I'm back in Venice, mentoring a second round at the Biennale College Cinema. I was here last month, when 15 director/producer teams arrived on the island of San Servolo to develop and then pitch their microbudget film projects. In true Survivor style, three filmmakers emerged with full production funding (150,000 euros) and accelerated production schedules designed to deliver their pictures in time for a Venice premiere. (Unlike American reality shows, however, the non-selected projects are not headed for ignominy but are receiving support from the advisors and hopefully will appear at other production labs in the near future.)
It's been a very different trip this time, and I'll write more about the whole experience on the site. In brief, though, the three selected projects -- Tim Sutton's Memphis, Alessio Fava's Yuri Esposito, and Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit's The Year of June -- are undergoing rigorous analysis from script consultants, a line producer, and festival and marketing experts. Last time, the projects had something to prove, and for both advisors and filmmakers it was about figuring out core ideas and how to present them effectively to the advisors and judges. This time, the films have already been selected, so it's less about proving and more about refinement and preparation. It's a final crash course before the launch into their projects, and you can feel the filmmakers soaking it all in while parts of their brains skip ahead to the productions looming, in some cases, just days away. Indeed, Thamrongrattanarit and his producer Aditya Assarat leave Venice for Paris, where they will shoot a couple scenes of their mostly Thailand-set picture.
Like I said, I'll write more for the site, but in the meantime we've put a huge amount of content up in the last few days, and here are a few things you might have missed.
Heather von Rohr sits in on a conversation with veteran editor Andrew Weisblum (currently cutting Darren Aronofsky's Noah).
Ten Lessons on Filmmaking from Beasts of the Southern Wild's Benh Zeitlin. Ariston Anderson scoped out these tips, and here's one:
Your film must be a done deal. Only the journey is negotiable.
The mentality for our feature was always that we were going to make the film, no matter what. There was never this thing where we were going to write the script and then wait till someone gave us the money. It was always we're going to make it, and here's the starting date. If we get the money we'll make it bigger. If we don't get the money we'll shoot it with our cellphones.
Our philosophy was whatever we did, we had to proceed with absolute certainty. That was probably crazy, but it had an effect. Money sort of follows determination. It was a big group of us and we were all very determined. A lot of miracles happened, but I think they happened because we were charging so quickly that it was almost like a boat shooting through the water. We created the current and the momentum.
Here's a really interesting piece by filmmaker Isaac Feder about how he used a Las Vegas tourism website to distribute his gambling-themed film.
Eighteen-year-old animator Ian Timothy gives a lot of tips about low-budget stop-motion in this interview with Michael Murie.
Lauren Wissot talks with Cheyenne Picardo, whose Remedy opened CineKink last night. Picardo's discussion of turning her parent's barn/recording studio into an NYC S/M dungeon for her autobiographical feature is pretty amazing. "I often froze up when I realized what spicy dialogue my father was forced to hear in the control room," Picardo says. "Ironically, neither of my parents admitted having any clue that the film was autobiographical until well after shooting had wrapped."
Finally, Kishori Rajan brings us the penultimate post in her "Second-Time Director" series. Second films can be even harder to mount than debut features, and in her conversation with Jane Weinstock about The Moment, Rajari hears hard-fought wisdom about the challenges of presenting complex female characters within today's Hollywood and independent film scene.
Finally, there's a ton of stuff in our print edition that's not online. You can always subscribe, and, if you have an iPad, you can try our iPad Edition, which is only $2.99. And check back this weekend for more on the Venice Biennale College Cinema and my picks for next week's SXSW.
See you next week.Best,
Upcoming at IFP
Going to Hot Docs? Register via the U.S. Delegation for Increased Access at a Discounted Price!
Documentary producers and directors planning to attend Hot Docs can receive a substantial discount by registering early as part of the American delegation. This year IFP is pleased to be the coordinator for the U.S. delegation registration. Each year, Hot Docs (April 25 - May 4) hosts a number of international delegations at the festival -- from Brazil, China, France, Germany, Italy, Malaysia, the Nordic Region, South Africa, the UK and the USA. The delegations -- made up of established producers working in social, cultural and political documentary genres -- enjoy a wealth of networking opportunities, market events and conference sessions. Delegation members also network with other delegates through specially-scheduled events and receptions, and through International Co-Production Day (April 29), an event at which delegation members are featured participants. All delegates receive the highest level "All Access Passes" which includes full access to Hot Docs Festival screenings, the Conference and Forum (May 1 - 2). Delegation members may also apply to the one-on-one Deal Maker meetings with broadcasters and funders from around the world and the Distribution Rendezvous meetings with top level distributors, sales agents and festival programmers. Delegates can also submit one free film to the Doc Shop, Hot Docs' on-demand digital video library for international buyers and programmers. The rate for delegation members is $600.00(+HST) CAD, a 24% discount over the regular All Access Pass fee.
