Life to Make World Premiere as Closing Night Film at SXSW 2017

  • DailyDead
Starring Ryan Reynolds, Rebecca Ferguson, and Jake Gyllenhaal, Daniel Espinosa's Life will make its world premiere as the closing night film at this year's South by Southwest Film Festival.

Press Release: Austin, Texas, February 22, 2017 - South by Southwest® (SXSW®) Conference and Festivals (March 10-19, 2017) announced the World Premiere of Life directed by Daniel Espinosa as its Closing Night Film on Saturday March 18, 2017 at the Zach Theatre. Columbia Pictures and Skydance’s Life is a terrifying sci-fi thriller about a team of scientists aboard the International Space Station whose mission of discovery turns to one of primal fear when they find a rapidly evolving life form that caused extinction on Mars, and now threatens the crew and all life on Earth.

“We are thrilled to close out the 2017 SXSW Film Festival with such a special film as Life,” said Janet Pierson, Director of Film. “Our audiences will love this taut
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Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds’ Space Thriller ‘Life’ to Close SXSW

Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds’ Space Thriller ‘Life’ to Close SXSW
Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds’ space thriller “Life” will land down at South by Southwest.

The film will world premiere as the fest’s closing night movie on March 18.

Life,” directed by Daniel Espinosa, also stars Rebecca Ferguson, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare, and Olga Dihovichnaya. The film, written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, centers on a team of scientists aboard the International Space Station whose mission of discovery turns to one of primal fear when they find a rapidly evolving life form that caused extinction on Mars, and now threatens the crew and all life on Earth.


Life’: Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal Fight to Save Earth in New Trailer

“We are thrilled to close out the 2017 SXSW Film Festival with such a special film as ‘Life,'” said Janet Pierson, SXSW’s director of film. “Our audiences will love this taut space thriller’s twists and turns
See full article at Variety - Film News »

SXSW 2017 scores coup with closing night film

  • ScreenDaily
SXSW 2017 scores coup with closing night film
Festival executives unveil several features and Vr projects ahead of the jamboree in Austin, Texas, that runs from March 10-19.

The world premiere of Daniel Espinosa’s Life starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds will close the festival on March 18.

The Columbia Pictures and Skydance sci-fi centres on a team of scientists aboard the International Space Station who find a rapidly evolving life form that caused extinction on Mars.

“We are thrilled to close out the 2017 SXSW Film Festival with such a special film as Life,” director of film Janet Pierson said. “Our audiences will love this taut space thriller’s twists and turns as well as its amazing cast.”

“I’m so honoured that Life has been chosen as the closing film at South by Southwest,” Espinosa added. “The people that flock to Austin each year are some of the most engaged and passionate fans of film out there and are the perfect audience to introduce
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Doc NYC Pro: Learn Documentary Essentials from the Filmmakers Behind this Year’s Best Films

For one week in November, virtually the entire documentary film community will gather in New York City for the Doc NYC film festival, where this year’s most acclaimed non-fiction films will screen. With all that talent and experience gathered in one place, Doc NYC has decided to channel it toward a new eight-day conference focusing on the tools and skills needed to fund, create and distribute documentary films.

Read More: ‘Weiner,’ Yes; ‘The Eagle Huntress,’ No: The 15 Documentaries on the Doc NYC Short List

Doc NYC Pro is geared toward documentary professionals looking to advance their careers and filmmaking skills and will be comprised of talks, panels, masterclasses and pitch sessions featuring filmmakers and decision makers behind films like “Weiner,” “O.J.: Made in America,” “Amanda Knox” and “Cartel Land.”

