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a post I've been meaning to write for a long time. It was inspired by a post at the end of last year by Ted Hope and it riffed off some comments made by Anthony Kaufman in the current issue's Industry Beat column. Briefly, the post revolves around independent film and young audiences, and it asks whether new viewers are finding inspiration in recent independent movies or, instead, the acknowledged "classics." The number of people responding was too small to draw huge conclusions, but its interesting that with the exception of the films of David Gordon Green, the resulting list could have made ten years ago, and with the case of John Cassavetes, who many cited, twenty or even thirty. One interesting comment came from filmmaker Tom Quinn, who said the list we published mirrors almost exactly the films he shows to his students at Temple University. That made me think about how important context and study is to the process of discovery and appreciation. One of my favorite artists is Barnett Newman, and I wondered if that would be the case if I first discovered him outside of a freshman year art history class, where we had the time to situate his work and explore the philosophy behind it.This week on the blog I finally got around to
The most important-feeling stuff I've read online this week is not about film but about the American economy, the workforce, and particularly young workers just starting out. Intel's Andy Grove wrote a hotly debated article in Bloomberg News in which criticized America's inability to "scale" new technology production. He argues that short-term thinking and the practice of outsourcing has created a business environment in which American start-ups are unable to properly execute long-term plans. He writes:
Silicon Valley is a community with a strong tradition of engineering, and engineers are a peculiar breed. They are eager to solve whatever problems they encounter. If profit margins are the problem, we go to work on margins, with exquisite focus. Each company, ruggedly individualistic, does its best to expand efficiently and improve its own profitability. However, our pursuit of our individual businesses, which often involves transferring manufacturing and a great deal of engineering out of the country, has hindered our ability to bring innovations to scale at home. Without scaling, we don't just lose jobs -- we lose our hold on new technologies. Losing the ability to scale will ultimately damage our capacity to innovate.
A related point came through a scary piece in The New York Times about young college graduates entering the job market. It's called, "American Dream is Elusive for New Generation." The piece said that 37% of today's young graduates are either unemployed or not looking for a job. The main kid interviewed is living with his parents and decided not to take a crappy job offered to him in an industry he didn't want to be in. His dad was upset by that decision, arguing that a job is a job and opportunity can be found anywhere. The kid is feeling that if he gets offered another job he's probably going to have to take it, whatever it is. And his grandfather is telling him to abandon the States entirely, to move abroad and find work there.
The piece made me think about the moment I decided to stop working in theater and performance, where there was a clear professional track upward, and to transition into film. My bank account was in the four figures, and I just said to myself I wasn't going to worry about money and would simply figure it out. And then the first film I produced everybody, including myself and the other producers, worked for free. Frankly, for people who can figure out how to do it, I think that approach still pays dividends today. But I wonder if all the economic fear and anxiety out there is making it difficult for people just out of college to make that decision.
A few final notes. Envision, a program of the IFP and the UN, is this Saturday. Read our interview with director Jennifer Arnold, whose doc A Small Act will be screening at the day-long event. Also check our entertaining look at the XXX parody of The Big Lebowski. And, I've been thinking about new ways of writing about film and what new sorts of content we should have on our site. An example of something I've been digging is Nicholas Rhombes' 10/40/70 series at The Rumpus, where he discusses a film solely based on the scenes that arise at those minute marks. I did a little interview with him that will be up on the site Monday, and you can prepare for it by checking out some his columns.
See you next week.
Editor ENVISION: ADDRESSING GLOBAL ISSUES THROUGH DOCUMENTARIES - SATURDAY, JULY 10 Two documentary hits from Sundance 2010 anchor the programming for ENVISION on Saturday. Screenings of Jennifer Arnold's A Small Act (HBO Documentaries, premiering July 12) and Davis Guggenheim's Waiting for Superman (Paramount Vantage, opening this Fall) will be accompanied by discussions on challenges to achieving education globally, the impact of individual action and philanthropy, and current issues around the U.S. education crisis. This is the second year that IFP is collaborating with the United Nation's Department of Public Information to present ENVISION - a forum uniting the filmmaking community, civil society organizations, activists, journalists, public policy makers, NGOs, and the general public in the shared goal of envisioning a better world for all and achieving impact through media. The Spotlight Focus in 2010 from the UN's Millennium Development Goals is the goal of universal education. To purchase tickets and for details on the program, to be held Saturday, July 10 at the TimesCenter, click here. Our Forums page is new and improved! Check out the new categories: how to make films, discuss the current trends in the business, job opportunities and look out for guest filmmaker moderators. Click here to get started.
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The Kids Are All Right
Lisa Cholodenko, The Kids Are All Right
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THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT Lisa Cholodenko (Laurel Canyon), who in her previous films has explored the glamour and dark side of urban bohemians, comes back with The Kids Are All Right, a warm-hearted comedy-drama about love and family. Jules (Julianne Moore) and Nic (Annette Bening) are a loving couple who have two bright teenage children. The children were conceived through artificial insemination, and one day, they want to find out who their birth father is. Enter Paul (Mark Ruffalo), an affable sort who never knew he was a father, and who ends up getting along well with the kids. But his entry into the family disrupts its stable core. Writing this week's Director Interviews, Damon Smith calls the film "a highly entertaining fusion of commercial and indie-film sensibilities that seems as fresh and timely as anything Cholodenko has yet brought to life on the big screen." Read our interview with Cholodenko below. WINNEBAGO MAN A documentary about a decades-old clip that became an Internet sensation, Winnebago Man, directed by Ben Steinbauer, and a hit on the feat circuit this past year, centers on Jack Rebney, the man who became infamous for an expletive-laden tirade while filming takes for a 1980s Winnebago sales video. Rebney's continued frustration with flubbing his lines, being confused over Winnebago jargon, and an errant fly turned him into an Internet star. Steinbauer treks to the mountains to find Rebney, who now lives a reclusive existence and has no clue of his Internet popularity. This week on the blog, Brandon Harris lists the seminal indies of his generation; Wendell B. Harris Jr.'s 1989 Chameleon Street (pictured left) examines the racial consciousness of America; and Scott Macaulay revisits the topic of indie movies and youth.
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LISA CHOLODENKO, THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT By Damon Smith
It's been eight years since Lisa Cholodenko's last feature film (six if you count her TV adaptation of Dorothy Allison's novel Cavedweller), but for the 46-year-old writer-director of 1998's High Art (winner of the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at Sundance) and 2002's Laurel Canyon (starring Frances McDormand and Christian Bale) the time has, if anything, only sharpened her wits and powers of empathic observation, not to mention her considerable talent for guiding seasoned actors to perform at their finest. read more
Santa Fe Independent Film Festival
Regular Deadline: July 15
Late Deadline: Aug. 19
Festival Dates: October 19-24
Santa Monica International Film Festival
Final Deadline: July 15
Festival Dates: Aug 6-8
Toronto Independent Film Festival
Late Deadline: July 16
Festival Dates: Sept 8-19