It's beautiful and not too cold in Venice this week, and when you ride in from the airport the water busses sink low in the sea, the water rising almost to your window. At breakfast we were talking about the acqua altas -- the regular floodings that have increased in frequency here over the decades. After seeing East Village streets just a few blocks from my apartment underwater after Hurricane Sandy, the regular activity of the Venetians, who stack sandbags by their door and elevate their belongings, doesn't seem so exotic anymore.
But, I've been lucky this week. It's gorgeous, and it looks like I'm going to win the bet I subconsciously made when I ignored everyone who recommended I bring knee-high galoshes here to the Venice Biennale College, taking place at a former mental institution on the tiny island of San Servolo.
Led by the Biennale in partnership with Gucci and in collaboration with IFP, TorinoFilmLab, and the Dubai International Film Festival, the Biennale College develops and will lead to the production of three feature films that will premiere at the Venice Film Festival later this year. Last Fall, first and second-time filmmakers from all over the world submitted projects that could be developed, produced and post-produced in this time frame. Fifteen were selected for the College, and at the conclusion of this initial ten-day event, three will receive 150,000 euros in funding.
My role here is as a Group Leader. What's a Group Leader, you ask? Well, I wondered that coming in. I jokingly told friends I'd be like Tim Gunn on Project Runway -- combination motivator, sounding board and advisor, and that's been something of the case. There are producer advisors here too as well as script consultants. The directors bounce between me and the script consultants while the producers hunker down with the producer consultants. And then there are guests, people like director, distribution and PMD Jon Reiss, who arrives next week to talk about DIY distribution, and producer Nekisa Cooper, who is giving a case study of her film Pariah.
Practically speaking, though, all of our advice is mixing together. Especially when it comes to microbudget production, it's difficult to fence apart creative and production issues. A script might have a brilliant plot point, but it's got to fit within the budget and be able to realized in the short time frame. One of the producer consultants here said at the group meeting we have every evening that he needed to postpone a budget meeting while the director/producer team reconsidered their shooting format, which was something prompted by conversations with the script consultant. At my meetings with the directors, I've been helping them digest all of this input as well as offer thought exercises intended to jog their creativity as well as define their production issues. Things like asking one director to imagine his toughest shooting day and to walk us through the scenes and time allotted. Or, asking another to imagine a new third-act scene involving a pivotal and largely off-screen character, and to say what that scene would or wouldn't add to his script. Or, prodding another to be extremely clear about his film's VFX needs and to give us a timeline from his post-production house on how they'll be able to realized in time. Or, when talking about a time-travel picture, identifying where in sensibility it lies on the continuum between La Jetée and Twelve Monkeys. (Props to my fellow advisor Michel Reilhac for that concise way of looking at it.)
And then we're also just talking about ourselves and about life, because filmmaking is about all of that stuff too. My group had a relatively intense conversation this morning discussing the nature of grief and the kinds of acts that trigger it. I find myself repeating lines I've told directors in other workshops for years and years, but which always bear repeating. One of those is that we producers, mentors and advisors never want directors to do exactly what we say. In fact, when that happens, it's a huge red flag. We want to be listened to and intelligently argued with, and our greatest satisfaction comes from pinpointing a problem and having a director come back with a solution we never could have imagined ourselves. That's happened a few times already, so I have high hopes for what will emerge from this intense crash-course in film development and production on this little island in Venice.
See you next week.Best,
Upcoming at IFP
IFP Alums Cited By Academy Award Nominations
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has singled out several IFP-supported projects in today's nominations for achievement in 2012. Beasts of the Southern Wild received four nominations: Best Picture (producers, Dan Janvey, Josh Penn, and Michael Gottwald), Best Director (Benh Zeitlin), Best Adapted Screenplay (Zeitlin and Lucy Alibar), and Best Actress (Quvenzhané Wallis) . In addition to Beast's participation in IFP's No Borders Co-production Market at Independent Film Week 2009 during its development stage, Zeitlin recently won two Gotham Independent Film Awards - Breakthrough Director and the Bingham Ray Award - for his direction, and Wallis was a nominee for Breakthrough Actor. On the documentary side, both Inocente (Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine) and Kings Point (Sari Gilman and Jedd Wider), which are nominated for Best Documentary Short, are alums of Spotlight on Documentaries at Independent Film Week. Congratulations also to Best Documentary Feature nominee How to Survive a Plague (David France and Howard Gertler), winner of the Gotham Award for Best Documentary, and to 2012 Gotham Tributee David O. Russell, whose Silver Linings Playbook received eight nominations, including personal nominations for his direction and screenplay along with acting nominations for four of its Gotham Award Ensemble-nominated cast. Congratulations all!
