personal demons

Turnstyle Hangout with Filmmaker Adam Cosco

on Tuesday, May. 21st

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Adam Cosco is a American Film Institute graduate with mission. His vision: to make a his debut feature Personal Demons–a film about "two neighbors with haunted pasts" who'd "kill for a second chance–through Kickstarter, all while taking the crowdfunding site back for indie filmmakers.

The crowdfunding goal: $100,000.

The hashtag: #takeindieback

Cosco's concept trailer and directing reel showcase polished, confident work. The premise of the feature looks rock solid. Yet has he bitten off more than he can chew? Is the story really indie vs. celebrity?

We aim to find out tomorrow in a LIVE Google Hangout, right here at this very URL.

Follow Noah Nelson on Twitter (@noahjnelson)

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AFI Directing Workshop for Women Screening This Monday

on Friday, May. 3rd

Eight short films by emerging women directors will screen at the Director's Guild in Los Angeles this coming Monday night.

The American Film Institute's AFI Directing Workshop for Women (DWW) is holding their annual screening at the DGA theater, and amongst the crop of filmmakers is friend of the blog Lauren Ludwig. You might remember Ludwig from our coverage of the Hollywood Fringe Festival.

We've covered the DWW before, and now's your chance to see just what all the fuss is really about.

Those in Los Angeles who are interesed in attending can reserve a spot for the 7:30 PM screening at AFI's DWW site. (Personal note: I wish I could make it, but have a prior commitment.)

The full press release follows after the jump.

Follow Noah Nelson on Twitter (@noahjnelson) (more…)

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Goin’ To The Movies: AFI Fest Starts Tonight

on Thursday, Nov. 1st

Is it for the simple reason that the American Film Institute’s AFI Fest Presented By Audi* is in my backyard that it winds up being my favorite film festival of the year? Is it the fact that by being so close to the Awards season they get to host major premieres? Or could it be that by being at the end of the year’s cycle of films they get to cherry pick from all the other festivals to create an awesome program slate which they then offer up to the public for free.

Of course it’s all those things.

But you don’t care about that. You just care about movies, so here’s what I’m psyched to see at this year’s AFI, as always it’s a hodge-podge of genre, indie, and foreign films that have caught my eye… (more…)

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Long Way Left To Go: Women Directors Face Uphill Battle in Hollywood

Amanda Mae Meyncke on Tuesday, Aug. 28th

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This week film journalist and filmmaker Amanda Mae Meyncke takes a look at the uphill battle women directors face in Hollywood through the lens of the American Film Institute’s Directing Workshop for Women and her own personal experience. First up: the DWW through the eyes of one of its current participants.

Women directors make up less than 10% of all working directors in Hollywood, and the AFI Directing Workshop for Women has been doing its steady best to change that number. Since the program’s inception in Los Angeles in 1974, there’s been plenty of famous faces in the ranks, and a high percentage of the alumna have moved on to directing features, television shows and creating their own singular works.

Lauren Ludwig is the prime example of a women director who doesn’t take no for an answer, and makes things happen without waiting for the perfect moment. One of the eight women chosen to undertake the AFI Directing Workshop for Women this year, she’s an accomplished playwright, radio and theatre director as well as a writing coach who has won numerous awards for her theatrical work. Her short film Burns Brightly, created during the workshop, finished production this summer. We recently caught up with Ludwig to catch a glimpse of what the program was like on the inside.

The question of why there are so few female directors working in Hollywood is a complicated one, and Ludwig believes that the problem begins for many female directors in film school when more forceful, and often male, voices are rewarded with attention, while women may be afraid of speaking up, or discouraged. She acknowledges that the problem is a systemic one and that there is no clear-cut solution to getting women into positions of authority within the industry.

“Women need to be told they are storytellers and encouraged to tell those stories,” said Ludwig.

(more…)

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The Evolution of Indie Director Joe Swanberg

on Wednesday, Dec. 7th

Director Joe Swanberg is the most prolific indie director in America today. With six releases on the festival and art-house circuit  in 2011, Swanberg has evolved from a one-release-a-year mumblecore auteur  to being the lynchpin of the American indie film scene. Pick any indie release in the past year and there’s a good chance you’ll find Swanberg’s name somewhere in the credits, even if it’s just in the “thank you” slate.

While some filmmakers will start with a question they want to answer or a statement they want to make, Swanberg’s work has a different origin point. “Since the beginning, and still today, my main motivation for wanting to put the time and energy into making a movie is to collaborate with certain people,” Swanberg says. “Of the movies that I made last year, Uncle Kent was very specifically created as an excuse and a reason to collaborate with Kent Osbourne, and The Zone was a reason to work with Sophia (Takal) and Larry (Levine) who I hadn’t worked with before.”

At the AFI Fest last month Swanberg’s The Zone premiered, completing a three film thematic cycle (the “Full Moon trilogy”) that meditates on the creative process. Films about filmmaking can be tedious for all but the most dedicated of cinephiles to get through, but the three deeply introspective films lay bare a process that is psychologically grueling. Each film compares the emotional fallout of sexual relationships with the fallout that came from the intimate process of making a Joe Swanberg film.

For Swanberg’s first films  — from 2005’s Kissing On the Mouth to 2009’s Alexander the Last — he “would rent an apartment and all the actors would live together for a month and we’d sort of very leisurely put the film together with lots of breaks and days off and time to think about stuff.”

Those films built him a following, and expanded his pool of potential collaborators. But Swanberg realized his process had major drawbacks. The close quarters filmmaking lead to serious problems for cast and crew. “Problems in the interpersonal dynamics between people and problems with pushing people’s boundaries and comfort zones.” This became  the thematic raw material for the “Full Moon” cycle.

