Learn All About the Costumes & Wardrobe Department in the Second Episode of AFC: The Roundtable

Learn all about the world of costuming and wardrobe in the second edition of our spin-off The Roundtable featuring Lauren Driskill (Hunger Games, Goosebumps) and Dana Konick (Roanoke: Search for the Lost Colony, The Candy Shop)!

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Introducing AFC: The Pitch, the Newest Show in the Atlanta Film Chat Family!

Introducing a brand new series in the Atlanta Film Chat family! AFC co-host Molly Coffee, owner of Zombie Cat Productions, is gearing up to make her first feature film and you're along for the ride. Join her through each stage of making the movie through concept, script, shooting, editing, and beyond. In each episode of the podcast she will pitch her current progress to other female filmmakers in the area so they can judge her progress and give notes to help her make the best film possible!

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Review: DAMSELS IN DISTRESS

Whit Stillman has returned to feature filmmaking after a 14 year absence with his latest movie Damsels in Distress. The reaction from those who were able to see the film upon its early release has ranged from bemused nostalgic welcoming to callous rebuffs from those immune to the charms of Stillman’s affectionate observations of the "urban haute bourgeoisie", dubbed UHBs in his classic first film Metropolitan. Times have changed but, maybe thankfully, Stillman’s characters don’t seem to have astutely noticed.

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Notes from a Festival Programmer: How Your Trailer May Kill Your Chances of Being Accepted

Movie Posters and Trailers. Two marketing tools that are nearly as old as cinema itself, with posters going back hundreds of years when you link its lineage to the theater. Of the two, Poster has become a (lost) art form unto herself. Unlike her marketing sibling, Trailer, Poster can't use clips from a film, or sound, or narration, to convey what a movie is or what it's like. She knows that she can never--well not never, maybe rarely...like super duper rarely---distill a 90 minute story line down into one image. Astute, she's skipped trying to tell you what the story is, and she's honed in on recreating the experience of a film.

To that end, Poster has earned herself a reputation as having the ability to be iconic, even avant-garde. She can be mysterious, she can be daring, she can be bold, she can be sexy. She's understood that when she does her job well, when she connects on an emotional level, a visceral response will entice even the jaded to look a bit deeper.

Her brother though, he's a lucky ass bastard because he can use any clip he wants from a film. The problem is, Trailer often forgets that conveying the ups and downs of a 90 minute movie actually becomes both more complicated, simplified, and riskier.

The simple? The audience can now see the story, the genre and quality of a film even more clearly. "Hey, it's a comedy, I'll show a pratfall here." "It's a romance, here's a guy yelling a man or woman's name in the rain." "Insert obligatory man jumping something dramatically with a determined face shot here to indicate there'll be action." Audiences see, they process, they understand...but, wait...

The complicated? Good films, and great films most of all, are rarely that easy to break down. The more reductive the clips, the more likely Trailer is to over or under sell what a film is. If he leaves out a key moment or three, he could entirely mislead an audience into thinking a romance is a comedy, or a drama film is all action. If what he creates doesn't piece together just right, he can effectively tell you what the story is, yet bungle conveying what experiencing that story will be like.

The risky? Audiences can now make a decision if the film is something they one, want to see, two, will likely enjoy, and three, want to share--for good or bad--with others, even if it is or isn't for them. And most important, Trailer can't hide the quality of a film. Sub-par picture, sound, acting, that will always come through.

So what does that have to do with being accepted into a film festival? Programmers are no different than anyone else. Just as it is with audiences going to a local multiplex, we look at trailers and we instantly decide if films are ones we think we want to see, as programmers and as film lovers, and if we think will enjoy them. We can also decide if it's a film we believe we can share with our festival audience, even if we personally aren't reacting to the story or subject matter.

However a regular audience member isn't watching 2000 films to decide which 140 they want to watch on Friday. And even if they skip a film, they can probably choose to take a chance on it at a later date. Or they may even have someone else persuade them that they should take a chance. Once we have formed an opinion, it's been formed. It can be altered, it can be changed, but there's almost no going back to one and reevaluating a film from scratch. As such, there's a reason I and most of my screening committee try to avoid seeing or reading too much about some film if we can do that (it's why we always want at least two eyes on a film).

Unfortunately, too many films submitted to festivals either have misleading trailers--stop playing by the Hollywood big budget marketing playbook and you would be much better off. Or they do not have strong trailers at all.

So far this season I've seen at least three films that a filmmaker sent me a trailer for that had me pumped, and I walked away a little disappointed that the film was nothing like the trailer. Those films aren't out, but they are not as high on my list as when I watched the trailer. Based off the trailers alone, I could see telling audiences they need to see X film for Y reasons, because Y reasons was in the trailer and I know their interest would be piqued. Afterwards, I had to throw out Y reasons because that wasn't what the films really were and to a greater extent not even about. Now my Z reasons are formed not by the film, but by me taking those Y reasons with me as I watched the film and having those shaped and reshaped as I react.

Film festivals, having festival in their descriptors, should be about experience first and foremost. It's about sitting in the dark for hours and hours and being moved to action if it's a social doc, to tears if it's a drama or laughter if it's a comedy. The films I personally react most strongly too, aren't the ones I just think are just of great quality, it's the ones I'm betting (rightly or wrongly) an audience will react positively to on an instinctual level.

As any film goer can tell you, there are few things more exciting than having a film exceed the promise of its trailer. They will also tell you that there are few things more disappointing than a film that doesn't.

