Thursday, May 29, 2008

Message from Matt Z. Seitz

Got this today; good news, Matt is back as a critic (though not in print), & the indiefilmbloginterwebcosmicbrain just regained the bit of intelligence & soul matter lost from Matt's departure a few weeks ago, very cool:

"Hi, folks--

Although I have more or less quit print journalism to focus on filmmaking -- and will be shooting a science fiction feature in Dallas this summer -- I intend to continue being a critic. From now on, the work will just take a different form.

The first example can be found at the link below.

I intend to do a lot of these video essays once I perfect the format and get up to speed. They will be posted to YouTube and other Internet video sites; they will also be featured on the film and TV criticism blog The House Next Door, which I founded in 2006 and recently turned over to my friend Keith Uhlich:

If you would like to tell me about a feature, short film, TV program or other subject that you think I should see and/or review, please drop me an email at

Thanks for reading (and watching)

--Matt Z. Seitz"

- Sujewa

Let's try creating a filmmaker group show type film festival

Update 7/20/08: working on 3 movies (Indie Film Bloggers, Actress, and Date Number One DVD release), and will be busy with distribution on those next year, so, producing a film fest is out for '09, perhaps later/at some other year.

I have read, at some point far back in one of my history of art classes, of painters putting on group shows (example); basically several painters get together, exhibit their work, with all the attendant press, details (food, music, etc.) in tow, and also sell their work at this event.

Maybe this idea can be adapted to the real indie film world because;

- film festivals, most of them (or at least many of them), as we know them now, draw significant attention & attendance from the general public but are not events whose primary mission it is to enable filmmakers to receive money from the public directly, at the event, for their work (either from screenings or DVD sales)

The event could include indie filmmakers as the primary organizers but significant input from critics, bloggers, distributors, etc. (anyone else who really cares about the project and wants to see it succeed & wants a hand in making it come to life) so that there is some kind of a useful (to the public) selection process at work.

It could be a useful experiment; specially since production is no longer the problem in the real indie filmmaking world but the problem is figuring out what to do with the finished film in a world where distributors do not exist to help generate revenue from the project and regular film festivals are not in the business of helping filmmakers make money (however, film fests are very useful for publicity, meeting audiences, etc.).

The first version of this event could be planned out slowly & brought to life slowly. And we probably should do it in NYC; the birthplace of indie film as far as I am concerned (plus a lot of indie film media lives there, plus a lot of indie film fans, plus close to several large East Coast cities should people want to travel to check out the event).

I'd be cool with the first event having a budget of $50K - $100K, maybe a weekend + long, featuring & put together by 10 feature filmmakers & a lot of others, and featuring the same filmmakers at the event for Q & A & other events, at least 10 features with multiple screenings of each feature, and the event generating twice as much money as it costs to produce ($s from sponsors, tix sales, licensing, merch, vendor fees, and any other possible revenue source) with some of the revenue going to the filmmakers.

It could be set up as a non-profit event (depending on non-profit laws & aim of the event, something to research).

Filmmakers can sell DVDs & other merch related to their movies at the event.

For now we'll call this the Filmmaker Group Show Festival Project. E-mail me if you are into real indie film, or indie film in general, or just movies, and are interested in trying to create this event.

We'll take our time. It took me 4 years to shoot & edit a version of Date Number One that I'll be happy with for the rest of my (hopefully long) life. So, let's aim for Summer '09 for the debut of version 1 of this event, and if it takes longer, it takes longer, no big deal as long as we ultimately get it the way we want it. If we do it right/successfully, it could be a model for other filmmakers & film event producers around the country.

- Sujewa

Maybe in support of Sex and the City; a clip from Sullivan's Travels

A blog comment conversation at Spout blog re: the value of Sex and the City movie made me think of Sullivan's Travels (1941). Here's a clip:

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A new film festival in Austin

This year marks the first appearance of the Austin Asian American Film Festival. From the fest's site:

"After years of hard work, the Austin Asian American Film Foundation has arrived. Our unique foundation promises to bring the best in Asian and Asian American cinema to Austin. Texas may seem like an odd location for an Asian film foundation, but we are the fastest growing minority in an already lively and vibrant Asian community. We are supported by the University of Texas, Austin Film Society and many Asian organization. This October we are proud to present:

The 1st Annual Austin Asian American Film Festival will be held on October 9-12th, 2008. Our four day event will have exciting screenings, thought provoking panels, great parties and many filmmakers in attendance.

This year we are proud to announce our festival will be held at the Alamo Drafthouse. Recently voted “Best Theatre in America”, the Alamo takes our festival to the next level!"

I have a perhaps a difficult question re: ethnicity focused film festivals (are they still needed? are mainstream/regular/non-ethnicity-specific festivals not programming enough movies by and about non-"white" people in America? or are there other important reasons for creating ethnicity focused film fests?); maybe I can ask someone from AAAFF about it at some point in the near future.

But aside from that, congrats AAAFF, another place for filmmakers to show their stuff. And in Austin, a city that I hear good things about.

- Sujewa

Links to all my SilverDocs posts

It's that time of the year again folks; the "sleepy"? town of Silver Spring, MD turns into a pretty gigantic celebration of documentary films, doc filmmaking, & doc filmmakers. I'll post links to all my posts about SilverDocs '08 on this page, so that we may locate them with ease in the future.

6/27 update: This page is missing a few links, will add them next week. In the meantime, click on the blog's title, go to the top of the blog & scroll down to see a few SilverDocs entries.

SilverDocs 2008 posts

North American Premiere of Generation 68 at SilverDocs - 5/28/08

SilverDocs '08 films - 5/28/08

- Sujewa

North American premiere of Generation 68 at SilverDocs

You can't take three steps in the indie/art/specialty film blog world these days without running into a post about the glorious & revolutionary days of '68 Paris. So, for us kids who were not yet born when all that happened, the new doc Generation 68 might be interesting & perhaps even educational. From the SilverDocs site:

"Simon Brook’s raucous exploration of the pivotal year of the 1960s is a tale of many cities––London, Paris, New York and Prague––and a record of revolution.

The music was fabulous, fashion was fun, sex was safe, and flower power blossomed. Meanwhile, American cities burned with race riots, Martin Luther King was assassinated two months before Robert F. Kennedy was killed, the flowers of a Prague spring were trampled by Soviet tanks, and a war raged on in Vietnam.

Brook is most interested in the youthful exuberance that bubbled to the top of the seemingly placid social status quo, revealing the roiling conflicts of racial injustice, sexual politics and generational change beneath the surface. Actor, director and art collector Dennis Hopper describes the moment as a time when “Youth found its own voice…it was a great tribute to youth and to times changing for the positive not the negative.”

The film blends interviews of artists, directors, DJs and fashion designers with archival footage that’s often familiar but always emotionally resonant. Milos Forman wonders aloud why some are raising the red flag when “others of us are working so hard to bring it down.” (He directed the movie HAIR not to comment on the war, but to celebrate our freedom to talk about it.) Future Czech President Vaclav Havel wrote revolutionary plays. In the American South, Dennis Hopper made EASY RIDER; in London, Mary Quant invented the mini-skirt and hot pants. The film captures what artist Ed Ruscha calls “a cacophony of spirit” that permeated the time.

GENERATION 68 explores the cultural moment from a slightly European perspective, adding to our understanding of what Newsweek called “the year that made us who we are.”

And once again, here's the SilverDocs page for the film.

Play dates & times/tix links:

Buy Tickets
- Sujewa

SilverDocs '08 films

Check out the SilverDocs '08 offerings (if you have not looked over the list already), posted at Film Panel Notetaker blog.

