Gone to Texas: Austin’s Film Scene Through New York Eyes

on Thursday, Sep. 20th

Formerly our man in NYC, film writer Jonathan Poritsky is now our man in Austin, Texas. This is the story of how and why.

The end of July was weird for me. I quit my job, bought a car, left New York City and hit the road for Austin, Texas. My girlfriend, Kristyn, is getting her PhD at the University of Texas and, since I wasn’t in the market for a new girlfriend, I decided to join her on this adventure. By no means was it a simple decision.

It wasn’t easy to find my footing in New York, and I had gotten quite comfortable. I had a good day job in post production, landed a good deal for a large-ish apartment on the Upper West Side and was on all the invite lists for indie press screenings, local film fests, etc. Why start all over in a new town?

For one, I like Austin. I have attended the SXSW Film Festival and Conference since 2010, and every year I had a blast in this town. More than that though, I could feel how seriously the town takes its artists, and how supportive it is of them. (more…)

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Video Free Brooklyn

on Wednesday, Jul. 25th

In the middle of Smith Street, the main commercial drag of Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, sits a small retail space with a garish yellow sign that reads like a manifesto: Video Free Brooklyn. It is among the last of the video rental stores in New York City. And it just got new owners.

Aaron Hillis is a sort of cinematic man-about-town here in New York. Journalist, critic, distributor and curator are just a few of the titles he has gone by in the past. As of this summer, along with wife Jennifer, he is now the proud owner of one of the few remaining video stores in New York City. Not too long ago, that might have seemed like an excellent investment. Today, with interest in physical media dwindling and even institutions like Blockbuster and Kim’s Video disappearing from the landscape, it wouldn’t be out of line to tell Aaron he’s out of his mind. He knows it. (more…)

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Watch This: Homophones

on Thursday, May. 31st

WATCH THIS is a weekly column which highlights films and filmmakers from around the Web.

When I’m looking around the Web for videos to write about here, I try to cast a wide net and view all sorts of different films. I don’t really have a choice about that; the latest numbers indicate YouTube alone has 72 hours of video uploaded every minute. Yes, most of that is kittens and lip-dubs, but still, the sheer amount of video available out there makes it difficult to filter out what’s worth writing about.

I bring this up because I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it is that I look for in an online film before commit to writing about it. Sam Sprynczynatyk’s short film, “Homophones,” seems a good example of the kind of film I like to see on the Web. At a mere ninety-three seconds, it is the sort of film one can watch in between bites of a sandwich, but one viewing isn’t nearly enough.

The film hinges on a very simple conceit. Every scene is a split screen, illustrating two homophones, or a pair of words that sound the same. The viewer will have to put in the teeniest bit of mental elbow-grease in order to pick up on exactly which two words Sprynczynatyk is illustrating before the film cuts to another set of words.

It’s a fun little exercise executed beautifully and minimally. What really strikes me is how this film begs to be viewed within a browser window. I’m sure the film would look just lovely on a ten foot screen, but I’m not sure that “Homophones” is as well suited to the big screen, say a festival shorts program, than it is to be viewed quickly while you’re browsing the Web or checking email. I’m as guilty as anyone of hitting play on a Web video and either giving up or switching to another tab/application while the video terminally plays down. When I started Homophones, I almost did that, but then I saw the fun in picking out the different scenes and I stopped everything else. I actually took my hand off of my mouse (a rarity) and sat back to play along.

So many of the films I see online have outsize expectations. These are films that would fit in a festival or are intended to go to theaters. But the Web, while providing access to a massive audience, should be treated as its own distribution medium. Web videos for Web video’s sake. “Homophones” is exactly that and it’s an absolutely charming little film.

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Watch This: конфликт (Conflict) + Just War

on Wednesday, May. 23rd

WATCH THIS is a weekly column which highlights films and filmmakers from around the W

If you ever need proof that the Internet can be a great place for collaboration, the story of Torrey Meeks and Garry Bardin might be a good place to point. This week’s video is a 2009 remix by Meeks of Bardin’s 1983 animated film, “Konflikt (конфликт)” titled “Just War.” It mashes up the anti-war film with the song of the same title from the collaborative album, “Dark Night of the Soul” by Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse, featuring Gruff Rhys.

