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Mitchell Block Direct: Short Films -- Oscar-Expectations

28 February 2013 10:00 AM, PST | Sydney's Buzz | See recent Sydney's Buzz news »

Vol. I Issue 10 February 2013

Join us twice weekly. Send us links to your sizzle reels and film sites. 

As this last weekend approached I was faced with marking my Academy Award ballot. This process is always really difficult.  How does one sort out the “best” film or accomplishment of five or nine in the case of the Best Picture?   For me it has been over 30 years of screenings. Thousand of films.  Some really great films and many not so great.  I also try to think what it means to be one of the nominees. What was the off-screen story but always more importantly what their contribution was to the work and how the film compares to others. What’s great about short films is that they can be made for almost nothing by a few filmmakers without a large budget, crew or cast.  

The Academy has three nomination categories for films less than 41 minutes in length: short fiction, documentary and animation. Once nominated, there are public screenings and panels to celebrate the nominated films at the Academy in Beverly Hills.  A group photograph of all the nominees is taken with a large Oscar in the lobby of the Academy headquarters.  It is really a wonderful experience. 

It wasn’t always like that. There were no special celebrations for the short or documentary films until the l980s.  While the Foreign Language films had their seminar, nothing was done for these films.  We tried to remedy that in the 1980s and started the Direct Cinema receptions and screenings with UCLA, USC and, a few years later, the Ida sponsored “Docuday” and the Academy started doing an annual reception for the shorts and documentary filmmakers. Today the Academy’s evening receptions for the short films, animated features (a relatively new Oscar category) and the documentaries are annual sell-out events.  The filmmakers and their works are celebrated and it has become a highlight of the Oscar week for the filmmakers and those associated with the films. 

When I first became a member of the Academy the short films and animation branch was headed by a number of extraordinary talents: T Hee, Saul Bass and June Forey.   These three remarkable artists represented classic Disney animation (T. Hee), fiction and narrative short films (Saul Bass), and the television and theatrical films (June Forey, who voiced hundreds of characters.)

Saul Bass articulated the branch’s membership policy, “We want them to be part of our branch.” This liberal interpretation allowed documentary filmmakers like Ken Burns as well as voice artists and creatives like Stan Friedberg (and June Forey) to be part of a group that included IMAX filmmakers as well as classic character animation directors, colorists, layout artists, producers and other key  short film and animation filmmakers. The animation filmmakers represent both the studio animators and the independent animators who work globally doing personal work as well as studio work. Other governors from 1979 to the present have included Hal Elias, who served on the Academy board for 37 years and was a short film publicist for MGM among other things; Bill Littlejohn, who worked on over 90 films as an animator ranging from Charley Brown, Peanuts Christmas Specials to working with the Hubleys’; Bill Scott, who acted and wrote over a hundred animated films, and Carl Bell, who worked on over 35 films at Disney in its animation department.

Unlike most of the other branches, the Short Films branch screens all of the submitted films in 16mm and 35mm and now in Digital Cinema, in an effort to find and nominate the best short films produced in the world.  The branch rules allowed films to qualify in an effort to encourage more international entries in the 1990s by taking a first prize at key festivals in addition to the method that all Academy films can use to qualify, a theatrical week long  (now three day for shorts) run in a theater in Los Angeles County.  Branch screenings were expanded to New York to permit more members to participate in the nomination process in the 1990s. The final short listed screenings are in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Over one-third of the branch participates in the voting. The best change took place this year, sending DVD screeners to all Academy members of the short live action and animated nominated films. While this still won’t force members to watch them, members can’t claim they can’t see them. This is not only great for the branch but great for the nominated filmmakers. Who would not want to screen their short film for Academy members?

The process of the branch for selecting Nominees has remained unchanged for years—members screen the films in a theater rather than on DVDs, which is how the Documentary branch is dealing with the flood of feature docs and their unwillingness to trust committees. Nothing beats seeing films projected on a large screen with perfect sound and that is now lost.  In a two step process, a committee (self selected from the branch membership) screens the films and the 15 films with the highest scores are short listed. The short listed films are then screened again and members vote.   

The current Short Film Branch governors are Jon Bloom (pictured with the 2007 nominees), a 1983 fiction short nominee, filmmaker, editor and producer who chairs the branch, animator and Disney Creative Head and multi-Oscar winner, John Lasseter, and William "Bill" Kroyer,an award-winning director of animation and computer graphics commercials, short films, movie titles and theatrical films and faculty member Chapman College. 

One of the challenges for the branch is how to grow live action producing members.  With the addition of feature animation to the awards and the large number of feature animation films being released, the branch would like to have the most qualified animators to become members. The number of animators grows at a far faster rate than that of the live action filmmakers since only a few live action filmmakers can qualify for membership.  The commercial success of animated features, the long production schedules and the large number of animators who work in qualifying positions allows for six plus individuals per picture to be eligible for membership. With five nominees a year, the number of individuals who can play a key role in two or three features becoming eligible for membership can easily approach 30 plus individuals annually.  Add in the short animation nominees and competition for the limited new slots allocated to the branch can be brutal.  The talent pool of animators is both astonishingly strong and suggests that Hollywood can easily double production from the 15 or so films made annually to 25 or 30 without having to compromise on talent.

Many of the filmmakers in the branch who make their Oscar nominated or winning live action short have made or are interested in making feature length works.  A number of recent nominees or winners have made that transition.   The following list looks at all of the live action nominees from 2001 to 2011, using the Internet Movie Database I looked up each nominee and listed what they reported they were doing professionally.  Obviously, this is not intended to show everything. In each case, I listed credits or summarized credits shown in the IMDb listing.

Some observations about 11 years of Live Action Short Film Academy Award Nominees:

There were 86 nominations (out of a possible 110) This is because in some years only three films were nominated and in some cases only one filmmaker from a film was eligible for a nomination. Non-us based filmmakers dominate this category. Despite the huge number of short films being made annually in the Us, a majority of the nominated films come from filmmakers based abroad. In part this is due to the government subsidies available, but it is also due to the strong training programs, commercial support for the short films and a rich tradition of theatrical shorts. This year (2012) four of the five films in the live action category are from Us filmmakers. This is an unusual year. Few filmmakers have more than one nomination, only a handful of the nominees have made multiple Academy worthy short films. As one might expect, many of the filmmakers have continued their film work in television, some in features.   The European Oscar winners (vs nominees) have done better at snagging features after a win than have their American counterparts. Again, this is likely a function of government support for entry features. Perhaps one of the short films seem to have been turned into a feature (or television) film. Some of the short films are intended to be sizzle reels for features, but it is not clear why so few of the nominated short films have been turned into features. A number of the Oscar winners have not continued working in film. No record of future productions are shown on IMDb. It would be interesting to see what they are doing now. Two of the Oscar winners have written critically award winning screenplays, one received two Academy Award nominations for his screenwriting. None of these nominees have gone on to win Oscars in directing or producing for feature films.

The data is from the Academy and the IMDb databases.

Apologies in advance, if credits were missed or other factual errors were made. In a week we’ll be able to add this year's winner. 

2001 (74th) 

Short Film (Live Action)  (* won Academy Award)

*the accountant -- Ray McKinnon:   Two Features: Randy and the Mob 2007 and Crystal 2004  Lisa Blount: Produced these features. Copy Shop -- Virgil Widrich    Gregor's Greatest Invention -- Johannes Kiefer  A Man Thing (Meska Sprawa) -- Slawomir Fabicki,   Two Features: Loving 2012, Retrieval 2006  (Also wrote)  Bogumil Godfrejow  Has shot multiple features Speed for Thespians -- Kalman Apple,  Shameela Bakhsh 

2002 (75th) 

Short Film (Live Action)

Fait D'Hiver -- Dirk BeliënAnja Daelemans produced Comrade Kim Goes North I'll Wait for the Next One... (J'Attendrai Le Suivant...) -- Philippe Orreindy, Thomas Gaudin  Inja (Dog) -- Steven Pasvolsky Feature, Deck Dogz  Joe Weatherstone, produced episodic television. Johnny Flynton -- Lexi Alexander,  directed 3 features: Lifted, Punisher: War Zone and Green Street Hooligans   Alexander Buono  as a Dp has shot series and features *This Charming Manon (Der Er En Yndig Mand) -- Martin Strange-Hansen, Mie Andreasen produced both features, series and documentaries.

2003 (76th) 

Short Film (Live Action)

Die Rote Jacke (The Red Jacket) -- Florian Baxmeyer  Multiple television films and series Most (The Bridge) -- Bobby GarabedianWilliam Zabka  Mr. Zabka has appeared as an actor in numerous films and television shows Squash -- Lionel Bailliu  Features: Fair Play and Denis (in post) (A) Torzija [(A) Torsion] -- Stefan Arsenijevic  Directed: Lost and Found, Love and Other Crimes, and Do Not Forget Me Istanbul *Two Soldiers -- Aaron Schneider,Asc  (Cinematographer numerous credits) and feature, Kiss the Girls,  Andrew J. Sacks  Series The Closer (98 episodes) and Major Crimes.

2004 (77th) 

Short Film (Live Action)

Everything in This Country Must -- Gary McKendry  Directed Killer Elite, Joseph and the Girl Little Terrorist -- Ashvin Kumar  Produced and Directed features (2) and documentaries (2) 7:35 in the Morning (7:35 de la Mañana) -- Nacho Vigalondo  Directed and written multiple films, series, shorts Two Cars, One Night -- Taika Waititi, Acted and directed and written multi television and films   Ainsley Gardiner  Nz based producer of multiple shorts, television and feature films *Wasp -- Andrea Arnold  Actor, director and writer of numbers films, television programs

2005 (78th) 

Short Film (Live Action)

Ausreisser (The Runaway) -- Ulrike Grote  Ms. Grote has acted in over 42 programs, features, television series and films Cashback -- Sean Ellis, Director/Writer Metro Manila, The Broken  Lene Bausager Producer, The Broken, Ginger and Rosa The Last Farm -- Rúnar Rúnarsson, Director/Writer Volcano,  Thor S. Sigurjónsson Produced multiple features Our Time Is Up -- Rob Pearlstein, Director/Writer multiple television and a feature  Pia Clemente  Producer, documentaries *Six Shooter -- Martin McDonagh   Writer/Director Seven Psychopaths, In Bruges

2006 (79th) 

Short Film (Live Action)

Binta and the Great Idea (Binta Y La Gran Idea) -- Javier Fesser,  no other credits shown Luis Manso  Produced multiple features Éramos Pocos (One Too Many) -- Borja Cobeaga  Writer, multi films and television series Helmer & Son -- Søren Pilmark  no other credits, Kim Magnusso  Producer over 100 film, television films  (4  Best Short Film Academy Award nominations) Won for Ernst & Lyset The Saviour -- Peter Templeman, no other credits  Stuart Parkyn, Producer, multi-short film credits *West Bank Story -- Ari Sandel   Director, one short, one documentary

2007 (80th) 

Short Film (Live Action)

At Night -- Christian E. Christiansen,  Directed, Features and television series  Louise Vesth   Producer, multi features Il Supplente (The Substitute) -- Andrea Jublin   

*Le Mozart des Pickpockets (The Mozart of Pickpockets) -- Philippe Pollet-Villard  Actor and director short films, a television film

Tanghi Argentini -- Guido Thys,  Director, Multiple television series  Anja Daelemans, nominated for 2 Short Film nominations (Gridlock, 2002)  Producer/Pm  various The Tonto Woman -- Daniel Barber,  Directed  The Keeping Room, Harry Brown Matthew Brown  Produced 2 shorts

2008 (81st) 

Short Film (Live Action)

Auf der Strecke (On the Line) -- Reto Caffi   Manon on the Asphalt -- Elizabeth Marre,  Director, Television series  Olivier Pont  Director, Television series New Boy -- Steph Green, Director Run and Jump  Tamara Anghie Producer Run and Jump The Pig -- Tivi Magnusson, Producer  Over 64 titles  many short films, Dorte Høgh Writer multiple series, (Directed The Pig) *Spielzeugland (Toyland) -- Jochen Alexander Freydank  Producer of multiple television series

2009 (82nd) 

Short Film (Live Action)

The Door -- Juanita Wilson, Director As If I Am Not There  James Flynn  Multiple Producer credits for over 50 titles, television and theatrical Instead of Abracadabra -- Patrik Eklund, Director, Television film and feature Mathias Fjellström   Kavi -- Gregg Helvey   Miracle Fish -- Luke Doolan, Multiple credits as editor  Drew Bailey Multiple credits as Assistant Director *The New Tenants -- Joachim Back, no other credits shown as a director, Tivi Magnusson This is Mr. Magnusson’s first Academy Award and second nomination. See 2008.

