Friday, June 30, 2006

Texas Filmmaker Chris Hansen & "American Messiah" in Kensington Thu July 6

Texas based indie film director & screenwriting professor Chris Hansen and his funny & excellent movie The Proper Care & Feeding of an American Messiah are coming to the DC area on Thu July 6. The film is about a man who believes that he is a regional Messiah, & his quest to find a special mission from God. Messiah will play at Kensington, MD's Kensington Row Bookshop as a part of the Capital City Microcinema screening series. Read all the
life-changing information below:

The Proper Care & Feeding of An American Messiah
A film by Chris Hansen

Best Feature FILM EXPO TEXAS 2006, Official Selection STIFF Seattle's True Independent Film Festival 2006, Official Selection South Regional INDIE GATHERING Film Festival 2006, Finalist PEC Independent Film Championship 2006, Official Selection MYRTLE BEACH International Film Festival 2006, Official Selection COSMOS International Film & Video Game Festival 2006

" Many of the sequences fire on all cylinders, producing laugh-out-loud results."- Film Threat

Thu July 6
7 PM
The Proper Care and Feeding of an American Messiah
w/ director Chris Hansen
Kensington Row Bookshop
3786 Howard Ave
Kensington, MD 20895

film's web site:

" Chris Hansen's The Proper Care and Feeding of an American Messiah (official website) is a mock documentary that follows Brian (Dustin Olson), a balding thirtysomething who believes that he is a messiah. Not the messiah, Brian persistently reminds the unseen documentary filmmaker (played by the director), but a regionally-selected messiah for a "100-mile radius," Brian estimates. Brian's delusions of grandeur are supported by his younger brother, Aaron, who admires his older brother, and his sister, Miriam, who recognizes Brian's problems but seeks to prevent him from harming himself. The film is structured around a brief interlude in Brian's "career" as he arranges to announce himself and his "higher purpose" to the public at his town's civic center. "
- Chuck Tryon, The Chutry Experiment
Read the rest of this review here:

" What makes American Messiah work is its easy, natural feel. At few points, if any, does the star, Dustin Olson, really FEEL like he's "acting". Instead, he feels more improvised and natural, like a real-life deluded guy being interviewed for a documentary."
- J.C. Macek III,

Fort Reno 2006 Schedule

Even though we in DC may not have as many cool things happening here as our epic - only 4+ hours away - neighbor NYC, we do have the free concerts at Fort Reno every Summer. I attended several of these Fort Reno shows last Summer, dug them a lot. Local indie bands (including some w/ large followings, such as Metropolitan & The Evens) give free performances at a park (near a former Civil War era? fort, remains of a fort?) every Thursday night, all Summer long. Here's the schedule for this Summer's concerts at Fort Reno. See ya at a show. Bring an umbrella.

- Sujewa

IMDB has a bare-bones page up for Date Number One

Not sure why IMDB does not have the cast, crew & director info. up on its Date Number One page, but I have re-submitted that info. so perhaps soon we will see that info. up on IMDB.

In the meantime, here is the IMDB page for Date Number One.

If you are one of the 200 or so people who've seen the movie so far, you may want to partake in the many interactive features IMDB offers: ratings, reviews, message board, etc.

There will be a 1 week long run of the film coming up most likely in September in DC. Will have more info. on that late next week.

Speaking of incomplete tasks, I am off to finish up the promo e-mails for Chris Hansen's The Proper Care & Feeding of an American Messiah screening on 7/6 in Kensington. More on that very soon.

- Sujewa

Thursday, June 29, 2006

I saved a Four Eyed Monsters screening @ The Avalon

Tonight I was at the Four Eyed Monsters screening in DC & the projector kept breaking down.
Well, it wasn't really the projector but the computer that was feeding the film/the file to the projector. The first time the film stopped (lost image, audio could still be heard) it came back on a couple of minutes later. The second time we waited for about 5 mins & nothing happened. So I went to the projection booth to see what was going on. The projectionist & a young theater employee were dealing w/ an unfamiliar projection system (the flick was being played back from a hard drive) & they had no idea how exactly to fix it. I got on the keyboard after the computer was shut down & restarted, then once the project was loaded back up I figured out how to get the flick back up to the point where we lost the image & all was good. The Avalon hooked me up w/ some popcorn for my services :) Then like 20 mins later, right after we learnd that Susan's character was accepted to the art colony (I think) we lost the image again. I went back up to the projection booth (no one was there) & touched the mouse pad (the computer had fallen asleep - screen power save type thing I think) & after that the image came back on. Then the flick played & ended w/ out any problems. There were 50 -90 or so people at the screening.
Only 2 walked out (as far as I could tell) because of the technical difficulties. People clapped after the screening.

Glad I was there. I am sure someone else would have figured out how to fix the image projection problem if I wasn't there. But I was there & I am glad I tried to fix the problem & succeeded. The Avalon 2 theater I was in is pretty good.

Four Eyed Monsters is a good movie. It's a feature that plays like a short. Very well shot & edited, w/ excellent sound & effects. The acting is good. At times it felt like a romantic drama but w/ out the emotions. At other times it was very funny, & a little sad. The young filmmakers should definitely stick w/ filmmaking. I am sure they will make interesting stuff in the future.
The flick is definitely worth checking out, I think specially for young (early 20's) creative types.

- Sujewa

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Four Eyed Monsters tonight at the Avalon in DC

Not much time to write about this since I've got to get to the Avalon in like 30 mins, but here's the link.

