Mar 28, 2017
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The Academy’s Inspirational
by Gus Manos
(NOTE: Search "Part Two" for continuation from print)
It was a virtual love-fest at the Academy of Art’s fourth annual Epidemic Film Festival in April, held at various venues and the Castro Theatre, where the public was invited. Students, family members, friends and faculty showed support for seniors whose projects had made it through the competitive awards program, a mini-Oscars, as it were. The festival also included two days of panel discussions.
Hot Chicks: Tippi Hedren (rt), famous for ‘The Birds,’ with actress/docmaker Diane Baker, the Academy’s film dean and mother hen. Photo CineSource
The programs were star-studded, beginning with actor William Mapother (“Lost,” “In the Bedroom”) as MC. Producer Barrie M. Osborne (“Lord of the Rings,” “The Matrix”) and director Randal Kleiser (“Grease”) received honorary doctorates from Academy president, Dr. Elisa Stephens. Venerable TV producer/director Harry Winer was up from LA to support the Festival and their peer: actress, festival director, and head of the Academy’s film/video department, Diane Baker. Aided by Festival co-director, Tim Boxell, Baker can be credited for successfully infusing the whole three-day event with enthusiasm for creativity. Also radiating from the audience was actress Tippi Hedren. Best known for her performance in Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” she’s a friend of Baker’s going back to when they both starred in “Marnie.”
This year’s theme was “Social Activism in Film,” although the first day was mostly about narrative. Sitting on that day’s panel were director Carroll Ballard (“Black Stallion,” “Never Cry Wolf”); cinematographer Hiro Narita (“Honey, I Shrank the Kids,” “La Mission”); editor Robert Dalva (“Jumanji,” “Jurassic Park III”); composer/sound designer, Todd Boekelheide (“Amadeus,” “Never Cry Wolf”); and producer Debbie Brubaker (“Cherish,” “La Mission”).
Questions for the panel fell into the standard categories of film financing, effects of 3-D, and how to survive while waiting for your break. Ballard offered several interesting anecdotes about his polemical relationship with Hollywood, as well as the difficulties of getting a visual script through a system focused on dialog.
When Amy Zinn, Oakland’s Film Coordinator, was acknowledged by Baker, she offered her own observation of how America is unique in that it separates politics and sociology from art, as opposed to most of the rest of the world. She followed by asking the panelists, “Are you seeing cracks in the ice beginning to happen?”
Diane Baker, Academy’s film dean, introducing a panel including (rt-lft) William Mapother; Neal Baer, Jessie Deeter; producing partners Julie Bergman-Sender and Stuart Sender; and producers Joshua and Rebecca Tickell (don't have last gentleman's name, sorry). photo CineSource
The question would have been better at the following night’s panel on documentary making. It was comprised of actor William Mapother; writer/executive producer Neal Baer; producer, Jessie Deeter; producers Stuart Sender and Julie Bergman-Sender; and producers Joshua and Rebecca Tickell. The panelists addressed what motivates someone the doc maker when there’s little, if any, chance of financial reward? Mapother’s response: “It’s not about money, it’s about what you care about,” underlining the need for having a personal passion first.
Part Two (Continuation from Paper Version)
Discourse was kept light by the Sender and Tickell husband/wife teams as they played off the marriage dynamic in answering questions or talking about their productions. Things took an interesting turn, though, when the subject of story telling within the documentary genre took on Tea Party darling Sarah Palin for being effective at telling her versions of the truth, AKA misinformation. Consensus was that she’s a believable story teller. Baer’s response was, “We (doc makers) have to be able to tell stories better – powerful, truthful stories.”
On conveying a story, Jessie Deeter believed that, “You can tell a really good story from a really small screen.” She concluded by poignantly saying that “There are no small stories, only small story tellers.”
And for his part, Jaime Redford, looking every bit his father’s son, confessed, “I hate asking for money!” He said he often gets the question, “Why do you need money? After all, your dad’s Robert Redford.” Then speaking on the “force that comes out of creating a film,” director Joshua Tickell related how he came to realize what that force was when Exxon Mobil changed its policies and embraced the next generation of fuel to soon come from algae, all because of a small film like “Fuel.”
“When you get even 1% of the population to see your story, then you can redefine the playing field,” said Tickell. “You have no idea the power you have as a filmmaker until you watch a corporation play on your chessboard, because then you begin to ask, ‘What can I do next’.”
While Tickell was pondering what’s next, students receiving awards the following night at the Castro might have been asking themselves the same question. Nevertheless, after the special honorariums were accepted, the thank-you’s began to roll out from the stage, coming twice from Yang Li for her film “Perfume” which won in two categories – Best Director and Special Achievement in Production Design (the latter shared with Chelsea Christer for her film, “Dark Desert Highway”). The film was also nominated in a third, “Screenplay” category.
Best Documentary went to Miguel Calayan for his biographical short, “Larry Hunt: Bucketman,” which introduces us to Hunt, whose unrelenting drumming on various empty plastic containers, scrap metal and glass, in San Francisco has gained him fame, if not a few threats by those who view him as, shall we say, noisy?
Then there was a couple of personal festival favorites: the first, winning in both the Special Acknowledgement in Screenplay as well as the Editing category for filmmaker Christian Ospelt, was the clever comedy, “Death By Scrabble.” The second was the comedic satire, The Iranian Dream, by Shahaub Roudbari, which won for Best Narrative and takes the tact of an interview of a common, young Middle Eastern couple whose husband just happens to make his living as an exotic male stripper – and why doesn’t his family back home accept him?
Other winners included Harold Escotet for cinematography for “Marvin the Clown;” Scott Hammel in the experimental film category for “Tenderloin Toyland;” Colin Brooker for his music video “Our Younger Noise; and Brandon Johnson in the commercial category for “Holly Grill: First Date.”
In the end, it was all hugs and handshakes as the cognoscenti lingered in the theater and those who still had it in them to schmooze moved on to Blush, a fancy club right across the street. It was the close of yet another year’s successful Epidemic Film Festival thanks to Diane Baker and the hard working Academy of Arts staff.
Posted on Jun 04, 2010 - 02:51 PM