THE 2010 FEEL GOOD FILM FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES AWARD WINNERS
“GOD’S EARS” RECEIVES THE JURY PRIZE FOR BEST FEEL GOOD FEATURE
“BUTTERFLY CIRCUS” IS NAMED BEST FEEL GOOD SHORT FILM
AUDIENCE AWARDS GO TO “10 MOUNTAINS 10 YEARS” FOR FEEL GOOD FEATURE AND “MARY ANNE GOES TO THE MARKET” FOR FEEL GOOD SHORT
“HERPES BOY” TAKES BEST ACTOR, BEST ACTRESS, BEST ENSEMBLE
BRENT FLORENCE NAMED BEST DIRECTOR FOR “EAGLES IN THE CHICKEN COOP”
LOS ANGELES, CA August 17, 2010 – The Feel Good Film Festival (FGFF) announces the award winners for its 3rd outing with Michael Worth’s GOD’S EARS taking home the Panavision Grand Jury Prize for Best Feel Good Feature Film (with more than $70,000 in in-kind prizes) and Joshua Weigel’s BUTTERFLY CIRCUS named as the winner of the Hollywood Rentals Grand Jury Prize for Best Feel Good Short Film.
Camadeus Audience Awards went to Jennifer Yee’s 10 MOUNTAINS 10 YEARS for Feel Good Feature and Ethan Cushing’s MARY ANNE GOES TO MARKET for Feel Good Short. The Feel Good Award for Best Student Film was presented to Ryo Shiina and Bassem Wahbi for CHINESE ANTIQUE, while Dana Jones’ and Joel Reaves’ FLYING FOR MICE received a runner up nod in the category.
Nathaniel Atcheson’s HERPES BOY swept the performance categories with Byron Lane and Ahna O’Reilly named as Best Actor and Best Actress and the film receiving the Best Ensemble nod, as well. Brent Florence was named Best Director for EAGLES IN THE CHICKEN COOP.
Martin Garner’s “Shinola” won the Feel Good Screenplay Competition and Jessica De Rooij won the Feel Good Original Score Competition for her work on the film, WAKIYAKU MONOGATARI (CAST ME IF YOU CAN).
For GOD’S EARS Best Feel Good Feature Award, Worth was presented with a prize package of more than $70,000 highlighted by $60,000 in-kind & 4 week camera rental from Panavision, $5000 in-kind from Camadeus, $3000 in-kind from Hollywood Rentals, $2000 in-kind from ISS Props, and $500 in-kind from IndieRentals.
BUTTERFLY CIRCUS’ Best Feel Good Short Award earned Weigel a prize package of more than $4000, led by $2000 in-kind from Camadeus, $1000 in-kind from Hollywood Rentals and $1000 in-kind from ISS Props.
Both filmmakers also received one copy of Final Draft, a subscription to SCRIPT Magazine, a copy of Showbiz Budgeting and Showbiz Labor Guide, 3 hours of Architectural design consultation from MEHRNOOSH, membership to Film Independent, Barefoot Wine, TETEO Tequila and an Eclore Soap gift box.
Yee took home $1000 in-kind from Camadeus and $1000 in-kind from Hollywood Rentals for 10 MOUNTAINS 10 YEARS’ Best Feel Good Feature Audience Award and Cushing received $500.00 in-kind from Camadeus for MARY ANNE GOES TO THE MARKET’s Best Feel Good Short Audience Award.
The Audience Award winners also received one copy of Final Draft, a copy of Showbiz Labor Guide, membership to Film Independent, Barefoot Wine, TETEO Tequila and an Eclore Soap gift box.
For their Best Feel Good Student Film honor bestowed upon CHINESE ANTIQUE, Ryo Shiina and Bassem Wahbi received a one-week scholarship at the New York Film Academy and $1000 in-kind from Camadeus, while FLYING FOR MICE earned Dana Jones and Joel Reaves one-week scholarships to New York Film Academy as well. The student film winners also received one copy of Final Draft, a copy of Showbiz Software and Showbiz Labor Guide, membership to Film Independent and an Eclore Soap gift box.
Martin’s Best Feel Good Screenplay honor garnered him one copy of Final Draft, a subscription to SCRIPT Magazine, membership to InkTip.com, one-week scholarship to New York Film Academy, a copy of Showbiz Labor Guide, membership to Film Independent, Barefoot Wine, TETEO Tequila and an Eclore Soap gift box. All other finalists in the competition received membership to InkTip.com, as well.
Jessica De Rooij’s Best Feel Good Score brought her one day of studio recording with an engineer at Tuff Cut Sound, as well as a copy of Showbiz Labor Guide, membership to Film Independent, Barefoot Wine, TETEO Tequila and an Eclore Soap gift box.
Brent Florence’s Best Director kudos also came with a one-week scholarship to New York Film Academy, a subscription to SCRIPT Magazine, a copy of Showbiz Labor Guide, a $300 gift certificate to Dr. Gordie, Inc., membership to Film Independent, Barefoot Wine, TETEO Tequila and an Eclore Soap gift box. Each of the performance awards included a subscription to SCRIPT Magazine, a copy of Showbiz Labor Guide, membership to Film Independent, Barefoot Wine, TETEO Tequila and an Eclore Soap gift box as well.
Kristen Ridgway Flores, FGFF Founder and Co-Director, said, “in our third year, the Feel Good Film Festival began the process of widening our scope and redefining what it means to “feel good” through the programming of our films and our New Media panel. We really felt we grew this year, as an organization and an event. It was especially gratifying for myself and co-director America Young to have our first female Host (Cheryl Hines) and our first female Feel Good Life Tribute Honoree (Shirley Jones). We feel humbled that this film festival has quickly become a mark-your-calendar event for so many people and we feel like our ‘feel good’ spirit has really got a solid toe-hold in the independent film community now.”
The festival featured 64 films, including 14 features, 39 shorts, and 11 student films. Along with the films offered throughout the festival, highlights included a lively Opening Night intro from Host Cheryl Hines; a New Media panel “Why Web Series Suck” presented by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce Community Foundation discussing some hot-button issues prevalent in the web community and highlighted by the world premieres of a handful of web series, an outdoor bazaar highlighted by “green” and health-oriented vendors, and nightly after parties in the Egyptian Theatre Courtyard.
The weekend concluded Sunday evening with a Closing Night Awards Gala hosted by comedian and actor Hal Sparks featuring the Feel Good Life Tribute to film and television legend, Shirley Jones. Jones made her way to the podium to accept her honor to a standing ovation and spoke of the need for events such as the Feel Good Film Festival before her husband Marty Ingels joined her at the podium and chided the major networks and news for not being present and covering the event designed to make people “feel good”. Other attendees included Dan Lauria, Josie Davis, John Saxon, Heather Stephens, Marisa Cuevas, April Macie, Eliza Schlesinger, Todd Glass, Nicki Aycox, Dash Mihok, Ray Abruzzo, Frances Fisher, Kathy Kohner Zuckerman, Caryn Richman and Eric Stonestreet (who attended the Opening Night screening of his film FATHER VS SON, while taking time to raise awareness for the Motion Picture & Television Fund).
