Wednesday, May 30, 2007

"The Punk Mariachi All-Stars" (Seznec Brothers & Shervin Boloorian) play sweet songs of D.I.Y. romantic comedy in Date Number One

As I go, for the six hundredth time, over certain scenes in Date Number One while preparing the final version & the DVDs of the movie, one thing that keeps me refreshed is the excellent bluegrass & rock music created by Cory & Yann Seznec (brothers from Maryland by way of France) and Shervin Boloorian (from DC by way of CA & UK & Iran); known, for the purpose of this movie, as "The Punk Mariachi All-Stars" (the band exists in the world of the movie, in our world they do not, thus quotes must always be used when writing their name in our world).

More "PMAS"/DNO music notes coming soon.

In the meantime, check out the The Seznec Brothers website, they've got some music there.

Also check out music by Cory's new band The Groanbox Boys (under Projects, here).

- Sujewa

this is the 3rd summer since we started shooting Date Number One

yup. started shooting Date Number One, my "no" budget self-distributed DV comedy/romantic comedy feature in summer of '04!!!

about 3 years later, was it all worth it?

F*** YEAH! making this movie has been one of the best things i've done in my life! and the fun is just starting; distribution is gonna kick into higher gear starting this summer.

thanks a lot to everyone who has made it possible to come this far with this project. we will all hang & party very soon.

- sujewa

Hollywood Is Talking review of Date Number One

Check it out here. From last year. Good stuff, with nice pics, thanks H.I.T!

- Sujewa

GreenCine Daily review of Date Number One

From last year.

Here is a morsel:

"The atmo of DN1 reminds me a bit of a few 60s-era underground films or post-punk works like Downtown 81 or Liquid Sky, though DN1's cast of characters are a lot friendlier and live a few stories higher on the under/above ground scale.

- David Hudson, GreenCine Daily"

Check it out here.

- Sujewa

Director Mike Tully (Cocaine Angel) Interview from September '06

Originally published 9/06

Forget Factotum man, if you want to experience some modern (not 35MM holly-indie-foreign- wood weak reflections of) down & out seedy existence complete with substance addiction & prostitution, and of course Bukawski esque humanization of the afflicted, go check out Mike Tully's Cocaine Angel. The movie will most likely make yourself feel a lot better about whatever partially self-created & temporary indie hipster tragic situation that your life may be at the moment. Whatever it is, the kids in CA got it worse. A well made movie, here's an interview with the director Mike Tully:

Sujewa - Hey Mike, how do you feel about the upcoming NYC premiere of Cocaine Angel at the Brooklyn Independent Cinema series? [note, this happened last year,2006]

Mike - we feel very excited about it, of course! to be honest, i haven't really thought about the film or watched it for quite some time, so i'm a tiny bit nervous about how it's going to play (too much expectation is always a bad thing), but we're still proud of our accomplishment and that feeling will never go away. obviously, we hope people "enjoy" it (if you've seen it, you know why i put that word in quotes).

Sujewa - Was Cocaine Angel influenced by Charles Bukowski?

Mike - Cocaine Angel wasn't influenced by Charles Bukowski, but the excessive debauchery in my twenties certainly was. this is a question for Damian, as the writer, but i think i can safely say that Cocaine Angel was influenced and inspired by real life, not fiction, poetry, literature, music, or cinema.

Sujewa - How & why did you get into filmmaking?

Mike - i really don't know. i kind of wish i didn't. but here i am. honestly, it just feels to me like the most challenging, exciting, inspiring, lively way to express myself, and i have always felt the need to express myself.

Sujewa - You seem to have a love/hate relationship with NewYork City, please elaborate.

Mike - i just hit a wall with New York City. for relationships, they say it's the two-year mark, right? the point at which you either break on through to the other side or call it a day. or maybe i'm just making that up. with New York City, i do feel like i've read somewhere that the wall is around seven years. for me, after seven years, i was simply exhausted by the noise and subconscious energy i expended on a daily basis. of course, if i were making a living with my creative projects and didn't have to supplement my income doing the exhausting daily grind, i wouldn't want to live anywhere else. but i really liked the slow living in Maryland and look forward to settling down outside of the city within the next few years (unless the movie making catches on and i actually get paid to do it as a day job, that is).

Sujewa - What were some of the best/worst parts of making Cocaine Angel?

Mike - i remember one day Shawn Lewallen, our life-saving DP, and i were driving around going to some seafood restaurant to treat ourselves right on an off day, and i had this true appreciation of the fact that i wasn't in a cubicle, i was on a crazy mission, and i felt like i was exactly where i was supposed to be. not hiding behind anything, not sitting in a cubicle because the rent had to be paid, not wishing i had the balls to make a movie. i even felt like i knew what iwas doing. of course, all credit goes to Damian for trusting me with his vision. without him i would be a far more tormented soul right now.

Sujewa - How do you like your new home Brooklyn?

Mike - i lived in Park Slope for a few years before leaving, but this time i actually found my dream set-up. great roommates in an impossibly great brownstone, and it's just steps from the entrance to the park. so maybe the world doesn't hate me after all. it's like, i always talk about when i'm going to 'live the dream,' but if i'm honest with myself, i'm pretty damn close to living it right now (at least as far as my living situation goes).

Sujewa - How do you feel about the new school of filmmakers (Weiler, Ekanayake, Swanberg, Bujalski, etc.) attempting to reclaim indie film through D.I.Y. distribution?

Mike - more power to you guys. (we must also mention Arin and Susan in that list, because they're really pushing it to the next level.) it exhausts me just reading about it. i simply don't have the energy to play that game. making the film is all i can get excited about. i worry that this means i'm not one of the chosen few, because nowadays it's like you truly have to be an all-in-one enterprise to be an actual player. and if that's the case, that's fine with me. but i hope that i find some support that will help me out with those later stages when i finish future projects.

Sujewa - Will you engage in any self-distribution activities in the near future?

Mike - very casually, if at all. i hope i find that spark at some stage, but right now it seems like a time-draining exercise in futility and i don't know if i'm up to banging my head against that very stubborn wall.

Sujewa - How much money do you need to make your next film?

Mike - well, i guess the Silver Jews documentary i just shot is technically my next film, and there won't be much money needed for that. so that's a good thing.

Sujewa - What kind of projects are you thinking about trying to film in the near future?

Mike - the plan is a mid-budget film set in New York City, a low-budget film that takes place throughout the south and west, and a big budget movie that will be made on a much grander scale. my hope is to make any and all types of films, with all types of budgets, in all types of genres.

Sujewa - You complain quite a bit on your blog about not having luck with women, is this true or is this a part of an elaborate down & out rejected artist persona that you are carefully cultivating in order to make millions of $s from consumers who find that image appealing/representative of their own identities?

Mike - my complaint is that i wish i would meet and fall in love with that oh-so-special someone, not that i 'don't have luck with women.' maybe i misrepresented myself on my blog. maybe i should stop whining about being lonely on my blog. thanks, Sujewa, this has been very illuminating. i'm going to go stuff my head under a pillow now.

Sujewa - Why should everyone go see the excellently made Cocaine Angel on Mon 9/4 @ 7 PM? [again, already happened in 2006]

Mike - i don't know if you should see it actually. check it out if you're into that sort of thing. or stay home and watch the US Open. but seriously, this might be one of the few chances you'll get to see it on an even somewhat "big" screen and we worked hard on it and think we captured a special little moment in time. but if you do come, thank you, thank you, thank you!

Thanks Mike!

Also, I forgot to mention that Cocaine Angel was selected by the '06 Rotterdam Film Festival & several other film festivals.

- Sujewa

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Cindy Sheehan's Memorial Day letter

Check out peace activist Cindy Sheehan's Memorial Day/"resignation" letter at Daily Kos. Here is a paragraph:

" I am deemed a radical because I believe that partisan politics should be left to the wayside when hundreds of thousands of people are dying for a war based on lies that is supported by Democrats and Republican alike. It amazes me that people who are sharp on the issues and can zero in like a laser beam on lies, misrepresentations, and political expediency when it comes to one party refuse to recognize it in their own party. Blind party loyalty is dangerous whatever side it occurs on. People of the world look on us Americans as jokes because we allow our political leaders so much murderous latitude and if we don’t find alternatives to this corrupt "two" party system our Representative Republic will die and be replaced with what we are rapidly descending into with nary a check or balance: a fascist corporate wasteland. I am demonized because I don’t see party affiliation or nationality when I look at a person, I see that person’s heart. If someone looks, dresses, acts, talks and votes like a Republican, then why do they deserve support just because he/she calls him/herself a Democrat?"