2010 (83rd) 

Short Film (Live Action)

The Confession -- Tanel Toom The Crush -- Michael Creagh  *God of Love -- Luke Matheny Feature Love Sick and multiple Television series episode Na Wewe -- Ivan Goldschmidt Wish 143 -- Ian Barnes, Multiple directing credits Television Samantha Waite Credits as production coordinator on multiple titles

2011 (84th) 

Short Film (Live Action)

Pentecost -- Peter McDonald, Credits as actor  Eimear O'Kane Credits as Producer on The Shadows and on television programs. Raju -- Max Zähle, Director, Television series  Stefan Gieren Producer-Writer credit on feature film, Kunduz: The Incident at Hadji Ghafur *The Shore -- Terry George, Writer Two Oscar nominations for screenplays In the Name of the Father and Hotel Riwanda  Producer and director on films and television series Oorlagh George Numerous credits as Assistant on features, documentaries and television shows Time Freak -- Andrew Bowler Writer and actor in a short film Gigi Causey Production manager, producer shorts, series and films

__________________________________________________________________________________

Credits: Editing by Jessica Just for SydneysBuzz

__________________________________________________________________________________

Mitchell Block specializes in conceiving, producing, marketing & distributing independent features & consulting. He is an expert in placing both completed works into distribution & working with producers to make projects fundable. He conducts regular workshops in film producing in Los Angeles and most recently in Maine, Russia and in Myanmar (Burma).

Poster Girl, produced by Block was nominated for a Documentary Academy Award and selected by the Ida as the Best Doc Short 2011. It was also nominated for two Emmy Awards and aired on HBO. He is an executive producer of the Emmy Award-winning PBS series Carrier, a 10-hour series that he conceived & co-created. Block is a graduate of Tisch School and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business. He is a member of Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, the Television Academy, a founding member of BAFTA-la and has been teaching at USC School of Cinematic Arts since 1979. Currently Block teaches a required class in the USC Peter Stark Producing Program.

______________________________________________________________________

©2013Mwb  All Rights Reserved All Rights Reserved. All information and designs on the Sites are copyrighted material owned by Block. Reproduction, dissemination, or transmission of any part of the material here without the express written consent of the owner is strictly prohibited.All other product names and marks on Block Direct, whether trademarks, service marks, or other type, and whether registered or unregistered, is the property of Block.

»

- Mitchell Block

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Mitchell Block Direct: Academy Nominated Live Action Shorts Reviewed

14 February 2013 6:30 AM, PST | Sydney's Buzz | See recent Sydney's Buzz news »

Vol. 1 Issue 9

This is a year where all of the live action short films are very good but none are great. It is ok not to be great. That’s a high bar.  The films are all very well made and include three American directors, one from an American film school (USC), one with an actor directing himself and lots of stuff we’ve seen before.  Two of the films deal with refugees in the third world, Somali and Afghanistan, one deals with old age dementia, one with death and unrequited love and one with a troubled (suicidal) young man.  The plots, except in one case, are predictable. All of the films should briefly get their filmmakers attention from agents and managers always hot for young or at least undiscovered talent.  The Academy has done its job and with more entries than ever, it wasn’t easy.  Some fine films didn’t make it.

The most imaginative work is Death of a Shadow. It is set in a place where a man is working to earn back his life by taking pictures of death. It is stunningly produced and well cast with Matthias Schoenaarts, one of the hotter Euro actors of the moment.  The two films set in the Third World deal with young people who have nothing or almost nothing in terms of worldly goods. Both are in apprenticeships and both are in careers they will become dead ends.  In Buzhashi Boys the young character is training to be a blacksmith as his country is about to enter the 21st Century and in Asad, the young man is being trained as a fisherman in a country that will likely stay in the 19th Century for some time but once peace comes, will also likely be unemployed.  While this is clearly coincidental, both films present pretty bleak pictures of the future.   

The self-directed performance in Curfew is really well done. The filmmaker successfully casts himself opposite a young actress who does steal the show, but he gets the last laugh. He is really good. Henry, while predictable, is stunning. It deals with memories and should appeal to many Academy members as the film shifts its scenes like cards being shuffled.  Like all of the films Henry is also beautifully produced.

This is the first year where All Academy members will be able to vote on the short films. All members received DVD screeners of the films. My only complaint with the Academy DVDs is that the films look very video, at least on my monitor, while the Dcp versions looked far more cinematic at the Academy screenings.  Prior to this year, since the early 1970s, voters were required to see the films projected at special Academy screenings.  The rules were changed in the 1970s to require members to screen the films before voting since advertising seemed to influence the outcome in this category over members seeing the films.  None of the live action films have serious PR money behind them so the playing field should be even. (In Animation studios are behind a number of the films.) So may the best film win. 

AsadBryan Buckley, director, and Mino Jarjoura, producer 

Asad is set in a war-torn fishing village in Somalia, an all-Somali refugee cast stars in this coming-of-age fable of a Somali boy who is faced with falling into the pirate life, or rising above to choose the path of an honest fishing man. Directed by Bryan Buckley, who has been working as a television commercial director most of his career, this short film should help establish him in the theatrical feature world.  Later this year, Buckley will direct his first feature film, the comedy Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus for Lionsgate Summit, starring Reese Witherspoon, adapted from Dr. John Gray’s classic guide to relationships.

Asad is well done. It is slick, solidly produced and directed. The production is feature-film like, big, well cast and nicely shot. The large cast, lots of background and many locations give this work a nice patina. The actors are non-professionals and they give solid performances. The film is moving, at times terrifying. This is a thoughtful work that gets to our hearts.  

Trailer:  http://www.imdb.com/video/wab/vi2136908569/

Length: 17 min.

Language:Somali with English subtitles.

Country:USA

Buzkashi Boys, Sam French, director, and Ariel Nasr, producer Fawad Mohammadi with director Sam French

Buzhashi Boys is set against contemporary Afghanistan and is about two best friends, a charismatic street child and a blacksmith's son, who are struggling to realize their dreams in one of the most war-torn countries on Earth. Shot on location in Kabul by an alliance of Afghan and international filmmakers, Buzkashi Boys was produced through the Afghan Film Project, a non-profit foundation formed to tell Afghan stories while building the capacity of Afghanistan's fledgling film industry.

The film has the slick look of a commercial, which is not a surprise since the filmmaker is a top commercial director. The camera glides, the shots are well lit and the film fits together like a Rubric cube.  Buzhashi Boys is fine start for someone who is a recent USC Cinema school graduate and has not been making films for lon. The film has solid production values including a massive game of Buzkashi or “dragging the goat,” in Farsi, which involves carrying a goat’s carcass in a polo like game which makes bull fighting look animal friendly. The film was written by Martin Roe who also went to USC.

Length: 30 min.

Language: Pashto

Country: Afghanistan, USA Production

Curfew, Shawn Christensen, director, writer and producer

A suicidal New Yorker, Richie’s attempt to end his life is interrupted by a call from his estranged sister asking him to babysit his niece for the evening.

Curfew starts with a bang and is both inventive and smart. Shawn Christensen’s directing debut is the film to beat. Curfew is about Richie, a young man who gets a phone call from his estranged sister, asking him to look after his niece for a few hours. The phone call comes moments before he is about to kill himself.  His sister is no less a treat to deal with. Estranged from her husband it is clear that her life is also on the rocks. 

The film has New York energy. It is sharp and original with a taut narrative arc that grabs us and continues for its entire length, from scenes in a rock and roll bowling alley to a visit to his former home where we think he is going to score some dope but he ends up with some flip books.   

The film has a non-predictable ending which in this group of films is rare. It is really well done and the production is not out of control.  The young girl actress is stellar.  Just enough attitude so we want Richie to abandon her but enough cuteness for us to want him to keep her safe. This is a year where calling the winner is pointless in print, even if you have a one in five chance of being right it is a race that could go any number of ways.

Length: 20 min.

Language: English

Country:USA

Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw),Tom Van Avermaet, director, and Ellen De Waele, producer

This highly produced sci-fi fantasy work is about a dead Wwi soldier stuck in the limbo between life and death who has to collect shadows to regain a second chance at life.

Death of a Shadow, a Belgian-French co-production starring Franco-cinema’s star Matthias Schoenaarts, falls into that uncomfortable (for me) Twilight Zone-type film category. In a Twilight Zone-type film characters can walk on water, not follow narrative rules and have a surprise ending that is unpredictable because we’re not on this earth but in a parallel universe.  I am not a fan of this style narrative because there are no rules. It is designed to surprise us and after several decades of watching them I have given up. While I don’t mind surprises I am troubled by characters that don’t live in our world.  Perhaps I am jealous, because I require the characters in my films to be real?

This fantasy film is about a soldier whose job it is to capture the moment of death on a camera that registers shadows. The images are stored in a collection by the odd photography patron who may or may not be the devil. But who knows?  Anything goes, and it does.  Our character falls in love a woman called Sarah as he is about to be shot in what appears to a scene from a World War One film. My response on first viewing was to turn it off. I have since had the opportunity to see it a few times and, while I have not warmed up to it, I admit that it looks great. It has some solid special effects, nice production values and feels like a mash up of Martin Scorsese’s last film Hugo (in terms of the effects) and any number of other mechanical effect movies

Length: 20 min.

Language: German               

Country: Belgium

Henry, Yan England, director Gérard Poirier as Henry Marie Tifo as Nathalie

The Canadian French-language short Henry captures the confusion and terror of Alzheimer's disease by looking at the 84-year-old character (Henry’s) struggle as his world moves between memories.  Played with authenticity by Gérard Poirier, this is a deeply moving work that shows the effects of Alzheimer’s when it is evident that Henry does not recognize his wife, played effectively by Marie Tifo.

In some ways it feels like the best picture nominee Amour.  The production, like all of the films in this category, is stunningly mounted. Yan England does a fine job directing this work and, if Academy voters behave as they sometimes do with this kind of material, England might go home with the Oscar. 

Trailer: http://oscar.go.com/nominees/short-film-live-action/henry

Length: 21 min.

Language: English

Country: Canadian

________________________________________________________________________

Credits: Editing by Jessica Just for SydneysBuzz

________________________________________________________________________

Mitchell Block specializes in conceiving, producing, marketing & distributing independent features & consulting. He is an expert in placing both completed works into distribution & working with producers to make projects fundable. He conducts regular workshops in film producing in Los Angeles and most recently in Maine, Russia and in Myanmar (Burma).

