What’s Actually Happening – March 11 (Tattoos, Generosity, Kindness and Craig Bankey)

Posted in Uncategorized by johnwildman on March 12, 2010

TATTOOS

I just got the words “generosity” and “kindness” tattooed on my right and left wrists, respectively. A few years ago I had a stained glass image of a dove flying out of a sunburst tattooed on my right shoulder blade. I had never dreamed of getting a tattoo prior to that because I thought it would silly on me – I was way too boyish looking to pull something like that off. But I had been robbed at gunpoint while walking a girl to her car one night in L.A. and even though I had talked everyone (muggers included) down and through the situation, I had a very clear realization of how fortunate I was that “kids” were holding that gun and mugging us and not some hard core type that would’ve shot us just because.

So, I saw this reproduction of a stained glass window from a church in Illinois, I believe, and the image kept returning to me. You know, like that phoenix rising from the ashes kind of thing. And so it seemed right to have that image on me, with me, a part of me – permanently.

So, why do it again? And why those words? And why in that location? Well, there is a lot going on in my life right now that has great, great potential to send me on my way to a life I’ve been inching toward for a very long time. I’ve taken a somewhat long and circuitous route to get to this place that is so close and over the last year or so because of my experiences with the film festivals, with AFI, with the movie and the people I have dealt with and those that I work with everyday those are two things I thought I should make sure are very close to being first and foremost on my mind as I proceed from this point on.

I will very easily fall into earnestness – maybe that’s the Midwestern Indiana part of my background – and this certainly smacks of that, I know. But after 40+ years of some successes, but many more near misses and almosts, I was both fortunate enough to find someone in my wife Justina, that flipped every expectation I had about my future romantic prospects by being the first woman whose very company I felt was a “reward” for all the other crap I had done over the course of the day, but also shared and/or complimented damn near all of my dreams as to how I wanted to live the next fifty years. Therefore, I had my very pretty Japanese Irish dark humored and twisted sensibility techie dream girl and I got someone that from the word “go” pushed me with praise to really go after everything I had always wanted to career-wise. All kinds of wins. And yes, I meant fifty. That’s what we agreed to when we got married, with an option to renew.

GENEROSITY AND KINDNESS.

You would think that those two things are pretty simple. And they are. But I’m often astonished at how easily they are ditched by people on a daily basis. So, I thought I would remind myself to temper the moments that might be going by really fast and to put those pressure situations into a greater perspective, to “give” maybe a few times more than I would if the damn word wasn’t right there in front of me, and yes, to work harder to put aside the anger and frustration that is so easily piqued doing what I do and operate out of just a little more kindness each day.

Okay back to business…

CRAIG BANKEY.

So – I’m still on the hunt to secure people for the DALLAS International Film Festival, either as DALLAS Star honorees, or panelists or jury members or just to support their movie that we’ll be playing. And I’m calling and emailing a lot of publicists that I used to work with a few years back when I was at ID PR.

On one side of the scale I’ve got the publicist that was my bestest buddy and partner-in-crime while I was there that sent me a terse reply after I IM’d her on facebook just to make sure she got a message I had left with her assistant (since she was in the thick of Oscar weekend with her nominee client. And, I understand, it was a huge weekend, she probably hadn’t decompressed yet and she read more into the IM than was intended. It happens. Then again, she never did return my call. So, there’s that.

Then there is Craig Bankey. I was always a fan of his at ID because he’s both smart and he’s not a panic-first guy. And you look at his clientele and they are people like freshly minted Oscar winner Christoph Waltz, Michael C. Hall, Djimon Honsou, Cillian Murphy and freakin’ Muhammed Ali. No tabloidy or shallow cover babies in there. No, look-at-me types. And I believe there is a very good reason for that. He’s just come off of a great Golden Globes/Oscar combo and I couldn’t be happier for him. So, I call him up to ask about three of his clients. And I get three “no” responses from him. But the three strikes not in my favor were delivered with real justifiable reasons and what followed was an offer to speak in my favor to the other publicists at his firm that didn’t know me that well.

That rarely – RARELY – happens. And I’m pretty sure he didn’t pull a muscle during the phone call. And my guess is that it didn’t really “put him out”. But no one does that. Just does not happen. But it does with Bankey. So no surprise that he’s balancing multiple award winners and really no surprise that Michael C. Hall (with Craig’s assistance) maybe had the least newsworthy celebrity bout with cancer in recent memory. Because the standard operating procedure there is smart, pragmatic, calm and tasteful.

And Wolf Kasteler looks pretty smart for getting him to set up camp under their roof right now…

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What’s Actually Happening – March 6 (Movie Stars, Money and no Mediocrity)

Posted in Uncategorized by johnwildman on March 7, 2010

Okay, technically I’m writing this on March 7 (it’s close to 1AM). But, you know, it’s my blog and I’ll….anyway…

MOVIE STARS

That’s what the DALLAS FILM FEST is all about for me right now because we have to have them show up. Bottom line. And it’s always this ordeal of a process to figure out (say, in the case of the DALLAS Star Award) who you want to honor, who “deserves” to be honored, who would even consider making the trip, who is “easy” because they’re nice, their publicist isn’t lazy or an ass, or who you can simply call because you’ve worked with them in the past and their experience at your past event was amazingly easy for them, you had your thing down and they enjoyed themselves.

Okay, now I’ll take a breath.