Though the work is three years old, Meeks uploaded a higher quality version last week, which first come to my attention over at The Daily Dot. How did he get a higher quality version of the film? After completing his first cut with a low resolution version of the film he found on YouTube, Meeks contacted Bardin seeking approval for the mashup. The filmmaker was “delighted” that his work was finding a new home and the he and Meeks stayed in touch.

Oh, and then Bardin sent his films to Meeks so he could remaster them and share them on the web. From Meeks’ blog:

After getting in touch with Garry Bardin, who created the Conflict animation I recently reinvented as a music video for the Just War – feat Gruff Rhys track, I realized there was no central location where his films could be viewed online.

I discussed the situation with him over email and offered to resize, color correct, and upload all his films for hi-def viewing on YouTube — provided he was able to get me high quality copies of his animations.

21 of Bardin’s films are now available on YouTube, including the original “Konflikt,” thanks to Meeks, and all because he had the gumption to seek out Bardin’s blessing on his mashup project.

As to “Just War” itself, it’s a beautiful pairing of two works of art that explore the same idea: that in war, there are no winners. Often mashups grow out of arbitrary elements, films that might look good no matter what is played with them. Or songs so universal that anything put to them sounds as if it “fits.” (I’m looking at you, Coldplay.) In this case it feels less trite, as if the song does, in fact, belong alongside these visuals.

But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the film’s backstory, and what it represents, is what attracts me to it most. Torrey Meeks liked Garry Bardin’s film, and it gave him a creative spark. By acting on it, and by being open with the filmmaker about his intentions, a great collaboration and really restoration took place. And all of us, as viewers, can benefit from it.

Jonathan Poritsky is a film critic and journalist based out of New York City. He is the founder of the candler blog, a film theory and criticism (and other stuff) site, as well as the Arts Editor of Heeb Magazine. Don’t ask him what his favorite film is; it’ll take too long to answer and he’ll say “um” a lot.

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WATCH THIS: “Sounds of Aronofsky”

on Wednesday, May. 16th

WATCH THIS is a weekly column which highlights films and filmmakers from around the Web.

[CONTENT ADVISORY: there is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shot of someone’s rear in this supercut. Depending on how uptight your work environment is this, along with the copious shots of drug use– Hello, Aronofsky– may make this video Not Safe For Work.]

Urban Dictionary defines “supercut” thusly:

A fast-paced montage of short video clips that obsessively isolates a single element from its source, usually a word, phrase, or cliché from film and TV.

While the supercut conceptually predates the advent of the Internet (see: Christian Marclay’s 1995 short “Telephones”, Chuck Workman’s 1986 “Precious Images” and even Lev Kuleshov’s infamous experiments from the early 20th century) it has become a staple of Web culture. What was once the work of mad editors working for months or years on end is now a digital playground for the masses. Go search the web for a supercut and you’ll find it for almost any facet of cinema. Often these experiments yield little to no results, but sometimes they can show us an aspect of the cinema we didn’t know was there, even though it had always been staring us in the face.

Which brings us to the work of Kogonada. The filmmaker has released four supercuts on Vimeo and YouTube this year, each one an exploration of one aspect of a filmmaker’s ouvre, with the one deviation being a supercut of POV shots on “Breaking Bad”. Previously the artist created “Wes Anderson // FROM ABOVE” and Tarantino // FROM BELOW, each one spanning the title filmmaker’s career and pulling out shots that adhere to the title’s suggestion. What is great about both of those choices, Anderson from above and Tarantino from below, is that in each case we actually learn something about the style of the filmmaker that we may not have noticed looking at their body of work on the micro (film by film) level. Better, these stylistic nuances are specific to the directors, not arbitrary choices for discovery. Any other filmmaker profiled “from above” wouldn’t be nearly as interesting as Wes Anderson’s use of that angle.

And now we have “Sounds of Aronofsky,” a 56-second mashup of sound effects used by Darren Aronofsky in all of his films. Don’t be fooled though, this is just as much a visual exploration as an aural one. Almost all of the shots are closeups of objects that accompanied by jarring sounds. And this is the fastest paced mashup from Kogonada yet.

Similar to the visual and narrative aspects of a film, the soundtrack has to ring emotionally true with the audience. Often the sounds we hear have no basis in reality, at least not in a literal sense. Sound designers don’t crash cars or crunch bones and call it a day. A good soundtrack focuses on the intensity of what we hear, not merely the loudness. Kogonada has pinpointed the intensity of mundane sounds in Aronofsky’s work. The small, everyday sounds we would hear and ignore get a starring role in his work.