Each day of Doc NYC Pro will begin with a “morning manifesto,” featuring speakers Laura Poitras (“Citizenfour”), Josh Kriegman and
See full article at Indiewire »

Docu Filmmaker Gary Hustwit Launches Vr Content Studio Scenic

Documentary filmmaker Gary Hustwit has announced the creation of Scenic, a virtual reality content studio that will produce original nonfiction documentary shorts and series for Vr platforms including Google Cardboard, Samsung Gear Vr and Oculus Rift. They’ll be released via the Brooklyn-based company’s website and app, along with exclusive distribution partners. “There’s so much focus on Virtual Reality as a technology, but Vr won’t achieve mass adoption without great…
See full article at Deadline TV »

Docu Filmmaker Gary Hustwit Launches Vr Content Studio Scenic

Documentary filmmaker Gary Hustwit has announced the creation of Scenic, a virtual reality content studio that will produce original nonfiction documentary shorts and series for Vr platforms including Google Cardboard, Samsung Gear Vr and Oculus Rift. They’ll be released via the Brooklyn-based company’s website and app, along with exclusive distribution partners. “There’s so much focus on Virtual Reality as a technology, but Vr won’t achieve mass adoption without great…
See full article at Deadline Movie News »

Gary Hustwit Launches New Virtual Reality Content Studio with Top Filmmakers

There’s so much buzz about Virtual Reality technology, but to really catch on with a broad audience Vr needs compelling original content to drive the new medium. “It’s kind of a chicken and egg thing,” filmmaker Gary Hustwit (Helvetica) told Filmmaker. “You’ve got to have enough players out there and headsets out there for people to be able to watch Vr and for people to understand what it is. At the same time, you’ve got to have content that gets them to try it and also hooks them.” With the launch of Scenic, a new Virtual Reality content studio focusing on […]
See full article at Filmmaker Magazine »

The Academy Invites 271 New Members for 2014

The Academy has announced the new class of invited members for 2014 and, as is typical, many of which are among last year's nominees, which includes Barkhad Abdi, Michael Fassbender, Sally Hawkins, Mads Mikkelsen, Lupita Nyong'o and June Squibb in the Actors branch not to mention curious additions such as Josh Hutcherson, Rob Riggle and Jason Statham, but, okay. The Directors branch adds Jay and Mark Duplass along with Jean-Marc Vallee, Denis Villeneuve and Thomas Vinterberg. I didn't do an immediate tally of male to female additions or other demographics, but at first glance it seems to be a wide spread batch of new additions on all fronts. The Academy is also clearly attempting to aggressively bump up the demographics as this is the second year in a row where they have added a large number of new members, well over the average of 133 new members from 2004 to 2012. As far as
See full article at Rope Of Silicon »

271 Invited To Join The Academy

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is extending invitations to join the organization to 271 artists and executives who have distinguished themselves by their contributions to theatrical motion pictures.

Those who accept the invitations will be the only additions to the Academy’s membership in 2014.

“This year’s class of invitees represents some of the most talented, creative and passionate filmmakers working in our industry today,” said Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs. “Their contributions to film have entertained audiences around the world, and we are proud to welcome them to the Academy.”

The 2014 invitees are:


Barkhad Abdi – “Captain Phillips

Clancy Brown – “The Hurricane,” “The Shawshank Redeption”

Paul Dano – “12 Years a Slave,” “Prisoners

Michael Fassbender – “12 Years a Slave,” “Shame

Ben Foster – “Lone Survivor,” “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”

Beth Grant – “The Artist,” “No Country for Old Men

Clark Gregg – “Much Ado about Nothing,” “Marvel’s The Avengers

Sally Hawkins – “Blue Jasmine,
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Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong'o among 271 Academy invitees

Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong'o among 271 Academy invitees
Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong’o of 12 Years a Slave were two of the 271 artists and industry leaders invited to become members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which determines nominations and winners at the annual Oscars. The entire list of Academy membership—which numbers about 6,000—isn’t public information so the annual invitation list is often the best indication of the artists involved in the prestigious awards process. It’s worth noting that invitations need to be accepted in order for artists to become members; some artists, like two-time Best Actor winner Sean Penn, have declined membership over the years.
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Josh Hutcherson, Lupita Nyong'o, Pharrell and 268 others invited to join the Academy