Read the rest and the over 1000 comments here.

Thanks James Ponsoldt for the link.

- Sujewa

On Tavis Smiley: "Right to Return: New Home Movies from the Lower 9th Ward"

Just saw an episode. Good, powerful & moving stuff about the hurrican Katrina disaster's aftermath. Show runs until June 1. Here is a description of the show from this PBS page:

"Beginning in January 2006, Oscar-winning filmmaker Jonathan Demme filmed in and around New Orleans, chronicling the lives of dozens of people—each of whom has their own unique story. The result is a documentary on the pioneering individuals and families who have chosen to exercise their self-granted “right to return” to their devastated homes and rebuild their lives following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Tavis accompanied Demme to New Orleans to visit with some of these courageous people who are central to the culture of the Big Easy."

Find out more about the show here.

- Sujewa

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Wrapping up an old topic: making a living through DIY film; some tips, thoughts

Before I jump into "all Date Number One news all the time" at this blog I want to wrap up an old idea that I started talking about at Filmmaking For The Poor blog & then at this blog under its various names: DIY filmmaking as a career or making a living through ultra-low/"no" budget, self-financed, self-produced & self-distributed independent feature films. Initially the inspiration was DIY punk/indie rock: some bands from the 80's & 90's & beyond operated, and some still do operate, outside of the mainstream rock industry & on a smaller scale than their big-corporations-financed cousins. These indie bands (such as DC's Fugazi) manufacture their own CDs, book their own tours and pretty much are in control of all creative & business aspects of their art making careers. Another area of inspiration is certain ultra-indie filmmakers/films from the recent past: Jon Moritsugu self-distributing several titles, Gene Cajayon self-distributing The Debut, Lance Weiler self-distributing The Last Broadcast, James Spooner self-distributing Afro-Punk, to mention a few examples. So, it is possible to imagine that quite a few dedicated & hard working people may be able to do film production & distribution as small businesses, completely outside of Hollywood or indiewood. It all comes down to making a product that people want to pay money for, promoting the product/advertising through the many free and paid-for forms available, and delivering the product to the customers & collecting the money.

One of the easiest-to-get-started ways of making money back from your film is to do mail-order DVD sales. Set up a website, and a blog, drum up some publicity for the film through festival screenings or DIY screenings (screenings that you produce), post some clips on YouTube & MySpace Film, get your local newspaper to write a story about you, advertise wherever you can afford to advertise, set up a PayPal account, get a PO Box (if you don't want everyone in the world to know your home address) and when people mail you checks or pay through PayPal, mail them DVDs of your movie. I know of a handful of indie filmmakers who are doing this right now and some of them are doing pretty well at it, selling over a thousand DVDs of their unheard-of-in-the-mainstream DV movies in less than 12 months. And on the high end of the revenue scale, The Last Broadcast & The Debut has reportedly earned over a million dollars each; TLB $4 million as of '06, Debut $1.8 million in late '02 from theatrical alone.

But, for most filmmakers, what does it take to make a living through DIY filmmaking & self-distribution? I guess that depends on how much money you need in order to live well. If you were to sell 5,000 DVDs of your awesome indie movie over the course of one year, with each DVD selling for $12, you would collect $60,000. That's before expenses: before paying taxes, shipping (at least $1-$2 per DVD through US Post Office for shipping within the USA), paying back the cost of making the movie (to yourself or to your friends/investors), and the cost of marketing the movie/DVD for a whole year. Maybe after all the expenses you can make a profit of $30,000 - $40,000 or more. Not bad at all for a very small, start-up, more than likely a part-time, new business.

And when you have more than one feature being sold down the road, you can do the math, the amount of total revenue & profit gets bigger.

Selling DVDs through the mail is one relatively simple way to make $s from a movie. Then there are other ways that you may or may not be able to make happen, such as licensing your movie to TV & cable broadcast. Also you can sell merchandise related to the movie, teach a class on making & distributing indie/DIY movies, etc. If you have a good movie (liked by audiences) then ways to make money from it can be thought up. There is a whole section of the book publishing industry catering to this subject, hit yer great used bookstore or more likely Borders or Banes & Nobel or better yet, your local library & study up on it. The web can help a lot with that also.

I still have my great slacker day job. But I do see a point where I can quit it & live off of revenue from my films, in the not too distant future. When I actually get to that point, I'll be sure to let you know :) Perhaps that will be additional encouragement to the next generation of DIY filmmakers.

How come I am sharing this info? Am I not worried about competition? Nope. Indie film can be/is art, and no two artists are going to tell the same story the same way. That doesn't happen even in Hollywood. Plus, there are a whole lot of great stories out there all over America & the world that are not being told, that I can't possibly tell due to the limitations of my/any one person's experience & interests & skills & of course available time, but that can be told by many eager & enterprising filmmakers if they have an avenue to use for producing and distributing their work. DIY film can be that avenue.

Good luck.

- Sujewa




Farzad Rostami Delaware Tobacco blogs project

Farzad Rostami Delaware Tobacco blog

Farzad Rostami Delaware Tobacco 2 blog

Farzad Rostami Delaware Tobacco 3 blog

Farzad Rostami Delaware Tobacco 4 blog

Farzad Rostami Delaware Tobacco 5 blog

Farzad Rostami – Delaware Small Business Grants page

Farzad Rostami – Delaware Small Business Chamber

Farzad Rostami – Delaware History Trail

Farzad Rostami – Delaware Historical Society

Farzad Rostami – History of Delaware


Saturday, May 26, 2007

Blog's gonna focus just on DNO stuff starting right now

Of course I will wrap up & post a couple of non-Date Number One related articles (Amir Motlagh interview, Jennifer Fox interview, a couple of reviews perhaps) but starting now this blog will focus only or mostly/99% of the time on DNO realted news. It's a big country & a bigger world, a lot of work needs to get done in order to complete the DNO distribution project, which should generate some stuff to blog about on a regular basis. On the next post I can hopefully announce the DNO DVD being available for sale & give some links to some new DNO press; specially stuff related to the 7/12 - 18 run in Kensington.

And, from time to time, brief posts about films by friends may get into this blog. But other than that, from now on, all DNO news all the time over here. 'cause we are taking the DNO self-distribution project to the "next step" right now. it should be a most rocking & deeply delicious experience.

- sujewa

Saw 1/2 of The Slanted Screen, good stuff

By the time I heard about the PBS airing of The Slanted Screen, a doc about Asian & Asian American men in film & TV, I had missed about half of it. What I saw was good, interesting & hopeful. Also it was fun to see some Asian-American indie filmmakers on the program; Gene "The Debut" (awesome theatrical self-distribution success story) Cajayon & Eric Byler.

Here is a description of the program, from this PBS page:


From silent film star Sessue Hayakawa to Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, Jeff Adachi’s film explores the portrayals of Asian men in American cinema and television, chronicling the experiences of actors who have had to struggle against ethnic stereotyping and limiting roles. Through a parade of 50 film clips spanning a century, the film presents a critical examination of Hollywood’s image-making machine. The program includes interviews with actors Mako, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, James Shigeta, Dustin Nguyen, Phillip Rhee, Will Yun Lee, Tzi Ma and Jason Scott Lee; comedian Bobby Lee; producer Terence Chang; casting director Heidi Levitt; writer Frank Chin; and directors Gene Cajayon, Justin Lin and Eric Byler and features a new song performed by the San Francisco rock-punk band Say Bok Gwai. Presenter: Center for Asian American Media."

The doc can be purchased here & at several other places.

It would have been cool to see Greg Araki, Jon Moritsugu & Greg Pak on that program.

- Sujewa

Friday, May 25, 2007

Knock.Knock review

Amir Motlagh is a prolific D.I.Y. punk/indie rock influenced west coast based filmmaker, actor and musician (Shanks and the Dreamers - MySpace). Although Motlagh has yet to release a feature (a situation that should change this year when his first feature Whale, currently in post-production, is completed), he is the director of over a dozen short films (short short 5 minute films and long short 40 minute films, more information here) including two of my favorites: Still Lover and My Break Ups Into A Million Pieces.