Whether or not we, as viewers, consciously notice this while watching a Darren Aronofsky film is beside the point. These aural cues influence how we experience the film, and Kogonada nailed the execution in this supercut. Is there anything more “Aronofsky” than this? There are so many edits of other works blindly hacked together for the sake of, what? Often makers of supercuts shoot from the hip, executing an experiment for the sake of it but with no real goal or endgame. Kogonada, on the other hand, has shown remarkable restraint and brings a unique academic bent to the form. The art comes from expanding our view of the works being cut. I can’t wait to see what, or who, comes next.

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WATCH THIS: This Must Be the Place “HILL”

on Wednesday, May. 9th

WATCH THIS is a weekly column which highlights films and filmmakers from around the Web.

There’s a moment in HILL, the most recent installment of the This Must Be the Place series of shorts, that strikes me hard in the gut: Allan Hill, the film’s central character, looking out at the decrepit Packard plant in Detroit he calls home. The trees have no leaves, the landscape is one of cement and steel, of rust and garbage; a stray animal wanders around piles of refuse in the background. Viewing this and speaking to us, the viewers, Allan has this to say:

Everyone thought…kinda wondered why I’m here, you know? But then I look at myself and look at this place here. It looks like a perfect marriage.

This Must Be the Place is an ongoing film project from filmmakers Ben Wu and David Usui. They describe it as “series of short films that explore the idea of home; what makes them, how they represent us, why we need them.” HILL, which came out a bit over a month ago, is the fourth in the series, but the first one I’ve seen. It immediately made quick work for me of deciding what this week’s featured film would be.

The more documentaries about interesting characters I see, the more I am convinced there simply can’t be any more waiting in the wings to be filmed. Where, I always wonder, do these people come from anyway? The real art of documentary cinema is less technical and more visceral. Anyone can point a camera at a subject; it’s picking the subject that is the tough part. Allan Hill, hidden beneath the detritus of America’s once great city, is a great subject.

He never goes so far as to tell us what drove him to live in an abandoned plant because we don’t need to know. He’s a proud caretaker and the film’s only concern is how he lives. Hill has no plumbing, but he makes do in what he compares to living in a two-acre “farm with a roof over it.” He talks briefly about the troubled economy and how Detroit will one day make a comeback, but overall he is content to live his life as he sees fit. There is nothing ideological about the way he lives; it merely suits him.

For Wu and Usui’s part, the film is beautifully put together. The cinematography is spot on; their camera “gets” the space very well. They cover the massive plant from nearly every angle, but the focus always remains clearly on the space and its lone inhabitant. As we move through the space and Allan’s thoughts, there are some lovely, low tracks playing to boost us along. Again, they fit the space and the story nicely.

I point all of these technical details out because in my Internet video viewings I find that filmmakers’ egos obscure so many otherwise decent projects. HILL is a work of art, meticulously crafted to tell one man’s very specific story. I am yet to view the other films in the series, but I am excited to check them out. And This Must Be the Place is definitely a series I’m excited to see more of in the future.

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WATCH THIS: “To Dream of Degas”

Jonathan Poritsky on Wednesday, May. 2nd

WATCH THIS is a weekly column which highlights films and filmmakers from around the Web.

Not too long ago, a young woman who I’d met less not a minute prior, told me that I’m “the bad guy” when I mentioned I am a film critic. She went on to tell me that critics are overly academic and never account for how difficult it is to actually make a film. This view of criticism seems to have become more widespread ever since Kevin Smith lashed out at critics on Twitter two years ago, decrying that those who don’t pay to see his films don’t deserve to cut them up. Naturally, I disagree with this viewpoint.

Art, of any discipline, can only be as strong as its criticism. Critics are usually remembered for their harshest writings, but it is often the most critical writings that contribute to the unending conversation about cinema. Is it even possible to think about the rise of New Hollywood without the writings of Pauline Kael and Andrew Sarris? Critics can boost the profile of unknown work, enhance the global discussion of cinema and in some cases challenge filmmakers to make more complex films.

With that in mind, I have found that Web video, on the whole, is lacking in serious widespread criticism. Yes, online filmmakers have their champions, but there is such a glut of content uploaded every day that the critical community can barely keep up. Dated as it may be, the weekly theatrical release paradigm has allowed criticism to flourish alongside it. My goal is to sift through Web videos and, once a week, share with you a film that catches my eye and deserves some close inspection. Hopefully, this space will be a weekly snapshot of what is happening in the online film community.