You can also visit the official SilverDocs site for more info. on the films.

I am going to get a chance to check out some SilverDocs '08 shorts soon. Will write about them next week.

- Sujewa

My comment re: Jonathan Marlow's "They didn't build their sales model for you"

Jonathan Marlow's wake up call to some indie filmmakers is getting read & commented on over at GreenCine Daily. Here is my comment re: the post, might be of interest & use to some indie filmmakers in dealing with the challenge of distribution & making money from distribution:

"Lots of people check out indie films at festivals, so, that's a positive starting point; people are willing to pay money & give time to watching indie movies in a theater type setting under certain conditions/at festivals.

Groups of indie filmmakers could work together to create new festivals; ones where some of the ticket sales $s can go to the filmmakers.

Another production/distribution option is to approach indie filmmaking & distribution not from a Hollywood or indiewood model, but from an independent music model; the artists make the work, tour & bring the work to audiences at whatever venues (clubs, theaters, etc.), and a home version of the work (DVD in the indie film case) gets sold through outlets available to the artists.

As television has failed to end the movie theater going habit, thankfully, I don't think the web will put movie theaters out of business either. So indie filmmakers can look forward to solving the "getting the movie to theaters & making money from it" puzzle for decades to come. However, internet VOD, cable VOD, etc. is already a revenue stream for some indie films (those in IFC In Theaters program, etc.), also any films that might get included in iTunes type sites.

Some indiewood companies shutting down is really no big problem for real indie filmmakers, because most likely our "no budget, no star" films were never going to be picked up & distributed by those companies anyway.

In general, this seems to be a very good time to be an indie filmmaker; cost of production is lower than ever, lots of interest in film festivals, and the web is hopping with indie film blogs & sites & other gathering places."

- Sujewa

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Interview with Peter X. Feng

Michael Guillen interviews Peter X. Feng, University of Delaware associate professor of film and author of Identities in Motion: Asian American Film and Video. From the interview:

"Guillén: Though I’m aware that you were trying to focus on the history of Asian representation and—as you say—the Asian experience in more or less classic Hollywood film, I’m curious what your thoughts are on some of the more contemporary Asian American filmmakers like Gregg Araki or Eric Byler, or Asian directors like Ang Lee?

Feng: I have different thoughts about all those filmmakers. I really love Gregg Araki’s films. Mysterious Skin was amazing. I love his earlier films and I’ve shown his films when I teach my film class; but, I thought Mysterious Skin—without compromising what made him completely unique and bizarre—was more a professional film. Eric Byler is a really intelligent filmmaker who really understands contemporary sexual politics between Asian Americans. That’s what his films have tended to focus on. Ang Lee hasn’t been really interested in Asian American issues. The Wedding Banquet happened to be set in New York but it’s really more about what it means to be Taiwanese, as well as gay obviously. The great success of Ang Lee is that he’s been able to make films like Sense and Sensibility, The Ice Storm and Brokeback Mountain that haven’t focused exclusively on Asian turf. He’s managed to break out of that ghetto."

Read the rest of the interview here.

- Sujewa

Will be in NYC this weekend (w/ DNO screeners)

Time to take a little break from The DC (area) & take a quick trip out to the city of cities to hang out, network, etc. I'll be in NYC this weekend, w/ a bunch of Date Number One screener DVDs, if any filmmakers/bloggers/film fans/others want to hang out, let me know. I think I'll have the most time available for hanging out on Sat 5/31.

- Sujewa

New date (Fri nights), new venue for the June, July, August, September screenings

The movies I planned on showing at Lo-Def/Jackie's Back Room will now be shown at Capital City Microcinema/Kensington Row Bookshop. Jackie's is interested in showing only shorts in the future (easier to incorporate food service, etc.) and I want to show a lot of indie features, thus the June - September screenings had to be moved to another venue. I am still planning on swinging by Jackie's often for the yummy food & to see what kind of art/entertainment events they'll have going on in the Back Room.

Capital City Microcinema will happen on Fri nights, once a month. At the moment I am working on shows for June - September. June show on Fri, June 27, 7 PM, several short films, info. soon. July - September shows will be features. Same deal as Lo-Def for filmmakers; $100 screening fee for showing a feature, $25 for shorts/participating in a shorts program by screening one or more shorts.

CCM line up for the coming months & completed site coming soon.

- Sujewa

Cultural and philosophical attributes of indie

From about 1992, the year I dropped out of film school, 'till about 1998, the year I shot my first feature, I went to see a lot of indie/punk bands in DC, read zines, hung out with people involved in the DC area indie scene, even worked briefly at Dante's (restaurant run by DC punk people) & Black Cat (one of the few large indie rock clubs in DC). And I still try to keep up with what my favorite bands & labels from the 90's are up to these days. So, to me the indie music world is a real and working thing, not an experiment. So it is very easy for me to translate elements of the indie music culture into my filmmaking & distribution work. The CD = the DVD, the live show = theatrical type or large screen screening at a venue, the zine = the blog, concern with politics & the well being of the world = same, etc.

The business model, or one business model that would work well for real indie film is the indie rock model. In both cases artists are creating work without a lot of capital & large corporations behind them for support, and are working on getting their work out to an interested audience.
The indie rock model is, I think, a better one for real indie filmmakers than Hollywood (large corporations with a lot of cash make movies & get them out to a lot of theaters & DVD retailers, etc.), or festival & indiewood (indie filmmakers take their movies to festivals in hopes of getting purchased for distribution by a Hollywood or Hollywood related company, or in some cases an actual independent/non-Hollywood distributor). The indie rock model is a more certain & enjoyable thing; make the art/entertainment work, find a place to exhibit it or perform it, make the home version of the work, sell it at shows, sell it through retailers that would carry it, sell it through mail order/w/ the help of websites, keep in touch with other artists and fans through self-published documents. It is doable, will not make you rich & famous overnight, but a career & a body of work can be created by applying the indie music model to filmmaking & distribution.
Jon Moritsugu has done it. Todd Verow has done it (though I am not sure if his inspiration was indie music).

For filmmakers who have not had a lot of time to observe the indie music scene closely, there's a wikipedia page w/ info. on how that world works. From the page:

"There are a number of cultural and philosophical traits which could be more useful in pinpointing what indie music is about than specific musical styles or commercial ownership. Indie artists are concerned more with self-expression than commercial considerations (though, again, this is a stance that is affected by many artists, including hugely commercially successful ones). A do-it-yourself sensibility, which originated with punk in the 1970s, is often associated with indie, with people in the scene being involved in bands, labels, nights and zines. Indie often has an internationalist outlook, which stems from a sense of solidarity with other fans, bands and labels in other countries who share one's particular sensibilities; small indie labels will often distribute records for similar labels from abroad, and indie bands will often go on self-funded tours of other cities and countries, where those in the local indie scenes will invariably help organize gigs and often provide accommodation and other support. In addition, there is also a strong sense of camaraderie that emerges from a selflessness among indie bands and often results in collaborations and joint tours."

Read more here.

- Sujewa

Canana is Mexican for art movies

Yes, it's a promo piece for a company that indiewood company Focus Features does business with, but nevertheless, the article is about an interesting development in Mexico; from the article:

" "We realized that the success of [Alfonso Cuaron, Alejandro Gonazalez Innaritu and Guillemo del Toro] was a special moment, but then there was nothing happening on the ground in Mexico. There was no grass-roots [activity]. So, Canana can use the power [Gael and Diego] have as stars and public figures and be useful to the industry." "

Read the rest of the article at FilmInFocus.

