g The Film Panel Notetaker: December 2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Roundtable to Discuss Interfaith Issues in Documentary, "Waiting For Armageddon"

In conjunction with First Run Features’ January 8, 2010 theatrical release at New York’s Cinema Village of “Waiting for Armageddon,” a documentary by award-winning filmmakers, David Heilbroner, Kate Davis and Franco Sacchi, a special interfaith round table discussion will be held on January 7 from 6:30pm-8:00pm at the Puck Building’s Rudin Auditorium (295 Lafayette Street).  The discussion is free and open to the public, though seating is limited. RSVP to Pamela Cohn at pfunknmrk at yahoo dot com.

The event is being co-hosted by the Berman Jewish Policy Archives at NYU and the Research Center on Leadership in Action at NYU’s Wagner Center and outreach funder, The Fledgling Fund will host a reception with support from the Foundation for Jewish Culture.

During the roundtable, brief clips of the film will be shown followed by a panel discussion moderated by Michelle Goldberg, journalist and author, Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism and The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power and the Future of the World. Other panelists include David M. Elcott, Taub Professor of Practice and Public Service and Leadership, Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, Richard Cizik, past President of the National Association of Evangelicals, and Rabbi Justus N. Baird, Director of the Center for Multifaith Education at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City.

A Note from Filmmaker David Heilbroner:
"In the past forty years, the Evangelical belief system known as "Armageddon theology" has become a powerful political force in America—a theology which requires, among other things, the destruction of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and global warfare before Jesus can usher in a new, perfect world. To many non-Evangelicals, it appears as if this theology has been used to embrace and even justify war in the Middle East and an unquestioning support for the nation of Israel, all in the name of fulfilling Bible prophesy. With religious extremism and intolerance fueling so many international conflicts, frank discussion of these issues will hopefully help create a deeper understanding of the dangers inherent in pursuing political goals under a banner of religion, and ideally serve as a cautionary lesson to those who feel that "all is justified" when they pursue their God's plan."

“Waiting for Armageddon” explores the culture of 50 million American Evangelicals who believe that Bible prophecy dictates the future of mankind and that Israel and the Jewish people play pivotal roles in ensuring Christ’s return. The film raises questions regarding how this theology shapes U.S.- Middle East relations and how it may even encourage an international holy war. Using intimate portraits and archival footage to explore how literal belief in Biblical prophecy exerts a dangerous influence on U.S. relations in the Middle East, “Waiting for Armageddon” tells its story through the eyes of three evangelical families who are certain that upon Christ's Second Coming they will be “raptured” or lifted into the skies to join Christ while the rest of humanity suffers for seven years during “The Tribulation.”
The film then follows a Christian Study Tour group to Israel – among the tens of thousands of Evangelicals who pour into the Holy Land each year. A controversial, potentially explosive relationship between Christian Evangelicals, Jews, and Muslims emerges.

Directors Kate Davis, David Heilbroner and Franco Sacchi have been making award-winning documentaries for 15 years. Davis won more than 25 awards for “Southern Comfort,” including the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, and she also won an Emmy for Outstanding Directing for Nonfiction Programming for “Jockey.” Heilbroner has made over a dozen films on social justice issues, and Franco Sacchi's recent film “This is Nollywood” was released worldwide.

Other Films from First Run Features:

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tribeca Cinemas Presents Docs on the Shortlist

If you’re in New York on January 8th and 9th and you haven’t yet seen any of the feature documentaries on the Academy Award® Shortlist, you will have the chance to see six of them when “Tribeca Cinemas Presents: Docs on the Shortlist” hosted by Tribeca Film Institute’s Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund. Of the six films screenings, I have seen “Which Way Home,” a beautiful and heartbreaking film by Rebecca Cammisa that premiered at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival. Rebecca will be doing a Q&A after the screening. And you may recall A.M. Peters’ notes from the “Under Our Skin” screening and panel discussion during the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival. It was one of our most popular posts of that year, and is also one of the six films showing in the Shortlist series. Please take the opportunity to go see all of these films if you can. You’ll be in the “know” come Oscar time. For more information on this series, see below press release.