- Sujewa

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

"No More Tears Sister" tonight on PBS

At 10 PM tonight PBS's documetary series P.O.V. will air a film called "No More Tears Sister", about a slain human rights activist in Sri Lanka. Read all about the film here.

Will write more about this film later today.

- Sujewa

Monday, June 26, 2006

Michael "Cocaine Angel" Tully reviews "Date Number One"

Mike Tully (director & co-producer of the Rotterdam, SXSW, Sarasota, IFF Boston, & Maryland film fests selected '06 feature "Cocaine Angel" ) came to see "Date Number One" on Sat night at Kensington Row Bookshop & he reviewed the flick today at his blog. The review is brief but very positive. Here are a couple of lines:

" The film is about as charming as they come, which left a pleasant taste in my mouth. Sujewa presents a world in which cultures don't clash, they mesh. It's refreshing to see characters who all appear to have a natural optimism, as opposed to the typical indie-film predilection for bitterness and cruelty. "

Read the whole review here.

Thanks for coming to the show Mike! & thanks for taking the time out to write about the flick.

- Sujewa

Sunday, June 25, 2006

A big THANKS to everyone who came to the show last night!

The Date Number One screening last night went very well: full house, show started pretty close to on time, the film was a bit better w/ the little bit of music that I tried out w/ some scenes, good Q & A session, nice hang out/party session afterwards, & good post-post show action @ the Tastee w/ John Stabb, Mika, self, Chuck Tryon & Allie.

It was nice to see some people I haven't seen in a while (Matt Wilmott (sp?), Lisa Helfert, etc.) & it was very cool of award winning internationally known Maryland New Wave filmmaker Mike Tully to show up for my little screening at a bookstore. Thanks Mike & Rob w/ helping out w/ the technical difficulties at the start of the show.

Didn't get a chance to take any photos, but will do at the next show - 7/13 @ Sangha. Chris Hansen's Messiah is going to screen on 7/6 @ Kensington Row Bookshop - the same place I was showing last night. More on Messiah soon.

I am going to spend much of my Wild Diner Films work time this coming week getting the film to the absolutely final cut: fixing the countless tiny sound issues, some image issues & adding bits of music here & there. Should have THE FINAL version of the movie around 7/1. Then everyone - screening venues & reviewers, some fests - I've promised a screener DVD to will get one. The version of the flick that will screen on 7/13 @ Sangha should be the very final, ultimate version of Date Number One. I expect to have retail DVDs around that time also. Only $12 kids, save up your allowance.

Will talk to the cast & crew & specially the musicians very soon & will talk to everyone else right after that w/ all the upcoming Date Number One US screening details & other relevant & yummy stuff. Plans for the California trip in August are taking shape. I am going to hang w/ Jerry "Hollywood Is Talking" Brewington & company in LA. More on the Cali screenings soon.

I have an interview w/ David "GreenCine Daily" Hudson coming up (I am interviewing him re: his blog). Should have it ready to be read this week. Stay tuned.

Mike Tully may have a review of Date Number One relatively soon. Will post the link here when I see it. Mike said he liked the movie. Looking forward to reading his review.

Thanks everyone who came last night for making the screening event an awesome experience!
And a big thanks to Elie & the Kensington Row Bookshop for hosting us.

- Sujewa

Friday, June 23, 2006

California in August

I'll be in California in August. Looks like from around 8/5 to around 8/20 I will be in San Francisco & LA. A week in each city. I am working on getting at least a couple of screenings set up in each city. And there will be much hanging out, the no-budget D.I.Y. version of Entourage :) - except filmmakers instead of actors. Will have all the details before mid-July. It's gonna be hot!

New gig: programming Indie Film Nights at Sangha in Takoma Park, MD

Although the 1960's/French New Wave era filmmakers are very important, I find it slightly disappointing that there seems to be a seemingly/comparatively never ending amount of their films being shown at art/indie houses and not enough of films by art/indie filmmakers from subsequent generations (and let's just say it, specially my own) not being shown at these venues. The work of the 60's indie filmmakers I guess have become one of the the essential bodies of work of the art/indie "genre" for the moment and there is a relatively small but built in audience for those flicks so programmers keep programming them. And not to mention the fact that cats like Cassavetes & Godard does need to be celebrated year after year because they did do some groundbreaking stuff. But, what if rock clubs stopped at the Elvis generation of musicians & did not make room for the subsequent generations? Well, our selection of music will be far less & it would be less relevant. So I think it is important for art/indie venue programmers to seek out new artists from the current generation & give them a chance at discovering an audience (instead of waiting for Hollywood & Indiewood to do all the heavy lifting & then cashing in on the pre-existing fame - here I am thinking of AFI Silver's recent celebration of the careers of one my favorite filmmakers: Jim Jarmusch, & also Kevin Smith, & I do like the AFI Silver - very fine local venue). There are art/indie venues that engage in this pioneering activity - such as the appropriately named Pioneer theater in NYC, but I think more venues around the country should do more for new art/indie filmmakers from the current & immediately previous generations. I will keep this preference of mine in mind when I program the Indie Film Nights at Sangha, a fair-trade store & performance space in Takoma Park, MD.

The details are still being worked out. I will be showing indie films at least once a month starting in July at Sangha. A screening of Date Number One was already scheduled for July 13, so I will consider that the start of the screening program. Plus I will continue to show indie films at Kensington Row Bookshop in Kensington - the program currently known as Capital City Microcinema. Aside from filmmaking & distribution, I want to put more work into film exhibition. And of course the blogging work will continue at the current, decently productive, rate.

