MovieMaker Magazine The Art & Business of Making Movies 2038-01-13T20:00:20Z https://www.moviemaker.com/feed/atom/ WordPress Mitzi Kapture <![CDATA[How They Did It: This Director’s New Doc About Legendary Acting Coach Larry Moss Demystifies the Acting Process]]> https://www.moviemaker.com/?p=50923 2017-10-20T22:35:58Z 2017-10-20T22:35:58Z Film has been associated with magic since its inception. Even as a child, the interaction and connection between everyone involved in producing a movie—everybody from the writer, performer, director, and crew to the editor and composer—were magically seamless and attractive to me. Film appeared as if it were conjured by the mystery of alchemy instead […]

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Film has been associated with magic since its inception.

Even as a child, the interaction and connection between everyone involved in producing a movie—everybody from the writer, performer, director, and crew to the editor and composer—were magically seamless and attractive to me. Film appeared as if it were conjured by the mystery of alchemy instead of by human effort. And ironically, film is like the trick of a magician—impossible to detect until the sleight of hand is revealed as being simply a series of events that lead to the end result on the big screen. The process is painstakingly rehearsed, explored, experimented with and polished until the outcome seems effortless, authentic and compelling. The purpose of my documentary The Process is to record and showcase how to go about carving a performance; in this case a technique created by a universally acclaimed acting coach of the highest order, Larry Moss.

I personally had the pleasure of working with Larry Moss as my coach. He’s a master of the acting craft, and a universally sought-after teacher whose class has something like a six-year waiting list. My goal was to capture Larry’s mentoring for other actors and director, especially those who may never get the chance to have someone like him as their coach, and do it in a way that is entertaining and easily accessible. Fortunately for me, Larry liked the idea and agreed to be part of the project.

I shot hundreds of hours of footage of different artists working with Larry at multiple venues, but our first edit didn’t work. It was more like we were reinforcing the notion that acting is alchemy, rather than a process. But we kept talking, kept attempting to find the right avenue to communicate what we wanted the viewer to assimilate. Everything changed when Larry called me and said James L. Brooks had invited him to come to the University of Southern California to work with student directors on how to work with actors. Before he could even finish his sentence, I said yes. Finally, the project was taking a direction that would actually shape a story.

Writer and producer James L. Brooks with acting coach Larry Moss

Everyone agreed and the date was set. I hired director of photography Scott Simmock and Andrew Gerety, grabbed the cameras and a couple of camera operators and a sound mixer. My good friend Thom Adcox offered to come help and be our production assistant. With a venue as spacious as USC, I chose to have a monitor and headset so that I could see all four cameras simultaneously and direct from one focused place instead of running around from camera to camera as I had before. I wanted the camera to have an emotional point of view to capture the spontaneity and exploration that was about to unfold. I asked each operator to be prepared to rack focus, zoom, whip pan and follow the action.

The crew and I showed up and watched some rehearsal of the actors with the directors. We set the cameras, did a sound check, and eagerly waited for night to fall and Larry and Jim to arrive. It was like waiting for the main attraction at the beginning of a rock concert.

We started filming almost immediately in the parking lot as Jim and Larry arrived and followed them into a sound stage that was exploding with energy. Everyone quickly took their seats. I got behind the monitor and off we went. There were no marks on the floor so I had to chase and anticipate everyone’s next move, and direct the camera operators as it happened. It was an organic and a very symbiotic process of discovery with Larry, James, and the young directors and actors.

Watching him work with the director and the actors was not only inspirational, but also provided insight into how he identifies with the psyches of those he’s working with. He understands deeply that actors have the wonderful job of animating written characters. They employ visual, emotional and intellectual tools to correctly capture what is intended by the writer under the supervision of the director. They get to call upon experience, imagination and intelligence equally and the thrill they show after discovering something new is gold. Larry’s process allows this to happen.

Moss and Brooks

I wanted to make this film about doing the work. I just kept watching people and listening as I shaped the film. People want to learn and be entertained and invest a short period of time. The longer version of the film interfered with the objective, so the editor and I kept carving and trimming. As we were attempting to “release” our film from the footage, that objective continued to reveal itself. The huge challenge in editing a documentary is discovering the essence of truth of the message of the film and excavating the purpose.

The premise of the documentary is that acting is not realized through the power of magic, but maybe I’m wrong to remove magic from the equation completely. From Larry, to our wonderful executive producer Ralph Hemecker, to editor Andrew Ehrich, to composer Bronic Bednarek, people who were inspired  by the film’s message just kept showing up at the exact right time! I would talk to artists about the film and it was like a lightbulb would go off and they would offer their ideas and passion to help with the film, all of which were extraordinary and gratefully accepted.

Whatever you do in life, we hope this film inspires you to fall in love with your process and just do the best that you can do with anything you’re doing. As the film shows, courage and resilience power your imagination to invent. MM

The Process is available on October 25, 2017 on Blu-ray and DVD through its website, which can be found here.

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Jeremy Kinser <![CDATA[The Wonder of It All: Todd Haynes Shares The Behind-the-Scenes Challenges of His Magical New Film]]> https://www.moviemaker.com/?p=50949 2017-10-21T01:31:50Z 2017-10-20T20:45:08Z With films on his resume as vastly different as Carol, I’m Not There, and Safe, Todd Haynes has already firmly established himself as one of the most ambitious and versatile filmmakers working today. The award-winning 56-year-old director continues to expand his range as an auteur with the just released Wonderstruck. Adapted by Brian Selznick from the juvenile […]

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With films on his resume as vastly different as Carol, I’m Not There, and Safe, Todd Haynes has already firmly established himself as one of the most ambitious and versatile filmmakers working today. The award-winning 56-year-old director continues to expand his range as an auteur with the just released Wonderstruck. Adapted by Brian Selznick from the juvenile fiction novel he both wrote and illustrated, Haynes’ latest chronicles dual stories that both focus on a pair of deaf children, Rose and Ben (played by Millicent Simmonds, who is deaf in real life, and Oakes Fegley), who are separated by fifty years but connected by plans to run away to New York City.

Haynes spoke with MovieMaker about the cinematic inspirations for his new film, making a movie for kids, and working with a deaf child actor.

Jeremy Kinser, MovieMaker Magazine (MM): When did Wonderstruck come to your attention?

Todd Haynes (TH): It came to me through Sandy Powell, actually, my costume designer. She is not usually where one expects to find these sorts of projects. But with Sandy, one should always be ready to be surprised and blown away. She got to be close friends with Brian Selznick after they worked together on Hugo and she read the book Wonderstruck and she actually suggested to him that I might be somebody who could do something interesting with this book, and he was like, didn’t think I was the obvious choice, because I don’t really make films for this kind of an audience. But then the more I thought about it I think the more it kind of sunk in, so when he finished that adaptation he sent it to me. So it’s all because of Sandy Powell. She’s an executive producer on it, because we had to show our gratitude.

MM: Did you immediately see the film potential in the story when you read it?

TH: I did, because it was the script I read first, and that is because Brian had really, really thought about the medium in how he started to adapt it. He says in interviews that he never thought of the book as a film, that it could be a film, and the book is very beautifully conceived as half drawings and half text that are intercut. But he had certainly evolved from that position by the time he was adapting it as a script. The medium of film is considered in every capacity, particularly in the black-and-white treatment of the ‘20s story, as an homage to silent film, and the ‘70s story as an homage to urban American filmmaking of the ‘70s. But he really thought about sound, and how the two strands could have distinct roles in the sonic experience of the movie. So it was very inspiring for all those reasons.