(Kristen Ridgway Flores, Shirley Jones, America Young – Photo by Teresea Martino)
BEST FEEL GOOD FEATURE FILM: GOD’S EARS
Dir: Michael Worth
BEST FEEL GOOD SHORT FILM: BUTTERFLY CIRCUS
Dir: Joshua Weigel
BEST FEEL GOOD STUDENT FILM: CHINESE ANTIQUE
Dir: Ryo Shiina, Bassem Wahbi
BEST FEEL GOOD STUDENT FILM RUNNER UP: FLYING FOR MICE
Dir: Dana Jones, Joel Reaves
BEST FEEL GOOD DIRECTOR: Brent Florence (for EAGLES IN THE CHICKEN COOP)
BEST FEEL GOOD ACTOR: Byron Lane (for HERPES BOY)
BEST FEEL GOOD ACTRESS: Ahna O’Reilly (for HERPES BOY)
BEST FEEL GOOD ENSEMBLE: HERPES BOY
FEEL GOOD ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY AWARD: “Shinola”
Writer: Martin Garner
FEEL GOOD ORIGINAL SCORE AWARD: WAKIYAKU MONOGATARI (CAST ME IF YOU CAN)
Composer: Jessica De Rooij
FEEL GOOD FEATURE: 10 MOUNTAINS 10 YEARS
Dir: Jennifer Yee
FEEL GOOD SHORT: MARYANNE GOES TO THE MARKET
Dir: Ethan Cushing
2010 FGFF JURY MEMBERS
FEATURE FILM JURY includes:
Zachary Matz is an award-winning veteran producer of independent feature films and a versatile entertainment industry executive with more than two decades of experience. Credits include CITY ISLAND, JOLENE, MRS. PALFREY AT THE CLAREMONT, WELCOME TO HOLLYWOOD, DRUM and PARANOIA 1.0. His production company, filmsmith, is an international entity which develops, finances, and produces its own films, as well as consults and represents other filmmakers.
Mitchell began her film career as a dialogue coach, working with established actors such as Jeremy Irons, Harvey Keitel and Sigourney Weaver. In 1993, she became involved in the creation, organization and development of the Equinoxe Screenwriter’s Workshop. Mitchell created the Festival International Cinema & Costume Moulins in 2006, and in April 2011 she will unveil the first edition of the Boulogne-Billancourt International Film Festival (France) in partnership with the Los Angeles Feel Good Film Festival.
Robert Yu is currently a film consultant specializing in distribution. Most recently, Mr. Yu was the Vice President of Acquisitions for PorchLight Entertainment overseeing all aspects of acquisitions and development. Prior, Mr. Yu was the Head of West Coast Operations for CinemaVault Releasing International, supervising the Los Angeles office. Previously Mr. Yu was the Vice President of the entertainment law firm / producer’s representative, Harris Tulchin & Associates / Tulchin Entertainment. Robert Yu started his career at Paramount Classics and Alliance Atlantis in Marketing and International Sales respectively.
SHORT FILM JURY includes:
Chott is one of the stars of DISNEY’S WIZARDS OF WAVERLY PLACE, as well as the feature film THE RINGER. Recent television guest spots have been on “Monk” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” Chott als lends his voice to animated segments on “Saturday Night Live” as well as PBS’ “Curious George.” An alum of Second City, Chott is one of the country’s top improv teachers and professional coaches.
Kevin Kelly moved out to Los Angeles shortly after graduating from the
University of Texas at Austin, and has worked for Disney, Sony Pictures, The Jim Henson Company. After working in development as a story editor and director of development, he entered the wide world of blogging where he currently writes for sites like Cinematical, io9, Joystiq, /Film, Film School Rejects, Los Anjealous, LAist, and others. There’s a constant supply of pop culture being dripped into his veins these days, and he’s always looking for a new fix.
Jennie Monica Hammond
Hammond has worked in Casting and Production at Nickelodeon for 12 years. She was part of the founding crew for “SpongeBob SquarePants” and has continued to be a part of the production’s success. She is currently an Associate Producer at Nickelodeon.
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY JURY includes:
Jason Berlin was born in New Jersey and soon after went to Harvard, where he got grades so good, they made A’s look like F’s. To celebrate, he attended the American Film Institute as a Directing Fellow. He’s been writing for TV since ‘99, with an emphasis on comedy and reality. Credits include ABC’s “Wipeout”, NBC’s “Tommy Lee Goes to College”, and for MTV, “Undressed”, “DisMissed”, and “Next”. In the past four years, he created two comedy/reality pilots for Fox Television Studios, and 2 comedy pilots for SpikeTV and SciFi with his sketch comedy troupe, The Ministry of Unknown Science. This April, the 2010 L.A. Comedy Shorts Festival screened one of these pilots, called “Operation: BALLS”. Jason is gorgeous, though you wouldn’t know it to look at him. He’s been doing standup since April and is 15 years late for famous.
Robert wrote and produced APPALOOSA with Ed Harris. Harris directed, Knott directed second unit. As an actor, Knott starred as the troubled waterman in SWIMMERS with two time Tony Winner, Cherry Jones. SWIMMERS premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and won the Seattle International Film Festival. Robert also starred along with APPALOOSA’S Tom Bower in Robert M. Young’s HUMAN ERROR, a comedy based on Richard Dresser’s play that also premiered at Sundance. Robert’s been working in theater, film and television for over 30 years. His film credits include: POLLOCK, directed by Ed Harris, Stephen Frears’ HIGH LOW COUNTRY with Billy Crudup, STORM with Martin Sheen, BUFFALO SOLDIERS with Danny Glover and Walter Hill’s, WILD BILL with Diane Lane and Jeff Bridges just to name a few. Robert had the pleasure of working on stage ‘also’ with Tom Bower in Harold Pinter’s THE CARETACKER. As a writer Robert has written a diversity of scripts, depicting the stories of his family’s wayfaring past to stage plays about oil riggers.
Following a stint as an assistant in the development department at New Line Cinema, O’Reilly went on to become a literary manager at Smart Entertainment where he served as co-producer on BLADES OF GLORY. Shortly after he left to go out on his own and sold the screenplay for the film SUNSHINE CLEANING. He has sold film and TV projects to Universal, Paramount and New Line Cinema.
ORIGINAL SCORE JURY includes:
Richard Kraft is the founder of Kraft-Engel Management, one of the world’s leading agencies specializing in representing film and theatre composers. Together with his partner, Laura Engel, they represent such clients as John Barry, Christophe Beck, Andrew Bird, Terence Blanchard, Jon Brion, Alexandre Desplat, Danny Elfman, Marvin Hamlisch, Alan Menken, David Newman, John Ottman, John Powell, Trevor Rabin, Graeme Revell, Marc Shaiman, Gabriel Yared and Aaron Zigman.
Arranger-conductor David Campbell’s work appears on more than 425 Gold or Platinum albums. During his long recording career, albums David worked on have received 50 Grammy awards and film scores have earned 2 Oscars. David has composed music for many films, and for commercials for George Lucas, Panasonic, Sony and others. He orchestrated and conducted scores for Dead Man Walking, Friday Night Lights, Oliver Stone’s W, Scott Pilgrim versus The World and the Oscar-winning score for Brokeback Mountain. As arranger/ conductor for motion picture songs, Campbell worked on Armageddon, Dreamgirls, City of Angels, Daredevil, Men in Black II, Spiderman 2, Ladder 49, the Oscar-nominated song from Pearl Harbor, and the Oscar-winning song “You’ll Be in My Heart” from Tarzan. In recent years, David has enjoyed recording and arranging for Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson, Radiohead, Elton John, Air, Cat Power, Leonard Cohen, Beck, Charlotte Gainsbourg, The Rolling Stones, Johnny Cash, Macy Gray, Beyonce, Metallica, The Mars Volta, Josh Groban and Dido. Later this year, David Campbell will write incidental music and orchestrations for the Broadway production of Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark, directed by Julie Taymor with music & lyrics by Bono and The Edge.
