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Showing posts from April, 2008

Helping to shoot an anti-war/Vietnam related feature this spring & summer in MD

Gene Ertel, a local pro DP, got me to sign up to help out with the shooting of an indie feature this summer - project happens over 10 weekends or so, starting 5/10 - I'll be needed as the DP for 2 or 3 weekends (w/ maybe another weekend assisting the regular DP/Gene), a very ultra-indie D.I.Y. type shoot - a crew of about 3 or 4 for most days. Gene liked some of the videography I did for Date Number One, so this new gig - paid (always nice, even if it is ultra-low-budget indie pay), & a chance to make a local feature happen, but most importantly a chance to brush up on my videography skills before I shoot Actress this summer (we'll be using a new Canon HD camera, more info. on that soon). The film is an anti-war drama, has to do with the Vietnam war. More info. on the project soon.

- Sujewa

Yeast links: iW interview, Tully's review

From an indieWIRE interview of Yeast director Mary Bronstein: "Please elaborate a bit on your approach to making the film.
I am actually very excited with how this project ended up getting made. After I decided to make the thing, I didn't really know what to do. I approached Greta Gerwig about making a project together with the same themes, but sort of a different story. She had the awesome idea to set this part of the film on a camping trip. Then I thought I'd bring in more from my original outline and asked my long-time friend Amy Judd to be involved. I made another outline that combined the two stories and sent it to both Greta and Amy. They made additions, changes and fleshed out their characters and sent it back to me. We did this until I had something to finalize into a script. However, we used the script as a blueprint for doing the creative work of the movie within, rather than a master document of how the film would be. I would meet with the actors before a scene a…

Yeast trailer :: Film screening at Maryland Film Festival this weekend

While preparing a book I took a look at all the indie film director interviews I've done over the course of about 2 years, and I think there was only 1 female director (Jennifer Fox) in the entire bunch - out of about 20 or so interviews. Either there aren't many indie films being directed by women or they are not being publicized & distributed through media & retail avenues that cross my path or female indie directors are not seeking/not interested in or are not accessible to indie film blog press (or just my blog) or something stranger is going on.

But on the bright side, Mary Bronstein's new feature Yeast is going to play at the Maryland Film Festival this weekend, go here for dates & times & tix, and here's the trailer:

Yeast [trailer]


Looks interesting. Go here for more on Yeast.

- Sujewa

Interview with Amir Motlagh, director of new short film Plain Us

First, the trailer:



For my review of Plain Us, a new short film about a touring musician who visits his home town, go here. And now, the interview with Amir Motlagh, the director of Plain Us:

Sujewa: So let's start with some basic stuff; what lead you to pick the subject of a touring musician dealing with a domestic issue (visiting his young daughter, attempting to reconcile with his estranged former lover/the daughter's mother)?

Amir: Well, I feel that given my own circumstance as a person who plays in a band, blending this alter-reality is very interesting. I felt that I could give this world some personal realism but in a narrative, fictional type of way in which I play out issues that I wanted to write about. I have my own band, but obviously the circumstances in this film are made up. The character is make believe. I don't have the same issues and conflicts as this character, well, not entirely, but to the degree presented is a fabrication. It's post modern in a whim…

Live from Maryland! :: my Maryland Film Festival 2008 coverage - links to all the posts

Aaron Coffman's TEXAS SNOW screening at Lo-Def in August

Julia Misaki Rust plays Caroline in Texas Snow *
For the brand spankin' new indie film screening series Lo-Def in Silver Spring, MD, we chose St. Louis's Aaron Coffman's debut feature Texas Snow as the movie to screen in August.

Texas Snow @ Lo-Def screening date is Thu August 21.

We have not yet chosen the Lo-Def movies for June or July. Those selections coming soon. The Lo-Def movie for May is Date Number One, screening on May 22.

More info. re: Texas Snow coming to the Lo-Def site & this blog next week. In the meantime, the show is up on the Lo-Def Calendar.

Check out my review of Texas Snow here.

More on Texas Snow at its site.