Motlagh's latest short film Knock.Knock tells the story of events that happen in a day in the life of a comedian who is moving a little bit up in the world. The comedian (played by Chris Manz- MySpace), wakes up and goes to work, has a somewhat amusing encounter with an actress (Lene Penderson) and then has a more dramatic encounter with a former girlfriend (Keaton Shyler). In the end, Manz's character seems to have a new understanding about his past, the present situation, and quite possibly his future. Beyond that I can't say too much more about the characters or the events in the movie because, this being a 21 minute film with a very small plot, I would ruin your joy of discovery.

I like unusual characters or at least rarely seen in movies type characters, and I like watching artist/entertainer characters, and I like unpredictable/somewhat surreal/on the verge of falling apart comic situations. So, both the main character, who is a young comic with an internet show, and the first encounter worked well for me.

The second encounter, which starts about 5 minutes into the movie and makes up the greater part of the movie, depicts a light romantic drama situation. This segment of the movie is also concerned with creative jealousy, career achievement competitiveness between romantic partners and selective memory. Unless there is a lot of humor intertwined with the drama, I am not a big fan of romantic drama, so the second encounter in this movie did not work as well as the first one for me.

I liked the beautiful cinematography in this movie. I was a little bit saddened to discover that the film was shot on Super 16 film (a type of motion picture film related to 16 MM film, but offering more image space - If I recall notes from my film school days correctly) and not a digital medium, because I was hoping that digital cinematography had progressed to the level of excellence, the richness & the velvety feel of the image, seen in Knock.Knock.

Generally the acting in the movie is good, although there were two crucial instances in the second half of the movie where I felt that the actors could have made better choices.

Knock.Knock is, for me, definitely more art than entertainment because, like the best of Motlagh's films, it pulled me deeper into real life, made me reflect on events similar to the ones depicted in the movie, and over a day after watching the movie for the first time, I am still thinking about some of the ideas and memories that the movie pointed to. For me objects of art are doors to other things; things related to real life. Things that I label entertainment are things that provide an escape from real life; a temporary, total escape. Some of my favorite art, like the two films by Motlagh mentioned in the first paragraph, provide both an avenue for deeper engagement with life and a little bit of a welcome break, a little bit of escapism, from life at the same time. Although Knock.Knock was not as enjoyable as Still Lover or My Break Ups, I am glad I saw it and will most likely watch it again a few more times in the near future (I've already seen it three times, film gets better with each viewing, also is better on a larger screen). It is entirely possible that the film works very well for audience members who enjoy watching romantic drama related situations; I would like to hear some reactions from such people when they've seen the movie. Knock.Knock is definitely recommended, worth watching.

The film should become available to view through film festivals, other screenings, or on DVD directly from the filmmaker or other distributors in the coming months. Visit Motlagh's blog for additional information and updates.

- Sujewa

Thursday, May 24, 2007

a little GoodTimes Kid write up at Boston Globe

Blame it on watching Mystery Train & Stranger Than Paradise too many times, but I do like kind of surreal & funny & minimalist features about odd characters, so, the Azazel Jacobs film The GoodTimes Kid might be a movie that I would enjoy. Looking forward to checking it out whenever I stumble across it (another good thing about these minimalist movies, there's no rush, waiting to watch the movie is almost as exciting as watching the movie; maybe certain movies release certain brain waves - alpha waves? omega waves? and that's why i like watching them even though there isn't much happening on the screen, who knows).

Here's a recent small mention of The GoodTimes Kid at the Boston Globe:

" "The GoodTimesKid"

Written and directed by co-star Azazel Jacobs (son of legendary avant-garde filmmaker Ken Jacobs), this low-fi comedy bounces off the festival circuit and lands with a lovely little splat. It's one day in the life of three hapless Los Angelenos: two men named Rodolfo Cano (Azazel and Gerardo Naranjo) and the free spirit who bounces between them (Sara Diaz). Very rough, very funny, with sensibilities derived equally from Chaplin, Jim Jarmusch, and the Gang of Four.
-- Ty Burr"

I hope its not funny like Funny Ha Ha ('cause that kind of funny i don't really get) but funny like early Jarmusch or Hartley or even Seinfeld & some moments in Mutual Appreciation. That kind of funny I like.

Check out Kid blog here. Scroll down & read the Salon write up when you get to the blog, good stuff.

- Sujewa

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Saw Amir Motlagh's new short Knock.Knock :: review & interview coming up later this week

Just watched Amir Motlagh's new short film Knock.Knock. I liked it, need to watch it again & think about it, will have a review here later this week. The film stars a comedian (Chris Manz, MySpace) but is not a comedy, it is a light drama about a day, and more specifically a couple of encounters, in the life of a comedian with an internet show. That's all I'll say for now, read the review later this week for more on Knock.Knock.

Also, it's been a while since I interviewed Amir (read Feb '05 interview here), will try to talk to him about Knock.Knock & his feature-in-post-production Whale & his other feature-in-the-works Micro later this week.

Back to working on the DNO DVD for me. Talk to you later.

- Sujewa

Guerrilla Film Fest DC June 1 & 2

get all the info. here.

"Ultra-indie filmmakers need to “jam econo”" & other interesting & useful thoughts at Camera Stilo post

Any blog entry that mentions real indie film, 80's punk rock, & yours truly is worth linking to & reading :), so here is a post at the Camera Stilo blog re: the new DIY/real indie/whatever film movement that we are building with each no budget digital feature & barnyard screening & home made DVD sale & private & public web conversations: To Sum It All Up - Independent Music of the 1980s and Independent Film Today.

- Sujewa

Monday, May 21, 2007

Richard Schickel on blogging vs. print criticism

Ah, the topic that never dies. Time magazine film critic Richard Schickel joins the conversation at LA Times.

Thanks Chuck Tryon for the link.


Sunday, May 20, 2007

What's got John Waters, Hal Hartley & Jim Jarmusch?

Apparently a doc called Divine Trash.

I just read a chapter called Guilty Pleasures in the Waters book Crackpot where he talks about his "secret" appreciation of art movies, and I was trying to find that chapter on line to link to, but instead I stumbled upon the Divine Trash page. Here is the link to an Austin Chronicle review of the film.

Need to see DT. After all, Waters is from Baltimore, a city that's just about 40 minutes from where I type this. And I liked most of Cry Baby, and I think most of that movie about indie/underground filmmaking - Cecil B. DeMented, and all of Hairspray, plus, no doubt, bits and pieces from several of his other movies (and why have I only seen parts of most of these movies so far? perhaps it is time for a John Waters movie night at the Sujewa house).

- Sujewa

Saturday, May 19, 2007

DJ Spooky interview at Workbook

Go Lance, getting some of the most interesting artists around on tape. Check out conversation with DJ Spooky, the maker of Rebirth of a Nation & many other very interesting multi-media works, here.

For more on DJ Spooky (aka Paul Miller) check out his website here.


Saw episode I of Flying, some pre-review notes

Saw the first episode (of 6) of Jennifer Fox's documentary Flying: Confessions of a Free Woman last night. These are some initial positive thoughts regarding the movie, will write & publish a regular review of the work after I've seen all 6 episodes, which I hope to do before the July 4th premiere of the film in NYC. Flying is unlike any movie I've seen before, and I mean that in a good way (perhaps Tarnation was kind of like this, but I have not seen it): filmmaker films her own life and events in the lives of a few friends as they unfold, and discusses some very personal issues: sex, marriage, having or not having kids, divorce and separation and issues related to the aftermath of those events, a serious illness, also on going romantic & sexual relationships. Not only does it take a tremendous amount of bravery and confidence to attempt to make a film like the one Fox has made, it also takes, I imagine, extraordinary organizational & directorial skills in order to get other people and yourself to share dramatic and deeply personal moments on camera. Episode I is drama with a capital d from start to finish. Very engaging, a good thing that the music was light (reminded me of the score to Amelie) and the main character (Fox herself) is likable and has, among various other attributes, a light quality to her personality. At moments I wondered if the film is going to be kind of like a visit to a foreign country for me; since, being male, whatever conversations among women that I had been present at could have been shaped to some degree by me simply being there and in Fox's doc I get to see all female conversations filmed by a woman or several women; with no direct male involvement as far as I can tell. But in episode one I did not hear, see or learn anything about the female experience that I did not already know about or imagine to some degree, but, for other male audience members, the situation may be different (since, as a filmmaker & screenwriter I've had to actively think about female lives at length in order to create believable female characters in my movies and this is not something that most men would have to do). Anyway, gender aside, the film is a compelling & engaging drama. I need a little bit of a break before I watch episode 2 since I am still digesting the packed to the walls dramatic content of episode I, but I am definitely looking forward to seeing episode II and the rest of the show - the 5 remaining episodes. Flying (episode 1) is not dull, it's got a lot going on. Flying is good, so far.