Drizhal most recently composed the score for the film ALABAMA MOON directed by Tim McCanlies. He has worked on a number of Starz Productions as well as independent films, such as BADLAND directed by Francesco Lucente and SIMON SAYS directed by Bill Dear. He recently finished work on the European production U PANA BOGA ZA MIEDZA (God’s Little Village) with acclaimed Polish director Jacek Bromski. Ludek graduated with a Masters of Music from the USC Thornton School of Music where he also taught for six years.
ACTING JURY includes:
David has been in casting for nearly 15 years and worked with many amazing Casting Directors such as April Webster and Nan Dutton. Currently, he is casting “Criminal Minds” and recently cast the show’s new spin-off, as well as the “Army Wives” spin-off for Lifetime. Past film credits include THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW, 2012, THE CHICAGO 8, amongst others.
THE FEEL GOOD FILM FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES
ACADEMY AWARD-WINNER AND CURRENT EMMY NOMINEE SHIRLEY JONES AS FEEL GOOD TRIBUTE RECIPIENT
CHERYL HINES AS OPENING NIGHT CELEBRATION HOST
HAL SPARKS AS CLOSING NIGHT AWARDS CEREMONY HOST
NEW MEDIA PANEL FEATURES WORLD PREMIERES OF “ALIEN NINJA,” “MY FUTURE GIRLFRIEND,” “THE TREASURE HUNT: A CHAD, MATT AND ROB INTERACTIVE ADVENTURE” WEB SERIES
LOS ANGELES, CA August 4, 2010 – The 2010 Feel Good Film Festival (FGFF) announces Academy Award winner Shirley Jones will be the Feel Good Tribute Honoree for the 3rd edition of the film festival.
“Curb Your Enthusiasm” star Cheryl Hines will serve as the Host for the Opening Night Celebration on Friday, August 13. Comedian Hal Sparks takes on the hosting duties for the Closing Night Awards Ceremony on Sunday, August 15.
Details were also announced for the FGFF Filmmaker Panel. Focusing on new media, the panel is titled, “Why Web Series Suck.”
Hines will serve as the host for the Opening Night Celebration co-presented by FETE that will feature the presentation of Joe Ballarini’s FATHER VS SON. Beginning with the film festival’s signature “yellow” carpet entrances (in honor of FGFF’s sunflower logo), in the Egyptian Theatre courtyard, the Gala event will include an after party presented by Roaring Lion, The Happy Ending Bar & Restaurant, Barefoot Wine & Bubbly and TeTeo Tequila.
A two-time Emmy nominee for her work on the Golden Globe Award-winning series, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and director of last year’s critically acclaimed indie dark comedy SERIOUS MOONLIGHT, Hines most recent project has required her to serve as executive producer on the upcoming NBC reality series “School Pride.” The decidedly feel good project is a proactive, alternative series that tells the stories of communities coming together to renovate their aging and broken public schools. While transforming the school, the community also restores its sense of value and school pride. The cameras follow students; teachers and parents as they roll up their sleeves and rebuild their own schools, concluding with the unveiling of a brand new, completely transformed school.
Hines previous credits include the feature films THE UGLY TRUTH, RV, WAITRESS, THE GRAND and BART GOT A ROOM, as well as ABC’s “Brothers and Sisters” and “In the Motherhood,” Hines has also produced and directed various television projects, including the award-winning comedy series “Campus Ladies” for the Oxygen Channel and the Starz Networks original comedy series “Hollywood Residential.”
Regarding taking the reins from previous FGFF hosts Rainn Wilson and Carlos Mencia, “It’s a thrill to be the first woman to host the Feel Good Film Festival’s Opening Night Celebration. Just like Carlos and Rainn, I’ll put on my Old Spice and Spanx and do my best. It’s a great festival and I look forward to kicking off the weekend of films and events with some really, really good feelings.”
Popular comedian and actor, Hal Sparks, will host the FGFF Closing Night Filmmaker Awards Ceremony.
Following his hosting duties on E! Entertainment Television’s “Talk Soup” (1999-2000) and frequent appearances on a myriad of comedy clip shows on VH-1, Sparks is primarily known for his work on Showtime’s “Queer as Folk” (2000-2005).
Currently, Sparks has been dividing his time on the comedy tour following the release of his “Charmaggedon” DVD, as well as performing with his band, Zero 1.
The choice of Shirley Jones as the Feel Good Tribute Honoree also will mark the first time a woman has been so honored, following Jonathan Winters and Ed Asner during the first two years of the film festival.
From her start in the classic big screen musicals OKLAHOMA! (1955), CAROUSEL (1956) and THE MUSIC MAN (1962), Shirley Jones embodied the image of singing ingénue. Her startling Academy Award winning performance in ELMER GANTRY (1960) simply confirmed her versatility on the big screen.
Of course, any discussion of Jones’ impact on the world of entertainment has to include her role as the iconic ‘Shirley Partridge’ on the classic 70s situation comedy “The Partridge Family” (1970-74). Co-starring with her real life stepson David Cassidy, the series not only was immensely popular during its four-year run, but also has proved evergreen gaining fans through syndicated runs and DVD releases up to the present.
A four-time Golden Globe nominee (ELMER GANTRY – 1960), (THE MUSIC MAN – 1962), (“The Partridge Family” – 1971 & 1972), Jones has recently added another Emmy nomination to her impressive list of accolades for her performance last season in “The Cleaner”. The nomination follows previous nods for “Silent Night, Lonely Night” (1969) and “Hidden Places” (2006).
Feel Good Film Festival Founder and Co-Director, Kristen Ridgway Flores said, “We are thrilled to have two fabulous feel-good female role models for the 2010 festival! With Cheryl Hines opening the festival and then honoring the legendary Shirley Jones on Closing Night, I guess we could call this year the “Year of Woman”. What an exciting time!”
The Feel Good Film festival also announced details for its annual featured Filmmaker panel to take place at the Egyptian Theater on Saturday, August 14. Focusing on New Media and presented by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce Community Foundation, the panel is entitled, “Why Web Series Suck.”
Taking the form of a mock trial, the panel will screen some of the hottest web content currently available online, as well as offer up notable world premieres of highly anticipated series – all in the service of looking at the inroads that scripted entertainment produced for the internet have made over the last few years.
Co-moderated by FGFF Programmer Matt Bolish and FGFF Co-Director America Young, confirmed panelists will include Devin Faraci (CHUD.com), Dave Poland (Movie City News) and Dana Tuiner (Manager, Comedy Development – FOX Broadcasting).
Participating Web series include:
ABIGALE’S TEENAGE DIARY
SCR/PROD/CAST: Hayden Black
ALIEN NINJA (World Premiere)
DIR/SCR: Greg Aronowitz
PROD: Sheri Bryant
MY FUTURE GIRLFRIEND (World Premiere)
DIR/PROD: Brian Amyot
SCR/PROD: Steven Tsapelas
PROD: Patrick Cohen
THE LEGEND OF NEIL
DIR/SCR/EXEC PROD: Sandeep Parikh
PROD: Jeff Winkler
SCR/CAST: Tony Janning
PROD: Leah Mann
THE TREASURE HUNT: A CHAD, MATT, AND ROB INTERACTIVE
ADVENTURE (World Premiere)
DIR/SCR/PROD/CAST: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin
DIR/PROD: Tyler Gillett
SCR/CAST/PROD: Rob Polonsky
PROD: Justin Martinez
PROD/CAST: Chad Villella
Regarding the announcement of the “Why Web Series Suck” panel, Young said, “While there has been a lot of discussion and forums about web shows, they seem to be done mainly by those who already appreciate and/or create them. There are a lot of critical views of web series. We wanted, with respect and fun, to open up the floor to differing opinions with the hope of broadening the influence and popularity of quality web shows even further. This panel should be a creative way to call attention to that while debuting and shining a light on some of the best work being done on the web.”