- Sujewa

Looks like I'll be seeing Greta Gerwig on the screen a lot this weekend

Maybe Gerwig (MySpace page, Paper mag profile) is the Hardest Working Lady in Real Indie Film at the moment; she has a lead role in 4 movies (including one that she co-directed) at this weekend's Maryland Film Festival:
Baghead
"Impressed by the small successes of a local, low-budget filmmaker, four struggling actors decide to head for a cabin in the woods and write their masterpiece -- with juicy roles for themselves, of course. Standing in their way? Shortages of just a few things: talent, motivation, energy, and inspiration. Oh, and a surplus of two -- hormones and alcohol -- as multiple romantic entanglements and a fridge full of beer take the friends further and further away from a completed screenplay."
Yeast
"Yeast begins by throwing us into an awkward situation -- a young woman, Rachel (Mary Bronstein) rousing her disheveled roommate Alice (Amy Judd) for a camping trip they've planned with Gen (Greta Gerwig, star of MFF 2007's Hannah Takes the Stairs). A…

Insidest of inside baseball: my post re: Film Festival Secrets post re: LA Diary's are fests worth it? post

For people who spend a lot of time thinking about indie film & indie film fests, this post at Film Festival Secrets should be entertaining (and also the post that inspired it, at LA Diary - which is a feature at Guardian's Film blog).

My current thoughts re: the issue ("Are film festivals really worth entering?" - LA Diary): Fests are OK, some are great, but if you don't like what the fest world offers or don't like having to submit your film & pay $s, you can set up DIY screenings of your movie somewhere (& then spend a lot of time & some $s publicizing the event so that ppl know about it, generating press, etc., on the bright side you get to keep any box office $s) or you can set up a monthly screening series (such as Lo-Def in Silver Spring, MD) for your & others movies (requiring the same type of work as doing a single DIY screening, but more in terms of quantity of work). Ultimately, it is good to have fests around as one possible choice f…

iW/indie film blogger Meet Up #2 update

Since iW's Eugene H. & most likely few other important-to-this-event bloggers will be away for Cannes (official site) the week ending on 5/31 (possible meeting date time frame suggested in my previous post re: this event), we are working on figuring out a better day to hold the meet up. The event will happen in June, July, or August. Stay tuned for the decision on the date. If you have any suggestions for a meet up date & a venue in NYC, let me know. Thanks.

- Sujewa

A little Matt Zoller Seitz print review days memory

Ekanayake & Seitz (R), August 23, 2007, NYC

As most people who read the indie film blogs I regularly read know by now, New York Times's Matt Zoller Seitz has announced his retirement from print reviews. And at this conversation at Matt's blog House Next Door, he is excited about now being able to put all his attention & energy into filmmaking. Very cool, maybe we'll see Home 2: The Morning After The Party soon :).
And now, a little memory from Matt's print review days. And some thoughts about it.
I live in the DC area & get most of my news from the web & TV, thus am not a regular reader of the New York Times print edition (not a regular reader of NYT's web editions either, though some stories there get my attention from time to time). Anyway, it was August 22, 2007, around 2 PM in the afternoon, I got to Chinatown in DC to get on a bus to go to New York. The lady at the "office" for the bus, at a sparsely decorated small restaurant/maybe a ca…

Let's create at least 600 new DIY film screening opportunities a year in the US

If 1 filmmaker from each of the 50 major cities (or metropolitan areas) in the US starts a monthly DIY film screening series such as Lo-Def in Silver Spring, MD, we would have at least 600 new opportunities in the US to screen DIY films to the public.

The math = 1 monthly screening series = 12 screenings a year x 50 cities = 600 new screening opportunities in the US.

And if more than 1 filmmaker decides to organize a screening series in each city, the total number of screening opportunities will go up. For example, if in Chicago let's say, 3 filmmakers decide to create 3 separate monthly screening events, the total number of screening opportunities will go up to at least 36 in Chicago (higher if each month's event in one or all series includes several shorts as opposed to just one feature). So, if that approach gets duplicated in 25 major US cities (3 filmmakers in 1 area producing 3 monthly series, equaling 36 screenings a year), the total number of new DIY film screening oppor…

Texas Snow review at Hollywood Is Talking

Check out the H.I.T. review of Aaron Coffman's debut feature Texas Snowhere.

From the review:

"Suffice it to say, there is a scene where Jesse and Caroline are partying with her old school chum, Libby Bibb, who comes off like a budding lesbian alcoholic (don’t we all have friends like that?) who just laughs insanely throughout her scenes with Jesse and Caroline. But Jesse is young and in love, blind to the signals that Bibb is wheezing through bowls of beer, namely that she nor Caroline nor anyone really is serious at this stage of life; and blind to the hurt he has caused his friend and roommate Lee. If this all sounds trite it need not. Coffman is minimal in dialogue and directed his actors and cinematographer (Keith Hueffmeier) to follow suit, and the result has a certain poetic vibe that avoids many clich├ęs."

Read the rest here.

