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Mise En Scene December 09
Black Dynamite showed at the Oakland Underground Film Fest
Oakland UnderGround Fest Hit
"I can't describe how I felt that night walking down Grand Avenue with Adam [Lamoreaux of Linden Street Brewery," said Kahlil Karn, Oakland Underground Film Festival's director/founder. "A large crowd of film lovers were lined up at the Grand Lake for a midnight screening of one of the best indies of the year, 'Black Dynamite,' only 8 weeks after we started."
The three-day event was attended by local producer Molly Lynch, with her doc "Big River Man,"and "Black Dynamite"'s star Michael Jai White (above) and director Scott Sanders, who bombed up from LA to attend midnight screenings at the Castro and Grand Lake. Ironically, "Black Dynamite" received Best Comedy at Sundance this year, and is showing to crowds across Europe but was only timidly distributed in the US by Sony. Karn and his small posse of dedicated volunteers premiered it in the Bay Area, proving they can bring festival glitz.
In just three weeks, they organized parties, emailed, called, flyered, Facebooked and Twittered massively. In addition to Linden Street, they got support from KALX, KPOO, Davey D at KPFA, and the East Bay Express, leading to what Allen Michaan called "a minor miracle:" over 500 folks at the Castro and selling out the Grand Lake with over 600, November 20-21.
"Michael and Scott were thrilled we filled the sweetest movie house in Oakland for their film," commented Karn, "And the Oakland Film Office were also very impressed and vowed to support us in any way they can."
Out of love for Oakland and for cinema, the plucky little festival played way out of its league. Karn thanks a talented team that worked free for weeks while holding down day jobs: notably media director Colette Washington and Jay Johnson, video engineer. "They believed in the OakUFF and nurtured it from a tiny seed to a burgeoning oak," Karn says, intending to refine the strategy to bring more hot indies to Oakland. For more
— D. Blair
Cinematog Michael Umansky films a Panzer on Hans Beerbaum's land in Petaluma.
Petaluma Makes War Movies
Hans Beerbaum is an ambitious man. Having supplied antique Russian tanks and other vehicles to films like Soderbergh's "The Good German" and "Valkyrie," starring Tom Cruise, he decided to simply start shooting his own World War II epic on his property in Petaluma, where there's plenty of room to blow things up.
"A Class 3 weapons license means that our weapons fire safely on full-auto," he says. Fearing a demo, I change the subject and ask why he's undertaking this elaborate project. "The goal is to produce a trailer and a promotional DVD to show what the finished product would look like," he says. When he's satisfied that he's gathered enough footage to pitch a feature, he'll try to interest investors and a hire a director.
"Kameraden" (German for buddies) tells of two officers trying to surrender to the Americans as the Russians close in. Beerbaum found plenty of native Russian speakers to play soldiers. According to Arseniy Arkhipov, barely in his twenties, "Our military jargon was what we were able to remember from watching all of those patriotic Russian movies when we were younger."
Although the production has used REDs, the main cameraman has been SF-based Michael Umansky (shown above) who uses a HVX-200 and is planning his own 45-minute World War II film with some of Beerbaum's "toys" in January.
"Unlike 'Inglourious Basterds,' which is complete fantasy, everything in this movie is realistic, plausible and drawn from the historical record," Beerbaum says. "The history of World War II is so rich we don't need to make things up." See YouTube
— A. Adams
Although porn's three billion dollar a year industry is dwarfed by the California "Green Rush," it is still a pretty penny according Peter Acworth, the English Columbia Biz School whiz kid who owns Kink. Located in the SF Armory, (see kink.com), they do about 14.5 million annually, have over 90 employees and 401Ks, and specialize in, as the name suggests, kink.
Scene from a California nude beach story.
"I think sex is our ultimate creative drive," says Kink producer Regina Lynn, in the Current TV Vanguard doc "Porn 2.0," by Christopher Putzel. "We are a tool oriented species... very creative... and horny. The tech/sex connection is intertwined and always has been. Telegraph operators had a secret language so they could flirt."
Porn was born, it is said, the night of the day Gutenberg invented the printing press. It has been integral to tech ever since - helping decide between VHS and Betamax in the 1980s and stimulating DSL use in the 2000s. But last year DVD sales were down by 50%. Indeed, after it polishes off newspapers, the Internet may kill professional porn. Gonzo porn is flooding the Web; small cameras give anyone with a decent body access to the "art," and pirates are seizing broadcast and streaming to handheld devices.
The only frontier left is combining 3D and vulva biotech into virtual sex OR reviving the aesthetics recommended by women porn -stars and -sters. Something mysterious and dialectic, i.e. sexy, might resuscitate the longings of a digitized but digitally out of touch generation. And SF, not the old porn hub San Fernando Valley, might be its premier place.
— D. Blair
Still from Prayers for Peace by Dustin Grella
Powerful 'Prayers For Peace'
Among the most interesting films of the San Francisco International Festival of Short Films this September was "Prayers for Peace" by Dustin Grella, a narrative stop-motion animation created with pastel chalks on slate (shown below). Dustin confronts the memory of his brother Devin, who was killed after serving three months in Iraq, using visuals assembled from pictures found on his brother's laptop.
Each image is drawn over the previous so the memory of what once was remains and evokes the impermanence of all life. The film's highlight is the inclusion of clips from Devin's computer, notably one recorded in area of Najaf, where his tanker was blown up on the way to Fallujah, making it a very personal message from Devin in some of his final moments. With machine guns going off close by, he says: "I was hoping to hear more bombs. It's quieted down now. It's crazy out here, and kind of exciting." There are more explosions. "This is a big mission. I'm just glad to be a part of it, I guess."
After the screening, there was a Q&A with Dustin, who said he never understood why his brother joined the army - it was a conversation they had not had- but the audio clip provide Dustin with a sense of resolution at the end of this beautiful film. "Prayers for Peace" took nearly 17 months to complete, and Dustin has been working in the chalk medium for over four years. More
— E. Karp
MediaOne Gets Magnetic Image
MediaOne, one of the largest production companies in the Bay Area, took over Marin's Magnetic Image, run by the genial Larry Kenworthy and pioneers in HD and flypacks. Having worked with everyone from the Giants and Wells Fargo to Hewlett-Packard and NASA, the two companies will become a one-stop shop with "real efficiencies and cost benefits," according to Benjamin Schick, MediaOne's CEO.
From studio digital platforms to remote locations, "We complement each other well and share the common objective of ensuring absolute customer satisfaction," Schick said. Indeed, merger is an option many media businesses are exploring in this tightened market.
— D. Blair
Dan Dillman in front of his new Historic Bal Theater in San Leandro.
San Leandro's Bal Reopens
Producer/director/designer Dan Dillman (above) purchased the 800-seat Bal Theatre in San Leandro (14808 E. 14th) at a steal in this down market to fulfill a dream he's had since 14. Once home to Mexican comedies and "Rocky Horror" midnight shows, the Historic Bal Theater, as it's now called, intends to show indie docs, midnight specials and quality one-offs.
Upstairs is Dillman's Xzault Media ("exult"), a pre/post movie, music,Web facility (worked for Adobe, AT&T and others); downstairs is a computer repair shop, making the Historic Bal a full service media center, also available for four-walling, call F. Gonzalez 510-895-9002.
— D. Blair
Posted on Dec 01, 2009 - 05:16 PM