Archive for the ‘Regional Film’ Category

A Change of Scenery

Tuesday, May 30th, 2006

Though anything I write on this website is obviously coming from my personal point of view, I typically don’t write much about my life unless its relevant to the aim of this site. I basically do this for two reasons: 1) why would you care?, and 2) I’m kind of a private person.

Having said that, this is one of those occasions where I’d like to share some good news:

Starting this fall I’ll begin a position as an assistant professor of Digital Film/Video production at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University — Virginia Tech, to you and me. I’ve not yet begun the job, or even made the move to Virginia yet, but my colleagues are already showing me a warm, Southern welcome.

Though I’ve enjoyed my stint at Temple University immensely, as readers of this site know I’m committed to regional filmmaking. I’m excited to be heading someplace where my students understand this not as a concept, but as a reality. I guess they remind me a little of myself when I was an undergraduate at the University of Tennessee in the early 90s.

It’s going to be a good move for me, too. Though I know East Tennessee better than Southwest Virginia, I can’t wait to return to the part of the South where most of my work is set. This is the landscape I know and this is where I find the stories that inspire me.

In sum, the position at VT was, to quote a not-so-“self-reliant film”, an offer I couldn’t refuse.

I’ll try to do at least a few more posts before I get swamped with packing and moving, but if when my posts drop, consider this your pre-emptive apology.

Undiscovered Gems

Monday, April 24th, 2006

If you didn’t read indieWire’s press release about the Undiscovered Gems series, you should check it out. Basically, the series aims to be a mother to those motherless children of the independent film circuit — those independent films deserving of an audience that somehow never manage to secure a distributors. The initiative is a partnership between Emerging Pictures, the New York Times, IndieWire, Sundance Channel, and the California Film Institute.

The venues include:

Cinema Village (New York, NY)
Market Arcade Film and Arts Center (Buffalo, NY)
The Loft (Tucson, AZ)
Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center (San Rafael, CA)
Theatre N at Nemours (Wilmington, NC)
Cinema Paradiso (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)
The Duncan Theatre at Stage West (Lake Worth, FL)
Island Theatre (Martha’s Vineyard, MA)
Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center (Lincoln, NE)
Circle Cinema (Tulsa, OK)
Scranton Cultural Center (Scranton, PA)

Commentary: Because most of these venues aren’t in places that are “major markets”, releasing will be cheaper. This means more venues, more potential moviegoers — a good thing for audiences and filmmakers alike.

I am, however, deeply troubled about the contest aspect of the series. According to the press release, “an audience prize competition will provide the winning filmmaker a cash award of $50,000, theatrical release in New York, Los Angeles and at least five other U.S. cities during 2007, as well as an exclusive broadcast on Sundance Channel.”

It seems wildly unfair that audiences in a few select places essentially determine the viewing options for other audiences halfway across the country! Especially when those places are so culturally and geographically different! Just think — the good people of Los Angeles will have their moviegoing choices dictated by folks in cities like Tulsa and Scranton! What an outrage!

Oh wait. This already happens everyday. Just in reverse.

All joking aside, congrats to the “filmmakers whose undiscovered gems” will be distributed. And if you’re in a city with a venue listed above, enjoy the show.

Jake Mahaffy: SRF Interview

Friday, April 14th, 2006

“This is the world after the end of the world,” a boy tells us at the beginning of Jake Mahaffy‘s debut feature, War. Then, for the next 80 some odd minutes Mahaffy captures, in black and white, the tedious and transcendental moments of a handful of characters, all male, inhabiting a devastated landscape. They work, play, drive, destroy, search for things lost. In a way, it seems, they wait for the world — seemingly dead already — to just end already. Is this is what purgatory, or limbo, looks like?

Movies this stark, elemental, sui generis are rarely made by conventional means, and in this way War is no different. Mahaffy took five years to produce the thing, shooting it with a Bolex and a handful of non-professional actors in Warren County, Pennsylvania.

Happily, Mahaffy’s spare, spiritual vision found an audience on the festival circuit, playing at Sundance, Rotterdam, Ann Arbor, and several other fine festivals. Response was warm, even glowing. Its premiere at Sundance even led to a positive review in, of all places, that bastion of Hollywood biz reporting, Variety.

As Mahaffy has worked on new projects, other laurels have followed: Jake was recognized as one of the “25 New Faces of Independent Film” by Filmmaker Magazine, and he has been awarded grants from Creative Capital and the Guggenheim Foundation. Just this week, in fact, he was selected as the inaugural Lynn Auerbach Screenwriting Fellow by the Sundance Institute.

Last month, visiting Roanoke, where Jake currently lives and works, I approached him about doing an interview. Here is our conversation:

(more…)

Conference for Indiana filmmakers

Monday, April 10th, 2006

CinemaMinima reports on Indiana filmmakers having a conference about the challenges of regional filmmaking.

If any of you Indiana filmmakers are reading this, get in touch with me. It would be great to get a report on the conference.

Southern Filmmakers in Katrina’s Wake

Saturday, April 8th, 2006

GreenCine has a good overview of Full Frame’s “Southern Sidebar”, which has special poignancy this year — all the films are devoted to coverage of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.