To kick things off, here is “To Dream of Degas” by Vimeo user elixirix. I was drawn to it because the filmmaker took on the daunting task of making a complete film with the Lomokino, Lomography’s plastic, hand cranked 35mm film camera. The result is extremely effected as the camera can only shoot three to five frames per second, and rather sloppily to boot.

Restraint, however, can be a good thing. The plot of “To Dream of Degas” is very simple and fits nicely with the Lomokino’s style. A woman walks to a playground and then has a balletic reverie. It’s simple, but simple can be a good way to explore the cinematic form.

The soundtrack is sterile compared to the cacophonous frames we are viewing. Almost no two shots are the same color and their framing consistently changes. Sometimes even the size of the frame shifts depending on how the footage was scanned. I wish what we hear jibed with that energy.

The Lomokino is basically a toy, but I’m glad at least a few filmmakers on Vimeo and YouTube have begun experimenting with it. It’s a form that doesn’t work for every story, but I think it has a place and a use. Here’s hoping we see more of it.

Jonathan Poritsky is a film critic and journalist based out of New York City. He is the founder of the candler blog, a film theory and criticism (and other stuff) site, as well as the Arts Editor of Heeb Magazine. Don’t ask him what his favorite film is; it’ll take too long to answer and he’ll say “um” a lot.

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Is SXSW Film Festival The Best Fest?

on Tuesday, Mar. 20th

Jonathan Poritsky covered the 2012 SXSW Film Festival in Austin.

Film festivals are odd beasts. Movie lovers, industry professionals, critics and filmmakers come from all over the world to watch movies, spend some quality with one another and essentially plot out the futures of a few lucky artists. At least that’s the idea. When viewed from the outside, film festivals must seem like silly, self-congratulatory things. If we’re being honest, in a certain sense they are.

So why have I headed to Austin for the past three years to go to the SXSW Film Festival and Conference? This question has been on my mind for the months leading up to this year’s fest and still rattles around my brain now that I’m back in the comfort of my home. What is the point of the expense, the time, and the physical strain?

I should perhaps mention that I cover three major fests a year and the other two, Tribeca and The New York Film Festival, are in my backyard. SXSW is the only one I am able to dedicate whole days to; the others I sort of cover in passing as I go about my daily routines. Many cities have a film fest, and some have many, but there is something quite singular about the show they put on Austin for SXSW. It has a little bit of everything for everyone.

Unlike some other fests, SXSW feels like it is about audience and community enjoyment. Unlike fests where success is measured in distribution deals (though there certainly is that kind of buyer-seller aspect to it) SXSW seems content to draw a big crowd and leave them talking. As such, year in and year out they put together a slate that is a pretty good barometer of where American independent cinema is. These aren’t the films that win all the most Oscars (I believe NYFF holds that honor) or make the most money at the box office. Yet somehow, every year the films that tend to stick with me screened at SXSW.

I saw 20 feature films at this year’s fest, and even that smattering (the fest screened 132 features and 132 shorts) gives a good reading of cinema’s pulse. The fest’s opening night film, Drew Goddard’s “Cabin in the Woods” is a genre bending horror film that was met with great appreciation from the Austin crowd. In advance of SXSW I held this film, produced and co-written by TV super-creator Joss Whedon as an example of festival gluttony, the kind of screening that has more to do with drawing a crowd than upholding any kind of cinematic tenet. What can I say? I was wrong.

I hardly saw any documentaries at this year’s fest, but those I did see at least gave a decent insight into the form. Avi Zev Weider’s Welcome to the Machine, the filmmaker’s rumination on technology after in vitro fertilization yields him and his wife triplets, is something of a mess, albeit one that at the very least takes chances. Weider fails to play with the narrative form of the documentary, but the film offers the kernel of an idea that is definitely interesting, if not cinematically ripe.

Brooklyn Castle, which had its world premiere at SXSW, is the kind of documentary that wins both hearts and awards. Chronicling a year in the lives of junior high school chess players at P.S. 318, a Brooklyn public school that has won more chess championships than any other junior high in the U.S., it is an affecting film that puts a human face to a very political, and volatile, issue: education. I’ll be damned if Brooklyn Castle isn’t short-listed for the Best Documentary Oscar already.

