From Breakthrough Weekend, new comedy by Sujewa Ekanayake

From Breakthrough Weekend, new comedy by Sujewa Ekanayake
Breathrough Weekend coming June 12, 2017

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Saw The Groomsmen

Just saw another recent Ed Burns movie - The Groomsmen. It is very good. Rent it or buy the DVD. A comedy-drama about getting married. It's late & I am sleepy, will write more about the flick tomorrow. TG is probably the best looking Burns film I've seen, and I've seen almost all of them.

- Sujewa

Film$ as ART (like, really, a DVD for $1,000)

Check out these Jonas Mekas DVDs available for purchase. Why not, right? If paintings can go for thousands of dollars I guess a DVD by certain filmmakers can go for a thousand dollars. Anyone who has bought one & wants to be interviewed about that experience on this blog, let me know.

- Sujewa

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

My Jonas Mekas inspired project for '07: 365 video blog posts

Earlier this month I was worried about blogging too much & not making more movies. But I am no way ready to quit blogging & in '07 my main film project will be Date Number One distribution so I do not know how many new features I will be able to complete in '07; so, perhaps combining blogging & editing & shooting video & keeping a journal may be the way to go for me. So, I am going to try to post 365 video blog posts in '07. Each post will be a few seconds to 5 minutes long - they'll be everything from diary entry type posts to short films. Perhaps they will be posted on YouTube & also in this blog. I got the idea from Jonas Mekas - he will be posting 365 short films in '07. I've got a bunch of stuff to figure out - I have not posted a single video blog entry yet. But it should be fun. Making & releasing a feature takes a long time - short video blog posts will keep me involved with filmmaking on a daily basis - actual writing, shooting, editing as opposed to distribution or just writing for a long time or just producing/shooting for a long time. It could also be a new promotional thing for my other projects: Date Number One, '07 features, etc. Hopefully there will be some neat interviews with fellow indie film people & posts from the road/from DNO screenings in there among my 365 '07 posts. Also some interesting reports on Kensington, MD maybe - we've got some colorful places & people here. Let's see If I can pull it off. Now I am off to go watch stuff on Mekas' site, he's got a big collection of short films there - very inspirational.

UPDATE 12/1:
On second thought, posting 1 video clip a day may not be such a bright idea; it took me over 5 hours to prepare & upload a 2 minute video clip to YouTube last night. Also, I am more excited about posting clips from my features rather than doing very short video art pieces. Perhaps a combination of the two, and perhaps at least 1 video post a month is a better way to go for me. 'cause I can use the time it takes to create daily video shorts to work on finishing my features. Maybe the way to go in '07 is regular blogging; at least a couple of times a week with at least 1 video post a month. We'll see how things roll out in '07.

- Sujewa

Off the Black trailer, MySpace page, director's blog :: Movie opens on 12/8 in NYC & LA

It's got a Hollywood star (Nick Nolte) & is not a self-distributed D.I.Y. movie, but still low budget perhaps, but most importantly, it looks like a good movie (regardless of where it falls in the indie index) - at least the trailer does. Check out the trailer here, will have more info. on this movie soon.

Here is the MySpace page for the movie, with all the release info.

And of course the blog. I believe it is being written by the director.

Also, Off the Black was selected for Sundance 06 & it is a debut feature (as far as I know, again, will have more soon).

- Sujewa

King Dork, Mr. T Experience, Will Ferrell

Read an interesting Time magazine story (thanks to ex-housemate Allison's subscription :) while doing some late night eatin' & writin' at IHOP Wheaton (seems well lit cheap diner/old timey eatery like places i can relax & write it, i can't imagine writing at a Starbucks or even at Tryst in Adams-Morgan); a story about an aging (42) indie rocker (from Mr. T Experience) writing a book with a teen protagonist at the urging of a fan in the publishing biz & then Will Ferrell & co. buying the rights to make the movie. The book is called King Dork, & the main character in it "rails against "the cult of Catcher in the Rye" ", so I read in Time, sounds interesting - here is the link.

- Sujewa

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

May '05 interview with Amir Motlagh re: Date Number One & self-distribution

Here's the link to an interview I did last year with filmmaker Amir Motlagh. It's about Date Number One & self-distribution. Not much has changed in how I do things from then to now, except perhaps for the film fest thing - at that point I was planning on submitting to fests & then later on I re-thought that approach, since relying on fests would get in the way of my DIY distro magic. Anyway, possibly a good read for DIY minded filmmakers; check it out here.

- Sujewa

Mike & Todd's BLUE VELVET Adventure

Read all about it here, with photos. Great blog entry Mike Tully.

- Sujewa

Blogs that allow comments (at least some) are much better than ones that won't

What's the point of reading a blog if you can't comment on it? Well, I guess you can learn some interesting stuff - but one of the best/most interesting & sometimes very entertaining aspects of the blog world is the comments - for me (and I think for a lot of other people). The blog Cinecultist, however, feels differently. Cinecultist celebrates the fact that they don't allow comments and is picking on a director who dares to comment on a review published in indieWIRE. Check it out here.

So, again, comments = good, no comments = not that good, bit dull.
(I do however like the Edward Hopper image on the Cinecultist blog, another topic for another time; blog design).

Also, by allowing comments the blog owner is creating room for a community of readers to form around the blog. Makes the blog more interesting.

- Sujewa

Scott Kirsner's book THE FUTURE OF WEB VIDEO now available for purchase

I haven't read it yet but I am looking forward to it (Krisner's thorough list of web sites where video producers can make money is awesome). Here is a little bit of the description of the book, from e-tailer lulu.com's site:

The Future of Web Video: Opportunities for Producers, Entrepreneurs, Media Companies and Advertisers

by Scott Kirsner

"... “The Future of Web Video” details twelve tectonic shifts reshaping the entertainment landscape. It includes interviews with senior execs from Brightcove, Revver, TiVo, Verizon, and Ogilvy & Mather, as well as Web video pioneers like Judson Laipply ("Evolution of Dance"), Fritz Grobe ("Extreme Diet Coke and Mentos"), and Gregg Spiridellis (“This Land”).

Full of up-to-date stats, original interviews, and valuable case studies, “The Future of Web Video” also contains charts covering:

> Sites that help video producers earn money
> Online viewership habits
> Devices that bring Web video to the TV
> Opportunities and challenges Web video presents "

Check it out here.

- Sujewa

Fox Searchlight has a blog

Anyone who is into what this Indiewood studio is up to can go check out their blog here:
http://foxsearchlight.blogspot.com/.

- Sujewa

Monday, November 27, 2006

Date Number One: 3/15/07 (screening), 4/22/07 (DVDs @ special event)

Date Number One will screen in Kensington, MD on March 15, 2007, at the Kensington Row Bookshop/a Capital City Microcinema screening. More info. & links closer to the date.

DNO DVDs will be on sale at a booth (& there maybe other promo activities happening, also perhaps other DNO merch) at the Day of the Book festival in Kensington, MD (one of the newest & most popular literary events in the DC area) on April, 22, 2007. More on that event coming soon.

- Sujewa

Lance talks to a Heretic re: DVD distribution

Lance Weiler talks with Alex Afterman of the DVD label Heretic Films. Here is the intro from Lance's post at The Workbook Project:

"Today’s guest is Alex Afterman of Heretic Films. In our conversation Alex breaks down how the DVD side of the business works and what filmmakers can do to best prepare themselves to reach retail and rental outlets."

Go here to download the conversation.

DV Guru mentions my 2006: DIY Year In Review post

Check out the DV Guru post here. Thanks Brian!

- Sujewa

Checking back on the ideas I had re: DIY distribution in October 2005

The Date Number One self-distribution project is about to enter its 9th month. This is a 24 month long project (at least, well, for the initial release, and I am sure it will be an eternal/life long PT project after that, which is fine by me), and so far things are going pretty well. I should have the DVDs available for sale in early December, and then more screenings in '07 & in '08.

In 2006 several other filmmakers also engaged in DIY distribution: Lance Weiler, Kelley Baker, Kat Candler, Andrew Bujalski, etc. At the end of this year I will have a thorough post on the '06 DIY distribution activities. For now, here is a post with many relevant links.

Here's the post, from October 2005, that announced my plan to explore DIY distribution using Date Number One (and so far no major changes in how I view the future):

The New US Indie Film Frontier: D.I.Y. Distribution

(Originally published in Watch This Movie blog on Monday, October 24, 2005)

Making Distro Low Budget Indie & D.I.Y: Searching For & Building The New U.S. Indie Film Frontier. Thoughts On Expanding & Developing A New Field Of Existence For The American Indie Filmmaker, A Sub-Goal Of The "Date Number One" D.I.Y. (do-it-yourself, completely independent) Distro (distribution) Project.

