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Todd Solondz On Independent Film, Then And Now

9 June 2012 6:15 PM, PDT

Here’s another clip from my conversation with Dark Horse writer/director Todd Solondz. I asked Solondz to reflect on independent film, then and now, and his own longevity as a purely independent director. In his answer, he discusses, the declining budgets of independent film, television and the seminal nature of The Blair Witch Project.

Dark Horse is currently playing at the Angelika Theater in New York.

… Read the rest »

- Scott Macaulay

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Everynone Wins Grand Prize At Vimeo Awards

8 June 2012 11:44 AM, PDT

Last night at the Nyu Skirball Center, the Vimeo Awards took place and one of the 25 New Faces from 2011, Everynone, were the big winners. For their excellent Symmetry, the video collective of Will Hoffman, Daniel Mercadante and Julius Metoyer III took away both the prize in the Lyrical category and the Grand Prize, which came with an additional $25,000 in prize money.

In my profile of Everynone for 25 New Faces last year, I wrote:

If you listen to the radio, then you may have seen the short documentary essay films of the New York collaborative, Everynone. For the last two years, the three filmmakers — Will Hoffman, Daniel Mercadante and Julius Metoyer III — have been creating witty and allusive short films to accompany the popular Wnyc radio program Radiolab, heard on more than 300 public radio stations around the country. Radiolab explores science and philosophy in the guise of radio theater, mixing music »

- Scott Macaulay

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James Bennett, 1950 – 2012

8 June 2012 10:09 AM, PDT

Composer James Bennett, who brought musical wit and a lyrical touch to his work in film and theater, died in New York this week of a heart attack.

He was classically trained on piano and later was a member of the Bmi Lehman Engel Musical Theater Workshop, an innovative New York City program known for training composers, lyricists and librettists. His work in theater includes collaborations with Charles Horne on the scores for the Off-Broadway shows Eva Braun and Dogs.

Though Jim composed music for only two feature films — Todd HaynesPoison and my film Swoon — he brought a remarkable musical sophistication and depth of emotion to his work. He worked as both composer and conductor and somehow managed to record lush, heartbreaking scores with a handful of musicians and the very few dollars we gave him. His music for my short Geoffrey Beene 30 and for Haynes’ Dottie Gets Spanked »

- Tom Kalin

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The ‘Blue Velvet’ Project, #122

8 June 2012 8:03 AM, PDT

Second #5734, 95:34

There is a look of pity on Detective Williams’s face as he delivers his warning to Jeffrey not to “blow it.” At this point, it’s not entirely clear whose side the Detective is on; is his Hollywood stock detective outfit for real, or is he—like the “well-dressed man”—wearing a disguise? His warning to Jeffrey, as he takes him by the arms and looks into his eyes, is like a secret communication, a signal to Jeffrey not to rush things, not dig too deeply because what he might find at the terrible, rotten core of things is not Frank, but Detective Williams himself.

This narrative possibility remains open at this moment, a moment that is among the film’s most terrifyingly ambiguous. Is the Detective—like Leland Palmer in Twin Peaks four years later—a monster disguised as a Man of Order? It is during »

- Nicholas Rombes

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Todd Solondz On Career Longevity And “Dark Horse”

8 June 2012 6:16 AM, PDT

Todd Solondz just scored one of the best reviews of his career with A.O. Scott’s New York Times rave for Dark Horse, opening today. Favorably comparing it to Death of a Salesman (!), Scott writes:

But Mr. Solondz brilliantly — triumphantly — turns this impression on its head, transforming what might have been an exercise in easy satirical cruelty into a tremendously moving argument for the necessity of compassion. Again and again — in the ’90s indie touchstones Welcome to the Dollhouse and Happiness, and more recently in Life During Wartime — this director has blurred the boundary between misanthropy and humanism. He surveys the human geography of his native suburbia with what looks like unbridled disgust but is actually an unquenchable and steadfast love. Dark Horse may be his warmest, most generous movie, but it also casts a beam of empathy backward, illuminating the baffled, benighted, icky souls who have populated Mr. Solondz’s universe from the start. »

- Scott Macaulay

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“The Oregonian” – A Hammer To Nail Review

7 June 2012 8:21 PM, PDT

(The Oregonian world premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. It is being distributed by Cinemad Presents and opens theatrically in NYC at the reRun Gastropub on Friday, June 8, 2012. Factory 25 is releasing the DVD (and currently taking pre-orders for the Limited Edition DVD). It is also currently available for streaming on Netflix and Hulu. If you are not able to see it in the theater, just make sure you play it loud at home!)

