Lone Star Film Society Announces Year Long Screening Series

Posted in Uncategorized by johnwildman on March 20, 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The Lone Star Film Society Announces Partnership
With the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
In Year Long Programming for 2009

FORT WORTH, Texas, March 19, 2009—The Lone Star Film Society announces two new screening series at the Modern Art Museum beginning in March 2009:  Best of Fest and selections from Arthouse Films. Both series’ events will be screened in the Modern’s auditorium.

Best of Fest will highlight one feature film per month from the 2008 Lone Star International Film Festival or other standouts from the international film festival circuit. Where Art and Film Collide: Selections from Arthouse Films will feature four films from the distributor Arthouse Films which specializes in documentaries about art and artists.

Best of Fest
Standouts from the International Film Festival Circuit
Monthly Beginning in March

March 21
Shades Of Ray
Shades Of Ray, a festival favorite, kicks off the Best of Fest series on Saturday, March 21st at 7:00 PM. The screening will mark the launch of the film’s availability for download from Amazon.com. Writer/Director Jaffar Mahmood and actor Brian George (Seinfeld, Employee of the Month) will be in attendance to introduce the film and field questions after the screening. Jaffar Mahmood’s first feature is a comedic, heartfelt tale about the idiosyncrasies that make family and relationships unique, no matter how or where they originate. American-born Ray Rehman comes home one night to find his larger than life Pakistani father on his doorstep. Ray’s Caucasian mother threw him out.  While trying to get his parents back together, Ray discovers his true identity.

Other titles in the Best of Fest series will include A Quiet Little Marriage (Audience Award Austin Film Festival, Grand Jury Prize Slamdance Film Festival) and Visual Acoustics (Grand Jury Prize 2008 Lone Star International Film Festival, Audience Award Austin Film Festival, Audience Award Palm Springs International Film Festival) with dates and additional titles to be announced soon.

Tickets for the Best of Fest series are $8 for the general public and will be available online at http://www.LoneStarFilmSociety.com at the beginning of each month. Tickets will also be available beginning at 6 pm. on the day of screenings at the Lone Star Film Society table inside the Modern.  Members of the Lone Star Film Society and the Modern’s Reel People receive discounted admission.

In addition to Best of Fest, the Lone Star Film Society is proud to co-present with the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth:
Where Art and Film Collide:
Selections from Arthouse Films
Tuesdays, April 7–28, 2009, 7 pm

Screenings begin Tuesday, April 7, and run every Tuesday through April 28. Films begin at 7 pm in the Modern’s auditorium. Admission to this series is free and open to the public. Seating is limited and on a first come/first serve basis. Tickets are available at the Modern’s admission desk beginning at 5 pm.on the day of each screening.  The Museum galleries and Café Modern will remain open until 7 pm on Tuesdays during the series, (regular gallery admission charge applies).

April 7
Beautiful Losers
Featuring artists such as Shepard Fairey, Stephen Powers and Barry McGee Beautiful Losers celebrates the spirit behind one of the most influential cultural moments of a generation. In the early 1990s a loose-knit group of like-minded outsiders found common ground at a little NYC storefront gallery. Rooted in the DIY (do-it-yourself) subcultures of skateboarding, surf, punk, hip hop & graffiti, they made art that reflected the lifestyles they led. Developing their craft with almost no influence from the “establishment” art world, this group and the subcultures they sprang from have now become a movement that has been transforming pop culture.

April 14
The Cats of Mirikitani
Eighty-year old Jimmy Mirikitani survived the trauma of WWII internment camps, Hiroshima, and homelessness by creating art. But when 9/11 threatens his life on the New York City streets and a local filmmaker brings him to her home, the two embark on a journey to confront Jimmy’s painful past. An intimate exploration of the lingering wounds of war and the healing powers of friendship and art, this documentary won the Audience Award at its premiere in the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival.

“The Cats of Mirikitani is, quite simply, breathtaking—one of the most surprising and unshakable documentaries I can recall,” New York Sun.

April 21
Obscene: A Portrait of Barney Rosset and Grove Press
Obscene is the definitive film biography of Barney Rosset, the influential publisher of Grove Press and the Evergreen Review. He acquired the then fledgling Grove Press in 1951 and soon embarked on a tumultuous career of publishing and political engagement that continues to inspire today’s defenders of free expression.  Not only was he the first American publisher of acclaimed authors Samuel Beckett, Kenzaburo Oe, Tom Stoppard, Che Guevara, and Malcolm X, but he also battled the government in the highest courts to overrule the obscenity ban on groundbreaking works of fiction such as Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Tropic of Cancer and Naked Lunch. Ultimately he won and altered the course of history, but not without first enduring lawsuits, death-threats, grenade attacks, government surveillance, and the occupation of his premises by enraged feminists.

But the same unyielding and reckless energy Rosset used to publish and distribute controversial works such as Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, the Swedish film I Am Curious (Yellow), and the provocative Evergreen Review, also brought him perilously close to destruction.  Featuring music by Bob Dylan, The Doors, Warren Zevon, and Patti Smith, and never-before-seen footage, Obscene is directed by first time filmmakers Neil Ortenberg and Daniel O’Connor.

April 28
Black White + Gray: A Portrait of Sam Wagstaff and Robert Mapplethorpe
Yale-educated and born with a silver spoon in his mouth, Sam Wagstaff transformed himself from innovative museum curator to Robert Mapplethorpe’s lover and patron. During the heady years of the 1970s and 1980s, the New York City art scene was abuzz with a new spirit, and Mapplethorpe was at the center of it.

Dealing With Arrogant Films

Posted in Uncategorized by johnwildman on March 4, 2009

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.

Arrogant.

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…

Don’t expect me to just kiss its Palme d’Or-winning ass.

Posted in Uncategorized by johnwildman on February 22, 2009

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.

PART TWO: INVITING PRESS TO COVER THE FILM FESTIVAL

Posted in Uncategorized by johnwildman on February 11, 2009

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.

Ass.

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.

BUT…

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.

THE FIRST BLOG – MAKING A SPECTACLE OF MYSELF FOR SOME SEMBLANCE OF A GREATER GOOD

Posted in Uncategorized by johnwildman on January 3, 2009

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….