Festival passes and tickets are available for purchase on fgff.org.
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….
Between the AFI stuff, the film festivals, Vision Awards and other charity events I do there are a lot of red carpets (okay, to be absolutely correct – the Feel Good Film Festival has a yellow carpet in honor of its sunflower mascot/logo). And, as with most things I do there is somewhat of a code in how these things are run and how I think people should behave on both sides of the velvet rope.
And, it’s simple. It’s just about being fair and accommodating and showing respect for each other. Really. Nothing more complicated than that. I try to give the press as much access as I can (and is reasonable) and I trust that if I do that, then they will give as equal play (again, as I can reasonably expect) to the filmmakers and actors and actresses, etc. that I put on that red carpet.
It’s a little dance and negotiation that basically says if I give the photographers and video crews, etc. the chance to take pictures and interview the big movie stars that make their trip out there worth it, then they will also take photos and give the time of day to the first time filmmakers and up-and-coming talent that I put before them.
And I am careful about who I let walk on that carpet. Very careful. I have to be because I want there to be a sense of security and relief for both sides when they see that I am at the front of that thing, running that show.
And that’s why I hate the carpetbaggers.
Carpetbaggers (my definition) aren’t the celebrities that come out (as they say) to the opening of an envelope. I have no beef with those folks. Because more often than not, there is at least a reason why people still take their photos and let them talk into a microphone at these events. No, carpetbaggers are worse because they really, really, really have no reason to be there.
Tuesday, we had red carpet entrances for a special screening of a horror/thriller by Bruce Reisman titled THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT. The film starred Joe Mantegna, Gail O’Grady, Kris Black, Michael Guarnera, etc. I was asked to handle the premiere for the film by one of the producers, Tony Oppedisano and was warned that the film’s “publicist,” who was handling the after party, might take some additional “handling” as well.
That was an understatement. Soon after setting place cards for the confirmed press I had photographers begin to show up that I wasn’t expecting because this guy had taken it upon himself to confirm them for my event. This was after he had sent me a list of press he HAD asked me to put on the carpet with no contact info to follow up on who they were. And – totally weird coincidence – the primary video crew on that list (for an online site I had never heard of let alone had on one of my carpets before), turned out to be his client. Oh wait, and one that I frequently have at my events informed me that they weren’t able to make it, but they had tried to arrange for a sit down with the film’s major players with Mr. PR dude, but for some reason it was beyond him to pull that off. So…dubious. Anyway…I really hate to say no to press if I can help it, and after figuring out what happened and who the photographers were, I found them a spot and everyone played nice. It sucked a little but there are worse things as I know very well and was about to experience…
Now, a few days before the event I was sent a guest list of people that were told they could walk the red carpet by this publicist and the producer/director, Bruce Reisman and the producer/lead Kris Black. There were 50 names of cast and crew and another 78 names of “celebrity guests”.
I will digress for a quick moment about the level of celebrity we’re talking about. Usually, a publicist like this has one name he or she loves to trumpet as their shining example of glitter and pixie dust – and Pamela Bach-Hasselhoff was this guy’s standard bearer. According to him, having her show up was a guarantee of coverage from Access and E.T. and The Insider, etc. Where she went they followed. They couldn’t get enough of her. Because getting a quote from her about what her lawyer told her The Hoff was up to or maybe reminiscing about the Baywatch days 6 years ago….THAT is television gold. GUARNTEED.
Almost like an uncontrollable allergic sneeze, I laughed out loud at that one. And to be clear, for you PBH fan club card holders (and I’m not talking Peanut Butter and Ham) – I have nothing against her. I’m sure she’s very nice (and she seemed it, I guess, as she spoke to the remaining crew (yes, his clients) when she arrived long after I had already shut down the carpet). No – it’s the grandiose pimping out of a “celebrity” just because they will actually take your call or respond to your email. And usually, looooooooong after they have ceased to be a primary draw. Gross. Just gross.
Back to our drama… We had one hour to get those people down the red carpet. And out of those 78 names, a dozen (more than a few generously) could be described as a celebrity. So, I called this guy and told him this is what we would do: One, other than the principals of the film, I would group everyone else in 3s and 4s, etc. to make the cast and crew thing work. Two, I had done the IMDB thing and narrowed the guest list down to 29 people that I could put on my red carpet without throwing up a little in the back of my throat. Therefore, he needed to email, call, or somehow get in touch with the other 50 or so people and tell them there would be no show at the OK Celebrity Corral on Tuesday night for them, or the last boats were launching off the Titanic and it was women and children and people with at least a TV guest spot that amounted to more than “Businessman with Snow Cone” on their resume’ – whatever, I didn’t care.
You have to be way ahead of me on this one. Of course, he didn’t do that and of course a good number of those people showed up. And here is one of the reasons why (and this was genuine news to me because I insist on downplaying the existence of this kind of crap in my head): According to a few of the photographers, this “publicist” actually has many of these people pay him so they can walk down the red carpet and get photographed. So, his clients and a few other more than dubious “publicists” show up with people that at best were supposedly an extra in something that was part of GRINDHOUSE or made a movie that posted on IMDB before it went Direct-to-Their Parent’s-Video-Cabinet, or worst have to be paraded in front of the photogs with identifying name plates that can’t even state a credit beyond “actress” or “recording artist” on it.
It’s gross, sleazy, and what’s more – I was also told this guy has to change the name of his company from time to time because once the press catches on that he’s involved with the event – a lot of them just skip it and don’t show up.
Now, let’s take a quick step back to clarify my feelings on walking the red carpet. It could seem as though I have a bit of a double standard since I always put shorts directors side-by-side with the movie stars and more notable filmmakers at my film festivals. Except…..those shorts directors not only made a film but it went through the screening process and made it into the film festival. Legit. Capital “L” on that.
And that’s why this really bugs the crap out of me.
I am already working a precarious balance by coercing the press (and the stardust in their editors’ and photo editors’ eyes) to give those shorts and first time filmmakers their rightful moment in the press’ sun. So – when some little aspiring reality hootchie-actress or Ed Hardy reject wanna-tough boy actor-guy shoehorns their way to the front of flash bulb land so they can document their ‘tude – that more than chips away at the unspoken agreement I have with the press not to waste their time.
So other than recount this little story, should I out this con-artist in hipster publicist/ promoter clothes? No, because there are a lot of him out there. And they can only do that shell game thing for so long before their bottom feeding really hits the rock bottom. But it is a rare case in which I actually feel a little sorry for the carpet baggers because this guy actually feeds on their desperation for this false facsimile of fame.
So – carpetbaggers beware.
I do have to say, the one fun coda of all of this is that the next day I was told that Kris Black, the film’s lead had signed with this guy to be his personal publicist.
Yeah, good luck with that. Enjoy that next event at the Apple Lounge with Pamela Bach-Hasselhoff.