Poster Girl, produced by Block was nominated for a Documentary Academy Award and selected by the Ida as the Best Doc Short 2011. It was also nominated for two Emmy Awards and aired on HBO. He is an executive producer of the Emmy Award-winning PBS series Carrier, a 10-hour series that he conceived & co-created. Block is a graduate of Tisch School and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business. He is a member of Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, the Television Academy, a founding member of BAFTA-la and has been teaching at USC School of Cinematic Arts since 1979. Currently Block teaches a required class in the USC Peter Stark Producing Program.

______________________________________________________________________

©2013Mwb  All Rights Reserved All Rights Reserved. All information and designs on the Sites are copyrighted material owned by Block. Reproduction, dissemination, or transmission of any part of the material here without the express written consent of the owner is strictly prohibited.All other product names and marks on Block Direct, whether trademarks, service marks, or other type, and whether registered or unregistered, is the property of Block.

»

- Mitchell Block

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Sundance 2013 Short Film Awards Reviewed

12 February 2013 12:30 PM, PST | Sydney's Buzz | See recent Sydney's Buzz news »

Vol. I Issue 7 

Sundance programmed 65 short films selected from 8,102 submissions. The Academy only goes through about 160 films to arrive at the 10 nominations; one might say winning at Sundance is harder than winning an Oscar.  Every year when I watch the Sundance shorts I wonder if they just run out of energy when they get to the end. With over 100 films to choose from for every one of the slots, I am always amazed by the choices. (I also feel that way about the documentary films selected.)

If you submitted one of the 8,102 films you might feel you were robbed or, if you’re honest and critical, you might feel that at least the winners should have been programmed.  You can always make another short and try next year or submit your short to one of the over 200 festivals in the world that run short films.  Many of the winners are on the Web so take a look at them and see what you think.

I feel this year’s Sundance 2013 Short Film Award winners are a mixed bag if one is looking for works that will launch careers, entertain and have artistic merit, which I always insist on when I am teaching.  This group of films, except in one case, gets two of the three: two are wonderful career launching works, five are very entertaining and three have artistic merit. Its great to be “art” but I think it is better to be entertaining “art.”  I have written about all of the films which I had the good fortune of seeing on the web-in all but one case.

Oddly, getting one of the films proved really challenging. The filmmakers decided not to post to protect it from Academy rules (The Academy requires a film first qualify before being shown.) on the web.  Or to even post it with a password which the Academy permits prior to the film qualifying for award consideration.  Sundance did not even have a web version of this work. So they sent a copy over via messenger which I appreciated. I think if a work is out, it makes a lot of sense to have it on the web (with a password) so that critics and festival programmers, etc. can see it.       

I am glad I did get to see it.

Short Film Grand Jury Prize – The Whistle

The Whistle is a special work. It has a large cast, lots of locations and is a successful bigger short film.  Telling the story of Marcin, it is both entertaining and moving. Marcin is a lowest-leagues football (soccer) referee who lives in a small town near Krakow, Poland, and who dreams of better times. At his mother’s urging, he decides to change his life and find himself a girlfriend and a better job. He succeeds. The film is unique among this selection of award winners because it does not depend on any gimmicks, plot twists or narrative surprises. The film is well directed, shot and edited. The filmmaker handles the soccer matches and action sequences well.   Marcin is able to handle the soccer players’ aggression and, to my delight, the filmmaker holds the action at a realistic level.

While this film is not the audience winner as are some of the other films, it is very deserving of the grand prize.

Director:  Grzegorz Zariczny  16 minutes

Production Company Link: http://polishshorts.pl/en/film_catalogue/documentary/1090/

Short Film Jury Award, Us Fiction – Whiplash

Whiplash is the story of a jazz percussionist in a high school setting with a faculty member who, while musically talented, should have opted for a career in Marine training (as one can imagine it from movies) instead of being a teacher. This conductor from hell is abusive, a liar and unusually cruel to his students. Whiplash is the name of the jazz composition the band is playing. This short was written as a “calling card” aimed at attracting backing for a feature-length version of the story. Jason Reitman is an executive producer of this short.

Without revealing more about the narrative, this is an exceptionally realized work. Perfect in every regard except its humanity. The directing and pacing is spot on. Camera and the tech credits first rate, professional.  The performance by J.K. Simmons (“Up in the Air”) is first rate. As the parent of a jazz playing high school trumpet player, I must confess that if this character was my son’s teacher I would have him arrested for child abuse. Of course, this is only a movie. The filmmakers got me. Well done. Let’s hope they have the sense to not turn it into a feature or a television series if the longer work follows this concept.

This film is not available on the web.

Director and screenwriter: Damien Chazelle

The Short Film Jury Award: International Fiction – The Date

In this student film from Finland,  Tino’s manhood is put to the test in front of two women when he has to host a date for Diablo, the family’s stud cat.

The Date, a wonderfully realized short fiction film from the Elo Film School Helsinki, is a stand out.  This four actor, two cat, one location work (an apartment) deals with a mother (Mirka) and her daughter (Päibvi) bringing in their female cat to mate for the first time with the young man’s (Tino) cat.  This is a process Tino has been through before. As they drink tea and eat cookies the cats are having a great time, very loudly in the back ground. The mother talks about the cats having sex in somewhat graphic terms.  The teens try not to react.  Afterwards the two young people go out on the balcony and she talks about her concern for her cat and the cat’s sexual experience for this first mating. Tino, the young man, is a perfect foil. Despite his youth he handles this in a very mature fashion. This film is deserving of its prize.

                                                                                                                         

It’s great to see a student film where the focus is on execution of a clever and simple idea. A cat date.  This is also perfect. While one might quibble about some small things, the filmmaker shows control, excellent coverage of scenes, executing humor, making a film that has characters that seem real and no violence. I think the director should have not had his characters smoke and perhaps use the “F” word for the sake of getting a young audience, rather than an older teen audience. It would be nice for middle-schoolers to see this work and to see it on television/cable. Jenni Toivonlemi has made a work that is truly international and a great portfolio film. 

Directed and written by: Jenni Toivoniemi    7 minutes

This work is not available (at press time) on the Web.

Company Link:  http://www.tuffifilms.com/productions

The Short Film Jury Award Documentary – Skinningrove

This short documentary narrated by British photographer Chris Killip shows his unpublished images that chronicle the time he spent among the residents of a remote English fishing village, Skinningrove.  It feels like a home movie or very minimal despite the distinguished reputation of filmmaker Mr. Almereyda or the subject. Because of the slow pacing it is doubtful it will get much broadcast or cable exposure. The work is all shot in one location, Mr. Killip is speaking but we never hear the filmmaker nor is there any interaction between them. While the photographs are striking, they are shown without a critical context and no information is provided by the filmmaker about Mr. Killip so we must evaluate the images as shown without a critical context. This makes the work very challenging.  It is a shame the filmmaker does not share Mr. Killip’s biographical information or his critical reputation. (He is a tenured professor at Harvard.)

Director: Michael Almereyda  15 minutes

Link to Mr. Killip’s web site: http://chriskillip.com/index.html

Short Film Audience Award – Catnip: Egress to Oblivion

This mocumentry while sure to be a crowd pleaser is a one note film. It’s a shame. Had the filmmaker seen one film by Marc Lewis (Cane Toads: An UnnaturalHistory) for example, the film could have been great.  Less is more.

Directed by Jason Willis  7 minutes

Short Film Special Jury Award – Until the Quiet Comes

Directed by: Kahlil Joseph about 4 minutes

This music video by Kahlil Joseph is beautifully shot, performed, choreographed, cast.  It was shot in the Nickerson Gardens housing projects in Watts, Los Angeles. The narrative comes from the music. The film is silent and reactive to the music. It’s eye candy with a serious subject.

Link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CLHH6N2tkFc&playnext=1&list=PLauTLaPMBllP9NLi-lJixdyJZi2_aSzM3&feature=results_video

Short Film Special Jury Award, Acting – Joel Nagle, Palimpsest

Kathleen Wise and Joel Nagle in Palimpsest

A successful house tuner provides clients with a unique form of therapy that examines subtle details in their living spaces. This is a perfect short film. A very simple idea done with skillful filmmaking, a wonderful cast and nuanced directing it is magical and full of surprises. Let’s hope it is put in for Academy consideration. Tyburski was robbed.

Palimpsest stands out as one of the Sundance star films it is beautifully directed and acted and succeeds doing all of the things a short film should accomplish. The film’s male lead Joel Nagle won a jury award for his amazingly nuanced performance of a home audio tuner.  This work resonates both as a work of art and an audience pleaser. The other lead actor in the film Kathleen Wise also should have taken an award. She is unknowingly being upset by the sounds her home makes. What a delightful and original concept for a short film. Let’s hope it launches a theatrical career for its director, Michael Tyburski and its two stars.

Director: Michael Tyburski  17 minutes

Link: Not available.

Website for film/filmmaker: www.palimpsestfilm.com

Short Film Jury Award, Animation – Irish Folk Furniture

This stop action animation short is a straight narrative documentary about some dressers.

Perhaps more than we’ll ever want to know about Irish traditional dressers. It’s an interesting choice since it is not drawn or computer generated. Not very “flash” but, with the use of the voice over interviews by, I assume, the filmmaker, the work is sensitive and deceptively simple in its approach. It is an excellent work that some audiences will find challenging.

Animation and Camera: Tony W. Donoghue   8 minutes

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Credits: Editing by Jessica Just for SydneysBuzz

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Block Doc Workshops in Los Angeles February 2013  Ida Doc U

The International Documentary Association will be hosting Documentary Funding and Documentary Tune-Up Workshops with Block on February 9/10.  http://www.documentary.org/news/february-documentary-producing-workshops-mitchell-block

Mitchell Block specializes in conceiving, producing, marketing & distributing independent features & consulting. He is an expert in placing both completed works into distribution & working with producers to make projects fundable. He conducts regular workshops in film producing in Los Angeles and most recently in Maine, Russia and in Myanmar (Burma).

Poster Girl, produced by Block was nominated for a Documentary Academy Award and selected by the Ida as the Best Doc Short 2011. It was also nominated for two Emmy Awards and aired on HBO. He is an executive producer of the Emmy Award-winning PBS series Carrier, a 10-hour series that he conceived & co-created. Block is a graduate of Tisch School and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business. He is a member of Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, the Television Academy, a founding member of BAFTA-la and has been teaching at USC School of Cinematic Arts since 1979. Currently Block teaches a required class in the USC Peter Stark Producing Program.

©2013Mwb  All Rights Reserved All Rights Reserved. All information and designs on the Sites are copyrighted material owned by Block. Reproduction, dissemination, or transmission of any part of the material here without the express written consent of the owner is strictly prohibited.All other product names and marks on Block Direct, whether trademarks, service marks, or other type, and whether registered or unregistered, is the property of Block.

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Mitchell Block Direct: The Power of Documentaries

31 January 2013 6:30 AM, PST | Sydney's Buzz | See recent Sydney's Buzz news »

Vol. I Issue 7

Send us links to your sizzle reels and film sites. 

The Invisible War promotes change in Us Air Force

The following is from the NY Times, January 24, 2013: 

The Invisible War, a documentary about rape and sexual assault in the military that was recently nominated for an Oscar in the documentary feature category, has been credited with both persuading more women to come forward to report abuse and with forcing the military to deal more openly with the problem. In November, General Welsh met with all of the Air Force’s wing commanders and had them watch the film with him, according to an Air Force spokesman."