By Sujewa Ekanayake

I am the maker (Producer/Screenwriter/Director/Cinematographer/Editor) and the distributor (D.I.Y. ultra-low budget self-distro effort including a 2 year U.S. tour) of the upcoming U.S. indie feature film "Date Number One" http://www.wilddiner.com/. The film is being edited at the moment and the low-budget/no-budget pre-distribution promotional & publicity work will kick into a higher gear on Dec. 1 with a talk at Kensington Row Bookshop in Kensington, Maryland about the making of the movie http://members.verizon.net/~vze4nbyt/talks.html. I expect to begin theatrical screenings in Spring '06 - most likely in April, starting in Washington, D.C (the film will also be submitted to festivals world wide starting in Nov/Dec of this year). The primary goals of the self-distro project are of course to get the film seen by a lot of people and to make a profit from the project. There are secondary goals for the distro project, they are: 1) to see if an unknown, ultra-low budget/no budget filmmaker can successfully mount an ultra-low budget theatrical distribution effort for an ultra-low budget/no-star DV feature, and 2) to document the experience, make the notes available to the general public/other filmmakers so that they may be able to use the experience in distributing their own movies. Real indie distribution exists in the indie rock world to a very high degree, but, in the indie film world, at this point in time in the U.S.A., the same is not the case. Distribution, real indie/D.I.Y. distribution, is a new frontier for development in the U.S. indie film industry/scene and I will be jumping enthusiastically into that field of exploration.

So what may be the layout of this new frontier that I am attempting to discover more directly and further illuminate through the "Date Number One" self-distro project? Glimpses of this area can be seen by examining the distribution stories of "The Debut" http://debutfilm.pinoynet.com/home.asp and "Robot Stories" http://www.robotstories.net/. I do not know the exact dollar figure for the self-distribution expenses on either of those projects, and I do not know if the filmmakers (at least the directors) of those projects were able to make a living through the self-distribution process during the distribution period or eventually were able to pay themselves adequately for the work performed on behalf of the films. One of the questions that I expect to answer for myself through my distro project is whether self-distribution can be a day job for an indie filmmaker. I sense that D.I.Y. distro can pay the bills/keep the filmmaker/distributor alive, given the right film project and given a filmmaker/distributor who has relatively low living expenses. I know that in the indie rock world disciplined and committed bands make a living through touring and performing their work and through selling their songs on CDs and other formats. Can something very similar be done in the indie film world? Can an indie filmmaker side-step the entire Hollywood and Indiewood distribution culture and mechanisms (except when collaboration with those entities is a massive benefit for the project and do not compromise ownership and control of the project, here I am thinking about arrangements Jim Jarmusch http://brokenflowersmovie.com/home.html makes for his movies) and make a living through self-distribution? Just as Fugazi http://www.dischord.com/bands/fugazi.shtml and Ani DiFranco http://www.righteousbabe.com/ani/index.asp do in the music world, it may be possible for one or more filmmakers from a given film project to make all the money they need for a given period of time through working on distribution of that project. It may be possible to make a living through making and distributing quality art/indie ultra-low budget, no-star movies. With DV technology such movies are easier and more affordable to make now, just add years of hard work, talent & skill to make them excellent (see Rick Schmidt's book "Extreme DV At Used Car Prices" for info. on making DV features for under $3000 http://lightvideo.com/ and for an intro to the basic work necessary), and through touring, selling DVDs and other low cost D.I.Y. distro efforts (possibly Video On Demand? see GreenCine for info. on that http://www.greencine.com/main , and see my web page for the D.I.Y. 2005 Film Movement http://www.wilddiner.com/diy2005.htm for more info. on the punk/indie rock industry/scene & Amir Motlagh http://www.amorproductions.com/amir_motlagh.html, a CA based indie filmmaker who tours often, inspired approaches to indie film distro) it may be possible to make money back, make a profit, and perhaps even make a living. The New U.S. Indie Film World may already contain but can certainly contain, in significant numbers in the very near future, filmmakers/directors who distribute their work through touring, through DVD & other accessible methods, and do this as their primary or only source of income. To be able to do so without having to become entangled in Hollywood or Indiewood and the limitations imposed by their economic needs, processes, protocol, preferences and prejudices would mean the achievement of a new level of excellence in the business side of American indie film. To be able to do so will also open up new creative vistas for the filmmaker. If the filmmaker is able to self-finance (through profits, fame, connections and most importantly experience gained from previous self-distro projects) and self-distribute a given low-budget art/indie project, she can have greater control over the cost of production, casting, subject matter, aesthetic choices and all other aspects of her movie. Indie-distributors-for-hire services offered by companies such as Artistic License http://www.artlic.com/ and Truly Indie http://www.trulyindie.com/ may be useful in expanding self-distro campaigns for certain features (perhaps after the filmmaker/distributor makes some money back from several dozen theatrical screenings and a lot of DVD sales or other project related revenue sources created by the initial self-distribution efforts, because hiring another company to expand self-distribution will most likely be more expensive than doing the work directly yourself). I will explore all these tantalizing possibilities through the "Date Number One" self-distro project from Spring '06 to Spring/Summer '08, and will report the results of this experiment.

And a parting, somewhat related, thought: more indie film theaters/screening venues may have to be created/the economic possibility for creating more such venues may exist at this point. Just as the birth and development of punk and indie rock gave rise to dedicated venues to perform that work, the increase in production due to DV and popularity of the indie process may be an opportunity for opening more indie theaters that cater mostly to art/indie low-budget/D.I.Y. films. Creating and operating such venues can also be a day job for the indie/D.I.Y. filmmaker. Something worth looking into (check outthese venues for examples and possible inspiration: Ragtag Cinemacafe http://www.ragtagfilm.com/, Northwest Film Forum http://www.nwfilmforum.org/index.shtml, Storefront Cinema http://www.storefrontcinema.com/storfrnt.htm).

- Sujewa

DON'T READ If You Have Not Seen The Fountain Yet

I don't want to take away your "figuring it out" experience, so, until you see The Fountain, don't read this post.

Now, for the people who have seen the movie, here's my take on the plot; let me know what you think:

I think that Story 1 - the one about Spain & the Conquistador, never happened in the real world of the film - it is merely a story created by Izzy - the female lead character in Story 2 - the one with the doctor & the monkey. It, Story 1, is also a symbolic story - a tale - that hints at what will happen to the real person - Tom in Story 2, as he continues with his quest for immortality.

Story 3, the space story set in the future, is a continuation of Story 2. The male lead is the same male, Tom, from Story 2. The tatooing that he started in the modern time, our time, after Izzy's death, continued for hundreds of years & by the time we get to the space story, the dude is covered in tattoos. Also, the two stories being the tale of one character explains the flashbacks Space Tom has, flashbacks to Izzy in our time.

So what do you thinks? Does that make sense?

- Sujewa

Sunday, November 26, 2006

A visit from The Film Panel Notetaker, my photo on TFPN blog

Brian, The Film Panel Notetaker, came down to my part of the world for the Thanksgiving weekend & I introduced him & his cool writer friend Sarah (sp?) to some delicious Vietnamese food in Wheaton, MD. Much quality fun was had. Brian posted a photo of me that he took this weekend at my dayjob - the bookstore - over at his blog, check it out here.

A whole bunch of Date Number One images




















L-R: Dele Williams & Jennifer Blakemore from Story 2: A Romantic Dinner For 3, John Stabb Schroeder & Jewel Greenberg from Story 1: Just Another Ninja Searching For Love, Dele Williams from Story 2, small DNO promo image featuring ninja, Christine D. Lee from Story 4: Air Quotes Woman. All from Date Number One.

Images Copyright 2006 Sujewa Ekanayake/Wild Diner Films

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The AUTOMATONS are coming!

Get the early warning here. The robot war movie Automatons will play at the Pioneer Theater, NYC starting 12/13. I'll have a review, & some pics maybe, here soon. Will humanity survive? We'll know soon.

Here's the synopsis of the flick from the Pioneer Theater's site:

" Somewhere in the distant future, The Girl is alone. She is the last of her people, the others having died in a generations-long war that she continues to fight with the assistance of a group of antiquated robot helpers and soldiers.
Her only connection to her long-dead people is a collection of recorded journal entries made by the scientist who cared for her as a baby. His is the only friendly human face she’s ever seen. The regular transmissions from her enemy leader are always filled with threats and taunts. The girl responds to these invasions by attack of her own, carried out by her mechanical soldiers on the contaminated surface where no human can survive.
Men started this war. The machines will finish it."

The definition of Independent Film

Independent film = in the United States a movie made outside of Hollywood or Indiewood (divisions of Hollywood companies that deal with low budget movies) or without the assistance of large corporate or institutional support, a movie made for a very low budget (if you have a lot of money to spend on your film, the fact that it is made outside of Hollywood or Indiewood is largely irrelevant), a movie made by a person or a team of people unknown to/previously not well employed by Hollywood or Indiewood & a movie featuring actors unknown to/previously not well employed by Hollywood or Indiewood.