Millicent Simmonds in WonderStruck

MM: What was it about the story that you thought people could relate to?

TH: Well, I really thought, I really was excited about the premise. This could be something intensely unique that could be for kids. It would almost be like a cool gift to kids. A kind of stake of confidence in their abilities to get into something that we might not think they’re capable of these days in digital land, with them on their phones doing whatever they do, whatever we all do. And so that was sort of a defiant thing, like, yeah, I’m gonna do this for kids and prove that kids can get into it. So, kids, you have to get into it! Because I put myself on the line for you!

MM: Well, you sort of did it for their parents, too.

TH: I went to the Women’s March the day after Trump was elected, I mean, this movie doesn’t have to be for all kids, that’s fine, but I’m looking around at all the families that came out, the kids had all written signs. I thought, come on, there’s a lot of people that want to nourish their kids, give their kids access to the world, show them things and have them get involved in the world. Kids can really feel committed to what’s out there, and this is really the kind of movie that can really blow the mind of a little kid, or a not so little kid.

MM: I think when the connection is made, when you reveal how the characters are connected they’re gonna have this “oh my God” moment and maybe they’ll seek out other complicated films.

TH: Exactly.

MM: Who did you initially see as the audience for this film? I mean it’s for kids, but perhaps sophisticated kids.

TH: Yeah, sophisticated kids, I mean why not aim high? I was a kid who, my parents exposed me to things that were a little beyond my reach. Those were the things that really impacted me, changed me, made me want to go there and learn and kind of reach back. That’s how we grow, that’s how our minds grow. For me, it also made me want to respond creatively. It got my creative juices flowing to have things that were sophisticated and interesting, and yeah, a little incomprehensible at first. I think it made me a creative person.

Jaden Michael, Oakes Fegley, and Julianne Moore in WonderStruck

MM: Did you go back and watch the films you saw as a kid again before making this film?

TH: Oh yeah, I watched them all repeatedly, and I also put them on our dropbox for everybody involved in the film, these and then ‘70s films. As far as the ‘70s films, The French Connection, Midnight Cowboy, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. I was definitely focusing on a lot of Owen Roizman’s cinematography which is just so amazing. I could not really get past The French Connection on this one too far, but Saturday Night Fever came out that year. It’s a great looking movie. Kind of the basics.

MM: What were some of the challenges in filming in New York today but creating a period of four decades ago?

TH: There were plenty of challenges, just in finding locations that we could dress, that would sort of have the bones of what we were looking for. Mostly we were shooting in Brooklyn, for the grittier neighborhoods of New York, but also for parts of the 1920s. Really I have to say the biggest logistical challenge for the production, logistical and creative challenges go hand in hand in most kind of movies that have infinite budgets, is that shooting with kids, you only have so many hours with kids per day, and what that meant was that we had to fashion a production, a daily schedule that enabled us to shoot ‘20s, and ‘70s every day. Because we could only shoot eight or nine hours per kid. So they’d expire, and we’d have to go to the other kid’s story. There weren’t enough scenes without the kids in them to make up a day. That really was the biggest challenge of the shoot.

MM: It sounds unbelievably complicated.

TH: Well, it’s Tim Bird, my AD, who figured that out. It was his daily puzzle. The movie is already a puzzle, but that was a puzzle on top of the puzzle. That’s how production schedules are anyway, but this one was just massive.

MM: That gives me even more appreciation for what you accomplished. How far apart were the filming locations?

TH: Well, we would have to conceive of things accordingly and dress them around that. I mean there were company moves, but company moves eat up so much time. When we shot in the Museum of Natural History, which was such a privilege to shoot in, that was hard to get the permission, and get through all the red tape to do so to begin with, but they were fantastic, but we couldn’t leave equipment in overnight. So we had to load in and load out each day that we shot there, and we could only shoot on the weekends. There were more limitations compounding the hours of limitations of the hours with kids. We had numerous challenges. Really what it all boils down to is that we were never waiting on the kids. The kids were so professional and so prepared, with minor exceptions, exceptions that just come up in any day of shooting with any actor. They were real troupers. This was true for Millicent Simmonds, as much if not more than any of the kids, who had never acted before in her life and was deaf. We did a great job casting. My casting director Laura Rosenthal led the process of finding Millie. But ultimately it’s luck that we found her, that she exists.

MM: She’s extraordinary. Besides how great she is in the movie, she has the look of one of those urchins like Jackie Coogan would pal around with.

TH: I know! She is true to the period. In the book she’s drawn with long hair, which wasn’t fashionable for girls in the 1920s. But Millie, her own hair was this awesome, cute, you know, windswept hair, shorter haircut, that really was of the time. In the spirit of great other kids movies like National Velvet or Little Women I thought lets just have her cut it off. So we had a wig for her for her home scenes in Hoboken, and as part of her symbolic liberation she whacks off her hair, and she’s a new person when she leaves. That’s cool for kids too, they dig that kind of transformation thing. And then it was like the real Millie, the Millie that just walked in to our life.

MM: When did you decide to make the 1927 part of the movie as a silent film?

TH: That was the conception in Brian’s script, of course it’s supported by the fact that that story is also about silent cinema, and the end of silent cinema, and what the end of silent cinema might have meant to a deaf person. All of those really poignant observations that I think escape even the deaf community today, because it’s so long ago, that are just incredibly touching and meaningful. It just describes one more way in which we segregate parts of our society without even knowing we’re doing it, let alone all the ways we do know we’re doing it. It was also just a beautiful way of differentiating the stories, and having you be like, “oh, it’s a silent film because it’s in the ‘20s,” but then you go, “oh no, it’s a silent film, because the central character is deaf.’” And that’s how she experiences the world.

Well the real truth is that the whole movie is almost a silent film. It’s almost an hour, from the last bit of spoken dialogue in the movie when Ben’s cousin leaves his room in his old house to when Ben starts talking to Jamie in the Museum of Natural History. It’s an hour with no dialogue.

MM: I didn’t realize that.

TH: That’s the best thing I could hear, that people don’t even realize that there’s no dialogue for that long a time. Because the story takes you along.

MM: What were some of the challenges in directing a deaf actress?

TH: The whole crew was given some instructionals for sign language. I cannot say I learned ASL language at all proficiently. I learned little words, apparently the part of the brain that learns language, the left side of the brain, is in a certain era of formation in our first five or six years of life, and then it changes. So when adults try to learn sign language, they don’t learn it using the same muscle memory that we do when we learn our first languages. It becomes something you think of visually not syntactically, or whatever the term is. That’s my fancy way of excusing myself for not learning sign language. I can finger spell. But we just had an amazing translator, Lynette Taylor, become instrumental to the process of shooting with Millie. I think what I learned and what we all learned is how much we always communicate without words. We do it all the time. A movie like this and a process like this reminds you of how much just your face, your gestures, your touch, tells people what you’re thinking and feeling. That’s what I ultimately relied on with Millie. But of course my words were being translated and her words were being translated all the time so it just became second nature. We also cast six deaf actors in the black and white portion of the film who are professional actors from deaf theater, adults who impersonated us, hearing people. That’s something they did in the ‘20s. They would often cast deaf people in silent films thinking they were more expressive facially and with gesture. It was so cool to have them around too, and to have translators everywhere on set, and to feel it had completely permeated our process.