- Sujewa

One of the best looking restaurants in the DC area

Granted, I have not been to every restaurant in this town. But, even long before I started working with Jackie's on the Lo-Def screening series, I was a big fan of the look of the restaurant (future location for a film shoot? oh yeah) & of course the food is as delicious as the visual design of the place. Here, judge for yourself re: the look of the place - as seen above, & more pics at the site. Mouth watering interior design for a filmmaker who likes colors & interesting shapes.

- Sujewa

If they keep up this kind of programming, the Maryland Film Festival is gonna be another SXSW (which is a very good thing for real indie film)

Yes, I will have to call the MD fest "a smaller SXSW, of the east".

Man, MD fest's line up this year is so good, I am going to have to trek up to Baltimore during all 3 days of the fest (5/2 Fri - 5/4 Sun). Check out their selection of films here.

Some of the MD fest movies that I am excited about/will try to catch:

*
(that melvin van peebles movies with the long title)
***CONFESSIONSOFA EX-DOOFUS-ITCHYFOOTED MUTHA (Melvin Van Peebles) -- CLOSING NIGHT

"Telling the fantastic, mystical tale of a man with few resources who joyfully becomes a merchant marine, travels far and wide, and enjoys a wide variety of romantic entanglements, the film champions independent exploration. Distilling years of cultural experience through the eyes of one lone adventurer, the film pulls us into its protagonist's world with cunning and magic. Melvin Van Peebles himself, with only a glancing reference to his chronological age of 75, plays the lead character as he progresses from young bo…

Yes, but when was the last time someone who was not a young "black" male got shot over a dozen times & killed by multiple plain clothed NYC cops?

So the legal system has exonerated the 3 police officers who shot Sean Bell 50 times and killed him. The only other time in recent memory where such a killing happened was, again, in NYC, & again the victim was another "black" male - and that time, yes again - several plain clothed police officers, shot Amadou Diallo 41 times & killed him. And in both cases the victims were unarmed. Coincidence or are some NYC plain clothed officers just very nervous/trigger happy when they think a "black" male is reaching for a gun? (but really, 50 shots! ????) Maybe the Justice Department's review of the Bell case will provide some answers as to why some plain clothed police officers in NYC are using excessive & deadly force against unarmed NYC citizens; specifically young "black" male citizens - 1 time could be discounted as a freak accident, but 2 times is definitely a pattern.

(and yes, i am not blind to the hundreds & thousands of other incidents …

Mini-review of Amir Motlagh's new short Plain Us

Plain Us is a 20-30 some minute (not sure about the exact running time, will find out & update soon), shot on 35 MM (w/ the first scene or two on digital video), slice of life drama depicting a touring musician's visit to his home town. The musician - an indie rocker of course :) - (played by Motlagh) has a young daughter. Motlagh's character is not on good terms with his daughter's mother. The short is well acted (always impressive whenever I see low-budget indie directors work well with child actors), and well shot & overall well made; well directed, acted, photographed, edited and scored. Plain Us is definitely not a plot-driven piece, more a low-key observation of a few special moments, & also some dramatic moments, in the lives of three people. The short also feels like it could be a part of a feature; does a really good job introducing an interesting character & a situation; a young artist with a home vs. the road conflict - and it would be even more …

Notes on Tribeca conversation re: Standard Operating Procedure, at Film Panel Notetaker

Check out the notes on the conversation at the Film Panel Notetaker. Here's the intro:

"Academy-Award-winning documentary filmmaker Errol Morris (The Fog of War) participated in a discussion lead by Jarhead author Anthony Swofford during the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival after a screening of Standard Operating Procedure, Morris’ latest film where he interviews the American soldiers who took the iconic Abu Ghraib photographs."

Read the rest here.

- Sujewa

Iron Man clip

Tony Stark learning to fly. So when are we going to see the Iron Man armor/weapon/flight suit/jet pack combo whatever available for US & NATO military use anyway? I bet Lockheed Martin are working on it. Related: not quite Iron Man level armor, but liquid body armor, we have it already. And there's already an armor suit protecting Humvee gunners in Iraq. An armor suit that can withstand an attack by a suicide bomber would be a good thing to develop, since that type of warfare will most likely be a method used by the deeply desperate for years to come. Anyway, the trailer:



- Sujewa

LO-DEF, The monthly screening event in Silver Spring, MD starts Thu May 22!