Swanberg found himself facing logistical issues. Constrained by actors whose schedules weren’t flexible enough for his old process. If he wanted to follow his muse he had to change. “I sort of retaught myself how to work,” says the director, who took most of 2010 off. For Uncle Kent he had his lead, Osbourne, for just six days.

Joe Swanberg on set.

“I really had to know what I wanted to get going into it and I also had to figure out how to work that quickly after being used to that sort of very relaxed pace. But once I did it I realized that I really liked working that way and that it was sort of finally keeping at the pace that I had always sort of wanted to work at.”

While the pace of his filmmaking has changed the core process, improvisation around a scene with a collaborative cast has not. One of the big challenges with constructing an improvised narrative on a film schedule is the requirement to shoot out of order because of actors’ schedules and location availability.

“It really dictates what the finished film winds up being,” Swanberg said. “I kind of liken it to building a jigsaw puzzle. You look for the edge pieces first and then try and sort of build the frame before you start trying to fill it in. So based on the first few days of any of my shoots, whatever we end up getting, whatever scenes we shoot that I’m happy with those sort of become skeleton pieces that I can build the rest of the movie around.”

It’s not just his actors’ schedules that have pushed Swanberg away from the leisurely pace of his earlier films.

“Part of the reason why I’m working so fast is because I’m a dad and because I want to be at home with my son as much as possible. Now I don’t feel like being away from home for a month.”

“It’s also made me think about time in a different way. Once a year your birthday rolls around and you think about time. Time passing. With a baby you’re very aware of time on a week to week basis and a month to month basis. There’s sort of always these little mile markers that are happening. I’ve been very conscious of time ever since my wife got pregnant, and that has coincided with this explosion in productivity. So I think that the things must be linked. My awareness that time is passing combined with my desire to make more stuff.”

Swanberg hasn’t just revised his filmmaking process, but has cast an eye towards how his work is distributed as well. The director is gearing up a subscription service that will provide his festival circuit cultivated audience with box sets of his work, including as-yet-unreleased material.

“We’re probably at the very tail end of the life span of DVD, but I still think that as of right now it’s sort of been the format that best fit what we were going for. And this kind of object itself, the box containing not just the movies but records and photo books and all these other kinds of things would be its own little project. Its own piece of art that’s not easily duplicatable.”

Swanberg has partnered with film and record label Factory 25 after striking up a conversation with the label’s founder Matt Grady at SXSW this year. The materials for the subscription service are beginning to go to print. In an age when filmmakers are struggling to find ways to sustain their work and expand their audiences beyond the festival and art- house crowds, the seemingly tireless Swanberg’s work ethic may just set the model for the indie scene that he’s become such an integral part of.

Swanberg’s Caitlin Plays Herself is currently making the art-house rounds with a stop at Los Angeles’ Downtown Independant next week.

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Extraterrestrial [AFI FEST REVIEW]

on Friday, Nov. 4th

The Spanish film Extraterrestrial is the kind of smart, funny, and human science fiction that I wished we saw more of in the United States. If director Nacho Vigalondo’s debut Timecrimes was a twisty, plot driven examination of how regret can drive a man to madness, then this film — which begins the morning after giant flying saucers appear in the sky — is the character driven counterpoint.

Like the director’s first film, Extraterrestrial takes advantage of a genre conceit to push the characters to the emotional limit, all the while bringing a playful sense of humor to bear. I laughed more with this film than I have with any American comedy this year. Even Bridesmaids.

Julio (Julian Villagran) wakes up after a wild night in Madrid in an unfamiliar, stylish apartment with a girl way out of his league (Michelle Jenner) making her way about the place in little more than a shirt. As the awkward early evening — yes it was one of those nights — plays itself out, the two discover that a mothership is hovering a few miles away. Oh, and her name just happens to be Julia. Quite the coincidence, that.

This is the point in an American movie where Shia La Bouef jumps on a stolen motorcycle and races across the countryside, dodging government agents and the shape-shifting alien invasion force alike. (If you see this rolling out of theaters in 2013 you know who deserves a royalty check*.)

Thankfully for us our mismatched pair stay close to home, and are soon joined by Julia’s lovesick neighbor Angel and her crusading boyfriend (whoops!) Carlos. With the characters assembled Vigalondo puts the quartet in a pressure cooker of half-truths, outright lies, and paranoia exasperated by the fact that they are cut off from the world.

This is the point in an American indie film where the characters detach from each other to brood and look wistfully towards the sky as pillow shots of empty streets buffer dialog-less scenes, while the writer-director-lead spins their wheels coming up with what should happen before they hit the third act break.

Not here. Vigalondo’s cast members derive equal parts comedy and pathos from their situation, trading revealing looks on the sly while running their mouths with pure bunkum to keep each other off balance. There’s a lot of the French romantic farce in this film, photographed with a naturalist’s eye and paced brilliantly through to the oh-so-human conclusion. This is the kind of small film that should be studied by aspiring writers and genre fans alike.

If you are looking for a special effects tour-de-force, then look elsewhere. But if you want to see one of the best sci-fi films in an era of great, human scale genre pictures, you need to make contact with Extraterrestrial.

Extraterrestrial [EXTRARERRESTRE], (Spain, 2011). Spanish with English subtitles. Written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo screens again at the AFI Fest 2011 presented by Audi on November 7th at 10:30 PM.

*Ah, who am I kidding. There were 18 pitches like that making their way about this town this afternoon alone.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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