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Mise En Scene May10
Monterey Film Commissioner Celebrates 20th Year
Karen Nordstrand, who runs marketing and production at the Monterey County Film Commission, just celebrated her 20th year there. "There aren't many of us with such a track record in the state," Ms. Nordstrand told to me by phone the other day, "I've been involved with all the Bay Area film commissions over the years, as well as the FLICS [Film Liaisons in California Statewide], assisting our cooperative efforts."
"We've certainly had the pleasure of bigger studio films over the years, like 'Turner and Hooch' with Tom Hanks, 'Junior,' with our dear governor, or 'Basic Instinct,' where we doubled for Marin. Indeed, we have doubled for almost everywhere, France - even Vietnam. They shot 'We Were Soldiers,' with Mel Gibson, in the southern end of the county. We have a wide range of looks, from Big Sur's crashing waves to charming Carmel or rural Salinas."
Monterey has also hosted a lot of indies and commercials, particularly with Big Sur skyrocketing in popularity in recent years. Nordstrand recently did a Corona Beer commercial at the famous Bixby Bridge, with Peter Kwong, a location scout out of SF. There was also the Subaru shoot slightly further down Highway 1, considered one of the most breathtaking drives in the US, if not the world. "Then there was Wells Fargo, Hyundia, Chevy - Monterey County is definitely in fashion," Nordstrand concluded. "Actually, we've done a lot of fashion: Calvin Klein, Coldwater Creek, Esprit."
Alas, the Hollywood features are fewer now. "The California incentives have just kicked in this year. We did a location trade show in Santa Monica. There were some indies hovering - some sounded positive. We have some expectations for this year. We also did a California-only trade show in February and had a really good showing of location scouts and managers. We even had a location photo contest to see if we can stump the scouts, which they loved."
"We are very film friendly because we are not over shot. The city and police all love the business. We have hotels eager to negotiate. We are putting together a new hotel incentive program, if a production is looking for good rate. We really do welcome film in the area, we are open 24-7 for location scouts. Just call me 831 594.9410." Or see their site: FilmMonterey.org
With their famous marine sanctuary, she generally has a steady stream of documentaries,. Indeed, BBC was just in to shoot the sea lions.
Perhaps most interestingly, the Monterey Film Commission also has a sophisticated educational program, coordinated with colleges and the general public, often taking the form of film lectures in the Golden State Theater or the Monterey Convention Center.
"We do 'Reel Job' panels where we bring local professionals to lecture about their job. We have a film student scholarship to encourage future filmmakers. Although we get funding from the county, we're an independent non-profit." And Karen and her cohort do this all on an annual budget of about one quarter million dollars, quite an achievement. Thanks, and here's to your next 20 years, Karen. - D. Blair
Marihuana Documentary Finally Staggers to Screen
It must have been hard getting UP that early in the morning but an award-winning movie about Northern California's massive marihuana business has finally has made its way to the screen. It was done properly, ie undercover, the only way to document the fauna as well as flora without disturbing it.
"Cash Crop" starts as a road trip at the Mexican border and ends up in the heart of the Emerald Triangle. Although the film has not yet been released, there was a cast and crew screening in Ukiah in April, with producer/director Adam Ross, who lives in Los Angeles, on-hand.
"Cash Crop" tells how losses in timber and fishing pushed residents to cannabis cultivation. Indeed, when you go up there, it sometimes seems like 100% of residents are growing chronic and it has been more or less legal since changes in the law in the late 1990s. Prominently featured are Tom Allman, Mendo's County Sherrif (see CS B-Roll article, on our site), Supervisor John Pinches, former congressman Dan Hamburg, growers, activists and patients.
It took Ross two years, living underground with his crew and narrator, buying, smoking and delivering the best kind bud they could find to customers throughout the state - just for the film, of course.
"A lot of documentary films have an agenda. What I set out to do was to find out what the story really was and to allow people to speak the truth," says Ross, a rock and jazz musician who studied some film at NYU but only shot his first film in 2005. "We tested this film with focus groups of Mormon communities in Montana and seniors in South Florida. We found the film really changed people's minds."
