Filmmaking

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“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 […]

“It’s a Movie About LA and Driving in LA — When You Could Actually Drive in LA”: Production Designer Barbara Ling Recreates the Open Streets of 1967 LA for Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood’s production designer Barbara Ling built the lurid worlds of the most perverted Batman movies: Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, where Uma Thurman (as Poison Ivy) strips out of a pink gorilla suit while golden Tarzans in table cloths swing from vines and lay belly down to form a human path for her to walk on. I’d be lying if I told you D.P Stephen Goldblatt’s close ups of Batman and Robin’s rubber derrieres and armor nipples haven’t been secured into an easily accessible shelf at the top of my memories, which […]

“…It’s a movie about LA and driving in LA — When You Could Actually Drive in LA”: Production Designer Barbara Lee Recreates the Open Streets of 1967 LA for Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood’s production designer Barbara Ling built the lurid worlds of the most perverted Batman movies: Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, where Uma Thurman (as Poison Ivy) strips out of a pink gorilla suit while golden Tarzans in table cloths swing from vines and lay belly down to form a human path for her to walk on. I’d be lying if I told you D.P Stephen Goldblatt’s close ups of Batman and Robin’s rubber derrieres and armor nipples haven’t been secured into an easily accessible shelf at the top of my memories, which […]

Sheila Nevins-Led MTV Documentary Films Announces Debut Acquisitions, 17 Blocks and St. Louis Superman

Two Tribeca titles — 17 Blocks, Davy Rothbart’s decades-spanning documentary about an African-American family living in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, and Smriti Mundhra and Sami Khan’s award-winning short doc St. Louis Superman — were announced today as the debut acquisitions of  MTV Documentary Films, a division of Viacom’s MTV Studios headed by producer and executive Sheila Nevins. Nevins previously headed HBO Documentary Films and was hired to launch this new MTV division in May. In a press release, Nevins said,  “At the heart of American Democracy, there is an injustice that gnaws at the soul of the have-nots and […]

Resurrecting Old Films with New Technology Blackmagic Designs Products: The Movie that Wouldn’t Die

I loved shooting on film. Nothing was more exciting than the day of the telecine transfer—I finally got to see how the movie would look—but the day the bill was due, my attitude would always change. I hoped that one day the inflated price of the film transfer would come down to a realistic number that made sense. That day is now! My film making career started in the mid-1990s in Florida, around the same time digital was born. I can remember all my friends shooting on Mini-DV and nudging each other saying, “Check out how great the Canon XL-1 looks on TV. It […]

TIFF 2019 Announces First Gala and Special Presentations Titles: Joker, Rian Johnson, Safdies, Bruce Springsteen and More

On the heels of last week’s announcement of TIFF 2019’s opening night film, today the festival dropped the first titles announced for its Gala and Special Presentation sections. Per usual, this first wave announcements is heavy on big-name festival titles. Among the galas, world premieres include Marielle Heller’s follow-up to Can You Ever Forgive Me?, the Tom Hanks-starring Mr. Rogers biopic A Beautiful Day in the Neighbhorhood; Western Stars, a performance film co-directed by Bruce Springsteen for his latest album; the Eddie Murphy-starring Rudy Ray Moore biopic directed by Craig Brewer; and Rian Johnson’s Agatha Christie-inflected murder mystery comedy Knives Out. Other prominent titles include […]

Bloody Thoughts: Abel Ferrara on The Addiction

Appearing online for the first time, here is Scott Macaulay’s report on Abel Ferrara’s The Addiction, from our Winter, 1995 edition. It appears here in newly revised form. *** “Addiction will be our question: a certain type of ‘Being-on-drugs’ that has everything to do with the bad conscious of our era.” — Avital Ronell, Crack Wars “Look at this,” Abel Ferrara says, tracing his finger across the video monitor in his Manhattan office/editing room. On the screen: black-and-white images of blood-streaked, bullet-ridden Bosnian casualties. “This is the real thing.” These images, and others of Nazi concentration camp victims from Ferrara’s […]

Remembering Ben Barenholtz

Exhibitor, distributor, producer and director — one of the seminal figures in the modern American independent film movement, Ben Barenholtz, passed away last Wednesday in Prague. He was 83. In the late ’60s, Barenhotlz’s rep theater, the Elgin Cinema, mixed experimental films with mainstream movies, and it was where the exhibitor popularized the concept of the “midnight movie,” playing Alejandro Jodoworsky’s El Topo for months on end. Another midnight movie — Eraserhead — was an early marquee title of his first distribution company, Libra Films, and later, at Circle Films, he bought and distributed the classic and career-launching Blood Simple, […]