We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists (2012) - News Poster


Must Watch: First Trailer for 'Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press'

"He's doing this because he wants to bring Gawker down." Netflix has premiered the official trailer for the documentary Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press, the latest from acclaimed filmmaker Brian Knappenberger, of the docs We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists and The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz. Knappenberger is one of my favorite doc filmmakers, as he understands the internet better than most people, and always sheds a light on the truth no matter how hard it is to find. Nobody Speak dives deep into the case of Hulk Hogan (aka Terry Bollea) vs Gawker. Unfortunately, Gawker lost the trial and they had to shut down because of this defeat. The film looks at how the idea of a free press is fading away, and the most powerful people with the most money are taking control over everything. This premiered at Sundance and it's a riveting,
See full article at FirstShowing.net »

First Look at the UK Poster for The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz

Brian Knappenberger’s previous documentary was We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists, and he stays in the digital domain for his latest project. Telling the story of coder, writer and eventual information activist Aaron Swartz The Internet’s Own Boy is a timely, and necessary given the tragic circumstance, evaluation of a most critical social justice battle.

The legacy of Aaron Swartz is the fight which is continuing right now. Barely a day passes without a new privacy panic or some further demonisation of the so-called hacktivists in the press. A bill named after Swartz is currently stalled in Congress, and looks unlikely to achieve its aim of updating the somewhat draconian Us hacking legislation. This film captures why it is important that Aaron’s story does not languish like Aaron’s Law.

We’ve got the first look at the UK poster you’ll be seeing on
See full article at HeyUGuys »

FilmBuff and Participant Media Announce the Multi-Platform Release of 'The Internet's Own Boy'

FilmBuff and Participant Media will have a multi-platform release of their compelling new documentary, “The Internet’s Own Boy” on Friday, June 27th followed by a broadcast television premiere on Participant’s television network, Pivot, later in 2014. The film is available for pre-order today on Vimeo On Demand ( www.vimeo.com/ondemand/internetsownboy ) and iTunes (http://bit.ly/1pKulkX).

Produced, written and directed by Brian Knappenberger, the documentary first premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival before screening at the SXSW Film Festival and as the opening night selection at the Hot Docs Film Festival. Theatrically, “The Internet’s Own Boy” will open exclusively at the IFC Center in New York and at the Sundance Cinemas in Los Angeles as well as theaters in 15 other markets nationwide.

The documentary will be available to rent for $6.99 on all VOD platforms including Vimeo On Demand, iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Comcast and DirecTV and, for the first month of release, will be offered to own exclusively through Vimeo On Demand ( www.vimeo.com/ondemand/internetsownboy) for $9.99.

“The Internet’s Own Boy” tells the story of programming prodigy and information activist Aaron Swartz. From Swartz's help in the development of the basic internet protocol RSS to his co-founding of Reddit, his fingerprints are all over the internet. But it was Swartz's groundbreaking work in social justice and political organizing combined with his aggressive approach to information access that ensnared him in a two-year legal nightmare. It was a battle that ended with the taking of his own life at the age of 26.

“We wanted to bring Aaron's story to as many people as possible, so the day ‘The Internet’s Own Boy’ debuts in theaters, we are also offering the film across a variety of digital services and platforms in a model fitting with what Aaron architected and stood for" said Brian Knappenberger, Director, “The Internet’s Own Boy.” Aaron's story touched a nerve with people far beyond online communities. This film is a personal story about what we lose when we are tone deaf about technology and its relationship to our civil liberties. Participant Media will leverage awareness of Aaron’s story to launch a social action campaign, timed to the film’s release, encouraging audiences to demand better oversight in the U.S. justice system.

The film was directed, written and produced by Brian Knappenberger (“We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists”). Executive produced by Charles Annenberg Weingarten. John Dragonetti composed the score. This film is not rated and runs 105 minutes.

About FilmBuff

Founded in 2007, New York-based FilmBuff is the leading distributor of incomparable digital entertainment. The Company draws upon its deep relationships within the film industry to curate content that consistently informs, entertains and inspires. FilmBuff designs innovative digital strategies to supply content to all on-demand outlets. Serving as a bridge between filmmakers and audiences, FilmBuff actively engages in conversations with fellow entertainment lovers through its exclusive access, original content and unique voice. Find FilmBuff content on all cable, satellite and telco services, game consoles, online retailers, wireless platforms and hardware manufacturers worldwide. Connect with FilmBuff at www.FilmBuff.com and [At] filmbuff.