What is a low budget in late 2006? The independent film Dance Party, USA was reportedly made for $3,000. My independent movie Date Number One was made for under $10,000.
I would say around $50,000 or less for a digital video originated movie and around $200,000 or less for a film made using 16 MM motion picture film are low budgets for this point in time.

Is there an independent film aesthetic? Or is there one way that an indie films should or do look? No. An independent film can look like Casablanca (very polished looking) or it can look like The Living End (rough looking image & sound).

Can a film be good if it is not an independent film? Yes. Hollywood & Indiewood have made many excellent movies.

Is a film good just because it is an independent film? No. There are many independent films that are not well made and are not satisfying as art or entertainment.

Can a film be made independently and then be distributed through Hollywood or Indiewood? Yes. Stranger Than Paradise, Slacker, Clerks are all examples of that.

Can a film be made independently and be distributed independently? Yes. The Debut (theatrical only), Robot Stories (theatrical only), Head Trauma (theatrical and home/DVD) are examples of independent films being distributed independently, without the assistance of Hollywood or Indiewood.

Why is independent film important? Independent film allows people who are not employed by or favorably connected to Hollywood or indiewood make and distribute movies. Movies, motion pictures, are the most popular art form & the most popular choice for entertainment in our time, and thus it is important for there to be an avenue for ordinary people, non-Hollywood or non-Indiewood artists & entertainers, to use the motion picture medium to tell stories. Independent film can have a positive social impact and can offer better or additional entertainment options for consumers. Independent film is also a tool for self-empowerment for some and also for some a tool for building a business, building wealth, an income generating activity; which are all very positive things.

- Sujewa

"I'm just shocked that after 11 years, how hard it still is to get these movies made" - Ed Burns :: Some Burns Links

Ed Burns & Kevin Smith, though close to me in age, are part of a different generation of filmmakers - they are of the "make your breakout feature on 16 MM, get picked up by Holly/Indie Wood, get famous/start career" generation - members of perhaps the first & the last generation - The 90's Indie Filmmaker Generation - of American film artists to get their careers started the way I described above. Because, as Burns says in the Looking For Kitty commentary, those days are over; distributors are telling him that the specialty film business of the 90's is no more.

Check out this Q & A with Burns re: The Groomsmen (still have not seen that, looking forward to it), he talks a bit about the changing financing & distribution landscape that he finds himself in:

http://chronicridicule.blogspot.com/2006/07/edward-burns-groomsmen-q.html

Here is a relevant segment of the Q & A (re: The Groomsmen of course, & re: having Brittany Murphy in the movie):

"EB: ... I'm just shocked that after 11 years, how hard it still is to get these movies made; to have this great cast together, this script and we couldn't get three million dollars. I had to call Brittany up and say 'look, I need a fucking favor -- could you please come into this movie? If you're wearing a wedding dress, they know that they put that on the DVD and they'll make their money back the first weekend that it comes out on DVD -- so, in order to get this movie made, we need you.' She said 'hell yeah!'"

Burns is however adapting fast to the new reality (of course we wouldn't expect less form an indie filmmaker): he shot Looking For Kitty on digital video & says he did it for $200,000. He has previously made movies for low-millions & on 35 MM. In the Kitty DVD commentary Burns says he also shot a lot of stuff without permits, using available light, & calling in a lot of favors from friends. Kitty is said to be shot on a $3K Sony 24p digital video camera. It is a good looking film, Burns' DP did a great job.

And he is being very productive. There is another Burns directed movie on the way, it's called Purple Violets (IMDB).

And here is a MySpace page for Burns, perhaps set up by a fan. If that is the official MySpace page for Burns, someone let me know.

While I am convinced that not depending on indiewood to build my filmmaking career (instead using DV as the shooting format, doing D.I.Y. distribution, & starting with incredibly low budgets for production & distribution, relying on DVD sales to keep things moving forward, using blogs & web based networking for press & assistance) is the way to go, I learn a lot by paying attention to how the Burns/Smith generation did things & continues to do things. Overall I like Ed Burns movies more than I like Kevin Smith movies (though Smith movies are funnier), so I pay a little bit more attention to Burns' career (to his indie directing stuff, I skip his Hollywood acting stuff, except for Saving Private Ryan - that's a good one). The director's commentary on Sidewalks Of New York saved my life when I was shooting Date Number One (DNO was taking too long to shoot - we were shooting story 2 - A Romantic Dinner For 3 when this happened - and I started off trying to shoot it the traditional way with a locked down camera/on a tripod & w/ 3-point lighting, but I ran into trouble with that - with crippling delays, things taking too long to do - so I took Burns' advice from the Sidewalks DVD commentary & started shooting the movie as if it were a documentary - using available light, a hand held camera, not worrying about set design & make up, etc. - which made it possible to make the movie). I am half way through the director's commentary on Looking For Kitty, and there are lots of great reminders on that one too; tips on getting low budget films made.

Burns' productivity & adaptation to adverse circumstances are exciting & challenging. Makes me want to make more movies.

- Sujewa

Friday, November 24, 2006

Looking For Kitty is good

It's a low key drama-comedy so it is best to approach this movie by Ed Burns with modest expectations. Looking For kitty does deliver in the end, after a few unexpected twists and turns. The movie is about two men searching for a missing woman, at least that is the thin plot; inside that we get to see many warm snapshots of people grappling with the inevitable truth, slow changes in a new direction, and the streets of New York City bathed in the winter sun. This movie is unlike all of the other Burns movies I have seen (I believe I have seen them all except for The Groomsmen). Like a sip of fresh coffee on a cold day, Looking For Kitty is good & is recommended.

The DVD is available now from THINKFilm. I stumbled upon a copy at my local Blockbuster Video yesterday, so it is probably everywhere now.

- Sujewa

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Race & Indie Film (part 1? probably, no doubt :)

The following is an excerpt from a recent interview I did with Aaron Katz, the director of the indie drama Dance Party, USA. We got off the topic of his film & started talking about race & the indie film scene for a bit. Here is that portion of the interview:

" Sujewa: It was cool hanging out with Stacy Schoolfield, a producer of the currently self-distributed flick Jumping Off Bridges, last night in Silver Spring, MD. We talked for a moment about the apparent low number of women & minorities in key positions in indie film production & distribution. I think the numbers are going up, but with the DV revolution I expected them to go up much quicker - since the cost of entry is now low & films can be made with just 1-5 or so crew members & very little equipment. Why do you think at the moment it seems like US indie film is mostly a liberal "white" male thing (not that there is anything wrong with that)? The indie film scene does not seem as diverse as the music scene.

Aaron: The film business has never been nearly as diverse as the music business. I can count American minority filmmakers prior to 1960 that I've heard of on the fingers of one hand. On the other hand black people are responsible for creating half of, or even more than half of, American music genres of the 20th century. Obviously this comes in part from the fact that minorities have had much less access to wealth. You don't need a lot of money to make music. Now, as you said, the price of entry into film has recently become low, but traditionally the price of entry has been very high. It takes time for the idea that you need all this expensive stuff and all these highly paid crew people to wear off. There's still this unnecessary mystique around film production that there's not around music. Really I think minorities, women, and liberal white guys alike are just now discovering what's possible.

Sujewa: David Lowery & also Pioneer's blog has grouped yourself, Joe Swanberg, Andrew Bujalski, & the Duplass brothers together as a new low-budget filmmaking movement. One thing I noticed about all of your good/interesting/excellent movies is the lack of minority/non-"white" characters in lead roles (except the supporting role of the DJ in Mutual Appreciation, if I recall correctly). How do you think that came about? Is it because you guys don't have any minority/non-"white" friends that are into filmmaking (since you use a lot of your friends in your low budget movies)? As an audience member what is interesting to me about indie film is seeing people that you do not see a lot in Hollywood movies on the screen (post-Down By Law Jarmusch movies are a good example, also the queer film movement), in non-stereotypical roles.

Aaron: I've definitely noticed this and tried to figure out what it's all about. For me it's circumstantial. Had, say, a black guy or a Japanese girl come in to audition and they were better actors than a white guy or white girl I would have cast them. I had imagined Gus, the main character in Dance Party, as a white kid in advance. In part because the guy he was based on is white, but if a black guy came in and he was great I would have figured out what that changed and gone with it. As long as we're talking about the issues of race in independent filmmaking, I'd be curious to get your take on it.

Sujewa: The indie filmmaking scene is getting more diverse - but there is a long way to go. Most people - indie film fans - will only be able to identify a handful of currently active indie filmmakers from minority backgrounds at this point. But, also at this point in time, the tools/the means of production & distribution are more accessible than ever - so all kinds of people who were shut out of filmmaking in the past can now try it - thanks to the digital production revolution, the internet as a cheap publicity tool, the growing interest in self-distribution, DVD players everywhere, etc. I think within 5 years there will be many more minority indie filmmakers - just sheer quantity wise - & out of that should come some excellent filmmakers - film is a hard art to master, takes a lot of work, failures & attempts. I think US indie film is generally open to ethnic diversity. At least I have not felt any hard resistance against my new film from the US indie film scene because I am a filmmaker from an ethnic minority group. I think at the moment Hollywood may be more diverse ethnically, but pretty soon I believe the US indie filmmaking arena will be much more diverse than Hollywood - which will affect Hollywood soon after - because the indie arena is a place most filmmakers like to pass through on their way to Hollywood."