Well, this has been in the works for some time, & now I can finally announce it; a new indie screening series, happening once a month (for now:) at The Back Room of Jackie's (quite possibly one of the coolest - great food & decor, warm people - restaurants in Silver Spring) - here's the brand new site & blog for Lo-Def.
1st movie being screened (Thu May 22, 8 PM, FREE) is the new version of Date Number One. More info. soon re: the new DNO. Also trailer & clips coming to the web next week; plus screener DVDs for review for interested film bloggers & other media. For more info. on the screening, go here (or visit this blog in a few hours :).
And now, more on Lo-Def! Filmmakers & or distributors interested in submitting for future Lo-Def screening events, check out the submission info. at the site (link on right hand side) or e-mail me with a description of your fiction or doc feature or feature length collection of shorts, w/ links to sites, reviews if any,…

Tribeca panel event PARADISE LOST? FILM CRITICS OF THE FUTURE - Fri 4/25, 6 - 7 PM

If I were in NYC tomorrow, I would check this Tribeca fest panel event, at the American Express Insider Center, located at 27 Union Square West, out:

"PARADISE LOST? FILM CRITICS OF THE FUTURE

Much has been said recently about the transition of film criticism from newsprint to the web. The topic is emblematic of seismic shifts in journalism in general. The potential for unparalleled access to content, real-time interactivity and diversity of dialogue is immense but what does it mean for the future of film critics? Bloggers and film critics and film critics who may soon be bloggers posit their thoughts. Film critics Leah Rozen (People Magazine), Elizabeth Weitzman (Daily News) and Bilge Ebiri (New York Magazine) will share their viewpoints at this lively discussion moderated by the Tribeca Film Institute's Brian Newman.

Friday, April 25 from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m."

And here's the site for Tribeca fest.

- Sujewa

Current print review jobs disappearing might be, in the long run, one of the best things to happen to people who are serious about film criticism

The empire is crumbling, few chosen officials will lose their dream jobs, but the whole situation has already been partially replaced by a fast growing democratic republic that will become much larger & more influential & richer than the old empire ever was.

If you are a writer who dreams about criticising or reviewing movies for a living, the current situation - with print review jobs being cut left and right - might be disheartening.

However, let's take a look at exactly what you may be losing and what you, and the world, might be gaining.

The relationship between Hollywood and the rest of the world is an imperial relationship. Few companies in LA & NYC & elsewhere work together to produce filmed entertainment that generates a lot of revenue (& also employs a large number of people, a very good thing). All the power rests in the hands of the studios or Hollywood - or, in these day of "independent" Hollywood producers and companies - in the hands of t…

2nd annual film blogger meet up NYC the weekend of 5/31?

The first film blogger meet up NYC last year was a lot of fun (i should have stayed longer). I'll be in NYC the weekend of 5/31, if any film bloggers want to have meet up #2 that weekend. Let me know. Thanks.

Maybe Thu 5/29 night is a better time to meet than the weekend. Suggest dates & times & places any interested bloggers (Botanica was good last year, maybe the same place?).

- Sujewa

Interviews with directors & others from the indie film world - 2005 to July 2007

Confessionsofa Ex-Doofus-Itchyfooted Mutha at Maryland Film Festival

A new movie by Melvin Van Peebles. Read about it here at MD fest's site. From the site:

"Telling the fantastic, mystical tale of a man with few resources who joyfully becomes a merchant marine, travels far and wide, and enjoys a wide variety of romantic entanglements, the film champions independent exploration. Distilling years of cultural experience through the eyes of one lone adventurer, the film pulls us into its protagonist's world with cunning and magic. Melvin Van Peebles himself, with only a glancing reference to his chronological age of 75, plays the lead character as he progresses from young boy to middle age. Kaleidoscopic, epic, and handmade, sweeping but intensely personal, this is the perfect incarnation of Melvin Van Peebles’ indefinable and singular artistic career."

More here.

Film screens May 4 @ 7:30 PM @ the Charles theater in Baltimore, MD; buy tix here.

- Sujewa

Gigantic NYT article about the media using Pentagon approved & promoted "independent" military analysts

It's a huge article - 11 web pages huge, check it out here. From the article:

"To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as “military analysts” whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.

Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found."

Read the rest here.

- Sujewa

Interview with Julie Checkoway, director of Waiting for Hockney, at Filmmaker blog

Check out the interview at Filmmaker.

Here is a description of the film, from the interview:

"For her debut feature, Julie Checkoway, a Salt Lake City based ex-radio reporter and writing professor, chose to follow the ten year struggle of Maryland artist Billy Pappas, as he attempted to create the world's most detailed portrait. This fascinating 2005 New York Times article details just a portion of the long journey Checkoway's film took to find the screen."

More here.