Academy Announces Producer Credit for Four Documentary Features

The Documentary Branch Executive Committee has determined the individual nominees for four of the contending films in the Documentary Feature category:

The Gatekeepers

Dror Moreh, Philippa Kowarsky and Estelle Fialon

How to Survive a Plague

David France and Howard Gertler

The Invisible War

Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering

Searching for Sugar Man

Malik Bendjelloul and Simon Chinn

The nominees for the fifth film in this category, “5 Broken Cameras,” were previously announced.

This is the result of rules made by the branch to be sure that regardless what the filmmakers claim on their application, a producer credit (and Oscar nomination or Award) can no longer go to the person who “just” comes in with the funds to make the film or the finishing funds. The Academy wants to be sure that the producers actually “produce” the film and not buy an Oscar.  This reverses a long history of Oscars going to producers who provide few services other than writing a check. The branch also for the first time has nominated three people prior to the rule change this year; only two people could receive a documentary feature nomination.   In a future issue we will closely look at this Academy rule and how it effects documentaries producer nominations. 

5 Broken Camerasa film by Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi

Academy Nominated Documentary Feature  

5 Broken Cameras is a first-hand account of non-violent resistance in Bil’in, a West Bank village threatened by encroaching Israeli settlements. Shot almost entirely by Palestinian farmer Emad Burnat, who bought his first camera in 2005 to record the birth of his youngest son, the film was assembled by Burnat and Israeli co-director Guy Davidi. The film is structured around the violent destruction of each one of Burnat’s cameras, the filmmakers’ collaboration follows one family’s evolution over five years of village turmoil. Burnat watches from behind the lens as olive trees are bulldozed, protests intensify, and lives are lost. “I feel like the camera protects me,” he says, “but it’s an illusion.”

Of the five nominated documentary feature films this year, 5 Broken Cameras is the weakest selection.  5 Broken Cameras subject is a rehash of a familiar story, Jews and Palestinians. It lacks

the clever concept of the rediscovery of a lost rock and roller which is the warm fuzzy nominee. The other films cry out “Issue” from the bungled attempts of the government to effectively and compassionately deal with the AIDS epidemic, to the terrible inequalities in dealing with sexual harassment in the military. 5 Broken Cameras takes on an all too familiar story of West Bank non-Jewish Israelis protesting in various ways about Israel’s attempt to live peacefully with a neighbor whose leaders have promised to destroy it. So Israel is building a wall.  What’s a country to do?  Burnat’s neighbors collaborate with terrorists who keep trying to kill Israelis with random missiles, bombs and other weapons. The very young Israeli soldiers act like any force asked to maintain order when they are attacked or threatened. They use their weapons to protect themselves. 

5 Broken Cameras could have been documenting, for example, the Civil Rights struggle in the American South during the 1960s or the protests in Chicago in 1968, during the Democratic convention. Yes, it is all terrible. Yes, people are hurt, injured and other bad things happen. The filmmakers never show any effort on the part of West Bank citizens to talk with the Israeli government or people. None of Burnat’s neighbors are trying to find ways to bring about a peaceful resolution.  This film is about continuous civil unrest that has been going on for a lifetime.  It is predictable, it is tragic and, at times, it is very moving. Yet the struggle continues since the parties seem unwilling to talk to each other to find a way to make peace. The filmmakers also use footage from other peoples’ cameras covering the violence, uncredited either in the official credits of the film or on screen when during sequences. This is propaganda at its best or to be nice, advocacy journalism. 

Filmmakers documenting wars and struggles can get hurt, emotionally, physically. In some cases conflicts they become targets and the broken cameras are a brilliant metaphor for this struggle. It is a shame that the film is so one sided. While deeply personal and moving, it could have stronger if it would have helped the parties see the benefits of working for peace or the fruitlessness of this approach.  An alternative perspective would have been helpful to include.  

The Filmmakers

A lifelong inhabitant of the central West Bank village of Bil’in, Emad Burnat is a freelance cameraman and photographer with experience filming for Al-Jazeera and Palestinian television. He has contributed to several documentaries, including Bil’in My Love, Palestine Kids, Open Close, and Interrupted Streams.

Born in Jaffa, Guy Davidi is a documentary filmmaker and teacher who has been directing, editing, and shooting films since the age of 16. His short documentaries include In Working Progress, Keywords, and Women Defying Barriers; his first feature film, Interrupted Streams, premiered in 2010 at the Jerusalem Film Festival.

Credits:

Director:  Guy David and Emad Burnat

Producers:  Emad Burnat, Christine Camdessus, Guy David

Screenplay: Guy David and Emad Burnat

Camera:  Emad Burnat  

Additional Cinematography: Guy David

Sound Design:  

Music:  Le Trio Joubran

Editor:  Guy Davidi, Veronique Lagoarde-Segot  

Production Companies:  Burnat Films, DVD Films, Alegría Productions

Distribution: Kino Lorber 

Searching for Sugar Man directed by Malik Bendejelloul

Academy Award Nominated Documentary Feature

Searching for Sugar Man tells story of Rodriguez, a 1970s singer/songwriter who never made “star.”  Discovered in a Detroit bar in the late 1960s by two celebrated producers struck by his soulful melodies and prophetic lyrics, he recorded an album which they believed would secure his reputation as the greatest recording artist of his generation. The album bombed and the singer disappeared into obscurity amid rumors of a gruesome on-stage suicide. But a bootleg recording found its way into apartheid South Africa and, over the next two decades, he became a phenomenon there. The film follows the story of two South African fans who set out to find out what really happened to their hero. Their investigation leads them to a story which illustrates why documentaries are far more interesting than fiction films.   

This film, which I first saw projected, puzzles me. I have since watched it again on DVD.  Despite its numerous awards and critical acclaim, with more “wins” or nominations than any of the other documentary features, I never was able to get emotionally engaged with Mr. Rodriguez or the individuals searching for him.  In scene after scene we hear from his fans how his music inspired them, moved them and particularly how his music worked for those people in South Africa when the country was dealing with apartheid. While I did not make the connection, it is evident that the audience and the characters in the film do. They are moved by the story, the music and the lyrics.

I am baffled by Rodriguez. We almost never see him in close up. We rarely see his eyes or in to his soul. They are hidden by sunglasses. Who is this man? Why do people embrace him?  Oddly, while I am watching this film for the first time, I asked a friend sitting next to me, “Is this for real?” “Is this a put on?”  Like the film Exit Through the Gift Shop I had the feeling that I was part of an elaborate fictional film.  After the screening, I look on the Internet to see if Rodriguez exists.  I find the Rodriguez website but I am still not convinced. I did not find the 1969 album Cold Fact, but I do find references to it from the 1990s. 

After the second viewing, I relented a bit. I find that it is a moving story. Nicely edited and the shooting while still distant, works.  It does lend an air of mystery to the film. While the content is not earth shattering we can admire this work.  The music and the lyrics have power and it is clear that audiences find the film entertaining. I continue to be torn between the five films. So my advice is to screen themand make up your own mind.

Trailer:http://www.sonyclassics.com/searchingforsugarman/

Credits:

Director, Screenwriter: Malik Bendejelloul

Producers:  Malik Bendejelloul, Simon Chinn

Executive Producers:  John Battsek

Camera:  Camilla Skagerströn

Sound: no credit  

Original Music: Rodriguez

Editor:   Malik Bendejelloul

Production Companies:  Red Box Films, Passion Pictures, Canfield Pictures (In association with)

Distribution (Us): Sony

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WGA Documentary Award Nominations

Documentary Screenplay

The Central Park Five, Written by Sarah Burns and David McMahon and Ken Burns; Sundance Selects

The Invisible War, Written by Kirby Dick; Cinedigm Entertainment Group

Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, Written by Alex Gibney; HBO Documentary Films

Searching for Sugar Man, Written by Malik Bendjelloul; Sony Pictures Classics

We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists, Written by Brian Knappenberger; Cinetic Media

West of Memphis, Written by Amy Berg & Billy McMillin; Sony Pictures Classics

Documentary – Current Events

The Anthrax Files(Frontline), Written by Michael Kirk; PBS

A Perfect Terrorist(Frontline); Written by Thomas Jennings; PBS

Lost in Detention(Frontline), Written by Rick Young; PBS

Money, Power and Wall Street: Episode One(Frontline), Written by Martin Smith and Marcela Gaviria; PBS

Money, Power and Wall Street: Episode Three(Frontline), Written by Michael Kirk & Mike Wiser; PBS

Money, Power and Wall Street: Episode Four(Frontline), Written by Marcela Gaviria and Martin Smith; PBS

Documentary – Other Than Current Events

The Amish(American Experience), Written by David Belton; PBS

Clinton(American Experience), Written by Barak Goodman; PBS

Death and the Civil War(American Experience), Written by Ric Burns; PBS

The Fabric of the Cosmos: The Illusion of Time(Nova), Telescript by Randall MacLowry, Story by Joseph McMaster and Randall MacLowry; PBS

The Fabric of the Cosmos: Quantum Leap(Nova), Telescript by Josh Rosen and Julia Cort, Story by Joseph McMaster and Josh Rosen; PBS

Johnny Carson: King of Late Night(American Masters), Written by Peter T. Jones; PBS

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Credits: Editing by Jessica Just for SydneysBuzz

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Block Doc Workshops in Los Angeles February 2013  Ida Doc U

The International Documentary Association will be hosting Documentary Funding and Documentary Tune-Up Workshops with Block on February 9/10.  http://www.documentary.org/news/february-documentary-producing-workshops-mitchell-block

Mitchell Block specializes in conceiving, producing, marketing & distributing independent features & consulting. He is an expert in placing both completed works into distribution & working with producers to make projects fundable. He conducts regular workshops in film producing in Los Angeles and most recently in Maine, Russia and in Myanmar (Burma).

Poster Girl, produced by Block was nominated for a Documentary Academy Award and selected by the Ida as the Best Doc Short 2011. It was also nominated for two Emmy Awards and aired on HBO. He is an executive producer of the Emmy Award-winning PBS series Carrier, a 10-hour series that he conceived & co-created. Block is a graduate of Tisch School and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business. He is a member of Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, the Television Academy, a founding member of BAFTA-la and has been teaching at USC School of Cinematic Arts since 1979. Currently Block teaches a required class in the USC Peter Stark Producing Program.

______________________________________________________________________

©2013Mwb  All Rights Reserved All Rights Reserved. All information and designs on the Sites are copyrighted material owned by Block. Reproduction, dissemination, or transmission of any part of the material here without the express written consent of the owner is strictly prohibited.All other product names and marks on Block Direct, whether trademarks, service marks, or other type, and whether registered or unregistered, is the property of Block.

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Mitchell Block Direct: Academy and DGA Awards Nominations Announced

17 January 2013 6:30 AM, PST | Sydney's Buzz | See recent Sydney's Buzz news »

Vol. I Issue 6

Send us links to your sizzle reels and film sites.

Note:  See Issues 1, 2, 3, and 4 for reviews and clips of the Academy documentary films and short films. Additional reviews of the documentary features follow in this issue.

