Saturday, April 26, 2008

Music, Peace

Seeing the documentary PLAYING FOR CHANGE: Peace Through Music, was truly an uplifting experience. I got to see it at a public screening, courtesy of one of Tribeca's programmers who walked me in (my pass this year gets me to press & industry screenings only), which made a big difference, as it was great to see the audience applaud after each song as if they were at a concert...

Filmmakers Jonathan Walls and Mark Johnson literally travelled across the world in search of virtuosic street musicians who played for freedom and peace. Taking the song STAND BY ME as one of the anchors of the film, sung originally by an old street musician in Santa Monica California, and using it as the template for more than 35 streets musicians from Nepal to Amsterdam and from Tel Aviv to Cape Town, who, each, sang their own version of the song along with the taped version from Santa Monica, they created a magical musical piece that spans continents, generation, cultures, economics and religions. And that was just the start...Pretty amazing. The standing ovation at the end of the film was one of the many indications at the screening how moved the audience was. The final treat, when the filmmakers walked to the front for Q&A and invited some of the street musicians we have just seen, from Amsterdam, Paris, Brazil...the applause were deafening. Good experience.

Following the screening the Kodak reception at the Filmmakers Lounge was a nice extension. Even though there was no music there, there was a good mix of industry folks, from the Director of Film at the Consulate General of Israel to filmmakers from Cuba, Australia, France, and of course, NY, and so again, there was a sense of global togetherness.

But it was at the Netflix party later on which celebrated the film CHEVOLUTION, about the commercialization of the CHE image throughout the world, where more of the film community came together. Talking to producer Ted Hope (THE ICE STORM, IN THE BEDROOM, 21 GRAMS, THE SAVAGES) about his new project, which he is intent to shoot in NY (thanks in big part to the new tax incentive that has recently come through in NY), we discussed the possibility of the film shooting in the Hudson Valley, and, crossing my fingers, it looks good!!! Stay tuned, but if all goes well, that will be a great economic boost to the local economy. Other folks, from Liesl Copland of Netflix, to folks from Cinetic Media, Killer Films, Magnolia Pictures, and many others rounded up the night to the lively tunes of a Cuban band, who, by the way, kept on playing songs by the musician who scored many of WFF's alum Hugo Perez's films. Hugo, a great intellectual filmmaker who transforms when he hears the sounds of his youth, could not leave the party until its very end as he loved the music so much.

And on that "musical" note, let me end for now. Until next time.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Tribeca's First Day

Well, my first day has (finally) come to an end. I'm tired...Attending a film festival in NYC is unlike any other experience. You have the whole city to take into account... It takes over, and you have to try hard to stay focused, not to mention navigate everything. Last year Tribeca was all over the city, and everyone complained, so they certainly made an effort this year to keep it concentrated, but still, you have to walk at least 10 blocks from one thing to another, and trying to figure out what is where is a task all on its on.

The apartment I'm staying at, courtesy of one of my wonderful friends from Upstate, is situated perfectly not more than 10 blocks or so from most industry related venues. And so, after registering both at the press headquarters (very hard to find by the way, after finding it myself I ended up helping a few foreign press reps who were wandering about on the street totally lost, find it, as it was really sort of hidden...), and Industry Headquarters, situated in what they call The Target Filmmakers Lounge - a "red" room filled with Target red and white furniture and snacks that I really never want to eat; cookies, chips, candy...I ventured to see some movies.

The first film I saw at the Press & Industry screenings was WAR, LOVE, GOD & MADNESS. A surprisingly good documentary about the war in Iraq seen through a fiction filmmaker who was trying desperately to make a film in war torn Iraq from 2003 to 2005. The narrative he was shooting ended up being Iraq's entry to the Academy Awards that year. And the docs was very high energy and compelling, with some tragic, or painful results.

Next on the agenda was the British film A BOY. Here too I was surprised for the better. A nice, moving film, with principal actor who was, frankly, quite amazing. That guy will go far, I'm sure of it.

Coming out of the theater though I was talking to a film critic friend (whose name I should not mention here), who told me this was the first Tribeca film she did not walk out of... ouch...