- Sujewa

Michael Guillen on The Global Film Initiative

Global Film Initiative sounds like a very interesting distributor. From Guillen's post:

"Whisky is one of many films supported and distributed by The Global Film Initiative, a U.S.-based distributor with one of the most dynamic distribution models in today's international film market. Co-founded in 2003 by Susan Weeks Coulter and Noah Cowan [of the Toronto International Film Festival], the Initiative touts itself as a "full service" distributor of films from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, offering production grants to filmmakers and a multi-platform release that includes a full year of high profile screenings through one of the most lauded touring festivals in the U.S. and Canada, Global Lens."

Read the rest of the long post here.

Thanks GreenCine Daily for the link.

- Sujewa

Rooftop Films Sat 5/31 night in Brooklyn

On the program for this Saturday's Rooftop Films event is At the Death House Door. From the RF site:

" "At the Death House Door," directed by Steve James and Peter Glibert (the director and producers of “Hoop Dreams”), is a gripping, fascinating, powerful film about Pickett, about a wrongly-executed man named Carlos De Luna and his family, and about the tragic moral mistake that is the death penalty. Pickett's character unfolds with a stately grace. Being an old-fashioned Texan, he's reluctant to reveal his emotions, a trait which only makes them burn with more ferocity as you see them shine through, as you watch an amazing evolution of a man's feelings and ideology. It’s a rare and stunning transformation to see in a documentary, or in life in general."

More here.

Even though I am for the death penalty ('cause some evil people need to die) in some cases (as long as the right person gets killed), I am still looking forward to checking out this movie. And I am sure the post-show discussion will be interesting.

- Sujewa

"many classic films were edited with a razor blade and tape" - Kelley Baker

The Angry Filmmaker Kelley Baker advices indie filmmakers not to get too hung up on having the latest camera or editing program for their movies. From the post:

"Film cameras have been around forever and they all still shoot at 24 fps. I can take an Arri, an Aaton, a CP, or an old Éclair and run a roll of film through it and it’ll look great. I can also shoot with a Canon XL1 or a Sony PD150 and it will look great as well. As long as I light it correctly."


"It is the same thing with software and editing equipment. Find an editing program that you like and learn it backward and forward. Up grade only when you have too. Remember, many classic films were edited with a razor blade and tape."

Read the rest of the post here.

- Sujewa

Monday, May 26, 2008

"They didn't build their sales model for you" - Jonathan Marlow

They being studios/Hollywood. Interesting read over at GreenCine Daily, check it out here.

Marlow talks about something I've brought up a few times at this blog. From the article:

"The festival circuit has instead become an ersatz distribution system unto itself that, for the most part, keeps money away from the makers. The ten or 20 dollars you spend on a ticket (or the $50 to $500 you spend on a pass) rarely finds its way into the hands of the folks behind the camera."

Read the rest of the long GreenCine Daily article here.

- Sujewa

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Long introduction

4 years after I wrote the first words of the Date Number One script, the final version of the movie has been screened once to the public and is now on its way to festivals, and homes, offices, and home offices of various interested people. Even though I've blogged a lot about the movie at this blog and elsewhere during the past 4 years, I felt that it was necessary to write a new & somewhat lengthy introduction/promotion piece for the movie, maybe something like a director's statement; with the simple, short description of the movie inside. So that long introduction has been written, check it out here. It will probably accompany film fest applications, press packets sent to screening venues, and the retail DVD (maybe it could be the insert).

- Sujewa

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Armando Valle on his visit to Lo-Def & on Date Number One

Baltimore based filmmaker Armando Valle came to Silver Spring on Thu. night to check out Date Number One at Lo-Def screening #1. From Armando's blog:

"Last night, I drove down to Silver Spring, MD, for a screening of DC filmmaker Sujewa Ekanayake's 'Date Number One'. The event took place at Jackie's (8081 Georgia Ave), just a few blocks from the AFI Silver Spring theater. Sujewa is working with Jackie's management to program a series of local shorts and features all thru this summer (the next screening looks to be on June 26th).'Date Number One' is a charming, DIY feature romantic-comedy presenting a refreshing, positive outlook on the trials of contemporary dating.A multi-ethnic cast, among them a seductive Indian man, a french-speaking hottie, a curvy blonde seeking a blissful three-way bi-sexual relationship, a Buddhist African-American woman, and a lonely career Ninja seek love in the modern city. The episodic film, completed through a long period by Ekanayake, exhibits a vibrant 'can do' attitude that's spreading along the world of independent cinema today. 'Date Number One' will have a one week run at Jackie's this summer, in case you missed it and want to go and check it out."

Visit Armando's blog here.

- Sujewa

Friday, May 23, 2008

a few photos from Lo-Def screening #1, 5/22, Date Number One

photos copyright 2008 sujewa ekanayake
here's 5 of about 17 photos from the 5/22 screening of Date Number One, more soon perhaps.

photos 1-3:
people checking out Date Number One. about 25 people were there; they dug the movie, eat, drank, hung out, & had a good time.

photo 4:
the brains behind Lo-Def; Sujewa & Jackie (owner of Jackie's)

photo 5:
Jackie & friends

photo 6:
after the show, in front of Back Room; John Stabb, Amanda Haynes, Sujewa, J. Kim (whose short film 1 on 1 we'll show on 6/26 @ Lo-Def), & J. Kim's wife whose name sadly I do not recall at the moment

photo 7: wide shot, outside the Back Room
Lo-Def #2 happens on June 26! Get ready, see ya there.

- Sujewa

Lo-Def screening 1 was a success, DNO will get a 1 week run in Silver Spring this summer, Lo-Def #2 on June 26

5/25 update: no 1 week run of DNO @ Back Room this summer, venue is too busy, however, the other Lo-Def screenings (June, July, August) planned thus far are still on (will update if those changes).

I am glad (& am a little bit surprised) that Lo-Def #1 came off as well as it did (tons of impossible deadlines had to be met, but in the end it all came together). Photos & notes tomorrow (sleep now).

Some of the fruit of Lo-Def #1:

- DNO will get a week (maybe more) long run in Silver Spring, @ Back Room @ Jackie's, this summer, dates coming soon

- had to finish the new version of DNO (nothing like a screening deadline/one for your own event - as motivation), instead of keeping on editing it forever; the film is vastly improved (a little more sound work needed in A Romantic Dinner For 3, this weekend, and then that's it, no more editing, screeners going out to people & places & indie film events on Monday, & very soon (June) limited DVD sales/from my site for the most part, will wait for wider DVD sales/push until after I screen the movie some more).

- got to hang out w/ potential future collaborators (actors, crew, filmmakers for future lo-def screenings, etc.)

A very special thanks goes out to everyone who made Lo-Def #1 possible & everyone who has supported Date Number One thus far. Can't do these nifty DIY film things I do w/ out your help.
Photos tomorrow.

Lo-Def #2 June 26; several cool shorts from around America. Details soon.

- Sujewa

Texas Snow review at The Chutry Experiment

Check out Chuck Tryon's review of Aaron Coffman's new feature Texas Snow here.

(full disclosure; i will be screening Texas Snow at Lo-Def on August 21, so i am glad chuck liked TS)

From the review:

"...Texas Snow is a well-crafted film. The cinematography is quite good, and Coffman is content, in places, to simply allow the camera to observe, to capture subtle details of a space, such as an apartment or an art gallery. The twentysomething characters certainly brought back memories of my own late nights during graduate school, and I think Coffman is attentive to the nuances of character and dialogue,..."

Read the rest of the review here.

Texas Snow site.

- Sujewa

Thursday, May 22, 2008

See ya tonight in Silver Spring!