Moore and Fegley in WonderStruck

MM: Would you have some advice to other directors who are working with children, how to get them to be natural and relaxed when they’re working alongside veteran actors like Julianne and Michelle?

TH: I think it’s just treat them with the respect and the intelligence and the sophistication you would if they were an adult. With kids this age it’s a little different. You probably have to do different things for younger kids. Although I have to say, when I worked with like a 7-year-old kid on my movie Dottie Gets Spanked, which actually had some difficult subject matter for him to have to portray, this is a short I made between my first two features, most people say it’s all about “kids should act natural, they should be themselves.” And I realized pretty quickly that the little boy in that story who was being called “feminino” by little girls at school and who was drawing pictures of his favorite female TV star and making his family feel like he was a little different, it was easier for him to actually be treated like an actor. We’d say to Evan [Bonifant] “you’re playing a kid who has these feelings, and who has these experiences.” Kids understand play acting, and that was the way he could safely embody somebody else. It wasn’t like saying, “this is you, and this is all about you.” So I don’t necessarily even comply to that kind of provided wisdom that kids just “have to be themselves” to be good actors. I think kids just know how to act. We all act, all the time. MM

Wonderstruck opened in limited release October 20, courtesy of Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions.

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Charles Poekel <![CDATA[Montclair Film Festival 2017: Suburban Cinema It Hurts to Miss in New Jersey]]> https://www.moviemaker.com/?p=51054 2017-10-20T19:25:42Z 2017-10-20T19:24:33Z Like a waiter out to eat at a restaurant, I get an annual opportunity to experience a regional festival from the other side (i.e. the local side) at Montclair Film Festival. I was born and raised in, and currently reside just miles from, Montclair, and to say I have a sweet spot for all things […]

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Like a waiter out to eat at a restaurant, I get an annual opportunity to experience a regional festival from the other side (i.e. the local side) at Montclair Film Festival.

I was born and raised in, and currently reside just miles from, Montclair, and to say I have a sweet spot for all things Jersey would be a massive understatement. (I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen the Boss.) Growing up it was common knowledge how many incredible artists came from New Jersey, but the one trait they all shared besides their origin was that they all left the Garden State. So when Montclair Film Festival laid its roots six years ago, I was ecstatic. Great films were coming to New Jersey! All I could think about was how lucky the teenagers and college kids were to have this now, because I would have gone nuts for it growing up.

Now comes the “full disclosure” part. I’ve had films at the festival three different years, covered the festival for Hammer to Nail another, and was a juror during this year’s fest. I’m not the “general public.” But does it matter? From the time the banners go up in April until the festival concludes, you’ll find a spring in my step.

This year’s festival started off with a bang—I missed the opening night film, Step, because my 14-month-old decided he didn’t want to go to bed. Dad life. But I made it over for the Q&A and subsequent party, which, as always, was fully loaded with food, sweets, booze, and the best of the Jersey suburban adult scene (I say this with all sincerity as I am now fully a part of this). Then I missed the next two days, for a wedding (I’m not bitter, I swear), and jumped back in Monday night.

Fittingly, my first film of the festival was The Cinema Travellers, a gem of a documentary about traveling cinemas in India. Afterwards I settled in for the SXSW award-winning The Strange Ones, a 180-degree turn. The young star of the film, James Freedson-Jackson, is from Jersey and came for the Q&A. The next night was special for me: I brought two of my best friends from high school to see the Suzanne Ciani doc A Life in Waves. The film was surprisingly sad, however—Ciani pushed herself so hard she left no time for romance, socializing, and for a while, not even her own music.

For the final weekend I was in juror mode, and cranked out the rest of the strong “NJ Films” category. We picked Swim Team to get the award and gave an honorable mention to Acorn and the Firestorm, though I also thoroughly enjoyed All We Need is Another Chance, a doc about The Escorts (an R&B group formed in an NJ prison in the ’70s)—DIY with a lot of heart.

The thing that sticks out to me the most about the 2017 Montclair Film Festival is how many films I missed: Whose Streets, City of Ghosts, The Reagan Show, Casting JonBenet. I missed them because there were so many strong films in this year’s program. Now it’s time to wait 11 months and do it all again. MM

Charles Poekel’s debut feature, Christmas, Again, played at Sundance and Montclair Film Festival and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award.

Montclair Film Festival 2017 ran April 28-May 7, 2017.  This article appears in MovieMaker‘s Fall 2017 issue. Featured image photographed by Neil Grabowsky: The Clairidge Cinema in Montclair, New Jersey hosts the 10-day springtime
Montclair Film Festival.

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Ko Ricker <![CDATA[Animation is Film: This New LA Animation Festival is on a Mission]]> https://www.moviemaker.com/?p=51026 2017-10-20T02:14:43Z 2017-10-20T00:00:16Z Eric Beckman, founder of animated film distributor GKIDS, has had quite the year. This past June, the long-time theatrical distributor of the Studio Ghibli slate launched Studio Ghibli Fest 2017, a series of six Miyazaki-helmed films including Spirited Away and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, in cooperation with Fathom Events. GKIDS also obtained […]

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Eric Beckman, founder of animated film distributor GKIDS, has had quite the year.

This past June, the long-time theatrical distributor of the Studio Ghibli slate launched Studio Ghibli Fest 2017, a series of six Miyazaki-helmed films including Spirited Away and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, in cooperation with Fathom Events. GKIDS also obtained the home video rights to six Studio Ghibli films for a Blu-ray and DVD re-release earlier this month. On the streaming front, the company just released nine films, including Oscar nominees Boy and the World and My Life as a Zucchini, for viewing on Netflix. Not to mention their film The Breadwinner premiered to critical acclaim at TIFF in September.

Now, as if all that weren’t enough, this weekend sees the inaugural iteration of the GKIDS-Annecy-Variety collab Animation Is Film in LA. We caught up with Beckman to pick his brain on his vision for the festival and the future of the form.

Ko Ricker, MovieMaker Magazine (MM): Animation is Film is the first festival of its kind on the West Coast, if not the entire U.S. How’s the ride to launch been?

Eric Beckman (EB): Well, you know, starting a film festival is not for the weak of heart. It’s been a lot of work, but I launched the New York International Children’s Film Festival—I’m still on the board there—once upon a time so I know the drill. It’s been exciting and gratifying with the amount of support and partners we have and the team we’ve put together. Now that the lineup is selected and tickets are on sale it’s super exciting. Hopefully it’s like childbirth—once the baby is there you forget all the pain.

Mary and the Witch’s Flower will have its U.S. premiere at Animation is Film

MM: How was the vision for the New York International Children’s Film Festival similar to or different from that of Animation is Film?