So – I’m into that right now. And it is NEVER easy. But there is one thing that is leaps and bounds better than in years past with DALLAS FILM FEST: a lot of the conservative shroud has been lifted off what we are doing this year. In the past, the potential DALLAS Star Award honorees had to be vetted by as many people that have worked on the health care bill. There always had to be some major anniversary of a film or the person had to be ancient or a very typical honoree choice…but not too big, not such a big fish because that person needed to be utilized (read exploited) for something that could make some folks some money somewhere.

NOT ANYMORE.

So, I’m really hoping that some of the people we are going after say “yes” because they won’t be people that have been trotted out countless times, they aren’t the kind of people where we’d just recycle their clip montages from Santa Barbara or Palm Springs or the Hollywood Film Festival, etc. It would be cool to give these people a nod. Sit down in front of a Dallas crowd to talk about their careers…

(And by the way, if you ARE a publicist reading this – YOU CAN NOT DO BETTER than a Dallas audience for your client. No audiences are as engaged as these audiences are. Not just fans – which they are – the Dallas filmgoers are appreciative, interested and absolutely fascinated by the artistic process. Liener Temerlin and Michael Cain knew what the hell this town wanted and needed when they created this film festival. Trust me on that.),

…and go on record as “saying” that this actor or actress or director or cinematographer, editor, designer, you name it is an artist and someone with a vision.

And then there are the jurors and the panelists and the people that will actually have movies in the film festival. I know that we have to get people here. I mean, that knowledge plagues me. Especially since I’m the freakin’ red carpet guy. You don’t put on the red carpet show without stars and filmmakers. You just don’t. That’s not a red carpet anymore. It’s a red heartbreak. For me, that is. For the press it’s irritating, if not infuriating. There’s a step-and-repeat behind it with logos and stuff, sure. But you might as well have your attendees taking prom-style pictures with powder blue tuxes and corsages and stuff. Because all-of-a-sudden, your event is the school dance with the “Under the Sea” theme. Sad.

Fortunately, we’ve already got a decent handful of people that we’ll be telling everyone about over the next couple of weeks, so no one has to worry about doing a slow dance to “Through the Years” with a lonely shorts director or the one actor that had family in town therefore they decided to make the trip. No, magic 8-ball says we’ll be well attended by out-of-towners once again.

THE VISION THING

That’s why FESTWORKS was created (by Rose Kuo). And that’s why the idea had me before she could completely say it out loud when she introduced it to me. I talked to her this morning and there are possibilities and things on the table for various film festivals and conferences and screening series all over the damn world. And no, the vast majority of them won’t happen. (I say, because I cannot fathom doing every single one of these jobs and projects.) But, how goddamn cool to work with someone that keeps pushing and pushing and saying, “Why not?” “Let’s try this?” “Have you considered this idea?” and “We should give this a shot because no one else has before.”

I was talking to a PR dynamo named Cristina Uranga on Friday. She has been one of the amazing stalwarts I sincerely lean on in Dallas to help us pull off what we do with this film festival. I’ve written about a few of them on this blog before, but I could write about them endlessly and I’d never be able to pay back what they make possible with this thing. To a person, they aren’t just absurdly generous with their time they ARE GOOD. They make me and the film festival look good and I consider them great friends too. Anyway, in 2008 Cristina was my Latin Media Specialist and she rocked the PR house. Just cut a swath through this town on behalf of our films from Mexico and Spain and Latin America. Smart, driven, relentless, charming, thorough – man, it was brilliant. Even wrapped it all up with one of those reports that they throw around in commercials for Kinkos and Fed Ex, you know, with pie charts and graphs and stuff. So, last year I say, “Hell, she pulled that off. Let’s have her run the entire Ethnic and Special Interest outreach! Give her the keys to that part of the kingdom! And let’s add on an “Adopt a Film’” component as well!” Didn’t work. And not because of her at all. Because I screwed up and tried to advance the plan to far and too fast and way too vast for just one person – even one that is a certifiable rock star like Cristina.

So, what’s the point? I’m getting to it – patience, already. The point, as I told Cristina, is that we tried something that didn’t work. But we tried. We tried to do more, we tried to go farther, and we weren’t satisfied with the amount of press and attention we got for our films and filmmakers the previous year so we tried something even more ambitious. And, of course it doesn’t always work. And, of course, it will never always work. BUT, it will ALWAYS work in one very important way. It will keep us from being mediocre. It will keep us from being lame. Complacent at best. Hacks at worst.

So Cristina had gone to the International Film Festival Summit in Vegas in December. Now, I had gone too but I went during a different portion of this thing. Second year I’ve gone. And I think this “summit” has a lot of potential to do good stuff and spread some information and help a lot of regional film festivals (and the people that put them on) all over the country. But Cristina had gone to a part of this thing specifically to learn more about everything she could about the film festival machinery. And what happens? She gets told (as did the rest of the unfortunate people attending this “class” with her) by some PR or marketing type that they all needed to forget about social media because it was pointless and never helped a single filmmaker actually get people to attend their screenings, blah, blah, you’re fucking blah, kidding me, blah.

And that’s why FESTWORKS is important. And that is why I so appreciate Rose Kuo. Because there are people out there that pass themselves as being in-the-know veterans that are gonna give you the lowdown on how to put on your event and the truth is, they’re gonna regale you with stories of what they did during the Toronto Film Festival for that Disney film in the mid-80s or how they pulled that Oscar winning director out of their hat for their film fest two decades ago.

And you won’t learn a thing. Because that’s how long it has been since they knew anything worth learning. Which is fine unless you’re passing off bad info to a Fresh Princess of PR like Cristina. Man, that story pissed me off.

