Fri Apr 08 10:49:19 CDT 2016
Foster Care and the Art of the Interview
After three years working with a developmentally-delayed child, I picked up my phone to hear a little voice saying, “Mama.” This was Ana’s first word and her foster mother had called me, her Court Appointed Special Advocate, to share the experience. As a CASA volunteer, I’ve spent years working with children, their families and the court system to help find kids a permanent home, good educational opportunities and needed medical and social services. As I heard Ana find her voice, I wondered how, and whether, other foster youth ever truly found theirs. So I decided to answer this question using the tools I knew best, animation and film, to give foster youth a chance to be heard.
The initial concept was to create an animated documentary short, but once we started going through our footage we realized we had way more material than could possibly fit into one film. Being a first time filmmaker I wasn’t expecting the interviews we collected to be so so in depth and for people to be so open and willing to share. Our longest interview lasted 9 hours and with more than 15 interviews completed we knew this wasn’t going to be a 10 minute short film. We decided the stories we collected were too important to end up on the cutting room floor and as a result, we are now making a series of short films about foster care. “Feeling Wanted” is the first in the series.
Thu Mar 31 14:49:21 CDT 2016
I’m nearing the end of a nearly five-year journey taking my extremely personal film Gold Star from conception to completion.
Making Gold Star has been a twofold battle: making a feature film, a difficult achievement in and of itself, and doing so by taking on the exceptionally challenging subject of making the feature about my dying father.
Some quick background: I wrote Gold Star while my father was recovering from a stroke in and out of ICU and rehab, and back home in my family’s house in Connecticut for a year between 2011 and 2012. He couldn’t speak, eat or walk for that entire last year of his life. After he passed away at the age of 88 in November 2012, I channeled all my sadness into making this feature from every angle: writing, directing, acting, producing.
I’m just now coming out of this work-fueled catharsis. My film is at picture lock and fully scored; the sound mix is almost complete and we are about to move onto a color correct. I am slowly beginning to step back and think about the past few years of my life and how I’ve changed. My long journey is coming to a close, and the tricky game of distribution is beginning. But, I’m going to enjoy this process and reflect on my journey as things wrap up.
I’ve learned so much about myself and the filmmaking process in making Gold Star over the past few years. This film helped me say goodbye to my father in the most beautiful way. Gold Star is like a memory to me. We shot in my house with my father’s hospital equipment, we shot in the hospital that treated him; my grandmother acts in the film, my family and friends played extras in the bar, and everyone I love banded together to see it through.
My biggest piece of advice to someone about to make their first feature film is this: make a movie that is an ode to a time in your life. Base it on something personal or an abstract thing you connect to strongly that only you will fully understand. Your first feature might take a few years from conception to distribution, but if it’s a love letter to a chapter in your life, you won’t falter from exhaustion at the finish line. Audiences connect to honesty and passion. I’m hoping they’ll see a lot of that in Gold Star.
Please sign up for our email newsletter on our new website to stay updated on developments. We’ll release our trailer to subscribers before anyone else in the coming months: http://www.goldstar-film.com/connect-1/
~ Victoria Negri
Wed Mar 30 12:28:14 CDT 2016
My first film release in several years mixes original Kodak Super 8 footage with gorgeous NASA archival to evoke a feeling of distance and disconnectedness. If you have 3 minutes, please watch and enjoy.
For the full experience, visit the film’s microsite.
Tue Mar 29 12:27:07 CDT 2016
Teaser Trailer for Soless
Starring Michelle Hendley (Boy Meets Girl)
Written and Directed by Carman Spoto
Mon Mar 28 13:33:06 CDT 2016
A case study on documentary and animation.
An animated documentary is a relatively new genre of filmmaking which combines the audio of documentary interviews with animated visuals.
Animation brings a unique perspective
by allowing the filmmaker to tell a story on two different levels. It
allows the filmmaker to illustrate disjointed thoughts and feelings on a
level that can’t be done through live action. Also, animation allows us
to recreate memories for those who may otherwise have no documentation
of their past.
We’re currently creating a series of films about foster care. For many youth, their time in foster care is like a blank slate with few photos, home videos, or records of their experiences. Combining painterly animations with live action footage was a conscious decision we made to help narrate these stories and visualize the past.
