Mar 28, 2017
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Mise En Scene March 10
Lucas Leaping with Faeries
SF Bay's own George Lucas has begun work on a highly-guarded CGI-animation musical. The legendary director has been largely inactive since 2005's "Revenge of the Sith," though he is finishing "Red Tails," a feature about the Tuskegee Airmen, a crucial African-American unit in World War II. Not much is known about this "top secret" project coming together at the otherworldly Skywalker Ranch, save it was written by David Berenbaum ("Elf," "Spiderwick Chronicles") and is being directed by the Canadian Kevin Munroe ("Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles").
Lucas, whose last experience with a musical was on Francis Ford Coppola's "Finian's Rainbow," a couple of generations ago (1968), has remained completely mum on the matter. Industrial Light & Magic had no comment for CineSource, either. Inside sources, however, have said that the animated musical will draw from various genres and one central theme is faeries.
If Lucas has lept on the faerie bandwagon, he will join more than half a dozen films this year and next to feature the fantastical creatures. There is "Legion," about a fallen angel; Miley Cyrus will appear in the Disney faerie-tale "Wings," about a girl who sprouts faerie wings; and Universal is adapting "Wicked Lovely," about a teenage girl who falls for a faerie suitor.
How can this trend be explained? Fairly airily. Faeries are easily marketable to multiple audiences: preteens, obviously, under-30s, for excess romanticism reasons, and all ages who want to escape these troubling times into fantasy.
Lucas is also right on to jump on the musical bandwagon. With the success of recent musical-format movies and television shows ("High School Musical," "Flight of the Conchords," "Glee"), it has proven staying power.
We're excited to see what develops. There's no telling what kind of genre-bending could come from Lucas, who's more accustomed to the action-adventure. We won't mind if the faerie's wings are awkwardly reminiscent of those "Star War," laser-wielding, TIE Fighters. - R. Rose
Third Mystery From Dublin-Based Production Company
"As a three-year-old, I had a near-death experience," notes producer Rushai Patel, who operates Sunspot Communication out of Dublin, CA, with director-writer Anthony Verge. Patel fell from a 4th floor window and received nary a scratch. "The incident changed me. I was no longer that naughty, noisy, little boy who irritated everyone. I became calm and quiet."
This is the premise behind their new mystery, the 120-minute "Expect Murder." Previously, they have produced the hour-long mystery shorts "Writer's Day" and "Cathy Morgan."
Bay Area actress Kari Wishingrad plays a woman who believes in the therapeutic value of near-death and administers it like other New Age therapies. But when she tries it on herself, and is send to a sanatorium - the spooky Veteran's Administration Hospital in Livermore - where a psychic has predicted a murder, "Expect Murder" has its "MacGuffin" (the Hitchcockian element designed to drive action). A helpful ghost is played by the inimitable Jeffery Davis.
"The hardest part, after writing the screenplay was casting," Verge told me. "I auditioned about 200 actors before I chose my actors. Also we shot at nearly 20 locations and scheduling was always difficult. Rushal [Patel] was instrumental in getting the schedule functional."
Coincidentally, I met Verge when he was developing a project on Sufism, a subject important to him as a South-Asian Muslim - but he using another name. "I like to be known as Anthony Verge whose name in real life is Akhtar Sheikh. I am keeping my real name for a big movie so I can kill Verge, my Alan Smithee [a pseudonym used by directors to disown projects]."
He is also interested in getting his films back to India where multiplexe construction is booming. Plus, Bollywood productions in the US, which used to be just stories told from an Indian perspective, are becoming hot.
"A new genre is emerging, with less emphasis on the crossover aspect and more on a common 'merged' culture with the US as a logical locale," Verge said. "I have two Bollywood projects in development, both of which have generated interest from a few producers and distributors in India." One is about an rising star in LA fashion photography; in the other a wealthy dowager tries to marry off her vivacious daughter.
"Expect Murder" has a rural American feel and was shot around the East Bay by Patrick Crowley, with sound by Brian Bers, Ikaika Araki and Matt Nahass. Editing is under way and it is expected to be released in fall 2010. More
. - D. Blair
Disposable Film Festival Stands Tall
The Disposable Film Festival returns to the Bay Area on March 4th-7th for its third year. Culled from over 1000 submissions, the work is assembled using cellphones, point-and-shoot cameras, webcams, and one-use video cameras.