Calvin Lee Reeder’s The Oregonian is a horrifying film, if not what is commonly perceived as a “horror” film. It is deeply and fundamentally upsetting in an off-putting way that will sicken and alarm you if your idea of pure terror is anxiety over your own mortality and meaninglessness or being alone and lost in an unforgiving environment, as opposed to the tired slasher movie shock tactics of a knife appearing behind a scantily clad character »

- Alex Ross Perry

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Ingmar Bergman Interviews Ingmar Bergman

7 June 2012 3:14 PM, PDT

Ingmar Bergman was not known for being a particularly lighthearted or funny fellow, but it turns out he was not always as dark and brooding as his movies may have lead us to believe. As part of the DVD release package of Summer with Monika, the Criterion Collection has included a translated conversation, first published in the Swedish publication Filmnyheter, in which Bergman interviews himself about his movie. And it’s really funny!

You can check out the entire playful dialogue (or should it be monologue?) at the Criterion Current.

What was it like making Monika?

I didn’t make Monika. [Source novel author and coscreenwriter Per Anders] Fogelström bred her in me and then, like an elephant, I was pregnant for three years, and last summer she was born with a big ballyhoo. Today, she is a beautiful and naughty child. I hope she will cause an emotional uproar and all sorts of reactions. I shall »

- Nick Dawson

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“Finally, Lillian And Dan” Tonight At No Budge

7 June 2012 2:50 PM, PDT

Mike Gibisser’s beautifully understated indie romance Finally, Lillian and Dan made a bit of an impact on the festival circuit a few years back, but never really got the attention it deserved. Karina Longworth, one of the most vocal champions of the film, said of it:

It’s a find, a definite cousin of the work being made in the Bronstein household––as with Frownland, the mumbling here is so stylized and disturbed that it’s like a precision bomb against the twee subtleties explored by other contemporary filmmakers––it’s more like Tourettescore. But there’s also a tenderness here, and lofty aesthetic ambitions underpinned with authentic melancholy. It’s a heartbreaker.

Fortunately, Kentucker Audley has now taken up the cause of finding the film the audience it deserves, and tonight it plays on Audley’s increasingly busy No Budge website. As with the recent screening series at No Budge, »

- Nick Dawson

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“Dark Horse” Writer/Director Todd Solondz

7 June 2012 1:29 PM, PDT

“I want to want you,” says the cripplingly depressed Miranda (Selma Blair) to her suitor with excruciating honesty. The coddled, overweight Abe (Jordan Gelber), a compulsive collector who still lives at home with his parents (Mia Farrow and Christopher Walken), will take what he can get. “That’s enough for me,” he breathes. In Todd Solondz’s Dark Horse, the queasy tale of a 35-year-old man-child who decides to add a wife to his possessions, the writer-director’s dialogue is as sharp as ever, each line an arrow poisoned with sincerity.

Known for colorful, stylized, cynical films including Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995), Happiness (1998), Storytelling (2001), Palindromes (2004) and the masterful Life During Wartime (2009), Solondz makes movies populated by anti-heroes and -heroines that include bullies, pedophiles, and housewives. He has the ability to zero in on the insecurities, weaknesses and existential loneliness of a Robert Altman-like stable of characters with merciless X-ray vision. »

- Livia Bloom

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Marielle Heller At The Sundance Directors Lab, Part One

7 June 2012 7:44 AM, PDT

Marielle Heller, a New York-based screenwriter, actor and playwright, is attending the June Sundance Directors Lab with her project, The Diary of a Teenage Girl. “In the haze of 1970’s San Francisco, a teenage artist with a brutally honest perspective tries to navigate her way through an affair with her mother’s boyfriend,” is its description, and the film is being adapted from the graphic novel by Phoebe Gloeckner. Here is Heller’s first blog post from the Sundance Resort in Utah.

It’s the end of our first week of four at the Sundance Directors Lab. I feel as though I’ve been here for a month already – in a good way. We’ve spent the first week doing day-long workshops, getting to know each other and our crews, doing practice scenes and acclimating to the altitude.