"Which Way Home" - Photo Courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival.

December 16, 2009 – New York, NY - Tribeca Cinemas announces the return of the two-day series “Tribeca Cinemas Presents: Docs on the Shortlist.” Curated by the Tribeca Film Festival programming team, the series offers filmgoers the opportunity to see a selection of the documentary contenders shortlisted for the nomination for Best Feature Documentary for the 82nd Academy Awards®. Docs on the Shortlist is hosted by the Tribeca Film Institute’s Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund, which offers finishing funds to documentaries of social significance.

Launching on Friday, January 8, and continuing Saturday, January 9, the two-day series brings together filmmakers who have been involved with previous editions of the Tribeca Film Festival to screen their new documentary films, which are currently being recognized by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Six of the 15 documentaries under consideration for nomination will be screened; the films in the series are: The Cove, Food, Inc., Living in Emergency, Soundtrack for a Revolution, Under Our Skin, and Which Way Home.

“We are always looking for ways Tribeca can further support our filmmakers and this series highlights our commitment to documentary film,” said Nancy Schafer of Tribeca Enterprises. “We are looking forward to bringing some of the documentaries the Academy has recognized to our neighborhood.”

Submissions for the Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund, offering finishing funds of $100,000 for 2010, close on January 11, 2010. www.tribecafilminstitute.org/documentary

Tickets: Tickets go on sale December 16, 2009. Admission for each film screening is $10 for regular tickets; $8 for members of the Guilds (PGA, DGA, WGA and SAG), members of BAFTA East Coast, DocuClub, IDA, IFP, and/or Shooting People with a valid membership card and full-time students with current I.D.; free for Academy Members.

Public Information:

Tribeca Cinemas, 54 Varick Street (corner of Laight), New York, NY 10013

The public may call 212/941.2001 for further information. Visit us on the Web at www.tribecafilm.com/docseries

Subway: A, C, E – Canal Street/6 Avenue; 1 – Canal Street/Varick Street


Friday January 8


Which Way Home, directed by Rebecca Cammisa

Running time: 82 minutes

Director Rebecca Cammisa will be in attendance for a post-screening discussion.

As the United States continues to build a wall between itself and Mexico, Which Way Home shows the personal side of immigration through the eyes of children who face harrowing dangers with enormous courage and resourcefulness as they endeavor to make it to the United States.

The film follows several unaccompanied child migrants as they journey through Mexico en route to the U.S. on a freight train they call “The Beast .“ Director Rebecca Cammisa (Sister Helen) tracks the stories of children like Olga and Freddy, nine-year old Hondurans who are desperately trying to reach their families in Minnesota, and Jose, a ten-year-old El Salvadoran who has been abandoned by smugglers and ends up alone in a Mexican detention center; and focuses on Kevin, a canny, streetwise 14-year-old Honduran whose mother hopes that he will reach New York City and send money back to his family. These are stories of hope and courage, disappointment and sorrow. They are the ones you never hear about – the invisible ones.

Courtesy of HBO. World Premiered at Tribeca Film Festival.


Food, Inc., directed by Robert Kenner

Running time: 93 minutes

In Food, Inc., filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation's food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that's been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government's regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. Our nation's food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers, and our own environment. We have bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork chop, insecticide-resistant soybean seeds, even tomatoes that won't go bad, but we also have new strains of e coli – the harmful bacteria that causes illness for an estimated 73,000 Americans annually. We are riddled with widespread obesity, particularly among children, and an epidemic level of diabetes among adults.

Featuring interviews with such experts as Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), Michael Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma) along with forward thinking social entrepreneurs like Stonyfield Farms' Gary Hirshberg and Polyface Farms' Joe Salatin, Food, Inc. reveals surprising – and often shocking – truths about what we eat, how it's produced, who we have become as a nation, and where we are going from here.

Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures. World Premiered at Toronto International Film Festival.

Saturday January 9


Living in Emergency, directed by Mark Hopkins

Running time: 93 minutes

Bosnia. Rwanda. Kosovo. Sierra Leone. Pakistan. Just a few of the world’s humanitarian and political crises in the past years. Whether the result of war or nature, these disasters devastate populations and cripple health systems. Despite the immense dangers and difficulties of the work, one organization, Doctors Without Borders, has continuously intervened at these frontlines of overwhelming human need.

Set in war-torn Congo and post-conflict Liberia, Living in Emergency interweaves the stories of four volunteers with Doctors Without Borders as they struggle to provide emergency medical care under the most extreme conditions.

Two volunteers are new recruits: a 26 year-old Australian doctor stranded in a remote bush clinic and an American surgeon struggling to cope under the load of emergency cases in a shattered capital city. Two others are experienced field hands: a dynamic Head of Mission, valiantly trying to keep morale high and tensions under control, and an exhausted veteran, who has seen too much horror and wants out.

Amidst the chaos, each volunteer must confront the severe challenges of the work, the tough choices, and the limits of their own idealism.

World Premiered at Venice Film Festival.


Soundtrack for a Revolution, directed Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman

Running time: 81 minutes

SOUNDTRACK FOR A REVOLUTION tells the story of the American civil rights movement through its powerful music -the freedom songs protesters sang on picket lines, in mass meetings, in paddy wagons, and in jail cells as they fought for justice and equality.

The film features new performances of the freedom songs by top artists, including John Legend, Joss Stone, Wyclef Jean, and The Roots; riveting archival footage; and interviews with civil rights foot soldiers and leaders, including Congressman John Lewis, Harry Belafonte, Julian Bond, and Ambassador Andrew Young.

The freedom songs evolved from slave chants, from the labor movement, and especially from the black church. The music enabled blacks to sing words they could not say, and it was crucial in helping the protesters as they faced down brutal aggression with dignity and non-violence. The infectious energy of the songs swept people up and empowered them to fight for their rights.

SOUNDTRACK FOR A REVOLUTION celebrates the vitality of this music. Directed by Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman (Nanking), and executive produced by Danny Glover, SOUNDTRACK FOR A REVOLUTION is a vibrant blend of heart-wrenching interviews, dramatic images, and thrilling contemporary performances -- a film of significance, energy, and power.

World Premiered at Tribeca Film Festival.


The Cove, directed by Louie Psihoyos

Running time: 92 minutes

Director Louie Psihoyos will be in attendance for a post-screening discussion.

In the 1960's, Richard O'Barry was the world’s leading authority on dolphin training, working on the set of the popular television program Flipper. Day in and day out, O'Barry kept the dolphins working and television audiences smiling. But one day, that all came to an end. The Cove, directed by Louie Psihoyos, tells the amazing true story of how Psihoyos, O'Barry and an elite team of activists, filmmakers and freedivers embarked on a covert mission to penetrate a hidden cove in Japan, shining light on a dark and deadly secret. The mysteries they uncovered were only the tip of the iceberg.

Courtesy of Roadside Attractions. World Premiered at Sundance Film Festival.


Under Our Skin, directed by Andy Abrahams Wilson

Running time: 103 minutes

A gripping tale of microbes, medicine and money, Under Our Skin exposes the hidden story of Lyme disease, one of the most controversial and fastest growing epidemics of our time.

Each year thousands go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, told that their symptoms are "all in their head." Following the stories of patients and physicians fighting for their lives and livelihoods, the film brings into focus a haunting picture of the healthcare system and a medical establishment all too willing to put profits ahead of patients.