- Sujewa

Hal Hartley interview at Filmmaker

I was busy with some less important things today (although, did come up with a great idea for a movie - on the productive side), didn't get to go to the DC opening of Hal Hartley's Fay Grim, do plan on going this coming week. Got my Hartley fix from this Filmmaker magazine interview today, check it out, good stuff.

- Sujewa

Thursday, May 17, 2007

interesting sentence in a book by Warhol

i am reading a book called Popism: The Warhol 60's, written by Andy Warhol & Pat Hackett (link: a 1990 reprint at Amazon). ran across an interesting line in the book, Warhol says:

" Although I didn't buy a movie camera till some time in '63, it had certainly occurred to me to be a do-it-yourself filmmaker long before then,..."

line is on page 29.

the fact that he used the term do-it-yourself is interesting to me. the book has a copyright of 1980 so maybe that's not so weird after all. i didn't think artists in America used the term "do-it-yourself" to describe their work until after the punk days, late 70's i guess - so if the book was written around the late 70's, then it all makes sense. but maybe the term was in use in the 60's, at least by some people Warhol knew. who knows.

aside from all that, the book is a good read, demystifies Warhol. it could all be an act, but why and how he did things is explained in the book, he does not come off as other-worldly as he often does in movies such as Factory Girl. the book makes him sound like a pretty ordinary & likable dude, with of course some very interesting ideas about art & people.

- sujewa

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Flying "like Sex and the City" says director Jennifer Fox

Just received the entire six hours of Jennifer Fox's doc Flying: Confessions of a Free Woman in the mail. Looking forward to checking it out, maybe I can catch at least a couple of episodes this weekend. Browsing through Flying material on the web, this quote by Fox, from a Reeler interview, caught my eye:

"...this film is like candy. It's not like taking medicine; it's like eating chocolate. You watch one hour, then you want to watch two and three and four. It's a little bit like a soap opera; you meet characters who reappear who are in different crises in their life and you want to know what's going to happen to them. So you need to think of it more like Sex and the City..."

Sounds excellent. Even if Flying is not quite like Sex and the City, I am excited about the fact that it is 6 hours of people talking about interesting aspects of their lives. Always wanted to make a movie like that. Plus, the movie takes place all over the world, another thing that I like. Will write about what I see of Flying in a few days. In the meantime, here are some Flying links:

Official website

Dox interview (PDF file)

Film Forum NYC page for the upcoming 7/4 - 17 run of Flying

- Sujewa

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Nice LA Weekly article (from '05) re: DC DIY band The Evens

While DIY film as a career path or shall we say the DIY film industry is in its infancy in the US of A right now (indie film/filmmakers as conceived in 80's & 90's rely on indiewood distribution for the most part to make money & sustain themselves, DIY filmmakers self-distribute; and there is only a handful of such filmmakers at the moment - but more are joining the ranks every day), the DIY rock industry, at least what I know of it, is over 20 years old - at least. One branch of these musicians are the DC punk rockers who built Dischord Records; people such as Ian MacKaye. This LA Weekly article from 2005 talks about how MacKaye & Amy Farina - The Evens -work, and talks about their music. Since DIY rock is older & well established, I check out articles on that movement/industry/scene/whatever-you-want-to-call-it to get ideas that might work for my own DIY film practices. So far ideas borrowed from DIY rock (ultra low budget self-reliant production, self-distribution, accessibility to audience members, collaboration with fellow filmmakers re: distribution & publicity & other important but not related to production work - community building basically, an interest in human rights & social service & justice and trying to work those interests into the art work & the presentation of the art work, low/affordable-to-many prices for the art work, generating ones own publicity/zines = blogs) have worked well for my filmmaking & distribution activities.

- Sujewa

Way to go CUFF

The Chicago Underground Film Festival sayz:

"Fees are not required of entrants who have screened at the festival in the past"

Very good, a useful & innovative & filmmaker friendly evolution (unless of course this is the norm in the film fest industry, this sounds like a new thing to me). Anyway, me likes.

Submission deadlines: 5/15 THAT'S TODAY! (regular deadline), 6/1 (late deadline).

Fest happens August 22-26, 2007 in Chicago, IL.

Here's their website.

- Sujewa

Peter Sellars's "California Uber Alles" speech at SFIFF :: Speech also about art, democracy, Mozart, and hope in cinema

As the Dead Kennedy's once criticized California by alluding to Nazi Germany, so does renowned theater director Peter Sellars in this long and very interesting speech re: art, the role of the artist in a democracy, culture and its relationship to the well being of the nation and other important ideas. The speech - The State of the Cinema address, was given at the San Francisco International Film Festival on 4/29/07. Here is a portion where Sellars talks about Nazi Germany, the last days of the Roman empire and its treatment of an honest man - a philosopher. Also about the value of digital age storytelling (transcript at SF360):

"So, state of the state. All of those groups who say, "Why were the German people silent?" And now I have to ask, "Why are the American people silent?" The German people were told that this other set of people were just not human beings, so it didn't matter what happened to them: "Pay no attention as these people just suddenly disappear. As this apartment is suddenly empty. As this job is suddenly available. They're illegal people; they do not have the right to be here. And they need to learn the value of work."

To watch all of this ideology be resurgent in this day is pretty heavy duty. I have to say, for me, I'm constantly searching as an artist for how we respond. One of my favorite stories and one of my favorite texts is -- I don't know how many people here know Boethius's "Consolation of Philosophy." From the sixth century, late Roman Empire, when the Roman Empire was at the end of the line, one of the last Roman emperors was Theodoric, a Goth, and things were so corrupt and so disastrous, they said, "We need to at least lift the tone a little bit here. Let's hire a major philosopher to be chief of staff and let's get some integrity back into the administration." So they hired a man named Boethius, who was a great philosopher, who actually wrote beautiful six books on the philosophy of music, based on Pythagorean principles of harmony in the universe. And they invited this man to be chief of staff for one of the last Roman emperors. He, of course, like any of us would, says, "Oh, my goodness! They're asking me. They want a philosopher, they want a wise person. How beautiful." So he showed up at the office, and soon enough began to say, "Oh, you cannot take these people's homes away from them. That would not be fair. It's not just." And he starts to be very mean to have around the office because he can't get anything done. The guy has integrity. So, they eventually have had enough, and they frame him and put him away in a dungeon where he lives the last five years of his life in a subterranean chamber with all sensory deprivation. Like a supermax at Pelican Bay. After a while, it's just too annoying that he's still alive, so they go in with big clubs and they just beat him to death, and turned him into putty on the floor. And then they don't have to worry about him any more, because he saw too many things. In these five years, when he was buried alive -- I don't know how; on toilet paper or what -- he wrote a manuscript. A manuscript called "Consolation of Philosophy." The manuscript is the story of him sitting in his cell and then a woman walking through the walls of the cell and singing to him about the nature of justice. And they would sing songs to each other through the night in this subterranean cell. So, of course, I'm right now working on a new version of "Consolation of Philosophy" for the state of California.
My favorite part of the story is that, five centuries after this man was eliminated and silenced, "Consolation of Philosophy" was the most copied manuscript of the Middle Ages. At a time when there was no publishing industry, and if you wanted to have a text, you had to copy it out yourself by hand, it was the most copied text. And now, 15 centuries later, it is the only text written in the entire sixth century that you can get in paperback in an airport. I really love that! Which brings us to the digital age and the stories that no one thought you would ever be told. And the access that you never thought you would have to certain communities. And the communities that were actually going to live, be silenced and never heard from again by the rest of humanity are actually the stories now that we're all looking for, gravitating towards. And the stories that actually have the life force that we're so thirsty for. And that we're hungering after."

And later, after talking about the value of Mozart's career and ideas that animated the creation of the United States, Sellars talks about a film about Khemer Rouge Cambodia and he also talks about contemporary US:

"The survivors ask the guards, "What were you thinking? How could you do this?" Those answers are overwhelming. In all of human history, it's one of the most overwhelming documents. "S21" -- it's an overwhelming film -- which gets us to something we don't normally feel we can do, which gets us to a type of bearing witness, a type of embodying history, recognizing history, processing history and craving a space for a future that only film can accomplish. And places us not at arm's length from history, but quite the opposite: right in the heart of it. And invites us to place ourselves in the place where you have to make the hardest decisions of your life.

