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8 items from 2017

Film Review: ‘Obit.’

26 April 2017 11:29 AM, PDT | Variety - Film News | See recent Variety - Film News news »

What is the sum worth of a man or woman’s life? In word-count terms, that’s a question dealt with every day by the subjects of “Obit.,” who comprise the New York Times’ obituary department — one of the last surviving extensive operations in the publishing world devoted to their particular task. Entertaining if a bit conventional in its anecdotal structure and slightly cutesy tone, these 95 minutes should appeal to the same public that happily spends half the day reading the Sunday Times, and which will enjoy a polite peek behind the Gray Lady’s operational curtain.

Though they admit the job does keep mortality on their minds, the Times’ obit crew rarely finds it depressing. As Margalit Fox puts it, “We’re usually writing about someone who’s died in his or her 80s or 90s after living a long, rich, creative, fulfilling life. … In an obit of 800 words, »

- Dennis Harvey

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Tribeca 2017 Women Directors: Meet Lana Wilson — “The Departure”

19 April 2017 9:31 AM, PDT | Women and Hollywood | See recent Women and Hollywood news »

The Departure”: Drifting Cloud Productions

Lana Wilson is an Emmy-winning filmmaker based in New York. Her first film, “After Tiller,: co-directed by Martha Shane, went inside the lives of the four most-targeted abortion providers in the country. Wilson recently wrote and produced “Jacked,” the premiere episode of the National Geographic Channel miniseries “I Am Rebel.”

The Departure” will premiere at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival on April 21.

W&H: Describe the film for us in your own words.

Lw: “The Departure” is about a Japanese punk rocker-turned-Buddhist priest who’s renowned for his work in suicide prevention. This work, though, has come at the increasing expense of his own physical and mental health, and the film captures him at a transformational moment in his life, when he has to ask himself the same question his patients ask him: What makes life worth living?

W&H: What drew you to this story?

Lw: I read a New Yorker article about the subject, Reverend Ittetsu Nemoto, and was immediately fascinated by him. I was especially captivated by one part of the article — a description of a retreat Nemoto leads in which he has a group of suicidal people imagine their own deaths.

On blank pieces of paper, they write down the three most important objects in their life, the three most important people, and three dreams they have for the future. Then Nemoto leads them through a role play, where they crumple and throw each one of these things away — because when we die, we have to say goodbye to everything that we have. The idea is that if you experience “dying,” you remember what’s most valuable about being alive.

Right away, I wondered, “What do they write down?” And then I asked myself, “What would I write down?” It was powerful just to think about. I realized that this exercise was something that could be captured in an incredibly cinematic way, to give each person who sees it a very personal experience. I wanted the film to feel like a sit-down session with Nemoto for every single member of the audience.

W&H: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theater?

Lw: I want them to think about the meaning and value of their own lives. What’s most important. What there is to be grateful for. What it is that we’re seeking out when we try to connect with other people. Where that impulse to “do good” comes from. How we can both forget and remember our sense of self when we’re immersed in the experiences of others.

W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

Lw: The language barrier. Nemoto doesn’t speak a word of English and when I started making the film I was just beginning to learn Japanese. In some ways this was actually helpful — for example, I found that I could consistently get much better access to filming subjects in sensitive situations because I couldn’t speak Japanese.

I would have our Japanese-speaking field producer leave the room while my non-Japanese-speaking cinematographer and I shot, because subjects felt so much more comfortable talking freely without extra people “listening” to them. Many people told me this, and I could see it on their faces, too.

There was also a big down side to this, of course. I often had no idea what was important and what wasn’t in any conversation. My cinematographer and I were working “blind” in a way because there was a whole set of senses, rhythms, and instincts that we no longer had access to. We had to guess, and we developed a rigid shooting style partly in response to this challenge.

I was also very aware that I was going into a culture that was not my own, and I wanted to exercise the utmost sensitivity. Working with Japanese co-producer Eri Yokoyama and a team of Japanese field producers from all different backgrounds — including one who is herself a Buddhist priest — was extremely important.

W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.

Lw: I funded the film through a co-production partnership with Itvs, several smaller grants and donations, and by running up an uncomfortable amount of personal credit card debt, which I am still trying to pay off. I worked a full-time job for most of the time that I was making “The Departure” to cover my living expenses, and extra money was funneled directly into the film.