  • Hitfix
Josh Hutcherson, Lupita Nyong'o, Pharrell and 268 others invited to join the Academy
Pop quiz: What do Chris Rock, Claire Denis, Eddie Vedder and Josh Hutcherson all have in common? Answer: They could all be Oscar voters very soon. The annual Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences invitation list always makes for interesting reading, shedding light on just how large and far-reaching the group's membership is -- or could be, depending on who accepts their invitations. This year, 271 individuals have been asked to join AMPAS, meaning every one of them could contribute to next year's Academy Awards balloting -- and it's as diverse a list as they've ever assembled. Think the Academy consists entirely of fusty retired white dudes? Not if recent Best Original Song nominee Pharrell Williams takes them up on their offer. Think it's all just a Hollywood insiders' game? Not if French arthouse titans Chantal Akerman and Olivier Assayas join the party. It's a list that subverts expectation at every turn.
See full article at Hitfix »

Academy Invites 271 New Members

Academy Invites 271 New Members
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has invited 271 individuals to become members, with the list reflecting the org’s determination to bring more diversity to its ranks.

Every year, the list of invitations includes several recent Oscar nominees. That’s true this year as well, with letters going out Wednesday to a cross-section of people including 2013 contenders Barkhad Abdi, Lupita Nyong’o, Hayao Miyazaki, Pharrell Williams, Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, plus such creatives as Megan Ellison, Chris Rock, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Steve Coogan, Jason Statham, William Chang Suk Ping, Joan Sobel, Tracey Seaward, Mads Mikkelsen and Chantal Akerman.

Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs told Variety Thursday, “This is a continuation of an initiative to bring in new voices. Filmmaking has gotten more diverse, and audiences have been responding. There are terrific filmmakers around the world at the top of their game and we want to recognize them and bring them into the Academy.
See full article at Variety - Film News »

A New Model for Continuing The Life of Your Doc: Gary Hustwit Salvages His Interviews In Design Trilogy Book

  • Indiewire
A New Model for Continuing The Life of Your Doc: Gary Hustwit Salvages His Interviews In Design Trilogy Book
Gary Hustwit, the director behind the design trilogy of "Helvetica," "Objectified" and "Urbanized," has figured out a way to take the over 100 hours of footage that weren't used in his films to the audience that he knows is super interested. He's in the last days of the Kickstarter campaign for his book project, "Helvetica/Objectified/Urbanized:  The Complete Interviews." Indiewire spoke to Hustwit, who is currently in development on a new doc and a new narrative project, about the process of transforming his video interviews into print form, and here's what he said: So what provoked you to bring this unused interview content out of your archives? Anyone that's made a documentary can understand the shooting to edit ratio.  On certain projects, it's high as 100:1, or even more than that.  I have all of these conversations that I got to have with these designers over the past eight years.
See full article at Indiewire »

5 Daily Tech Stories That Filmmakers (and Film Fans) Must Read: The Sound of 'Gravity,' Rebel Directors on iTunes and More

  • Indiewire
1. Rebel Directors:  The iTunes store lists 12 "Rebel, and Renegade Directors" as part of their "iTunes Essentials: Independent Films." The list, which features directors such as Alex Cox, Michel Gondry and Gus Van Sant, doesn't feature any women. But there are other issues with the list too -- commenters are pointing out that most of the directors on the list are "Hollywood approved," which doesn't exactly qualify them as rebels. See the list here. 2. History of the High Rise: Katerina Cizek's new interactive documentary "A Short History of the Highrise" has debuted on the website for the New York Times.  The new film sucks you in immediately.  "A Short History of the Highrise" works as an interactive and more focused companion piece to Gary Hustwit's "Urbanized," the "Helvetica" director's examination of urban design, but more directly, it's the masterpiece behind Cizek's larger "Highrise" project. Read Bryce Renniger's story on
See full article at Indiewire »

Filmmakers You Should Know: Transmedia Storyteller Katerina Cizek Has Just Outdone Herself, with Help from the New York Times

  • Indiewire
As transmedia has come and gone as a buzz word and various other words have come to take its place (will we agree on "Interactive storytelling"?), two things remain certain:  The National Film Board of Canada has devoted the most resources, time, and energy to ensuring this mode of storytelling evolves and excites, and the work of Katerina Cizek is absolutely unmissable. Today, her new interactive documentary "A Short History of the Highrise" has debuted on the website for the New York Times.  The new film sucks you in immediately.  "A Short History of the Highrise" works as an interactive and more focused companion piece to Gary Hustwit's "Urbanized," the "Helvetica" director's examination of urban design, but more directly, it's the masterpiece behind Cizek's larger "Highrise" project.   Read More "Filmmakers You Should Know" articles now. If you're unfamiliar with Cizek's work, you may want to take a break and dig in now.
See full article at Indiewire »

Sean Dunne, Braden King join Warpaint

  • ScreenDaily
Filmmakers [pictured] are the latest to join Morgan Spurlock’s commercial production company.