World Premiered at Tribeca Film Festival.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Harmony & Me @ the Dryden Theatre, December 4, 2009

L-R: Jim Healy, Bob Byington, and Kevin Corrigan

Harmony & Me
December 4, 2009 at 8:00pm
Dryden Theatre, Rochester, New York

Jim Healy, Assistant Curator, Dryden Theatre
Bob Byington, Director, Harmony & Me
Kevin Corrigan, co-star, Harmony & Me

Following the screening of Harmony & Me at the Woodstock Film Festival, producer and co-star Kristen Tucker mentioned that Bob Byington was inspired to title the movie after listening to Elton John's "Harmony" over and over again.

Kristen Tucker, Justin Rice, Kevin Corrigan
at the Woodstock Film Festival

Byington made an attempt to clear the song for use in the movie. "I was convinced when we made the movie, we had to get the Elton John song in order for it to work. I told Justin [Rice] when we hired him, 'We gotta get that Elton John song, it's really hard to get!', and Justin was like, 'Okay, okay, good!' To get that song, you'd have to sell your foot, basically. The quote we got was $250,000, which is more than what the movie cost. We had to accept that at some point, that wasn't a reality."

Fortunately, Justin Rice is also a musician. Surprisingly, Byington was completely unaware of this prior to hiring him. "Justin's musicianship, which I was ignorant about--and I'm not kidding--was an accident that we applied to what we did. The movie would've been very different (without Justin's talents), and I don't think as good. On the other hand, if we had deliberately hired him to 'Dance, monkey boy, DANCE!', I don't think the movie would've worked, either. It had to be accidental."

Also in the film is curator Jim Healy's brother, Pat, who plays Harmony's boss. The following is part of the Q&A that took place following the screening.

Healy: I've been reading a lot of reviews that say that you don't stay in any one moment for too long. Is that by design, or did you find that in the cutting of this?

Byington: The script is like that. The executive producer, Anish Savjani, seemed uneasy that the script seemed too short, and he made a real effort to make it more coherent. He wanted a better sense of what was going on. I didn't understand. I asked, "What do you mean you don't know what was going on?" If you write a script and get that type of feedback, it's pretty hard to hear. I wasn't too keen to hear it, but it was pretty important, and you really need people who really know how to tell you that stuff.

Healy: Kevin, have you ever had your heart broken by being cut out of a film? Does it happen to you a lot?

Corrigan: I've had whole movies that don't come out. But it reminds me of the first time I met Martin Scorsese. We were in the Brill Building, where he had an office at the time, and where he would edit his movies. He looked at my resume, and I had just done this movie called The Lemon Sisters with Diane Keaton. [Scorsese] pointed that out and said, "Oh, hey, they're editing that downstairs!" And I said, "Do you know that I'm in it?" He responded, "Acch! That reminds me of...", and he told this story about how two guys got cut out of The King of Comedy. Then he said, "Yeah, it happens!"

Healy: Roger Ebert said that Harmony & Me made Austin look like not such a pretty place.

Byington: I think he mentioned "unlovely". I like when he writes about movies, but the movie does tend to garner that type of review.

Healy: So more than one critic said that Austin doesn't look pretty.

Byington: I think The Village Voice singled it out and said it looked bad. Then I looked at the other reviews, and they said, "This movie doesn't look very good."

Healy: So you're not planning on showing this to the City Council or the Chamber of Commerce anytime soon.

Byington: We had a horrific screening at the Austin Film Festival. It had tons of technical problems, which makes me grateful to show it at a place where people care and pay attention to the way it looks. Which was not the case at the Austin Film Festival. That was really difficult for us.

Healy: So it was especially unlovely looking.

Byington: Yes. I came out for the Q&A, and I could tell that the audience genuinely felt sorry that we had such a cruddy movie. You could feel the audience's pity. It was crushing.

For Byington, Austin is very convenient to work and live. Kevin Corrigan lives and works out of New York, and other actors come out from LA. "You can usually get people to come out for a weekend or a week." Later, Healy opened up questions to the audience.

Erin: I saw this movie a couple of months ago at the Woodstock Film Festival. After the movie you (Corrigan) came up, Justin Rice came up, as well as Kristen Tucker. Someone asked how you (Byington) came up with the title Harmony & Me, and Kristen Tucker answered that you had been listening to a song by Elton John, and either the title or some song lyric stuck in your head. Do you think you could elaborate on that?