Best documentary feature

5 Broken Cameras              Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi

The Gatekeepers                 Nominees to be determined   *See note below

How to Survive a Plague      Nominees to be determined

The Invisible War                Nominees to be determined

Searching for Sugar Man     Nominees to be determined

 

Best documentary short subject

Inocente                            Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine   

Kings Point                        Sari Gilman and Jedd Wider

Mondays at Racine            Cynthia Wade and Robin Honan

Open Heart                       Kief Davidson and Cori Shepherd Stern

Redemption                      Jon Alpert and Matthew O'Neill

 

Best animated short film

Adam and Dog                                          Minkyu Lee

Fresh Guacamole                                       Pes

Head over Heels                                         Timothy Reckart and Fodhla Cronin O'Reilly

Maggie Simpson in The Longest Daycare      David Silverman

Paperman                                                  John Kahrs

 

Best live action short film

Asad                                                                Bryan Buckley and Mino Jarjoura

Buzkashi Boys                                                   Sam French and Ariel Nasr

Curfew                                                              Shawn Christensen

Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw)       Tom Van Avermaet and Ellen De Waele

Henry                                                                Yan England

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song) from a documentary

Before My Time from The documentary feature Chasing Ice   Music and Lyric by J. Ralph

Note: *Nominees to be determined* The Documentary Brand gives the nomination to the individual(s) most involved in the key creative aspects of the filmmaking process.  A maximum of two persons may be designated as nominees, one of whom must be the credited director who exercised directorial control, and the other of whom must have a producer or director credit.  If a producer is named, that individual must have performed a major portion of the producing functions, in accordance with Academy producer criteria.  No more than two statuettes will normally be given in the Documentary Feature category.  All individuals with a “Producer” or “Produced by” credit on films that reach the semifinal round will automatically be vetted. 

The Documentary Branch Executive Committee will determine which producers, if any, are eligible to receive an Oscar.  In the unlikely event of a dispute, filmmakers may appeal the committee’s decision.  In extremely rare circumstances, a third statuette may be awarded.

Production companies or persons with the screen credit of executive producer, co-producer or any credit other than director or producer shall not be eligible as nominees for the motion picture.

DGA Documentary Award Nominations

Kirby Dick                       The Invisible War

This is Mr. Dick’s first DGA Award nomination.

 

Malik Bendjelloul      Searching For Sugar Man

This is Mr. Bendjelloul’s first DGA Award nomination.

 

Lauren Greenfield       The Queen of Versailles

This is Ms. Greenfield’s first DGA Award nomination.

 

David France                  How To Survive A Plague

This is Mr. France’s first DGA Award nomination.

Alison Klayman            Ai WeiWei: Never Sorry

This is Ms. Klayman’s first DGA Award nomination.

Two Academy Nominated Documentary Features

& One Academy Short Listed Documentary Reviewed

The Gatekeepers, directed by Dror Moreh

Documentary Feature Nominee

Six former heads of Israel’s domestic secret service agency, the Shin Bet, share their insights and reflect publicly on their actions and decisions in The Gatekeepers, a film by Dror Moreh. These six heads of the Shin Bet stood at the center of Israel's decision-making process in all matters pertaining to security. They worked closely with every Israeli prime minister, and their assessments and insights had—and continue to have—a profound impact on Israeli policy. The Gatekeepers is an exclusive account of their successes and failures.  

I find The Gatekeepers remarkable. Not for its craft but for its concept and vision.  Imagine

J Edger Hoover talking about his tenure at the FBI, his successes and his failures, his interactions with the Presidents and members of Congress, and his critical self-evaluation of his mission and how his agency’s work affected our nation. Imagine. Dror Moreh accomplished this feat when he convinced these six surviving members of the Shin Bet, to speak on camera.

The film provides a historical perspective of Israel that is both candid and critical of the successive governments in this rare Middle Eastern democracy. The Shin Bet was created in 1949 by David Ben-Gurion’s government to focus on the internal affairs of Israel and evolved into dealing with counterterrorism and intelligence gathering in the West Bank and Gaza. 

These intelligence heads, like ours, report to the President/Prime Minister. They are not part of the military complex. It is this context that gives this work its power. We hear the story of Israel’s struggle to protect itself from both its internal and external enemies; the bombers, terrorists, agents and others who worked to destroy this small country. These men are not glamorous or like the fictional heads of the spy agencies we have seen in James Bond and Bourne films. They are bald or balding grandfather-types. Articulate, highly educated, calm and yet we know that they protected Israel from its enemies even if they had them killed.

This is one of the strongest of the nominated docs. It raises significant issues of personal responsibilities. Despite the lack of oversight we don’t feel that this is an organization gone amuck like the Catholic Church not protecting children or the Us Military not protecting its members from sexual harassment. We see these articulate men as guardians and protectors of their nation steadfastly doing their duty within the confines of their moral beliefs. What is scary about The Gatekeepers is that clearly there could have been abuses and wrongs done by the Shin Bet if these six had less character or their mission was redefined by the government without regard to moral or ethical standards. The film on reflection is troubling for regardless of how the spectator might feel about Israel it forces us to look at this conflict through the lenses of these six guardians and we can only wonder what they don’t tell us about what they did in the name of their country.

Credits:

Director:  Dror Moreh

Camera:   Avner Shahaf

Producers: Dror Moreh, Estelle Fialon, Philippa Kowarsky

Co Producer:  Anna Van Der Wee

Sound:  Amos Zipori

Sound Design: Aex Claude

Music: Ab Ovo, Jérôme Chassagnard, Régis Baillet

Editor:  Oron Adar

Production Companies: Dror Moreh Productions, Les Films du Poisson, Cinephil

In Co-Production with:  Mac Guff, Wild Heart Productions, Arte France, Iba, Ndr, Rtbf

With the support of: Cnc, Media, Région Ile-de-France, Procirep, Angoa, The Rabinovich Foundation for the Arts – Cinema Project

Distribution:  Sony Classics

Trailer: http://www.sonyclassics.com/thegatekeepers/

The House I Live In, directed by Eugene Jarecki

Short Listed Documentary Feature for Academy Award nomination

The House I Live In looks at how America has waged war on some of its poorest citizens, costing countless lives, destroying families, and inflicting untold damage on future generations of Americans. It posits that over the last forty years, the War on Drugs has accounted for more than 45 million arrests and shows how America became the world’s largest jailer, damaging poor communities at home and abroad. Yet today drugs are cheaper, purer and more available than ever before. It shows that drug abuse is a public health issue. Despite this, it is treated by our society as a criminal matter and a vast machine has been created that feeds on the men and women who are incarcerated. Because of this, the prisoners are not offered help or a cure for their underlying problems, so they return to prison in a never ending cycle.

Eugene Jarecki, whose previous films looked at the military industrial complex (Why We Fight and The Trials of Henry Kissinger), won the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at Sundance in both 2005 and 2010. The film tackles difficult material. Material that has been in scores of documentaries and television shows over the years. Yet Jarecki, using his personal experience, a wealth of interviews and strong case studies, builds a compelling case for changing the sentencing guidelines for crack (and cocaine) and for dealing with both addiction and the underlying causes of addiction. Jarecki is a skillful filmmaker who has picked a vast and complex subject and has created a work that while rich in content moves along at a good pace although it might have been stronger if it had tried to do less. The film editor Paul Frost and the composer Robert Miller do an excellent job building strong sequences with evocative music. It was nicely shot by Sam Cullman and Derek Hallquist. Richard Abramowitz’s Abramorama handled the distribution and was successful getting the work out which is never easy for such an issue oriented film. 

Credits:

Director, Producer, Screenwriter: Eugene Jarecki

Producers:  Melinda Shopsin, Sam Cullman, Christopher St. John

Executive Producers: Eugene Jarecki, Nick Fraser, Joslyn Barnes, Danny Glover, Russell Simmons, Roy Ackerman, John Legend, Sally Jo Feifer, Nick Fraser

Camera:  Sam Cullman, Derek Hallquist

Sound:  Matthew Freed, Art Jaso

Music: Robert Milller

Editor:  Paul Frost

Production Companies: Charlotte Street Films, Zdf Enterprises, Independent Television Services, BBC, Aljazeera Documentary Channel, Vpro, Special Broadcasting Service Corporation, Louverture Films, Nhk

Distribution (Us): Abramorama Entertainment, Snag Films

How to Survive a Plague, directed by David France

Documentary Feature Nominee

How to Survive a Plague by writer and filmmaker David France tells the story of how two coalitions came together to lobby for effective treatments and funding for treatments of AIDS in the late 1980s when it was evident that the Us government and its health and other agencies were not being very effective dealing with the AIDS epidemic.  The coalitions, Act Up and Tag (Treatment Action Group) helped to make AIDS more treatable. While there is still no cure for AIDS and thousands of people globally still die from the virus, it is now possible to prolong life with treatments that have been developed.

Despite having no scientific training, these self-made activists infiltrated the pharmaceutical industry and helped identify promising new drugs, moving them from experimental trials to patients in record time. With access to never-before-seen archival footage from the 1980s and '90s, filmmaker David France puts the viewer smack in the middle of the controversial actions, the heated meetings, the heartbreaking failures, and the exultant breakthroughs. Faced with their own mortality an improbable group of young men and women, many of them HIV-positive took on Washington and the medical establishment.

While there have been a handful of outstanding films dealing with the AIDS epidemic including Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt, The Broadcast Tapes of Dr. Peter and Silverlake Life, to name a few, How to Survive a Plague picks up on the  story begun in the landmark Common Threads and updates the struggle, looking at the quest to find a treatment and possibly a cure for this vicious disease.  The film weaves together stories of activism and shows how a small determined group can effect change not just nationally but globally. While the film is not as well made as Common Threads or Dr. Peter, it’s powerful. The archival footage manages to capture some of the key figures of Act Up and Tag showing actions as they take place. Instead of relying on talking heads to tell this amazing story, it is presented with footage shot as the story unfolded. This footage and its solid editing distinguishes this film from so many of the works that have tried to tell this story.

Few documentaries have such powerful antagonists, the government, incompetence, a lack of urgency on the part of the medical community and fear. Throw in homophobia and it is evident that the dramatic actions of these heroes saved hundreds of thousands of possible victims from this mostly sexually spread plague.

My only serious criticism of this documentary is its failure to be clearer that the plague continues, that there is no cure for HIV/AIDS and that the community continues to give a false sense of hope. Currently the Cdc states:

” ..estimates that 1,148,200 persons aged 13 years and older are living with HIV infection, including 207,600 (18.1%) who are unaware of their infection1. Over the past decade, the number of people living with HIV has increased, while the annual number of new HIV infections has remained relatively stable. Still, the pace of new infections continues at far too high a level—particularly among certain groups.

HIV Incidence(new infections): The estimated incidence of HIV has remained stable overall in recent years, at about 50,000 new HIV infections per year.2 Within the overall estimates, however, some groups are affected more than others. Msm (men who have sex with men) continue to bear the greatest burden of HIV infection, and among races/ethnicities, African Americans continue to be disproportionately affected.”

This information could have been contained in the last few minutes of this powerful work, to inspire and warn the audience that testing is critical and that safe sex is still the only way to contain AIDS.

The Filmmaker

David France, Director, Producer  

David France is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author who has been writing about AIDS since 1982 and today is one of the best-known chroniclers of the epidemic. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Newsweek, GQ, and New York magazine, where he is a contributing editor, and has received the National Headliner Award and the GLAAD Media Award, among others. Several films have been inspired by his work, most recently the Emmy-nominated Showtime film Our Fathers, for which he received a WGA nomination. He is at work on a major history of AIDS, due from Alfred A. Knopf in 2013. Based on decades of reporting, How to Survive a Plague is his directorial debut.