Morgan Spurlock’s commercial production company Warpaint has signed filmmakers Sean Dunne and Braden King for commercial representation.

Dunne won the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival best new documentary director award for Oxyana and amassed over 1m online hits for The Archive.

King has directed the likes of Here, which premiered at Sundance and Berlin, and Dutch Harbor, as well as short films such as the award-winning Home Movie.

Spurlock commented: “”Dunne and King each have uniquely beautiful aesthetics in their filmmaking. They are such gifted storytellers and I am ecstatic they have become part of Warpaint.”

“We are impressed with Dunne’s ability to tap into the heart of his subjects and King’s strong visual pedigree,” added Shannon Lords, managing director and executive producer of Warpaint.

Dunne and King join a list of award winning filmmakers represented by Warpaint that includes Gary Hustwit, Rupert Wyatt, [link
See full article at ScreenDaily »

Helvetica – watch the design documentary here

The second in our New View film season is a fascinating look at the most everyday of things: the Helvetica typeface. Available in the UK and Ireland only

Reading on mobile? Watch Helvetica here

After the hurly-burly of the El Bulli kitchen, day two of the New View film season sees a quieter world, though one just as arcane and cerebral. Onetime magazine publisher Gary Hustwit had the inpsiration to make a doco about something as ubiquitous and unregarded as a typeface: something we see around us every day.

Helevetica was developed in 1957, and went on to become one of the world's most widely used. If you want a reminder of what it looks like, here's a gallery.

Back when the film was released, we sent our writer Andrew Dickson to meet its director Gary Hustwit; here's what Hustwit had to say about it:

"When I started this project," [Hustwit] says,
See full article at The Guardian - Film News »

Free views for the New View season

From mosh-pits to moon-men, and food to fonts, the New View documentary season showcases the unusual, the unlikely and the utterly obsessed

It's time for another treat courtesy of the Guardian Screening Room: a five-film season of cutting-edge documentaries that should contain something for everyone. All life is here: secrets of the master chefs, the inside scoop on classic monster movies; what life is like for learning-disabled punk rockers; the intricacies of lettering and typeface design; and the story behind a Russian orthodox nunnery. It all kicks off a week today, but now's the time to enter our competition to give away free viewings to 1000 people.

So, on 15 April, we begin launching our film season: one film a day for five days.

First out of the traps is El Bulli: Cooking in Progress, a film about the legendary Spanish restaurant, which closed in 2011. During its heydey it pioneered "molecular gastronomy
See full article at The Guardian - Film News »

Making Sense of Sundance Documentaries - Thom Powers on the Sundance Market, Sales, Distribution, Pickups on Docus

Thom Powers is a friend of ours in the business and amazes us by his acumen, generosity, range of activities and devotion to what many of us consider the most frequently relevant, creative and earth changing form of feature length cinema - the documentary. I came upon this fascinating dialogue on his website (link below) where he ruminated most eloquently about what actually went on at Sundance business wise with documentaries. Fascinating. Please check out his 'Stranger Than Fiction' website which is of great value to any filmmaker wanting clarity on the business of documentary film. Two fascinating reports (for example) listed on the site among others were these two - Guide to Documentary Buyers at Tiff and Guide to Documentary Sales Agents at Tiff. Every docu filmmaker should start here. Thom Powers has been an International Documentary Programmer for the Toronto International Film Festival® since 2006. He is also responsible for Mavericks, the Festival’s discussion series with cinema innovators. Powers is the Artistic Director for the weekly documentary series, “Stranger than Fiction” at Manhattan’s IFC Center and for the Doc NYC festival in November. He also consults on programming for the Miami International Film Festival. He has directed documentaries for HBO and PBS; and is a founding member of the documentary production company Sugar Pictures. He teaches documentary courses at New York University’s School of Continuing Professional Studies and the School of Visual Arts. He is a co-founder of the Cinema Eye Honors, an annual award for documentary excellence; and the Garrrett Scott Development Grant. He has served as a juror for Sundance, SXSW, Cph: Dox and DocAviv festivals; as well as the Emmy, Ida and Independent Spirit Awards. He has written extensively on documentary filmmaking for The Boston Globe, Real Screen, and Filmmaker Magazine. Stranger than Fiction Exclusive documentary film screenings, hosted by Raphaela Neihausen and Thom Powers. Winter Season: Jan 8 - Feb 26, 2013 IFC Center 323 Sixth Ave. @ West Third St.