I'll post a CALL FOR ENTRIES soon for the Sangha Indie Film Nights. I am pretty sure I can set up the events so that all of the three relevant parties - the venue, the filmmakers, & myself - stand a chance of making some money from the screenings & or getting something positive out of them. And of course hopefully the most important party in the overall equation - the audience - will get to check out some excellent indie films that they may not get to see anywhere else in the DC area.

Programming/producing indie screenings @ Sangha & @ Kensington Row Bookshop = very exciting stuff. Small scale, but forward movement nevertheless.

- Sujewa

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


"The travelling film and music festival"

Check them out here.

- Sujewa

Sunday, June 18, 2006

10 DIY & Self-Distro Features In 5 Years Project :: DIY filmmaking & Studio filmmaking :: Jacques Thelemaque re-defines the "BIG filmmaking dream"

The 10 DIY & Self-Distro Features In 5 Years Project

I did the math late last week. Selling 2000 DVDs of "Date Number One" will allow me to continue to work on its distribution at a higher level (spend more time on the distro project & set up more screenings & promote them) and also will allow me to shoot my next ultra-low budget feature. Through my mailing lists, networking sites & blogs I am in touch with more than 1000 people, so, once the DVD comes out in July I should be on my way to reaching that 1st sales goal: 2000 DVDs. Maybe w/ in the next two months I will be able to reach that goal. 2000 "Date Number One" DVDs sold by September? We shall see.

It may be possible for me to take an idea from script through production to distribution in 6 months. So I am going to set a 5 year production & distribution goal: 10 features. Under that goal I expect to make 2 new ultra-low budget features & get their DIY distribution started every year, generally speaking, give or take a few months. Let's see if I am able to complete & release 10 ultra-low budget features, at the rate of roughly 2 a year, by the end of 2010.

DIY Filmmaking & Studio Filmmaking

A couple of days ago I spoke w/ a filmmaker friend of mine who has an indie feature at the festival stage of distribution & who is, at the same time, working on getting Hollywood filmmaking work. That may be a smart way to go for some filmmakers. The Hollywood induced frustrations can be kept in check by regularly being productive through DIY filmmaking activities. And, as you get more films done & out through the DIY route, you may become more valuable in the eyes of potential collaborators, perhaps including Hollywood.

Jacques Thelemaque Re-defines the "BIG filmmaking dream"

Yesterday Jacques Thelemaque, Chief Community Officer of Withoutabox, sent out an essay as a part of a regular update/E-blast to the Withoutabox community. The essay reflected the classic DIY approach to the business of making & distributing art/independent movies. It is also concise & inspirational, fuel for the already burning fire. Here is the essay in its entirety. Published with permission. Thanks Jacques!


Dream the BIG filmmaking dream
by Jacques Thelemaque
from Withoutabox Community Eblast: Vol. 1 Issue #6, 6/17/06

If you think I'm talking about the most common fantasy harbored secretly or bombastically by filmmakers - to one day direct studio films - you're dead wrong. In fact, quite the opposite. I'd like to snuff out that dream in all of you, if I could. The odds of directing a big studio or major cable film are slightly less ridiculous than winning the lottery. And even if you turn out to be the little filmmaking sperm that penetrates the big studio/corporate egg, you simply win, for the most part, the right to create big piles of slick, commercial poo. And you'll do it under the thumb of the studio brass who aren't going to hand over millions of dollars to some creative cowboy to run amok and make a dreaded "art" film. No, you're there to place your distinctive creative energies in service of freshening up stale ideas like "Saved By The Bell - The Movie." For every one "Crash" or "Brokeback Mountain" (yes, those are studio films despite all the hype about them being "independent"), the studio corporates pump out hundreds of "Kangaroo Jacks."

No, the BIG dream I'm talking about is something else - something both more realistic and infinitely more satisfying. And that is to become your own studio. Meaning create, and guide the distribution of, your own films. Build an audience around your "brand" (what is uniquely you in your films). Make enough money from your films so you can live comfortably and make more films. How? Well, to get into detail would make this enote impossibly long. But in short, technology on both ends of the filmmaking process have made this dream a reality for many filmmakers. Digital production makes high-end creation unbelievably accessible. And new internet tools (including WAB's Audience platform and Distribution Lab now ramping up) allow you to build and brand an on-line studio from which you can effectively manage the release of your films directly to your potential audiences.

No doubt there have been (and are) great studio films and great studio filmmakers. But like lottery winners, they most often emerge by chance, not design. Statistically, your dream of studio filmmaking simply equates to a long-shot fantasy of being a well-healed corporate lackey controlled and directed at every turn so that you can churn out visually stunning commercial garbage. Allow yourself to dream something far beyond that. Something both bolder and more accessible that serves and respects the creative being that you are. It simply demands you respect your innate uniqueness, that you answer to your creative (rather than careerist) ambitions and that you take advantage of the rapidly developing tools that will support your creative and financial independence. This is the new paradigm for your life as a filmmaker. Dream it and then live it.