Gyula Gazdag’s “Using the Camera To Tell a Story” was the workshop on our second day. »

- Marielle Heller

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Carson Mell At The Sundance Directors Lab, Part One

7 June 2012 7:25 AM, PDT

The Sundance June Directors Lab is underway, and blogging here at Filmmaker from the Sundance Resort in Utah will be two of the Lab’s filmmakers. First up, Carson Mell, attending with his dark comedy, Ajax, about “a band of alcoholic astronauts and a young woman adrift in outer space [who] become at odds with one another after discovering the purpose of their mysterious mission.”

I remember when I was first moving from a community college to a “legitimate” film/art school my dad told me that the best part about it would be how intimidated I would be by the other students’ work. “Same as when I went to art school, you’ll meet people who’re going to push you to keep up,” he said. And sadly, probably because most of us were in our early twenties or younger, there was a lack of intimidating work when I showed up. »

- Carson Mell

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Five Questions For “Safety Not Guaranteed” Actor Mark Duplass

6 June 2012 2:08 PM, PDT

Mark Duplass is certainly having a banner year. The independent filmmaker’s work ethic is that of a rabid squirrel, frenetically jumping in between the lanes of acting and directing over the years, without ever getting hit with a dud. Since the 2005 indie hit The Puffy Chair, co-directed with his older brother, Jay, Duplass has managed to position himself in front of the camera as well as behind it. This year he has acted in a string of films: Your Sister’s Sister, Darling Companion, the upcoming People Like Us, and Safety Not Guaranteed, a recent hit on the festival circuit. In addition, there’s Black Rock, a film that Duplass wrote and his wife, Katie Aselton, directed. And with his brother Jay, he directed the crossover hit with Jeff, Who Lives at Home, starring Jason Segel and Ed Helms, while later this summer the duo returns with the sports dramedy The Do-Deca-Pentathlon, »

- Niki Cruz

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Dark Days: Sci-fi Dystopia In Film

6 June 2012 1:27 PM, PDT

During the writing of this article, Ray Bradbury, one of the great founding fathers of sci-fi dystopia, passed away. With his seminal book, Fahrenheit 451 (1953), Bradbury gained recognition as an important figure not only in the science fiction community but the literary world in general. Recently, The New Yorker published a touching essay by the author in which he shared the origin of his love for science fiction. It is a beautiful ode to childhood and the discovery of one’s true passion. The essay will prove to future generations that, even in his last days, Bradbury’s ability to move and inspire never diminished.

Sci-fi dystopia has found great prominence in its movement from literature to film. Authors like George Orwell, Ray Bradbury and most frequently, Philip K. Dick have had their novels and short stories adapted to film, albeit not always successfully. With cinematic works like Metropolis, Akira, »

- Byron Camacho

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The ‘Blue Velvet’ Project: Detour Into A Dissolve

6 June 2012 1:02 PM, PDT

Detour into a Dissolve

A frame from between posts 120 and 121.

By the 1830s, he [Henry Langdon Childe] had developed and perfected the [magic lantern] technique of ‘dissolving views,’ in which one picture faded out as the next one faded in. The images were aligned on the screen and the light remained a constant intensity, creating a smooth, gradual transition. This permitted a wide variety of effects that had not previously been possible. (From The Emergence of Cinema, by Charles Musser, University of California Press, 1990.)

A dissolve is the superimposition of a fade-out onto a fade-in, achieved by reversing and them re-filming using film that has already been used once. [George] Méliès first used this technique, which originated in magic lantern displays, in the late 1899 Cendrillon (Cinderella), and then frequently thereafter to link scenes in multiple-shot films. From the beginning, the dissolve was usually not used for trick effect, but rather to create a smooth transition from »

- Nicholas Rombes

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Filmaid Music Video: “A Heavy Abacus,” Directed By Paola Mendoza And Topaz Adizes

6 June 2012 11:36 AM, PDT

Filmmaker Paola Mendoza (Entre Nos, and one of our 25 New Faces) just forwarded this video she directed with filmmaker Topaz Adizes for FilmAid. It’s the organization’s first video, in support of World Refugee Day on June 20, and the music is The Joy Formidable’s “A Heavy Abacus.” While volunteering as Visiting Teaching Artists for FilmAid, Mendoza and Adizes shot this piece featuring Sudanese refugees in the Kakuma refugee camp in Northern Kenya. It was shot with a Canon 7D using two bounce boards and an iPhone as a monitor for the kids to lip sync to.