On the narrative side, I saw a few films that I feel privileged to have been at the world premieres of. Jonathan Lisecki’s Gayby is a great romantic comedy with protagonists that don’t fall in love. This story of a straight woman and her gay best friend trying to conceive offers a lot of laughs amid the controversy of its plot. As Lisecki told me when I interviewed him, besides the usual suspects who deride the gay community at every turn, “there are probably some gay people that are mad at me because a gay guy has sex with a woman, but it is a farce.”

Funeral Kings, by brothers Kevin and Matthew Mcmanus, turned out to be one of my great surprises of the fest. I went to the film’s first screening on a whim, but I loved it. For all of its flaws, Funeral Kings manages to tell an emotionally honest story that nails what it feels like to be a fourteen year-old boy.

I had the great pleasure of attending SXSW in 2010 and going to the world premiere of Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture. That film, which was released on DVD last month through the Criterion Collection, felt special when it first played the fest; outstanding, really. Judd Apatow liked it enough to pluck the young Dunham from her world of indie cinema and produce a television show for the budding talent. “Girls,” which begins on HBO April 15th, premiered its first three episodes at SXSW. If the raucous crowd at the Paramount Theater is any indication, it looks like the network has a hit on its hands. The series takes the best of Dunham, Apatow and HBO and swirls them around until you have a deeply affecting, brutally honest and utterly hilarious sitcom. Think “Sex and the City” meets “Dream On” meets “Seinfeld”. Only it’s nothing like any of those shows. Yeah, there, you’ve got it.

Even the worst films I saw had their champions (though the aforementioned Welcome to the Machine had none) which, I think, says a lot more about the film festival than it does about me. There will always be films that I, as a critic, dislike, but what’s harder to find are films that I completely discount that my colleagues rave about. SXSW isn’t afraid to screen films that have a niche audience, films that can’t even be taken seriously by a subset of film lovers (or just me) but definitely work for someone. And that’s what makes it one of the great American film festivals. If you’re looking for a triple-distilled, some would say watered down, slate of films, then look somewhere else. The programmers of SXSW don’t really care if they piss a nerd like me off. If only more fests used that as a working model.

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It’s a ‘Gayby’– Interview with Writer-Director Jonathan Lisecki [SXSW Film]

on Wednesday, Mar. 14th

Jonathan Poritsky is covering the 2012 SXSW Film Festival in Austin.

Jonathan Lisecki’s Gayby, which just had its premiere here at SXSW, is a charming comedy about two best friends, a straight woman and a gay man, trying to have a child together. I saw the film in a packed theater with a crowd that roared with laughter through most of the film. It is, simply, a very funny movie.

Lisecki, who also has a supporting role in the film, is, himself, quite a character. When I sat with him to discuss the film, he had an ear to ear grin most of the time and would cut off into fits of laughter whenever he knew he had a good quip for me. He talks a mile a minute and, as he told me, has an answer for everything. You can instantly tell he loves what he does as a filmmaker; he is having the time of his life here.

That love shows on the screen. “Gayby” is a smart comedy with tightly engineered jokes. The premise alone has a lot of room for comedy, but many filmmakers, especially on their first feature, tend to forget to give a film some real heart outside of its concept. That’s not the case here. Jonathan feels right at home in the feature world, which is great because I think we’ll be seeing some more great work from him in the years to come.

How long has “Gayby” been gestating?

Probably for a long time. Definitely before the short. I had certainly mentioned it to a friend of mine who I originally wanted to play the lead years ago. But ideas come and go. I had an opportunity to make another short in a small span and I thought about her but she wasn’t available at the time, so then I thought about Matt (Wilkas) and Jenn (Harris). I had written the short and I had them come over and we talked about it and then I rewrote it kind of more for them. It was just more fun to do it for them. And they’re also real best friends in real life, which kind of just makes it special.

Writing, re-writing, meeting them and then shooting the short all happened within the space of about two weeks.

Really? Just two weeks?

Yeah, just two weeks. A festival had been like, “Hey, you should make another short. Get something into me.” Sometimes when you have an external deadline it makes something happen a lot faster. (laughs)

It wound up playing Slamdance that year and it played a lot of places. People really liked it. The producer and women I like said, “If you’re going to make a feature that’s the one you should make first because people want to see it.”

So it’s been around forever but it’s definitely had its steps, its journey.

The short is incorporated into the feature?