Blogreaders, feel free to chime in on this topic through the Comments below (but behave; clean language & well thought out & relevant arguments only, other stuff will not be allowed through). Thanks.

- Sujewa

Indie Film Stuff That I Am Thankful For This Year

There is of course the non-indie film stuff that I am very thankful for; consisting mainly of being alive, good health & the special people in my life.

And now here's the list of indie film stuff that I am thankful for this year:

- getting Date Number One finished with the help of a whole lot of people

- getting the 12 screenings of DNO done this year, again a lot of people helped with that one, u know who u are

- Chuck Tryon's review of DNO after the World Premiere screening in May, very thankful for that, it was way better than what I expected

- all the other positive reviews of DNO from this year, very very thankful for those; from Hollywood Is Talking blog, GreenCine Daily & Amir Motlagh

& a big thanks to anyone who is not covered by the above items but helped me with my indie film stuff this year. indie film maybe independent of hollywood, but it is very dependent on a lot of cool people, at least that is the case in my experience - so thanks thanks thanks a lot to all of you.

- sujewa

Sooner or later everyone swings by the web? Links: John Sayles web site, Emerging Pictures Blog

Eight Men Out is an excellent movie. And when I first saw it & then liked it; read about it, it was difficult for me to believe an independent filmmaker had made that movie 'cause at that point (early 90's), to me indie filmmakers meant folks like Jim Jarmusch, Hal Hartley & Gus Van Sant - w/ a slightly rougher, more off-beat style & take on life than the very polished & kind of classic Eight Men Out style & view. Eight Men Out's director John Sayles' career goes back further then that of my early 90's indie filmmaker heros, and now web surfers can read all about it at what appears to be the official John Sayles site.

The other link find of the day was the Emerging Pictures blog. I got the John Sayles site link from the EP blog.

Thanks Filmmaker Magazine's blog for the EP blog link.

Now we just need the official Jim Jarmusch website or the official Jim Jarmusch blog :) Then all will be nearly perfect on the web regarding the presence of classic indie filmmakers.

- Sujewa

Did the Ed Burns movie Looking For Kitty go directly to DVD?

I don't recall reading reviews of this flick or seeing any sign of a theatrical release. I don't know if the movie is good, but it's ED BURNS, shouldn't a film by him get a theatrical release; given that he's made several movies, some very good, & was one of the stars of Saving Private Ryan (i bring that up only to point out that Burns is not an unknown in the film biz - not a huge risk to put out a flick starring him & made by him to theaters i think)? I saw Kitty on DVD at Blockbuster today, rented it, am about to watch it.

Ed, if you read this, get in touch, let's do an interview re: the fate of Kitty. Why did it not get released theatrically? And what's with The Groomsmen not getting a wide(er) theatrical release - even a wider indie level theatrical release? I don't think it came to DC. And I only saw very little press & publicity for that flick. Something weird is going on.

- Sujewa

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Interview with Aaron Katz, director of Dance Party, USA

Aaron Katz is the director of the well reviewed ultra low budget indie drama Dance Party, USA (check out my review here, I enjoyed the flick). The movie recently started playing at the Pioneer Theater in New York City. I was able to ask Katz a few questions recently about his film work and some related topics during this e-mail interview:

Sujewa: Hey Aaron, I liked Dance Party, USA a lot. Since other recent interviews (GreenCine Daily's links for the movie) have talked a lot about the movie, I'll start off with a question about the movie that you just finished: Quiet City - what's that about?

Aaron: Quiet City is about a couple strangers, Charlie and Jamie, who meet and hang out in Brooklyn over the course of 24 hours. Jamie's supposed to be meeting her friend, but the friend never shows so she just keeps hanging out with Charlie. I'm excited about it. Cris and Erin, the two leads, were amazing to work with. They were both totally open.

Sujewa: And on to DPUSA; how did your $3,000 production budget break down? What did you spend what on? Also, how much did it cost for post-production? And for distribution so far (including fests & marketing for any theatrical, sending out screeners, etc.)? I think the cost of ultra-low budget indie film production & distribution going down due to DV is awesome.

Aaron: Well, we spent about $1200 getting everyone to Portland. Marc and Brendan (the two producers) and myself drove and everyone else flew in. We spent about $500 on equipment and tapestock. We had camera, sound, and a small lighting kit that we got for free, but we spent some money on some things from the department store. We got extension cords, some fluorescent fixtures and tubes that we put diffusion over to use as softlights, batteries, practical bulbs of varying types, and a few other things. I guess we spent a couple hundred on gas and a couple hundred on snacks. My dad made our meals though so we didn't pay for those. We did pay for beer to give to the people who let us shoot the party scene at their house. What does all that add up to? Is that $3000 yet? That's most of it anyway. As I've said in other interviews the big thing that made it possible was that it was a group effort. Everyone did what they could to scrap and scrape and figure out how to do it with what we had. In post I haven't kept track. It was never a lot of money at once, but I've definitely spent a few hundred. Postcard printing, festival submission fees, blank DVDs, things like that.

Sujewa: How is the "selling home made DVDs while screening your movie at fests & a theater (Pioneer in NYC)" going? I think what you are doing is a smart move for low-budget, self-distributed indies - opens up a path for some $s to come your way, kind of like indie rockers having their CD for sale while they tour.

Aaron: Yeah. It is kind of like that. And it's going well. I'm surprised at how many DVDs I've sold. It's not a lot by any stretch, but it's more than I expected. Over the last week I've sold four or five a day. And they're to people all over. I'm curious to know where exactly each person found out about the movie.

Sujewa: At another interview you said your day job is projecting film at the IFC Center. Are you ever tempted to screen DPUSA @ IFC Center w/ out the management knowing about it?

Aaron: So far I haven't been. IFC Center has amazing facilities and it would be great to see Dance Party here, but I like my job and I wouldn't want to do it under the radar.

Sujewa: The DPUSA lead actors did a good job I thought, what are they up to these days?

Aaron: Cole went to the Atlantic Theater Conservatory right after Dance Party. That's the Mamet school. He's in Mexico right now, I'm not sure what he's doing there, but I understand he'll be back in New York soon. Anna still lives in Portland. She does a lot of interesting things there. Painting and bookmaking and things like that. Ryan White is in a band, but he has no cell phone and no address. Every now and then I get a call from some random number and it's him saying that he's in town and wants to hang out.

Sujewa: It was cool hanging out with Stacy Schoolfield, a producer of the currently self-distributed flick Jumping Off Bridges, last night in Silver Spring, MD. We talked for a moment about the apparent low number of women & minorities in key positions in indie film production & distribution. I think the numbers are going up, but with the DV revolution I expected them to go up much quicker - since the cost of entry is now low & films can be made with just 1-5 or so crew members & very little equipment. Why do you think at the moment it seems like US indie film is mostly a liberal "white" male thing (not that there is anything wrong with that)? The indie film scene does not seem as diverse as the music scene.

Aaron: The film business has never been nearly as diverse as the music business. I can count American minority filmmakers prior to 1960 that I've heard of on the fingers of one hand. On the other hand black people are responsible for creating half of, or even more than half of, American music genres of the 20th century. Obviously this comes in part from the fact that minorities have had much less access to wealth. You don't need a lot of money to make music. Now, as you said, the price of entry into film has recently become low, but traditionally the price of entry has been very high. It takes time for the idea that you need all this expensive stuff and all these highly paid crew people to wear off. There's still this unnecessary mystique around film production that there's not around music. Really I think minorities, women, and liberal white guys alike are just now discovering what's possible.

Sujewa: David Lowery & also Pioneer's blog has grouped yourself, Joe Swanberg, Andrew Bujalski, & the Duplass brothers together as a new low-budget filmmaking movement. One thing I noticed about all of your good/interesting/excellent movies is the lack of minority/non-"white" characters in lead roles (except the supporting role of the DJ in Mutual Appreciation, if I recall correctly). How do you think that came about? Is it because you guys don't have any minority/non-"white" friends that are into filmmaking (since you use a lot of your friends in your low budget movies)? As an audience member what is interesting to me about indie film is seeing people that you do not see a lot in Hollywood movies on the screen (post-Down By Law Jarmusch movies are a good example, also the queer film movement), in non-stereotypical roles.

Aaron: I've definitely noticed this and tried to figure out what it's all about. For me it's circumstantial. Had, say, a black guy or a Japanese girl come in to audition and they were better actors than a white guy or white girl I would have cast them. I had imagined Gus, the main character in Dance Party, as a white kid in advance. In part because the guy he was based on is white, but if a black guy came in and he was great I would have figured out what that changed and gone with it. As long as we're talking about the issues of race in independent filmmaking, I'd be curious to get your take on it.