- Jacques Thelemaque


- Sujewa

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Nacho Libre: Mexploitation-lite, sometimes very funny, very predictable & uninspired plot, Black does a good job

Saw the new Jared "Napoleon Dynamite" Hess directed Jack Black movie Nacho Libre tonight. It is pretty funny, even hilarious at some points. But about 15 minutes into the movie I said to my date that Mexico is not gonna like this movie. It's a cartoonish movie so taking a deeper view of its racial, ethnic, national politics & viewpoints are probably not warranted - or but are they? Simple, widely distributed movies can easily set up negative stereotypes & reinforce negative perceptions, so I think it's cool to question exactly what we are seeing. Beyond the initial layer of a goofy movie about a monk who moonlights as a wrestler, here is what I saw & cringed at: 1) all adult characters save 2 - Black's Nacho & the nun - the object of Nacho's desire - are corrupt & without heroic qualities (they are sometimes likeable, but not consistently heroic & charmingly human as Black's character). Nacho - since he is played by Black - even with his mock-accent - is essentially the surrogate for America in the movie, and also a symbol of the positive aspects of European/"white" civilization. The dark skinned Mexicans are shown to be either pointlessly cruel (all the other wrestlers are generally cruel to ordinary people, without sufficient provocation), lacking in actual spirituality (the other monks in the monastery seem to be just marking time, not really into their work as a spiritual calling) or lacking in sexual & romantic fulfillment (Nacho's dark skinned Mexican sidekick is given many stereotypically gay movie character qualities, but he is not partnered at any point in the movie with a valid romantic or sexual counterpart, he does run away from a woman who is interested in him). The opportunity to discuss the disagreement between faith and science is introduced, but not followed up on or explored & developed. So what do I think about Nacho Libre - funny, possibly very funny for people who do not care or are not aware of negative Hollywood codes that are being reflected in the movie, and probably would not be 100% fun for people who are tired of seeing the dark skinned locals in a foreign country being portrayed as being less than heroic & less desirable compared with the light skinned American (even though Black's character plays, maybe ironically, a Mexican) main character. The plot is completely predictable & some of the epic changes that happen to the main character & one of his competitors are not very well explained. Things happen in the plot it seems like because at certain point they are supposed to happen in a certain way, not because the story being told produces justifications for the twists & turns. Jack Black is funny as always, but some of the choices made by the script & the director & possibly the studio, as mentioned above, makes the flick less than ideal for me.

- Sujewa

Friday, June 16, 2006

Facets Blog

Facets Multi-Media in Chicago has a blog. It looks pretty new, but promises good things. Check it out here.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

"Date Number One" screening # 8: Kensington, MD Sat June 24


a comedy about several first dates
a movie by sujewa ekanayake

"FIVE really entertaining, fully realized romantic interludes...a shamefully rare achievement"
- Tom Kipp, Seattle audience member, former film reviewer for Seattle alternative weekly
The Stranger

Sat June 24 7 PM $5
Kensington Row Bookshop
3786 Howard Ave.
Kensington, MD 20895

Director & some of the stars will attend the screening.

"Heartfelt...poignant...I loved it!"
- Jon Moritsugu, award winning filmmaker

"Date Number One is quite funny...also a subtle, thoughtful film...might be understood as the anti-Crash depiction of life in the city...depicts a comfortably multi-ethnic community...I'd happily recommend it."
- Chuck Tryon, media professor & blogger, The Chutry Experiment blog

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Cucalorus in Wilmington, NC sounds like a cool fest

It's a non-competetive fest, which I like. Here's some info. about the fest from their website:

" What keeps Cucalorus going? Over the years the festival has been directed by a small number of passionate and creative individuals. Founded by a small filmmaking collective known as Twinkle Doon, the festival has adhered to its noncompetitive roots. Why noncompetitive? Almost every other film festival in the world dangles prizes before its participants, creating an atmosphere of intense competition; by compare, the laid back atmosphere at Cucalorus offers a breath of fresh air on the hectic film festival circuit. The festival's driving force is to create an open and relaxed atmosphere for both filmmakers and filmgoers. Inspiration is found; friendships are forged. Ask any alumni filmmaker and you'll find that most feel that they've become part of a fierce family of like-minded spirits. "

Submission deadline is July 15. The fest happens Nov 8 - 11. Here's their website.

- Sujewa

100 Most Valuable Independent Films List

Some of the choices are indie only in spirit, not in production & distribution (The Player for example), but some of the choices are dead on/essential viewing for anyone interested in American independent film as a distinct creative field (Shadows, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, Stranger Than Paradise, Metropolitan). All in all a very good list for the moment. It will have to be upgraded in 5 years or less I think as the term "indie film" gets re-defined by relatively ultra-low budget, fully or partially self-distributed (I Am A Sex Addict, The Puffy Chair, Robot Stories, Four Eyed Monsters, LOL) or "largely seen in film festivals before appearing on very limited theatrical/DVD/VOD" digital video features replace the mostly 16 MM, relatively higher budgeted, Hollywood & indiewood distributed productions that were the norm in American indie 10-15 years ago. One of the few exception to this new reality is Andrew "Mutual Appreciation" Bujalski, who has made two "very indie" features in 16 MM. This list was compiled by GreenCine in 2005. Check it out here.

- Sujewa

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

GreenCine article on real indie films

GreenCine's Head of Acquisitions (if that's not his exact title, it's pretty damn close) Jonathan Marlow writes about several real indie films (independently produced, low budget as opposed to Indiewood/Hollywood produced) and their distribution paths in an entry posted today to the excellent film blog GreenCine Daily. All 3 Maryland New Wave films, including Date Number One, and Bujalski's Mutual Appreciation, The Puffy Chair & several other new indie movies are mentioned.

Read it here.Thanks!

- Sujewa

The ghost of Jack Kerouac said..

