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Mise En Scene February 10
Silent Alarm Stirs Sleepy Town
Sometimes reality and fantasy collide, as in "Silent Alarm," a feature about a blocked writer writing about the Bondage and Discipline community who then turns to them for help. Hardly the stuff suggested by the island of Alameda, were postproduction is currently finishing, but probably figuring in some denizen's dreams.
A stylish and provocative film, with some wild action and a happy ending, "Silent Alarm" follows a disgruntled hero on an Orphic journey into a seemingly dark world, where the precise administration of pain can ease anxiety.
Co-directed, written, and produced, as well as acted in, by Gerry Moog (above), this is his first feature, after 25 years experience in the theatre as an actor, director, and acting teacher. Unfortunately, he fell seriously ill right before shooting and had to hand over some directorial chores to one of his actors Clody Cates.
"It was very difficult for my actors and myself to adjust to," Moog admitted. Cates was well-versed in the filmic process but not that experienced with motivating actors. "My interaction with actors and her directing was a very delicate balance. I spent a great deal of time talking things through with the actors."
The writer is Moog himself, co-director Cates is a B&D Queen, and a bunch of Bay Area talent - Jefferey Davis, Emiko King, Irakli Tabidze, Jack Stahl, Jammie Harrington, and June McCue - provide great supporting performances. The DP was Dan Schmeltzer and editor Kyle Parker. It was shot for around $200,000, which is about the lowest you can go and still have minimal amenities, like lunches. With the film almost done, Moog is talking with a couple of distributors in LA. Despite the travails of the project, it seems "Silent Alarm" will sound some good signals soon. - D. Blair
Mill Valley Fest Now Distros
In a boon to Bay Area indies, the California Film Institute of San Rafael, which has mounted the popular Mill Valley Film Festival for 32 years, will start theatrical distribution. This has long been a goal to further their mission, institute founder and director Mark Fishkin noted, when announcing the new non-profit division, CFI Releasing. They will start with "Touching Home," starring Ed Harris and written and directed by Marin denizens Noah and Logan Miller.
"'Touching Home' is the perfect choice for our initial offering," Fishkin said. "What the Miller brothers accomplished epitomizes the independent spirit of filmmaking and the kind of films we want to distribute. They had no experience in Hollywood or the film industry but achieved their dreams through sheer determination."
"Being able to release 'Touching Home' goes back to our original roots," added Richard Idell, head of CFI's board. "Since then, we've grown into a renowned international film festival, opened the state-of-the-art Smith Rafael Film Center, and developed our education program, which serves over 4,500 students each year."
CFI Releasing will have a limited release of "Touching Home" this spring in seven major markets, including San Francisco, with a gala premiere at the Smith Center, attended by the filmmakers and some of the crew and cast. "Either You're in or You're in the Way," the Miller Brothers' bestselling memoir about making the film, is already then in paperback.
"Our focus will be on distributing independent films with an original voice," Fishkin said. "Our hope is that these films and their filmmakers will greatly benefit from our long film festival and theatrical presentation experience." See:
or 415.383.5256. - D. Blair
Good Doc Sales at Sundance
"Waiting for Superman," a film by Davis Guggenheim about new education methods, was purchased at the Sundance Festival for an unknown fee by Paramount, which did well with his earlier doc, the world-famous "Inconvenient Truth." The transaction occurred even before host Robert Redford unpacked his bags, which was taken as a good sign. It will be wide released this fall in the US and later world-wide.
Produced by Participant Media, "Waiting for Superman" looks at the crisis crippling the US and especially California, where shortsighted taxation has brought a once-mighty school system to its knees. It features folks with innovative new ideas, like Geoffrey Canada of Harlem Children's Zone and Bill Gates. "We have a chance to create public awareness around this issue," said Guggenheim. "This is the only way we can make real change in our children's schools."
Redford and Sundance's new director, John Cooper, a California native but New York actor, are struggling to remove the Hollywood tinsel festooning a festival that was once the pride of the West's indie, alt and eco media makers. "You have to keep rejuvenating yourself from time to time," Redford told "Variety Magazine."
