Filmmaking

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How Signal Space and the VR Film Afterlife Are Moving Interactive Films Forward

Films and video games have been moving closer together for years now, including open world games that mimic cinematic storytelling and videos that include viewer input in the style of a choose-your-own-adventure novel. The mechanics of the latter have often been intrusive, however, making viewers click a link or—with the recent flowering of virtual reality—direct their gaze at an icon indicating their narrative selection. While this can result in compelling products, like the 2017 VR film Broken Night, many filmmakers in the space miss the immersion of a traditional film and want to mask the more game-like control mechanics in […]

Unpredictable Tides: Distributors Talk Streamers, Foreign-Language Films in the U.S., and the Changing Festival Acquisitions Environment

With Toronto wrapped, New York upcoming and Sundance on the horizon, the film festival season is here, and distributors — particularly the traditional arthouse distributors — are facing tougher competition than ever. While critics and audiences struggle to keep up with the sheer volume of buzz-worthy films, industry executives must contend with tectonic shifts in the marketplace, ensuring in the process that their release slates are kept full of strong pictures.  In this new environment, when a pay TV outlet likes HBO scoops the competition by paying near $20 million for Toronto’s hot title, Bad Education, traditional distributors are often […]

“My Advice Is To Basically Get Help”: Industry Experts Explain The Quirks And Nuances Of Tax Incentives

If there’s one basic, all-encompassing piece of advice to take away from the IFP Week 2019 panel “Where Do We Go From Here?” concerning those crippling migraines known as tax incentives it’s this: Talk to someone. Even if you’re that rare filmmaker with a head for business, tax incentives (and grants, and rebates) can be mind-foggingly complicated. “Talk to someone” and variations on it are uttered again and again by the three panelists and their moderator, John Hadity, an industry veteran who knows as much about the subject as they do. “All the programs, they sound familiar,” Hadity said. “But […]

“You Give The Other Artist You Work With Individual Space To Be Free”: Ira Sachs On Writing Frankie With Mauricio Zacharias

Ira Sachs will get a lot of the credit for his latest film, Frankie, an ensemble drama with an all-star cast anchored by top-billed Isabelle Huppert, playing an international movie star whos been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Many will call it “Ira Sach’s Frankie” and single him out as its main creator. But just as the film isn’t only about Huppert’s character (Brendan Gleeson, Marisa Tomei, Greg Kinnear play her blended family), Frankie is not just about Sachs. Only one of his features, his 1996 debut The Delta, has been written solo. And four of the rest, Frankie included, have […]

“If You Really Want To Make Something You Get Creative”: Experimental Documentarians Talk About Thinking Outside The Box At IFP Week 2019

Documentaries don’t have to play by the rules of fiction films. Take a non-fiction hit like Won’t You Be My Neighbor?: It doesn’t merely tell a linear story so much as jump around subjects, with Fred Rogers’ life as a basic foundation. (Compare/contrast with the forthcoming Tom Hanks-starrer A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, which zeroes in on one slice of his career.) But some documentaries go way out there. The IFP 2019 panel “Out of Bounds” rounded up four creatives — two filmmakers, one editor, and a producer tasked with helping people like them find funding and distribution — […]

“Certainly Show Business Has Made Me Very Angry At Times”: Kasi Lemmons Talks Directing Harriet At IFP Week 2019

When Kasi Lemmons got the job of directing Harriet, a biopic about the abolitionist Harriet Tubman, she didn’t get to choose her star: That was already done for her. Cynthia Erivo, the Tony- and Grammy-winning performer and scene-stealer of Steve McQueen’s Widows, had been cast a year before the acclaimed director and actress had come on. But it didn’t take long for her to agree with the casting. “As I was doing my research, I got this picture of his woman, who is tiny, and strong, and fast, and who uses her voice to communicate, and who is a formidable […]

Wavelength Productions Announces WAVE Grant to Support a First-Time Female Director of Color

Wavelength Productions, the 90% female-helmed production company whose credits include the 2019 Sundance titles Knock the House Down, Where’s My Roy Cohn and Selah and the Spades, announced today the WAVE grant “dedicated to supporting women of color in telling their own ‘great f**king story.’” The grant, which is accompanied by 40 hours of professional mentorship by the Wavelength team, will award $5,000 to a first-time female director of color to support her very first documentary or narrative film, which should run between six and 20 minutes. “At Wavelength Productions, we know that women have the power to not just […]

“Just Keep Asking”: True Crime Filmmakers Talk About Pushing A Classic Genre In New And More Ethical Directions At IFP Week 2019

True crime has been having a moment, as they say, for a while now. In a way it’s never not been having a moment, but the genre has rapidly evolved in the digital age, when more information is available to more people, when conspiracy theorists run wild on Reddit and 4chan, and when there’s simply more content being produced. All this means not only more crime content, but also shows and movies that are more thoughtful, more creative, and even more conscious of ethical or moral quandaries that may crop up in the process of covering true crimes. The panel […]

“Technology Has Come A Long Way”: Todd Douglas Miller And E. Chai Vasarhelyi On Going Big With Apollo 11 And Free Solo At IFP Week 2019

Documentaries have been making bank at the box office the last couple years, which is heartening for anyone worried the blockbusters are the only game in town. Still, you don’t necessarily have to see small, intimate fare like Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, RBG and Three Identical Strangers on a giant screen. You can’t say the same about Free Solo and Apollo 11. One finds cutting-edge cameras hanging alongside mountain climber Alex Honnold; the other unearths 65mm footage of the eponymous spaceflight. Both played IMAX theaters, and they were an even better fit on the world’s biggest screens than the […]