...see what's going on with the On The Road movie. Not much info. found so far on the web. But here is the IMDB page for the project:

It'll be interesting to see how Salles brings the book to life. Did I hear that it was going to be shot on B & W ? I would have gone with color. Rich 50's colors. But then again I haven't made a successful bio-epic yet, so perhaps Walter knows a thing or two about this kind of a project.

I am a huge fan of On The Road the book. It saved me from a bleak Chicago Winter in the early 90's. Looking forward to seeing the movie.

If you've got any cool On The Road movie links, post 'em in comments please. Thanks.

- Sujewa

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Date Number One at Sangha in Takoma Park on July 13, & other exciting real indie film news!

Went to see several bands at a performance venue/store called Sangha in Takoma Park, MD last night. Saw/heard the local Kensington, MD darlings The Parlor Scouts & discovered a new & excellent band called Nice Zombie. Bought the Nice Zombie CD "Zombie Tea Party" (only $5!), good stuff, rocked out to it on the drive home last night. Sangha has a screen so a Date Number One screening has been set up there for July 13 at 8 PM, $5. Will have all the details soon (like later today).

I had to return my computer monitor to its owners on Fri (thanx jim & ellen!) so went shopping for a new one yesterday. Got a used 17" monitor from a place called PC Retro in Beltsville, MD for $30! Sound & music editing on Date Number One coming up this week (doing a bunch of it tonight!!!), & it'll be happening on my new monitor. Should be able to have a final version of the movie this coming week, will mail out screeners to reviewers & theaters & fests, & will order retail DVDs.

Upcoming screening events to promote & publicize:
- Date Number One at Kensington Row Bookshop/Capital City Microcinema on 6/24,
- The Proper Care & Feeding of an American Messiah at Kensington Row Bookshop/Capital City Microcinema on 7/6,
- Date Number One at Sangha in Takoma Park, MD on 7/13.
Will be contacting all local press about those three events this coming week. It's publicity time baby!

Got the interview answers from Northwest Film Forum co-founder Jamie Hook. Very, very interesting & educational & even inspiring at times, recent real US indie film history from the mouth of one who made it happen (at least in Seattle, and soon in NYC). Editing the interview now, should have it up on the web today.

Talks to ya very, very soooon.

- The Sujewa

Friday, June 09, 2006

Greg "Robot Stories" Pak's got an indieWIRE blog

I saw it for the first time yesterday. Greg's indieWIRE hosted blog is only a couple of days old I think. Read it here.

- Sujewa

Interview with Northwest Film Forum co-founder Jamie Hook

Filmmakers Jamie Hook and Deborah Girdwood started the Seattle film production organization WigglyWorld Studios in 1995. Over the next few years WigglyWorld expanded, acquired film screening capabilities, and eventually became the Northwest Film Forum (NWFF). At present NWFF is a Seattle cultural landmark that screens art, independent, and foreign films and assists filmmakers in creating their work. For a lengthy history of NWFF, go here. Hook is engaged in film production projects in New York City at the moment. Earlier this week I interviewed Hook through e-mail regarding NWFF, regional filmmaking, his controversial year in Minnesota, and his future plans.

Sujewa: Jamie, you are credited with co-founding the mighty & awesome art/indie/foreign movie theater Northwest Film Forum (NWFF) in Seattle, can you please elaborate on that & tell us about what things were like - film screening wise - in Seattle prior to the coming of the NWFF & also can you tell us about the actual process of starting NWFF - what exactly did you have to do?

Jamie: The NWFF was borne of frustration: At the time (1994) Seattle had no real filmmaking organization that focused on that oh-so-unpopular notion of helping people working in the filmic medium make ART. There were access orgs, but their missions were all confused, wrapped up in this notion of access to democratic tools of expression, blah blah blah and I was interested in, simply, film as art. 911 Media Arts was typical of those organizations where the administrators came before the artists on whose backs they build their case to exist, and I found it downright humiliating. So I started NWFF out of frustration with that. SO many great organizations are borne of that feeling: from WigglyWorld to Dreamworks, spite can be a great engine.

The whole exhibition end of NWFF came later (prompting the name change, the original sin of NWFF) and in some ways became the tail that wags the dog: WigglyWorld was always about putting the filmmakers first, and making art was meant to be the heart and soul of it. I was very aware of organizations which support art but not artists: you find a lot of them in provincial towns like Seattle, where you can import a whole season of work from other places, and thereby not have to support your own people. And WigglyWorld, albeit in an immature way, strove to buck this trend, and grow local artists, and support them in our own theaters, fuck what the status quo thought. If we could have it be good enough for ourselves, that was success on our own terms-end of story. Naturally, the venture was riven with idealism.

So WigglyWorld was really borne of three people: Myself, Deb Girdwood (my wife at the time) and filmmaker Gregg Lachow, who was sort of the conscience of WigglyWorld-though he had just moved to NYC and couldn't actively help us build it. We applied for and got a grant, read books from the library about how to found a non-profit, and just went for it. The vision was articulated, for a studio that valued collaboration, that respected the vulgar process of art no less than the product, and that used cinema and exhibition as an inspirational and educational tool for artists first and foremost. Along the way we attracted a live theatre element too.

Sujewa: I was in Seattle last month and I fell in strong like with the city and NWFF. The venue has very tall ceilings, nice wood floors, 2 excellent theaters w/ good seating & good projection & good sound, etc. & pretty good taste in movies (Love Streams played while I was there, and Calvin "K Records" Johnson popped in to play some music). Is NWFF very unique or are there similar venues (that you have seen) throughout the country?