It was a difficult subject to get support for. It’s not the most commercial topic — as my father keeps saying, “Please consider making your next movie about a rock band!” But despite the inherent challenges of the material, there were a few brave funders who stood behind the film, and who I am so grateful for.

They’re people who believed in me and the movie because they thought it would be a transformational experience for everyone who watched it. If they hadn’t gone out on a limb to support this film, it would never exist today. Credit cards can only get you so far!

W&H: What does it mean for you to have your film play at Tribeca?

Lw: It’s a huge deal for me. New York has been my home for 12 years, and so many people who I love and who were part of the film are here. My subject, Nemoto, is incredibly excited to come to New York. And Tribeca is a great festival. My jaw dropped when I saw their lineup this year — it’s so eclectic and ambitious and bold.

Above all, I’m thrilled beyond belief to be playing at the same festival as “The Trip to Spain.” I’ve gone to see Steve Coogan speak publicly three times, and I think Rob Brydon’s “Marion and Geoff” is one of the most brilliant and moving television shows ever created. So to be in the company of people like them — not to mention Nick Broomfield, Laurie Simmons, Sam Pollard, and so many other artists I admire — is a great honor.

W&H: What’s the best and worst advice you’ve received?

Lw: Best advice: I read an interview with George Saunders and he said, “Steer towards the rapids.”

Worst advice: A man who came up to me after a screening of “After Tiller” said, “The only problem with this movie is that it’s all about emotions.”

W&H: What advice do you have for other female directors?

Lw: The fact is that you’re going to be judged more harshly for your ambitions and your ideas, and there will be less opportunities available to you because you’re female. But the more you can let those judgments roll off your back, and the more you can simply persist, and keep working, and create your own opportunities, the better off you’ll be.

There will be some people who believe in and respect you. Fight to keep those people close to you. Feel sorry for everyone else. Convince yourself that it’s more fun to be the underdog.

W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.

Lw: This is tough, but at the moment, I’d say Elaine May’s “The Heartbreak Kid” — it is hilarious, strange, and moving, and Elaine May is one of the great overlooked artists of our time. I want to make a documentary about her. Elaine, if you’re reading this, please contact me.

W&H: There have been significant conversations over the last couple of years about increasing the amount of opportunities for women directors yet the numbers have not increased. Are you optimistic about the possibilities for change? Share any thoughts you might have on this topic.

Lw: I have to be optimistic. There is no other option. There’s a lot of excitement and so many great people trying to create more opportunities for women directors right now. But I think the biggest problem isn’t with the women — it’s with the men.

Many male decision-makers have trouble trusting a female director to “pull it off.” I loved this article about that. That’s partly because of the closely held assumptions we all have, to various degrees, about what women can and can’t do. But it’s also because people often feel most comfortable hiring people who are a lot like them.

Almost all decision-makers are men. So many of them have the inherent bias of wanting to hire someone who looks like them — or who reminds them of themselves 15 years ago. I had one frank conversation with a very smart and frustrated woman who brokers deals with commercial clients. She told me that over and over again, the clients can only “see” a 35-year-old white man as the director.

Honestly, I think a lot of those people aren’t going to change. We have to wait for that generation to die off, and we have to educate our young men and boys differently in the meantime — which includes making different kinds of movies, and telling different kinds of stories — so that they grow up seeing women as powerful leaders and brilliant artists just like men.

And men need to step up and be vocal advocates for this too. This is a problem that affects everyone. It’s not just a specialized issue, or something where men can say, “Well, sounds like the ladies have got that covered, since they’re all talking about it.” They need to be an active part of publicly calling attention to this problem and doing things to fix it.

Until then, women directors have to keep making movies so good, they’re undeniable. Our talent has to be undeniable. We don’t have the option of failing or doing mediocre work like men do. The situation is so dire that there’s no room for error.

Tribeca 2017 Women Directors: Meet Lana Wilson — “The Departure” was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story. »

- Joseph Allen

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Amazon Near Pickups Of Comedy Pilots From Michael Patrick King, George Saunders & Diarra Kilpatrick

23 March 2017 3:50 PM, PDT | Deadline TV | See recent Deadline TV news »

Exclusive: I hear Amazon Studios is finalizing deals for pilot orders to three single-camera comedy projects, Love You More, from former Sex and the City showrunner Michael Patrick King, which stars Bridget Everett; the genre-bending Sea Oak, from short-story writer George Saunders; and the Detroit-set The Climb, starring and written by Diarra Kilpatrick, from the Mark Gordon Co. The current pilot season at Amazon, home of such original comedy series as Transparent and Moz… »