Sujewa: The indie filmmaking scene is getting more diverse - but there is a long way to go. Most people - indie film fans - will only be able to identify a handful of currently active indie filmmakers from minority backgrounds at this point. But, also at this point in time, the tools/the means of production & distribution are more accessible than ever - so all kinds of people who were shut out of filmmaking in the past can now try it - thanks to the digital production revolution, the internet as a cheap publicity tool, the growing interest in self-distribution, DVD players everywhere, etc. I think within 5 years there will be many more minority indie filmmakers - just sheer quantity wise - & out of that should come some excellent filmmakers - film is a hard art to master, takes a lot of work, failures & attempts. I think US indie film is generally open to ethnic diversity. At least I have not felt any hard resistance against my new film from the US indie film scene because I am a filmmaker from an ethnic minority group. I think at the moment Hollywood may be more diverse ethnically, but pretty soon I believe the US indie filmmaking arena will be much more diverse than Hollywood - which will affect Hollywood soon after - because the indie arena is a place most filmmakers like to pass through on their way to Hollywood.

Back to your movie, how did the Dance Party, USA opening at Pioneer go on Wed 11/15?

Aaron: The run has been good. I was nervous about it. The first couple nights we had about 15 people and then on Friday there were only 7. I was really depressed about that. I kind of got disproportionately upset for a while, but then I realized that it wasn't that big of a deal. When I made the movie I had no idea it would come as far as it has. I lost sight of that for about an hour. Either way the rest of the screenings have been better. Last night, weirdly, we had a lot of people. I'm not sure why they chose Tuesday to come out.

Sujewa: If $s were not an issue, what kind of subjects, themes would you want to explore through your upcoming movies & why?

Aaron: I would make some things in a similar vein to Dance Party and Quiet City, but I also have a couple of projects in mind that would take a lot more money. There's this satirical British novel from 80's called Flashman and the Redskins that I want to adapt the first half of. It would be called The Forty-Niner. It's a western about this supposed war hero, who is actually despicable. The weird part is that despite its bleak point of view and bleak humor the book gets to you emotionally. I also want to do a movie about a black jazz drummer and a white country musician in early 1960's Oklahoma City. The jazz guy plays as part of the bland house band at a posh dinner club and the country guy hangs around bars, getting gigs here and there. The jazz guy has big ideas about composing music, but can never seem to accomplish anything. The two hang out and drink and smoke and eventually start to figure things out. The vibe I imagine is a little like Fat City.

Sujewa: Is there going to be a sequel to DPUSA? It would be interesting to see what happens to those two lead characters after high school.

Aaron: No sequel. I agree it would be interesting, but the moment is gone.

Sujewa: Thanks a lot for the interview Aaron. Best of luck with Dance Party, USA.

*

Dance Party, USA has three more dates at the Pioneer coming up soon: November 24, 26, and 27, all at 7:15 PM. Additionally, there will be some late night dates added in December. Go check out Aaron's movie if you haven't yet. Here is my review of it, originally published on this blog on 11/15/06:

Dance Party, USA is a $3K digital video feature with some excellent cinematography; specially the night time driving scenes of the city, the colors reminded me a little of a DV version of Mystery Train. The story DPUSA tells is a sly coming of age story. Cole Pensinger (who looks a little like one of the SNL actors) plays Gus, the male lead of the story & Anna Kavan plays the somewhat mysterious female lead Jessica. The two meet at a party, Gus tells Jessica a dark secret, and then we are not sure exactly where the story is going to go. It is a pleasant unpredictability. DPUSA is quietly pleasurable & absorbing. First time feature writer & director Aaron Katz has crafted a very impressive debut. The party goes down every night for the next week and a few nights more at the Pioneer Theater in NYC, starting tonight [wed 11/15]. If you are open for some low key escapism through reflections of simultaneously ordinary and extraordinary events from the border years of official adulthood, then Dance Party, USA is the movie for you.

- Sujewa

An Indie Features video site is up :: My Fylmz interview :: Happy Thanksgiving

Indie Features video site

Lance Weiler, one of my co-bloggers at the indie film group blog Indie Features (formerly known as Indie Features 06) has started a video site for clips of films by IF bloggers. Check out the video site here.

There is at least 1 more IF video site coming this year; a project I started working on about a month ago at YouTube but have not completed yet. It'll get done before '07.

Thanks Lance for setting up the first Indie Features video site! Hopefully next week I can add some Date Number One clips to it.


My Fylmz Interview

The indie film site Fylmz interviewed me today about Date Number One & self-distribution. Will let ya know when they have the interview up on the web. Thanks Fylmz!


Happy Thanksgiving

Got much plans to hang with family & friends on T-giving day. Hope you've got some warm fuzzy stuff going on that day too. Have a happy Thanksgiving.

- Sujewa

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Magic Bullet is the Customer: FAST FOOD NATION is Yummy :: Richard Linklater interview at David Lowery's blog

Saw Fast Food Nation last night. Yummy may be the wrong word to describe it, but the movie certainly was well done & let's say nutritious. The scenes of cows getting killed were very effective, I could not bring myself to eat meat today. FFN was exceptional for a couple of other reasons: in the story the bad guys are basically pawns of a system - a system that stays alive because of the consumer preference for meat, and the good guys are not very effective. Which makes me as the audience member ask myself: "well, what's the solution?". If the burger industry executives are too weak or basically unable to do the right thing (that being stopping or cutting back on making burgers, or at least making sure the entire burger making process is as painless as possible for everyone involved) I guess as a customer, it is up to me to help influence change by not consuming meat. That's right; cows get slaughtered & all manner of laws get violated in order to make a profit from satisfying the customer demand for meat. So, customers like myself changing our behavior will affect the whole thing. Another aspect of the movie that I liked was how human the whole proceeding was: everyone is given a chance to be likeable or at least be multi-dimensional: the illegal immigrants from Mexico, the burger industry exec, the meat supplier (played by Bruce Willis). Also, I liked the fact that one of the stories dealt with members of a minority group/illegal immigrants from Mexico. Not many indie or indie-related/smart movies reflect the existence & experiences of non-"whites" in the US, and even fewer deal with illegal Mexican immigrants as individuals. David Lowery's got an interview on his blog with FFN director Richard Linklater, check it out.

Goodbye Robert Altman

I am going to have to watch Short Cuts & The Player again, two of my favorite Altman movies, to celebrate his long career.

Check out GreenCine Daily's post re: Altman's life & work.

- Sujewa

Reid Rosefelt remembers Jim Jarmusch's breakthrough moment

This is a segment from a long interview I did with indie film publicity consultant & former publicist Reid Rosefelt:

" Sujewa: Back in '83/'84 did you think Jim Jarmusch & Stranger Than Paradise would become the icons that they are now; when you first saw Stranger & met Jarmusch? Any related stories about the early days of Jarmusch would be much appreciated. I see his career (the high profile/level of success) as being very odd & unpredictable - as in, typically things that get big in America, American art & entertainment - seems to have a lot of flash, noise & drama to it - specially in movies - Stranger certainly does not, at least not in any kind of a typical way. Like I can watch an early Scorcese or Spike Lee or Speilberg movie & believe that those directors would catch on in America (let's pretend that I did not know those directors were famous already), Stranger doesn't send out the same vibes. Anyway, let me stop here so you can answer :)

Reid: I actually wrote about this in my blog:
http://www.zoom-in.com/blog/2006/05/stranger_than_paradise_a_memoi.php

The main thing is that Jim was not seeking or expecting any kind of commercial success. He was just hoping that “Stranger Than Paradise” would go to festivals and that he would be able to make more films. The world that he made “Stranger” in did not hold out the same kind of delirious expectations that people have now. And even if it did, I know Jim would not have been tempted. But “Stranger” didn’t become a success because of Jim’s integrity. It was because Jim is a unique and huge talent. This was recognized by everyone before the film was even done, when it was just a 30-minute short.Of course there are still a lot of people like that—people not longing for a Hollywood dream--but now it would be very difficult for them to do the kind of things that Jim did in those days, like keep control of his negatives. And these things have had a lot to do with the freedom he enjoys to this day."

Check out the whole interview here. Rosefelt's got decades of experience in the specialty film field & has some very interesting stories to tell.

- Sujewa

It's gonna be hard to love Seinfeld re-runs after this

Well, this really sucks, Seinfeld's Micheal Richards freaked out at a stand up performance this past weekend & started insulting a couple of African-American audience members/hecklers. Thanks Matt Dentler's blog for the word on this story. I guess I can try to remind myself that the Kramer character is a fictional creation and not Micheal Richards, but its gonna be hard to enjoy the re-runs of one of my favorite comedies of all time from now on. Not sure how Richards is going to try to recover from this one, he wasn't drunk as far as I know - so that's one excuse he won't be able to use. Richards issued an apology for the melt down on the Letterman show on Monday night, I saw a little bit of it just now on the TV news, doesn't look like Richards really knows what went wrong this weekend at the comedy club. What's with all the ugly rage Richards? You were probably set for life & beyond because of the popularity of Kramer. Sad & stupid. And it must've really sucked for the audience at the comedy club, specially the individuals who were the target of Richards' racist rage attack.