- Sujewa

Created a book of new indie filmmaker interviews

I spent a few, at first a little frustrating & then somewhat blissful, hours last night playing with the Blurb software & created a book of new indie filmmaker ('05 - April '08) interviews, pulled from my many blogs. It's gonna be a somewhat fancy book, a little celebration of a certain period in American indie film, & of certain young/new directors & their films, maybe it'll be of some value to indie film geeks in like 20 years :). And in the immediate future maybe it'll be another little useful publicity thing for the filmmakers featured in the book; web interviews in a more tactile, physical form, digital information made more real. The book will be available for purchase from this blog this summer; June - July let's say. More on this project in the coming weeks. Next: get the first copies printed & see what it looks & feels like.

I'll say one more thing re: the process, turning blog entries into a book is a lot easier than editing…

Medicine for Melancholy is closer to Shadows and Stranger Than Paradise than anything Mumblecore

Sometimes people wake up with strange thoughts in their minds; and here's what I am thinking this morning - the film Medicine for Melancholy, even thought it is closer in production date and uses a similar digital format as the majority of the Mumblecore movies, has more in common with Stranger Than Paradise (young alienated characters, the theme of America and assimilation, low key humor, also shot on black & white stock - Melancholy looks and more importantly feels black & white most of the time even though it is presented in heavily modified color) and Shadows (dealing very directly with race, America & assimilation, also segregation & racism). Some are calling Melancholy the "black"-Mumblecore movie, however, if we take another track - that of not defining creative product of minority filmmakers through a relationship with their immediate majority/"white" peers - and were to place the work in a broader American independent film history cont…

Turning blogs into books (& now on the cheap too, under $13 per)

First, the NYT article Turn Those Bytes Into Books.

And if the concept sounds appealing to you, go check out Blurb.com; they'll tell you all about it, including links to software that'll help you turn your web musings into a book.

For an example, check out the Daily Film Dose book; blog entries turned into an expensive (around $90 for hardcover, around $80 for softcover) book.

- Sujewa

Plain Us, new short by Amir Motlagh, trailer & info.

I hear that a DVD of the short is on its way across America to me, so a review will be up on this site soon. In the meantime, here is the trailer to Amir Motlagh's new short Plain Us, shot on 35 MM:



*
Info. on the film, from Motlagh's blog:

"So, my new film Plain Us is finished and i ‘m ready for both the love and the hate. I wrote and directed the piece. It was shot by cinematographer Zamir Kokonozi on 35mm, who also shot my last film knock knock.

The film also features songs on the upcoming full length Shanks and the Dreamers album, My Darling Dia.

Here is a short synopsis: “Cy, a touring musician in an up and coming band drops into the town he grew up in”:

In my next few post i’ll get more in depth with the process, and conception of the piece.

The film features:
Kindy Barr
Nadia Anwar
Art Toussi
Tom O’Connell
Rami Dogg
Kristen Penza
Josh Virnick"

Once again, Motlagh's blog.

- Sujewa

France's Actions Against Hunger demands international investigation into the killing of their humanitarian workers in Sri Lanka

From the Action Against Hunger /Action Contre la Faim (ACF) website:

"Even as the Sri Lankan organization University Teachers for Human Rights (UTHR) publishes its report on an investigation into the savage 2006 assassination of 17 Action Against Hunger / Action Contre la Faim (ACF) aid workers in Muttur, ACF is calling for an international inquiry to fully investigate these murders to reveal the whole truth and bring those responsible to justice.

ACF is shocked by the amount of detail exposed in the UTHR report: trails of responsibility are disclosed that have never before been mentioned during the investigations that the Sri Lankan authorities have been conducting for the past year and a half."

Read the rest of the ACF statement here.

Read the UTHR report Unfinished Business of the Five Students and the ACF Cases here.

From the report:

"On 4th August 2006 17 aid workers were extrajudicially executed in their Action Contre la Faim (ACF) compound in Mutur town. Through blatan…

White Lies Black Sheep at MD film fest

From a recent press release e-mail, re: screenings of James Spooner's fiction feature White Lies, Black Sheep:

" MARYLAND Film FEST - MAY 1-4. - 107 East Read st., Baltimore MD, 21202

Saturday, May 3 at 5:30 PM, Charles Theater 5
Sunday, May 4 at 4:00 PM, Charles Theater 5

This will be our fist screening of White Lies Black Sheep in the DC/Baltimore. I’ll be in town to do the Q and A's. The films star Ayinde Howell, is also scheduled to be down there for that. Check www.md-filmfest.com soon for a complete schedule, map, phone numbers etc."

- Sujewa