EB: What they have in common is that they are mission-based festivals with real reasons to exist in the world. New York Children’s is really a festival to redefine what children’s filmmaking can be. The selection there was aspirational; [we wanted to] put together an exciting, thoughtful, provocative, meaningful lineup of film for young people that didn’t consist of just cotton candy and plastic toys. It’s not just educational, but also a rich cinematic experience. There has never really been a major animation festival in the United States. New York Children’s has been an entry point for a lot of animation coming into the States—from Michel Ocelot to Mamoru Hosoda to Hayao Miyazaki to Tomm Moore. What NYCIFF couldn’t show, even though we push the limits as far as we can, was super adult animation. Chico and Rita was pushing a little too far. [Laughs]

The Animation is Film festival has a different mission. It is trying to redefine and paint a different picture in people’s minds of what animation is and what it can be. Doing it in Los Angeles is important—in Hollywood, with filmmakers attending, so people interested in film can see what is going on in the world of animation. This is a film festival where people who are interested in and excited about filmmaking, and open to the idea of animation, can understand a much broader richer world of animation than they otherwise might be exposed to. [At Animation is Film,] you can see six or eight films and meet the filmmakers and binge watch some of the greatest animated films from around the world. No one individual film completely captures some ideal.

Birdboy: The Forgotten Children is a Spanish film directed by Pedro Rivero and Alberto Vázquez

MM: What’s an example of a film that is showing at Animation is Film that wouldn’t fly at the New York International Children’s Film Festival?

EB: [Laughs] Well, we have a lot. Tehran Taboo, which had its world premiere at Cannes, is very dark. It’s about the drug and prostitution underground world of Tehran, which is otherwise a city with a very conservative religious bureaucracy, so it’s interesting to see how those two worlds blend together. It’s a film that needs animation to provide a little distance from the subject matter. Night is Short, Walk on Girl by Masaaki Yuasa is another one that is very dark.

Fireworks, Big Fish and Begonia and Lu Over the Wall are huge films that may not be “for adults” but that still have a strong draw for adult audiences. I just don’t like that whole breakdown, that there are two types of films: films for kids and then films for adults. There’s an example I always give when that comes up. If someone had tried to tell Mark Twain that Huck Finn was a kid’s book that person would get a punch in the face [laughs]. Or is Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away a children’s film? It’s a film that a wide audience can enjoy.

The Breadwinner is Irish studio Cartoon Saloon’s third film, following The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea

MM: I noticed that you guys scheduled Tehran Taboo and Mary and the Witch’s Flower at the same time. That is personally devastating for me.

EB: We tried so hard! When we have multiple weekends then it will be easier, but because each film is only showing once we tried really hard especially for the new films, to not put out anything against each other unless we really had to, and when we did we tried to make sure one skewed much younger. You try and do your best job. If you really want to see both you’ll have to pull a Hermione and go back in time and see the other.

MM: How do you see the status of animation in the U.S. film market, and how do you hope to see it evolve?

EB: Generally, in the United States, because of the outside success of what we can now call the Disney-Pixar-Dreamworks style of family-oriented animation, [these types of films] have provided the dominant association for animated film. If you are making a film for a studio that is investing $80 million to $100 million, that project has to be successful on many different levels. It has to deliver not just at the box office, in home video, and in television sales, but also theme park attractions and licensing deals—and that comes with restraints. It’s a huge risk. That’s why you have so many franchise pictures; because you have a huge investment.

You have a much wider range of types of animated films coming out of France and some other European countries, for example, because of their very strong auteur culture, a much smaller market, and different funding scenarios. And now that animation is getting easier to make [due to] advancing technologies in production and distribution, you have countries all over the world that are developing unique and new animation capabilities.

In the U.S., I think there is an opening up to new types of animation. Both with the Studio Ghibli films and some other Japanese films, people say, “Oh, there is something happening outside the U.S.” Or [you see] some of the GKIDS films that have made waves with film-forward audiences and the Oscars, and you start to have this idea that there is a broader world of animation out there. Platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime allow for a wider sampling of different types of filmmaking. I do think that there is an expanding notion of what animation can be in the United States. And one of the philosophical concepts surrounding Animation is Film is that the best animated films have not yet been made.

Night is Short, Walk on Girl is directed by experimental anime pioneer Masaaki Yuasa, who has two other films in the festival

MM: What Animation is Film screenings would you recommend to someone who doesn’t think they like animation?

EB: Oh my God, why don’t they like animation? That’s what I have to find out. [Laughs] If you think you don’t like animation go to see “Songs of Love and Death.” It’s a short film program that is rather adult with a wide array of topics. If you sit through “Songs of Love and Death” and don’t love three or four of those films to death, then I can’t help you with your problem with animation. MM

Animation is Film will run from October 20 to October 22, 2017. For more information, visit the festival’s website here. Get 30% off all tickets with code MOVIEMAKE at checkout. Top image from Tehran Taboo. All images courtesy of GKIDS.

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Lauri Donahue <![CDATA[A Screenwriter’s Guide to Getting (and Keeping) an Agent: An Interview with David Boxerbaum of Paradigm]]> https://www.moviemaker.com/?p=50686 2017-10-20T21:39:47Z 2017-10-19T18:06:28Z Many new screenwriters think about getting an agent as soon as—or even before—they’ve finished their first scripts. For most people, this makes about as much sense as trying out for the Olympic gymnastics team as soon as they’ve turned their first cartwheel. But for those with several well-polished scripts on their hard drives, and perhaps […]

The post <b>A Screenwriter’s Guide to Getting (and Keeping) an Agent:</b> An Interview with David Boxerbaum of Paradigm appeared first on MovieMaker Magazine.

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Many new screenwriters think about getting an agent as soon as—or even before—they’ve finished their first scripts.

For most people, this makes about as much sense as trying out for the Olympic gymnastics team as soon as they’ve turned their first cartwheel. But for those with several well-polished scripts on their hard drives, and perhaps a contest win or an “8” on The Black List for validation, seeking an agent is a reasonable next step.

So, how to go about it?

Most reputable agents and agencies have signed an agreement with the Writers Guild of America (WGA). The list can be found here.

There are several ways to find the names of individual agents at the bigger agencies:

—Google the names of screenwriters you admire. Articles in trade publications like Variety will often mention who represents them.

—Read the annual Black List announcements, and see who represents the writers on it.

—Check out the announcements of recent sales and writing assignments on Done Deal Pro (annual fee).

—Options for contacting agents include pitch fests (both physical and virtual), but these can be expensive and are often unproductive.

With a little online digging, asking around on screenwriting forums, or an IMDB-Pro subscription (free for the first 30 days), it’s possible to track down many agents’ email addresses. But does it make any sense to send query emails to agents, or is it a waste of time? And what are some other ways to get an agent?

To find out, MovieMaker spoke with David Boxerbaum at the Austin Film Festival Writer’s Conference. Boxerbaum is a senior agent in the Literary Department at Paradigm, one of Hollywood’s leading agencies. A graduate of NYU’s Tisch School for the Arts, he got his start as an assistant at Jerry Bruckheimer Films. At age 26, he was one of the youngest people to be named to The Hollywood Reporter‘s “Next Generation Top 35 under 35.”

Lauri Donahue, MovieMaker Magazine (MM): On an episode of Scriptnotes, hosts John August and Craig Mazin talked with an agent who said that query letters and contests and most other things writers tried in order to get representation were pointless. Do you agree?

David Boxerbaum (DB): Queries aren’t necessarily going to work as well as other things. It’s not true across the board that agents don’t read queries or pay attention to contests. A lot of the business of writing is about passion and about believing in yourself and finding alternative ways to get your material read. And you can point to success stories of writers who have accomplished it via queries and via competitions.

MM: But are personal recommendations more important?

DB: Recommendations help. Definitely agents will give them more credence than many other things like a query letter.

MM: How did your last several writer clients come to you?

DB: A couple of them came from other agencies, larger and smaller.