In a way yes. I mean, the scenes are different. The short had a really heavy ending scene on the roof that we definitely truncated for this because we couldn’t end the movie at that point. The short was just: they meet, they do it, they talk about it after. The movie in a way has those scenes and some of the same dialogue, but some different stuff. It’s done differently.

In a way it’s like the style of the short was very “British ‘Office.'” It had that crazy camerawork and it was super dead-pan comedy. The style of the film is actually like a little different so it makes the scenes different. I like this more. The sex scene in the short is hilarious and will never be able to be topped, but the sex scene in the movie is actually better, I think. It’s more real.

I first saw the short in the McSweeney’s app…

Awesome. They put it out there and now they’ve put it on a Wholphin. It’s on the newest one, number 15. I love those guys. They put out my first short too; they’ve been so supportive.

How was the response to the app?

The McSweeney’s guys are just very supportive. That app was new at the time, I think, or newish. They were starting to say they were going to put some Wholphin films or films that they weren’t going to put on Wholphin but they loved out via that way. I just thought it sounded cool.

They do this thing where the reader’s subscription gets them access to a couple of stories and little short movies. I just thought it sounded like a really interesting way to get to an audience. People definitely responded. I got a lot of contacts after that from people who said nice things about it.

Have you had a film at SXSW before?

I have not. The short played at the Austin Film Festival, but I was in a film last year as an actor. My friend Clay Liford’s movie “Wuss.” I played the coach in that. He is the director of photography for “Gayby.” So I was here last year for the entire festival but I had not had a film here until now. This was a big surprise and a really happy thing that I got in.

How was the film’s premiere?

It was just a few hours ago so I’m still, in a way, decompressing because you are a bundle of nerves before your movie screen’s for the first time ever. During it it’s kind of an out-of-body experience. Right after then you just want to sleep for a month. I haven’t slept in about a year.

It was amazing. This is the absolute perfect festival for a kind of silly comedy with slight political undertones and some heart. This is a great place for me.

Can I call it a romantic comedy?

It is, in a way, a romantic comedy without the actual leads being in a romance. They have a relationship. It’s a friendship, it’s like a “friend-mantic” comedy. I don’t know if there is such a thing.

It’s certainly based on the romantic comedy trope. I mean, they get together, they do something goofy, they break up, they get back together…it has all of that stuff in it. But they also have their own side romances with other characters which I think are kind of fun and silly.

The script seems very tight. How long were you working on this script to get it to this level.

(somewhat embarrassed) I wrote it in 3 weeks. It sounds crazy, but I typed it for 3 weeks is really what happened. In my head I had been writing the script for a year. I had little notes to myself. I sent myself little emails with little lines here and there, little ideas. So basically I collated for 3 weeks but it was years of ideas.

The first draft was 3 weeks in April of last year. Then the producers read it and I did another draft after that with some of their insight. Then the executive producers had some insight. We shot by August, so I think I probably did about 3 or 4 drafts of it with little notes here and there.

The script itself was long. It was 112 pages so the movie itself would have been closer to 2 hours or something, but I decided at the time to just film what I wanted to film and wind up with what I wanted to wind up. So some stuff got cut, but not a lot actually. On the whole, because everyone in the movie speaks so fast, which is the kind of style of comedy I really like, I really like screwball comedies, even though the page count is long we got by with a quicker runtime. It’s 86 minutes but it’s probably like 100 pages of text.

Did you encounter any opposition to the political overtones of the short?

I really didn’t. That’s the great thing. I found opposition nowhere, whether it screened here or Dallas or… You know this short screened everywhere. I don’t want to point out just the South; it played in Jakarta, it played in Tokyo. I think, in a way, comedy is the best way to slide across a point of view. People don’t feel like they’re being spoon-fed a point of view if you’re giving it in a comedy.

I found a lot of acceptance which is amazing. I’m sure there are some people who didn’t play it because they didn’t like that aspect of it, but I didn’t have to encounter that.

There’s the other aspect where there are probably some gay people that are mad at me because a gay guy has sex with a woman, but it is a farce. And the sex scene itself is a disaster.

Had you braced yourself for people not to be opposed to the film?

You know, I’m a gay guy from the Bronx who had to claw his way out of there. People can come at me with that, but I can take care of myself. I can have a conversation and I have a point of view and if you have a different point of view that’s fine, but I’m not in the habit of backing down or losing arguments. I’m prepared for that. If anyone has issues they can come find me at gaybyfilm.com and we can discuss it.