Credits

Director: David France

Writers: David France, Todd Woody Richman, Tyler H. Walk

Producers:  David France, Howard Gertler

Executive Producers:  Dan Cogan, Joy A. Tomchin

Co-Producer: Todd Woody Richman

Camera:  Derek Wieshahn

Sound:  Stuart Deutsch, Topher Reifeiss

Original Music: Stuart Bogie

Editor:  Todd Woody Richman, Tyler H. Walk

Production Companies:  Public Square Films, Ninety Thousand Words

Distribution (Us):  Sundance Selects

Short Notes and Update:

The International Documentary Association in Los Angeles presents Doc U: The Doc Reporter

Navigating the Intersection of Documentary and Journalism

Moderated by:  Karin Skellwagen (The Brooks Institute)

With Panelists:

Sarah Burns (The Central Park Five)

Michael Donaldson (Partner, Donaldson & Callif)

David France (How To Survive A Plague)

For information: http://doc-u-jan-2013-la.eventbrite.com/

Sundance Announces 2013 International Documentary Competition:

Fallen City/ China (Director: Qi Zhao) — Fallen City spans four years to reveal how three families who survived the 2008 Sichuan earthquake to embark on a journey searching for hope, purpose, identity, and to rebuild their lives in a new China torn between tradition and modernity. North American Premiere

Fire in the Blood/ India (Director: Dylan Mohan Gray) — In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Western governments and pharmaceutical companies blocked low-cost antiretroviral drugs from reaching AIDS-stricken Africa, causing 10 million or more unnecessary deaths. An improbable group of people decided to fight back. North American Premiere

Google and the World Brain/ Spain, United Kingdom (Director: Ben Lewis) — In the most ambitious Internet project ever conceived, Google is working to scan every book in the world. Google says it is building a library for mankind. But some are trying to stop it, claiming that Google may have other intentions. World Premiere

The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear/ Georgia, Germany (Director: Tinatin Gurchiani) — A film director casting a 15-23-year-old protagonist visits villages and cities to meet people who answer her call. She follows those who prove to be interesting enough through various dramatic and funny situations. North American Premiere

The Moo Man/ United Kingdom (Directors: Andy Heathcote, Heike Bachelier) — A year in the life of heroic farmer Steve, scene stealing Ida (queen of the herd), and a supporting cast of 55 cows. When Ida falls ill, Steve’s optimism is challenged and their whole way of life is at stake. World Premiere

Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer/ Russian Federation, United Kingdom (Directors: Mike Lerner, Maxim Pozdorovkin) — Three young women face seven years in a Russian prison for a satirical performance in a Moscow cathedral. But who is really on trial: the three young artists or the society they live in? World Premiere

A River Changes Course/ Cambodia, U.S.A. (Director: Kalyanee Mam) — Three young Cambodians struggle to overcome the crushing effects of deforestation, overfishing, and overwhelming debt in this devastatingly beautiful story of a country reeling from the tragedies of war and rushing to keep pace with a rapidly expanding world. World Premiere

Salma/ United Kingdom, India (Director: Kim Longinotto) — When Salma, a young girl in South India, reached puberty, her parents locked her away. Millions of girls all over the world share the same fate. Twenty-five years later, Salma has fought her way back to the outside world. World Premiere

The Square (Al Midan)/ Egypt, U.S.A. (Director: Jehane Noujaim) — What does it mean to risk your life for your ideals? How far will five revolutionaries go in defending their beliefs in the fight for their nation? World Premiere

The Stuart Hall Project/ United Kingdom (Director: John Akomfrah) — Antinuclear campaigner, New Left activist and founding father of Cultural Studies, this documentary interweaves 70 years of Stuart Hall’s film, radio and television appearances, and material from his private archive to document a memorable life and construct a portrait of Britain’s foremost radical intellectual. World Premiere

The Summit/ Ireland, United Kingdom (Director: Nick Ryan) — Twenty-four climbers converged at the last stop before summiting the most dangerous mountain on Earth. Forty-eight hours later, 11 had been killed or simply vanished. Had one, Ger McDonnell, stuck to the climbers' code, he might still be alive. International Premiere

Who is Dayani Cristal?/ United Kingdom (Director: Marc Silver) — An anonymous body in the Arizona desert sparks the beginning of a real-life human drama. The search for its identity leads us across a continent to seek out the people left behind and the meaning of a mysterious tattoo. World Premiere. Day One Film

Producer’s Guild Announces Nominations for the Award for Outstanding Producer of Documentary Theatrical Motion Pictures and Non-Fiction Television:

A People Uncounted(Urbinder Films)

Producers: Marc Swenker, Aaron Yeger

The Gatekeepers(Sony Pictures Classics)

Producers: Estelle Fialon, Philippa Kowarsky, Dror Moreh

The Island President(Samuel Goldwyn Films)

Producers: Richard Berge, Bonni Cohen

The Other Dream Team(The Film Arcade)

Producers: Marius Markevicius, Jon Weinbach

Searching For Sugar Man(Sony Pictures Classics)

Producers: Malik Bendjelloul, Simon Chinn

Nominations for the Award for Outstanding Producer of

Non-Fiction Television:

American Masters(PBS)

Producers: Prudence Glass, Susan Lacy, Julie Sacks

Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations(Travel Channel)

Producers: Anthony Bourdain, Christopher Collins, Lydia Tenaglia, Sandy Zweig

Deadliest Catch(Discovery Channel)

Producers: Thom Beers, Jeff Conroy, Sean Dash, John Gray, Sheila McCormack, Bill Pruitt, Decker Watson

Inside the Actors Studio(Bravo)

Producers: James Lipton, Shawn Tesser, Jeff Wurtz

Shark Tank(ABC)

Producers: Rhett Bachner, Becky Blitz, Mark Burnett, Bill Gaudsmith, Yun Lingner, Brien Meagher, Clay Newbill, Jim Roush, Laura Skowlund, Paul Sutera, Patrick Wood

BAFTA Short and Documentary Feature Nominations  (British Academy of Film and Television Arts, London)

Documentary Feature

The ImposterBart Layton, Dimitri Doganis

Marley    Kevin Macdonald, Steve Bing, Charles Steel

McCullin  David Morris, Jacqui Morris

Searching for Sugar Man  Malik Bendjelloul, Simon Chinn

West of Memphis   Amy Berg

Short Animation

Here to Fall    Kris Kelly, Evelyn McGrath

I’m Fine Thanks   Eamonn O'Neill

The Making of Longbird   Will Anderson, Ainslie Henderson

 

Short Film

The Curse   Fyzal Boulifa, Gavin Humphries

Good Night   Muriel d'Ansembourg, Eva Sigurdardottir

Swimmer   Lynne Ramsay, Peter Carlton, Diarmid Scrimshaw

Tumult   Johnny Barrington, Rhianna Andrews

The Voorman Problem Mark Gill, Baldwin Li

The Broadcast Film Critics Association (Bfca)

Documentary Feature Nominations

Bully

The Imposter

Queen of Versailles

Searching for Sugar Man  (Winner)

The Central Park Five

West of Memphis

________________________________________________________________________

Credits: Editing by Jessica Just for SydneysBuzz

________________________________________________________________________

Block Doc Workshops in Los Angeles February 2013  Ida Doc U

The International Documentary Association will be hosting Documentary Funding and Documentary Tune-Up Workshops with Block on February 9/10.  http://www.documentary.org/news/february-documentary-producing-workshops-mitchell-block

Mitchell Block specializes in conceiving, producing, marketing & distributing independent features & consulting. He is an expert in placing both completed works into distribution & working with producers to make projects fundable. He conducts regular workshops in film producing in Los Angeles and most recently in Maine, Russia and in Myanmar (Burma).

Poster Girl, produced by Block was nominated for a Documentary Academy Award and selected by the Ida as the Best Doc Short 2011. It was also nominated for two Emmy Awards and aired on HBO. He is an executive producer of the Emmy Award-winning PBS series Carrier, a 10-hour series that he conceived & co-created. Block is a graduate of Tisch School and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business. He is a member of Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, the Television Academy, a founding member of BAFTA-la and has been teaching at USC School of Cinematic Arts since 1979. Currently Block teaches a required class in the USC Peter Stark Producing Program.

______________________________________________________________________

©2013Mwb  All Rights Reserved All Rights Reserved. All information and designs on the Sites are copyrighted material owned by Block. Reproduction, dissemination, or transmission of any part of the material here without the express written consent of the owner is strictly prohibited.All other product names and marks on Block Direct, whether trademarks, service marks, or other type, and whether registered or unregistered, is the property of Block.

»

- Mitchell Block

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Mitchell Block Direct: VI Issue 5: Bully Chasing An Oscar Nomination

8 January 2013 12:30 PM, PST | Sydney's Buzz | See recent Sydney's Buzz news »

Vol. I Issue 5

Join us twice weekly.  Send us links to your sizzle reels and film sites. 

Two Short Listed Documentary Features

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, directed by Alison Klayman

Ai Weiwei is China's most famous international artist, and its most outspoken domestic critic. Against a backdrop of strict censorship and an unresponsive legal system, Ai expresses himself and organizes people through art and social media. In response, Chinese authorities have shut down his blog, beat him up, bulldozed his newly built studio, and held him in secret detention.

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry is the inside story of a dissident for the digital age who inspires global audiences and whose actions blur the boundaries of art and politics. First-time director Alison Klayman gained unprecedented access to Ai while working as a journalist in China. Her detailed portrait of Weiwei’s life and work allows us to follow Weiwei’s journey and his transformation of his life and works are perceived. Few artists have been able to use their public stature to help cause political change. Clearly this is the story of a giant killer. Regrettably the story continues and China continues to repress its people.

What’s special about Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry is that the filmmaker was able to follow Ai Weiwei over several years. We are able to see a Chinese dissident whose home is watched by 1984-like cameras hung from telephone and power poles.  We can only assume his home is bugged, his cell phone is bugged and all of his computers are bugged.  The power of this work is seeing an artist functioning in this environment. Shocking. His spirit is best shown in his defiant art, his raised middle finger in the foreground of many still images of iconic monuments to the Chinese peoples’ struggles. He dares to challenge America’s biggest trading partner, debt holder and, by the end of the film, he is shown silenced, unable to comment because he was released from detention.  The irony of this powerful work is that we and the world are shown to be complicit.

While the film lacks the slickness of many of the Academy’s short listed docs, its power flows from the subject. Clearly an artist whose work reflects his life experiences and struggle is a difficult subject. Weiwei constantly tweaks the authorities who clearly fear its citizens being free to express themselves and their feelings about their government globally. Yet the world is silent about this repressive government that spies on, beats up and terrorizes its citizens. This is another film that should be nominated. Its construction, score, shooting suggests that Ms. Klayman can, with some more experience, become an extraordinary filmmaker.

The Filmmakers

Alison Klayman, Director, Producer, Cinematographer

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorryis Alison Klayman's debut feature documentary, which she directed, produced, filmed and co-edited. She is a 2011 Sundance Documentary Fellow and one of Filmmaker Magazine's "25 New Faces of Independent Film". She has been a guest on The Colbert Report, as well as CNN and NPR. Klayman lived in China from 2006 to 2010, working as a freelance journalist. She speaks Mandarin and Hebrew, and graduated from Brown University in 2006.

Adam Schlesinger, Producer

Adam Schlesinger is an award-winning independent film producer based in New York. He produced the Sundance Film Festival selections: Smash His Camera, which won for Best Director; Page One- Inside the New York Times; and God Grew Tired of Us, winner of the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award.