Eric Slatkin, a producer with Chow.com, recalls when he and Carleton Evans, educational coordinator for the Moxie Institute, founded DFF in 2007: they weren't sure that they would have an audience. They took a gamble, booked Artist's Television Access in SF, and had so many people lining-up that even a quickly-added second screening couldn't accommodate everyone. Of those who did get in, "300 walked out inspired to make their own films," Slatkin says.
The empowerment that comes from proving that anyone has the potential to become a filmmaker is the DFF's mission. "I don't think everyone's a filmmaker," Evans acknowledges, "You have a large pool of people who were interested in making film. But because of the enormous cost required and expertise, by the time you filter through that, you have a tiny, tiny number of people who actually get to see their work onscreen - not to mention distribution.
"Now," Evans says, "Someone can actually make a film. And not only that, true online platforms can distribute them. If you are a good filmmaker, you have a much better chance of getting seen than before."
Opening Night, Thursday, March 4th, at the Roxie in San Francisco, features a competitive shorts program, followed by a party next door at Dalva. For prospective viewers dubious about the merits of cell phone films, Slatkin explains that even a cell phone is about the same res as broadcast TV. "We put a lot of effort into curating this program," Slatkin says with pride, "works that are distinct but flow together - every few minutes something new and different."
The following three events spotlight various artists, all of whom will be in attendance:
The series begins with the Red Bucket Films collective, whose motto is "Poetry exists everywhere if you know where to look." They just premiered a 16mm feature narrative at Sundance, "Daddy Long Legs," and will present "Buttons II," a full-length sequel entirely disposably-made.
Saturday afternoon Ben Slotover and Peter Waldeck offer selections from the "picture story" genre whose contemporary incarnation they pioneered, this time including live performance. A matinee of Alex Hitin's shorts follows at 3:30.
The DFF's closing on Sunday, March 7th, is a free nuts-and-bolts workshop with Blake Whitman, Community Director at Vimeo.com. Participants can not only learn basic shooting techniques, editing tips, and the how-tos of photomotion (still photos stitched into animation), but get breakfast as well. More info:
- M. Math
Since adding film and interactIVITY in 1994, South-by-South-West, one of the world's largest music festivals (held in lovely and liberal Austin, Texas), has grown into a top film festival, especially for indies and the West. While Sundance showcases the West's upper aspect, geographically and budgetarily, SXSW is more borderline. This year's festival runs March 12-21 with film almost the duration, interactive in the beginning and music at the end.
SXSW's focus on interactivity and tech has garnered it a well-deserved rep for new innovations - indeed, Twitter debuted there in 2007. Ironically, 2009 brought too many techies, taxing the festival's wireless and phone hookups, but also a new organization, called "NotAtSXSW." This group used Twitter and online forums to hold court simultaneously in New York, London, Oregon and Miami, allowing some Twitterers to simply fake being hip festival-goers.
Film fest cudos will go to Bigelow's spooky "The Hurt Locker," Spike's "Passing Strange," and "Sebastian Gutierrez's "Women in Trouble," among others. The festival's opener is "I Love You, Man," with Paul Rudd, and its centerpiece features every man Seth Rogen in "Observe and Report." Flights are still available for a few hundred bucks - check it out! - D. Blair
Everyday Black Man Update
"Everyday Black Man" producer, director and Oaklander, Carmen Madden (see Apr09 CineSource), just returned from the Pan African Film and Arts Festival in LA carrying the Programmer's Award for Best Narrative. "EBM" was also an official selection at the San Diego Film Festival and will be at the Roxie for SF Women International Festival in April.
"We have had more inquiries on distribution," she said, although some want up-front fees. "I'm pretty much heading towards self-distribution. We will probably four-wall it while selling DVD's. I plan to do a big promotion here and I am looking at other cities, such as Atlanta, Harlem, Detroit, while still going to festivals. We have applied to SF International but haven't heard yet."
In addition, the ever-active Madden, who came up as a casting agent in the East Bay after graduating from State, is doing pre-production for her next film "Shadow Fight," about a black boxer. Look for her premiere of "Everyday Black Man" at the Grand Lake in May. - D. Blair
Kari's Notes from Sundance
DAY 1 (JAN 22, 2010): 5:30 am drive to Sacramento Airport. Meet Marc and Brenda Lhormer, friends and former directors of the Sonoma Valley Film Festival. Currently producing Napa Valley Festival for Nov 2011.
