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I was watching this interview with a group of performers about improvisation. They are all known as veteran improvisors -- people who can turn on a dime on stage based on unexpected circumstances or the vibe of their audience that night. But, one by one, they each said that there's really no such thing as improvisation. It's more about preparing yourself for circumstances -- anticipating what might occur and storing away a response, or maybe just having the flight time to know that you can instantly come up with the right line, the right change in attitude or tone. It's about training your brain to respond in that way, and then having the confidence that you'll be able to do it without thinking. It's like that quote from Seneca, the Roman philosopher, about luck: "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity."
I was thinking about all of this because right after I watched that video I got an email from a documentary filmmaker, someone whose project I've been following for several years. She's got great footage, a fantastic story, but is a first-timer and has been struggling to complete her financing. Totally apart from filmmaking, she decided to do tarot card readings professionally -- something she had done for years, but not for money. And then, one day -- you guessed it -- she did a reading for someone who wanted to know what else she did and the documentary came up and she wound up with an introduction to a guy and now may have the financing for her post.
Luck? Or successful improvisation? You know how at every film festival, the first postscreening question is always, "Did your actors improvise?" Why isn't that question directed at the filmmaker? "How did you improvise your career?" Because it's never a straight line. If you're an independent filmmaker, you can't just write a script and then cobble together a business plan; you have to be a person of the world, the kind of person people want to meet and get to know. And you have to hone your reflexes so that when, as you turn over the tarot card, you know what to say.
Changing subjects, tomorrow will be a sad day at Filmmaker. That's because it's the last installment of "The Blue Velvet Project," Nick Rombes's extraordinary, year-long meditation on David Lynch's classic film. Three times a week, Nick examined a single frame from the film -- one every 47 seconds -- and allowed it to unlock a floodgate of impressions, critical commentaries and cultural allusions. It's been a truly epic project, and one that has only gained in power as it has progressed. As this project ends, I realize I can pay it the highest compliment: when encountering Nick's posts every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I have been myself transformed, have been no longer "the editor" but simply the reader, the fan. "The Blue Velvet Project" was less part of my job and more a life pleasure. I will miss it, and I'm truly thankful to Nick for bringing it to Filmmaker.
Check back tomorrow for the final post. I haven't read it yet, and I can't wait to find out how Nick will end this project. (No pressure, Nick!) Also up tomorrow will be an interview with Nick about the series as a whole. And if you're encountering "The Blue Velvet Project" for the first time, here's a link that lets you read the whole series in sequence.
See you next week.
2012 INDEPENDENT FILM WEEK PROJECT SLATE ANNOUNCED IFP has announced the slate of 161 projects selected for its Project Forum of Independent Film Week taking place September 16-20 at Lincoln Center. The four-day meetings forum provides opportunities for both emerging and established artists to connect with the financiers, executives, influencers and decision-makers in film, television, new media and cross-platform storytelling that can help them complete their latest works and connect with audiences. The slate contains new projects driven by producers such as Siddiq Barmak (Osama), Jason Berman (LUV), Anne Carey (The American), Howard Gertler (World's Greatest Dad), Joshua Marston (Maria Full of Grace), Josh Penn (Beasts of the Southern Wild), and Alicia Van Couvering (Tiny Furniture), and such directors as Matthew Porterfield (Putty Hill), Musa Syeed (Valley of Saints), Daniel Junge (Saving Face), Sam Cullman (If a Tree Falls), Jennifer Grausman (Pressure Cooker), John Walter (How to Draw a Bunny), Grace Lee (The Grace Lee Project), Ben Niles (Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L1037), and Kelvin Kyung Kun Park (Cheonggyecheon Medley: A Dream of Iron). Industry registration is now open and tickets for the concurrent Independent Filmmaker Conference are on sale. For a list of the compete project lineup and other Independent Film Week initiatives read the full press release here.