Credits:

Director/Producer/Writer/Camera: Alison Klayman

Producer: Adam Schlesinger

Contributing Producer: Colin 

Executive Producers:  Andrew Cohen, Julie Goldman, Karl 

Music: Ilan Isakov  

Editor: Jen Fineran   

Production Companies: Expressions United Media, Muse Film and Television, Never Sorry  

Distribution:  Sundance Selects, Artificial Eye

Bully, directed by Lee Hirsch A Case Study: How to be Short Listed and Gross $3Million

Bully, directed by Lee Hirsch

A Case Study: How to be Short Listed and Gross $3Million

Bully is a character-driven documentary that looks at how bullying has touched five children and their families. The five stories each represent a different facet of bullying. Filmed over the course of the 2009/2010 school year, Bully opens a window onto the lives of bullied kids, revealing a problem that transcends geographic, racial, ethnic and economic borders. It documents the responses of teachers and administrators to aggressive behaviors that defy “kids will be kids” clichés, and it captures a growing movement among parents and youths to change how bullying is handled in schools, in communities and in society as a whole.

Bully is a case study of how The Weinstein Company can take what would be a traditional non-theatrical documentary feature and turn it into both a cause and a theatrical event and, because of the rule changes at the Academy, have it come to be short listed for an Oscar. 

Bully is an excellent film, it is well made, directed, edited and scored. Its characters and stories are well done. It’s just not in the same league as many of the documentary films short listed for this year’s Academy Award nomination.

When the film was released with an “R” rating, appropriate and consistent with the MPAA guidelines because of language and violence, the Weinsteins used the R rating to create a controversy which enabled the film to become a box office success and was the basis of a brilliant Academy campaign for a documentary nomination. This is one of the best examples (since Michael Moore and Roger and Menot being nominated for an Oscar) of creating a box-office success with a documentary. (Roger and Mewas distributed by Warners.) As of December 30, 2012 Bully had grossed over $3.5 million. (Box Office Mojo)

The MPAA gives an automatic “R” rating to films that use the “F” word.  It has done this since its inception. This makes sense. The “F” word is inappropriate for children. But wait, Bullyis for middle and high school students! These schools can’t (or should not) show “R” rated films. 

The MPAA rating system has never been particularly clear to Americans. Developed by the Motion Picture Association to prevent local and/or regional ratings it has always been “advisory”; however, some media outlets will not accept advertising or promote films with some of the harder ratings.  The Weinsteins knew that this film would get an “R” rating because of the “F” word.  No surprise. Yet how could this “important” film for school children to see be blocked from its audience?

 “Bully's R ratingsparks a nationwide protest. ...stars, theater owners, and Members of Congress have joined forces to protest the film's R rating as a result of the film having six swear words.” This is in the industry press. (Deadline

The Weinsteins, of course with great fanfare, appealed the rating decision which got the film more press.  They decided to release the film in just two markets to qualify for the documentary Academy award, without a rating, but continue the press-push to have the rating changed.

On April 5, The Weinstein Company announced that their doc, Bully, was to receive a PG-13 from the MPAA, with some minor cuts. After removing three uses of the F-word it was re-released in the new PG-13 version on April 13 and shortly after the run was expanded to 55 theatrical markets.

Deadline reported, “The big victory, even though they had to remove three F-words, was that they could keep the controversial school bus bullying scene unedited and uncut, which (the director) Hirsch continuously refused to edit, "since it is too important to the truth and integrity behind the film." Hirsch states: "I feel completely vindicated with this resolution. While I retain my belief that PG-13 has always been the appropriate rating for this film, as reinforced by Canada's rating of a PG, we have today scored a victory from the MPAA. The support and guidance we have received throughout this process has been incredible."

Let’s note that the MPAA is an industry trade association. The Weinsteins are members. It’s not exactly a group that battles. The ratings are advisory only.

The Weinstein press release continued the illusion, This decision by the MPAA is a huge victory for the parents, educators, lawmakers, and most importantly, children, everywhere who have been fighting for months for the appropriate PG-13 rating without cutting some of the most sensitive moments. Three uses of the 'F word' were removed from other scenes, which ultimately persuaded the MPAA to lower the rating. Hirsch made the documentary with the intent to give an uncensored, real-life portrayal of what 13 million children suffer through every year. The new rating, which came about with the great support from MPAA Chairman Chris Dodd, grants the schools, organizations and cities all around the country who are lined up and ready to screen Bully, including the National Education Association and the Cincinnati School District, the opportunity to share this educational tool with their children.”

It needs to be pointed out that this controversy was a set up. When The Weinstein Company released Bully "unrated" in theaters in New York and Los Angeles it barely earned $150,000. The film might be seen by a few hundred thousand people in theaters which is a theatrical success but not the millions of kids the filmmakers are on record to reach. (A $3.5 mil gross suggests at a $6 admission fee perhaps a half-million tickets were sold.) Millions of people don’t usually go to theaters to see docs. So a $3.5 mil theatrical gross makes this film a major theatrical success. It puts this film in the top 50 or so theatrical documentaries of all time.

But all along, the Weinsteins knew that the film can easily be provided in DVD and in video-on-demand to schools, teachers, students and families in an “Educational” version without the R rated language being included. The use of an educational version would totally serve the school market. This version could be provided for “free” or even for a modest fee if the Weinsteins were really interested in this aspect of marketing the film. The Bullybook is available now for sale and soon the Blu Ray and DVD. Seeing the film in a classroom and then talking about it is what educators do with films. There are over 100,000 school, church and other groups (like Girls Scouts) that can show this film to groups of kids.

Note: Full disclosure, I started a Move-on Campaign and petitioned the Weinsteins to offer

Bully for a Buck! after I saw the film.  More than 480 people have signed the petition to date. No match for the hundreds of thousands who signed the rating controversy petition but I did not do any publicity.  As a parent of two teens, I felt this was a far more logical thing to do to get the film out to children without the strong language. This petition continues on Change.org.    

Bully Short Listed for an Academy Award

With the rule change at the Academy this year, the documentary branch is working as a committee of the whole to do both the short listing and the nomination. The committee members were sent 125 documentary features, mostly arriving at the tail end of the deadline, to review. The committee was made up of both documentary branch members and Academy members who have been nominated or won documentary Oscars. Obviously, few members saw all 125 documentaries. The short list of 15 films was made from tallying the results of each member’s list of their 15 top docs. I think the publicity for Bully insured it would make this list.

The Weinsteins also had it screened at the Academy as part of the Academy members screening program, one of the handful of documentaries that were screened as part of the weekend program. This also will likely help the film get on members’ radar. Smart. Last year, The Weinsteins’ film The Undefeatedwon the Documentary Oscar. They do a great job getting their films out. 

Credits:

Directed by: Lee Hirsch  

Produced by: Lee Hirsch, Cynthia Lowen  

Written by: Lee Hirsch, Cynthia Lowen  

Executive Producer: Cindy Waitt  

Cinematography:  Lee Hirsch

Edited by: Lindsay Utz, Jenny Golden

Original Score by: Ion Furjanic, Justin Rice/Christian Rudder 

Consulting Editors: Enat Sidi, Cynthia Lowen

Music Supervisor: Brooke Wentz  

Running Time: 94 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some language

Short Notes and Update:

WGA Announces Nominees for Documentary Screenplay Award

The WGA announced six nominees for its documentary screenplay award: War, Mea Culpa and Sugar Man also are on the Academy shortlist of feature docs hoping to score an Oscar nomination.

Winners will be honored by the Writers Guild of America, West (Wgaw) and the Writers Guild of America, East (Wgae) at the 2013 Writers Guild Awards on Feb. 17 during simultaneous ceremonies in Los Angeles and New York.

Documentary Screenplay

The Central Park Five, written by Sarah Burns and David McMahon and Ken Burns; Sundance Selects

The Invisible War, written by Kirby Dick; Cinedigm Entertainment Group

Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, written by Alex Gibney; HBO Documentary Films

Searching for Sugar Man, written by Malik Bendejelloul; Sony Pictures Classics

We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists, written by Brian Knappenberger; Cinetic Media

West of Memphis, written by Amy Berg & Billy McMillin; Sony Pictures Classics

Sundance Announces 2013 Documentary Competition:

U.S. Documentary Competition

The world premieres of 16 American documentary films.

99% - The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film/ U.S.A. (Directors: Audrey Ewell, Aaron Aites, Lucian Read, Nina Krstic) The Occupy movement erupted in September 2011, propelling economic inequality into the spotlight. In an unprecedented collaboration, filmmakers across America tell its story, digging into big picture issues as organizers, analysts, participants and critics reveal how it happened and why.

After Tiller/ U.S.A. (Directors: Martha Shane, Lana Wilson) — Since the assassination of Dr. George Tiller in 2009, only four doctors in the country provide late-term abortions. With unprecedented access, After Tiller goes inside the lives of these physicians working at the center of the storm.

American Promise/ U.S.A. (Directors: Joe Brewster, Michèle Stephenson) — This intimate documentary follows the 12-year journey of two African-American families pursuing the promise of opportunity through the education of their sons.

Blackfish/ U.S.A. (Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite) — Notorious killer whale Tilikum is responsible for the deaths of three individuals, including a top killer whale trainer. Blackfish shows the sometimes devastating consequences of keeping such intelligent and sentient creatures in captivity.

Blood Brother/ U.S.A. (Director: Steve Hoover) — Rocky went to India as a disillusioned tourist. When he met a group of children with HIV, he decided to stay. He never could have imagined the obstacles he would face, or the love he would find.

Citizen Koch / U.S.A. (Directors: Carl Deal, Tia Lessin) — Wisconsin – birthplace of the Republican Party, government unions, “cheeseheads” and Paul Ryan – becomes a test market in the campaign to buy Democracy, and ground zero in the battle for the future of the Gop.

Cutie and the Boxer/ U.S.A. (Director: Zachary Heinzerling) — This candid New York love story explores the chaotic 40-year marriage of famed boxing painter Ushio Shinohara and his wife, Noriko. Anxious to shed her role of assistant to her overbearing husband, Noriko seeks an identity of her own.

Dirty Wars/ U.S.A. (Director: Richard Rowley) — Investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill chases down the truth behind America’s covert wars.

Gideon's Army/ U.S.A. (Director: Dawn Porter) — Gideon’s Army follows three young, committed Public Defenders who are dedicated to working for the people society would rather forget. Long hours, low pay and staggering caseloads are so common that even the most committed often give up.

God Loves Uganda/ U.S.A. (Director: Roger Ross Williams) — A powerful exploration of the evangelical campaign to infuse African culture with values imported from America’s Christian Right. The film follows American and Ugandan religious leaders fighting “sexual immorality” and missionaries trying to convince Ugandans to follow biblical law.

Inequality for All/ U.S.A. (Director: Jacob Kornbluth) — In this timely and entertaining documentary, noted economic-policy expert Robert Reich distills the topic of widening income inequality, and addresses the question of what effects this increasing gap has on our economy and our democracy.

Life According to Sam/ U.S.A. (Directors: Sean Fine, Andrea Nix Fine) — Dr. Leslie Gordon and Dr. Scott Berns fight to save their only son from a rare and fatal aging disease for which there is no cure. Their work may one day unlock the key to aging in all of us.

Manhunt / U.S.A., United Kingdom (Director: Greg Barker) — This espionage tale goes inside the CIA’s long conflict against Al Qaeda, as revealed by the remarkable women and men whose secret war against Osama bin Laden started nearly a decade before most of us even knew his name.

Narco Cultura/ U.S.A. (Director: Shaul Schwarz) — An examination of Mexican drug cartels’ influence in pop culture on both sides of the border as experienced by an La narcocorrido singer dreaming of stardom and a Juarez crime scene investigator on the front line of Mexico’s Drug War.