- Sujewa

Monday, November 20, 2006

First Date Number One, now another ninja comedy (this new one is from Hollywood, w/ Rainn "The Office" Wilson)

John Stabb Schroeder as the ninja Mark H. Temonium in Date Number One.
Photo Copyright 2006 Sujewa Ekanayake/Wild Diner Films

First, starting in May 2006, some people started seeing a ninja in a feature comedy, in Date Number One. Looks like the DNO ninja is about to get some company, perhaps next year, check out this post about a ninja comedy in the works (thanks GreenCine Daily for the link), from Hollywood, starring Rainn Wilson from The Office. Should be fun. Perhaps the existence of this new Hollywood ninja comedy feature will result in some additional press for my ultra-indie ninja comedy feature. There really can't be too many ninjas in comedies, as I always say.

- Sujewa

From Shadows to Fassbinder, Herzog, Stranger Than Paradise and Beyond: REID ROSEFELT Interview

Film publicity consultant and former publicist Reid Rosefelt has, according to one of his on-line resumes, "worked on films by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, Jean-Luc Godard, Federico Fellini, Eric Rohmer, Jacques Rivette, Andrei Tarkovsky, Paul Verhoeven, and Jim Jarmusch (on “Stranger Than Paradise”). For seven years I was a unit publicist on studio films, working with directors like Ridley Scott (“1492”), Peter Weir (“The Mosquito Coast”), Susan Seidelman (“Desperately Seeking Susan”), Mike Nichols (“Heartburn”), Adrian Lyne (“Jacob’s Ladder”), and Francis Coppola (“The Godfather: Part III”)".

That is perhaps one of the most impressive lists of work experience in all of art/indie/foreign film that I have ever seen. I was fortunate enough to be able to ask Rosefelt a few questions this weekend regarding specialty film, his career & passion for film, and film publicity.

Sujewa: You have been a part of the indie & specialty film business since way back, certainly since the beginning of the current wave of US indie (which I place in '83/'84 w/ Stranger Than Paradise), were you surprised that w/ in 10 years after Stranger Than Paradise independent film became a mainstream product/something that generates a lot of revenue (Pulp Fiction for example) & gets mainstream press coverage (Sundance Film Fest for example)? Or did US indie film always have that potential to break big, even back in the mid-80's?

Reid: It really depends on how you look at things. You could say that there’s nothing new, and little has changed. The studios always used to make art films for very low budgets like “Driving Miss Daisy.” This was just one of the things they did in those days. They made some cheap high-quality films that they hoped would do well at Oscar time. But it’s always a risk when you try to do quality films.

“Stranger Than Paradise” is a classic, but I think the real milestone was “Sex, Lies & Videotape.” That showed that there was a huge amount of money that could be made from low-budget independent films. And it was found at Sundance. That movie put both the Sundance Festival and Independent Film on the map.

As things developed, the stars realized they could revitalize their careers by doing these films. And the studios discovered they could pick up these cheap films with stars. The stars worked for scale and everyone on the crew starved. At the end of the day you had a very good movie that was made for a fraction of the cost of a film made by a studio. And the studio could see how the film looked and played with a festival audience, critics and journalists—eliminating a lot of risk--and pick it up. And that’s the way it was for a while.

Eventually, you get to the place you are today and so many “independent films” are produced by the studios and the mega-billion dollar corporations that own them. Some with a classics division and some, like David Lynch and Wes Anderson’s movies, by the major studio directly, in their cases Disney. You need certain stars in order to get them greenlit and the scripts are developed with studio executives. When I started “Independent Film” meant independent of the major studios. Now it means nothing at all, which may be why the term “indie” is used so much. It’s a spongy term that can mean just quirkier, or weirder or more intense than “Talladaga Nights.”

Anyway, at this point in time I think Independent Film is just a useful marketing term. Of course people finance films independently and bring them to Sundance, but I fear that a lot of them are hoping to be discovered and work for the majors. In the old days, Spielberg made “Amblin” and Lucas made “THX” and that’s exactly what happened. They just had to find their way to the big time without Sundance. And guys like Sayles produced their films themselves by writing screenplays or whatever.

I’m not saying this is a bad thing. Wonderful movies are coming out of this. If someone will give people like Christine Vachon or James Schamus or Ted Hope money...this is a cause for international celebration.

Sujewa: Were there any great indie movies, of Stranger Than Paradise's quality or better, that just fell through the cracks & did not get the breaks & did not get famous - indie movies from the 80's & early 90's?

Reid: There were lots of good American independent films from decades before “Stranger Than Paradise.” A lot of the best loved 70s classic films, like “Five Easy Pieces” and the rest, were produced independently. All of Cassavetes. I got to New York in the mid-Seventies. There were movies like “Short Eyes,” “El Super,” “Northern Lights,” “Return of the Secaucus 7,” “El Norte.” “Hester Street.” Susan Seidelman’s “Smithereens” premiered at Cannes the year before “Stranger” did. These films all got well-reviewed and had national releases, some bigger than others. And Jarmusch came out of the east village downtown/art/music/performance scene. There were films being made by Amos Poe, Eric Mitchell, Beth & Scott B, Bette Gordon, etc. Not too many of these got national release and many were only seen in places like the Mudd Club. So there was lots of interesting work going on in the late 70s and early 80s, but they didn’t get the attention that American Independent films get today. And certainly the major studios weren’t interested. Small distribution companies mainly handled European films in those days.

Sujewa: Back in '83/'84 did you think Jim Jarmusch & Stranger Than Paradise would become the icons that they are now; when you first saw Stranger & met Jarmusch? Any related stories about the early days of Jarmusch would be much appreciated. I see his career (the high profile/level of success) as being very odd & unpredictable - as in, typically things that get big in America, American art & entertainment - seems to have a lot of flash, noise & drama to it - specially in movies - Stranger certainly does not, at least not in any kind of a typical way. Like I can watch an early Scorcese or Spike Lee or Speilberg movie & believe that those directors would catch on in America (let's pretend that I did not know those directors were famous already), Stranger doesn't send out the same vibes. Anyway, let me stop here so you can answer :)

Reid: I actually wrote about this in my blog:
http://www.zoom-in.com/blog/2006/05/stranger_than_paradise_a_memoi.php

The main thing is that Jim was not seeking or expecting any kind of commercial success. He was just hoping that “Stranger Than Paradise” would go to festivals and that he would be able to make more films. The world that he made “Stranger” in did not hold out the same kind of delirious expectations that people have now. And even if it did, I know Jim would not have been tempted. But “Stranger” didn’t become a success because of Jim’s integrity. It was because Jim is a unique and huge talent. This was recognized by everyone before the film was even done, when it was just a 30-minute short.

Of course there are still a lot of people like that—people not longing for a Hollywood dream--but now it would be very difficult for them to do the kind of things that Jim did in those days, like keep control of his negatives. And these things have had a lot to do with the freedom he enjoys to this day.

Sujewa: Your on-line resume says the following: " My career dates back to the late 1970s and early 80s, when I worked on films by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, Jean-Luc Godard, Federico Fellini, Eric Rohmer, Jacques Rivette, Andrei Tarkovsky, Paul Verhoeven, and Jim Jarmusch (on “Stranger Than Paradise”). For seven years I was a unit publicist on studio films, working with directors like Ridley Scott (“1492”), Peter Weir (“The Mosquito Coast”), Susan Seidelman (“Desperately Seeking Susan”), Mike Nichols (“Heartburn”), Adrian Lyne (“Jacob’s Ladder”), and Francis Coppola (“The Godfather: Part III”). My production publicity resume is on IMDB." Let me just say WOW! that's one impressive resume. Do you have any interesting stories about working with the films of any of the following directors: Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, Jean-Luc Godard, Federico Fellini, Eric Rohmer, Jacques Rivette, Andrei Tarkovsky?

Reid: Do you have a few months? I knew Werner Herzog well—I worked on many of his “documentaries” (“Land of Silence and Darkness,” “La Soufriere,” “The Great Ecstasy of the Sculptor Steiner”) plus “Aguirre, the Wrath of God,” “Stroszek,” "Woyzeck,” and “Fitzcarraldo.”

