marks Angeles’ second triumph at the Woodstock Film Festival. In 2003, he garnered top honors for Best Student Short Film with THE SHOW.)

- The Maverick Award for BEST FEATURE DOCUMENTARY: JUNIOR, directed by Jenna Rosher. JUNIOR chronicles the life of Eddie Belasco, a 75-year-old San Francisco native with a classic Italian-American upbringing who is now facing his future as a retiree.

- The Maverick Award for BEST ANIMATION: THE TERRIBLE THING OF ALPHA-9! (animator Jake Armstrong), presented by animators Signe Baumane and Bill Plympton. Honorable mention to DIVERS by Paris Mavroidis.

- The Diane Seligman Award for BEST SHORT NARRATIVE: ADELAIDE, directed by Liliana Greenfield-Sanders, with an HONORABLE MENTION to MIRACLE FISH directed by Luke Doolan.

- The Diane Seligman Award for BEST STUDENT SHORT FILM: PINHAS directed by Pini Tavger, with an HONORABLE MENTION to THE 4th OF JULY PARADE directed by Miranda Rhyne.

- The Haskell Wexler Award for BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Juan Carlos Rulfo, THOSE WHO REMAIN (LOS QUE SE QUESDAN), directed by Carlos Hagerman and Juan Carlos Rulfo. The award was presented by cinematographer Michael Simmonds.

- James Lyons Award for BEST EDITING of a FEATURE NARRATIVE: Andrew Hafitz for his work on DON’T LET ME DROWN, directed by Cruz Angeles, with an HONORABLE MENTION to Anna Boden for her work on CHILDREN OF INVENTION, directed by Tze Chun.

- James Lyons Award for BEST EDITING of a FEATURE DOCUMENTARY: Kate Hirson and Jessica Reynolds for their work on GARBAGE DREAMS, directed by Mai Iskander.

- The James Lyons Awards for BEST EDITING were presented by accomplished filmmakers Sabine Hoffman and Craig McKay.

- HONORARY TRAILBLAZER AWARD: Producer Ted Hope. Presented by Geoff Gilmore, chief creative officer at Tribeca Enterprises and one of today’s biggest champions of independent filmmakers (award previously announced).

- HONORARY MAVERICK AWARD: Writer and director Richard Linklater. Award presented by his longtime colleague, collaborator and friend, actor/director Ethan Hawke (award previously announced).

And today, these Audience Awards were announced:

First Place went to DEAR LEMON LIMA, directed by Suzi Yoonessi
Second place went to DON'T LET ME DROWN , directed by Cruz Angeles
Third place went to HARLEM ARIA, directed by William Jennings

First Place went to AFTER THE STORM, directed by Hilla Medalia
Second place went to MIGHTY UKE, directed by Tony Coleman
Third place went to WILLIAM KUNSTLER: DISTURBING THE UNIVERSE, directed by Emily Kunstler & Sarah Kunstler