The LO-DEF Screening Event & Wild Diner Films presents:

A writer,
A ninja,
A woman who is working on saving the world,
and a guy who works at a bookstore
searching for love in


A movie by new director Sujewa Ekanayake

Thu May 22
8 PM
The Back Room @ Jackie's
8081 Georgia Ave.
Silver Spring, MD 20910

Event contact: Sujewa Ekanayake,, 240-354-3394

Date Number One, a comedy about several first dates, is made up of 4 different stories: Story 1 - Start Over, about a writer who tries to get back together with his ex-girlfriend, Story 2 - 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 3 - A Romantic Dinner For 3, about a woman attempting to add a third partner to a romantic relationship, and Story 4 - The Superdelicious French Lesson, about a first date where a character learns a little bit of French in an unusual way. The movie has been discovered to be: "Witty" (GreenCine Daily), "Funny" (The Chutry Experiment), and "Sexy, Sexy, Sexy" (Hollywood Is Talking).

Starring DC indie film stars John Stabb, Julia Stemper, Jennifer Blakemore, Shervin Boloorian, Dele Butler, Steve Lee, Kelly Ham, Subodh Samudre, Jewel Greenberg

Not Rated * 90 Minutes * yummy

SCREENED AT: Goethe-Institut - Washington, DC (World Premiere, May 2006), Northwest Film Forum - Seattle (May 2006), Capital City Microcinema - Kensington, MD (June, October 2006 & March 2007), Sangha - Takoma Park, MD (July 2006), Pioneer Theater, New York City (August 2006), Warehouse Screening Room - Washington, DC (November 2006).


Director will attend the screening. Brief discussion, Q & A period after the screening (w/ a lot of time to try delicious Jackie's food, drink & hang out afterwards)


"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 & indieWIRE blogger

"I found the characters and the premise sexy, sexy, sexy."
- Jerry Brewington, Hollywood Is Talking blog, on Story 3 of Date Number One

"...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

"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

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

"...somehow, someway, in the end, the love of the characters, the positiveness of the film, and Sujewa’s disregard for conventions wins you over. The act of making this film wins you over. There is only a positive through line in this film, and that is rare to see, especially when dealing with characters in their late to early thirties."
- Amir Motlagh, director of the popular '04 Atom Films' short Still Lover & upcoming feature Whale

"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

Date Number One website & blog:

Wild Diner Films:

LO-DEF/The Back Room @ Jackie's


[first posted 4/25/08]

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Check out some Cory & Yann Seznec music

Cory & his brother Yann did some music for Date Number One back in '04. Some of that music will be heard in Silver Spring tomorrow night, when the movie screens at Lo-Def.

Check out Cory's MySpace page here for his latest music, and he plays in a band called The Groanbox Boys. (show dates on the MySpace page).

And here's Yann's site, with links to music new & old.

- Sujewa

Two ideas DIY filmmakers do not have to accept

1. DVD is not a public exhibition format.

Well, that depends on the venue. In a small room, say one that seats around 50 - 100, it may be perfectly fine to screen using a DVD. I know Angry Filmmaker Kelley Baker has successfully screened (without technical problems) his movies quite possibly hundreds of times thus far using DVDs. I've also screened Date Number One about 20 times so far, to crowds that range from 25 - 100, using DVDs.

HOWEVER, some venues may have trouble using DVDs; not sure why this exactly is, 'cause DVD players work perfectly fine for millions of people - so, it is a good idea to have your movie on Beta or DigiBeta or some other pro tape format. Also, many film festivals may also request your movie on a pro tape format for their screenings.

Another option is to screen using MiniDV. I've tried this - using a MiniDV camera as the playback source, works fine. If you have a feature you'd have to get it on a MiniDV or DV tape that can hold it (i think some tapes can hold 90 - 120 mins.). Plus you'll have to make sure there is a MiniDV or DV deck, if you plan on doing several screenings; so that you do not wear out your camera by using that as a deck.

But, if you can't afford to create a pro tape version of the movie or you just don't want to do it, and specially if you are producing your own screening, DVD might work - based on size of the venue, distance from screen & power of the projector, desired image & audio quality, etc.

2. Filmmakers make movies, distributors distribute.

Distributors have advanced that idea; that if you have to do the "difficult or unsavory" work of distribution, you are not being a filmmaker. This is completely false, specially for DIY filmmakers; filmmakers should know everything there is to know about film distribution & marketing & have experience with it & be able to carry it out if need be, otherwise you maybe making movies just to watch at your house only.

- Sujewa

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Thanks for the movies Ray

One of the key venues that aids in the growth/revival of real indie filmmaking (we are still in the early phase of this current - digital filmmaking & ultra-low/"no" budget & blogs & fests & self-distribution & DVD enabled - version of the movement I think, as opposed to the 16 MM, fests & distribution companies enabled indie scene of the 80's on) in the US is the Pioneer Theater in Manhattan. And for many filmmakers, the Pioneer Theater means Ray Privett. But now, after four years of extremely essential work, Ray is moving on to other projects; from the New York Sun:

"...the Pioneer is not just a small venue supporting emerging artists, but the epicenter of an independent film scene that has long since been squeezed out of most cities — and is currently being forced out of Manhattan — in favor of corporate-owned independent theater chains that cater to the specialty divisions of major movie studios.

In only eight years of operation, the Pioneer has provided a home for hundreds of self-sustained filmmakers who don’t have a corporate safety net waiting below them; for the last four of those years, every one of those artists has been greeted at the door by the theater’s inimitable programmer, Ray Privett."


"...Mr. Privett has overseen the most successful period in the Pioneer’s brief but unstable history."

Read the rest of the Sun article here.

Ray is gone, but The Pioneer lives on, so says Ray at his site:

"The Pioneer is still open. My departure from the Pioneer did not close the Pioneer, nor did the two things coincide. Indeed, my successors booked the three films mentioned in the first paragraph of Mr. Snyder’s article. Clearly, the Pioneer can do interesting things without me. Hopefully they continue to. Good luck to them."

Well, best of luck in your new projects Ray, and thanks a lot for paying attention to real indie film during your time at Pioneer.

Thanks GreenCine Daily for the story.

- Sujewa

Historic Blockbuster tour

Historic 2018Blockbuster2019 Store Offers Glimpse Of How Movies Were Rented In The Past

Another source for DIY screening promotion ideas: Promoting A Film Festival for the Long Tail article

As we have taken ideas & methods from indie rock, Hollywood, indiewood & wherever else in building DIY filmmaking & distribution practices over the years, I am taking a closer look at the film festival world; people like film festivals, a lot of them are well marketed & well attended (certainly more so than most DIY screenings) - so, there are probably practices in the film fest production & marketing world that can be adapted to serve DIY screenings well. Here's a starting point, an article called Promoting A Film Festival For The Long Tail: A Digital Marketing Case Study.

- Sujewa

Clean Freak, Dog Me: Potluck, need to get the DNO trailer done, various

Got Chris Hansen's latest film the short Clean Freak in the mail today. Also received a feature called Dog Me: Potluck (IMDB), (official site) by Silver Spring, MD based filmmaker M. David Lee III. Looking forward to checking these two flicks out when I get some down time later this month.

Everything takes 50x longer in DIY filmmaking & self-distribution because a lot of things are being done by one person & when there is a free/non-day job & other-stuff-that-has-to-get-done moment. And that's cool, every situation has its down sides; I am sure indiewood & Hollywood filmmakers have complaints about their situations too. Even though a lot needs to happen over the next couple of days before the Thu screening of the new version of DNO in Silver Spring, I am going to try to cut & post up a trailer for DNO tomorrow.