Byington: Elton John did an album in the 1970s called Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, and the last song was called "Harmony". They were going to put it out as a single, but they never did. It has a very catchy quality, like a lot of songs on that album. I always loved that song, and he sings, "Harmony and Me" over and over again. I listened to that song a lot when I wrote that script.

Healy: Was it important for you to cast Justin Rice, a musician?

Byington: Justin really hit the idea of the character, demeanor wise. The fact that he was a musician was, believe it or not, incidental. It became a gigantic part of the movie.

Healy: The music wasn't as big of a part in the movie before you cast him?

Byington: No. The piano lessons were more of a structural idea. The wedding singer was a friend of mine, and the wedding scene was not scripted in the way it was eventually shot.

Q: I kept thinking during the film that this might be a film John Cassavetes had made if he had a sense of humor. I was wondering if he at all was an influence on you?

Byington: [Cassavetes] has a quality to his movies that are fresh and unrestrained. I marvel at watching a movie that's 45 years old, and still feels like you could feel it. Altman has the same quality with Nashville. It feels like the characters are going to come off the screen. I'm sort of inspired to get that...thing. A Woman Under The Influence was definitely an influence and an inspiration.

Corrigan: I introduced this film once by reading a section of this book called Cassavetes Directs. I read a part of a book that attributed all these qualities to Cassavetes that I felt fit this film. It was a great introdution.

Q: There are a lot of movies that seem to be like this, but it seemed like there were tons of jokes where the punchlines were missing, or maybe I didn't know the inside story.

Byington: I think a lot of the punchlines were cut out. I read the script for Rushmore, and in the movie, they cut out every punchline in the script. Not that I deliberately learned that, but I loved that movie. I read the [Rushmore] script before I saw the movie. When I went back to the script after I saw it, I was like, "Huh! They pretty much cut out every single joke." I think it's to keep the flow. You don't want to try and be like, "Isn't this funny? Isn't that funny?"

At the end of the Q&A, Bob Byington announced his next movie. He wrote it eight years ago, and initially tried to shoot it five years ago. It will star Tunde Adebimpe of TV on the Radio, and also appeared in Rachel Getting Married. Byington didn't divulge too much of the plot, besides the involvement of a German Shepard. He thanked the audience for staying and participating in the Q&A.

"It helps my work."

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Guest blogger Leah Meyerhoff's Favorite Panels of 2009

To launch The Film Panel Notetaker into a new year, we have opened a fundraiser onKickstarter.com, which we hope you will visit and contribute to help us expand and grow our efforts to continue to bring you helpful notes and information from more film festivals and events in 2010. Our fundraiser is now live and you can start to contribute here. "Help us go, so you can be in the know!" Thank you very much, and happy holidays!

The Film Panel Notetaker reached out to filmmakers, industry pros, and cinephiles to ask them what their favorite panel discussions and Q&As of 2009 were based on the following five questions:

1) Name of panel discussion or film where there was a Q&A
2) At which film festival, conference, theater, etc. did it take place?
3) Date (if you can recall)
4) Your affiliation (were you moderator, panelist, audience?)
5) Why did you like this particular panel or Q&A?

Here's what filmmaker Leah Meyerhoff ("Twitch," "Team Queen," and her upcoming feature debut "Unicorns") had to say:

1) Everyone Else Q&A
2) New York Film Festival
3) Oct 4th
4) audience
5) The Q&A for one of my favorite films at the festival was worth waiting around for. It was inspirational to hear how director Maren Ade stayed true to her vision and made a small performance-based films against all odds.

1) T. C. Boyle and Mary Gaitskill
2) New Yorker Festival
3) Oct 16th
4) audience
5) It was interesting to hear how writers feel about watching their short stories get translated to the big screen.