A Conversation With Thom Powers on the Sundance Film Festival

by Rahul Chadha | Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

For most people on the indie film circuit, the Sundance Film Festival marks the start of the new year. Park City is where filmmakers go to earn buzz for their projects, get some press and maybe even ink a distribution deal. On Jan. 30 I spoke with Thom Powers about the documentary films at Sundance that garnered the most chatter and the biggest checks, among other subjects.

[Q&A has been edited for content and clarity]

Rahul Chadha: It seemed like so much of the press attention around Sundance was focused on sales. The Hollywood Reporter said that four docs sold for at least seven figures and I read a report that Blackfish elicited a bidding war from four or five distributors. Did you get the sense that sales were better this year, and if so, why do you think that was?

Thom Powers: Some of those figures are slightly inflated. I know at least one of those films that is being reported as a million dollar sale is a little under a million dollars. But the fact remains that there were some very strong doc sales, and notably the emergence of a new player in The Weinstein Company’s RADiUS brand run by Tom Quinn and Jason Janego. Tom previously worked for Magnolia, where he worked on several successful docs such as Food Inc. and Man On Wire. Months ago RADiUS announced involvement in the new Errol Morris film about Donald Rumsfeld, The Unknown Known, due out later this year. Tom told me they would be very selective about docs which left me unprepared for their recent buying streak. Their first Sundance acquisition was the opening night title 20 Feet From Stardom, set in the music industry that gives it a solid commercial hook. Then RADiUS acquired Inequality For All, which struck me as less obvious. But if you imagine it following in the footsteps of An Inconvenient Truth you can see the commercial appeal. Then they announced Cutie And The Boxer, which has no celebrity connection and on the surface feels less obviously commercial, although it had strong word of mouth. So it seems RADiUS is trying out a wide range of docs and it’s good for the industry to have a new player in the mix. In addition to their strong showing, there was notable acquisitions by mainstay distributors including Sundance Selects, which bought Dirty Wars and The Summit, and Magnolia Pictures, which bought Blackfish.

Chadha: It seemed like Submarine had a strong presence this year.

Powers: For years Submarine–run by Josh Braun and his brother Dan–has been the dominant doc sales agent making the biggest doc deals at both Sundance and Toronto. There are certainly other big sales agents, including Cinetic and big agencies like Wme, CAA, UTA, or ICM taking on the occasional doc. But no one carries as big a slate of high prestige documentaries as Submarine. This year their lineup included 20 Feet From Stardom, Blackfish, The Summit, Dirty Wars and Cutie And The Boxer, all of which were high-profile deals. Their slate includes other films that have yet to announce deals, including God Loves Uganda, Muscle Shoals, Who Is Dayani Cristal? and Citizen Koch.

Chadha: Do you think this underscores that filmmakers really do need a sales agent at a festival the level of Sundance?

Powers: I think for a film that has real theatrical potential a sales agent is key. For a film that may find it tougher in the American marketplace, such as many of the docs in the world competition that may not be competing for deals – any subtitled film has a harder time in this marketplace – for those films I don’t know that a sales agent necessarily helps for the kinds of smaller deals that may or may not be offered.

Chadha: Do you think that as digital becomes an increasingly important distribution channel that festivals will take on a new importance?