Thu Mar 24 16:21:40 CDT 2016
Five Harlemites with vastly
different lives collide in interweaving stories about family and race in
a neighborhood undergoing changes.
HARLEMITES is a series of five short films whose plots interweave but also stand alone as individual stories. Viewers can watch the films in any order they choose from our interactive website that will be premiere soon.
The series primarily explores black and white issues in present-day Harlem where it was filmed with a run-and-gun production style. With a small cast and crew, we used available locations and improvised based on a shooting script, which allowed for the most naturalistic performances. The tone is social realist, the genre is dramatic, and the style is cinematic. Our goal is to challenge the viewer of web-released films by emphasizing visuals and symbolism in the narrative.
HARLEMITES will premiere soon. Please follow us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/harlemites.series/
Thu Mar 24 13:56:36 CDT 2016
Some readers may know that I am a member of Filmshop, a New York collective of filmmakers. After sharing some backstory on the organization, I’d like to make a small announcement about this blog moving forward.
I met fellow Filmshopper Adam Brown at a Shooting People event. I had just moved from Chicago to New York City and I was eager to get the lay of the land. Adam told me about a burgeoning organization called Filmshop, which emphasizes independent projects, collaboration, and basically getting shit done.
I attended a meeting as a guest and was immediately impressed by the insightful criticism brought forth by peer review. I’ve been a member ever since.
Over the next couple weeks, I’ll be sharing the work of my Filmshop peers. I’ve only asked that they accompany the work with a little personal insight into their filmmaking process.
If you find yourself liking what you’re reading, and live in New York City, message me. I’d love to pull an “Adam Brown” and have you as my guest at a future Filmshop event.
[Image: That’s me. I’m introducing my documentary Jack and the Machine at a member meeting.]
Tue Mar 22 14:40:29 CDT 2016
I believe only poets will remain in the history of cinema. I think there exists a law: author cinema is made of poets and all great directors are poets. And what is a poet in cinema? He is a director who creates his own world without reproducing the reality around him. This is what we call “author cinema.”
Fri Mar 18 10:51:44 CDT 2016
Try Again, Slowly
It’s embarrassing, but I’m finally wrapping projects that I shot in 2013 and 2014. Working with old footage is enlightening. If I could go back in time and give myself one piece of directorial advice it would be, “do one more take, but this time, try it slower.”
“Try it again, but slower.” That’s a piece of advice that can be applied to so many aspects of our lives.
[Image: John Ottis Adams Half-Length Figure Study (1883-1884)]
Tue Feb 16 17:35:01 CST 2016
Lately, I’ve been working on an edit for a personal documentary. It is a movie about the flow of time and the illusion of choice.
The illusion of choice is a concept familiar to many of my creative friends. I don’t know a single one who feels that they “chose art,” rather that art chose them.
The documentary is based on the life and work of a colleague, rich with metaphor and scare with words. I’ve felt a special type of freedom with this particular project; I look forward to sharing it.
Sat Feb 13 19:40:54 CST 2016
Alonzo King LINES Ballet dancer Adji Cissoko (Photo by RJ Muna)
Only space can highlight form.
Sat Feb 13 10:56:39 CST 2016
How Important Is Story, Really?
After watching the films a the list of 16 Short Films That Launched the Careers of Famous Directors, it’s impossible not to notice how few of these films feature riveting stories.
This isn’t a criticism. It’s more of an observation made to counter the idea that story is the fundamental unit of good filmmaking. I’d argue that the poetic style - i.e. how a story is told - is significantly more important than the story itself.
Watching Ryan Fleck’s short-to-feature, Gowanus, Brooklyn (2004) seems to reinforce the argument.
Tue Feb 09 19:34:21 CST 2016
The most powerful, awe-inspiring images are those that shift just at the horizon.
Mon Feb 08 16:10:36 CST 2016
I’ve talked about Minor Cinema a few times in the past; technology has changed the way we consume media and I believe there is a type of storytelling that fits somewhere between television and Hollywood spectacle. Practitioners of Minor Cinema tell intimate, visually-driven stories that attempt to fully exploit film’s inherent grammar
More than open eyes, open ears are a requisite distinction of a great director.