Will have screener DVDs of the new version of DNO this weekend. Retail DVDs at some point soon (probably after I figure out if I am doing a longer run of DNO soon, see below). I am glad I did not release a DVD of the '06 version of the movie - sometimes procrastination has its benefits - I like the new '08 version of the movie a whole lot better.

It's summertime (or almost summertime), and I am thinking about doing a week long or longer run of DNO this year, just like last year, but with a lot more publicity. Will know more about this by the end of this month.

I think such a run needs to be promoted for months in all local media in order for it to succeed. Or at least promote it as much as a large film festival gets promoted.

This figuring out self-distribution stuff is almost as interesting as filmmaking. And things seem to get easier as I do more screenings, try different approaches to solving promotion, attendance, etc. issues. Being heavily involved in both production & distribution is definitely the way to go for me.

Eventually we will get to the right destination, will find the right combination of activities, effort, & methods to make DIY film work as a revenue generating thing that also includes wide distribution & total creative control & ownership of finished films by the filmmakers - a thing that can stand totally well outside of Hollywood & indiewood & release interesting movies on a regular basis; further developing the work Jim Jarmusch, Spike Lee & everyone who helped them did in setting up the indie film world of the 80's. In the meantime, the voyage is enjoyable.

Need to go put up some posters & add MySpace friends to the movie, later on.

- Sujewa

The Label & The New Digital World Order

Perhaps an interesting & useful read, by Alex Afterman of Heretic Films; read it here.

- Sujewa

Monday, May 19, 2008

ABC news wants you to report from the future

Go to the site for more info; but here is some:

"In an unprecedented television event, ABC News is asking you to help create a story that has yet to unfold. What will our world look like in one hundred years if we don't save our troubled planet?

You, our reporters from the future, will invent short videos from the years 2015, 2050, 2070, and 2100. The ideas and events in your videos will be combined with the projections of top scientists, historians, and economists to form a powerful web-based narrative about the dangers of our current path.

The most compelling reports will also form the backbone of the two-hour prime time ABC News special: Earth 2100, airing this fall."

More at

Hopefully some people will create videos that also focus on the benefits of aspects of the "current path" of the world, not just the "dangers". Sounds like it could be an interesting program, also a good way to influence the creation of the future/how things that are yet to happen can or should happen.

- Sujewa

The Edge of Heaven trailer

Read about the movie at GreenCine Daily.

- Suejwa

See ya Thu @ Lo-Def!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

On the shape of this thing - a film festival attendance #s & $s note

(updated 5/19, 12:27 PM w/ SXSW figures)

If indie film, and specially the real indie side of the indie film world, were a business (it actually is, but stay with me here), we would eventually need to find out how many customers there are/were in a given time period in order to extrapolate how much $s the business generates in order to plan for the future, etc. So, one way to go about this, to figure out the shape - $s wise - of this indie film thing is to take a look at attendance at film festival. To that end, here are some notes & links. You could multiply the numbers by 10 or 20 or more (at the last film fest I went to I spent at least $50 I think) to get a rough idea about the amount of money that may get spent just through ticket purchases at several film festivals. Of course a lot more $s get spent in related expenses: travel, lodging perhaps, food, merchandise, etc. The good news for filmmakers is that there are lots of people out there who will spend money to check out indie movies - at least at festivals, as the figures below indicate. The challenge for each filmmaker is to figure out how to deliver his/her product to paying audience members, make money, build a career, etc; and maybe that's the fun part :) Anyways, the attendance figures to some fests:

Tribeca '08 - over 155,000

Wisconsin Film Festival '07 - 28,700

Full Frame '08 - 28, 965

Virginia Film Festival '02 - 11,836

Durango Film Festival '07 - 4,627

Nashville Film Festival '08 - over 22,000

Starz Denver Film Festival '07 - 45,136

Cinequest Film Festival '07 - over 70,000

Philadelphia Film Festival '06 - 66,300

Central Michigan International Film Festival '08 - more than 1,800

Newport Beach Film Festival '04 - 25,500

Sarasota Film Festival '08? - over 45,000

Wisconsin Film Festival '06 - 26,000

Milwaukee International Film Festival '07 - more than 30,000

Ashland Independent Film Festival '07 - more than 15,000

San Diego Asian Film Festival '07 - 15,000

Sundance Film Festival '04 - nearly 39,000

SXSW Film '08 - 50,000*
(* according to SXSW's Janet Pierson. I did not see a web page I could link to with that number - 5/19/08)

So that's attendance figures for 18 festivals, gathered quickly off the documentation available on the web, and the US has several hundred film festivals/indie film festivals (last I checked just DC metro area + Baltimore area + NYC had over 75 fests); so, if you want to find out - very roughly - how much money is perhaps being spent on indie films & related activities & merchandise in the US, one thing you could do is tally up attendance figures from all or most of the film festivals & estimate ticket sales $s. I trust figures from film festivals a little more than I trust the official $s & other figures reported by the industry/distribution companies (a lot of film festivals are probably non-profit orgs, w/ perhaps more checks & balances on reporting of attendance & ticket sales figures). Anyway, the good news is, for the 18 fests mentioned above, the total attendance number is around 679, 864. So, if each person spent $10, that's over 6.7 million dollars ($6,798, 640). Not bad at all, considering that 18 festivals is a small fraction of the total number of film festivals in the US. More important perhaps than the 6.4 million $ figure is the number of people; because if they remain fans/customers of indie and or specialty films, during their lifetimes or during several decades, that 679, 864 people mentioned above can be the source of many millions of dollars to the indie/real indie/specialty Hollywood/Indiewood/whatever industry that most indie filmmakers reading this post are, or will be, a part of - if they keep making & distributing movies.

So I guess lots of interest in, & lots of $s in ticket sales for, film festival movies are out there.

And this interest, and the $s, are something indie filmmakers - including real indie filmmakers, whether they participate in festivals or not - can target when working on building their careers.

- Sujewa

Young @ Heart review at The Chutry Experiment

Check it out here.

- Sujewa

Friday, May 16, 2008

From a letter by Barry Levinson, John Waters, David "The Wire" Simon re: Maryland Film Festival's Friends of the Fest program

From the Maryland Film Festival's Friends of the Festival program page on their site:

" Dear Fellow Film Lover,

We're continuing our support of the Maryland Film Festival, but we need you to join us. We want you to become a Friend of the Festival. You'll see fantastic films year-round and get the chance to discuss them with the filmmakers themselves. A Friend of the Festival membership is simply a must for anyone who loves film.

We've all lived and worked in Baltimore and throughout Maryland, so we know firsthand that it's home to great people and a fantastic place to shoot movies. In fact, we'd like more filmmakers to discover Maryland."

Read the rest of the letter by Levinson, Waters, Simon at this page.

If you were already a Friend of the Fest, you would have received an e-mail yesterday with info. on getting a free pass (for the 1st 50 Friends who responded) to watch Hitchcock's North by Northwest at the Charles Theater.

So, go check out the program here. Membership starts at just $50.

- Sujewa

Strange but true: a Jarmusch movie inspired exhibit at a Chinese art museum

In another Jarmusch movie + art museum event news item, MoCA Shanghai opens a new exhibit/project called Night On Earth tomorrow; from their site:

" MoCA Shanghai proudly presents Night On Earth, an innovative new project connecting a series of urban arts events in Berlin, Shanghai and Helsinki during the spring and summer of 2008. Night On Earth is an international co-production, generating a creative interaction between artists and the public through a series of intertwined events."