Powers: I do. In an old model, the way a film would imprint itself on the public’s consciousness is to get a theatrical run. But now there are more documentaries and more films in general being released than ever before. There are weeks when the New York Times is reviewing 15 films, so it’s harder to leave an impression on the public. A lot of these films are seeing their financial future on digital platforms. Because viewers aren’t hearing as much about films in theatrical release, I think the festival circuit is going to have increasing importance for the life of a film.

Chadha: There were a few films at Sundance that dealt with the legacy of 9/11. You mentioned Dirty Wars but there was The World According To Dick Cheney and Which Way Is The Front Line From Here? The Life And Time Of Tim Hetherington and We Steal Secrets: The Story Of Wikileaks.

Powers: Yes that thematic cluster absolutely stood out. The legacy of 9/11 and the response to it through wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as other kinds of counter-terrorism actions played out in other countries, remains a key subject for documentary makers to grapple with. I think the distance of 12 years from 9/11 gives us time to reflect. In the film Manhunt about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, there’s a clear connection. The World According To Dick Cheney is about the chief architect of post-9/11 counter-terrorism actions. It came in for criticism that the filmmakers weren’t hard enough on Dick Cheney, weren’t asking tough enough questions. And while I shared some of those frustrations, I certainly learned a lot about Cheney’s career from watching it.

Chadha: Anthony Kaufman recently wrote a piece that singled out Dirty Wars and the Alex Gibney film We Steal Secrets: The Story Of Wikileaks as two films that he thought might presage a wave of films by left-leaning filmmakers that are critical of Obama and his policies? Do you agree with that assessment or see a similar trend?

Powers: It’s a smart observation. Dirty Wars – which is one of the films I was most impressed by at Sundance – takes a long view of American foreign policy after 9/11 in the hands of the journalist at the center of that film, Jeremy Scahill, who’s best known for his book on Blackwater, and who now has a new book coming out that ties into this film. Alex Gibney’s Wikileaksfilm looks at the harsh response of the Obama administration to Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier who had leaked the headline grabbing documents to Wikileaks. Those two films make an interesting contrast to documentaries of the past decade which comfortably coincided with a liberal critique of the Bush administration. I’m thinking of docs like Farhenheit 9/11 or No End In Sight that liberals rallied behind to point a finger at their political opponents. These new films force a more uncomfortable confrontation with an administration that those same liberals helped get elected.

Chadha: You previously mentioned to me that you thought that filmmakers screening unfinished films at Sundance were taking a risk. Why is that?

Powers: For some reason at Sundance, more than other festivals that I’m aware of, you find filmmakers rushing to screen works that sometimes aren’t completed. In my seven years of programming at Toronto, I’m not aware of any documentaries that went back for serious editing after their premiere – other than those presented as works-in-progress. But at Sundance every year there seems to be a few films that push the deadline so hard that they get taken back to the edit room afterwards. A notable example a couple of years ago was The Interrupters which played at Sundance in a version close to three hours before getting re-edited and having nearly an hour of material taken out of it. The question is, how much does that hurt a film, to have its first presentation before critics and industry be a version of itself that’s not the best. You can point to The Interrupters as a positive example. A lot of people, myself included, appreciated the long version of that film, and it didn’t diminish our interest at all. A fresh example this year was The Square, Jehane Noujaim’s film about the last two years of protest in Egypt around Tahrir Square. In this case the film arrived without any credits on it and Jehane told audiences that she was going back into the edit room. Normally that would sound to me like a challenging strategy. However, The Square came away from Sundance with an audience award. There’s clearly a power to that film, and a power that touched me watching that film, that transcended any rough edges that it contained. So I’ve just given two examples of films that made it work for them. I wouldn’t want to call out films where I think that strategy has not worked. But there certainly are cases and I’d strongly caution filmmakers not to assume that they’ll be the happy exceptions if they’re rushing their films for a festival deadline.

Chadha: There was a lot of talk this year about how well-represented women were on the doc side. I was wondering why you think this difference exists between the doc side and the fictional narrative side, where women still are underrepresented?

Powers: You can start a documentary with just a camera, as opposed to a fiction film where you need actors, a crew, a script, a lot more start-up resources. It may be self-perpetuating. Because there have been more prominent female doc makers, dating back to Barbara Kopple winning an Academy Award in the mid-70s, they’ve become role models for other women.