As Americans, actually, we are in that place right now. It's just that the commercial culture around us conspires to never make you think that that's really where we are. That the decisions that are in front of us every day have this type of weight. And that the body count and the devastation. On our watch, world poverty has tripled. Tripled. Fifteen hundred years from now, they'll be saying, "What were those people thinking? Did they not notice? How could they not know? How could they not see? How could they not deal. It's unthinkable. What were they looking at? What were they talking about? What was so important for them?"

And even later, on cinema and its relationship with hope for a better world:

"Cinema is part of a new possibility of hope. Cinema is part of gathering in small groups and reinforcing a sense of where we're coming from, but also where we're going. And what it means to hold the images in front of us to say, "We're not there yet, but it's where we're going, so let's not stop here. Let's keep going there." That idealism is actually what art was invented to do. To hold in front of you something that you aspire to."

Read the full speech here, at SF360. Read it twice or more.

Thanks Hell on Frisco Bay for the link.

- Sujewa

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Amir Motlagh news: new Still Lover distro deal, Knock.Knock. completed

Check out all the freshest Amir Motlagh film news at Amir's blog:

- New "Still Lover" distro deal

- Knock. Knock completed & ready for festivals & screenings & distro

- Sujewa

Alternative to Mumblecore: Sujewa Ekanayake, Amir Motlagh, James Spooner

For your next article (or more likely blog post) about, in favor of, or against the Mumblecore film movement, or re: young & interesting real indie filmmakers, consider adding some paragraphs re: 3 exciting, currently very active, non-Mumblecore but low-budget, self-distributing indie/DIY filmmakers who also have made some very interesting movies recently. These people are (in alphabetical order):

- (myself) Sujewa Ekanayake
films: Fresh Coffee (1992), Wild Diner (1999), Capital Heartbreak & Sweetness: 17 DC Poets (2002), Date Number One (2006). very indie/DIY. self-distributes.

- Amir Motlagh
films: too many to mention - over a dozen shorts, including popular short Still Lover, & the recent Knock.Knock. currently editing first feature Whale. also prepping to shoot a new feature called Micro this summer. very indie/DIY. self-distributes.

- James Spooner
films: Afro-Punk, White Lies Black Sheep
very indie/DIY. self-distributes.

A google search on these filmmakers will reveal all the links & info. you need for your articles. They can also be pretty easily contacted through the magic of e-mail.

Why did I group these 3 filmmakers together? Because they are very indie/DIY & use low budgets & digital video & make stories about young, contemporary characters AND because they are non-"white". In case the indie film media & related folks are only aware of the "white" Mumblecore filmmakers being the only interesting real indie film action happening in the USA right now (that often appears to be the case), I wanted to alert you to check out this alternative for your next article re: Mumblecore or re: exciting new young US indie filmmakers.

Thanks indie film media peeps!

& readers, feel free to add, in Comments below, names & links to other young indie filmmakers that should be considered when the press wants to write/talk about new filmmakers.

- Sujewa

Let's show some appreciation to good/favorite internet film reviewing & criticism: ChuckTryon regularly delivers well written reviews

Now that the dust has settled re: last week's debate on the state of internet film criticism & review, I am thinking that as excellence in cinema is ultimately a matter of taste, perhaps excellence in film criticism is also a matter of taste. Film is definitely art, but is film criticism also art? Is journalism art; and is film criticism more journalism/reportage than the creative sharing of one's impressions regarding a movie - a work of art/entertainment? All interesting items to think about, but for the moment let's celebrate the work of a good internet film reviewer: Chuck Tryon.

[Full disclosure; I started paying a lot of attention to Chuck's writing after he attended the World Premiere of my movie Date Number One a year ago (something that i did not expect him to do since he was a Catholic U. media professor & my film had absolutely zero - media, press, etc. wise - going for it at the time besides my own DIY promotional work at this blog) & then wrote one of my favorite reviews of the movie thus far. I like that review because it made me think about related things that I was not thinking too much about when I wrote the movie (life in cities, the anti-Crash quality are two of the things). And Chuck took the film & the ideas in it seriously, even though the film is an ultra-low/"no"-budget, no-stars, self-distributed with a "no" budget affair without any stamps of approval from film festivals & (at that time) no other critical attention. That I think is the best a filmmaker can expect from a reviewer: thoughtful attention to the work. Now that that's done, let's move on to the work in discussion.]

I just read many of Chuck's reviews from 2003 until yesterday - May 12, 2007 SEE THEM HERE, and I would have to say that Chuck consistently delivers very good to excellent film reviews (for my taste). The reviews impart a love for the medium as opposed to a general disdain for it & its creators (& Chuck's often on the indie side of the street), and an open, inquisitive, curious and humane approach to both the worlds depicted in the movies and ideas related to those worlds.

If you have any favorite internet reviewers, list , link to & talk about them below in Comments. Remember; the ones you LIKE, not HATE- this is the INTERNET FILM REVIEWERS APPRECIATION WEEK! :)

- Sujewa

DNO premiere 1 year anniversary party was excellent, pics later today

had a fun time at the party (thanks hostess jen b.!), watched Date Number One with some cast & crew members - was an excellent experience. took a bunch of photos, will upload them later today. sleepytime now.

dno is now officially a year old. time for it to get out to the wider world (& for me to also get busy with making the next movie). DVDs will be on sale at wild diner films site later this week, just a couple of little things to take care of first.

of course a 1 week run is happening in kensington, md july 12 - 18, with a lot more screenings in other places happening later this year.

ok, sleepytime now for real.

- sujewa

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Flying: Confessions of a Free Woman sounds interesting

Here's what I know about Flying: Confessions of a Free Woman so far: it is a multi-part documentary, 6 hours long all together, in it filmmaker Jennifer Fox discusses her life & the lives of several female friends around the world. This Reeler interview makes the film sound very interesting. Here is a quote from the interview:

"[Reeler] For the record, what is Flying about -- if we can summarize the six hours?

[Fox] It starts with a personal crisis -- my crisis --about who am I as a woman. You know, entering my 40s, not married, no kids, multiple partners, several abortions and the whole kind of a typical modern woman trying to make sense of my life by talking to other women everywhere -- starting with my friends in New York to my friends on the West Coast, England, France, Germany, Africa, India, Pakistan, Cambodia. Trying to say what we have in common, how are we different, how can I find a mirror for my life when there are no mirrors. I don't have a difficult life, but at the same time, I'm constrained by typical things -- typical gender issues that have affected me my whole life. It's really an exploration about all of that, through an overriding storyline that's my own. I think there are 13 countries in this six hours. But it's very dramatically driven; it's not an ethnographic survey, it's not a sociological survey. It's a real story of me going on the road with my life."

Read the rest of the interview here.

Looking forward to checking out Flying.

Film is playing at Film Forum in NYC in July.

- Sujewa

Friday, May 11, 2007


For kids like me who discovered indie film in the early 90's (and by indie film we meant Jim Jarmusch, Hal Hartley & Spike Lee), this should be a great way to celebrate Mothers Day:

From the Pioneer Theater's site:

"Join us for this one-time only double bill
bringing together for the first time in New York

HENRY FOOL (1997) and its sequel FAY GRIM (2006)
two major works from acclaimed filmmaker Hal Hartley

special guests include:

Hal Hartley, Thomas Jay Ryan, Richard Sylvarnes, Kyle Gilman,
S.T. VanAirsdale (The Reeler),
and others to be announced

Simon (James Urbaniak), a shy garbage man, lives with his sister (Parker Posey of PARTY GIRL and WAITING FOR GUFFMAN, among dozens of other movies) and mother, who both treat him with minimal respect. Into Simon's life comes Henry Fool (Thomas Jay Ryan), a heavy-drinking self-proclaimed great writer who goads Simon into writing an enormous poem. The poem becomes the source of great controversy, proclaimed by some as a great work of art, denounced by others as perverse trash. As Simon's star rises, he tries to draw attention to Henry's work as well, to little avail. Though the premise seems simple, Henry Fool takes on something of an epic sweep as it follows the effects of fame on Simon's and Henry's lives. This rumination on art and inspiration was hailed by some critics as the best film yet by writer-director Hal Hartley (TRUST, SIMPLE MEN, AMATEUR), while others felt it brought out his worst self-indulgences. All movies written and directed by Hartley defy easy interpretation, and HENRY FOOL is no exception. Still, it's a rare film that even tries to tackle such subjects, let alone does so with a combination of intelligence and humor (ranging from verbal quirkiness to scatological embarrassment).
[synopsis adapted from]

Fay Grim, a single Mom from Woodside, Queens, is afraid her 14 year old son, Ned, will grow up to be like his father, Henry, who has been missing for seven years. Fay's brother Simon is serving ten years in prison for aiding in Henry's escape from the law. In the quiet of his cell, Simon has had time to think about the tumultuous years of Henry's presence among them--chronicled in Hartley's earlier film HENRY FOOL(1998). He has come to suspect that Henry was not the man he appeared to be. His suspicions are validated when the CIA asks Fay to travel to Paris to retrieve Henry's property. Her mission turns into a sprawling con-game, pitching Fay deep into a world of international espionage.
[synopsis from Magnolia Pictures]

Special thanks to Tom Prassis at Sony Pictures Classics, and Jeff Reichert from Magnolia Pictures."