THE FEEL GOOD FILM FESTIVAL RETURNS
TO EGYPTIAN THEATRE
FRIDAY, AUGUST 7 THROUGH SUNDAY, AUGUST 9, 2009
ROCK SLYDE ANNOUNCED AS OPENING NIGHT GALA PRESENTATION
FULL FESTIVAL LINEUP ANNOUNCED
ED ASNER WILL BE SUBJECT OF TRIBUTE
LOS ANGELES, CA July 17, 2009 – The 2009 Feel Good Film Festival (FGFF) announces it will return to the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood Friday, August 7 through Sunday, August 9. The three-day event once again will feature films aimed at both adult and family audiences that highlight positive themes, happy endings, make audiences laugh, and capture the beauty of our world.
The Opening Night Gala presentation of Chris Dowling’s ROCK SLYDE will kick start a program that will feature 60 films, including 16 features, 34 shorts, and 10 student films as well as 2 webisodes. Along with the films offered throughout the festival, additional activities will include the film festival’s signature “yellow” carpet entrances (in honor of FGFF’s sunflower logo), live musical performances in the Egyptian Theatre courtyard presented by Audiorents, an original screenplay competition, an original song competition, a panel discussion, and a Closing Night Awards Gala, hosted by Brian Krause (“Charmed”) highlighted by a Tribute to film and television legend, Ed Asner.
ROCK SLYDE will screen as the Opening Night Gala feature film presentation on Friday, August 7. Written and directed by Chris Dowling, the film stars Patrick Warburton as an eccentric private detective balancing an office building turf war with a religious cult leader played by Andy Dick and a bizarre case involving a mysterious and beautiful woman (Rena Sofer). The film also stars Elaine Hendrix, with a number of cameo appearances including Jason Alexander, Eric Roberts, Lea Thompson and Tom Bergeron. The screening will mark the film’s Los Angeles Premiere with Warburton, Dick and Alexander all confirmed to attend and participate with the director, Dowling in a Q&A at the conclusion of the screening.
Also screening as part of the Opening Night Gala will be the short films FURTISSIMO, directed by Jacob Cementina, and TRUE BEAUTY THIS NIGHT, written and directed by Peter Besson.
Dowling expressed his happiness that ROCK SLYDE will enjoy its L.A. premiere as the FGFF Opening Night Gala, saying “Our cast and crew are thrilled to be having our West Coast premiere at the opening night of the Feel Good Film Festival. We feel the FGFF represents an aspect of independent filmmaking that is largely forgotten – having fun and making people laugh. We look forward to screening at the historic Egyptian theatre, walking the yellow carpet and having some fun.”
In addition to the Closing Night Tribute honoring Ed Asner, the Gala ceremonies will include the presentation of filmmaker awards. The awards will include prizes with a total value of $7750 ($3000 in goods and services from SLX Rentals and Sales, $3000 in goods and services from Hollywood Rentals, $1500 in film stock from Fuji Film, and a copy of Final Draft Version 8) for the winner of the Best Feel Good Feature Length Film and $3750 ($1500 in goods and services from SLX Rentals and Sales, $1000 in goods and services from Hollywood Rentals, $1000 in film stock from Fuji Film, and a copy of Final Draft Version 8) for the winner of the Best Feel Good Short Film.
In addition, prizes that total $1250 ($1000 in goods and services from Hollywood Rentals and a copy of Final Draft Version 8) will be given to the Audience Award winner for Best Feel Good Feature Film, and $250 (a copy of Final Draft Version 8) will go to the Audience Award for Best Feel Good Short Film.
The Panther Award for Best Cinematography brings with it $3000 in goods and services from SLX Rentals and Sales, the Best Feel Good Screenplay takes a prize worth $1000 (an InkTip online membership, a copy of Final Draft Version 8 and a $500 unrestricted cash prize from the Feel Good Film Festival), Best Original Song receives $500 in unrestricted cash from the Feel Good Film Festival), and the winner of the Feel Good Student Film category will enjoy $800 in goods and services from SLX Rentals and Sales as well as a one week complimentary tuition package at the New York Film Academy.
This year will also mark the addition of an award presented to the brand new Feel Good Webisode category,as well as honors to be announced for Best Art Direction, Best Directing, Best Actress and Best Actor.
Regarding the announcement of FGFF’s second year, Festival Founder and Co-Director Kristen Ridgway says, “The second year of the film festival promises to build on the success and fun all of us enjoyed as we launched FGFF last year. As much as we (obviously) had hoped to have a successful film festival, we were all blown away by the overwhelming turnout and response by the filmmakers and fans alike to our “happy” counter-programming. And ROCK SLYDE, with priceless performances by both Patrick Warburton and Andy Dick, could not be a better choice to start the festival with a bang and a lot of laughs.”
FGFF Co-Director America Young agreed and emphasized the addition of the webisodes section as well as a new “After Hours: Feel Good Enlightened double feature on Friday night as evidence of the growth of the programming this year saying, “Using the concept of ‘feel good’ films or entertainment as a leaping off point, rather than a constraint has been a central focus in our second year. We’re excited by the opportunity to not simply entertain, but to also explore and expand the definition with our audiences”.
FGFF will also screen the winning entry of an online competition co-sponsored by the festival on Indieflix.com. That film will be chosen from a lineup including Marc Havener’s AND WHAT REMAINS, Marin Rosete’s BASKET BRONX, Patrick Taggart’s CHARLIE APPLEBEE, Jeremy Provost’s DAYS OF BEING WRINKLE FREE, Maurice Moore’s THE SAVIOR, Matt Sklar’s STAYING GOLD: LOVE, SEX AND HAPPINESS IN OUR GOLDEN YEARS, and Conor Britain’s YOU WIN SOME YOU LOSE SOME.
The Feel Good Film Festival lineup will represent nine countries, including the U.S, U.K., Thailand, Australia, Singapore, South Africa, Ireland, Netherlands and Canada.
Festival passes and tickets are available for purchase on fgff.org.