 Some came through other clients, or were writers I’ve been in contact with over the years and have a relationship with. Some writers had heard of me and my reputation and my success and wanted to see if they could have that same kind of success. One came from a manager who recommended the writer to me and his script ending up selling for a lot of money.

MM: How about writers who didn’t have representation before?



DB: Those are few and far between these days. I don’t take on a lot of brand-new clients who never had an agent before. When I do it’s mostly due to recommendations. I did sign someone who won the Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowship [run by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences]. I’ll look at winners of contests with that kind of stature. Other contest winners don’t necessarily make it to my desk.

David Boxerbaum (center), courtesy of Austin Film Festival

MM: What do you advise for writers who want to network themselves to an agent? Working as an assistant? Going to film festivals like Austin?



DB: Both great ideas. Working in the business is a wonderful way to get your feet wet and understand how the business works. Anything you can do to educate yourself to the in’s and out’s of our system helps you navigate better when you want to get your script to the right place. It’s all about getting your script into our hands and making it to the top of the pile. So how do you get it there? The query letter is a difficult process and the chances are slimmer. Coming to festivals—Austin, Sundance, Cannes—networking and being out there gives you a much better chance of getting in people’s faces. You need to be tenacious and passionate. Working in our business, you’re really inside the system. Many assistants who’ve worked in our business have turned out to be successful writers. So to me that’s the best route.

MM: Do people ever come up to you at festivals and say, “Hi! I’m Bob! Want to read my script?”



DB: I prefer much more of a personal approach: “I’m Bob. Nice to meet you. I’m a fan of some success you’ve had.” Don’t just attack someone and ask them to read your script. That rarely works. There’s maybe a one in a thousand chance that will somehow start a conversation and pique their interest.

MM: How should a writer effectively network?

DB: The Austin Film Festival is a great place to meet other writers, producers, showrunners—people you’re fans of. You’re surrounded by many passion-driven writers. You can form a group of people doing the same things. Build your material by working with other writers in order to be successful. When it comes to agents and managers, it’s about starting a conversation and seeing if there’s a symbiotic relationship: “You’re looking for something like this, and I’ve written something like this.”

MM: Once a writer has an agent, what are your top tips?

DB: 1. Great writers write. You’re always honing your craft. 2. Learn and understand the business as much as we do. Do your homework. Research what’s going on, what’s selling, what’s happening. 3. Be respectful. Call and email as much as you need to, but understand that we’re out there doing our jobs as hard as we can for you. The most important thing on our minds is getting you opportunities in the marketplace.

MM: When you say educate yourself, what do you mean?



DB: [It means] reading Deadline, reading The Wrap. Educate yourself about what’s going on. Having that kernel of knowledge will put you ahead of other people.

MM: Any other advice?



DB: Half the business of being a writer isn’t just sitting down by yourself. It’s also going in a room and pitching a movie—having a conversation. There’s a real art to that. And it’s important for writers to understand how to rein in a personality when needed and when to be outgoing when needed. You’re sitting down with people and they have to decide they can work with you for six months or a year. Can they have a conversation with you? Can you be real with each other? Some writers are going to be introverts. So they have to work on it.

MM: So how should writers handle meetings?

DB: Be yourself. Ask questions. Talk about who you are, what you’re passionate about, what you love to write, and what inspires you. Look for something in the room that you can speak to. See something you can relate to. “I see that you have a cheese with ‘Wisconsin’ written on it. My mother is from Wisconsin.” Those little things go so far.

MM: Do you have any horror stories about bad behavior by writers in meetings?

DB: I’ve heard of writers going in and being disrespectful to executives or telling them that their notes were terrible. If you take the wrong step, it’s a small business. Everybody knows everything and everyone talks. You’d be surprised how quickly someone’s actions in a room—what they say and what they’ve done—will spread and infect them. There are times that you’ll be treated unfairly. The agent can be the bad cop in that case.

MM: What are the biggest misconceptions screenwriters have about agents?

DB: That we’re out for us, we’re not out for them. That all we care about is the dollars—we don’t care about the art. To me, the reason I do what I do is to represent art. It’s a wonderful opportunity to see that art grow—to see people get to the point where their movies are being made, TV shows are being made.

MM: What do you wish screenwriters knew that they don’t?

DB: I wish they knew how grateful that should be for any kind of success they get. It’s an extremely difficult and long road to success and getting any of it is something you should appreciate. There are many other people who would love to be where they’re at. MM

Lauri Donahue is an award-winning screenwriter and script consultant. Visit her website here. Featured image photo credit: rawpixel.com on Unsplash

The post <b>A Screenwriter’s Guide to Getting (and Keeping) an Agent:</b> An Interview with David Boxerbaum of Paradigm appeared first on MovieMaker Magazine.

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Daniel Joyaux <![CDATA[An Extraordinary Life: Jane Goodall’s Story is Told in Brett Morgen’s Gripping New Film]]> https://www.moviemaker.com/?p=50969 2017-10-20T20:50:14Z 2017-10-18T21:00:39Z Since receiving an Oscar nomination for 1999’s On the Ropes, Brett Morgen has become one of the world’s most acclaimed documentarians. Films like 2002’s The Kid Stays in the Picture and 2015’s Emmy-nominated Cobain: Montage of Heck have displayed Morgen’s gift for finding the interiority of his subjects and making it visually palatable in unique […]

The post <b>An Extraordinary Life:</b> Jane Goodall’s Story is Told in Brett Morgen’s Gripping New Film appeared first on MovieMaker Magazine.

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Since receiving an Oscar nomination for 1999’s On the Ropes, Brett Morgen has become one of the world’s most acclaimed documentarians. Films like 2002’s The Kid Stays in the Picture and 2015’s Emmy-nominated Cobain: Montage of Heck have displayed Morgen’s gift for finding the interiority of his subjects and making it visually palatable in unique ways.

Morgen is back with Jane, which begins its theatrical run this week and will subsequently air on the National Geographic Channel in the spring. Telling the story of world-renowned primatologist Jane Goodall, Jane began a few years ago when National Geographic found 140 hours of footage from the 1960s of Goodall in Tanzania’s Gombe Stream National Park, all shot by acclaimed wildlife photographer—and Goodall’s eventual husband—Hugo van Lawick.

To craft that footage into a film, Morgen used new interviews with Goodall, old audio recordings of her work, and a new Philip Glass score. The result, which premiered to a rapturous standing ovation last month at the Toronto International Film Festival, is a gorgeous film that has reduced several critics to tears. MovieMaker spoke to Morgen the day after the premiere about the challenges of creating the film, and how aspiring documentarians can approach such a daunting task.

Daniel Joyaux, MovieMaker Magazine (MM): What was the time gap between when National Geographic discovered the Hugo van Lawick footage and when you were initially contacted?

Brett Morgen (BM): I think it was right around the time that Montage of Heck was coming into existence. So I think while they were contemplating doing this, they saw Montage and gave me a call.

MM: Did they already have a set budget in mind for the project, or were you incorporated into figuring that out?

BM: I think they had an idea, and I also had an idea. I told them before we even started to explore the idea of doing the film, we have to be in the same place.

MM: Can you tell us what the budget was?

BM: It was a little north of $2 million.

MM: You’ve said that the footage they found wasn’t in chronological order. What was the initial sorting process like?