More here.

And a little bit more about the project from China Daily:

"Night On Earth is a three-part exhibition touring Berlin, Shanghai, and Helsinki. The exhibition is named after the Jim Jarmusch movie that follows five cabbies in five cities around the world on one crazy night. For their Shanghai stop, Asian and European artists thread together the urban cultures of three cities in one crazy exhibition."

More here.


So, China; pretty awful human rights record, but sometimes good taste in art movies & related projects? Very interesting. Strange world indeed.

- Sujewa

Stranger Than Paradise at Denver Art Museum TONIGHT

From the Denver Art Museum site:

"One of the pinnacles of the 1980s American independent movement, Stranger Than Paradise got its start as a thirty-minute short that Jim Jarmusch shot from leftover stock donated by director Wim Wenders. From that genesis, the $110,000 finished project evolved into the best picture of 1984 as voted by the National Society of Film Critics. Part of a new breed of indie auteurs, Jarmusch quickly ditched the Hollywood system and instead has made a career out of deadpan comedies that display a pastiche of influences as divergent as Japan’s Yasujiro Ozu and TV’s The Honeymooners."

More here.

Show's at 7 PM. Get tickets here.

- Sujewa

Will be showing short films at Lo-Def on 6/26, submit yours

For the June 26th screening event at Lo-Def in Silver Spring, MD, I will be showing about 1.5 to 2 hours worth of short films. Shorts by James M. Johnston & Amir Motlagh & J. Kim will be there. If you have a short film that you would like to screen in Silver Spring, MD, mail me a DVD screener of it to:

Sujewa Ekanayake
Wild Diner Films
10408 Montgomery Ave.
Kensington, MD 20895

Also, e-mail me & let me know about your short, w/ links to sites, blogs, etc., if any. And include a description, any press material in the e-mail.

For more on Lo-Def, go here.

The usual plan at Lo-Def is to pay feature filmmakers a $100 screening fee (most of the time we will be screening features). For the shorts program each filmmaker will receive a screening fee of $25, since, most likely, there will be 6 or more filmmakers showing at the event.

Most likely the shorts screening will be a repeated event (different films, filmmakers each time), so even if your short does not make it in for 6/26, there is a chance that it might make it in for a future screening event, so send it in.

I am interested in both fiction & non-fiction shorts.

Leave a comment or e-mail me if you have any questions.


- Sujewa

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Slow but exciting move; will be in NYC on the weekends starting June 28

Since I now live only 4 hours or so, on the bus, from NYC, I don't really have to pack up everything & make a big move all at once to NYC; I can do it gradually, & hopefully less painfully. Step 1: weekends. Thanks to friends, things are now set for me to start living in NYC PT - mostly weekends, & maybe 3-4 days on some special weeks, starting around June 28. I hope to make living in NYC a full time thing by the end of the year, or earlier. And since MD/DC will be only 4 hours/$20 or so away when that happens, it shouldn't be too traumatic. Looking forward to exploring NYC, hanging out, meeting new people, and making movies in a new city, starting June 28.

- Sujewa

The Future of Indie Film & the Maryland Film Festival: A Conversation with Festival Director Jed Dietz

L-R; Barry Levinson, Maryland Film Festival Director Jed Dietz, MFF programmer Skizz Cyzyk, at the 2008 Maryland Film Festival (photo by Jason Putsche)


Sujewa: I guess, barring any obvious/unavoidable signs like total poverty/homelessness/being banished from the land or death, the judgment on the quality of the times we live in is based on how optimistic or pessimistic we are; and I think at the core people who are involved in film - perhaps specially indie film - have to be very optimistic people because there are so many challenges to overcome in getting movies made and shown, even in this digital enhanced age of filmmaking & distribution; so I naturally think we live in a great time period for indie film - real indie movies - like many of the ones that were screened at your festival this past weekend, are being taken seriously (more then they have been in the past, w/ out having a well known director name or a slumming Hollywood star or some kind of a news worthy/very high $ Sundance distribution deal), cost of production has gone down, there is more interest in indie film - if we are to go by the large number of indie film festivals now active in the country & also the high volume of indie film related activity on the web; so, how do you feel about the near future, with regards to your festival and the role it might play in both bringing interesting movies to people in Baltimore & nearby areas and in helping indie filmmakers develop their careers?

Jed: You're right: filmmaking has grown more accessible and democratic. But, the distribution channel is still pretty narrow and that's where we come in. While we're certainly not a market festival, a number of filmmakers have used us and other festivals as a way to help distributors actually see a regular audience react to a film the distributor thought might be difficult. We're very good at programming and marketing- it's not just getting movies into theaters, it's also crucial to help audiences find those movies- and that has helped films here get to broader audiences than the genetically nervous marketers thought possible. From a filmmakers' point of view, it's smarter to use the film festival world broadly than than it is to go to one major festival and hope for lightening to strike.

Sujewa: A few years ago, when I looked at the indie film festival scene (granted, I may not have seen all possible options, this was my general impression), and specially when I compared it to the indie rock scene, I was a little disappointed because I did not see film festivals championing young, ultra-low/no budget, real indie filmmakers (the way that SXSW has been doing for a couple of years/the "Dentler Era", & quite possibly into the future & the way that your festival did this past weekend), and it was weird to see most mainstream indie film festivals programming work mostly by "white" filmmakers, and minority filmmakers being perhaps forced to go to the only festivals that would have them - the smaller, ethnicity based film festivals (not that there is anything wrong with them, but I figured that in a post-segregation society, and in a very liberal & progressive area of art & culture in a multi-ethnic, post-segregation society, it would be natural & even expected for mainstream/bigger/widely publicized indie film festivals to be multi-ethnic in their programming). So, I was very impressed by the fact that your festival this past weekend showed movies by directors from, and featuring actors from, multiple ethnic backgrounds - & of course your closing night event featured Melvin Van Peebles - a legend in indie, & specially African-American indie film, worlds. Has the programming in MFF always been that diverse or was this a special year - perhaps the availability of good films (Medicine for Melancholy, and for the director gender diversity front - Yeast, etc.) was higher for this most recent festival?

Jed - We work hard to display the full diversity that is the movie art form, and we do everything we can- no categories, no competition- to encourage our audience to seek out all kinds of films. But, truthfully, some of it has come naturally: as filmmaking equipment gets better, cheaper and more accessible, you'd expect to see a broader range of people making films, and as you point out, that's happening. There's no way for us to know the exact background of our filmmakers when we're programming the films, or sometimes even when we meet, but they certainly produced a wildly diverse program this year, and in the past.

Sujewa - And now, for a shorter question :); how did the Maryland Film Festival get started 10 years ago, and how did you get involved with it? And what has kept you involved with the fest for 10 years?

Jed - The first impulse was to bring filmmakers to Baltimore so they'd want to come back and work here. Then it became clear what powerful economic and cultural events film festivals can be, assuming of course we could create something with its own identity.

Sujewa - How has Baltimore changed, in your experience, over the last 10 years? Is the city going through a renaissance/revival? I saw a lot of people at the festival this past weekend, obviously there is a lot of interest in film & art over there; which I think is a healthy sign for a city (with the first wave of gentrification being artists & perhaps even fans of art); maybe not so great for real estate affordability in 5 years :) - but maybe good overall for quality of life, economy & taxes wise for the city. So, is Baltimore getting better; is it happening fast enough, and what areas of the city (geographic & also services, business & social needs) need special attention at this point?