A NEW HOPE.

I’ll finish with this: This morning I got a call from a friend letting me know that she had a conversation with someone at a production company about STRIPPED. Now, I’m still meeting with anyone that will let me in the door or on the phone or in a crowded elevator about getting the last of the funds to finance this thing completely before we start shooting at the end of May. So, apparently this guy at this production company is a good script read away from giving me that golden production ticket and more.

And, of course, I’m not holding my breath anymore than I am about the two indie movie stars that have the script with the idea that they could reunite on my film giving me three “box cover names” for a project that Justina and I had conceived and developed and produced expressly so we would not have to depend on “names”. And then, of course, Rose’s husband Larry Gross got on my case for not putting it out there because, in his opinion it was more than worthy for snagging someone stellar (stature-wise) due to what Justina and I written. And when a guy with a Waldo Salt Award, a try to keep up with the cool filmography and the kind of film knowledge that send you running for the Criterion section of your DVD store after the most casual of conversations prods you like that….

Anyway, we’re trying. And now this thing. I mean, we have four or five people circling with their checkbooks and it’s all very promising but I won’t be able to imagine that aspect of it (even as I design business and marketing plans to go along with the actual film itself to make it as investment tasty as I can), because with everything that I’ve done all around the camera and various offices and events and shows related to moviemaking – the reality is that this will be the first time that I have done this one specific thing: raise funds to make a feature film.

Movie stars and money. And no mediocrity. That’s what we’re working for here.

What’s Actually Happening – March 3 (DALLAS FILM FEST, SXSW, FESTWORKS, STRIPPED)

Posted in Uncategorized by johnwildman on March 5, 2010

What’s Actually Happening – March 3

I feel bad. I feel guilty. Because I started this blog about a year ago at Justina’s (my wife) urging and I was into it and writing fun stuff that was behind the scenes and naming some names and taking some artistic licenses and people were starting to follow it and pay attention to what was actually going on in my life with the stuff that I do.

Then I kept getting busier and busier. Which you would think would make it more and more interesting except that I stopped the actual blogging stuff and just posted press releases and interviews and movie reviews. Which I want everyone to see but that isn’t the point, is it? If I’m asking you to check into this damn thing then I should make it worth your while.

So, I’m taking another stab at it. Because there is A LOT happening and a lot happening with me wearing various different hats. So I’m going to try and stop being a perfectionist with the prose and just start delivering some goods – rough on the edit edges or not.

So, here’s some stuff to look forward to:

DALLAS International Film Festival. I’m into it BIG TIME. We’re like five weeks out or something and there’s great, exciting stuff and there’s “what the hell?!” stuff and there’s a lot of praying – to uhmmm…no one in particular. Because that’s how it works in film festival land. AND, this is the first year with no AFI involvement. Training wheels are off, baby! And I just might throw in some thoughts later as to why I believe that was a HUGE mistake on their part. I’ll give you a hint: It’s the “vision” thing. Or lack of it.

SXSW (or South by Southwest Film Festival for those of you that need this shit spelled out – literally). I’ll be covering the film festival for Movie City News, like I just did for the Sundance Film Festival. And once again, I’ll try to write about every damn thing that happens to me so you’ll have an idea of what the experience is like. Of course, you’ll have to go to Movie City News to read it, since Dave Poland promotes the fact that I’m reporting/writing/reviewing for him, so he’s kind of like you to read it on his pages instead of mine. And since I would kind of like him to pay me for doing that…it works for me.

FESTWORKS. At Sundance, Rose Kuo (Artistic Director), Robert Koehler (Director of Programming and film critic extraordinaire, David Rogers (Festival Producer) and myself joined forces to form our own version of a film festival super group. Hopefully, less like Asia and more like Derek and the Dominoes. But with less heroin and more staying power. Anyway, we all left AFI after beating the odds and the house with AFI FEST last year (if you know what I mean and if you don’t….well, I’ll talk about that at some point too, I’m sure) because we love film festivals in a way that we want them all to be the best damn things ever. And we think we can help various ones do that. Sometimes, it will be just some simple consulting, some times it will be us recommending some kick-ass person we know would be great for the job and a great fit and sometimes will swarm the place, roll up the sleeves and bust our asses side-by-side with the teams in place to make something work. Anyway, I’ll be announcing the first “official” project soon and it will be very, very cool.

STRIPPED. The movie. My first feature film as a director. And the first feature film for Justina and myself as producers. It’s a post-feminist horror film. Three guys on a birthday outing talk their way into the wrong house with the wrong women inside. Think TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE or THE DEVIL’S REJECTS with a “family” of women orchestrating the proceedings…

We are scheduled to shoot this thing at the end of May going into June and as much experience as I have doing various jobs in front of and behind the camera and watching as many films as I do and working with as many filmmakers at the film festivals as I do – well, there is a HUGE learning curve with this thing every single day. Producers on the film include one of the guys responsible for THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE remake and the other producer has cool-ass films like David Lowery wonderful ST. NICK and current SXSWers EARTHLING and AUDREY THE TRAINWRECK under his belt. We already have the horror dynamo known as Tiffany Shepis on board as well as Samrat Chakrabarti, an Indian actor that despite an amazing international filmography we’re getting on the ground floor with because various dumbasses haven’t cast the guy in some weird-ass network sci-fi series where a strange incident has tied a group of random hot people together in a world where truth is false and pretend is sexy….or something like that.

