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· On the tech side, there wasn't a galvanizing, Zeitgeist-nailing speaker this year. Of course, there wasn't always in previous years, but even when a speaker wiped out, like last year's disastrous keynote by Twitter CEO Evan Williams, you still felt you were in the room for something major. I didn't feel that this week.
· Still, there were solid presentations. Of the ones I attended, the best was Clay Shirky's analysis of the role of social media in the ongoing Arab revolutions.
· Two concepts seemed to be in vogue. The first was "gameification," the idea that game design and mechanics will infuse all aspects of our social and business lives. The second was "contextual" -- the idea that our Web tools will increasingly draw upon our location, our history, our interests, our social sphere, and our identity in the ways they interact with us.
· I talked to a couple of filmmakers and industry types who spoke of the new "VOD-driven indie director" -- the filmmaker who consciously crafts the concept and production of his or her film to fit the current revenue streams thrown off by digital VOD platforms. Theatrical doesn't even fit into the equation.
· The "SXSW is about mumblecore" stereotype was never correct to begin with, but this year there was a real diversity of films operating within many styles and paradigms. And, as Alicia Van Couvering notes in this great piece, there was a big increase in films by women directors, and many of these films attacked traditional relationship stories from very different and passionate viewpoints.
More on all of this in the next few days. Read all of our SXSW coverage at our dedicated festival page, and see you next week.
P.S.: Here's the second of our Hammer to Nail weekly reviews, this time on Asiel Norton's stunning Redland.
And, did you know we have a new VOD page? Check it out. FROM THE LAB TO TRIBECA World premiering at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival, director Brady Kiernan's Stuck Between Stations features terrific performances by rising stars Zoe Lister-Jones and Sam Rosen, supported by cameos by Josh Hartnett and Michael Imperioli. Written by Rosen and Nat Bennett and produced by Spencer Kiernan and Todd Cobery, this 2010 IFP Independent Filmmaker Lab alumni project limns the romantic drama of Casper, a young soldier home on leave, who has a chance run-in with his childhood crush, now coping with conflicts of her own. Over the course of one night they grow closer but knowing they will inevitably have to part ways at dawn. Of his Lab experience producer Cobery says "One of the top moments in my professional life. I felt like I learned more in that week than in my previous ten years doing this. I really feel like someone has finally let me in on a secret." The deadline for the narrative feature strand of the 2011 Independent Filmmaker Labs is fast approaching - applications are due April 8 and are open to first time feature directors with films in post-production. The Labs are a year-long fellowship supporting the 10 selected project teams through the completion, marketing, and distribution of their features, providing community, mentorship, and film-specific strategies to help the filmmakers reach their artistic goals, support the film's launch, and maximize exposure in the global marketplace. Complete information here.
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BILL CUNNINGHAM NEW YORK Documenting the fashion scene and high-life soirees for the New York Times Style section, photographer Bill Cunningham, now in his 80s, tirelessly follows the fashion trends of both average New Yorkers and glamorous celebrities in his "On the Street" and "Evening Hours" columns. Richard Press directs the documentary Bill Cunningham New York, which opens the New Directors/New Films festival this month. Cunningham's lifelong love for photography shines in this film, as he rides around NYC on his bicycle snapping photos and capturing individual flair in anybody he sees. LIMITLESS What if you could take a pill that could expand your brain power and make you into a more confident, successful person? That is the opportunity given to Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper), a writer struggling to finish his novel and aching from a broken relationship. But when he stumbles upon an experimental drug that makes it possible to turbochrage your brain he finishes his book in a few days and quickly moves to a more lucrative career on Wall Street, catching the eye of a business mogul (played by Robert De Niro). But there are side effects and dangerous people who want the drug, which leads Eddie on a thrilling cat and mouse chase throughout New York City. The film is directed by Neil Burger (The Illusionist) by a script from veteran screenwriter Leslie Dixon. Read stories on both of them in our Winter 2011 issue. CRACKS The directorial debut from Jordan Scott (daughter of director Ridley), Cracks is a twisted drama about teenage girls in a British boarding school cut off from mainstream society and heightened by its own sense of law and order. Eva Green (Casino Royale) stars as Miss G, the queen bee of the school's most elite clique. But when Fiamma (Maria Valverde), a mesmerizing new girl from Spain, comes to school, her mystery and sophistication threatens jealousy in the schoolgirls. An official selection at the Toronto International Film Festival, Cracks features a stunning performance by Green and a great cast of up and comers. WIN WIN Directed by Thomas McCarthy (The Visitor), the dramedy Win Win stars Paul Giamatti as an unhappy attorney who takes a job as a high school wrestling coach, and develops a friendship with star athlete Kyle (Alex Shaffer), whose home life is in shambles. A hit at Sundance earlier this year, Win Win is another strong director effort by actor McCarthy and, as always, Giamatti is top notch. See our Win Win video piece from Sundance. This week on the blog, Natural Selection (pictured left) and Dragonslayer are top winners at SXSW '11; snap shots from SXSW; more titles announced for Tribeca '11; and Martin Scorcese and Paul Schrader talk Taxi Driver at 35.
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GREG MOTTOLA, PAUL By Nick Dawson
Writer-director Greg Mottola won himself a lot of fans with his smart, witty debut movie The Daytrippers, and then promptly disappeared from the indie scene for the best part of a decade, working in television while he tried to get his sophomore feature off the ground. In 2007, he returned to the big screen fray with Superbad, the Judd Apatow-produced teen comedy, which was a number one box office hit and made him a hot commodity once again. read more
2011 SF Shorts: San Francisco International Festival of Short Films
Regular Deadline: March 25
Late Deadline: April 29
Festival Dates: Sept. 8-10
SkyFest Film & Script Festival
Late Deadline: March 31
WAB Deadline: April 15
Festival Dates: May 7-8
Indianapolis International Film Festival
WAB Deadline: March 31
Festival Dates: July 14-24