Archive for the ‘Films & Filmmakers’ Category

Nashville Film Festival Wrap-up

Saturday, April 26th, 2008

I had hoped to post some reports from the Nashville Film Festival, but a few things prevented me from doing that. First, we were staying with family that didn’t have an easy-to-jump-on internet connection. And, more importantly, I was just too busy having a good time at the festival (and elsewhere).

Quick Feet, Soft Hands was well received at both screenings. Unlike comedy or horror, where you might have the laughs or shrieks of an audience to gauge audience reaction reaction, with a drama like mine you get no such cues. But the Q&A after the screening helped me see that at least some audiences believe our time and efforts were worth it. There were lots of thoughtful questions and comments — not a single “What camera did you use?” or “What was your budget?” Instead I was asked questions about the story, how it evolved, how I came to cast Jason and Greta. There were even some audience members who raised their hands to say some kind words — no question, mind you, just a compliment. And after returning to Virginia I found that Betsy Pickle (Knoxville News-Sentinel and Scripps Howard syndicated columnist) had some nice (dare I say blurbable?) things to say in her online column. Needless to say, all of this feels good.

I’m sure there will be other things to say along the way as this film screens in different places, and in different ways. For now, I’m glad the thing is done, glad it’s out there, and glad that it’s beginning to find its audience.

Other films: Ashley and I did some filming in Nashville for a documentary we’re working on, so I didn’t catch nearly as many films as I would have liked to have seen. Of what I did see, my favorites were In the City of Sylvia, Alexandra, Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind, Voda and City of Cranes, the last two of which are short films featuring superb cinematography.

Of the features, I am particularly glad I saw In the City of Sylvia, which I caught with Darren Hughes, who drove over from Knoxville to see it for the third time (he saw it twice at Toronto). Were it not for Darren’s tip I probably wouldn’t have caught it — I somehow skipped over it in my perusal of the NaFF catalog. But it’s an exquisite gem of a film. A tale of a young man’s attempt to track down a woman he met six years earlier, it’s as if Eric Rohmer set out to remake one of his Moral Tales sans dialogue. To say anything more would probably ruin it for future viewers. So we’ll leave it at that.

All in all, it was a good year at the Nashville Film Festival, premiere and otherwise. Thanks to Mandy McBroom (Shorts Programmer) and Brian Gordon (Artistic Director) for putting together such a solid festival.

Quick Feet, Soft Hands @ the Nashville Film Festival

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

My new film Quick Feet, Soft Hands will be premiering at the Nashville Film Festival this weekend. If you’re in the area come on down to see it and introduce yourself to me (if I don’t already know you).



Friday, April 18 @ 2:15 pm
Sunday, April 20 @ 9:00 pm

SXSW: Wrap-up

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

Last year I think I spent as much time posting thoughts on films I was seeing at South by Southwest as I did actually attending films and panels. This year I chose to err in the other direction. There were simply too many movies to see, panels to attend, people to meet, and parties to drop by.

Highlights (in the order I saw them):

Nights and Weekends by Joe Swanberg & Greta Gerwig
Wellness by Jake Mahaffy
Paper Covers Rock by Joe Maggio
The New Year Parade by Tom Quinn
Present Company by Frank V. Ross

All make use of handheld digital video, feature naturalistic performances, and were made with small (or no) crews and budgets. Despite the superficial sharing of neo-neo-realistic qualities, it would be tough to compare them. Suffice to say that all are worth seeing.

As good as those films were, perhaps my two favorites of SXSW were two very polished documentaries, Second Skin and At the Death House Door.

Second Skin digs into the world of MMORPGs, and how these online games create new lives and identities — on both sides of the computer screen — for the people playing them. Not being a gamer, I wondered how much I would care about the film’s subject, especially in light of the fact that 90% of the audience I viewed it with seemed to be there to see a film about their lives. Happily, the film finds some dynamic people to follow and it does superb job of chronicling their lives, both on- and off-line. I suspect this will have a healthy life on DVD, and perhaps theatrically.

At the Death House Door was the most emotionally gripping film I saw at SXSW. A somewhat conventionally shot documentary featuring lots of interviews, it reminded me that no single documentary style has a monopoly on greatness. The film follows Carroll Pickett who, during his 15 years as the house chaplain to a Texas prison, presided over 95 executions, including the very first lethal injection done anywhere in the world. The film also tells the story of Carlos De Luna, one of those 95 prisoners executed, and one that Pickett believed to be innocent. This is a movie that had me in tears — both at horrific things, and also in admiration at the remarkable heroism of ordinary individuals. Emotions aside, it did bring some nuance to arguments for and (especially) against the death penalty. The fact that it was premiering in Austin — that is, in the capital of the state where these executions took place — made the screening experience all the more poignant. At the Death House Door was co-produced by IFC, so look for it there (and, perhaps, theatrically).

As for panels, not all of the ones I attended have been posted (nor do I know if they will) but here are the festival’s recordings of some for those of you that couldn’t be there.

Documentary Film Festival for Students

Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

I usually don’t post film festival calls for entries — there are just far too many of them — but this is one I couldn’t pass up: The Reality Bytes Film Festival is Northern Illinois University’s student film documentary film festival. As most of you know, NIU was the site of a mass shooting on their campus a couple of weeks ago.

I received a bulk email from their PR director on Sunday. Here it is in full:

First, we want to thank everyone who has called or e-mailed with messages of support over the past few weeks. We are still coming to terms with the tragedy that occured on our campus Thursday, February 14, and it will be a long journey. However, the journey does begin with the first steps and in that spirit, the Reality Bytes Film Festival is still taking place, but with a change in the deadline and screening dates.

With that said, I am writing to you on behalf of Northern Illinois University and the Reality Bytes Student Documentary Film Festival. The festival is currently in its eighth year under the directorship of Dr. Laura Vazquez and is continuing to grow. The event prides itself on being open only to students and being affordable with only a $20 entry fee.

We have already started to receive films from schools all across the country and the outlook for this year’s festival is excellent. Our goal each year is to continue to have a venue where students can showcase their amazing documentary filmmaking talents against their peers.

The submission deadline for students is now March 8, 2008 and the documentaries must be under 30 minutes length. Any style or genre of documentary will be accepted. The application form for this year’s festival can be viewed and printed as a PDF file by visiting the Reality Bytes website at the following URL:

The screening event will be held on April 4th and 5th and cash prizes will be awarded on April 5th. The best of festival winner will receive $200 and Avid video editing software, second place will receive $150 and third place will receive $100.

Thank you. We are looking forward to seeing all of the great student work coming out of your university.


Kathy Giles
Public Relations Director for Reality Bytes
Northern Illinois University




If you’re a student filmmaker with a documentary, send it on in. It sounds like a neat festival, it’s an affordable entry fee and, in some way, however small, by submitting your film you’ll be helping the NIU community move forward after a terrible tragedy. I imagine this edition of the festival will be pretty special.

This Conference is Being Recorded: 2007 Wrap-up

Sunday, January 27th, 2008

Over the holidays, Lance Weiler, Mark Stolaroff and I spoke about the year in review for This Conference is Being Recorded, the Workbook Project’s podcast series. You can listen to the show here.

I was fighting off a migraine that day, so apologies if my thoughts aren’t that coherent. I do recall that Lance and Mark had some typically insightful things to say.

The recording is the second in a two part series. Part one, which features Lance, Scott Kirsner, and Woody Benson, is worth a listen, too.