1) Casting for Indies Panel
2) IFP Industry Connect
3) Oct 22nd
4) panelist
5) This IFP event with casting directors Zoe Rotter and Jessica Kelly was one of the best panels I have been on in recent memory. Since I strongly believe that casting is 90% of directing, it is a subject that filmmakers can't afford to overlook. Both fun and educational, the panel sparked a lively discussion about the challenges of casting name actors versus the complexities of working with unknowns. Afterward, many audience members stuck around to continue the conversation well into the night.


Help us bring you more notes in 2010!

To launch The Film Panel Notetaker into a new year, we have opened a fundraiser onKickstarter.com, which we hope you will visit and contribute to help us expand and grow our efforts to continue to bring you helpful notes and information from more film festivals and events in 2010. Our fundraiser is now live and you can start to contribute here. "Help us go, so you can be in the know!" Thank you very much, and happy holidays!

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Erin’s 5 Favorite Panel Discussions and Q&As of 2009

To launch The Film Panel Notetaker into a new year, we have opened a fundraiser on Kickstarter.com, which we hope you will visit and contribute to help us expand and grow our efforts to continue to bring you helpful notes and information from more film festivals and events in 2010. Our fundraiser is now live and you can start to contribute here. "Help us go, so you can be in the know!" Thank you very much, and happy holidays!
Erin’s 5 Favorite Panel Discussions and Q&As of 2009 (In No Particular Order):
Documentaries: Then & Now - Woodstock Film Festival - October 4, 2009
What a fine assemblage of both legends and up-and-comers in the documentary field. Barbara Kopple and Leon Gast especially had some interesting insights about "the good old days": i.e., when documentaries were shot on Film.
A Conversation With Todd Haynes and Richard Linklater – SXSW Film Festival– March 17, 2009
To see these two giants of a bygone era of Independent Film sit on a stage and talk with one another was a one-of-a-kind opportunity. Too bad my microphone went dead and had to do the panel from memory!
Andrew's third trip to the Dryden Theatre was followed with a wonderful, in-depth conversation about "Beeswax" and how his career has evolved from the previous two movies.

Although everybody had interesting insights to contribute, hearing Tom DiCillo expound on his experiences with making his movie on The Doors (as well as other experiences) made me put this one on my top five list.
Conversation with Lynn Redgrave – High Falls Film Festival – May 17, 2009
Lynn is an incredibly friendly woman, and shared a lot of very fascinating stories about her life and career. Definitely the High Point of this year's High Falls Festival.
Honorable Mentions:
Self Distribution Not All By Yourself - SXSW - March 15, 2009
This was a very resourceful panel about the many options the filmmaker has when it comes to self-distribution. Scott Macaulay did an incredible job bringing these people together.
The critics at the Woodstock Panel were a little more upbeat and optimistic about the future of the critic, but this was a very fascinating discussion with several generations of film critics.
To read Brian's Top 5, click here.

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Brian's Top 5 Favorite Panel Discussions and Q&As of 2009

To launch The Film Panel Notetaker into a new year, we have opened a fundraiser on Kickstarter.com, which we hope you will visit and contribute to help us expand and grow our efforts to continue to bring you helpful notes and information from more film festivals and events in 2010. Our fundraiser is now live and you can start to contribute here. "Help us go, so you can be in the know!" Thank you very much, and happy holidays!

Reflections on 2009

In addition to all the great panel discussions and filmmaker Q&As we attended, 2009 was a very busy year for me personally. I got to moderate some discussions, program some of my own at the Royal Flush Festival, and was lucky enough to be involved with the publicity of some wonderful films including Danae Elon’s documentary “Partly Private,” which won the prize for Best New York Documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival, and “Em,” which won the Producers Award for Jim Jermanok at the Brooklyn International Film Festival.

In February, I attended the World Premiere of Sujewa Ekanayake’s infamous, yet endearing documentary, “Indie Film Blogger Road Trip,” in which I was interviewed. Sujewa along with other indie film bloggers who appeared in the film attended the screening at Anthology Film Archives, where we spoke during a Q&A moderated by Kevin Lee. Also that month, I moderated a Q&A with David Teague and Greg King for their work-in-progress screening of “Our House” at DocuClub. Additionally, I moderated a panel discussion on Networking in Media at Metropolitan College of New York, where contributing notetaker Liz Nord was one of the panelists.