Jamie: There are lots of great theatres coming into and out of being at any given time all over the world: from someone's cafe to the Coolidge Corner. What was and I hope still is unique about the NWFF was it positioning cinema not as the end in itself, but as the tool of inspiration and audience education with which to build a community whose primary goal was the creation of original films. I wonder if that as the organization continues to mature, that (production) aspect will be subsumed under the larger mission to run a successful organization, and therefore limit the admittedly reckless act of filmmaking in order to stabilize the place.

I am proud of the Film Forum's exhibition success, but it has come at a price, and that price is the vibrancy and scope of the productive activities the organization can embrace. Like a child who dreams of being an astronaut when he grows up settling for being a bus driver, you trade dreams for stability at somepoint. And that is not necessarily a bad thing: provided you use your stability to further good ends it can be a great thing. But it is a slippery slope, and I only hope that the relative ease of running a film center never fully eclipses the foolish and difficult goal of making a new sort of cinema in a new way.

Sujewa: Did NWFF accomplish the goals that you set for that project when you started it? Did it make filmgoing in Seattle better? Did it make life better for local indie filmmakers?

Jamie: The NWFF fulfilled my expectation. If there was a limit, it was that what I imagined-which I would say the NWFF succeeded in becoming-was not very big. By which I mean, I thought, "wow- I could make $600 a month working at my own theatre-Whoa!" Now I see that it would be better to make $6000 a month working on a time machine, or an anti-doomsday device-both of which are really just other words for great art. I learned a shitload at NWFF and hope and believe that I empowered more than a few filmmakers and other artspersons (programmers, administrators, etc.) to imagine a different future and have faith in their ability to implement a piece of it.

And I don't mean to sound ungrateful for the tremendous success and support heaped on the organization: on the contrary, I was blessed with arriving in Seattle when I did, and bumping into so many folks who gave me their belief, and I am sincerely thankful. But people outgrow things, as things outgrow them. I don't think the NWFF could sustain my current dreams-mostly because Seattle itself has shown itself to be a bit circumscribed as regards its own faith in its own artistic population. And that is what I was getting at in Caveh's blog. Seattle is a great place to learn, and a great place to develop, but I am not yet convinced that it is a great place to thrive as an artist. It seems reactionary in that regard, where New York seems secure. It's like the classic observation: only inWorld Class cities do you never hear people talking about creating "world class" institutions or products: It is a given. IN Seattle, everyone is constantly talking about creating "world class" art, food, transportation systems, etc. And that is reactionary. The attitude should be more of one where making it Seattle class automatically confers world class status-anything less is drawing limits.

Sujewa: Judging by your recent comment at Caveh Zahedi's blog & from our brief e-mail conversation, it seems that you have become disillusioned with DIY/indie/regional film production & exhibition projects such as NWFF. Can you talk a little (or a lot) about why you feel the way you feel now about NWFF & regional filmmaking?

Jamie: Adressed a bit above, but to elaborate: ultimately, ambition is important to a community. And while there are always winners in the great American "Indie-film" Success Lottery who validate the idea of regional film, it's pretty hard to build a community on the basis of winning a lottery. I advocate for a greater sustainability over time of a community dedicated to specific aesthetic goals, and that implies a) money, and b) access to the means of production and distribution. I was able to assemble both those things in a smallish way in Seattle, and certainly WigglyWorld succeeded in transforming Seattle filmmaking by that formula, and in providing a shelter for a local community.

The problem, I see, is that the limits of Seattle itself began to bind. Meaning that, the city itself, not believing that it could effectively become a third estate in independent film (as Austin so clearly believed and effectively made manifest) allows their fruit to wither on the vine. Case in point? There is a huge, vastly under-utilized facility, Sand Point, owned by the city and perfect for filmmaking. But in its typical inoffensive way, Seattle refuses to take the plunge and convert it, not realizing that in order to grow, you must give things up: Give up the illusion of a "Multi-use cultural venue" at Sand Point, and gain a dedicated Film center that could turn the tide of runaway production to Canada, of declining or aging local filmmaker ranks, of many ills. That is just one example: the corporate reticence to fund filmmaking is another, as is the declining share of artist funding dedicated to unfettered filmmaker fellowships.

It is all just money, and money is not a thing: it is a state of mind. So it is a failure of imagination on the part of Seattle, compounded by an unfortunate tendency of that population to want to avoid conflictat all costs (Mayor Nickels oft-quoted "Seattle Way" being a shorthand for timidity). In the 90s, when Seattle was burning white-hot, people felt uncharacteristically risk-friendly. Now, they are once more risk-averse, not remembering that the seeds of future success depend on taking risks in the present. Hell, even Paul Allen's Vulcan Pictures/Clear Blue Sky - which has more money than anyone reading this and everyone they could possibly know ever will have has consistently decided to "play it safe", with crap like the decidedly LA-based "Hard Candy"-hardly a vote of confidence on the part of a Seattle Prince for his own people.

As for Seattle as a poster-child for Regional filmmaking: Don't get me wrong: as much as anyone, I want film to remain diverse, visually, intellectually, etc. The problem is, I see that most of the diversity now is actually driven from the center: in Seattle, you find just as high, if not higher, proportion of folks who are simply aping Hollywood and Indiewood genre pictures: Thrillers set in Espresso shops and Romantic Comedies about Environmentalists are stock in trade for Seattle filmmaking: and that is not worth supporting just because the setting is different.