BM: It was a total nightmare. There’s a review that came out yesterday that made it seem like, “What an easy job this was,” like I was just handed 100-plus hours of the most beautiful 16mm footage in the world. Well, if that was the case, we would have premiered last year. And instead we get these 140 hours that were scrambled.

We put on the first reel, and literally 10 minutes in, I realized there was something totally wrong. Every shot is like, here’s a shot of a chimp in a tree, here’s a shot of Jane walking left to right, here’s a shot of an insect… You know, just all over the place. So we stopped, and at that point I’d read a number of books about Jane, so I had a sense of what the narrative was. So I said, Alright, let’s take all the footage of Jane and put that on one reel; let’s take all the footage of chimps eating and put that on one reel—which was a lot [laughs]. Then reels of chimps walking, in trees, sleeping, procreating, and doing nothing. So there were, I think, eight master categories. That enabled me to go through and figure out what we can make the film of. Then at that point I wrote the outline script for the film and we went after it. And initially I didn’t think there would be any dialogue. When I hired Philip [Glass] I just anticipated it was going to be nature sounds and orchestral, because Jane’s not talking in the forest. But I quickly realized you need context to understand these shots.

Jane Goodall and simian friend in a scene from Jane

MM: When you’re picking what footage to use, what specific things are you looking for?

BM: This film is very different, because part of what we were looking for was the lens choice that Hugo would use.

MM: How many different lenses were there?

BM: Hugo would have like six different lenses with him and he’d have three on at a time. But before Hugo enters the film, we didn’t want there to be any shots that were shot with a wide angle, where you could feel that the cameraperson was close to the subject. We wanted to be more formal at that part and then we wanted to break it down. The other thing was, I knew that at some point we were going to break down the fourth wall. So as we’re looking through the footage, I’m trying to identify those moments where Jane’s falling in love on camera, or Hugo and Jane are falling in love with each other, which are my favorite parts of the film.

MM: For film students that want to go into documentary, how do you recommend initially approaching these massive archives? What does Day 1, Hour 1 look like?

BM: I’ve used the same approach for 18 years, and it’s to collect every piece of media, both aural and visual, photographic, newspaper, everything you can get your hands on, put it in chronological order, and start sifting through it. And then, inherently, themes emerge. Narratives emerge before your eyes. You know, part of making these films is about figuring out how to play into your strengths—Okay, I have this footage here and I got this footage here… How can we create a through-line that connects them? Because if I don’t have a solid through-line, I’m not using this. I don’t believe in the whole Wikipedia fucking cliff notes to history. You have a story, and I don’t care how good the fucking footage is, if it doesn’t relate to that story, it’s not going in the movie. You have to be very disciplined that way.

Goodall watches as Hugo van Lawick operates a film camera in Gombe, Tanzania. Courtesy of the Jane Goodall Institute

MM: How did all of that footage from the 1960s look so good?  

BM: Part of that is the way it was preserved. But we did 200-plus hours at a color correcting company. I said to Jane yesterday before the premiere, “I can’t wait to talk to you afterward, because I’m pretty confident that what we have today looks better than it did in ’65.” Because, obviously we’re creating windows within the frame at the color correct. So we’re controlling where your eyes are looking. Eighty percent of when you go, “Wow, that looks great,” is literally us guiding your eye, through very subtle shading, to the point of reference we want you to look at. You’re not supposed to be conscious of it. But if you came to the color correct with me and I put the windows up, you’d be like, “Holy shit dude.”

Of the 140-plus hours we have, I would say there was—no exaggeration—less than a minute of over- or under-exposed footage. Hugo always nailed it. It was incredible. With this film, hopefully a lot of people will get introduced, or be re-introduced, to Jane, and I think in the time we’re living in, that’s a wonderful antidote. She’s the real deal, and should be celebrated. But as a filmmaker, I’m super jazzed about giving Hugo the attention he deserves and warrants as really a progenitor in his field.

MM: You said earlier that initially you didn’t expect Jane to have narration or dialogue. When did the idea of a narrator come in, and was it immediately obvious to you that it should be Jane?

BM: Jane has written almost a dozen books. She’s an amazing writer, and an even better speaker. Early on, we figured out that Jane had recorded a bunch of books on tape, one of which was for a book called A Reason for Hope, and that’s like Jane’s sort of guide to spirituality in Gombe, which gives the film some of that lyricism.

I felt like her voice today had deteriorated to the point that it’s wonderful to come back to for these interviews, but if I used it during the moments where we’re in her present day of the footage, that would make it feel like you’re looking back, and more reflective and pensive. I loved the idea that these were her words, and her writing, and presented in the manner that she felt. She’s an artist. The same way I used Kurt Cobain’s art in Montage of Heck to tell his story, there was nothing more pure to me than using Jane’s own art, and her own writings to express her point of view. If I’m interviewing someone, people don’t necessarily speak in a kind of lyrical manner that comes from writing poetry. And so if I ask Jane to describe, “What was it like when you first arrived in Gombe,” she would tell me something, and it would probably lack some of the texture that we get when Jane goes [impersonates her voice on tape], “The rolling hills, the little streams, the birds and the insects, all walking as one.” You know, she does it better there than anything I could extract or pull from her.

MM: You said yesterday that she was initially skeptical of the project, and it was difficult to get her to open up. Do you recall any sort of moment where you felt that tide shift? 

BM: After the first day, I felt I was getting what I needed about the chimpanzees, but I didn’t feel I had penetrated the Hugo story. I had a two-day shoot, so it was like Frost/Nixon. I went home after the first day, I reviewed my notes, and decided that when I came in the next day I would show her the scene in the film that we had already cut, where Jane and Hugo are falling in love. And I put that on, and her eyes started twinkling, and she went back somewhere where she hadn’t been in a very long time. And we were already lit and I said, “Okay, let’s roll.”

I’m pretty confident at one point that I said to her, “Jane, when we talked about Hugo yesterday, I know you haven’t talked about him in a long time, and I felt it was a little too detached. And I just think it’s important to try and capture what you were feeling in that moment.” This is going back, asking her about this relationship she was in, you know, a lifetime ago for her. But the visual—showing her the footage—just brought it right back for her.

MM: Philip Glass did a lot of documentaries early in his career but has sort of strayed away. Was it hard to get him to go back into that realm?

BM: He’s expensive. I would say he took a significant part of the budget. But he and Jane are the same age, and they’re just two icons. We showed him some stuff we had already started cutting. And he wasn’t aware of Jane’s narrative, but he was immediately struck by the cinematography, and I think he recognized what we were trying to do.

It was interesting because I needed a romantic score, and that’s not necessarily the thing you go to Philip for. But when we got the first set of cues back—it was the first five cues, almost as they exist in the film right now—and I was listening to them with my wife, and she goes, “He’s falling in love with her.” And when I got on the phone with Philip, he goes, “I don’t know if you realized it, but, uh, I think I’m falling in love.” And I said, “No, it’s definitely coming through, and it’s working!”

MM: The final denouement, with the montage and the score reaching its crescendo, is just gorgeous. Were you guiding Philip toward that moment?

BM: Oh, he was so hostile. I kept getting from his team, “Philip doesn’t do DUH DUH DUH DUH” [exaggerates dramatic musical notes]. And it was a tug of war. I knew we needed it. The whole movie was an opera! So we had to build to a big crescendo. And the film was all designed for that.

MM: What sort of documentary subject can we expect from you next?