I worked on over a dozen Fassbinder films when I was at New Yorker Films. Talk about an amazing man. Or a tribute to what a lot of drugs can do? He could write six movies in a year, plus plays, TV shows, and write and star in films by others. I heard he could write a script on a plane ride. We couldn’t bring them out fast enough. Dan Talbot, the head of New Yorker Films, and some of the New Yorker staffers would go on a Friday night to this kind of bare space on Broadway and 62nd. You couldn’t call it a screening room. And he would just keep putting Fassbinders on. Crazy. And the critics would get involved in something he was doing, like his Sirkian movie period. And he’d have already moved on to something new. We just hadn’t released the movies yet. He wasn’t exactly the friendliest guy you could meet—he was damned surly--but I knew a lot of his collaborators very well, particularly Hanna Schygulla, who played the lead in “The Marriage of Maria Braun,” and the late Dieter Schidor, who acted in a lot of his films and produced his last film, “Querelle.” I also was acquainted with some people from his production team, like editor Ila Von Hasperg. I was pretty deeply involved in the world of Fassbinder at the height of his creative powers. As he was my favorite director then, I found that a heady thing.

Here are two stories from those days. Fassbinder made a film called “Wildwechsel,” which I think means roughly “Game Cross” (like a warning sign saying that wild game were crossing the road.). It was an adaptation of a play by Franz Xaver Kroetz. I think one English title I heard was “Wild Game.” I thought that was a pretty bland title. The story was about this guy getting involved sexually with an underage girl. So I went into Talbot’s office and said, “We should call this film ‘Jail Bait.’” I think I was joking. But he got on the phone right away with Fassbinder. And Fassbinder didn’t speak English that well so he wasn’t sure exactly what jail bait meant. But a few minutes later the film was really called “Jail Bait.” And as it happened, when we released it there was a porn film playing in New York also called “Jail Bait.”

When New Yorker was about to release “Aguirre,” Herzog gave us a dubbed version. Herzog and Talbot were really excited about having an English language film. But the dubbing was terrible; Werner did it very quickly. It sounded like a bad Spaghetti Western. I was just a kid, but I asked if an English-subtitled German language version existed, and it turned out there was one. And it was a completely different movie, so much better. But even that had some dubbing because the cast of “Aguirre” is very international—the priest is American and Brazilian director Ruy Guerra is in it. (I worked with Ruy years later when I did Miramax’s first foreign-language film, “Erendira.”) But the dubbing was less Kung Fu than before and it just felt more like a Herzog movie. One thing that I liked is that the translations were slightly different. A guy got a spear through his belly. In one version, he says “It didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would.” And in the other version he said, “Longer spears are in fashion.”

Sujewa: Re: your line of work: what exactly can an indie filmmaker expect from a publicist? What can a publicist do for a film?

Reid: Like everything, it depends on the publicist. All movie publicists prepare press materials, get a film reviewed, set up interviews, etc. There are basic things that are done by every publicist on every film. But each publicist has a different style. Some have great taste and critics know that if they have taken a film on it is likely to be good. Some have charm and build up warm relationships over long periods with the press. Some are kind of scary and wield power with great effect. The trick is to get the publicist with the skill set that matches your film. And that’s why many directors and producers have long-term relationships with publicists.

Publicity alone cannot make a film successful. It needs to be a film that people want to see. But likewise, a film that people enjoy won’t necessarily become successful without good marketing. It’s like the old stories about radio promo men and payola, etc. They could only get the records played. They couldn’t make them hits.

Sujewa: What can a filmmaker who gets into Sundance or one of the bigger/important film festivals expect? Or, what should the filmmaker prepare to do at these festivals in order to increase her chance of getting a good distributor & a good deal for her film - if that is one of her goals?

Reid: The key is not to see success at a festival as your ultimate goal. Your ultimate goal should be seeing your film playing in theatres. It’s wonderful to have success at a festival, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to success outside the festival. And likewise many of the most successful films don’t get bought or even get much attention at Sundance. So of course you’re goal at a festival is distribution. There is no way around it—you should try as hard as possible to get a producer’s rep. They work on commission, so it doesn’t cost money. They just have to accept you. So if you have made a brilliant film for a few thousand dollars, you can get a rep. Of course if you become the toast of Sundance without a rep, a lot of people will be quite happy to offer their services at that point. With publicists, it’s money and they also have to accept your film. It’s very expensive to hire a publicist, but if you’ve put your whole life into a film, it makes sense to take it that final mile.

Sujewa: You also offer consulting services to filmmakers. What can a filmmaker expect from those services? Or what's the benefit of having a consultant for press & publicity work? And what's the difference between your consulting services & your publicity services? And I guess the price ranges for those services would also be relevant here.

Reid: I don’t offer publicity services any more. I haven’t since I closed my company. Being a consultant is just advice and teaching, really. If people can’t get a press agent for any reason, then they can hire me for less. They’ll be in a lot better shape than if they went alone, and they’ll have special knowledge that they can use throughout their career. There is more information on my website (www.reidrosefelt.com) about what exactly I do. To be completely frank, this is an experiment. I want to see if I can offer this service without destroying my livelihood, which comes from other things. I think that the greatest interest will be just before festivals, and this is when my regular business heats up too. So I’m not taking on many people and I will limit my access in various ways. In time, I imagine that might change. There is an email contact on the site where people can ask about my rates.

Sujewa: And the final question: what drew you to specialty/art/indie films in the first place & what keeps you still involved in that world? Why do you care about indie film? I am composing these interview questions on a Sunday - a day where a lot of Americans reflect on spirituality & morality; and I think indie & art film is, among other things, protest art, sometimes works that fully or partially hints at or calls for a better world, or at least celebrates individuality, the idea of the individual being significant & valuable (a rare idea still in much of this world), in novel ways. Anyway, that's one of my reasons for liking indie film, OK, your turn:

Reid: Jesus! What a big question! Why have I stayed in this field? It sure wasn’t because of the money.

When I was in my teens I was a big reader and did a lot of acting, writing and playing in rock bands. I wasn’t really all that interested in movies. I wanted to be an actor, so I went to movies in order to watch people like Jack Nicholson work. One day, I remember standing outside the art theatre, the Majestic, in my home town, Madison, Wisconsin. And they were playing Cassavetes’ “Faces.” And there were all these reviews outside the theatre, talking about what a great film it was. The idea that film could be art was not something that ever occurred to me before. So I went in. And when I came out, movies became the number one thing for me, more than acting. I started making short films. And this interest developed when I was in college, because there were a lot of film societies in Madison. This was before video of course. So I would show a film in 16mm at my film club. And then I would borrow some prints from some of my friends. Then we’d go to a bar and talk about movies until it closed. And then we’d go to my little apartment and we’d watch movies all night long. We were truly movie mad. We’d get into huge fights about directors.

So you see independent film as being about things like protest art, celebrating the individual, calls for a better world? I don’t know. I don’t necessarily like films because they celebrate anything or even if they’re “moral.” This seems like something I should do, but I know that I don’t care. I love the “Saw” movies. I always felt I could love Ozu and Sam Fuller too.

I guess I’m not looking to feel I’ve been taught a lesson. I like to feel something that I can’t put my finger on. I like to be drawn into mystery. Herzog certainly does this as does Michel Gondry and David Lynch. Is “Mulholland Drive” a moral lesson? Does it make the world a better place? That’s the beauty of the cinema, because it has acting, images, music, camera movement, color—and all these things have the potential to bypass spoken language, to escape what is literal and obvious. I don’t like filmmakers like Michael Moore or Oliver Stone who know the truth and want to explain it to you. I like filmmakers who know they don’t know anything. These are the really brilliant ones—geniuses like Errol Morris. This is art to me: exploring the void. They aren’t afraid to dive into the strangeness and ambiguity of the world. And take you along.

I guess that’s why I liked the nude wrestling scene in “Borat” so much. I’m not joking.

Sujewa: Thanks a lot Reid. I liked Borat too, the nude wrestling scene was painfully hilarious. And Mulholland Drive has definitely made the world a better place in my opinion (even if only in a very small way, even if just for David Lynch fans :). Thanks again for the interview!

Visit Reid's site for more information on his consulting work & career. Read his blog entires here.

- Sujewa

Sunday, November 19, 2006

For Your Consideration, Living in Oblivion, Day for Night

I like movies about making movies. So I went to see For Your Consideration tonight. Kind of funny, pretty good movie. But not as funny as Best In Show, another movie by the same filmmaking team.

The best movie so far, the best comedy at least, about making movies that I've seen is Living in Oblivion. I have not seen Truffaut's Day for Night, which sounds like more of a drama about filmmaking than a comedy, looking forward to checking it out. Here is a page that reviews both Living in Oblivion & Day for Night DVDs.