Sadly, "ambush marketers" and "distro johns" have usurped the scene, holding lavish parties with swag and celebs, in the name of expanding their slice of the industry pie while ignoring the innovators who bake it. To counter this and highlight smaller projects, Sundance has added a program of "small" films with under a half-a-million budgets and an eight city/eight filmmaker touring festival following the "mother" festival.
With the sale of "Waiting for Superman" - if all goes well between Paramount and Warner Bros. wrangling over its name - Sundance cognescenti hope other sales will soon follow: "A Small Act," Jennifer Arnold's movie about sponsoring children in Africa, or Junger and Hetherington "Restrepo" about the Afghan War, or "Catfish," by Joost and Schulman, making this a much better year then 09. - D. Blair
Snader Expo A Success
Although the down economy is hurting equipment vendors more than most, the 16th annual Snader Expo went comparatively well. "We had 624 people attend and 93 booths with over 100 exhibitors, despite blasting rain," said Katie Carney, Snader's marketing master and expo manager. Now the emphasis is on closing sales from the show. "We survived last year and '2010 better be better,' is our slogan," she said. See snader.com for exhibitors and seminars.
Farnsworth Chile Doc Awarded
Elizabeth Farnsworth, Bay Area Filmmaker and correspondent for "The News Hour with Jim Lehrer," picked up the prestigious Alfred duPont-Columbia Award (broadcast news' Pulitzer) for "The Judge and the General," also co-produced and co-directed by Chilean filmmaker Patricio Lanfranco (shown in photo). It premiered at the 2008 SF Film Fest, aired on "P.O.V." and earned a slew of other awards.
"Patricio Lanfranco and I are thrilled about this," said Farnsworth. "[It] honors not only us but the remarkable group of people who worked with us." Indeed, its crew is a veritable "who's who" for Bay Area doc makers: Blair Gershkow (editor), AndrŽs Cediel (co-producer), Rob Weiss (coordinating producer), Mar’a JosŽ Calder—n (associate producer), Amanda Beck (production assistant), Michael Anderson (camera), Vicente Franco (cameraman), Dave Wendlinger (sound), Video Arts (on-line edit, color correct), Loren Sorensen (editor), Pete Horner and Chris Barnett (sound mix at Skywalker). Funding came from local philanthropists Bernard Osher and Stephen Silberstein and ITVS.
"The Judge and the General" lifts the veil on one of the 20th century's most notorious episodes but in a unique way. In 1998, Chilean Judge Juan Guzm‡n opened the first criminal cases against General Pinochet, but no one expected much, especially since Guzm‡n supported the 1973 coup that left four thousand dead and more "disappeared." But the film follows the judge's own journey into what he calls "the abyss," since he played a role in the tragedy, and is a good example of a doc examining the "greys" rather then the "black and white" of moral turpitude. - D. Blair
The 2nd Bay Area International Children's Film Festival was held January 23-24 at Michaan's Auctions, a restored Art Deco movie theater in Alameda. It included three dozen films, both live-action and animated, feature-length and short, from all over the US and the world. It also featured animation workshops with Pixar storyboarders Matthew Luhn and Valerie LaPointe, who helped kids make characters, flipbooks and zoetropes screened later each day.
Special guest Dutchman Jules Oosterwegel, who has filmed more than 300 children's street games in 20 countries, held a game event and screened some of his films. Other pieces played were the Canadian animation "The Man Who Planted Trees" (1987), the animated films of Nick Park, of "Wallace and Gromit" fame, and Pixar's Jim Capobianco's new animated film, "Leonardo," about Da Vinci's dreams of flight.
Shelley Trott, a dancer and choreographer, and one of the parents who founded the festival, joked how the group was "pretty green; we still haven't contacted a lot of companies about corporate sponsorships." But the Media Alliance is helping this year, and relationships are being formed. "We hope to help Jules Oosterwegel further his project of gathering street games with a Website. We want the festival to have an educational component."
"It's been pretty intense!" Trott exclaimed. "But we'll see how successful it is this year with two days. Last year, we had over 700 attending in one day. It showed us how much demand for this sort of thing. Next year, we hope to have open submissions." The festival is committed to "present culturally diverse, value-affirming cinema for and about children"- essentially an annual "Playdate for the Imagination." - D. Blair
SuperMeet for EdIting on Mac
This year's SuperMeet, covering Digital Editing/Shooting in a Mac environment, will be held at the Mission Bay Conference Center (1675 Owens St) on Friday, Feb 5th. An annual event held in San Francisco, Las Vegas, and London (and soon other places), it will feature new products, digital tricks, and "show 'n' tells" from some great editors, tech gurus, and filmmakers.