"Cash Crop" is the quintessential American story, according to Ross. "Entrepreneurship, self government and sustainability." Indeed, the framing of the story has changed since he began in 2007, moving from states rights to sustainability and civil rights. A ex-New Yorker, Ross was astounded by differences between counties. "Marin County seemed like Connecticut. Mendocino County seemed like Vermont and Humboldt County seemed like Maine. The heart of the story lies in Mendocino County."
"What we are seeing here are very fundamental aspects of American culture that have coalesced," says Ross. Aside from the High Times Golden Leaf Award, "Cash Crop" garnered official selection at the Rhode Island International and Santa Fe Film Festivals. - D. Blair
Oakland Underground Fest Launchs Summer Series Highlighting Local Talent
Filmmakers Carmen Madden "EverYDAY Black Man," (See CS Apr09), Zachary Stauffer, the award-winning Bay Area docmaker who did "Day Late in Oakland," and Josh Banville, director of "A Life Taken," were on hand to present their films on opening night, April 23, in what has become an modern media phenom: the Oakland Underground Film Festival. OUFF just launched their new series in the Jack London Square Pavilion Theater, 98 Broadway, Oakland, where Barnes & Nobles used to be.
"Our focus on local filmmakers for this event is meant to highlight the incredible artists we have in this area," says festival founder Kahlil Karn. Carmen Madden's drama "Everyday Black Man" deals with the ulterior motives of Black Muslims while Stauffer's "A Day Late in Oakland," covers the killing of journalist Chauncey Bailey in 2007 by associates of Your Black Muslim Bakery - subjects hitting very close to home.
The festival partnered with the Jack London Square Pavilion Theater to host the series' eight events running through August, including Sat, May 15th "Ancient Cinema Treasures," Fri, June 18th "Leading Local Talent, and leading up to the second film festival, scheduled for Sep 23-26, 2010. See oakuff.org. - D. Blair
San Francisco Film School Offers Free Day of Classes
Located in San Franciso's Third Street corridor, the six-year-old School of Digital Filmmaking (SFSDF) has emerged as a hands-on school with a notable sister company, Fog City Pictures. Founded and run by Stephen Kopels and Jeremiah Birnbaum, they focus on both filmmaking and acting.
"We developed the SFSDF free day because we wanted to give people the opportunity to experience how a real movie is made," noted Birnbaum, in an interview with Kyle Rupprecht. "Most of us have watched those 'behind-the-scenes' extras on DVDs but nothing compares to being on set." First, they build a set on one of their sound stages, then they bring in real actors and shoot, with attendees helping out, and then the edited scene uploaded later so everyone can see the result.
Guest teachers have included producer Brian Benson ("Howl") and character actor Jon Gries ("Napoleon Dynamite"), which is notable for a relatively small school. When paying school is in session, SFSDF's Fog City Pictures runs a mixed crew of pros and students. For all of the above-the-line positions, they hire top-level pros from LA and New York as well as San Francisco, while students work in key positions like associate producer, 2nd AD, assistant camera, wardrobe, grip, or assistant editor. Fog City is completing final edits on their latest feature "Two Mothers."
"We don't believe in the traditional internship, where we have little to no control of the learning experience . We have developed these more active apprenticeship positions to give our students front-line filmmaking exposure," Birnbaum concluded. With over 250 short films being made - annually! - students have lots of opportunities.
SFSDF is currently enrolling for their popular Five-Week Film Workshops (June + July) and preparing for a near-record class for their One-Year Digital program. Class 11 with a huge crew of 15 (aka Team Cranial Fortitude) has entered the 2010 Film Race being held this weekend. SFSDF screen writing director, James Savoca, will be a judge. See sfdigifilm.com. - D. Blair/ K. Rupprecht
Women's Film Fest News
That's a wrap! The 6th annual SF International Women's Film Festival closed with a record number of films, attendees, guests, industry professionals and venues. Meanwhile, the "WFI Shorts Tour" played Austin in April with WFI director Scarlett Shepard in attendance. It is being booked elsewhere for the summer. See
for more info. - D. Blair
Posted on May 11, 2010 - 12:24 AM