Chadha: What lost opportunities do you think filmmakers are struggling through at Sundance in terms of self-promotion? I know you’re a big proponent of filmmakers using Twitter.

Powers: I continue to be surprised by filmmakers who spend thousands of dollars on a publicist, but don’t take more advantage of social media which isfree. The Sundance docs that I saw making strong use of Twitter were Sound City which had 20,000 followers at the end of the festival; and 99% – The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film which had 15,000 followers. Then there’s a sharp drop-off. Films such as After Tiller, Dirty Wars and American Promise had around 1,500 followers each – they are getting off to a good start. Whenever possible, filmmakers need to begin their Twitter strategy well before their first festival in order to accumulate followers who can spread what’s happening at the festival.

Chadha: Which film were you most surprised by, and why?

Powers: It’s a reality of film festivals that you can’t see everything. You’re dividing your time between seeing films and utilizing that unique space to have meetings with people that you can’t otherwise. There were around 40 docs at Sundance and I’ve now seen roughly half. I think the film Blood Brother that won the audience prize and the jury prize took a lot of people by surprise because there was hardly any chatter about it in the corridors where press and industry exchange tips. It shows you that in a big festival, things can always surprise you.

I think certain filmmakers going into Sundance or other big festivals should consider screening more for press and tastemakers before the festival. The traditional wisdom has always been the opposite: to not screen for anyone prior, let your film be seen by an audience, and generate the buzz from there. That works for a film like Supersize Me – where the description made people put it on their priority list. But for a film that doesn’t have an obvious hook – including a lot of the films in the world documentary competition – those filmmakers might be better served trying to strategically screen for certain press and tastemakers so they can enter the festival with people already talking about them.

Chadha: Are there any films that are now on your “can’t miss” list?

Powers: Some of my favorite Sundance titles I’ve programmed for the Miami International Film Festival, which just announced its line-up last week. They include 20 Feet From Stardom, Blackfish, Gideon’S Army, The Crash Reel, Valentine Road, Which Way To The Front Line From Here? and Who Is Dayani Cristal?. There were many other strong films at Sundance that I look forward to showing at the Montclair Film Festival and Stranger Than Fiction. The Square I admire a lot. Muscle Shoals really took me by surprise. It played late in the festival and didn’t gain as much buzz as I thought it deserved. The director, who I believe is a first time director, made all kinds of smart creative decisions. Another film that went under the radar but made a big impression on me was The Stuart Hall Project about the U.K.-based black intellectual Stuart Hall. The film is wholly constructed out of archival sources, primarily from the BBC.

Chadha: What were the lessons about funding that came out of Sundance?

Powers: Sundance is a good survey of how docs are getting funded. This year reflects the important influence of Kickstarter. Recently Kickstarter introduced a tag for its projects that have a Sundance affiliation, and skimming that list I was impressed to see that Inequality For All had raised $83,000 and American Promise had raised $50,000 on Kickstarter. Other documentaries raised more modest sums. What’ so significant about Kickstarter is that those filmmakers did not need to wait around for a grant application committee to give them a green light. They could take matters into their own hands. Other funding players who were prominent are the Sundance Institute, the Tribeca Institute and the Ford Foundation which last year announced a $50 million commitment through the Just Films program. That Ford initiative supported projects like Gideon’S Army, Valentine Road, American Promise, Who Is Dayani Cristal?, God Loves Uganda and Citizen Koch.

Another important player is the equity group Impact Partners, who for several years have had a strong showing of their catalog at Sundance. This year their involvement included American Promise, The Crash Reel, Who Is Dayani Cristal? and Pandora’S Promise. The last group that I would mention is Cinereach, who were the heroes of Sundance last year for their funding of Beasts Of The Southern Wild, and who were back this year with four docs: Cutie And The Boxer, Citizen Koch, God Loves Uganda, and Narco Cultura.