Anyway, Justina and I actually bought the house we’re shooting this thing in. Which I’m living in right now. I’m sleeping in the room that will be inhabited by ‘Crystal’ a hot little sociopath that like the color pink, scrapbooking and uhmmm…cutting things. Our friend Marc Lee is staying in “the killing room.” Fun! So, I’ll clue you into the process as we hurtle along toward the shoot not too unlike one of those test rockets they show in stock footage that would freak you out if you were standing anywhere in the vicinity while it blasts off the blocks and careens not entirely toward its destination.

Here are some fun things about the house: It’s in South Dallas. Which is not a “great” area. But it is a cool two-story four-bedroom place with close to two acres of land and a freeloading horse named “Money” that is taken care of by an old black rodeo guy named “Peewee”. Oh, and we are surrounded by Baptist churches. And a train. One final thing, when we cut the chains that had kept the garage closed since we bought the place we found an old cabinet that had in it (among other things) a bee keepers outfit and smoker, random mason jars with weird stuff in them and two chainsaws! Made to order for Justina and John, the couple that gets romantic when they’re watching OLDBOY.

After that, new stuff that has just come up include doing some stuff with the Texas Frightmare Weekend screenings at the end of April, working with the Las Colinas Studios on a couple projects, possibly the Vision Awards benefit and definitely the Feel Good Film Festival.

I’m sure there is – and will be – more. Because that’s how things have been since January 1st. A very strange year and a very cool year so far.

So stay tuned….

DALLAS INTL FILM FEST Announces Texas Avery Honoree & 12 Official Selections

Posted in Uncategorized by johnwildman on March 5, 2010

The DALLAS International Film Festival Honors Pete Docter

with Texas Avery Animation Award


12 Official Selections Announced Includes 3 World Premieres

Southwest Airlines Announced as the Film Festival’s Official Air Carrier

Dallas, TX, March 3, 2010—The DALLAS International Film Festival (April 8-18) announces Pete Docter, director and writer of Academy Award® Best Picture nominee UP as the recipient of the 2010 Texas Avery Animation Award presented by REEL FX ENTERTAINMENT. 12 official selections were also announced, including 3 films (A SURPRISE IN TEXAS, THE RIVER WHY and WE ARE THE SEA) that will be making their world premieres at the film festival. DALLAS IFF also announced that Southwest Airlines would be taking a major sponsorship position, serving as the film festival’s official airline.

Docter will receive the 2010 Texas Avery Animation Award presented by REEL FX ENTERTAINMENT, which honors lifetime achievement in animation filmmaking. Docter is the director and writer of the five-time Academy Award nominated film UP (Best Picture, Best Animated Feature, Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Sound Editing). Previously, Docter also garnered Academy Award nominations for his work on WALL-E (2008 – Best Original Screenplay), MIKE’S NEW CAR (2002 – Best Short Film – Animated), MONSTERS, INC. (2001 – Best Animated Feature), and TOY STORY (1995 – Best Original Screenplay).

REEL FX CREATIVE STUDIOS CEO and Dallas Film Society board member Ed Jones said, “As an animator, screenwriter, and director, Pete Docter has been integral to the success of some of the most memorable animated movies of all time. The industry has watched his talent and career grow at PIXAR, and is not surprised by what he has achieved. Pete is deserving of this honor and we are thrilled that he will accept this year’s Texas Avery Animation Award. “

Making their world premieres at the DALLAS International Film Festival will be Peter Rosen’s A SURPRISE IN TEXAS, Matthew Leuwyler’s THE RIVER WHY and Neil Truglio’s WE ARE THE SEA.

Directed by Peter Rosen, A SURPRISE IN TEXAS is a documentary focusing its camera lens on the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth Texas, where 29 young contestants come from all over the world to compete for the most prestigious prize in the music world. The film highlights the story of one of them, a 20 year old from Tokyo, Nobuyuki Tsujii, blind from birth.

Directed by Matthew Leutwyler, THE RIVER WHY is a drama based on the novel by David James Duncan about a man known as “the Mozart of fly fishing” who leaves his big city home in rebellion from his family. In the process he comes in contact with an assortment of eccentric characters who help him in his journey to adulthood. The film stars Zach Gilford, Amber Heard, William Hurt, Kathleen Quinlan and William Devane. DALLAS IFF will also screen the film GREENLIT, Miranda Bailey’s documentary about the efforts of THE RIVER WHY’s filmmakers to maintain a “green” shoot throughout their production.

Directed by Neil Truglio, WE ARE THE SEA stars Jeff Childress and Allison Savoy in a drama about a young English teacher returning from the brink of tragedy to find his life exactly where he left it — in shambles. Turning cautiously to his friends, family, and even his students for guidance, he explores the possibilities for forging a future from a history of mistakes. The film features the music of Iron & Wine.

The list also features several selections from the recently concluded Sundance Film Festival, including award winners WINTER’S BONE (Grand Jury Prize Winner, U.S. Dramatic and Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award) and OBSELIDIA (Excellence in Cinematography Award, U.S. Dramatic and Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize). Other films included THE DRY LAND, JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT: THE RADIANT CHILD and SKATELAND.

“James Faust, Sarah Harris and the DIFF10 programming team have spent the year crossing boundaries both geographically and metaphorically in search of new discoveries. Traveling the globe continues to be key to the high level of programming found at the DALLAS International Film Festival. We are thrilled to bring this mix of exhilarating and emotive filmmakers to Dallas where they will tell you there are no more appreciative audiences,” said Dallas Film Society Chairman, Michael Cain.