BM: I can’t announce it yet, but I’m going back to the rock realm. But I think I’m moving away from narrative a little bit. The next set of films is going to be more experiential. I’ve always tried to create experiential cinema, but the stuff I’m working toward is a sort of understanding that, with icons, we know the story. But what I want to get in a theatrical experience is the heart and soul. So with some of these artists, you know, I don’t want to hear that they were born in 1942. That means nothing to me. Let me drink their fucking blood, you know what I mean? I wanna get inside of them. So that’s what we’re gonna try to do. MM

Jane opens in theaters October 20, 2017, courtesy of Abramorama.

The post <b>An Extraordinary Life:</b> Jane Goodall’s Story is Told in Brett Morgen’s Gripping New Film appeared first on MovieMaker Magazine.

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Ko Ricker <![CDATA[Charming After All: San Diego International FF Wows with Unexpected Selections like Thelma and Resistance Is Life]]> https://www.moviemaker.com/?p=50957 2017-10-20T19:24:29Z 2017-10-18T18:58:22Z On my last trip to San Diego, a friend of mine dragged me to a comedy show. “This city’s Gaslamp Quarter is what happens when a frat house decides to build a town,” one of the performers joked. Saturday night in downtown San Diego is indeed reminiscent of a jaunt at my alma mater’s Greek […]

The post <b>Charming After All:</b> San Diego International FF Wows with Unexpected Selections like <i>Thelma</i> and <i>Resistance Is Life</i> appeared first on MovieMaker Magazine.

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On my last trip to San Diego, a friend of mine dragged me to a comedy show. “This city’s Gaslamp Quarter is what happens when a frat house decides to build a town,” one of the performers joked.

Saturday night in downtown San Diego is indeed reminiscent of a jaunt at my alma mater’s Greek row, a time and place I don’t much care to remember. So perhaps you can imagine how I was a bit hesitant to return for a film festival whose three primary venues were smack dab in the middle of SD’s nightlife epicenter. Would America’s Finest City again fail to charm me?

Quite the contrary; I’m happy to report that I was pleasantly surprised to find that San Diego International Film Festival’s programming highlighted some films that were truly dazzling, if at times a bit bewildering. (Major categories that accompanied the standard dramas and docs were the military and equestrian film tracks—both of which make more sense if you’re familiar with San Diego’s significant naval and horse owner communities.) Obvious favorites included Luca Guadagnino and James Ivory’s festival darling Call Me By Your Name, Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and Kurt Voelker’s second feature The Bachelors, which won the festival’s best feature jury award.

Marcel Mohab as Jakob and Pheline Roggan as Nicole in Josef Brandl’s “Nicole’s Cage.” Courtesy of Skalar Film and Concorde Home Entertainment

Some of the more offbeat selections were the festival’s standouts, especially when it came to the short compilations. “Nicole’s Cage,” a German short by Josef Brandl, was presented as a part of the Twisted Shorts slate, a group of quirky and ironically humorous clips. Brandl has worked as a set designer on films such as Cloud Atlas and The Grand Budapest Hotel, and it shows: the eponymous protagonist and her boyfriend Jakob live in an apartment that rotates around on an impossibly large Ferris wheel—and that’s not even remotely the most absurd aspect of their lives. The short cleverly juggles an insane physical environment with the complicated interpersonal politics of entering into a consensual BDSM master–slave relationship.

Ethan Engberg as Rabbit in Molly Katagiri’s “Waabooz,” winner of the festival’s Kumeyaay Award that was screened as part of the American Indian Stories compilation. Courtesy of Flamingo Films

SDIFF revealed some room for improvement on the panels front when two of the three shorts compilations I attended suddenly cancelled their advertised Q&As. I was gratified by a change of pace, however, after the American Indian Stories set, which was put together with the help of the festival’s American Indian Advisory Board, a diverse group of representatives from San Diego County’s many Indigenous tribes. Of the six shorts screened, four sent moviemakers to speak, and it was promising to see the festival highlight such an underrepresented group of voices in film.

Eili Harboe as Thelma in Joachim Trier’s latest film. Courtesy of The Orchard

Bar perhaps Call Me By Your Name, Norwegian thriller Thelma was by far the most impressive dramatic feature of the weekend. Louder Than Bombs director Joachim Trier has again teamed up with writer Eskil Vogt to deliver a film chock full of symbolism and metaphor that brings to mind Black Swan. At once chilling and heartwarming, Thelma is equal parts coming-of-age tale and supernatural thriller. The movie, which had its world premiere in August at the Norwegian International Film Festival, and its U.S. premiere at Fantastic Fest in September, follows Thelma, a young student who has just moved from rural Norway to Oslo. Thelma struggles to reconcile her religious upbringing with the influence of her new metropolitan (read: largely atheist) peers and a developing romance with another girl. Throw in some powerful not-so-subtext about the historical persecution of witches and its intersection with the treatment of mentally ill women, as well as some frankly gorgeous imagery, and you’ve got one of the most stunning features of 2017.

Evlin of Resistance Is Life plays with her school friends in a refugee camp on the border of Turkey and Syria. Photograph by Courtnay Robbins Bragagnolo

On the doc side of things, Apo W. Bazidi’s Resistance Is Life provided a welcome look into the hopeful perspective of some of the refugees from ISIS’s 2014–2015 siege of the Turkish-Syrian border town of Kobane, without pulling any punches. Bazidi’s primary focus is young Evlin, an 8-year-old girl with a fighter’s spirit who lives in a refugee camp on the border. Evlin, who is absolutely captivating, is maybe the most expertly chosen or fortuitously discovered subject of any documentary I’ve ever seen. Who better to embody the never-say-die mentality of the Kobane people than a little Kurdish girl whose heroes are the freedom fighter group the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and, more specifically, their female counterparts the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ)? Neither overly saccharine nor obstructively grim, Resistance Is Life paints a humane and optimistic picture of the situation of displaced Syrian refugees rarely seen by Western audiences.

SDIFF bills itself as a premiere event, and it delivers: celebrities like Sir Patrick Stewart and Kumail Nanjiani graced its red carpet, and San Diegans partied at a Friday-night celebration in Horton Plaza that lit up all of downtown—well, more than it was already lit up, that is. But beyond the glitz and glam, the festival also had the programming to back itself up. From world premieres like the horror movie Dismissed starring Dylan Sprouse, to Down the Fence, a doc that profiles the journey of horse trainers preparing for one of the most challenging championships in the world, San Diego International Film Festival surprised and delighted at every turn. MM

San Diego International Film Festival (SDIFF) ran from October 4 to October 8, 2017. For more information, visit the festival’s website here. Top image courtesy of San Diego International Film Festival.

The post <b>Charming After All:</b> San Diego International FF Wows with Unexpected Selections like <i>Thelma</i> and <i>Resistance Is Life</i> appeared first on MovieMaker Magazine.

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Max Weinstein <![CDATA[Exclusive: Watch John Malkovich Narrate the End of the World in Short Film “Hell” (Video)]]> https://www.moviemaker.com/?p=50941 2017-10-20T02:16:29Z 2017-10-17T22:42:48Z If thou stare long into John Malkovich, John Malkovich will also gaze into thee. And when he reads you a “requiem for humanity,” you should probably listen. In director Sandro’s short film “Hell”—proudly presented as a MovieMaker exclusive—Malkovich dons military attire while standing against a backdrop of nightmarish projected imagery, and delivers the dialogue of Plato as a […]

The post <b>Exclusive:</b> Watch John Malkovich Narrate the End of the World in Short Film “Hell” (Video) appeared first on MovieMaker Magazine.