Hammer to Nail Review
Chicken with Plums
Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud, Chicken with Plums
2012 Independent Film Week Project Slate Announced
BELOVED By Tom Hall
Beloved, the latest film from French writer/director Christophe Honore, uses the history of the late 20th century as a framework for exploring the difficult love affairs of a mother, Madeleine (played as a young woman by Ludivine Sagnier and as an older woman by Catherine Deneuve) and her daughter, Vera (Chiarra Mastroianni). Like much of Honore's work, the movie is rich with allusions not only to literary and theatrical forms, but to the history of the cinema itself; opening in a Parisian shoe store in 1964, it takes Honore only a few moments to reference The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Cleo From 5 To 7 and Les Bonnes Femmes before, in a single beat, spinning directly into a nod to Belle Du Jour. And while the impossible loves of Madeleine and Vera are tied together by a sense of almost hereditary determinism, Honoré's pinballing cinematic odes give the film a true self-awareness, an undeniable sense that as much as the film is about love, it is also about the representation of love in its myriad of cinematic forms.
Read more COSMOPOLIS In David Cronenberg's Cosmopolis, Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson), a 28-year-old Wall Street hot shot grows anxious as the world descends upon him during a crosstown trip to get a haircut. Cronenberg's latest, which premiered at this year's Cannes Film Festival, is based on the 2003 novella by Don DeLillo and also stars Paul Giamatti, Juliette Binoche, Sarah Gordon, Mathieu Amalric and Samantha Morton. Check out Scott Macaulay's interview with Cronenberg in the current issue of Filmmaker. CHICKEN WITH PLUMS Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi's Chicken with Plums focuses on Nasser Ali Kahn (Mathieu Amalric), a famous Iranian musician whose soul is shattered after his favorite violin is broken. He decides to lie in bed and await death only to enter a dream-filled odyssey that brings him closer to himself than ever before. Based on Satrapi's graphic novel, Chicken with Plums -- the co-directors' follow-up to the animated Persepolis -- has garnered many accolades for its spellbinding narrative. You can read Kevin Canfield's interview with Paronnaud and Satrapi here. COMPLIANCE In Craig Zobel's Compliance, Becky (Dreama Walker), a young fast-food employee comes under a brutal investigation after a prank caller claiming to be a police officer tells her manager that she is stealing money. Zobel's sophomore feature premiered at this year's Sundance Film Festival where it caused a huge stir (during its premiere, audience members shouted at the screen accusing the film of being misogynistic.) However, not everyone was a detractor. Many critics praised Compliance claiming it to be a disturbing but realistic portrayal of the lengths society goes to obey orders. You can read Nick Dawson's interview with Zobel in the Summer issue of Filmmaker, now on newsstands. This week on the blog, Nick Dawson shares Joss Whedon's Sleepwalk with Me boycott video (pictured left) and the trailer for Martin McDonagh's Seven Psychopaths, and Scott Macaulay discusses The Big Shot Movie Club.
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MARJANE SATRAPI AND VINCENT PARONNAUD, "CHICKEN WITH PLUMS"
Chicken with Plums focuses on a deeply sensitive Iranian musician named Nasser Ali (Mathieu Amalric), and the film, from writer-directors Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud, makes clear from the start that viewers shouldn't be expecting anything like a storybook ending. Having watched helplessly as his violin is smashed before his eyes, Nasser decides he's had it with this life. And so into bed he climbs, determined to die, lest he face another year with Faranguisse (Maria de Medeiros), the wife he's never loved. As the days go by, his mind wanders from the past to the present, and to the future, as he recalls his mother's (Isabella Rossellini) formative influence, pines for his first love (Golshifteh Farahani) and wonders what will become of his two children. In a film that blends straightforward storytelling and magical realism, Satrapi and Paronnaud use a variety of methods--flashbacks, flash-forwards, satire, references to classic film, subtle ruminations of Iranian political history--to tell their story.
Cinequest Film Festival
Earlybird Deadline: August 17
Regular Deadline: October 15
Late Deadline: October 31
WAB Deadline: November 16
Festival Dates: February 26 - March 10
United Film Festival - Los Angeles
Special Deadline: August 17
Earlybird Deadline: September 28
Regular Deadline: November 9
Late Deadline: December 21
WAB Deadline: February 1
Festival Dates: April 25 - May 2
Ann Arbor Film Festival
Early Deadline: August 20
Regular Deadline: October 8
Late Deadline: November 8
Festival Dates: March 19 - 24