We are sharing a condo. Once landed, we drive to Park City and stop at Kimball Junction Whole Foods so we could pick up our week's worht of food (saves $). Snow flurries begin.
We're staying at the Skiers Lodge - a great location behind the library (a Sundance venue). Our one bedroom is cozy (read small) and a bit funky but functional. Snow begins to fall heavily, several inches within an hour.
We walk in the snow to Main Street to pick up our tickets, visit the Sundance House and get our complimentary water bottles. It's important to stay hydrated at 7,000 feet. The streets are not as crowded as I imagined it would be for the first Friday evening. I wonder if many flights are being delayed with all the snow.
I head up to the Filmmakers Lodge and run into Bay Area friend, Matthew Wood of Scenechronize, who hands me an invite to the Scenechronize lounge, daily coffee and snowjitos - ummm! I walk to the top of Main Street to check out Slamdance. A lot of activity and excitement. I grab a program but never make it.
I check out New Frontiers and am taken in with the art exhibits. I find the video installations intriguing. By now it is evening and many of the Main Street lounges are closing for private parties. I am tired and decide to call it a day. So starts a week of almost non-stop events, parties, films and socializing.
Day Two: Excessive snowfall causes several sold outs films to be available for wait-listing. I get into "Shorts 1," four wonderfully diverse films, a great way to kick off my festival.
I attend the Ivy League mixer at the hip Downstairs and get introduced to two producers from NYC, Arlene Gail and Andrea Magder of Battery Park Films. We become fast friends and potential collaborators. I wind up spending most of the week with them.
Day Three: Sunday morning, I was invited to a private event in Deer Valley. The hosts are film buffs and philanthropists who sponsor a socially conscious Sundance film every year and invite the associated foundation and filmmakers for a private screening and brunch for a small group of potential investors and donors.
The film is "To Catch a Dollar: Muhammad Yunus Banks on America," a doc by Gayle Ferraro and about the man who established Grameen Bank. It offers micro loans to impoverished individuals (mostly women) worldwide (SF is getting one in two months). I am very moved by Dr. Yanus's love for his project.
Some of my favorite parties and lounges: Skywalker, Rovi, Deluxe, Gibson Lounge, Filmmakers Lounge... - K. Wishingrad
These were held in great, comfortable venues, ideal for networking; music at a minimal level, delicious food and drink, wasn't overcrowded, with sufficient seating. All conducive atmospheres for meeting people and making connections.
The Film Utah Launch Party held in the magnificent 3D lounge was loud, crowded and did I say loud and crowded? Although I said I prefer the more cocktail type event, this was a fun, well-done party where I got to mingle with many more local (Salt Lake City) industry folks.
By Tues the parties slowed down and the streets became less crowded.
I played it by ear this year preferring to get tickets for films on a last minute basis. So I didn't see many films I would have wanted to - but was not attached. I make notes of what I want to see and can find them eventually thru other means.
All in all I got to see ten films.
The movies that stood out for me the most were:
"Boy" a New Zealand film by Taika Waititi (he wrote, directed, and starred in). It was a lovely moving story of a young Maori boy coming into age in the early 80's.
I also enjoyed "Nowhere Boy" about the childhood relationship John Lennon had with his mother and aunt. Well acted and moving, I am sure it will get theatrical release.
OK, I will note that Elton John was in sitting in the row behind me.
"Sympathy for Delicious" Mark Ruffalo's directorial debut was a good, solid film. I loved the premise of the story line - transformation of human consciousness and personal growth and evolution.
As extremely cold and snowy most of the week was, I was comfortably cold. Having a warm coat and lined boots are essential. By Wednesday and Thursday, a hint of sun broke through the clouds long enough to melt the black ice and snow off the sidewalks revealing the garbage and occasional lost earring on the pavement.
In my experience, being with so many people who have so much in common around a love for films, who are looking for others to collaborate and create with is an invigorating and uplifting experience.
I know I plan on attending year after year.
Posted on Mar 01, 2010 - 02:02 PM