- Sujewa

Thursday, November 16, 2006

DATE NUMBER ONE Synopsis & Quotes


Ananda (Subodh Samudre) & Missy (Jewel Greenberg) from Date Number One
photo copyright 2006 sujewa ekanayake/wild diner films
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Here is the current synopsis (a new, more poetic & detailed one is on its way) & a few reviewer & audience response quotes for Date Number One:
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DATE NUMBER ONE
a comedy about several first dates
a movie by sujewa ekanayake

Film's Description: "Date Number One" is a comedy about several first dates. This 115 minute movie is made up of 5 different stories: Story 1: Just Another Ninja Searching For Love, about a ninja who goes on a blind date (ninja is played by John Stabb Schroeder from the DC punk band G.I.), Story 2: A Romantic Dinner For 3, about a woman attempting to add a third partner to a romantic relationship, Story 3: Washington "City Of Love" DC/Start Over, about a writer who tries to get back together with his ex-girlfriend, Story 4: Air Quotes Woman, about a woman who always uses air quotes, and her search for a new boyfriend, Story 5: The Superdelicious French Lesson, about a first date where a character learns a little bit of French in an unusual way.
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Featuring Hot DC Indie Film Stars John Stabb Schroeder, Julia Stemper, Jennifer Blakemore, Shervin Boloorian, Dele Williams, Steve Lee, Kelly Ham, Christine D. Lee, Fritz Flad, Subodh Samudre, Jewel Greenberg
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Not Rated * 115 Minutes * yummy
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"...witty...often inventive...and, even better, airy: characters are given time and space to spell out their views...views that never bear the artificial markings of a Hollywood screenwriter's compulsion to reduce them to sound-bites."
- David Hudson, Editor, GreenCine Daily blog
http://daily.greencine.com/archives/002353.html
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"Date Number One is quite funny...twentysomethings and occasional thirtysomethings looking for romance recall Richard Linklater's philosopher slackers and Jim Jarmusch's minimalist attention to conversation...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
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"The film is about as charming as they come...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. "
- Michael Tully, Rotterdam & SXSW film festivals selected filmmaker
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"I found the characters and the premise sexy, sexy, sexy."
- Jerry Brewington, Hollywood Is Talking blog, on Story 2 of Date Number One
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"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
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"Heartfelt...poignant...I loved it!"
- Jon Moritsugu, award winning filmmaker
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Rupa & Sunshine


Rupa (Dele Williams) & Sunshine (Jennifer Blakemore) talk at a park in Date Number One.

photo copyright 2006 sujewa ekanayake/wild diner films

Saw JUMPING OFF BRIDGES, hung out w/ producer Stacy S.

Made it just in time for tonight's NIH sponsored screening of Jumping Off Bridges at AFI Silver. There were a lot of people in attendance, 100 - 150 or more perhaps. The film tells the story of a family dealing with grief & suicide. After the screening there was a Q & A session with mental health professionals & producers of the film. And after that I hung out with producer Stacy Schoolfield (one of my Indie Features 06 co-bloggers) & friends at an Austin Grill of all places (Stacy is from Austin). Good movie, good people, that's the main story from tonight. It was nice to see Team JOB in action, traveling with the movie/getting it out to screens DIY style, & being well received by the DC area audience.

- Sujewa

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Blog name change

The Date Number One DVD is on its way, should be ready for sale this month. And I am planning out several production & distribution projects for '07. Got a new plan re: blogging, thus the name of the blog is changed to reflect my production company name: Wild Diner Films.

The new plan is to BLOG LESS & DO MORE FILM PRODUCTION AND DISTRIBUTION. So, the focus of this blog will now narrow to mostly Date Number One related news & stuff on my upcoming, '07 films. Of course I will not be able to not write about very relevant DIY/indie film news when they happen, but for the most part this blog will be different starting now.

Also, I will not be doing an '07 version of my Indie Features 06 blog, in order to blog less & spend less time on blogging related matters & devote more time to film work. IF06 is a very cool & very successful group blogging experiment. Something that other filmmakers can imitate if they wish. Blogging can be a lot of work, but it is very useful in generating press & publicity for your work.

And that's the latest for now, a brand new year is coming, so big changes are happening over here. Thanks & see ya soon!

- Sujewa

DC area premiere of Jumping Off Bridges TONIGHT!

Here's the basic & essential info. re: the show tonight:

Jumping Off Bridges — D.C. Area Premiere
7 p.m., Wednesday, November 15, 2006
American Film Institute (AFI) Silver Theatre and Cultural Center
Silver Spring, Maryland

FREE (but get there early to make sure you get in)

Go here for more details.

And here's the link for the Jumping Off Bridges site where much acclaim for the film & more information on the film can be found.

- Sujewa

DANCE PARTY, USA Review

Dance Party, USA is a $3K digital video feature with some excellent cinematography; specially the night time driving scenes of the city, the colors reminded me a little of a DV version of Mystery Train. The story DPUSA tells is a sly coming of age story. Cole Pensinger (who looks a little like one of the SNL actors) plays Gus, the male lead of the story & Anna Kavan plays the somewhat mysterious female lead Jessica. The two meet at a party, Gus tells Jessica a dark secret, and then we are not sure exactly where the story is going to go. It is a pleasant unpredictability. DPUSA is quietly pleasurable & absorbing. First time feature writer & director Aaron Katz has crafted a very impressive debut. The party goes down every night for the next week and a few nights more at the Pioneer Theater in NYC, starting tonight. If you are open for some low key escapism through reflections of simultaneously ordinary and extraordinary events from the border years of official adulthood, then Dance Party, USA is the movie for you.

- Sujewa

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Dance Party, USA starts at Pioneer tomorrow/Wed 11/15 :: Adrienne Shelly foundation

Dance Party, USA
Received a VHS tape of Dance Party, USA today. Sneaked a 10 minute look at it at work, looks pretty good: funny, real-esque, absorbing, Slacker like so far-in a good way of course, will write more about it after I watch the whole thing. In the meantime, check out this Reverse Shot post re: the flick's opening tomorrow in NYC @ Pioneer Theater (the theater's info on the flick + buy tix links).

Adrienne Shelly
Anthony Kaufman blogs about a new foundation created in memory of actress Adrienne Shelly, check it out here. And here is a recent (11/08) New York Times article with an update on Shelly's murder investigation.

- Sujewa

Monday, November 13, 2006

Select self-distributed indie films of 2006 :: Year end links project 11/13 - 12/31/06






Some projects, such as my flick Date Number One - 12 screenings in 5 cities (including Seattle, NYC & DC) this year, got a pretty good start on theatrical self-distribution in '06 & is preparing to do more in '07. And other projects, such as Lance Weiler's Head Trauma, went through relatively wide - for no budget DIY (do-it-yourself) distribution - theatrical releases in '06 & moved into the DVD release realm. And then there were the hybrid release projects where the filmmaker & an established indie distribution company tried out new distribution tactics, as was the case with I Am A Sex Addict & as is the case now with 51 Birch Street. There is a lot to take a look back at, a lot to analyze & think about, a lot to figure out as to the meaning of all the New Distribution activity this year in the low budget indie realm. Taking a look at several '06 self-distribution & new distribution projects may help me & other indie filmmakers make useful plans for '07 & beyond. So, I am going to start a links project right here & will keep adding useful notes re: the linked films to this page as '06 comes to a close over the next 6-7 weeks. At the end of the year I (& others if they choose to) can use the info. on this page to write a comprehensive post about all the self-distribution activity this year and what it might possibly mean for indie filmmakers, audiences, and for 2007.

NOTES 11/14/06
Some things to think about:
- how many total DIY screenings in 06? or at least what's the total # of screenings for all the films mentioned here in '06?
- how many audience members @ 06 DIY screenings?
- what's the box office value of all this DIY distro activity? how many tickets sold/how much $s taken in?

A Links & Info List: Select 2006 Theatrically Self-Distributed* Low Budget Indie Films (*multiple cities, commercial screenings outside of film fests or similar events):

Date Number One

- interview with Date Number One director, with info. on DIY distribution

Four Eyed Monsters

Head Trauma

Jumping Off Bridges

Kicking Bird

LOL

Manhattan, Kansas

Mardi Gras: Made in China

Mutual Appreciation

more links & or info. coming soon (feel free to submit relevant info. through Comments, thanks!)...

Links List 2: Select Indie Features That Took At Least 1 Step Outside of the Film Festival Circuit (at least 1 DIY theatrical or alterna venue screening in '06):

Cocaine Angel

Dance Party, U.S.A.

Deadroom

The Proper Care & Feeding of an American Messiah


Links List 3: Select 2006 Hybrid (Indiewood & DIY) or New Distribution Projects Worth Studying:

51 Birch Street

- interview with 51 Birch Street director re: working with Truly Indie on distribution

Cavite

I Am A Sex Addict

more links & or info. coming soon...

Links List 4: The Inland Empire Type Self-Distributed Movies

In this list we have, so far:

Inland Empire :: where a well known director with industry connections self-distributes a feature

perhaps more soon...


Related Links:

Pioneer Theater
often a home for real indie films in NYC

links & or info. coming soon...

BREAKTHROUGH WEEKEND Teaser Trailer

DATE NUMBER ONE on Vimeo VOD

Indie Film Blogger Road Trip

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BREAKTHROUGH WEEKEND Teaser Trailer on Vimeo

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