About Participant Media

Participant Media is a global entertainment company founded in 2004 by Jeff Skoll to focus on feature film, television, publishing and digital content that inspires social change. Participant’s more than 50 films include Good Night, And Good Luck, Syriana, An Inconvenient Truth, Food, Inc., Waiting For ‘Superman’, The Help, Contagion and Lincoln. Through its films, social action campaigns, digital network TakePart.com and Pivot, its new television network for Millennials, Participant seeks to entertain, encourage and empower every individual to take action.
See full article at SydneysBuzz »

Sheffield Doc/Fest 2014: We Are Many Review

  • HeyUGuys
Perhaps fittingly, Amir Amirani’s new documentary We Are Many characterises not only the notion of mass public protest, but the rise of the political documentary itself. In it, we travel back to 9/11, what many commentators have since referred to as The End of History regarding national security and privacy, which gave birth to a protest movement that has manifested itself in countless ways over the last thirteen years. Equally so it has given thousands of hours’ worth of material for filmmakers and activists to reach a bulk audience with.

The attacks on the Twin Towers were a prelude to the Iraq War, the main focus of Amirani’s film, and he invites academics (including perpetual talking head Noam Chomsky), as well as politicians from Clare Short to David Blunkett, to speak about the social, political and moral implications of the 2003 global protest against the decision to invade. It’s
See full article at HeyUGuys »

Trailer For ‘The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz’ Fights For Freedom

One of the documentaries to keep on your radar this summer is The Internet’s Own Boy, the latest from Brian Knappenberger (We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists), which explores and celebrates the life of the late Aaron Swartz. We were fans at Sundance, saying,” If you’ve been on the internet, there’s a chance you’ve used a service that Swartz [...]
See full article at The Film Stage »

Twenty Documentaries to Watch For in 2014

2014 is now in full swing, the Sundance Film Festival has closed its doors, and film festivals like South by Southwest and Tribeca are generating more buzz for the year’s noteworthy indie narratives and documentaries. In recent years, documentaries such as Restrepo, Gasland, and Searching For Sugarman went on to become heavyweights. This year’s contenders include topics taken from popular memoirs and biographies, along with subject matter pertaining to youths and youth culture. Below, you’ll find a comprehensive list of Sundance and non-Sundance documentaries to keep an eye out for this year, equipped with official synopsis and trailer when available. 2014 is shaping out to a versatile year in the documentary world, ranging from heavy-handed family dramas such as Tracy Droz Tragos’ and Andrew Droz Palermo’s Rich Hill, to baseball biographies such as Chapman and Maclain Way’s The Battered Bastards of Baseball and Jeff Radice’s No No A Dockumentary,
See full article at SoundOnSight »

Participant, Pivot Nab Rights to Internet Activist Docu ‘Aaron Swartz’

Participant Media and FilmBuff have licensed North American rights to Brian Knappenberger’s docu “The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz.”

The announcement came a month after the film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. The companies have tentatively set a day-and-date theatrical and VOD release for June followed by a broadcast television premiere on Participant’s Pivot network in the fourth quarter.

The film will be screening at the upcoming South by Southwest Film Festival. It was directed, written and produced by Knappenberger (“We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists”); exec producers are Charles Annenberg Weingarten, Zach Braff and Mason Fink.

Diane Weyermann of Participant Media said, “‘The Internet’s Own Boy’ is a deeply moving story that explores the incredible power of one individual to inspire change and the complexity and importance of freedom of information – all of which are right at the core
See full article at Variety - Film News »

Participant Media and FilmBuff Nab 'The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz'

  • Indiewire
Participant Media and FilmBuff Nab 'The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz'
Sundance 2014 has long passed, but Sundance Acquisitions 2014 are still going strong. Participant Media and FilmBuff have acquired Brian Knappenberger's documentary "The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz." The film, which played in the U.S. Documentary Competition at Sundance and will screen at SXSW 2014, follows internet activist and programmer Swartz from his involvement in RSS and Reddit to his increased activism and controversial downloading of nearly four million academic articles form the online service Jstor, which led to Swartz's arrest, trial, and eventual suicide. The film was directed, written, and produced by Knappeberger ("We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists") and executive produced by Charles Annenberg Weingarten, Zach Braff and Mason Fink. "From the moment I started filming, I wanted to find a way to both bring Aaron's story to the widest possible audience and to use the film to advance the principles he cared about,
See full article at Indiewire »