Jed - Baltimore has a long history of interest in and support for art- world class museums, theater, music- beyond our size and dating back to the mid-1880s. We've had good political and private sector leadership (Mayor O'Malley, now our Governor, personally took Jim Sheridan out for a night of bar crawling during our festival a few years ago). There are other cities with great art institutions, but Baltimore is an unusually relaxed and unpretentious place, which makes it a great place for filmmakers and other artists.

Baltimore is getting better by almost every measure, and, no, it's not happening fast enough. We need a faster growing economy. One key solution is to dramatically build up the film industry, but in the past few years our state government has shoved it away.

Sujewa - Let me just get this Wire question out of the way, for all the Wire heads out there :); as a resident of Baltimore or someone who goes there every day for work (I assume), how do you feel about The Wire's portrayal of Baltimore? Did you watch the show?

Jed - Everyone I know who really knows something about urban America thinks it's the single best portrait of American cities ever made. It could be set in any city, and it's certainly not the whole story of Baltimore, as you know from attending our film festival. From a pure filmmaking standpoint, it's universally admired, and is the best showcase we have for Baltimore's budding film community.

Sujewa - Some festival movies never become available on DVD, let alone theatrically; do you see festivals becoming more involved in distribution of movies - specially the real indie movies - that they program? Such as selling DVDs of the movies at the festival, during the festival or through the festivals' web site, etc. Or maybe even internet VOD (video on demand) when that technology becomes affordable for festivals (this might already be the case, or should soon be) or in partnership with a cable TV station?

Jed - Every film festival should be driven by one primary goal: to help filmmakers. There are lots of ways non market film festivals can help filmmakers, including those you mentioned. We've done a lot to push films and their filmmakers that have played here beyond the festival.

Sujewa - And, along the same lines as the previous question, here's an idea that I proposed in one of my blogs a year or so ago; one that got a lot of heated debate going; how about festivals sharing a part of their revenue from screenings of a given film with the director or the owner of that film? I know screening fees are paid for some films & also that festivals pay for travel, lodging, etc. in many cases for filmmakers. But it just feels like there is more opportunity to give more to filmmakers (many low budget/real indie directors will not see any money from their movies for a long time to come, if ever, I think) from a festival situation. I guess this is more along the line of making festivals more of a distribution alternative, one that yields money to filmmakers. What do you think? Is such a thing doable in the near future or is it just impossible given the financial picture of most film festivals in America?

Jed - Movie distribution is tricky (just ask the recently fired art house crowd at the various Warner companies), and a supporter of ours here who has had some involvement in art house distribution warned about getting mired in the traps of distribution: money collection, audits, etc. But, your point is a good one: every film festival ought to be thinking about helping their filmmakers. Every film is a unique marketing challenge, but if the filmmaker wants us to, we can help, in this market and beyond.

Sujewa: How important are submission fees to most festivals, and specifically to your festival? Do festivals raise a very useful/significant amount of $s from submission fees or do you think that if there were no submission fees more people would submit their films and the festival would have a lot more movies to choose from (resulting in a better/more attractive offering to the paying audience)?

Jed - It is not a significant revenue stream for us, but it does weed out really casual submission. Warning to filmmakers: if you find a festival that makes a lot of its operating expenses from submission and other filmmaker fees, run.

Sujewa - Can you think of a few best of and worst of situations from MFF from the last 10 years? What are some of the awesome things that have happened at past versions of the MFF? And some not so great things, if any.

Jed - There are too many "best ofs" to list and no "worst ofs."

Sujewa - The increase in filmmaking, indie filmmaking, due to low cost digital technology is very exciting and I think this is a good thing overall, specially in the long run, for cinema. Also, like I said a few questions ago, tons of people are writing about film, including a lot on indie film, on the web these days (the down side being print critics and reviewers losing their jobs, but the two events might not be very related, hopefully the web will provide new employment to those same writers who lose print jobs), and I think the theatrical experience is here to stay, no matter how popular Netflix, cable VOD, etc. gets. What are your thoughts on those 3 areas (& any other relevant ones of course); re: increase in production due to digital, explosion of web writing re: film, watching movies at theaters? Is the current shape of things the way for a while, or are we all going to be watching digitally shot movies on our HDTVs in 5 years after reading about them & seeing ads for them on the web, while all the movie theaters get converted to CVSs or Wal-Marts or whatever?

Jed - The demise of the movie going experience has been mistakenly predicted so many times, it's hard to believe it will happen now. More movie tickets were sold last year than for all major sports events COMBINED; people like being in a theater together and there is no technological replacement for that experience. In fact, much of the pending technology may make the theater going experience even better.

Sujewa - I talked a bit about this with Yeast director Mary Bronstein this past weekend (5/4) at your fest, and also New York Times's Manohla Dargis talked about this same topic in an article recently; why do you think there seem to be so few female directors working in fiction features? And does it look like this is going to change, at least in the indie/festival arena, in the near future?

Jed - Until now, at least, it's taken a monomaniacal drive to be a movie director; with even many of the people surrounding the director shredding their personal lives to make movies. That is changing- Mary, Greta Gerwig, Ellen Kuras, Emily Hubley, Liz Miller, Julie Checkoway, are just some of the women filmmakers at this year's MFF that are making movies on their terms. As we're seeing in other parts of our society, it is always better when women participate fully.

Sujewa - Any advice for filmmakers who maybe interested in submitting to MFF 11 next year? Also, while I was waiting in line for a screening on Sunday, a young Baltimore indie filmmaker who was new to the festival (attending for the first time, as an audience member) wondered how easy or difficult it is for Baltimore filmmakers to get their movies into the fest; let me know if you have any advice for that young man.

Jed - The way to get a film into MFF 2009 is to make a movie that grabs someone here by the throat and doesn't let go; whether or not you're from Baltimore is irrelevant.

Sujewa - I know Team MFF is probably still recovering from MFF 10, but I'm ready to check out MFF 11! But perhaps I should ask about some of the year around programming that MFF does. So, please tell us a bit about what's coming up from MFF, year around programming wise, and also about the Friends of the Festival type thing that I heard a bit about, a few times, this past weekend.

Jed - Between now and next years' MFF, we'll do scores of Friends of the Festival screenings and other events. The best way to hear about them is to sign up for regular emails (FREE!!) at our website:

Thanks Jed!

- Sujewa

Monday, May 12, 2008

Talking About A Gloriously Uncomfortable Situation; Interview With YEAST Director Mary Bronstein

YEAST Q+A at MD Film Fest 08, left-to-right: Yeast producer Marc Raybin, co-star Benny Safdie, star Greta Gerwig, writer/director/star Mary Bronstein, host Matthew Porterfield (director of Hamilton)(photo by George Hagegeorge, courtesy of Maryland Film Festival)


Sujewa - Hi Mary. Even though the title of this interview refers to Yeast being a "gloriously uncomfortable situation", based on what a lot of reviewers have been saying about the movie thus far, I did not think the movie was very brutal - probably because, even though Yeast's main character Rachel is kinda difficult to like, I think she probably means well. Were you nervous about creating an unlikeable (to many) lead character to build your first feature around, or did you think that the character & her situation was a great thing to explore/show when you first came up with the idea?

Mary -I really didn't feel nervous about presenting this character or these ideas to the world. Perhaps this was naive, I'm not sure...From showing the film at different screenings, I've come to realize that people equate "liking," or being able to identify themselves with, a character in the film they are watching in order for them to "like" the film. This is so foreign to the way I watch movies. I do not equate disliking how a film makes me feel with disliking the film itself, to do so would be to miss the point of the film entirely. Film is entertainment, yes, but it is also art. My favorite type of art confronts what I think about myself and the world around me, reframing it into a context that might make me feel affronted, uncomfortable or uncertain. So, it was natural that I would explore these types of feelings through the medium of film. Audience identification is a dangerous, dangerous thing to play with. Luckily, I've had enough people be into what I am doing so that I feel like I am not the only one who has these views.