DALLAS IFF Founder and Chairman Emeritus Liener Temerlin was proud to announce that Southwest Airlines would be making its debut as the official airline for the DALLAS International Film Festival. “From the beginning of this film festival, a hallmark has been the exceptional group of talented filmmakers and stars that we have been able to deliver to the city of Dallas. Southwest Airlines will allow us to continue what I see as a grand tradition.”

Southwest Airlines issued a statement saying, “We are honored to support the DALLAS International Film Festival where vision, inspiration, and passion are celebrated. The airline salutes the filmmakers who seek new horizons and embrace possibilities.”

The twelve official selections announced include:

A SURPRISE IN TEXAS (USA)

Director: Peter Rosen

Directed by Peter Rosen, A SURPRISE IN TEXAS is a documentary focusing its camera lens on the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth Texas, where 29 young contestants come from all over the world to compete for the most prestigious prize in the music world. The film highlights the story of one of them, a 20 year old from Tokyo, Nobuyuki Tsujii, blind from birth.

THE DRY LAND (USA)

Director: Ryan Piers Williams

Cast: America Ferrera, Jason Ritter, Wilmer Valderrama, Ethan Suplee, Melissa Leo

Directed by Ryan Piers Williams, THE DRY LAND follows a young U.S. soldier, James (Ryan O’Nan), as he returns home from duty in Iraq. Having not found the direction and purpose he sought from the service, James hurls himself back into his old life and finds it no longer fits. He tries to reconcile his experiences abroad with his life in rural Texas, but despite the support of his wife (America Ferrera), his mother (Melissa Leo), and friend (Jason Ritter) he is unable to settle in.  James turns to an Army buddy (Wilmer Vaderrama) for help and together they travel the country in search of redemption. Thinking that the war was behind him, James comes to realize that the fight for his life has only begun.

EARTHLING (USA)

Director: Clay Liford

Cast: Rebecca Spence, Peter Greene, William Katt, Jennifer Sipes

Directed by Clay Liford, EARTHLING is a sci-fi drama following the events that occur after a mysterious atmospheric event aboard the international space station causes a small group of people to wake up and realize that their entire lives have been a lie. Now they have to make a choice. Live amongst men, or try to find a way back home.

GREENLIT (USA)

Director: Miranda Bailey

Directed by Miranda Bailey (Executive Producer on THE SQUID AND THE WHALE), GREENLIT follows the production of THE RIVER WHY as the filmmakers attempt to keep an environmentally friendly set thanks to the supervision of a “green” consultant. What starts off with great enthusiasm quickly devolves in this insightful and hilarious film about the difficulties of living up to good intentions.

JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT: THE RADIANT CHILD (USA)

Director: Tamra Davis

A documentary by Tamra Davis, JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT: THE RADIANT CHILD is about the artist and phenomenon who became notorious for his graffiti art under the moniker Samo in the late 1970s on the Lower East Side scene, sold his first painting to Deborah Harry for $200, and became best friends with Andy Warhol. Appreciated by both the art cognoscenti and the public, Basquiat was launched into international stardom. However, soon his cult status began to override the art that had made him famous in the first place.

KICK IN IRAN (GERMANY)

Director: Fatima Geza Abdollahyan

A documentary by Fatima Geza Abdollahyan, KICK IN IRAN profiles Sarah Khoshjamal, a 20-year-old Taekwondo superstar and the first female professional athlete from Iran to qualify for the Olympics. This skillful vérité portrait follows the unassuming Khoshjamal in the nine months leading up to the 2008 Beijing games. Living in an Islamic country, she is required to wear a hijab at all times and, unlike her fellow competitors around the world, cannot train with men; however, the power in her fighting resoundingly breaks down stereotypical barriers.

OBSELIDIA (USA)

Director: Diane Bell

Cast: Michael Piccirilli, Gaynor Howe
Directed by Diane Bell, OBSELIDIA is a romantic drama about a man writing an encyclopedia of obsolete things. In his quest to capture people, technologies, and ideas that are disappearing, he meets a free spirited cinema projectionist. Together they go on a road trip to Death Valley to interview a scientist who is predicting the eminent end of the world, and on their strange journey, they discover perhaps love is not obsolete after all.

THE RIVER WHY (USA)

Director: Matthew Leutwyler

Cast: Zach Gilford, Amber Heard, William Hurt, Kathleen Quinlan and William Devane

Directed by Matthew Leutwyler, THE RIVER WHY is a drama about a man known as “the Mozart of fly fishing” who leaves his big city home in rebellion from his family. In the process he comes in contact with an assortment of eccentric characters who help him in his journey to adulthood. 

SKATELAND (USA)

Director: Anthony Burns

Cast: Shiloh Fernandez, Ashley Greene, Heath Freeman

Directed by Anthony Burns, SKATELAND is a coming-of-age film set in 1983 centering on ‘Ritchie’, a worker at Skateland, the roller rink and local hangout of a small town. With Skateland due to close, the party scene getting stale, and his romantic life as cloudy as his future, Ritchie struggles to make sense of it all. When tragedy strikes his friends and family, Ritchie must face the music—and make the biggest decision of his life.

WAKING SLEEPING BEAUTY (USA)

Director: Don Hahn

Directed by Don Hahn, WAKING SLEEPING BEAUTY takes a look at the “rebirth” of the fabled animation studios of Walt Disney in the mid-1980s. The studio had fallen on hard times with artists polarized between newcomers hungry to innovate and old timers not yet ready to relinquish control. The conditions produced a series of box office flops and many believed the best days of animation were over. The film shines a light on an influx of new leadership and talent helped Disney regain its magic with a staggering output of hits—LITTLE MERMAID, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, ALADDIN, THE LION KING and more—over the next ten years.