Mission: Washington update - a print magazine is interested in writing about Date Number One

(Mission: Washington is the mission to get a lot of press, including the mainstream variety - newspapers, magazines, TV, radio & of course internet, in the DC area for the July DNO run)

I heard back from one DC focused print publication already re: getting press for the July 12 - 18 run of Date Number One, they like the idea of doing a story on the movie for their July issue. Once & when the thing is done & out, will link to it or will post a copy of the article here.

More publicity stuff next week.

Getting ready for tomorrow night's "1 year anniversary of DNO World Premiere" party. Perhaps I will have some photos from the party on Sunday.


- Sujewa

Hal Hartley on Fay Grim, at ShortEnd Magazine

Here is the intro, from a post on ShortEnd Magazine:

"On closing night of the Atlanta Film Festival, director Hal Hartley spoke for thirty minutes about his newest release Fay Grim, a sequel to his 1997 Henry Fool. The following is an excerpt from his audience Q&A.

Gabe Wardell: Tell us a little bit about why you chose to make a sequel to Henry Fool this many years later, and what brought you to the process and back to telling the story.

Hal Hartley: When I was writing the first one, I knew that what I was writing seemed like it was part of something very long. That was exciting…The actors, during revisions, I would give them revisions for scenes from Henry Fool and take them out as they proved themselves to be superfluous as it were. Together (the actors) would be upset, “Oh, I really loved that scene.” And, I said, “Don’t worry. That will be part of the other seven.” Like good jokes, there was something real, and everybody understood that. We didn’t really take it seriously I think until we saw the film Henry Fool finished and knew that there was a future, particularly for the character of Fay."

Read the rest of the conversation here.

Henry Fool is one of Hartley's most accessible & fun movies, so Fay Grim, the follow up to HF, should be exciting (also, a chance to watch Parker Posey, indie/indiewood star of the 90's in action in an indie film again is cool). FG is coming out on May 18, get all the info. here, looking forward to it.

- Sujewa

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Mission: Washington OR Let's see how much local press I can generate for the upcoming 1 week run of Date Number One (7/12 - 18, Kensington, MD)

The last time I played a movie of mine for a week in the Washington, DC area was in 1999 - my now "suppressed" :) feature Wild Diner played at Cineplex Odeon Foundry in Georgetown for a week. That was also the last time I received some decent press coverage from the Washington Post. 6 years later, the film this time is much better and I've got a lot more experience in producing DIY screenings, so, I should be able to generate a lot more press & get the word out re: the run throughout the DC area. Some facts & figures will be uncovered: how many people actually live around here (5 million?), how many are interested in real indie films?, how do I get the word out to those people?, can I get TV & radio & mainstream print press coverage? All interesting & useful things to figure out. Will post results as I work through the 2 months leading up to the July 12 -18 run of Date Number One in Kensington, MD.

- Sujewa

Review Criticism Overkill

Man, this whole thing/now gigantic & getting bigger conversation re: internet film criticism is something way beyond what I was expressing with my criticism of Cynthia Rockwell's review of Hannah Takes the Stairs. I looked for straight/close to traditional reviews of Hannah around the time of SXSW (couple of weeks ago?) did not find a single one, & then a couple of nights ago I saw that GreenCine Daily had linked to Rockwell's review, so I was excited to finally possibly get a chance to read a regular review of Hannah. When I got to Rockwell's blog I found out that The Guardian had also cited her review, so I was even more excited about reading it, 'cause I figured that if GCD & Guardian are referencing it, it might at least be adequate for my needs. But, a regular review was not what I found at Rockwell's site, actually, I don't consider her piece a movie review, but it is thoughts somewhat related to the movie. Anyway, after reading that whole post I was no closer to finding out what I was looking for re: Hannah then when I started. So I wrote a post expressing my frustration ('cause I've seen a couple of other instances recently where people say they are writing a movie review but the end product is far from it, in my opinion). Unfortunately for Rockwell, widely read film blogger Anthony Kaufman was thinking about the same subject & referenced my post re: Rockwell's post at the beginning of his post re: internet movie criticism, which came a day or so after my post. And now several blogs (find some links here) are having a conversation/argument about the topic, starting their pieces off with a reference to Kaufman's article; which opens with a reference to my frustration with Rockwell's review. So, this whole thing is kind of like one of those movies where small events are kind of accidentally related to some whacked out large event. Definitely did not intend Rockwell to receive as much negative criticism as she might feel that she is getting right now. My feelings regarding her Hannah review have not changed, but the amplification of my complaint caused by Kaufman's post was certainly not intended.

- Sujewa

Update from "Angry Filmmaker" Kelley Baker: "May Dates! May Dates!"

From Kelley Baker:

"Hey Everybody,

It is May, I am home, and just because I am home doesn't mean I am not working...

Here is a list of my work shops and screenings for this month. If you are around please come out and see me.

May 9th - - Kicking Bird screening @ The Columbian Theater in Astoria, Oregon
May 10th - - Kicking Bird screening @ The Coaster Theater in Cannon Beach, Oregon
May 15th - - Guest Lecture @ Portland State University
May 15th - - Market & Self Distribution Workshop @ The Art Institute of Portland
May 18th - - Kicking Bird Screening @ 911 Media Arts Center in Seattle, WA
May 19th - - Sound Design Work shop @ 911 Media Arts Center in Seattle, WA
May 24th & 25th - - Workshops & screening @ Oregon State University

For more info on the Seattle events please go to

As usual I am booking work shops and screenings for the Fall US and Europe Tours starting now. So if you want me in your city, or your country, let me know. I promise I'll be lots of fun, and not like your gross Uncle that won't leave.

Don't forget to go to my web site and check out the New Projects link, and Buy My Stuff! The price of gas is obscene and I have to pay the bills somehow...

Take care and we'll talk later.


James Spooner interview at PunkTV

While searching for a review of James Spooner's new movie White Lies, Black Sheep, I came across this interview at a site called PunkTV - I believe the interview is from this year. Here is a sample:

" Speaking of doing what you’re supposed to do let’s talk about White Lies Black Sheep. I noticed a similar theme in this one. It reminds me that as writers we are taught to write about what we know and in this one your African American character is falling in love with a white girl and his friends are maligning him for not being loyal to his race. Tell us about that movie?

[Spooner] It is kind of a spin off of some of the themes that are dealt with in Afro Punk. It is done as a documentary/narrative so it’s a blurry line but it focuses on this kid AJ Talib that is a black guy who is involved in the New York rock and roll scene. He’s just more comfortable hanging around white rocker kids than he is hanging around black people from Bedstye which is where he grew up. The story really spans like a year and some change and it’s really his journey from going to a place where ultimately he doesn’t really like himself that much to a place where there’s hope and we can see that he’s finding out new things about himself and challenging who he is and where he’s been and where he’s going."

I didn't find any reviews of White Lies today. If anyone sees any, let me know. Looking forward to checking that film out when I can. Still need to see Afro-Punk, Spooner's previous film.

- Sujewa

New report says most Hollywood writers still white & male

Read about it at The Hollywood Reporter.

This bit of news doesn't affect DIY/real indie filmmakers but I thought I'd post the link in case this blog is read by minority and or female screenwriters who want Hollywood work.