For more information on FilmAid, visit their site.

… Read the rest »

- Scott Macaulay

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Alrick Brown: Breaking In Is Hard To Do

6 June 2012 11:02 AM, PDT

Last night I moderated an Ifp panel at Dctv, co-sponsored by the New York Television Festival, on transitioning from film to TV. It consisted of two TV execs — Colleen Conway (VP of Reality and Alternative Programming, Lifetime Networks) and Erin Keating (Director of Development & Production, IFC TV) — and one filmmaker, Alrick Brown. Filmmaker readers will be familiar with Brown as he was one of our 2011 25 New Faces and won an Audience Award at Sundance for his debut feature, Kinyarwanda. Brown recently broke into television by directing an episode of the upcoming ABC documentary crime series, Final Witness. All three were great panelists, with Conway and Keating sincere in their interest in material from new filmmakers but honest regarding the process by which that material filters to them. Namely, it helps to know someone, with that someone being an agent, lawyer or manager who can submit the project on your behalf, »

- Scott Macaulay

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Calvin Lee Reeder: “The Oregonian”

6 June 2012 9:57 AM, PDT

Since being named one of Filmmaker magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film in 2007, Portland-bred writer-director Calvin Lee Reeder has amassed a small body of impressively uncategorizable work—mostly no-budget shorts like Little Farm, The Rambler, and Snake Mountain Colada—that reveal a taste for the bizarre and beguiling, as well as the shockingly perverse. Prior to making films in earnest, Reeder played guitar with the Lars Finberg–led paranoid post-punk group Popular Shapes (a/k/a The Intelligence) and collaborated with Brady Hall on Jerkbeast, a feature comedy based on a demented, sophomoric public-access program they developed for fun. (Think Morton Downey Jr. meets Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.) That anarchic spirit certainly carried over into the short-form work, as did Reeder’s knack for creating eerie swatches of music and sound design to outfit his surreal stories, but the films became more ambitious, more cinematic, while remaining resolutely strange. »

- Damon Smith

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Five Questions For “Last Kind Words” Director Kevin Barker

5 June 2012 7:07 PM, PDT

New York City writer/director Kevin Barker’s Last Kind Words – which gets its first hometown screening June 8 and 10 as part of the Brooklyn Film Festival – is a supernatural thriller with a Southern Gothic setting, starring Deadwood’s Brad Dourif, Spencer Daniels (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), and Sarah Steele (Spanglish). Barker has a parallel career as a musician, having worked with Devendra Banhart, Antony & The Johnsons, and Joanna Newsom, in addition to recording his own music. Ghosts, violence, and murky atmosphere abound in the multi-talented Brooklynite’s film, in which music unsurprisingly plays a key role.

Filmmaker: You’ve said that part of the inspiration for Last Kind Words came from the Delta blues tune “Last Kind Words Blues,” by Geeshie Wiley, which also happened to provide the soundtrack to a particularly creepy moment in the Crumb documentary. What’s the song’s relationship to the film?

Barker: »

- Jim Allen

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Aaron Hillis Raises Indiegogo Funds For His New Video Store

5 June 2012 1:06 PM, PDT

Last week I posted my interview with Aaron Hillis in which the Brooklyn-based curator and critic announced his purchase of Video Free Brooklyn, a Cobble Hill video rental store. In the interview he spoke of the fundraising campaign he needs to do to make the store viable again… and here it is. Check out the well-choreographed video and also the rewards he’s offering to his Indiegogo supporters. There are some hefty offerings here, including the entire Oscilloscope catalog and dinner with director Robert Downey, Sr., a private screening with actor David Cross, and Bobcat Goldthwait performing stand-up in your living room. And, of course, lots of video rentals… late fees not included.

Video Free Brooklyn (Indiegogo Fundraiser) from VideoFree Brooklyn on Vimeo.

… Read the rest »

- Scott Macaulay

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Jamie Stuart’S A-list New York

5 June 2012 10:18 AM, PDT

Jamie Stuart, well known to Filmmaker readers for all the videos he’s shot for the site over the years, was commissioned to shoot the intros and promos for the New York City Made in New York Awards, held at Gracie Mansion last night. Here’s his intro spot featuring all the recipients, including Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep.

… Read the rest »

- Scott Macaulay

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