The significance of sound design must be on par with the visual quality. Sound can help create iconoclastic images that subtly penetrate the viewer’s mind. Sound that contrasts the visual creates tension while re-enforcing sound puts the audience at ease. In other words, sound tends to amplify what’s already held within the image.
Just as it’s important for a director of Minor Cinema to understand visual composition and lighting, it’s important for them to understand sound design in order to convincingly frame a scene.
Wed Jan 27 10:02:39 CST 2016
Ethan Coen: True Grit was the last film that Roger Deakins shot on film.
Joel Coen: We were one of the last people to stop cutting on film. And when we stopped, people would say, “Why?” Honestly, the answer was because we couldn’t find assistants who knew how to work on film. They didn’t exist anymore. I mean, it was — I remember being in Ken Loach’s cutting room around then, and I said — he was cutting on a Steenbeck back then — and I said, “How do you do this?” And he pointed like that [points] and there was this, like, 96-year-old guy on the rewinds.
Stills from True Grit (2010, dir. Joel and Ethan Coen) Cinematography by Roger Deakins
“Just the technical problems with film, I’m sorry, it’s over.”
~ Roger Deakins, two days ago in Variety
Working with film is a joyful experience. It may be possible for many years into the future, but the infrastructure and knowledge to work in the medium at scale is quickly disappearing.
Sat Jan 23 13:08:11 CST 2016
And, like any great director of the cinema, everything Eno touches bears his subtle but unmistakable fingerprints, regardless of who the stars in the foreground happen to be.
~ Geeta Dayal
Brian Eno has always been interested in systems. In Thursday Afternoon (seen above, original music and visuals by Eno), he uses mechanical systems. When he produces other artists like U2, Talking Heads, or David Bowie, the band itself is the system. Contemporary Judy Nylon explains how this affects the creative process:
It’s very useful in the arts to have certain sorts of systems, [particularly] if you’re working with something that doesn’t have immediate limitations because you don’t have enough money. Sometimes not having enough money is good, because you don’t end up throwing a million dollars at a five-cent idea. But [what] if the idea doesn’t require any money? How do you actually stop yourself from putting too much into an idea that’s too small? You find an external system. And some of the best systems in the world come out of physics, the sciences. Math.
[Quotes taken from Geeta Dayal’s 33 1/3 book on Another Green World]
Thu Jan 21 12:14:12 CST 2016
Poetry doesn’t build to the big idea like many other kinds of writing, but it starts there, that the poem starts where many kinds of writing would be winding up.
~ Krista Tippett from On Being, attributing the quote to poet Paul Muldoon
I think this is why I love the work of Andrei Tarkovsky. He is cinema’s one true poet; he wastes no time exploring a single idea through a full feature film.
Tue Jan 19 19:47:48 CST 2016
It’s too bad film music and pastiche often go hand in hand.
Thu Jan 07 15:07:48 CST 2016
“Writers end up writing about their obsessions. Things that haunt them; things they can’t forget; stories they carry in their bodies waiting to be released.”
- Natalie Goldberg
Wed Nov 25 18:59:51 CST 2015
The Gift is a mind-bending short film centered on a visionary cinematic storytelling to portray man’s bond with free will and fate through the story of a secret agent. On leave after bringing down an international criminal syndicate, Peter Wright, a man seeking redemption for the death of the mob leader’s innocent son, takes a security job. When the young girl he is paid to guard is kidnapped by the right hand of the notorious crime boss, he is left with one choice.
Directed and Written by Edwin Adrian Nieves
Starring Pascal Yen-Pfister, Julien Delbassee Leflon, Miguel Belmonte, and Esperanza Martinez
Produced by Mark Buconjic, E. Jesus Nieves, Edwin Adrian Nieves, Germaine Persinger, and Pascal Yen-Pfister
Co-produced by Juan Carlos Nieves
Shot and Edited by Edwin Adrian Nieves
Music by Jeffrey Connors
Sound Edit by Jeffrey Connors and Jay Pellizzi
Sound Mix by Jay Pellizzi
ADR by Steven Stanley Borba
News Report by Christine M. Penney
Special Thanks to Nathalie Sejean, David Schmudde, and Michael DiBiasio