WE ARE THE SEA (USA)

Director: Neil Truglio

Cast: Jeff Childress, Allison Savoy

Directed by Neil Truglio, WE ARE THE SEA stars Jeff Childress and Allison Savoy in a drama about a young English teacher returning from the brink of tragedy to find his life exactly where he left it — in shambles. Turning cautiously to his friends, family, and even his students for guidance, he explores the possibilities for forging a future from a history of mistakes. The film features the music of Iron & Wine.

WINTER’S BONE (USA)

Director: Debra Granik

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Lauren Sweetser

A drama set deep in the Ozark Mountains, Debra Granik’s WINTER’S BONE follows the daring struggle of a teenage girl, ‘Ree’, who must go in search of her crystal-meth-making father, after he skips bail and goes missing. Unless she is able to find him, she and her young siblings and disabled mother will face destitution. In a heroic quest, Ree traverses the county to confront her kin, break their silent collusion, and bring her father home.

The DALLAS International Film festival will run April 8 – 18, 2010. Passes are currently on sale and tickets go on sale March 18. Passes and tickets will be made available via online (), and phone (214.720.0555).www.dallasfilm.org

Sundance and Slamdance #8 – The Lost Interviews

Posted in Uncategorized by johnwildman on March 2, 2010

Following are a few interviews that I wasn’t able to complete in time to include with my other coverage during Sundance and Slamdance.

First up is Emma Bell, who along with Shawn Ashmore and Kevin Zegers, stars in Adam Green’s chiller, FROZEN. I really liked the film – thought it was a straight-up tension and suspense-fest and aside from Adam Green’s leap forward as a writer/director on the project, he chose wisely (as they say) with the casting of that threesome.

After making the film, are you now permanently a “warm weather person”?

Emma: Absolutely. I told the producers the next film they want me to do has to be in Hawaii.


Seeing as how FROZEN was actually filmed in the mountains and not on a sound stage, how much did your snowboarding or skiing skills improve over the course of the shoot?

Emma: I went from atrocious to awful! I had never done either before and had about a two hour training session. My incompetence is pretty apparent in the film. I hope it at least makes people laugh.

Between you, Kevin Zegers, and Shawn Ashmore, who was the “iron man or woman” and who had to come down off the chairlift for more pee breaks? Or was it actually Adam Green?

Emma: Shawn had a few brutal days in a harness, so maybe him. And there were no pee breaks. We all held it, including Adam!

You’ve been a TV force to be reckoned with over the past couple of years (“Dollhouse”, “Ghost Whisperer”, “Law & Order”). Any difference in approach as an actress in doing episodic TV versus a feature film?

Emma: Wow, thank you. I don’t know about being a “force” in TV, but I have been very lucky over the years. Episodic TV is interesting because if you come on to a pre-existing show, like all of the above mentioned, there are already relationships developed between people, and a lot of times you are only coming on for one or two episodes. So it can be challenging to connect and for me, therefore, more of a challenge to create a character. When you are a lead on a film, you become part of that family from the get-go, and in my experience, have a say in the over-all creation of the film and character you are portraying. Acting in both forms are pretty amazing experiences though.

I also asked her what was scarier, wolves or sharks, but she didn’t answer that one – possibly still traumatized from the shoot more than a year later. I didn’t ask but my guess is that the publicists decided they would omit that question so we wouldn’t know the movie has wolves in it. But I do know the movie has wolves in it. So, there. If you didn’t know before you do now. And they’re scary. So go see the movie and see the scary mystery wolves already.

Next up are the two directors of the Slamdance comedy DRONES. I enjoyed the film quite a bit and was curious about the directing dynamic between Amber Benson and Adam Busch. They seemed to have distinct personality differences during the Q&A following the film and I’m always curious as how that stuff shakes out and settles in on the set and in the editing suite.

You both have been acting for quite sometime and Amber has directed solo a few times, so why team up on this particular project at this particular time?

Amber: We had been working on a couple of music videos together (for David Garland and Sufjan Stevens) and really enjoyed collaborating. When DRONES came along, we felt it would be the perfect feature to co-direct together. We felt our disparate strengths would lend well to the very specific tone that the story needed in order to be told correctly.

Adam: Amber had a very specific vision of how the thing should look and I felt very strongly about what kind of cast we would need and how the comedy should play out. Jordan Kessler had seen the mopey lil’ music videos Amber and I had done. He felt if we could apply the sadness and somber tone of our music videos to Acker & Blacker’s script the story would come alive.

During the Q&A at the Slamdance screening I saw, you described a pretty clear separation in directing responsibilities. Can you repeat that here and explain how it turned out to be that way?

Amber: I love working with the crew, drawing storyboards, framing shots and bossing our DP, David McFarland, around. Adam is an ace at directing actors. He casts really well, knows what approach best suits each individual actor and works really hard to create a safe environment so the actors feel free to experiment without judgment. I think our two styles intermesh really well together – and when you’re shooting a film in 14 days, two heads are always better than one.

Adam: We wanted to make it clear that “aliens” could be anything or anyone “different”. Anything that would keep people apart. Whether it’s religion or sexual preference or ethnicity. Saying “I love you but my parents don’t approve of you” is the same as saying, “I love you but I’m going to destroy your planet.” It feels the same when you’re on the receiving end.