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Newswire: Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman want to make George Saunders’ first novel into a movie

22 March 2017 1:26 PM, PDT | avclub.com | See recent The AV Club news »

It took George Saunders a while to publish his first novel: The supernatural/historical fiction mashup Lincoln In The Bardo, released earlier this month, follows 20 years of award-winning short fiction, essays, and journalism from the MacArthur Fellow. But it didn’t take long at all for someone to think Lincoln In The Bardo would make a good movie. According to Deadline, Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman have purchased the film rights to Lincoln In The Bardo, with Saunders joining them as a producer on the project. Deadline quotes Saunders as saying “My hope is that we can find a way to make the experience of getting this movie made as wild and enjoyable and unpredictable as the experience of writing it—I am so happy to have such fearless companions on the trip.”

“Fearless” is one way to put it. Taking place in a Washington D.C. cemetery during ...


- Erik Adams

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Megan Mullally & Nick Offerman Snag Movie Rights To Bestseller ‘Lincoln In The Bardo’

22 March 2017 12:33 PM, PDT | Deadline | See recent Deadline news »

Exclusive: Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman have acquired movie rights to Lincoln In The Bardo, the bestselling novel from George Saunders that hit shelves last month. The pair will produce the adaptation with Saunders, and no director or cast has been set. Published by Random House, short-story writer Saunders’ first novel is set against the backdrop of the Civil War and centers on Abraham Lincoln’s grief over the death of his 11-year-old son Willie, with much of the… »

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Lionsgate U.K. Inks First-Look Deal With TV Producer Bonafide

31 January 2017 8:41 AM, PST | Variety - TV News | See recent Variety - TV News news »

Lionsgate U.K. has inked a first-look deal with British drama producer Bonafide Films as it continues to ramp up its television operations.

Bonafide is in production on BBC’s “The Last Post,” a Peter Moffat (“The Night Of”) series that tells the story of a regiment of military police and their families stationed in the Middle East during the 1960s Aden Emergency.

The company is also developing an adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s “Super-Cannes” with playwright D.C. Moore adapting and Saul Dibb directing; an original series with BAFTA and Golden Globe winner Peter Straughan (“Wolf Hall,” “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”); an adaptation of the George Saunders novella “Bounty”; and Straughan’s adaptation of Ned Bauman’s novel “The Teleportation Accident” for Film4.

Bonafide is run by managing director Margery Bone, creative director Elwen Rowlands, and head of production and finance Hayley Manning.

Zygi Kamasa, CEO of Lionsgate’s European office, commented: »

- Leo Barraclough

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Lionsgate UK signs first look deal with indie Bonafide

31 January 2017 2:27 AM, PST | ScreenDaily | See recent ScreenDaily news »

Deal with The Last Post producer further bolsters Lionsgate’s UK TV ambitions.

Lionsgate UK announced today that it has entered into a first look deal with UK production outfit Bonafide Films to provide projects for worldwide distribution.

Bonafide is currently in production on BBC One’s The Last Post, the Peter Moffat (The Night Of) series that tells the story of a regiment of military police and their families stationed in the Middle East during the 1960s Aden Emergency.

The company is also developing an adaptation of Jg Ballard’s Super-Cannes, adapted by playwright DC Moore and directed by Saul Dibb (The Duchess); an original series with BAFTA and Golden Globe winning writer Peter Straughan (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy); and adaptations of the George Saunders novella, Bounty, and the Ned Bauman novel The Teleportation Accident with Straughan for Film4.

Bonafide is run by managing director Margery Bone, creative director Elwen Rowlands and head of production »

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Lionsgate Signs First-Look Deal With U.K. TV Production House Bonafide

31 January 2017 1:50 AM, PST | The Hollywood Reporter - TV News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - TV News news »

Lionsgate has bolstered its international TV operations, signing a first-look deal with U.K production outfit Bonafide Films. 

Currently in production on Peter Moffat's BBC period drama The Last Post, the story of military police stationed in the Middle East during a time of crisis in the 1960s, Bonafide is also developing an adaptation of J.G. Ballard's Super-Cannes with playwright DC Moore adapting and Saul Dibb directing.

It also has an original series with BAFTA winner Peter Straughan (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), plus adaptations of the George Saunders novella Bounty and Ned Bauman's novel The Teleportation Accident, again with Straughan, for Film4 in »

- Alex Ritman

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2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010

8 items from 2017

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