The Feel Good Film Festival’s films are as follows:
FEATURE LENGTH FILMS (in alphabetical order):
ALWAYS WILL (USA/narrative)
Dir/Scr: Michael Sammaciccia
Cast: Andrew Baglini, Noelle Meixell, Mark Schroeder
Dir/Scr: Jeff Hare
Cast: Kip Pardue, James Brolin, Laura Sorenson, Napakpapha Nakprasitte
THE BROTHERS WARNER (USA/documentary)
Dir: Cass Warner
Subjects: Debbie Reynolds, Denis Hopper, Angie Dickinson
DANCE OF THE DRAGON (Singapore/narrative)
Dir: Max Mannix, John Radel
Cast: Hyuk Jang, Fann Wong, Jason Scott Lee
FINDING LENNY (South Africa/narrative)
Dir: Neal Sundstrom
Cast: Barry Hilton, Russel Savadier
FRIENDS FOR LIFE (USA/narrative)
Dir: Michael Spence
Cast: Michael Flynn, Jimmy Chunga, Tayva Patch
JESUS PEOPLE (USA/narrative)
Dir: Jason Naumann
Cast: Wendi McLendon-Covey, Laura Silverman, Mindy Sterling, Tim Bagley, Jennifer Elise Cox
Dir: Hiroshi Nakajima
Cast: Josh Long, Renevva Jensen, John Bolen
LOVE SIMPLE (USA/narrative)
Dir/Scr: Mark von Sternberg
Cast: Francisco Solorzano, Patrizia Hernandez
PAPER OR PLASTIC (USA/documentary)
Dir: Alex D. da Silva, Justine Jacob
ROCK SLYDE (USA/narrative)
Dir/Scr: Chris Dowling
Cast: Patrick Warburton, Andy Dick, Rena Sofer, Elaine Hendrix, Jamie Alexander, Jason Alexander, Eric Roberts, Tom Bergeron, Lea Thompson
SHOOTING BEAUTY (USA/documentary)
Dir: George Kachadorian
SOMETHING UNKNOWN (Netherlands/documentary)
Dir: Renee Scheltema
Dir: Jacob Madjuck, Tony Dean Smith
Cast: Jacob Medjuck, Raquel Alessi, Joe Fleherty, (narration by) John Cusack
UNIVERSAL SIGNS (USA/narrative)
Dir/Scr: Ann Calamia
Cast: Anthony Natale, Sabrina Lloyd, Lupe Ontiveros, Margot Kidder, Robert Picardo
2012 – WE’RE ALREADY IN IT (UK & USA/documentary)
Dir: Patty Greer
SHORT FILMS (in alphabetical order):
A SUMMER RAIN (USA/narrative)
Dir: Ela Thier
BE GOOD (UK/narrative)
Dir: Barney Cokeliss
Dir: Matthew Graham
BILLY & THE HURRICANE (USA/narrative)
Dir: Rocky Benoit
CHARLIE THISTLE (USA/narrative)
Dir/Scr: Bragi Schut
Dir: Jane Sablow
DANDELION DHARMA (USA/narrative)
Dir/Scr: Veronica DiPippo
Dir: Gabiel Yepes
DUCK LOVES TESCACOIL (USA/narrative)
Dir: Tyler J. Kupferer
Dir: Jacob Cementina
GRANDE DRIP (USA/narrative)
Dir: Angelo Restaino
HIS GOOD WILL (Canada & USA/narrative)
Dir: Cayman Grant
ICE CREAM (USA/narrative)
Dir/Scr: Dawn Asher, Alex Beh
KATE WAKES (USA/narrative)
Dir/Scr: Jasmine Kosovic
LAUGHTER(RX): NO HARMFUL SIDE EFFECTS (USA/narrative)
Dir: Chelsey D’Arrigo, Brandi Kosloy, Nani Dickinson, Charlie Vaughn
THE LAUNDRY (USA/narrative)
Dir/Scr: Alex Beh
THE LITTLE CEO (USA/narrative)
Dir/Scr: Sari Karplus
LUCY A PERIOD PIECE (USA/narrative)
Dir: Julie Sagalowsky
MAN WITH A GUITAR (USA/narrative)
Dir: Ryan Falkner
Dir: Jason Benesh
Dir: Kirk Diedrich
THE ROMANTIC FOIBLES (USA/narrative)
Dir: Canyon Prince
SCENIC ROUTE (USA/narrative)
Dir/Scr: Jonathan Fredrick
SILENT TREATMENT (USA/narrative)
Dir/Scr: Jonathan Rothell
SLICE OF PIE (USA/narrative)
Dir: Tim Reischauer
Dir: Paul Preston
TAH DAH (Canada/narrative)
Dir/Scr: Stacey Chomiak
THAT’S MAGIC! (USA/narrative)
Dir: Brandon McCormick
TRUE BEAUTY THIS NIGHT (USA/narrative)
Dir: Peter Besson
Dir/Scr: Matt Barber, Matt Webb
WHATEVER TURNS YOU ON (Ireland/narrative)
Dir: Declan Cassidy
WHEN I GROW UP (USA/narrative)
Dir: Michelle Meeker
WHOSE DOG IS IT ANYWAY? (USA/narrative)
Dir/Scr: Cindy Chupack
STUDENT FILMS (in alphabetical order):
FOR ALL MANKIND
Dir: Dan Clifton
Dir/Scr: Natalie Williams
HAPPY MAN’S PANTS
Dir: Kunal Savkur
LOVE LESSONS FOR MILES
Dir/Scr: Matthew Morgenthaler
Dir: Dana Jones
OVER THE FARM
Dir: Zander Hartung
Dir: Abbey Paccia
Dir: Jenna Dunkley
THE WORLD WITHIN UPS AND DOWNS
Dir: Jason Gerber
WOW! WHAT A GREAT QUESTION
Dir/Scr: Wesley Ruby
WEBISODES (in alphabetical order):
CATHERINE AND ANNIE
Dir: America Young
Dir: Brinton Bryan
SCREENPLAY COMPETITION (in alphabetical order):
Writer: Debrah Neal
Writer: Travis Mann, David White, Michael Toay
LA JAPONAISE (CHRISTMAS CAKE)
Writer: Karen Webb
Writer: Andrew Arneson
Writer: Miguel Rionda
Writer: Jason Ginsburg
ORIGINAL SONG COMPETITION (in alphabetical order):
Chris and Steve
Music & Lyrics: Freddy & Francine
Music & Lyrics: Marc Aramian, James Geralden, Veronica DiPeppo
Music & Lyrics: Merykid
Music & Lyrics: Stephen Hampar
Music & Lyrics: Stephanie Batailler, Skyebat
Music & Lyrics: Land of Deborah
The Way to Dance
Music & Lyrics: Matt Daniels
You’re Not Listening
Music & Lyrics: Rob Giles
Music & Lyrics: Zoe Myers
Hopefully, if all goes according to plan, then later today we’ll be rolling out the full schedule for this year’s AFI DALLAS Film Festival. And if all goes according to a still forming new plan, there could be some cool surprises in that schedule that may be added almost up until the last minute before I hit the send button to rocket that thing off to the first journalist to make it all official and in-the-news.
This is the time where Artistic Director Michael Cain and Director of Programming James Faust (or as you probably know him: Faust-About-Town) trade phone calls and e-mails with various studio, production, and distributor heads, agents, managers, and publicists to get a final determination on whether or not we can screen those last few films we want on our schedule.
But more to the point, they – along with the charmingly British Artistic Coordinator Emily Hargrove and AFI’s tireless, yet gentle Talent Coordinator Christine Calandra are trying to get an honest bead on what directors and stars will accompany those films to Dallas.
Because it’s a film festival. And, the truth is, that’s why we go to film festivals – to see the films and then see and hear the people who made those films and were part of the creative process – talk about them. We want to see them in person, we want a chance to ask them what their inspiration was, how they pulled off making an accomplished feature film for the price of an economy car, did they luck out when that butterfly flew into the shot or was it planned, and what the hell were they thinking by not having the guy kiss the girl in the third act?
Stuff like that.
Otherwise we could watch these films when they come out in general release or when they hit the Sundance Channel or DVD or on our laptops.
The worst part about this time is when some studio or production company decides it’s not that important to send anyone at all to represent their film at our film festival. This kills me. Kills me. Let me put this simply: Rare, oh so rare is the film so good, so brilliant, a work of unqualified genius, that we are blessed just to bathe in the glow of its glorious cinema.
We have a few films that have major stars in them that can’t find their way clear to make it to Dallas for a couple days to show up for a Q&A or two. Now, for one of those films they are able to pull off a trip to South By Southwest a week or so earlier but Dallas – yeah…well, they’ve got this thing and it’s tough but they’re like busy and stuff and…
For another, no one out of a good half dozen possible cast members we’d be thrilled to have can make it because they have a press day scheduled two days after their film screens at AFI DALLAS. The hilarious thing is that the production company originally said that none of their stars could attend because they were too busy promoting their film. Uhmm…wait…we do this thing called a film festival and one of the super neat things it does is like, totally promote your movie!
In the third case, we’ve got a producer who wants to hold back his biggest star because he’s saving her for a New York premiere.