There is a madcap arch tone to the film that pretty much flaunts its ridiculousness for the audience. Is it more or less difficult to do something with that kind of high style?

Amber: Creating the highly stylized world of DRONES was a true collaboration between Adam, me and the entire cast and crew. We used costume, acting style and a muted-color scheme in the production design to begin creating the world then our DP incorporated the same theme into the visuals via the lighting design and shot composition. We chose to do a lot of moving masters reminiscent of the screwball comedies of the 30’s and 40’s rather than relying on heavy coverage, giving the film more of a timeless quality. In the edit process we focused on performance and letting the drama/comedy within the dialogue play out in its own time.

Adam: The dialogue is very clever and I think it’s important that none of the characters acknowledge that in any way. Sometimes when people work together or are in a small space for a long period of time speech patterns develop. Cadences and songs and nicknames become part of your vernacular and you can’t place how they started or when. I think you’ll find unique little sub cultures in offices and factories all over the world.

Was there a particular actor that brought something to their part that either of you hadn’t really planned on, but were thrilled to incorporate (and then take credit for after it was all said and done)?

Amber: Unlike most of the other actors, Tangi Miller had never worked with the writers, Acker & Blacker, before, so she had no idea what she was getting into. They have a very stylized way of writing dialogue that can be difficult for an actor to wrap his/her head around. I’ve seen it throw even the most accomplished of actors. But Tangi came in and just brought a real humanness to the role of ‘Miryam’, something that was a real achievement, in my mind, because that character had the propensity to become a caricature if it had not been handled correctly.

Adam: Marc Evan Jackson felt the most comfortable improvising. He knows how to make an entrance and exit. He knows how to stay memorable. He is a true comedy star in the classic sense. I remember hearing how in scripts for “The Carol Burnett Show” it would just say, “Tim Conway does something funny.” Then he would. That’s how Marc Evan Jackson operates.

Okay, look in the mirror and be honest here: Who would manage better if directed by the other on a future project? And who would be the bigger on-set diva?

Amber: Adam takes direction better than I do, so he’d probably easier to direct. As far as divas go, I think we both just love being on sets so much that we err too much on the humble side of the spectrum. We just love what we’re doing and are happy to have the opportunity to do it.

Adam: Amber’s right. I handle the process of receiving direction better than her but she can deliver what the director wants with a deliberateness that can only be described as athletic. She has a much better batting average than I do.

Suck ups. But they make a great team (going by what they pulled off with DRONES), and I would easily be coerced into the theater to watch their next one. As well as encourage anyone that enjoys the silly and won’t get hung up on budget issues to seek it out.

Next are some questions I sent to Laura Silverman, who starred in CUMMINGS FARM which also screened at Slamdance. I wasn’t the greatest fan of the film but really liked what Laura did. She gave a very nice performance of the kind of character that usually gets a few joke lines written at their expense during a sit-com – the non-ambitious, maybe not-so-bright young mom. And she actually made that person real and sympathetic.

How did you become involved with the project?

Laura: My manager called me with the offer. It was at the slowest time of the year and I was going crazy not working, so I pretty much said “yes” based on getting to go to Louisiana for a couple weeks and have some kind of new experience with new people. Then, I looked at the script and got really excited- I just don’t expect things to be great like that.  Oh- and, of course, the money.  I framed it, actually- it’s adorable!

Did your perception of what it would be like to participate in an orgy change due to working on CUMMINGS FARM?

Laura: No, not really.  I mean, I didn’t even try to understand wanting to do that, I just have a hard time believing that that could be a good time. I mean, sex for me is about a person- someone with whom you know you have at least above average chemistry- maybe a little light spanking if you want to go nuts. But any kind of group sex- swinging parties, whatever, I just don’t get the appeal. To me it’s just a lot of spit and strange skin and unpredictable smells made by glands and things. I mean, we’re people- we’re pretty gross- so it takes having that rare thing where you just aren’t at all icky to each other for it to really be enjoyable.

What would be more frightening to you personally: Being a mother or being in an orgy?

Laura: I think being a mother would be great- but, I mean, if either were to go horribly wrong, you’d want it to be the one that was over in one night and that you could be super high for- you know, and not have people look down upon you for it.  Being the orgy baby sitter would be a nice compromise, I guess.

Was there a fair amount of improvisation involved or was everything pretty much in the script?

Laura: It’s pretty much all scripted. A couple things were improvised and you can sort of tell what they are- the part where I say all the things that are wrong with me, and this little bit- kind of in the background where I’m all high and yammering about high school chorus… I liked that when I saw it, I forgot about doing it and I was glad they put it in- just kind of makes me laugh. People are so boring when they’re high!

Before filming, did you know how to make a proper mojito?

Laura: Neither before or after. I know there’s rum in there, and mint. I learned that at catechism.

I’ll just say here that not many things make me happier when someone turns out to be as fun and delightful or at the very least possessing a personality in person or in print as they were onscreen or via their directing. So, thank you Laura Silverman. Whew.

Because sometimes it can go horribly wrong and you ask these questions and you think to yourself, “Did your Amish Mom answer these for you? Or do you just have the latest in self-serious technology at your disposal to suck the very life out of me as I read your answers?”

At least that’s what I do.