It is vital that America re-envision the landscape of independent film. But that task requires the highest levels of artistic commitment one can muster, backed by significant financial and institutional resources (significant, but still microscopic compared to Hollywood Standards). And like I said, the artistic commitment can exist anywhere, but without the support, it withers. Seattle and Minneapolis and the like have the art part down: I am not for a second questioning that. And indeed, I am proud to have done my part to help it. It is the support system beyond that that lacks. And my hunch is that it exists in New York (don't know about LA), because most things exist in New York.

Sujewa: If I wanted to start a venue like NWFF, what are the top 10 things that I need to do/worry about/take care of?

1. Think big.
2. Put artists first: always remember that you depend on them, not the other way round.
3. Make sure to pay yourself well.
4. Don't compromise for any amount.
5. Work with a partner you trust: two heads are better than one.
6. Don't be afraid to not know: but make sure you have a plan to find out.
7. Don't be a prima donna: do you homework, file your taxes, make sure your books are clean, keep your desk neat, remember to wash behind your ears, don't lie, etc. etc.
8. Don't be intimidated by money or people with money. Imagine rather that they are just like you but 25years down the road.
9. Don't do what others are doing.

Sujewa: Where can I learn more about starting my own art/indie/foreign movie theater?

Jamie: The same place you learn how to overthrow the government or buld a time machine: the library.

Sujewa: What happened in Minnesota? An anonymous e-mailer said you "DESTROYED a 40-year-old Minnesota film organization in just eleven months working there, through gross and obscene mishandling of funds". Feel free to take as much space as you need to fully explain the Minnesota Film Arts situation. In articles about that situation (such as this one) that I've seen so far you get a line or two for an explanation, but I suspect that the full story about Minnesota is a long one.

Jamie: It is always easier to blame someone from outside than to criticize yourself: the fate of a passive-aggressive town. As regards Minnestoa, I quote the facts: 1. I did fail to submit a $25K per year grant. it was my fault, and I have never denied it. 2. My budgets showed a revenue shortfall of some$30K, and were presented to the board in Sept. 04. The board was expected to raise the balance. AS of Sept.05, they had not done so. I resigned when we ran out of money, with the board's approval. 3. The board of MFA does not raise a penny. One member, Tim Grady gave his own money, but was subsequently bitter about it and used it as a leverage point. 4. When I left,the organization had about $7k of debt, and was running two theatres with a staff of 4 well respected people. Four months later, the organization was, according to the board, $100K in debt, and all of the employees had quit. In the interveneing time, the board was the "director" of the organization. 5. The film festival broke records for attendance and earning in my year there. I did spend more on the festival, as I had told the board was my intent from day one. (In fact, as a c-grade festival in a town that strives to have a-grade arts, I think the festival needs signnificant investment over the next several years. For a festival to BOAST about "13 sell-outs!" over 250 screenings is ridiculous when Vancouver, Seattle, Toronto, etc. boast 75% sellouts. 6. The board has no accountability to anyone other than themselves. There are no term limits, no legal minimum in the bylaws (the state mandates 3) and no official membership (the "membership" in the film arts is merely for money). 7. Only three of the seven boardmembers attended our opening night film, and when I asked them to move 10 tickets each to friends and family ($20 for a film & party) the board refused.

I had a miserable time with that board, and am glad to be gone. I am somewhat sorry for Minneapolis, but in the end, they get what they deserve: The city should stop being passive and either beef up the festival, or abandon it and start a real film festival. For a board of a $1 Million non-profit to raise not a penny is a joke. My subsequent board raised $25% and participated 100% in all events.

The problem is at the top. I was not at the top, therefore, I was not the problem. I regret my errors, but I am proud of my successes, which were many.

Than again, it is Minnesota. As everyone there is so proud of reminding themselves and each other: "flyovercountry."

Sujewa: What are ya up to in NYC these days?

Jamie: I am founding a new FOR PROFIT film production company with my old partner Gregg Lachow, that takes all of the lessons we learned from The Film company and WigglyWorld and the Minneapolis-St. Paul International film Festival (which I ran) and the Seattle Jewish Film Festival (which Gregg ran), and combines them into a company that takes up where we left off at WigglyWorld. It will be WigglyWorld but imagined at a much larger scale. If it is less idealistic, it is also more effective: a worthy tradeoff. And it still has artistic conviction to burn. IN our first year, we produced the Slamdance grand jury prize winning "We Go Way Back" as well as Guy Maddin's new film: extrapolate from that, and you get the picture. It will be based in New York. We will launch in September, and begin production on a 5-film slate in January, 2007.

Thanks Jamie!

- Sujewa

Thursday, June 08, 2006

My Date With Drew

Saw "My Date With Drew", pretty good flick. The actress who played Drew Barrymore towards the end of the movie did an awesome job I thought :) LA should be a fun place to hang out. Looking forward to visiting that famous movie city & playing Date Number One there at some point this year & hanging out w/JB & the H.I.T. crew & other friends. LA looked fun & kind of normal in MDWD. A lot of the LA peeps may not care about the kind of no-budget, DIY, no star movies that I care about, but they do care about movies in general, so it won't all be massive alienation all the time, we'll have some stuff in common.

- Sujewa

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Gonna play 9 major US cities this year (w/ out spending a lot of money), & 11 next year

Here's the plan so far:

Date Number One theatrical screenings
Ultra-low budget D.I.Y. US tour, part 1
July - November 15 (or so), 2006
Cities (exact order to be determined):
Washington, DC (again)
Baltimore, MD
New York City, NY
Chicago, IL
Los Angeles, CA
San Francisco, CA
Seattle, WA (again)
Austin, TX
Dallas, TX

Number of screenings per city, exact dates & times, venues, related special events, are all being figured out this month.