Does the film’s plot come from personal experience?

At one point, this kind of thing was proposed to me by one person. It was definitely for the wrong reason. There was another person I had made kind of a commitment to maybe do this if we were both single at a certain point; when we were in college we talked about it. But she’s not single anymore and she has a child. The funny thing is, I think when she had her child I was, like, “Oh no, that option is no longer available to me.” In a way that’s the time I started thinking about it more and that really coincided with the time I made the short. Sometimes you don’t even know a thing like that is happening but I think my response to losing that option was making a film about it. In a way this film is my baby for now.

What are you working on next?

I have another script that I’d like to work on. I want to experience this film with an audience a little bit first before I jump right on the train again, but I do have something I’d like to make that is also another comedy, probably with a bit of a darker tone. My first short was very dark. Sometimes people don’t realize. They’re like “where’d that guy go?” It was very vicious in a way. So I might revisit that with this next film.

For awhile I just want to show this around and experience it. It’s very fun. From April when I wrote this script up to 2 weeks ago I’ve literally been working on this film non-stop. Just to get to sit with an audience and have them enjoy it is so nice. It’s just so nice to be in a room with people instead of just your laptop.

Do you find there enough opportunities for gay characters in movies?

My next script is not gay-centric. My first short really wasn’t either. They all have gay characters because my life has that. I live in New York where the entire spectrum of humanity is represented. There are people of color in my movie because I know people of color and the one thing I hate is when I come to a film festival and I see indies where every single person is white. It happens all the time. It’s like, “Don’t you know anybody who isn’t white?” It really drives me crazy. I like to represent what I see in the real world. I happen to see a lot of, like, gay guys. (laughs)

My core group of friends and the actors I wanted to work with…there’s quite a few gay guys in there who deserve to have parts, who deserve to not have to play super duper bit parts. I didn’t write this to give opportunities to gay characters, nor do I see a limit. I wrote this for the story first. The next story that I want to tell is not specifically gay but it’s a very specific story that I want to tell. I still want to represent an aspect of humanity that I see in real life. I don’t ever want to do a closed story that doesn’t represent what I see.

Gayby screens again at the SXSW Film Festival this Thursday, March 15th at 5:00PM. You can find more reviews and interviews by Jonathan Poritsky at the candler blog.

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SXSW Film Fest Starts With A Scare

on Monday, Mar. 12th

Jonathan Poritsky is covering the 2012 SXSW Film Festival in Austin. Read his Turnstyle News piece “Don’t Judge a Fest by It’s Centerpieces“.

The following are excerpts from his film reviews of the Joss Whedon produced Cabin In the Woods and Avi Zev Weider’s Welcome to the Machine, the full text of which can be found at the candler blog and Heeb Magazine.

Cabin In The Woods:
How does one even begin to review a film like Cabin in the Woods, whose very premise is a spoiler? That’s the question that has been bugging all the film journos (well, most of them) here at SXSW.

When he introduced the film at the premiere last night, producer and co-writer Joss Whedon implored the audience to enjoy the film and not tell anyone… it’s [ending] after the credits rolled. He recommended we just call it “awesome” and tell our family and friends to see it.

So here’s the thing: this movie is awesome.

Welcome To The Machine:

Weider refuses to make up his mind about what kind of a film he is making. The film weaves multiple talking-head narratives with the story of the filmmaker’s family, but none rise to the occasion of actually telling a story. The film serves as a decent taste of the teachings of its characters, but nothing more.

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To Build The VR Education of Tomorrow One Scholar Turns To The Past

There are plenty of folks in the education technology field who are excited about virtual reality as the next great educational tool.



We’re Closer To Our Photorealistic VR Future Than You’d Think (INTERVIEW)

A look into the virtual world of tomorrow with USC researcher Paul Debevec.


Prepare Yourselves For The Personal VR Video Revolution

Virtual Reality is rapidly approaching a watershed moment.

Ralph Echemendia

Spoiler Alert: Hollywood Isn’t Taking Cyber Security Seriously (LA Film Fest)

Tonight at the Los Angeles Film Festival, squeezed in between movies and red carpet events, a symposium on Cyber Security is being held at the Grammy Museum.

Gumroad Rentals H

Rent Video Straight From Social Media Via Gumroad

The people who brought the “Buy Now” button to Twitter are going all-in on film distribution.