“You Get To Be In Places You Have No Business Being”: Political Filmmakers Talk About Telling Big Stories With A Small Focus At IFP Week 2019

For documentarians, especially ones who focus on politics, it’s not enough to have a strong and vital subject. You need a way to get audiences engaged. The participants at the “Politically Engaged” panel at IFP Week 2019 know that all too well. Take Jehane Noujaim. Along with her creative partner Karim Amer, she makes docs about hot topics: the Egyptian Crisis in 2013’s The Square, the Cambridge Analytica Scandal in this year’s The Great Hack. But they’re not expository info dumps. They’re verité, following people, not merely ideas. Noujaim realized that earlier on. She got her start working with the […]

Mica Levi Composes for the Music-less Commandos of Monos

Transcribing a verbal interview can calcify its fluidity. Congealed to text, the spontaneity of a subject’s ongoing efforts to articulate their process is reduced, encouraging readers to mistake the record as definitive. Some interviewees ponder the permanence of their words anxiously and fear fumbling, saying what they don’t mean, or what they might not in a month or a year. But composer Mica Levi’s (Marjorie Prime, Jackie, Under The Skin) oral replies retain their suppleness on the page. Her understanding of her score for Alejandro Landes’ Monos, about a group of teenage commandos flummoxing their military responsibilities atop a mountain […]

Flies Collective Announces Third Annual Film Grant Recipients

Flies Collective, the Brooklyn-based production company and micro-budget funding body led by principals Daniel Patrick Carbone, Matthew Petock and Zach Shedd, announced today the four films that will receive a total of nearly $20,000 in fiscal support via the group’s annual film grant. The films are Sarah Friedland’s Familiar Touch, Max Walker-Silverman’s Chuj Boys of Summer, Brittany Shyne’s Seeds, and Sophia Feuer’s Space Lady. Said the Flies Collective team in a joint statement, “The whole idea behind the grant was that we wanted to offer no-strings-attached support to projects that don’t typically fall within the parameters of traditional grants. This […]

“It Was a Project That Then Became An Obsession”: Director Alain Berliner on the Decades-Spanning Journey Behind His TIFF-Premiering Doc, Letter to the Editor

Less a motion picture than a picture of still photographs projected in succession, Alan Berliner’s latest documentary, Letter to the Editor, takes as its inspiration the vast photography featured in The New York Times over the past four decades. Berliner, now 63, began collecting and categorizing thousands of photographs since Ronald Reagan’s first year in the White House (1980) and continues unabated to this day, or at least until Letter to the Editor made its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival this past Saturday evening.  Comprised entirely of typically hi-res photographs first published in The New York Times […]

“Deragh Had Never Skydived Before…” Five Questions for Writer/Director Kazik Radwanski about His TIFF-Premiering Anne at 13,000 Ft.

Overwhelming anxiety, bad workplaces and ill-advised self-medication are all very on-trend for 2019—Kazik Radwanski’s Anne at 13,000 Ft is right for the moment. A Torontonian child care worker at a government-run facility, Anne (Deragh Campbell) is the protagonist of a handheld drama whose initial energy is very in a post-Dardennes vein, with nervy-but-not-illegibly-jumpy camerawork following her. One way to add production value to your lowish-budget production is suggested by the opening, where Anne skydives out a plane as part of a bachelorette party (!). The footage is clearly unfaked and my nightmare; smartly intercutting between the build-up and her job, a […]

“‘I Have My Real-life Self and My Online-Self, Just Like Everybody Else’”: Liza Mandelup on Teenage Social Media Stars and Her Hulu-Premiering Doc, Jawline

“I’m telling you guys,” says 16-year-old Austyn Tester, sitting in a leather computer chair and speaking into his Macbook’s webcam. The otherwise bleak, wood-panelled room he sits in is completely taken over by soft lighting equipment; the camera pans from his perfectly coiffed hair down to his dirty socks and stained carpet. “If you’ve got a dream, you’ve got to chase it. Don’t let anyone’s opinions affect you.”  In director Liza Mandelup’s feature doc debut, Jawline, Austyn speaks to himself as much as he does to the gaggle of teen girls that are watching him live-stream his motivational speech. He […]

Back To One Ep. 69: Ruben Santiago-Hudson

Actor/writer/director Ruben Santiago-Hudson is the kind of artist whose awe-inspiring dedication to the work can almost be overwhelming. He won a Tony Award for his performance in August Wilson’s Seven Guitars. His autobiographical play Lackawanna Blues was a sensation at the Public Theater and went on to be an award-winning HBO film. He started directing plays (particularly Wilson’s) and is now one of the most sought-after directors working in theater. His production of Jitney on Broadway won the Tony award for Best Revival of a Play. As an actor, he can currently be seen on Showtime’s Billions and recently on […]

Capturing Social Change through Clothing: Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood Costume Designer Arianne Phillips on Dressing Quentin Tarantino’s Latest

Hawaiian shirts. Leather jackets. Go-go boots. These are just a few of the costume staples that leave a defining visual mark on Once Upon A Time … In Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino’s latest film in which real history is viewed through a fictionalized lens. We are in 1969, a year of change — both in Hollywood and the U.S. Think the start of the Nixon presidency, the eroding of the studio system before the artistically adventurous New Hollywood came to the rescue and yes, the Manson Family murders that claimed five lives, including that of a very pregnant Sharon Tate, actress […]