And you know what? I can respect that. Of course, I get it. The guy has a tiny indie film, and he has a money-in-the-bank star that will help him sell it AND he knows that he has her for a limited number of appearances on behalf of that film so he has to parcel out his cast as best he can. He’s dealing with personal publicists that are telling her to do as little as she has to do because it’s not something they can exploit to great effect and so he needs to pick his spots. And he’s been up front about it from the beginning. Now, we may go after the personal publicist ourselves if he thinks that will buffer him from the responsibility for the “ask”. Or we may just settle for another couple of stars from the film. But at least it is all above board and we feel he’s playing fair and respecting us.
Those first two examples. Not so much.
Let’s take version number one. I understand the desire to go to SXSW. This is only our third year and we don’t have the same cache yet. Not by a long shot. However, there is a PR philosophy behind what we do on behalf of the films that come to AFI DALLAS and AFI FEST (not to mention IFFLA, Lone Star and Feel Good) that is aggressive and personal and inventive. We work hard for each film and filmmaker we have here. And frankly, to not even consider coming to AFI DALLAS is lazy. It’s rote. And it smacks of a dump. The film company gives us a few of their titles, but doesn’t see any need to support those screenings either by sending talent or screeners (for press) or even posters for the films.
Version number two. We caught this film at Sundance, immediately got onboard and invited them to AFI DALLAS. It’s all going to be great and then suddenly there is a New York press day that has been scheduled and that press day takes precedence over the film festival. The problem is, no one informed us as to the date for that press day as we were putting together the schedule. AND – even after we made efforts to move the screening dates after the fact, no one was willing to budge.
What’s interesting about this is that I used to work for the PR firm handling that film and consider them friends. I have even pinch hit for them at screenings and events long after leaving for AFI-land. But the truth of the matter is that kind of thing rarely, rarely, let’s do this one more time for emphasis – rarely…matters. Because that kind of consideration and possibly extending yourself to make something work in a case like this can fly right out the door once the key voice of reason and integrity for your company goes on maternity leave.
And what’s left is arrogance.
So we will work even harder on behalf of the films with filmmakers coming to town, we’ll exhaust every idea to get the word out and make sure that the theaters are filled and that national and international press takes note of those films as well. It doesn’t mean we’ll score features for each and every one of them, but each one of those filmmakers will know they had a lot of people genuinely busting ass for them.
And those others? Well, check out the AFI DALLAS website. We’ve got a lot of movies this year…
So the new D Magazine (March issue) just came out. D Magazine is the equivalent to Los Angeles Magazine (for those of you in L.A). Thematic pieces about the city it hails from, trends, social press with pictures of what happened the previous month and tons of restaurant ads, lawyer listings, and other essential stuff from their editors and publishes point of view about the city.
Anyway, in the front of the magazine there is a big’ol feature with full-page photo of James Faust and Sarah Harris. Now, I knew it was happening because I helped coordinate it, but….nice. Sometimes, the results of what we’re trying to do live up to the hopes you had for it in the first place. And while it felt like it kinda landed in my lap, there was still some pursuit and romancing of that magazine for a good couple of years to do this particular piece.
Fortunately, the editors and writers (in this case, Eric Celeste), while having to defend themselves against countless e-mails and pitches, etc. still manage to take the time to put stuff into context and respond and write accordingly. And it all worked out this time. Of course, you’re thinking, “Well, duh – they did an AFI DALLAS feature. Of course, you’re all about D Magazine now.”
Well, maybe you should slow down a little and not get ahead of me. See – here’s the deal: Originally, they were going to just do the feature on James. Which mind you, still would have been great except for this: We already had another feature due out on James in another magazine. And when you factor in the fact that the Texas Black Film Festival just honored him and he recently made a trip to the White House on behalf of AFI DALLAS, 2009 has already been showing Faust-About-Town a lot of well-deserved love.
And the truth is – those two are a true team. Yes, James is the Director of Programming and is clearly the leader, but if Sarah went down in a hail of crossfire at the hands of some rogue filmmaking storm troopers, then so would his protective programming force field. (and that imagery was all for James’ benefit, just so you know).
And to Eric’s credit, he understood that and decided to adjust his approach on the story. But here is the point I took so long to get to: I believe they are a great programming team because they argue with each other about the films they are considering and you can argue with them. They have opinions about the films they like and program and they’ll let each other and you know about it.
But here’s the best part – they don’t freak out if you disagree. And they’ll debate. Real debate. They won’t pull that crap about you having to love every damn film they program just because you’re one of the AFI DALLAS family. Because they’re bright enough and self-aware enough to know that will never happen. Certainly not with me. Now – to put this in the proper context – I absolutely can appreciate every film they program. Just as I can for AFI FEST, IFFLA, Lone Star and the Feel Good Film Festival. I can understand the merits of the filmmaker’s work, I can get behind the reasoning for the spot it is taking in the schedule, the politics that are sometimes involved, and how it all comes together as a greater whole.
But love everything? It’s bad enough nudging up against that “flak” description with this job; if I start edging toward “shill” then I descend into loathsome ‘Peter Keating’ territory from The Fountainhead. I think being tough on that is vital to me having any kind of authority to deliver the message on why people should come to the film festival or see the films I’m singing the praises of. Because, you have to be able to trust what I’m saying. Not that you’ll necessarily agree with me – but you will at the least be able to respect where it is coming from. Otherwise I’m another asshole flak just pushing product.
And that would be gross.
Two years ago, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the critically acclaimed 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS AND 2 DAYS. I understood where the praise was coming from, and it certainly was no mystery why it was a great film for us to have at AFI FEST that year. But it didn’t “do it” for me. Appreciating isn’t the same as liking. But, let’s just say there was a lot of “concern” that I didn’t want to automatically give the film a big wet smacker on its Palme d’Or-winning ass. And my response at the time was to challenge someone to justify it beyond a rubber stamp of what Cannes had done. Eventually, that did happen, but not until a month after the festival was over – during a conversation with Artistic Director Rose Kuo and her husband, screenwriter and scary-smart cinephile Larry Gross. And it was that compelling argument on behalf of the film and response to what hadn’t worked for me that put the film and my expectations as an audience member in a more appreciative perspective.
The inspiration for this thought is the fact that I have been particularly relentless about one of the films Sarah and James programmed for this year. And rather than give me a “just because” or use another festival as a not-to-be debated-with seal of approval, Sarah stood her ground and got the best of me in the deliberations. The jury would have easily ruled in her favor. And I would’ve had to pay the court fees too. AND I will be much better equipped to argue on behalf of that film myself now because of it.
And that filmmaker is lucky to have her on their side.
This discussion begins with Jeffrey Wells’ shenanigans at the Oxford Film Festival and continues with Karina Longworth’s (and Mark Bell’s and Dave Poland’s, etc.) attempts to broaden the discussion into something beyond his bad behavior into the question of who leads and who chooses the music during the ethics dance that takes place when a film festival arranges for airfare/ accommodations for a journalist to attend their festival.
The discussion won’t end here, but I’ll continue it from the viewpoint of someone who has done exactly that for AFI DALLAS, as well as having done the low grade version (inviting to attend premieres, panels and parties, but not having to take care of flight and room) for my other film festivals (AFI FEST, IFFLA, Lone Star and the Feel Good Film Festival).
There are two key points that all of this hinges on. The first being the thing that for my money was the most egregious of Wells’s way-off-the-mark crap-havior, which was his statement that the lunch he was served at a certain point at Oxford was of much more interest to him and his readers than the film that was playing that day.
Simple as that.
Because this stuff begins and ends (and throw in the middle part too) with the filmmakers and their films. Bottom line.