Sujewa - Even though comparing our productions to multi-million dollar (or even multi-hundred thousand dollar) filmmaking situations might be depressing at times, I think it is awesome that we are now able to make movies - features - for very little money. I read somewhere that the cost of making Yeast was $1500. What was good, and bad, about working with such a low/"no" budget? Do you think more people being able to afford feature film production now is a good thing or a bad thing? Will you be comfortable making another feature for such a low budget or are your future projects just not doable under a low/"no" budget situation?

Mary - I think it's great that more people are able to make films that otherwise wouldn't have been able to without the new technology. I wouldn't have been able to make my film otherwise. I wouldn't have had the confidence to even if I could have afforded it! Making the film for so little money didn't provide that many challenges because the film was conceived as a piece that could be made for next to nothing. We were lucky enough to have incredible locations to enhance the production value as well as a very talented cast and crew willing to work for free. I'd say the most challenging thing about it is the inability to pay anyone, the knowledge that everyone is working so hard for free. However, I was lucky enough to have a cast and crew that were amazingly dedicated, so it never seemed to be an issue. I plan to make my next feature, which I am shooting this summer, in the same exact way. is the only way right now.

Sujewa - Was it difficult to work with New Indie Film Superstar Greta Gerwig (who had a lead role in at least 4 movies - 3 features - at this year's Maryland Film Festival)? Did her contract include items such as "no green M & Ms" in her trailer?

Mary - Working with Greta was fabulous. She is always on point and ready to go. She was really involved in the project and invested in it's ideas from the start and her performance really shows it. I can't wait to work with her on more projects in the future. Working with Greta and Amy Judd was an amazing experience. The movie is only what it is because they are in it. If you put anyone else in those parts it would be a totally different film, and luckily they were both super easy to work with.

Sujewa - On Sun 5/4 at the Maryland Film Festival me & my girlfriend (or is it I & my girlfriend?) Amanda saw 4 movies, including yours, and I noticed that the only Q & A session Amanda participated in - asked questions at - was the one for your movie. How are female audience members responding to your movie? Is it far different than how male audience members respond to it? Do you think Yeast will encourage more women to make movies?

Mary - I have had very strong reactions from both men and women, and they really don't seem to conform to gender. I've had a lot of men love it and a lot of men hate it, and the same for women. I suppose I expected stronger reactions from women than men, but that hasn't turned out to be the case. Unless, of course maybe the men have simply been more vocal, which is a possibility. From both genders, the strong responses I've gotten usually center around the truth in the extreme emotions that are explored within the context of friendship. As well, people usually appreciate the humorous moments in the film and the way the physicality aids the telling of the story. It would make me feel wonderful if my film encouraged another woman to pick up a camera, but I would never assume that it would.

Sujewa - I often see the sentiment that "unless they are making movies as a full time paid occupation thing, it is not worth as much" being expressed by many people in the indie film world. However, in other art/entertainment fields - in indie rock, other music, painting, writing, etc., people are not too worried about having to do other work for money in between their creative projects or while those projects are going on - and this is not just novices, lots of well received authors teach or do other stuff/work other than always writing novels to pay their bills, for example. Do you think the big money and the discussion of big money attached to Hollywood leads to devaluing independent filmmaking as a worthwhile & rewarding activity? Also I am not crazy about the media's obsession with Hollywood box office figures as a regular news item - how do you feel about that topic?

Mary - I should start by saying that I don't know anyone who makes a full living off of their filmmaking pursuits...not yet anyway. I should also say that I've never heard of anyone who is passionate about filmmaking not want to do it unless they are getting paid a full time living. I have a full time job that is not related to the film industry and so does my husband. We don't really consider anything else an option right now and so, we do it. It certainly isn't ideal, but we do it. I suppose that for some people who are interested in comparing themselves to Hollywood filmmakers or that part of the industry, it must be maddening to read about multimillion dollar paychecks and budgets. For me and my husband Ronnie, however, it simply isn't relevant because that's not where our goals lie.

Sujewa - I saw that most of Yeast was shot in a medium-close up type framing, mostly focused on actor's heads, very few shots showing the full body. What was the motivation behind that decision?

Mary - There were a couple of factors behind that decision. I worked closely with my husband Ronnie and with Sean Williams, our cinematographer, on the look of the film. I knew I wanted close ups, because for me that is where all the best and most interesting acting is going to take place. As well, we wanted to create a claustrophobic feeling in the visual style to go along with the emotional claustrophobia depicted in the content of the film.

Sujewa - Everyone's got their own theories about why the situation is such, so, what is your opinion on why so few female and ethnic minority filmmakers have made fiction features, and received a similar amount of attention & support to establish careers as their "white" male counterparts, in the period between let's say the premiere of Cassavete's Shadows (early 1960's, selected by many observers as the starting point of what we call indie film in the US) until now (2008)? Even in the indie arena the female & minority fiction feature director numbers are very low. It was, however, very cool to see Yeast and 3 fiction features by African-American filmmakers playing at the Maryland Film Festival this weekend - so perhaps things in one small area of the indie film world are changing as far as including more gender & ethnic diversity. I figured that since indie film is the alternative to the mainstream Hollywood reality that there would be more female & minority directors in the indie film world, since Hollywood, for decades, have excluded female & minority directors from the directing chair. Anyway, the most important part of the question for you is; why so few female filmmakers directing fiction features?

Mary - I certainly cannot speak to the entire state of the female presence in the independent film world. What I can speak to is my own experience. I found that for me, I had a lot of stories to tell and the desire to express those stories through film, but did not have the confidence to do so until very recently. I wish I had started in my teens or early twenties. Being a filmmaker is a very powerful, dominating position. I can only assume that the filmmaking community is reflective of society at large, wherein women are slowly but surely taking on more and more traditionally male roles. It has to do with confidence, self-possession and not feeling like you have to wait for someone else's permission to create a project. That being said, I know several talented female directors who are making exciting work: Lynn Shelton (who also had a narrative feature at MFF this year), Ry Russo-Young and Tipper Newton to name a few. I hope there will be more.

Sujewa - What are your future distribution plans for Yeast?

Mary - I hope to find a home for Yeast on DVD after having a bit more of a festival run. Theatrical distribution would of course be wonderful, but I am not sure if there is a market for it right now.

Sujewa - I hope everyone who wants to see Yeast gets the chance, definitely one of the most interesting indie/real indie movies I've seen recently. Thanks a lot for taking the time out for this interview Mary. And now, the trailer for Yeast:

Yeast [trailer]

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Be back (w/ non-DNO stuff) on 5/23

Until then I'll be busy with getting everything in shape for the most awesome of screenings - Lo-Def screening #1 - Date Number One the new version on 5/22.

When the DNO trailer is ready, it'll be here, plus any other DNO related stuff, between now and 5/23.

Several exciting non-DNO stuff coming to this blog after 5/23; a Mary Bronstein (Yeast director) interview, a Jed Dietz (Maryland Film Festival Director) interview, perhaps a James Spooner (White Lies, Black Sheep director) interview, plus reviews (or at least mini-reviews, or at worst link roundups to reviews) of several new real indie movies.

See ya then. & see ya on Thu 5/22 @ Back Room @ Jackie's @ 8 PM (doors @ 7 PM, FREE show, so get there early - small venue) if you live near Silver Spring, MD!
Go here for more info. on the screening.

- Sujewa



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