And Amy Peters, Liz, and I got an exclusive sneak preview tour of the SVA Theater while it was undergoing major renovations. I got to later see the theater in its full glory during Tribeca and Newfest (where Kelly Deegan shined big time with her interview with figure skater Johnny Weir and best pal Paris).

Also this year, I conducted some One-on-One Q&As with filmmakers Hugo Perez, Daryl Wein, and Rory O’ Connor.

Before I go into my Top 5, I just want to take a moment to give a really special thanks to Erin Scherer, who contributed a ton of notes to The Film Panel Notetaker this year. She attended South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, as well as the High Falls Film Festival in Rochester, New York, and together, we both attended the Woodstock Film Festival in Woodstock, New York. She also interviewed a bunch of filmmakers including Andrew Bujalski, Ry Russo-Young, and Kris Swanberg among others. Because Erin contributed so many of her own notes this year, I have given her the honor of coming up with her own Favorites list, which you can find here.

Brian’s Top 5 Favorite Panel Discussions and Q&As of 2009:

#1: Route '21 Below' QEW (not BQE) to HotDocs – May 8, 2009

To get to know the filmmakers of “21 Below” a few years earlier, and to see their film finally come to fruition during its HotDocs premiere in Toronto, which I attended with my mom only two hours away from our hometown of Buffalo, New York, the same town in which the film takes place, and then to see and hear the filmmakers talk about their film afterwords was a completely moving and enriching experience for me. I am very happy with all the great festival acclaim “21 Below” has received, and I hope it will be given the chance to have a theatrical release.

#2: Woodstock Film Festival - Redesigning Humanity – The New Frontier - October 2, 2009

The normal state of affairs at most film festival panels are a distribution panel here or a film journalism panel there and so on. But what about “transhumanism,” aka virtual human life? Put together a panel of the world’s leading experts on science, technology, and futurism matched with the World Premiere of the science fiction film “2B,” and you have what perhaps might be the most unique and interesting film panel discussion of the year.

#3: State of the Movement - NewFest - June 6, 2009

NewFest gathered filmmakers and gay rights advocates to reflect on the current state of the LGBT movement and how it has progressed since Stonewall 40 years earlier. In a year where same sex couples are still not given rights to legally marry in most states, this panel was ever so timely and important.

#4: Silverdocs - "Defamation" - June 19, 2009

While taking a controversial stance on anti-Semitism, Yoav Shamir’s documentary is very thought provoking and garnered many questions, comments and concerns from its audience at Silverdocs.

#5: All of the Stranger Than Fiction Q&As I attended in the early part of the year including:

"Upstream Battle" - Jan. 13, 2009

"The Education of Shelby Knox" - Jan. 20, 2009

"Must Read After My Death" - Feb. 3, 2009

"The Axe in the Attic" - Feb. 10, 2009

Honorable Mentions:

I was debating on whether I could even put this in my Top 5, since I programmed this panel myself, but I must at least give major kudos to the Docs Under Duress panel that Pamela Cohn moderated at the Royal Flush Festival. Pamela really did her homework. She deeply cared about each filmmaker and their films, asked poignant questions, and received incredibly in-depth and informative responses. And the panel was followed by a pizza party in honor of panelist Ross Kaufman’s birthday :)

Special mention for Rooftop Films during IFP's Independent Filmmaker Week. They held incredibly fun outdoor screenings and Q&As with the filmmakers, one at Solar One for "Burning in the Sun," and the other next to the Brooklyn Bridge for the IFP Filmmaker Lab Showcase.

And finally, one panel that gets its own annual “Least Boring Panel Discussion” category is Martha Frankel’s Actors Dialogue at the Woodstock Film Festival.

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