Forget Sundance: Here Are the Three Must-see Slamdance Documentaries

  • Movies.com
Why the Slamdance Film Festival isn't more celebrated for its documentary finds each year is a question I ask, well, every year. Sure, its annual feature-doc program isn't filled exclusively with good movies, but neither is Sundance nor any other festival. There have been at least a few in every crop of eight-or-so titles that I'd recommend, and in most year's there's at least one really terrific work. Look at some of the successes to come out of Slamdance for proof that it's worthy of serious doc fans' attendance: Mad Hot Ballroom, The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father, We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists and Steven Soderbergh's And Everything Is Going Fine all had their premieres at...

Read More
See full article at Movies.com »

The Extraordinary Aaron Swartz: Sundance Sees 'The Internet's Own Boy'

The Internet's Own Boy was a film that sadly had to happen. From the moment programmer and hacktivist Aaron Swartz died in early 2013, the online community he fought so hard to connect and protect rallied behind him and his legacy. The passionate, bright young man – just 26 when he was found hung by his own belt – had already built Reddit, helped create RSS and and become a leader in the burgeoning online free-speech movement by leading the fight to kill the Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa).

Remembering the Brilliant Life and
See full article at Rolling Stone »

Fund This Film: An Aaron Swartz Documentary From the Director of ‘We Are Legion’

One of the best documentaries of last year is We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists, a film that looks at the history of Internet activists/hackers/pranksters Anonymous while remarkably tying together stuff like LOLCats and the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement (stream it now via Amazon or download from iTunes). Now that doc’s director, Brian Knappenberger, is taking on another web-based story, which will show how the movie WarGames led to the suicide of one of the 21st century’s greatest geniuses. Not that it will put any blame on a 1982 movie starring Matthew Broderick nor focus on that particular chain of events. The Internet’s Own Boy will tell the short life story of computer programmer Aaron Swartz, one of the minds behind numerous Internet-related projects including RSS (at age 14!), Reddit, Markdown, Watchdog.net, and Creative Commons and an activist against Sopa and for WikiLeaks. Sadly
See full article at FilmSchoolRejects »

Project of the Day: Deceased Internet Activist Aaron Swartz Gets a Documentary

Here's your daily dose of an indie film in progress; at the end of the week, you'll have the chance to vote for your favorite. In the meantime: Is this a movie you’d want to see? Tell us in the comments. "The Internet's Own Boy: Documentary of Aaron Swartz" Tweetable Logline: The story of internet pioneer and online activist Aaron Swartz Elevator Pitch: Currently titled “The Internet’s Own Boy," the new film by Brian Knappenberger, director of We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists follows internet activist and programming pioneer Aaron Swartz from his teenage emergence on the internet scene and involvement in RSS and Reddit, to his growing interest in political advocacy and the controversial actions he allegedly took in MIT's computer network. The film explores Aaron’s arrest, the prosecution’s tactics in bringing the case to trial, and the impact a seemingly small hacking gesture.
See full article at Indiewire »

Special Feature: Between the Lines Festival begins

  • CineVue
Housed at the Rich Mix in Shoreditch and presented by DocHouse and Frontline Club, Between the Lines is a newly formed documentary film festival that runs over the weekend 1-3 March in 2013. Aiming to explore the ways in which shifting boundaries have affected today's new media landscape, the three-day event will bring together champions of both film and journalism to host sessions on a variety of current topics. There will also be screenings of numerous zeitgeist documentaries, including Brian Knappenberger's chronicle of the 'Anonymous' collective and their exploits We are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists.

Read more »
See full article at CineVue »

Argo and Zero Dark Thirty honoured at the 2013 WGA Awards

Ben Affleck's acclaimed CIA thriller Argo picked up another award last night as screenwriter Chris Terrio was honoured by the Writer's Guild of America at this year's WGA Awards with Best Adapted Screenplay, while Mark Boal received Best Original Screenplay for Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty and Malik Bendejelloul collected Best Documentary Screenplay for Searching for Sugar Man.