It is why the first thing I did upon my arrival at AFI FEST was institute the nightly red carpet which would involve every filmmaker and attending cast for the films that were premiering that evening. Feature or short, big budget or made with what was left from their school loans, auteurs, legends, or first timers – it didn’t matter and it doesn’t matter. They all get that “rock star” moment, because if they made it through the ringer and got their film programmed, they deserve it.
Now, I know the press on that red carpet wants and needs the movie stars to bolster their coverage because I am well aware of the Brangelina thing. However, what’s just as important (and personally – more important) is to get the other filmmakers in the mix. Because, while a picture of David Beckham posed all cozy-like next to an Audi has cashed my check with the sponsor, having Chris Hansen blog about his experience being sandwiched on the red carpet interviews between Bill Paxton and Lou Diamond Phillips while talking about his quirky little comedy THE PROPER CARE AND FEEDING OF AN AMERICAN MESSIAH is easily the bigger home run.
Because he’s gonna make more movies. And when that happens, I want him back at my film festival. And other filmmakers reading that blog will also put my film festival at the top of their hitlist.
This past fall at one of the AFI FEST premieres, a writer from In Touch Magazine arrived late for the red carpet and threw a lot of entitlement-laden attitude at me when I put him toward the tail end of the press line. As if it was my first movie star picnic, he said, “I’m always put up there where you’ve got Entertainment Weekly and People.” I told him he was lucky I was able to squeeze him in there in the first place and he’d get plenty of people to talk to.
What I didn’t tell him was this – he was even lower on my personal totem pole than the place I put him because I knew he was just there to get a quote from someone like Meryl Streep that night. Who wasn’t? Everyone there was going to try and score that one. I was being kind by putting him where I did knowing the extensive in-depth film festival coverage that we rely on In Touch for.
The movie star coverage? That’s not special. Do I need it? Sure I do. But everyone will clamor and claw for it, so that will take care of itself as long as I make the access to Meryl reasonable and convenient for all concerned.
The other part is tougher. Getting press for the unknowns, the first timers, and dear God…the shorts filmmakers. And that’s the most important part for the long term health of this whole thing. Because those guys, those girls, those men and women haven’t just made very cool films or exhibited some insane potential in what they’ve delivered to that particular festival. Often that’s just the beginning. And when the next one rolls around, I want first dibs.
But it SHOULD BE just as important to the journalists. Because that’s the “new.” Those people are the potential big story if someone has the foresight and good taste to single out a Wes Anderson after his BOTTLE ROCKET short, as opposed to his RUSHMORE arrival. Ramin Bahrani? That guy is exciting to me. I caught up with him on CHOP SHOP. Hell, that was after MAN PUSH CART. I still feel bandwagon guilt with him. The director/star tandem of Richie Mehta and Rupinder Nagra of last year’s AMAL? When people start latching on to them after the next or maybe third film, I’ll feel the same way Springsteen fans felt after the glut of “Born in the USA” people joined the ride.
The second key to all of this is the ethics involved when a journalist or critic is “brought in” by a film festival. This was the thing Karina was trying to get into. And it’s something that all of this discussion has caused me to reassess how we will approach this with AFI DALLAS this year and with all of the festivals I work for in the future.
The question is how much coverage (or more to the point – positive coverage) is implied or even possibly agreed to when that deal (so-to-speak) is struck. Frankly, I want all the coverage I can get from someone we are bringing in. And I’ll talk up the storylines that I feel are running through the festival that year or even the individual stories that have struck my imagination. But that’s all I can do. I would never expect I could ask for a set amount of coverage or demand a positive tenor in that coverage. But it wouldn’t matter to me because I believe so much in the festivals I work for. Each one has a distinctive personality and flavor with solid to fantastic people programming the films. Simply put – I trust. I trust that any coverage can’t help but be positive overall because the films are great and I expect the experience to match that.
Does that mean I expect every film to get a rave review? Of course not. But I’ll let the films and the filmmakers present the argument for themselves. Now, I’ll try to “set the table” – prepare a journalist or critic for what’s in store so they won’t go sit down for a dark, surreal comedy expecting TALLEDEGA NIGHTS, but other than that…that film was programmed for a reason.
I now think that I may have to make an adjustment to “protect” the journalists I invite, by ensuring their presence is tied to participation on a panel or a jury. Not everyone assumes fair play is the rule of the day here just because I say it is.
Yes, I would love for the attending journalists to “find” stories like Jeffrey Goodman’s struggle to find the 48 investors in Lafayette to make THE LAST GOODBYE and help Tom Sizemore remember what it feels like to put everything into a performance again or see the genuine spark of improv funny for the bargain price of $50 in Dann Sytsma’s and Daniel Jones’ COMIC EVANGELISTS. But, not only can I not dictate that, I need to do something extra to ensure no one could possibly get the impression that would ever be part of the equation. And other than involve them in specific ways to create that balance – I’m not sure now.
What I am sure about is that the effort to make it work is worth it. Otherwise, those same journalists are going to be stuck reviewing an ever increasing delivery of homogenized and product placed middle-of-the-road films courtesy of the most recent movie studio-media conglomorate-foreign or mass consumption product merger at a multi-plex near you.
So – if they want an alternative to Brangelina, they need to put the same energy into finding something and someone else to write about. Because, let’s face it – as prolific as they are – those two can only make so many films…and so many kids.
My job (or jobs – depending on how you look at it) for the American Film Institute, AFI FEST, AFI DALLAS, the Indian Film Festival, Lone Star Film Festival, Feel Good Film Festival and last, but certainly not least – The Vision Awards has required me to increasingly to take on the role of spokesperson. Which honestly, I am happy and sometimes relieved to do because I know exactly what I want to say and what I think people need to know about each of those film festivals, events and organizations. Of course, I’ll hear or watch myself afterwards and appropriately loathe myself for opening my mouth and preaching my happy version of the movie gospel like that too loud guy standing in front of you in any line anywhere in Los Angeles or worse – like that roommate or co-worker or ill-chosen boyfriend or girlfriend you just can’t escape well enough.
And, yet – after the handful of television, radio, and print interviews, panels, Q&As, there is much more to say. And even after hating listening to the sound of my painful earnestness and in the worst cases – obviousness, there is still so much more to say. So now – after a lot of prompting by my wife (a dedicated and much more prolific writer, herself) to begin writing and blogging about what I’m doing and what I’m seeing – from my perspective – well, I’m gonna give it a shot.
And while I won’t always be writing about “work”, a good amount will be about film, filmmakers and the film festival world because the films and filmmakers I give the largest rat’s ass about need as many voices singing their praises and alerting everyone as to their existence as they can get. David Redmon and Ashley Sabin and their wonderful, intimate documentaries like KAMP KATRINA and INTIMIDAD, Jacob Medjuck’s SUMMERHOOD, Johnny Asuncion’s FLOAT, Daniel Stamm’s A NECESSARY DEATH, pretty much everything Bill Sebastian (MIDLOTHIA) has done since I’ve known him, Mo Perkins’ A QUIET LITTLE MARRIAGE, Sabine El Gemayal’s NILOOFAR – there are so many more, but I’ll stop this list for now.
And film festivals – well, in these tough economic times – they are under siege in more than a few ways. Sponsors are going away, and there is a lot of fair weather support out there that is hanging by a thread by small groups of people in each case that see their film festival as just that – theirs. And so they work harder and harder to keep it going and make the next edition better than the last. And they deserve someone shining a light on them too. So here we go….