They will also have a Digital Showcase of products and a raffle of $40,000 worth of gear, free classes from Canon, Adobe, & Red Giant, and hula dancing (the latter is deemed unlikely by Scott McDaniel, who tipped us to this event).
The lineup includes Best Workflow for shooting HD with Canon still cameras (all the rage among "no-budget" indies), --Joe Bogacz of Canon presenting; Alexandre Domingue, prez of Post-Moderne demo-ing Smoke; debut of the music vid "Destroy Me" from Lilofee, directed by Jordan Livingston, with effects by Academy of Art SF students; 3D from Apple Motion expert Mark Spencer; Final Cut guru Kevin Monahan; HandHeldHollywood showing off new iPhone apps; and much more. - D. Blair
Library of Congress Bay Shorts
For their annual addition, the Library of Congress' Film Registry has selected two shorts made in the Bay Area. This is an honor roll of culturally, aesthetically or historically significant works including Chuck Jones' "What's Opera Doc?," Bob Clampett's "Porky In Wackyland," Fleischer's "Snow White" (1933), Pixar's "Toy Story," and several Disney gems, including "Fantasia," "Steamboat Willie," and "Three Little Pigs." The 25 additions for 2009 include Sally Cruikshank's animated "Quasi at the Quackadero" (1975), made while she was an animator in SF with Snazelle Films (1972- 81) and Sidney Peterson's "The Lead Shoes" (1949).
The Registry calls "Quasi at the Quackadero," a wildly imaginative tale of creatures visiting a psychedelic amusement park, unique. It became a midnight movie favorite in the 1970s. Cruikshank's credits include "Fun on Mars," "Ducky," "Make Me Psychic," sequences for "Sesame Street," and a sequence in "Twilight Zone: The Movie" (1983). See funonmars.com
Peterson's "'The Lead Shoes' is a dreamlike trip through the unconscious acts of a disturbed mind using a distorted lens and other abstract techniques [such as reverse and stop motion]," said the writer and indie filmmaker, sometimes called the father of SF avant-garde cinema, who worked with students from the San Francisco Art Institute. "Narrative succumbs to the comic devices of illogic," he concluded. - K. Cohen
Asian American Fest Coming
The 28th Annual San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival is coming March 11-21, with screenings and panel discussions in San Francisco, Berkeley, and San Jose. Two competitions - one for narrative, another for feature documentary - will bring some 200 industry guests and filmmakers to the festival. The narrative side includes Kit Hui's "Fog" and the feature doc competition will have "A Village Called Versailles," a story of Vietnamese-Americans in post-Katrina New Orleans by local favorite S. Leo Chian, while non-competitive showcases will involve Asia and the Diaspora.
This year's festival will also present a focus on Filipino cinema, including retrospectives, new work, and a game. One of the festival's highlights will be the world premiere of Dean Borshay Liem's new feature-length documentary, "In The Matter of Cha Jung Hee." There will also be a special screening of the hit Chinese film, "City of Life and Death," an epic about Chinese resistance during Japanese occupation.
A small but well-organized festival, the SFIAAFF allows attendees to see more films and meet more industry professionals than many larger festivals. The Festival has long been the premier launching pad for new films and has introduced many Americans to the early work of successful Asian American directors, including Wayne Wang, Mira Nair, Ang Lee, Deepa Mehta, Gurinder Chadha, M. Night Shyamalan, and Justin Lin. See: festival.asianamericanmedia.org
While it's the 28th year for the festival, the parent organization, the Center for Asian American Media, is celebrating its 30th year. CAAM also produces films and holds the country's largest collection of Asian American media. There will be a gala dinner, retrospective, and new works on the Website. Special passes were available last year, including a $50 pass to 11 films at the Castro - presumably, this year there will be a similar offer. The official program will be released on February 9th and tickets go on sale shortly thereafter. - R. Seifert
Posted on Mar 08, 2010 - 04:51 PM