However, in this last little interview. Not a problem. AT ALL. Clark and Cassidy Freeman are a brother and sister team that have so much personality that for years they were banished to the wide open spaces of Montana because heavily populated urban centers couldn’t handle them. At least not together. So they were Executive Producers and in the cast of a cool little F-with-your-brain-fest called YELLOWBRICKROAD, that also played at Slamdance (because apparently all the cool kids were there this year). Anyway, I tried to adopt these two years ago in a maneuver very similar to what those Idaho people tried to scam on Haiti. Same result, save for me skirting the whole incarceration thing…..

Knowing your mutual sordid pasts with The Sight Unseen Theatre Company, and knowing how YELLOWBRICKROAD easily falls within the style and themes frequently explored in the stage productions that company has been responsible for, what were your first impressions when the idea for the story was presented to each of you.
Cassidy: I’ve been acting Andy’s words since my first show at Middlebury College when I was 18. And before then, I’d gone to visit Middlebury to see Clark in shows Andy had written. I’ve always been enamored by his writing and maybe more so, by his storytelling. When he and Jesse teamed up, it was like yin and yang. I loved the influence that they gave/continue to give each other and when I first read the script, I was very impressed. It was a screenplay that didn’t really read like your normal screenplay. I didn’t immediately think about the brother/ sister team, but once it was discussed, I was really excited to be able to work with Clark. It’s not often that siblings love each other because they have to AND because they want to. All three of us are close, and I will always jump at an opportunity to work with Clark or (my brother) Crispin. The fact that everyone else connected to the project thus far were artists that I had worked with before and respected immensely was even more icing on the cake.

Clark: Well, it’s true that Andy, Jesse and I have been working together for quite some time. Andy and I actually founded The Sight Unseen Theatre Group, so needless to say, as a writer/director, I like his style. I had read a bunch of the earlier drafts of YELLOWBRICKROAD, and was just excited to give my input and thoughts as a friend. It wasn’t until a year and a half into the script process before we even started thinking about Cass and I playing ‘Daryl’ and ‘Erin.’ At that point, I had fallen so in love with the script, and Andy and Jesse’s ability to be open to every and all ideas without losing their sense of story-telling or aesthetic, that I was nothing but excited. They have an amazing talent at taking two disparate ideas (woods and 30s music), tying them together, and making a whole so much greater than it’s parts.

You mentioned during the Q&A at the Slamdance premiere that it was the first time the two of you had co-starred in a production together since a school mounting of “The Wizard of Oz”. What did you each play in that production? And how much did you draw upon that experience for this one?
Cassidy: Clark was the cat’s meow his senior year in high school, and so he was The Illustrious Wizard…though I thought he could have played the lion, too. He has a great singing voice. I was the Munchkin Lawyer. I was also in 5th grade. I bet you didn’t remember that there was a Munchkin Lawyer…I didn’t either. But I played it with gusto. I don’t think that the role of ‘Erin’ had much to do with Munchkin lawyers, but I did realize that my bro has my back, no matter what. It’s a blessing to be able to share this kind of stuff with a sibling.

Clark: It’s crazy how things come full circle, isn’t it? In that production I played the Wizard, and Cass played the Munchkin Lawyer. She was tall even when she was young, so they definitely had to put her on a stool to roll around with on stage. I was also definitely probably one of the largest Wizards that that show has ever seen. . .I kinda wanted to be the Lion, to be completely honest. I wouldn’t say I drew upon that production for the movie. I think we were just lucky enough to be so close in real life that we have a wealth of experiences to draw on together, and also professional enough that, during tougher scenes, we didn’t bring any of that animosity home. Honestly, it was a dream experience for me.

You both share executive producer credits as well as being co-stars in the film. What exactly did you do as executive producers beyond writing a check? And, had you not written those checks, do you believe the film would have been made?
Cassidy: Before this, I hadn’t had much experience producing things, except as Clark’s wingman. And it was something that I was pretty excited about doing.  The part I think I liked the most was being a bit of a den mother, and making sure that people were being heard and that all sides of the production communicated well. I’m still learning how to do this, and I hope I get more chances. I believe this movie would have been made with or without me, I’m just glad I get to be a part of it.

Clark: Executive Producer is one of those credits that can mean a variety of things. In this case, I’d say, our investment in the picture was probably the most mundane thing. Like I said before, Cass and I were tapped by Andy and Jesse early in the process as trusted friends to read many of the iterations of the script, and give thoughts and notes. I got to watch them work out each draft, and we even got to do a reading of it up in Vancouver, all together. Having produced a bunch of other short films and theatre with them, I’d say at the beginning I was much more another producer than an “executive”. Once we got to set, Cass really stepped it up as a producer as well. Andy and Jesse had such a strong drive and clear intent in making this movie that it would have been made with or without us. I just consider myself lucky to have been a part of it.

What was more irritating or the set, bickering between your co-directors, Andy Mitton and Jesse Holland? Or the black flies?
Cassidy: Black flies for sure. But MORE irritating was the corn syrup blood PLUS black flies. Ewwww!

Clark: This question is easy. The black flies. Andy and Jesse shared a brain for the entire process. There was no bickering.

What is your favorite horror film?
Cassidy: Probably THE SHINING. Horror films really scare me though. Clark taught me this great trick where when a scary scene comes on, you don’t close your eyes…you cover your ears. The scariest part is the sound. I’ll tell you what is NOT my favorite horror film…all those Chucky movies. Gave me nightmares for years. No dolls for this girl’s birthdays.

Clark: Ooohhh. I have to throw ALIEN in there, but that’s not your average horror movie. THE EXORCIST is fairly quintessential, but I also have to say THE SHINING. That’s three. Deal with it.