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If thou stare long into John Malkovich, John Malkovich will also gaze into thee. And when he reads you a “requiem for humanity,” you should probably listen.

In director Sandro’s short film “Hell”—proudly presented as a MovieMaker exclusive—Malkovich dons military attire while standing against a backdrop of nightmarish projected imagery, and delivers the dialogue of Plato as a post-apocalyptic prophecy about the human condition. The film will either be bleak and disturbing or strangely comforting (or both), depending on how you’re feeling about the world these days, but regardless, it’s nearly impossible to look away from.

“Hell” is one of a series of ongoing collaborations from the avant-garde triple threat of Sandro, Malkovich, and composer Eric Alexandrakis that comprise their digital album, Hell on Earth. Another title in the series, a tribute to the works of David Lynch entitled “Psychogenic Fugue,” was shortlisted earlier this year at Cannes Lions. The 10-track, 23-minute soundtrack to your impending doom is now available on iTunes, but for now you can watch Malkovich perform its monologue of madness right here. MM

The post <b>Exclusive:</b> Watch John Malkovich Narrate the End of the World in Short Film “Hell” (Video) appeared first on MovieMaker Magazine.

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Caleb Hammond <![CDATA[Frame of Mind: To Blend Real and CG FX, The Osiris Child’s Team Built A Sci-Fi Set On Their Sound Stage Roof (Video)]]> https://www.moviemaker.com/?p=50916 2017-10-19T18:09:05Z 2017-10-17T18:52:31Z What makes a scene work? Does it lie in the carefully executed plans of a film’s cast and crew? Or does the magic rest upon fortuitous mistakes, spontaneity and improvisation? What steps must be taken to convey your vision and intent? Watch our video series, Frame of Mind, to get answers to these questions and more from commentators working in a wide variety […]

The post <b>Frame of Mind:</b> To Blend Real and CG FX, <i>The Osiris Child</i>’s Team Built A Sci-Fi Set On Their Sound Stage Roof (Video) appeared first on MovieMaker Magazine.

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What makes a scene work?

Does it lie in the carefully executed plans of a film’s cast and crew? Or does the magic rest upon fortuitous mistakes, spontaneity and improvisation? What steps must be taken to convey your vision and intent? Watch our video series, Frame of Mind, to get answers to these questions and more from commentators working in a wide variety of areas in production who’ll guide you through clips from their films, in their own words. Moviemakers and film fans: Grab your notepads, popcorn, or both, and press play.


Budgetary concerns should never taper the scope of any moviemaker’s vision. Australian moviemaker Shane Abbess has been crafting ambitious sci-fi epics for a while, and by now has nailed all the D.I.Y. details that are unnoticeable for a viewer immersed in his worlds. In this clip for The Osiris Child, Abbess lends his inside knowledge, letting us in on little secrets like how his team retrofitted the roof of the soundstage for this action sequence. Without getting lost in the immensity of the world he created, Abbess still takes notice of small details, like ensuring his lead Kellan Lutz isn’t handling his firearm too professionally. The chief job of the director: keeping the macro and the micro in mind at all times, Abbess showcases mastery of this balance.

What did you take away from Abbess’ Frame of Mind? Let us know in the comments below. MM

The Osiris Child opened in theaters October 6, 2017 and is now available on VOD, courtesy of RLJ Entertainment. Video courtesy of RLJ Entertainment. 

The post <b>Frame of Mind:</b> To Blend Real and CG FX, <i>The Osiris Child</i>’s Team Built A Sci-Fi Set On Their Sound Stage Roof (Video) appeared first on MovieMaker Magazine.

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MM Staff <![CDATA[The World’s 15 Bloody Best Genre Fests, 2018]]> https://www.moviemaker.com/?p=50828 2017-10-17T20:22:18Z 2017-10-16T15:55:58Z The language of fear, like that of music, is universal. Put all the people who’ve weathered hurricanes’ swift destruction of communities, withstood the wrath of earthquakes, lived in the shadow of nuclear threats, and endured the horror of random gun violence in a room together, and they’ll agree on one thing: We are scared. From […]

The post <b>The World’s 15 Bloody Best Genre Fests, 2018</b> appeared first on MovieMaker Magazine.

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The language of fear, like that of music, is universal.

Put all the people who’ve weathered hurricanes’ swift destruction of communities, withstood the wrath of earthquakes, lived in the shadow of nuclear threats, and endured the horror of random gun violence in a room together, and they’ll agree on one thing: We are scared.

From Mexico to South Korea to the U.S., a myriad of locations comprise the constellation of film festival home bases represented in this list—MovieMaker’s first-ever rundown of the World’s 15 Bloody Best Genre Fests. Of course, our criteria for selecting these top hubs—which harbor the sicker, stranger side of cinema—measure their art and business-centric strengths over all else. But it’s worth noting that in genre moviemaking, fear is business, and business is good. A great genre film festival, at its core, is a celebration of that fact.

No one-size-fits-all answer can determine which of these fests are beasts among mortals, so to sink our fangs into the most eclectic roundup possible, we summoned the insights of expert panelists—six trusted allies of both mainstream and underground genre film culture whose industry roles include writer-director, producer, festival director, festival coordinator, investor, genre journalist, and podcast host. (Some hold several of these titles simultaneously.)

Genre freaks are known for their passion and devotion, and usually (sorry, elitists) for their acceptance of those newly initiated into their legion of doom—which means that the festivals they run, in addition to their surgically precise curation, have something for everyone. Low-budget moviemaker itching to slash your way through a competition? Dying to eat the brains and gain the knowledge of indie auteurs in a master class? Seeking thrills not just inside the theater but also in a live interactive horror event? If you check any of these boxes, there’s a haunted home that awaits you.

We hope that this list will be your flashlight in the dark abyss of your genre festival hunt, and that it’ll possess you to submit to them yourself… if you dare. — Max Weinstein

Children of the Night: Our 2018 Panelists

Roxanne Benjamin is an L.A.-based moviemaker and producer, known for horror film anthologies V/H/S, Southbound, and XX.

Mitch Davis is the co-director of the Fantasia International Film Festival*, as well as co-director of its international programming. He directed the shorts “Divided Into Zero” (1999) and “God’s Little Girl” (2007), produced Karim Hussain’s Subconscious Cruelty (2000), and is associate producer of ABCs of Death 2 (2014).

Mike Flanagan wrote, directed, and edited acclaimed horror features Absentia (2011), Oculus (2013), Hush, Before I Wake, and Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016). His feature adaptation of Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game was released on Netflix September 29, 2017.

Mick Garris has directed multiple Stephen King adaptations, including Sleepwalkers (1992), The Stand (1994), and the miniseries version of The Shining (1997). He is the creator of the Showtime anthology series Masters of Horror and host of the podcast Post Mortem With Mick Garris.

Horror Equity Fund, Inc. (HEF) is a company that discovers, develops, assists in the funding of, and accelerates to market horror-centric projects across all media. For more info, visit HorrorEquityFund.com.

Joe Yanick is the festival and non-theatrical manager of Visit Films and the co-director of the Miskatonic Institute for Horror Studies N.Y.C.

* To avoid biased participation, Mitch Davis refrained from voting for his own festival.

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