- Sujewa

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Another well written review of Hannah Takes the Stairs, from ShortEnd Magazine

In this latest conversation that we are having right now at several places on the web re: internet based film criticism & review (here, at Anthony Kaufman's blog, also at The Chutry Experiment, UPDATE: also at Doc It Out and All These Wonderful Things) one of the ideas that has arisen is that it might help an audience member experience a movie better if he or she knew what the intentions of the director are/where the director is coming from or what they might be attempting to do or say with a film. This review of Hannah Takes the Stairs at ShortEnd Magazine takes the time to think about some of those things, and to look beyond the surface of the movie a little. When dealing with art (specially film art/entertainment) it is easy to say that the movie made no sense or it sucked or the filmmaker failed and move on, but I think the audience is better served by deeper contemplation & analysis of the work by reviewers. Regular audience members (people who are not critics or reviewers) can get more out of an art/indie movie if they spend some time with it & think about it - and for that task, good/well written movie reviews & criticism is a valuable tool. I definitely appreciate reviewers & critics who, among other things, try to see a movie on the filmmaker's terms as a part of their review. Even if the intentions of the filmmaker are hard to figure out, reading a reviewer grapple with the issue is helpful to me as an audience member - gives me ideas to consider when I approach the work/the movie myself. An independent film is many things - including art, and well written & well thought out reviews can create a bridge that helps the audience approach and try to understand and even enjoy the work.

I wonder if the popularity of art/independent/foreign films at a given period of time is directly related to how seriously the reviewers & critics at that time period take the medium/the works/the art form. Although it is not the job of the critic or reviewer to do so, well written movie reviews can add value to a movie, in the eyes of the audience. Or, if reviewers take a movie seriously and spend some time thinking about the many things that are going on in and around a movie - actual content as well as related ideas, even if the bottom line is that the movie failed to greatly entertain or convincingly make an argument for something- the audience might also allow themselves to pay more attention to the movie and think about it more, watch it closely, and in turn they might enjoy the experience more. I think the reviewer or critic can, through their writing, invite and make it OK for a non-expert/ordinary audience member to confidently deal with a movie as a work of art. One positive element of the internet is that since space is cheaper than at newspapers, the net reviewers can write at length about a movie, which will allow him or her to examine many aspects of the movie and ideas related to the movie.

Bigger budgeted or well established foreign and art and indie/indiewood films do seem to receive more thought and attention from most reviewers. In ShortEnd Hannah review case, it is nice to see a very low budget, no star real indie movie receive the same kind of thoughtful treatment.

- Sujewa

Mysterious ways of Jacques Rivette

I have not yet seen any movies by Rivette, but I just read a list of his movies & some of them sound very interesting, need to check them out. Rivette is credited as director on 31 movies, with their dates of release ranging from 1949 to 2007, at this IMDB page.

This International Herald Tribune article from February of this year was, for me, a good introduction to the filmmaker. Here is the first paragraph from the article:

"Jacques Rivette's movies, like the legendary 12- hour "Out 1" (1971), have heroes who seem to belong to secret societies, characters as enigmatic as their quests: they skate out of control and bump each other in play, or treachery."

Read the rest of the article here.

- Sujewa

On The Road movie update

Matt Dentler reports from a University of Texas event featuring Francis Ford Coppola :

" He [Coppola] said the realization of a planned adaptation of Jack Kerouac's On the Road (which he is set to produce and Walter Salles will direct) will entirely depend on who is cast in the lead roles."

Read the full entry here, some interesting stuff re: Coppola's new film Youth Without Youth there.

- Sujewa

i think i can file this post under the Beats & Film Blog-A-Thon

Todd Verow's cellphone movie Hooks To The Left

Don't know much about it, but here is pretty much all I know re: Todd Verow's new/recent cellphone camera shot movie Hooks To The Left, from the Bangor Films site:

" HOOKS TO THE LEFT: " of the most interesting cinematic experiments of the year: Director Todd Verow filmed a auto-biographic travel diary with the camera of a Nokia cellphone ... The result is a mysterious, deeply personal and fascinating masterwork of no-budget film - and proof that creating film art has nothing to do with money..." Goon Magazine"

Anyone who reads German, follow the links & check out the article. And let me know if there is an English translation around.

- Sujewa

The Huffington Post says Ed Burns's new movie Purple Violets is good

Well, their exact words are: "The film itself was funny, smart, and shows New York at her finest."

From an interview with Burns, read it here.

Thanks GreenCine Daily for the link.

I've enjoyed, to various degrees, pretty much all of the Burns films I've seen (i think that's all of them except Ash Wednesday). Looking forward to checking out Purple Violets.

- Sujewa

Monday, May 07, 2007

ON for '07: DNO distribution, start of 10/30 project. OFF for '07: KRIFF

ON for '07:

* Date Number One distribution
coming up:
- party to celebrate the 1 year anniversary of the World Premiere of DNO (5/13/06) on May 12 (next Sat!), an event for cast & crew & significant others & close friends
- DVDs will be available for sale from Wild Diner Store starting on May 13
- 1 week run in Kensington, MD: July 12 - 18
- lots more screenings! info. coming soon

** Start of the 10/30 (making & releasing 10 features in 30 months) project
- shoot feature 1 - working title: Filmmaking For The Poor (FFTP), starting in August, complete editing & start distribution in October/before November


OFF for '07:

It is possible to shoot a film part time & also distribute another film PT, while maintaining a FT day job, but I think it would be difficult to produce a film festival while working a FT job and while producing and distributing features. So, The Kensington Real Independent Film Festival (KRIFF) will have to wait until next year. KRIFF will not be happening this year, will have the new dates for the fest in Jan '08. Most likely it will happen in early September '08. Hopefully this does not mess up anyone's plans for '07 too much.


That's the latest for upcoming major '07 stuff. Will have details on things as they happen.

- Sujewa

Sunday, May 06, 2007

on gun-weilding hobos & arty films

this Salon article was a delight to read. extremely well written. about SXSW '07.

- Sujewa

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Will Spider Man 3 have a bigger opening weekend than Aquaman?


Yeah, the joke is old now (although, I just saw that episode of Entourage for the second time a few days ago), sorry, could not resist.

- Sujewa

Oh Kay, f-i-n-a-l-l-y found a well written review of Hannah Takes the Stairs, over at Cinematical

Not that Swanberg's new movie needs any more blog attention (it's gotten quite a bit of blog & other press mentions since its premiere at SXSW in March) but, to sort of wrap up a topic I opened with this post/frustrated rant earlier today, I finally found a more or less traditional movie review of Hannah Takes the Stairs that talks about the movie in a way that provides enough & a right mix of information and opinion that helps me decide, as an audience member, whether I want to check out the movie or not. The review is at Cinematical, written by Jette Kernion. Here is a paragraph:

"Hannah (Greta Gerwig) seems to be drifting through life. She has a boyfriend, Mike (Mark Duplass) whom she seems to like, but suddenly breaks up with him because "he's the funny one. I want to be the funny one." She works for a production company of some sort -- I never quite understood what was going on over there -- with a pair of guys, Paul (Andrew Bujalski) and Matt (Kent Osborne). Paul is trying to negotiate a deal to publish a book based on his blog, while Matt is slightly older and more mature than the other two. After breaking up with Mike, Hannah more or less floats over to Paul, upsetting the office dynamic with their schmoopiness and later with their relationship difficulties. She turns to her roommate Rocco (Ry Russell-Young) and to Matt for solace."

The above paragraph is of course from the description of the plot of Hannah. Better stuff; insights and opinions about the movie, and some background information about the production, are at the full review, check it out here.

Hannah sounds interesting (i was not that into Kissing On The Mouth or LOL, but Hannah sounds more interesting than the earlier two by Swanberg), looking forward to checking it out.

Even though Hannah has been blogged about quite a bit and mentioned in articles regarding Mumblecore movies, the Cinematical review mentioned above is the first one that I found, so far, to take a clear look at the movie and write about it in a way that would be useful to an ordinary audience member. When dealing with a dialogue or character driven, "no" budget, small plot or "no plot" movie, some bloggers & other reviewers choose to write about matters related to or inspired by the movie and not about the actual movie itself, probably because it would take a lot of attention & note taking & reflection to clarify the thin plots and scenes that make up the movie. So, good job Kernion & Cinematical, well written & useful review. Thanksalot!


Another well written review of Hannah, at

- Sujewa

This is no way to write a movie review

Cynthia Rockwell's "review" of Hannah Takes The Stairs is depressing not because she didn't like the movie but because after reading the entire thing, 6 small to medium sized paragraphs, I can't figure out the following: the plot of the movie or the situation or roughly what happens for 70 - 90 minutes, the main characters & any significant minor characters, who plays the characters, ideas that may have been expressed in the movie, similar ideas and situations that may have been explored in other movies or other art/entertainment and how those compare with the film being reviewed, the reviewer's opinion of the technical craftsmanship of the movie, how real life compares to the world being depicted in the movie. At the very least I would like to learn a few of those things about a movie from a review.