In addition to those cities, we are playing Kensington, MD on June 24th (see SCREENINGS at for more info).

In '07 I will be playing 11 additional cities, part 2 of the Date Number One US tour. More info. on '07 screenings will be available in the coming months.

The film will also be submitted to several festivals around the country. So it is entirely possible that you may be able to see the movie in a theatrical setting this year even if your city is not on the above list.

And if none of that works for you, the flick will be available on DVD through the STORE starting in July. And perhaps on VOD this year (I'd like to get VOD set up w/ Green Cine). But theatrical will be the best way to see it (comes w/ the director for Q & A fun). DVD will have extras. VOD will be convenient & relatively cheap.

Anyone who lives in the cities mentioned above and wants to help out w/ the tour, let me know (e-mail me: Specially if you are a programmer/booker at a screening venue. And actually pretty much anyone else who wants to help is welcome, 'cause I'll need a lot of publicity assistance if nothing else. Thanks!

- Sujewa

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Making new indie film biz friends through Caveh's blog: how I met Northwest Film Forum founder Jamie Hook

The thing about leaving comments at blogs is that it is a non-real time conversation that may or may not happen fully, and when it does happen, due to only getting typed words, may lead to misunderstandings. So, the opportunities for miscommunication are great during blog comment conversations. This is however a true life story about a blog comment driven conversation that was unexpected & that went really well/had a very positive outcome. Here's how it unfolded:

1. Around 11 AM today, I am up, groggy, having my morning tea, checking out Caveh's (Caveh "I Am A Sex Addict" Zahedi's) blog, some person posting in the comments section is down on regional filmmaking, so I post a pro-regional filmmaking comment as a reaction.

2. 1 PM or so, I get to work, check my e-mail, the author of the "down on regional filmmaking" comment has e-mailed me. Turns out that person - Jamie Hook - is one of the two founders of the awesome Seattle indie/art/foreign film venue Northwest Film Forum!!!

Backstory: I was in Seattle about two weeks ago, played my new flick Date Number One at the Northwest Film Forum (NWFF from this point on), loved the venue & the city, came back to DC w/ visions of starting a similar venue here.

3. I e-mail Jamie back, we have a very brief e-mail conversation, then I get the bright idea to do an interview w/ him re: starting NWFF.

4. I just sent out the interview Qs to Jamie, & I followed up w/ a phone call, nice conversation, a new indie film biz friend has been made, we will hang in NYC soon. Looking forward to getting the interview answers back & publishing them right here on this blog.

And that's my blog adventure of the day. Making new indie film biz friends through Caveh's blog. Very exciting.

UPDATE: about 6 hours later:
I've gotten a couple of very anonymous (difficult to contact authors) e-mails since posting this post stating that Jamie Hook "destroyed" a film organization in Minnesota. I'll see if Jamie wants to shed some light on that episode/accusations.

- Sujewa

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Date Number One update - current work, release plan

I am working on fine tunining the audio & image, adding some music to Date Number One at the moment.

Poster & other promo art, perhaps some merchandise design & creation will also be dealt with this month. If a significant amount of music gets used in the film, I'll create a soundtrack album. If not, perhaps the music used can be offered to people through the website, we shall see.

Here's the theatrical & DVD release plan, as it stands at the moment:

- Very Limited, DIY, theatrical* screenings - hopefully at least 60 of them (they'll be listed at the SCREENINGS page at the film's site)
- perhaps some Film fest screenings (gonna start submittin' to some fests this month)
- Limited availability of the DVD (limited only in the sense that I am not going to spend gobs of money to advertise it all over the place just yet, and a few retail & web outlets will carry the DVD this year). DVD should be available for purchase for $12 each through the STORE starting in July.
* non-theatrical venues that can accomodate a large screen will also be used for screenings - the upcoming Capital City Microcinema/Kensington Row Bookshop screening is such an event.

- Wider theatrical release, perhaps working with other distributors/a Service Deal situation
- Wider availability of the DVD (more promotion of the DVD, also more places will sell it)
- maybe some more film fest screenings

And At Some Point ('06 - '08):
- would like to get the flick on cable, will see if that can happen & when
- perhaps VOD? would like to experiment w/ this method of distribution & see what the results are

Lots to do. Talk to ya soon, see you at a screening or let me know (see contact at site or e-mail to: if you want to buy a DVD of the very fine & funny Date Number One. Thanks!

- Sujewa

The Break Up is not that bad

It's OK, decent(for a Hollywood comedy-drama). All the critics I've read have been saying bad things about it. Both The Break Up & The Puffy Chair (two new flicks that I saw this weekend) deal w/the ending of a romantic relationship, and ultimately I think The Puffy Chair does a better job at the task. The cinematography in The Break Up is definitely better, but overall, for my $9, Puffy is the better film of the two.

- Sujewa

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Maryland New Wave goes to see The Puffy Chair

Went to see The Puffy Chair on Fri 6/2 night w/Michael Tully & Todd Rohal & a few others. Puffy is a funny & interesting movie, good acting (specially by the lead), the camera work was not so hot, but all in all - RECOMMENDED.

Except for a fainting Amanda episode who gave us all a scare (she's fine), it was an excellent night. Was nice to meet Mike & Todd in person finally. Hope to see their flicks (Cocaine Angel, The Guatamalan Handshake) soon. Viva MD New Wave!

- Sujewa



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