When you look at the kinds of films that are showing up at Sundance, you see the names of some key producers re-occurring. This year the producer Julie Goldman, whose recent Sundance titles include Buck was back with three projects – Gideon’S Army, Manhunt and God Loves Uganda. The producer John Battsek from the U.K. who last year came with Searching For Sugar Man, was back this year with The Summit and Manhunt. And Jess Search, also based in the U.K., who is the founder of Britdoc and the Good Pitch had her name attached to the films Dirty Wars and Who Is Dayani Cristal? Clearly those producers and others like them have a good eye for spotting what makes a strong documentary in development. Those producers perform a variety of roles for filmmakers, whether it’s connecting them to financial support or supplying editorial perspective or connecting them to the other kind of industry players who can take a project further.

Chadha: Going back to Kickstarter for a minute, do you think films that have success on Kickstarter have the added benefit of showing to grantmaking institutions that their films are viable and that there’s an audience for them?

Powers: Absolutely. One bit of industry news this past week was that the HotDocs Forum, which has been a key place for documentaries to raise money, mainly in the broadcast world, announced that they will now accept projects on the basis of a certain amount of funds raised on Kickstarter. It used to be that you had to demonstrate a portion of your budget, like a quarter, was already being supported by a broadcaster or other traditional grantmaking institution. This change in policy signals the way in which Kickstarter funding is being taken more seriously.

In the case of The Square, the producers launched a Kickstarter campaign at Sundance to help finish their film. That seems like a very smart strategy for other filmmakers to consider. When you’re at a film festival, you have a rapt and enthused audience and if you can point them to a Kickstarter campaign, that’s a great way to leverage that enthusiasm. Even if you don’t need finishing funds, it’s a way to get outreach funds. I also saw the team from The Square selling t-shirts. After one screening they came away with few hundred dollars of cash in hand, which can help defray costs of attending a festival. These are strategies that filmmakers like Gary Hustwit have long practiced, emulating the way rock musicians sell t-shirts and posters at live performances. The film community has been slow to catch on. Maybe filmmakers are so busy getting their films made that they don’t have time to think about merchandise. But every bit of revenue helps.

Chadha: Any final thoughts?

Powers: We’ve talked about theatrical and digital distribution and new trends in crowdfunding. But it has to be said that the most long-standing and reliable place for documentary makers to get money is the broadcast world. HBO, which usually has a strong presence at Sundance, had the most overwhelming presence that I can remember, coming with six feature length documentaries. Plus during Sundance HBO bought Pussy Riot-a Punk Prayer. When you consider that HBO also has the film that was the 2012 winner at Idfa, Alan Berliner’s First Cousin Once Removed, and had two films at the Toronto festival – Mea Maxima Culpa by Alex Gibney and First Comes Love by Nina Davenport – that’s an impressive slate of films. There was news generated by other broadcasters getting active in the documentary field, including Showtime, which came with The World According To Dick Cheney. Just before Sundane, The New York Times reported about Showtime’s announcement of several documentaries in progress, including a film about Richard Pryor by Marina Zenovich, who made the Roman Polanski film, that I am personally looking forward to. In addition, CNN made an announcement during Sundance about a slate of feature-length docs, including a film by Alex Gibney. Another major player in that realm is A&E IndieFilms, which didn’t have any films in Sundance this year, but they’re already attached to Errol Morris’s Donald Rumsfeld documentary coming out later this year. All in all, the year is off to a good start.

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The Nerve Mixtape With El Ten Eleven

  • Nerve
The Nerve Mixtape With El Ten Eleven The loop-happy instrumentalists gift us their boots-knockin' playlist. by Kristian Dunn You might know El Ten Eleven from their tunes' appearances in Gary Hustwit's design documentaries, like Helvetica or Urbanized, but their brand of catchy, loop-heavy instrumental rock has plenty to offer beyond soundtracking movies about fonts. Their fifth album, Transitions, was released last November, and the band is currently on tour. We caught up with the band's mastermind, Kristian Dunn, for his personal soundtrack for lovin'. 1. "Playground Love," Air This is a really great one to get things going between you and your partner. It's really emotionally moving, but sexy and hip-moving as well. There's also a bearable, non-anachronistic sax solo, which is rare these days (the '80s just killed that poor instrument's credibility). And those spine-tingling strings — yum! 2. "More Than This," [...]
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