Well, party at Apple Store in Soho was next on the list. And that was a fun one. Granted, the line to get in was around the block, but once you got in, it was great fun. Although I did not lay eyes on her myself, the word was that Madonna was in the house... Great party, huge space (filled with top of the line Macs, everyone, including me, was checking their e-mails), with plenty to drink and eat, and lots of filmmakers and industry folks. It was good to connect with many who I have not seen for awhile, from sponsors, filmmakers, press, industry. Good party. Oh, and my former assistant, Rachel Katz, who also travelled to Sundance with me, and who now works for Tribeca, was there as well. So how can you possibly go wrong?

Time to look through my schedule and figure out the next day. I do know I have a meeting scheduled at the Filmmakers Target Lounge at 9:00 am tomorrow, and that I have the Netflix party tomorrow night. Need to look at the rest on the agenda.

Until next time then.

Monday, April 21, 2008

A couple more days

With only a couple of days before the Tribeca Film Festival starts, and many of the pre-fest press screenings already in full swing, I'm trying to get my bearings and begin to figure out plans for Tribeca this year. A nice friend is allowing me to stay at her apartment in the village, so thats all great, wonderful location, beautiful apartment (although the wifi there might be sketchy...), I'm feeling good about that.

This year many of the venues will be around the Village area, not far from where I'll be staying, so I'm looking forward to walking everywhere, from screening venues to screening venues, and from filmmakers hospitality lounge to party locations.I have some of my party invites in place, although I'm sure more will come within the next couple of days.

I'm going through the press & industry screening schedule now. There are so many films that I'll try to see in between meetings and parties. Shall I go to see my friend Amos Poe's new film EMPIRE II which was inspired by Andy Warhol's 1964 film EMPIRE? Its 3 hours long, but supposed to be quite magnificent. There is a special screening of the film at Tribeca, I should try to see it.

There is also my friend Tom Donahue's new art documentary GUEST OF CINDY SHERMAN which I'll definitely try to see, followed by a party.

Then there is the new narrative BALL DON'T LIE co starring our good friend Melissa Leo which I should definitely catch.

Also, the New York Governor's Office for Motion Picture & Television Development will be holding a day long event at the filmmakers lounge, I'll be sure to attend with plenty of promotional material for the festival and the film commission, trying to lure filmmakers to shoot their next film in the Hudson Valley! With record number of productions hitting our area in the next few months, it is becoming easier and easier to lure some of the best films up here.

Much more to get ready for. Until next time.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Tribeca Film Festival knocking on Bill Plympton's door

Woodstock Film Festival animation programmer Bill Plympton, one of America's most renowned and innovative animators, is getting ready for the world premiere of his new feature IDIOTS AND ANGELS.   The film sketches a Lynchian dark comedy about a morally bankrupt man scrabbling to hide the good in himself - which manifests itself in a pair of angel wings that just won't go away.  I have not seen it yet, but from everything I know about it so far, its supposed to be really great, a bit reminiscent of PERSEPOLIS.

Bill is always so cool and collected, it has been fun to see him getting excited and nervous about his upcoming premiere.  He and I talked a few times in the past few weeks as he's been getting ready, talking about the right PR representation for the film, sales reps, getting the buyers to come see the film...  I mean, as far as I'm concerned, everyone knows and loves Bill!  I know they will all come, who could possibly miss it? But premieres are always nerve wrecking no matter what, and you always have to do as much as you possibly can for your film.  Even Bill...  I plan to do my little best and invite all the buyers I personally know to come and join me at Bill's first screening at Tribeca and at the party to follow.  Until then, I keep my fingers crossed for him as I'd love nothing more than to hear that IDIOTS AND ANGEL sold immediately after its first screening.  So here is to Bill!

Of course I hope to show his film in Woodstock!  We'll see what happens after the dust settles following Tribeca.

In the meantime, there are many other films and filmmakers connected to the Woodstock Film Festival and the Hudson Valley region who will be participating in Tribeca, each one with his or her exciting story.   I've been so busy with work on the Woodstock Film Festival these days, with its various year round screenings and activities, that I did not get the chance to wrap my brain around the Tribeca programming, activities, parties and networking yet, but I will do so soon. I look forward to seeing many Woodstock alumni at Tribeca and discover many exciting new works.