Registration is currently open, and the final deadline for this discount is March 18. For more benefits of the All Access Pass click here. For more info on registering and to receive the IFP discount code, contact Milton Tabbot at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New In Theaters
Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel's Leviathan is a radical break from the "traditional" documentary form, and while the film's style may not be universally embraced, it is hard to ignore. Castaing-Taylor and Paravel are members of Harvard's Sensory Ethnography Lab and crafted their latest project as equal parts direct cinema, experimental film and ethnography. At its simplest, Leviathan is a glimpse into the activity aboard a Maine fishing vessel. But through complete immersion in the life of crew, catch, creatures and ship via an array of GoPro cameras and a haunting sound design, the film transcends that basis to become something deeper. As Leviathan eschews exposition for experience, viewers are compelled to go through an exhausting emotional roller-coaster.
Welcome to Pine Hill
Welcome to Pine Hill is director Keith Miller's feature-length debut and was also an IFP Lab project. The movie follows Shannon (first-time actor Shannon Harper), a reformed drug dealer who is an insurance adjuster by day and a bouncer by night. Through his past dabbling in crime and his ongoing decision to go straight, Shannon lives his life as a loner, alienated from his past friends and current coworkers. His solitary life and search for personal peace and satisfaction is pushed to the limits when Shannon is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Determined to live and die on his own terms, Shannon keeps the news to himself. The film opens this Friday at the IFC Center in Manhattan after collecting prizes at Slamdance and other festivals.
Read Kevin Canfield's interview with Miller here.
Another IFP Lab alum, Tim Sutton's Pavilion dreamily blends fiction narrative and documentary as it paints a picture youth and the boundary towards adulthood. Centering on Max, a teen who leaves his Eastern lakeside town to live on the fringes of suburban Arizona with his father, the film was loosely based on a short story Sutton wrote to direct the tone rather than a discrete script. From that point, Sutton and his team were free to flit from one character or moment to another organically, with the children as the guiding principle. The end result is a film of pure awe and nuance crafted by the myriad personalities involved and honed by Sutton, who is now receiving support for his second feature, Memphis, as one of the award winners of the Biennale College Cinema in Venice. Pavilion also opens at the IFC Center tomorrow.
Check out Scott Macaulay's look at Pavilion here.
This Week on FilmmakerThis week on the blog, Scott Macaulay posts David Bowie's new music video co-starring Tilda Swinton, "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)", Farihah Zaman examines Death of a Shadow and other genre fare at the Oscars, Michael Murie shares the insights of some Oscar-nominated cinematographers (pictured left), and Nick Dawson discusses the Tribeca Film Festival's announcement of Mistaken for Strangers as its opening film.
To read more, click here.
Newest Web Article
Dan Sallitt on The Unspeakable ActBy Brandon Harris
With an exacting intelligence, a hyper-articulate quality that brings to mind the characters of American systems novels, Dan Sallitt's The Unspeakable Act meditates on the burgeoning mutual attraction of two Brooklyn siblings in a manner that, while leaving many unsettled, has already marked his third feature as a potential breakout for the critic-filmmaker. The scions of an old-school Brooklyn bohemian writer, Jackie Kimball and Matthew Kimball (Tallie Medel and Sky Hirschkron) have long harbored a forbidden desire for one another, although it is most intensely felt on Jackie's side. Medel's big green eyes under dark, foreboding bangs fill in all the gaps that the rapid volleys of voice over do not when it comes to the internal conflicts that this arrangement casts on her. Matthew, a bookish would-be scholar who prevents the situation from evolving into physical intimacy, soon leaves for college and Jackie is thrust into a crisis of sorts, stranded in the odd oasis of their mother's almost otherworldly Brooklyn home. She seeks the help of a counselor, who may or may not hold the key to reigning in her incestuous impulses and allowing her to find an adult identity all her own.
The 57-year-old Sallitt is a Pennsylvania native who for years lived and worked in Los Angeles, where he cut his teeth as a critic for the Los Angeles Reader. He is the subject of an Anthology Film Archives retrospective that runs concurrent with the week-long release of The Unspeakable Act. Beyond his previous two features, 2004's All the Ships at Sea and 1998's Honeymoon, the retro will feature a rarely seen, mid-80's, feature length video experiment titled Polly Perverse that Sallitt made while in conjunction with the long defunct L.A. video-art gallery EZTV.
The Unspeakable Act opens this Friday.Read more
Festival DeadlinesUrbanworld Film Festival
Submission Dates: February 22 - June 4
Festival Dates: September 18 - 22
Long Island Film Festival
Regular Deadline: March 1
Late Deadline: July 15
Festival Dates: August 30 - September 8
Hawaii International Film Festival
First Deadline: March 1
Second Deadline: May 1
Third Deadline: June 1
Final Deadline: July 1
Student Under 18 Deadline: August 1
Festival Dates: October 16 - 26