Twenty Feet From Stardom/ U.S.A. (Director: Morgan Neville) — Backup singers live in a world that lies just beyond the spotlight.  Their voices bring harmony to the biggest bands in popular music, but we've had no idea who these singers are or what lives they lead – until now. Day One Film

Valentine Road/ U.S.A. (Director: Marta Cunningham) — In 2008, eighth-grader Brandon McInerney shot classmate Larry King at point blank range. Unraveling this tragedy from point of impact, the film reveals the heartbreaking circumstances that led to the shocking crime as well as its startling aftermath.

________________________________________________________________________

Credits: Editing by Jessica Just for SydneysBuzz

________________________________________________________________________

Block Doc Workshops in Los Angeles February 2013

The International Documentary Association will be hosting Documentary Funding and Documentary Tune-Up Workshops with Block on February 9/10. http://www.eventbrite.com/org/169037034

Mitchell Block specializes in conceiving, producing, marketing & distributing independent features & consulting. He is an expert in placing both completed works into distribution & working with producers to make projects fundable. He conducts regular workshops in film producing in Los Angeles and most recently in Maine, Russia and in Myanmar (Burma).

Poster Girl, produced by Block was nominated for a Documentary Academy Award and selected by the Ida as the Best Doc Short 2011. It was also nominated for two Emmy Awards and aired on HBO. He is an executive producer of the Emmy Award-winning PBS series Carrier, a 10-hour series that he conceived & co-created. Block is a graduate of Tisch School and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business. He is a member of Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, the Television Academy, a founding member of BAFTA-la and has been teaching at USC School of Cinematic Arts since 1979. Currently Block teaches a required class in the USC Peter Stark Producing Program. ______________________________________________________________________

©2013Mwb  All Rights Reserved All Rights Reserved. All information and designs on the Sites are copyrighted material owned by Block. Reproduction, dissemination, or transmission of any part of the material here without the express written consent of the owner is strictly prohibited.All other product names and marks on Block Direct, whether trademarks, service marks, or other type, and whether registered or unregistered, is the property of Block.

»

- Mitchell Block

Permalink | Report a problem


Mitchell Block Direct: Vol. I Issue 4: Alex Gibney, Paperman, and The Academy Awards Animation Shorts Nominations

3 January 2013 6:30 AM, PST | Sydney's Buzz | See recent Sydney's Buzz news »

Vol. I Issue 4

Join us twice weekly.  Send us links to your sizzle reels and film sites. 

Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God 

Directed by Alex Gibney

In Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, Oscar®-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney examines the abuse of power in the Catholic Church through the story of four courageous deaf men who, in the first known case of public protest, set out to expose the priest who abused them. The film follows a cover-up that winds its way from the row houses of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, through the bare ruined choirs of Ireland's churches, all the way to the highest office of the Vatican.

Like Woodward and Bernstein covering the story of Watergate, Gibney uses the keyhole of the first known protest against clerical sexual abuse in the Us to show that the Pope knew (or should have known) that there is wide spread child abuse within the ranks of Catholic priests, not just in the U.S. but worldwide.  Not exactly a pretty picture. This powerful, beautifully crafted film builds a case that screams out for reform of an institution that, like our military, is run by men with little or no outside supervision. One feels that like Nixon after the proven Watergate charges, the Pope should resign along with others who have allowed this outrageous behavior and its cover up to be so institutionalized.

Gibney’s films have a logical clarity that reinforces their intelligence. Smart, clear and wrenchingly powerful they explore institutions and the people who are part of them. From governors to prison guards he shows little patience for lies and incompetence. The chain he establishes in Maxima Culpa links the victims to the priests to their supervisors and on to Rome to the office formally run by the man who is now the Pope. What can you say? They knew, they had to know, the links are compelling.  Why would this institution shelter these men (and women) who were abusing children and in some cases adults? Who would tolerate this behavior? Why would the Church tolerate this behavior? Yet the cover up continues.

In a year of films dealing with institutions, such as government officials slowly trying to find a cure for HIV/AIDS, or the military dealing with women being abused, or the Israel army ignoring the rights of the provocative Palestinians or even government failures to act on global warming, this is the best and it should be one of the nominees.

The Filmmaker

Alex Gibney is the founder of Jigsaw Productions. An Oscar, Emmy, and Grammy Award-winning producer, he is well known for producing one of the highest grossing documentaries of all time, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room.  

His work as a writer and director includes the recent hit Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, as well as the 2006 Oscar-nominated Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and the 2008 Oscar-winning Taxi to the Dark Side.  Alex attended the film program at UCLA.

Credits:

Director/Producer/Writer: Alex Gibney

Producers:Trevor Birney, Alexandra Johnes, Ruth O’Reilly, Kristen Vaurio, Jedd Wider, Todd Widler

Executive Producers:  Jessica Kingdon, Sheila Nevins, Lori Singer

Writer: Mark Monroe

Cinematography: Lisa Rinzler

Original Music Composer: Ivor Guest

Editor: Sloane Klevin

Production Companies: Jigsaw Productions, Wilder Film Projects, Union Editorial

Distribution:  Content Media, HBO Documentary Films, HBO

Paperman a short animated film by John Kahrs

Paperman is an original seven-minute-long short animated film produced by Disney Animation.

It tells the story of a lonely young man in mid-century New York City, whose destiny takes an unexpected turn after a chance meeting with a beautiful woman on his morning commute. Convinced the girl of his dreams is gone forever, he gets a second chance when he spots her in a skyscraper window across the avenue from his office. With only his heart, imagination and a stack of papers to get her attention, his efforts are no match for what the fates have in store for him.

Director John Kahrs was the animation supervisor on Tangled, an animator on Bolt and Ratatouille, and worked on Pixar’s The Incredibles, Mike’s New Car, Monsters, Inc., Toy Story 2 and A Bug’s Life. Kahrs now gets his break as a director at Disney. 14 years of work in the animation department at Pixar, that’s paying dues! Now, I understand why this “Disney” animation film looks and feels like a “Pixar” film.  It’s brilliant, polished, and elegant and, like the Simpson short, silent. Expressive muted black and white images with a slight color tint in this perfect short film dramatizes love at first sight. Tasteful, romantic and above all beautifully executed, I look forward to Kahrs’ feature film debut. A little Pixar goes a long way and this work is expressive of adult feelings that any child could enjoy. No need to dumb the story down, it works for audiences of all ages. A perfect 10.

Original music by Christophe Beck (who has 105 scoring credits) this work is produced by Kristina Reed (from Disney) and Executive Produced by Pixar’s John Lasseter. Written by Clio Chiang and Kendrelle Hoyer, it shows that “less” can be plenty. Short films don’t get better than this! 

Credits:

Directed by: John Kahrs

Produced by: Kristina Reed

Executive Producer: John Lasseter

Art Direction: Jeff Tuley

Written by: Chio Chiang and Kendelle Hoyer

Music by: Christophe Beck

Film Editing: Lisa Linder

Produced by:  Walt Disney Animation

Distributed by: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Running time: 7:00

Short Notes and Update:

The Invisible War is on the New York Times' and Christian Science Monitor's and Newsweek's 10 Best Films of 2012.  The Gate Keepers is on the Wall Street Journal’s 10 Best Films of 2012.

Academy announces 10 animated films shortlisted for the Animation Short Film Nomination

The Short Films and Feature Animation Branch Reviewing Committee viewed all 57 eligible entries for the preliminary round of voting at screenings held in New York and Los Angeles. I’ve seen all of the films and this is one of the strongest group shortlisted in years, from the elegant Pixar/Disney film Paperman to the wildly funny Simpsons’ Daycare. These films are a treat for the eyes and mind. Stunning, moving, original, powerful and frankly amazing they will both amuse and entertain and each of the 10 films is special. The styles range from traditional animation to computer designed. A number of students made it with entries which are testimony to their vigorous programs and their talent. This is a year where handicapping is impossible. 

At screenings of the short listed films, Short Films and Feature Animation Branch members have selected three to five nominees from among these 10 titles for its nominations. 

The 85th Academy Awards nominations will be announced live on Thursday, January 10, 2013, at 5:30 a.m. Pst in the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater. 

Adam and Dog, Minkyu Lee, director (Lodge Films)

Web Link: https://vimeo.com/34849443

Length: 16 min.

Language: none

Country: USA

Combustible,Katsuhiro Otomo, director (Sunrise Inc.)

Web Link: None available

Length: 13 min.

Language: none

Country: Japan

Dripped, Léo Verrier, director (ChezEddy)

Web Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wk9keXSBbhY

Length: 8 min.

Language: none

Country: France

The Eagleman Stag, Mikey Please, director, and Benedict Please, music scores and sound design (Royal College of Art)

Web Link: https://vimeo.com/mikeyplease/eaglemanstag

Length: 9 min.

Language: none

Country: England

The Fall of the House of Usher, Raul Garcia, director, and Stephan Roelants, producer (Melusine Productions, R&R Communications Inc., Les Armateurs, The Big Farm)

Web Link: http://youtu.be/5So_E6yPW40

Length: 17 min.

Language: none

Country: USA

Fresh Guacamole, Pes, director (Pes)

Web Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQMO6vjmkyI

Length: 2 min.

Language: none

Country: USA

Head over Heels, Timothy Reckart, director, and Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly, producer (National Film and Television School)

Web Link: https://vimeo.com/timr/headoverheels

Length: 10 min.

Language: none

Country:  England

Maggie Simpson in The Longest Daycare, David Silverman, director (Gracie Films)

Web Link: http://youtu.be/gV-NRwLV2qU

Length: 5 min.

Language: none

Country: USA

Paperman, John Kahrs, director (Disney Animation Studios)

Web Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jsoiEpuvTeQ 

*note this about the technology in this film, but not a true trailer

Length: 7 min.

Language: none

Country: USA

Tram, Michaela Pavlátová, director, and Ron Dyens, producer (Sacrebleu Productions)

Web Link: http://youtu.be/a_QT-JaDswY

Length: 7 min.

Language: none

Country: French

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Errata

Volume 1  Issue 3  In Chasing Ice the film was edited by Davis Coombe (and not Mark Monroe); Distributor (Us) Submarine Deluxe (not National Geographic).

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Block Doc Workshops in Los Angeles

The International Documentary Association will be hosting Documentary Funding and Documentary Tune Up Workshops with Block on February 9/10. http://www.eventbrite.com/org/169037034

Mitchell Block specializes in conceiving, producing, marketing & distributing independent features & consulting. He is an expert in placing both completed works into distribution & working with producers to make projects fundable. He conducts regular workshops in film producing in Los Angeles and most recently in Maine, Russia and in Myanmar (Burma).

Poster Girl, produced by Block was nominated for a Documentary Academy Award and selected by the Ida as the Best Doc Short 2011. It was also nominated for two Emmy Awards and aired on HBO. He is an executive producer of the Emmy Award-winning PBS series Carrier, a 10-hour series that he conceived & co-created. Block is a graduate of Tisch School and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business. He is a member of Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, the Television Academy, a founding member of BAFTA-la and has been teaching at USC School of Cinematic Arts since 1979. Currently Block teaches a required class in the USC Peter Stark Producing Program.

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©2012Mwb  All Rights Reserved All Rights Reserved. All information and designs on the Sites are copyrighted material owned by Block. Reproduction, dissemination, or transmission of any part of the material here without the express written consent of the owner is strictly prohibited.All other product names and marks on Block Direct, whether trademarks, service marks, or other type, and whether registered or unregistered, is the property of Block.

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- Mitchell Block

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