Shifting to the small screen and there was awards success for Breaking Bad (Best Drama Series), Louie (Best Comedy Series) and Girls (Best New Series), along with Mad Men (Episodic Drama), Modern Family (Episodic Comedy), Hatfields & McCoys (Long Form - Original), Game Change (Long Form - Adapted) and The Simpsons (Animation).

Here is the full list of nominees, with the winners highlighted in bold:

Film Categories:

Original Screenplay

Flight, Written by John Gatins; Paramount Pictures

Looper, Written by Rian Johnson; TriStar Pictures

The Master, Written by Paul Thomas Anderson; The Weinstein Company

Moonrise Kingdom,
See full article at Flickeringmyth »

2013 Writers Guild Award Winners Include 'Argo', 'Sugar Man' and 'Zero Dark Thirty'

The Writers Guild Association (WGA) handed out the 2013 WGA Awards tonight and as tired as you may be of hearing it, Argo is once again among the winners, this time with Chris Terrio winning Adapted Screenplay, pretty much sealing the deal at the Oscars as well as far as I'm concerned. The screenplay for Argo was up against fellow Oscar nominees in Tony Kushner's screenplay for Lincoln, David Magee's screenplay for Life of Pi and David O. Russell's screenplay for Silver Linings Playbook. Before tonight I had kept Kushner's screenplay at #1 in my predictions for Best Adapted Screenplay, but no more. Oh well, Kushner was overheard at the ceremony saying he was working on another screenplay for Spielberg (source), but didn't elaborate on the content. Perhaps he'll have a shot with that one. In the original category, it was Mark Boal winning for Zero Dark Thirty, but
See full article at Rope Of Silicon »

Mitchell Block Direct: The Power of Documentaries

Vol. I Issue 7

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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.


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.



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


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


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.
See full article at SydneysBuzz »

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

Vol. I Issue 5

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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.


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.


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.
See full article at SydneysBuzz »

Good News For 'Zero Dark Thirty'

Good News For 'Zero Dark Thirty'
Los Angeles — "Lincoln" and "Zero Dark Thirty" are adding to their front-runner status for Hollywood's awards season.

The two dramas earned nominations from the Writers Guild on Friday for outstanding screen writing.

"Lincoln" is up for adapted screenplay, along with "Argo," "Silver Linings Playbook," "Life of Pi" and "The Perks of Being a Wallflower."

"Zero Dark Thirty" was nominated for original screenplay, along with "Flight," "Looper," "The Master" and "Moonrise Kingdom."

In the documentary category, "The Central Park Five," "The Invisible War," "Mea Maxima Culpa, "West of Memphis," "We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists," and "Searching for Sugar Man" earned nominations.

Winners will be announced during simultaneous ceremonies in New York and Los Angeles on Feb. 17.



See full article at Huffington Post »

Looper Among Nominated Films For Writers Guild of America Awards

The Oscar Nominations are going to be coming in a few days, and to prime the pump for that the Writers Guild of America has unveiled its list of nominees for their top screenplay awards. It comes as no surprise that Zero Dark Thirty, Moonrise Kingdom, The Master and Lincoln ended up getting nominated, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that Looper and The Perks of Being a Wallflower also got nominated! These were both incredibly well scripted films, and I'm so happy to see they got nominated. I hope they end up getting nominated for an Oscar as well!

The reason you don't see films like Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, William Nicholson’s Les Misérables, Michael Haneke’s Amour, and Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild on the list is because they weren't produced under the Guild's jurisdiction.

Here's the full list of nominations,
See full article at GeekTyrant »

Awards: WGA Noms, Oscars Love Bond

The Writers Guild of America have announced nominations for outstanding achievement in writing for the screen during 2012. Winners will be honored at the 2013 Writers Guild Awards on Sunday, February 17th.

"Flight," "Looper," "The Master," "Moonrise Kingdom" and "Zero Dark Thirty" are up for Original Screenplay.

"Argo," "Life of Pi," "Lincoln," "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" and "Silver Linings Playbook" are up for adapted screenplay.

Finally, "The Central Park Five," "The Invisible War," "Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God," "Searching for Sugar Man," "We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists," and "West of Memphis" are up for documentary screenplay.

In other award news, the 85th Academy Awards ceremony will include a tribute segment to the James Bond movie franchise, which is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year.
See full article at Dark Horizons »
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