New In Theaters
I Am Not a Hipster
Writer/director Destin Cretton's I Am Not a Hipster is a hybrid musical performance/dramatic feature that is steeped in San Diego's indie music and art scene. Through the lens of Brook (Dominic Bogart), a struggling singer-songwriter, the film examines creativity, tragedy and how the two intermingle. As he reels from the death of his mother, Brook is helped along by the arrival of his estranged father and three sisters, who have come to town to spread their mother's ashes. I Am Not a Hipster features original songs and live performances by CANINES, as well as San Diego artists such as Black Mamba, Cuckoo Chaos and The Donkeys.
Let My People Go!
Let My People Go! follows Reuben, a homosexual French-Jewish mailman living in Finland as he endures dramatic trials and comedic tribulations. When mishaps and a quarrel with his Nordic boyfriend arise (right in time for Passover) Reuben is forced to return to Paris, and his dysfunctional parents (Carmen Maura and Jean-François Stévenin). Let My People Go! is written by Mikael Buch and Christophe Honore. With Buch also at the directorial helm, the film blends romantic comedy and family drama while tackling Jewish and gay stereotypes.
A decade after his acclaimed Yossi and Jagger, director Eytan Fox revisits the story of Dr. Yossi Hoffman, former Israel Defense Force officer and current cardiologist. While Yossi is a successful and respected doctor, he often uses work to continue to shield his troubled personal life. Still living as a closeted gay man, Hoffman has been alone (and lonely) since the death of his lover, Jagger, and walls himself up from those around him. But when a mysterious woman enters his life things turn for the better. Through a connection with her, Yossi ends up in the city of Eilat where he meets a group of young IDF officers. Among them is the openly gay and confident Tom, who shows Yossi a world of different possibilities from his sequestered life.
This Week on FilmmakerThis week on the blog, Michael Murie delves into the Canon C100 with StillMotion's Patrick Moreau, Nick Dawson attends the Cinema Eye Honors (pictured left), Lance Weiler takes a look at some good resources to learn code, and the 2013 Oscar nominees were announced.
To read more, click here.
Newest Web Article
The Up Films: The Speed of LifeBy David Licata
"If one were to watch all of them, god forbid at one sitting, but over a period of time, how different they'd all be." Michael Apted on the Up Series, from the director commentary of 42 Up.
It begins in grainy black and white. A rambunctious boy runs in front of a brick wall, another walks through the foggy, rainy English countryside, three girls in a playground descend a slide side by side by side toward the camera. "In 1964," a buttery, avuncular English voice-over begins, "Granada Television brought together a group of seven year olds, from all over the country and from all walks of life. They talked about their dreams, their ambitions and their fears for the future; we have followed their lives every seven years. They are now 56."
Eight films with an average running time of 106 minutes, or one film with a total running time of 14 hours and 8 minutes. Forty-nine years in the making and still incomplete. What would it be like to experience all of the Up films, and in a cinematic sense all of those years, within 24 hours? The point was not to take an endurance test, but to experience what captured time, 49 years of it, was like and what insights might be gleaned from viewing it this way.Read more
Festival DeadlinesArizona International Film Festival
Earlybird Deadline: January 12
Final Submission Deadline: February 2
Festival Dates: April 12 - 28
Sarasota Film Festival
Late Deadline: January 11
Festival Dates: April 5 - 14
Los Angeles Film Festival
Official Deadline: January 11
Late Deadline (shorts and music videos): February 8
Late Deadline (feature narratives and documentaries): February 15
Festival Dates: June 13 - 23