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Crew Call Feb 2011
Charles Ferguson, East Bay director of the devastating and Oscar-winning 'Inside Job,' chides the corporate masters in front of 37.6 million people (down 9% from last year). photo courtesy: Academy of Motion Pictures
The Little Gold Men
The Oscars have passed meaning the winter is over and LA can get back to work. Although some critics dissed the show as lackluster, locals shined, with East Bay filmmakers taking home the little gold man for documentary and animated feature, 'Inside Job,' by Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs, and 'Toy Story 3'... (continued from home page) ...directed by Lee Unkrich.
Ferguson didn't wear jeans, as threatened, but did pull a polite Michael Moore in his acceptance speech. " Forgive me," noted the Berkeley resident, who moved into film after stints as a economic think-tanker and dotcom millionaire, "I must start by pointing out that three years after our horrific financial crisis caused by financial fraud, not a single financial executive has gone to jail, and that's wrong." It is a great film, in the hard hitting Bay Area doc tradition, especially considering he has only done one previous film ("No End In Sight," about the Iraq war, 2007) , and without the hyperbole that sometimes mars our more KPFA analysis.
Unkrich was more circumspect, although he did poke a little fun at his "movie about talking toys." "Toy Story 3" is not only Pixar's 11th hit in a row, a record unmatched by any studio anywhere, but it made most critics' top ten list—including Quentin Tarrantino's. Unkrich was both highly appreciative of Pixar as a place to work and brief.
Bay Area Update
Elsewhere around the Bay, things have been picking up from the inevitable void-of-course between Christmas and the Academy blowouts. Oakland's new Mayor Jean Quan has not addressed film specifically but she's known to be enthusiastic and hands on and knows the city needs every job it can get. Among other productions, Oakland had a shoot for an episode for 'Disappeared,' the reality show from New York, and a Yahoo industrial among other recent projects. The latter, mounted by Kaboom and directed by Doug Werby, was filmed at City Hall and in Rockridge.
In "beautiful" West Oakland, "Surviving the Recession" by Diaunty Thompson finished while Phillip Kaufman's 'Hemingway and Gellhorn' started. Starring Nicole Kidman and Clive Owens, arguably the two biggest stars to grace our streets since Tom Hanks (who had a nice little Oscar cameo) last dropped by to visit his high school buds, "Hemingway" rolled tape at the old train station starting on February 26. Although CineSource contacted HBO publicity as well as various others close to the production, they evidently feel they would be 'sitting ducks in Oakland' (gangbangers wanting autographs?) and are keeping it closed. One rumor has it that
, of Academy of Art and Hollywood fame, might play Kidman's mother.
Meanwhile, in San Francisco, another new mayor, Edwin Lee, hasn't said much about filmmaking but his chief film commissioner, Susannah Greason Robbins, certainly has. She is on the case and proving to be a very hard worker. Not only did Ms. Robbins devise the "Scene in San Francisco Vendor Discount Program" (see
) in collaboration with outgoing Mayor Gavin Newsom, but she is constantly on the road to LA and elsewhere promoting it.
And it has paid off, notably with "Hemingway." Assisted by incentives, local director Philip Kaufman ("The Right Stuff" 1983, "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" 1988, "Henry & June" 1990, "Quills" 2000) was able to set up nicely on the Embarcadero's Pier 80. Moreover, the program has started attracting other productions, bringing 2010's city shooting days up almost a third from 2009.
These include NBC's "17th Precinct," the pilot for which is shooting this month in San Francisco's delux Excelsior district. A crime drama, it is characterized as Harry Potter meets CFI with a fantasy angle. It is being helmed by Ronald Moore (born July 5, 1964) is, a California-native screenwriter and producer acclaimed for his contributions to "Star Trek: Final Destination" and " Battlestar Galactica." Friends of CS close to the production say, "The screenplay was a page turner with a great ending."
Of course, only exteriors will roll here with remainder shot in Vancouver, obligatory for "17th Precinct"'s effects ladened story since San Francisco lacks a decent sound stage. Yes, there is Treasure Island and Joe Madden's
but the former is too noisy, due to proximity to the Bay Bridge, and the latter, while the largest in N. Cal, a too long a commute from the recreational centers of SF. Lucas is said to be building a "state of the art" studio but Skywalker Ranch is also a long drive, especially at commute time. Although helicopters are an answer, that is how Bill Graham died.
Dream Big: Let's Plan a Bay Area Studio
Bay Area Deluxe Sound Stage: The obvious location for one is the old Alameda Island Naval Base with its three square miles and massive views. illo: D. Blair
The obvious answer is the western tip of Alameda Island. Pancake flat, the ex-Navy base is blessed with stunning views, no structures needing dismantling and 12 or nine miles to SF or Oakland International airports, respectively, which a hydroplane could cover in a similar number of minutes. The only liability to a world class sound stage or two would be the fog horns on a foggy days. But, as environmentalists, we have to let the world intrude on occaision.
Indeed, life does rear its head and the biggest news of the month is of course the Arab Revolution, the fantastic changes from which are impossible to exaggerate. It will be interesting to hear the views on that of Ido Haar, " Melting Siberia" (2006), the lauded Israeli social and political documentarian, who will be the SF Film Society's first Education Artist in Residence. Coincidentally, a doc shot in Israel, "
Strangers No More
," by New Yorkers Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon took the Academy Award for short doc, but they probably won't be getting over to Egypt any time soon, meaning we are waiting for the new contingent of Middle East doc makers to step up.
All in all, the recession seems to be over for Los Angeles and many local filmmakers, although somuch more needs to be done to rebound from the loss of the big ad agencies and animation houses and the dot com debacle. A professional sound stage on Alameda would be great but, aside from the phenomenal Pixars and Lucases, our specialties are indie docs and features. In fact, the budget "Winter's Bone," directed and written by Debra Granik (her second outing after the 2004 " Down to the Bone"), although it didn't win an Oscar, as well as Ferguson's "Inside Job" proves we outsiders can get in if our quality and our intensity is high enough.
Posted on Mar 01, 2011 - 05:03 AM