(and yes, Rockwell does consider her post re: Hannah a review, as noted here, not just a blog entry reflecting on the lack of female participation in indie film & a couple of related subjects using Hannah as an example; more on that below)

The stuff that Rockwell did talk about in her review; her belief that the lead actress was cast because she is cute, observation that there isn't enough female directors making movies, belief that the male gaze gets in the way of making good movies, are all interesting stuff to read & think about, but the essentials about the movie would be a very nice thing to find in a movie review. Even if it is just a blog entry movie review.

It's a good thing that newspapers still write reviews. Such coverage/press may be harder to get for real indies such as Hannah, but at least newspaper reviews, in my experience, impart the essential information about a movie that would help a reader decide if he/she wants to check the movie out even if the reviewer had tons of problems with the movie.

Also, several blogs & websites - GreenCine Daily, Filmmaker Blog, The Chutry Experiment, Hollywood Is Talking, indieWIRE, The House Next Door to name a few - do write reviews that provide the essential information plus a lot more to think about, so there is hope for more well written movie reviews on the web, all is not lost.

Indie filmmakers, even if they end up making a movie that makes very little sense to most audience members, put a lot of work into making their movies. It would be nice if bloggers who decide to review a movie can show a tiny bit of respect for the amount of work that goes into making a movie by sharing the basic and essential information about a movie with their readers.

Also, if you are a filmmaker/blogger/film reviewer, I am not very interested in hearing only or even mostly about what you would do differently on someone else's movie; deal with the movie as it exists and go from there. When you make a movie you will have plenty of time & opportunities, for many years to come hopefully, to discuss what you would have done differently on your movie. But when writing about other people's movies in a reviewer capacity, please give me the basics about the movie and then build from there. Thanksalot.

- Sujewa

Spidey goes evil and his suit turns black. Hmmmm.

Yes, perhaps just a coincidence, 'cause there are only a couple of colors to depict a character's transformation to evil: black or green or red mostly, maybe even purple. But, the mega movie Spider Man 3 (which i will be seeing next weekend) exists in American history and in this same body of ideas, in the same society we have a history of casually identifying African-Americans and many other non-European/non-"white" people with the color black and also attributing negative human qualities to those people. So, given this history, is it somewhat insensitive to use a black suit to symbolize Spidey's turn towards the dark side? Probably. Specially when there doesn't seem to be any African-American or other dark skinned characters in heroic & positive & significant/major roles in Spidey 3? Yup, probably. But I guess the blame should go to the comic book, since Venom has always been depicted in that medium the way he is being depicted in Spidey 3. Didn't seem as noticeable or irritating in the comics though. On second thought, I'll skip Spidey 3, I'll be too distracted & annoyed by the black suit & possible tie to racism issue (& the lack of minority actors most likely - let me know if i am wrong on this one) to enjoy the flick & the popcorn, will save my $10-$20 for Pirates 3.


New York Times' Manohla Dargis briefly questions the choice to use black to depict evil in Spidey 3: "Though there’s something dubious about the idea that black still conveys evil in our culture, pop or otherwise (tell it to Batman and Barack Obama, for starters),..." Read her full review here.

Chuck Tryon has a review of the movie here, definitely not very excited about seeing the movie after reading that, now that I know about all the problems in the flick.

- Sujewa

Friday, May 04, 2007

Amir Motlagh to direct feature Micro this summer :: Filmography & other work

CA based (i think somewhere near LA) talented & prolific DIY indie filmmaker/musician/actor Amir Motlagh (directed shorts Still Lover, My Break Ups into a Million Pieces, plays in the band Shanks and the Dreamers, stars in his & other's movies; see below for a longer list of work) is currently editing his first feature Whale. Amir also recently announced that he will be directing a new feature this year; a micro-budget feature called Micro - a comedy about a filmmaker who is making an ultra-low budget feature. I like movies about making movies, and I like most of Amir's movies that I've seen, so I am looking forward to checking out Micro.

I may have a tiny role to play in making Micro; will have more on that in early June.

Check out Amir's blog for updates on his projects.

I interviewed Amir in '05, read that interview here.

Read a more recent interview with Amir, from '06, here.

And here's that list of Amir's work that I mentioned on paragraph 1 (note - looks like this list was made prior to shooting Whale, so it is a little bit old, but still good re: Amir's earlier work):

Amir Motlagh

Filmography (feature)
Whale (pre production/feature length fiction)
Pumkin Little (40 min documentary)

(short subject film/video)
When I die, will you remember my poem (in production/cinematic essay)
Still Lover (2003)
Dino Adino (2001/ recut intro 2004)
Love @ 11:47 (2001)

Lessons in Self-Destruction- an eight part video series (2004-2005)
#01. She Shouldn’t Lick Me There
#02. One Night With Stella, Harold and Maude
#03. The Flight of Flowers
#04. The Banalities of a Hard Dick
#05. WHS 96/97
#06. Untitled
#07. Untitled
#08. Persian Boy Spins Himself Into Extinction

Acting (Selected/Film)
Whale (pre production)
Today’s Tomorrow
Silent Partner
Trying to Kill Me (ver.2.0)
Love @ 11:47
Dino Adino
Blood Types are Nothing

Writing (for film)
Whale (pre production)
My Life on the 405 (feature treatment)
Still Lover
Love @ 11:47Dino Adino
Memoirs of a man that will die tonight

(Novels, short story, verse, etc.)
The Most Tender Ovulations Man Can Withstand (short story and verse/ ongoing)
Excerpts at 2am (verse collection/2003)
Issues on Automatic (one act play/2001)

Photo Series
Mothers, Lovers and Fuckers (ongoing)
When the Kids Were Alive (2003)
Still Lover (2003)
Pumkin Little (2004)
I dreamt of a sweet suburban sugar cube (ongoing)
Polaroid’s tear my heart out (ongoing)

Camels, Colors, and other things disjointed (ongoing)

Shanks and the Dreamers (5 track EP “If only I were left a Heart” early 2005)

Misc. Music
Pumkin Little (original score)
Still Lover (original score)

You can see the above list, illustrated with stills from Amir's films, here.

- Sujewa

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

In Search of a Midnight Kiss sounds interesting

Because of this review, I definitely want to see it. In Search of a Midnight Kiss (MySpace) sounds like a well/interestingly shot (although i hate to use the term) "slacker" comedy/comedy-drama/maybe even a little bit of romantic comedy. Here is a description of the story from Kiss's MySpace page:

"Wilson (Scoot McNairy), a twenty-nine-year old guy who has just had the worst year of his life, is new to Los Angeles, has no date, no concrete plans and every intention of locking the doors and forgetting the last year ever happened. That is until his best friend, Jacob (Brian McGuire), browbeats him into posting a personal ad on Craig's List. When Vivian (Sara Simmonds), a strong-willed woman hell bent on being with the right guy at the stroke of midnight responds, a chaotic, sometimes hilarious, sometimes touching journey through the black and white streets of L.A. begins. In the waning hours of the year, emotional vulnerability and bitterly honest humor seem to be waiting around every corner."

And about the production:

" In Search of a Midnight Kiss is directed by award-winning comic filmmaker, Alex Holdridge, whose last film, SEXLESS, is the only movie to have won both the Jury and Audience Award for best feature film at the SXSW film festival (2003). The veteran art house producer, Anne Walker, (Before Sunrise, Dazed and Confused) is Executive Producer. It stars Scoot McNairy (Art School Confidential, Six Feet Under) and Sara Simmonds (Echoes of Innocence). It is produced by both Seth Caplan (Flatland) and Scoot McNairy. Editing is by Jacob Vaughn (Cassidy Kids, Dear Pillow) and Frank Reynolds (In the Bedroom). In Search of a Midnight Kiss is a blend of up-and-coming talent and proven experience making it a dazzling independent film not to be missed."

Well, sounds good so far. Looking forward to checking it out.

- Sujewa

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Getting Straight sounds interesting

i think i am about to enter a 70's stories phase in movie watching. saw 1/2 of a flick about the Watergate scandal a couple of nights ago on TV, looked very interesting, it is on my list to watch. also, Getting Straight sounds very interesting, read about it here.

- sujewa



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