Fake Wood, Reel Talent

Atlanta has some excellent Film Collectives. Obviously, Film Collectives are nothing new, they’ve been around for years and in many places but in Atlanta they occupy a special place in the independent film scene. We’ve had a relatively recent history of success stories that came from film collectives from Atlanta . The thing with collectives is that it often seems hard to maintain a high level of commitment and energy to keep them going. From famous collectives like Zoetrope to Atlanta’s own Pop Films, film collectives often energize a group of filmmakers to achieve more together than they can working separately. Fake Wood Wallpaper is a collective that has been working together for a few years on Atlanta ’s film scene. With shorts like The Adventure which screened in film festivals such as Rotterdam International Film Festival among others as well as their cult-favorite feature Blood Car they displayed a unique style and commitment to quality productions.

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The Film is a Ghost: An Encounter With “General Orders No. 9”

The notion that General Orders No. 9 is a ghost was born from the necessity to communicate at once the mystery it preserves, the perspective it exhibits, and the polarized reactions it will continue to yield. For some, this equation reinforces their belief that the film is a transparent spook; they can see right through it. It has no factual evidence for its absurd claims, and those who confess to find meaning in it have only witnessed an imaginary projection within their own mind.

For others, they will encounter a ghost; it will be beautiful and haunting. And, even if they don't like what it says, it will speak to them. Their experience with the film will be impossible to fully communicate to others, but the spell has been cast.

General Orders director Robert Persons won't deny he's trying to cast a spell, but he's not quick to confirm what it is exactly. In our conversation he stressed the importance of mystery in General Orders. His devotion to the film's mystery was evident by the caution he took when speaking of it. At one point I – somewhat rudely – snickered at his fear that the film could be spoiled by talking about it too much. If you couldn't guess, it is not a film that relies heavily upon plot points, but after viewing the film I knew exactly what he meant.

Of course, mystery surrounds Persons as well. He grew up in the middle of Georgia, but never said exactly where. He's not a filmmaker that has moved up through the production ranks or put in his time networking within a film community. He's not a young film school graduate who writes a screenplay every 3 months and always has one in his back pocket. Nor is there a film collective who claims him as a member. He literally has appeared to us, seemingly from out of nowhere, film in hand. (In a poetic accident, my recording of our 199 minute conversation was not saved. Some details have been missed.

The spell Persons has cast is old and dead. That does not mean irrelevant or useless, it means the film speaks to us as a force from the past. Half of us were not alive to remember life before the Interstate was built. Many of us have never known someone who knew someone who was alive during the Civil War. Certainly it is difficult for any of us to imagine a time when Georgia was stretched all the way to the Mississippi, or when Native Americans traced the hoofprints of deer. Yet, these are the apparitions that come to us. They arrive in the form of a maps, skulls, sculpture or red die. They warn us about the things to come, and show us signs we don't quite understand. General Orders is a spirit, left behind in this world, unable to rest until these matters are resolved:

What should the new map look like? Which totem will watch over us?

Persons admits that some parts of General Orders are still a mystery to him. Some of the sequences are literally filmed accounts of dreams he stole to waking life. It is a film about his home, and while knowing more about him does not clarify the film, it does provide a map on how to approach it. Persons came at filmmaking in the same way filmmaking came to us: at the intersection of all other art forms. His background in painting, music, and especially poetry met when he discovered Virginia-Highland's “Movies Worth Seeing” video rental store. At this junction he lived off of a steady diet of transcendental cinema, devouring Herzog, Tarkovsky, Bresson, and Haneke (to name a few). So strong was the influence of these films that once the near 40 year old began work on General Orders, he no longer wanted to watch any movies until it was complete. Now, 11 years later, he admits, “I like these Apatow movies. I would watch those.”

It is safe to point out – without any fear of spoilage – that General Orders No. 9 bears no resemblance to The 40 Year Old Virgin. However, I believe Persons is as skilled at creating dense, psycho-geographical, visually stunning film poems as Apatow is at creating crude-but-smart, character driven, adult comedies. Still, there is more to be desired in Persons work. General Orders proves without a doubt that he has no trouble establishing tone, and he understands how to pace a film (a tip of the hat to producer/editor Phil Walker and composer Chris Hoke). No one can dispute the awards the film has received for cinematography. But even Persons surmised that he wants to make films that connect deeper with audiences than General Orders.

For my part, I felt that General Orders sometimes creates mystery by narrowly avoiding questions, thereby leaving some claims unsupported. But as we have learned from science and art, we are no danger running out of mysteries, and mystery is born out of discovery. I'm not willing to say here specifically what moments of the film felt unexplored, but I will say that the passages that concern the city felt intentionally naive. Perhaps that's a product of the narrator's anger, poetic license, my relationship to Atlanta or maybe the point is lost on me, but I have a feeling that anyone who has affection for city life will feel their affinity is under attack.

Still, I remain floored by his command over the material, his continuity of thought, the surprises along the way, the fear I felt during the city passages, and the beauty of Georgia that is invisible from I-75 to Tampa. It is a film that is in all ways refreshing. Fortunately it has been labeled a documentary because it reshapes our expectations of the form, and unfortunately because many will only see that it is not aligned with existing expectations. However, this subversion must continue.

During that awkward part of any interview where you have to ask “what's next?,” Mr. Persons shared with me his excitement that he's “been starting to get ideas lately.” This simple confession was very encouraging. I look forward to seeing more of his work, but I hope I don't have to wait another 11 years. Until then, I will see General Orders No. 9 at least several more times to see if the mystery will unravel.

I hear, that if you visit the old Cinefest Film Theater on the Georgia State campus this Friday and Saturday at 7pm you might see a ghost. (Full schedule of possible sightings below.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZRrhz1vMkY

SCHEDULE Friday 8/12 5:30 pm, 7:00 pm - Q&A AFTERWARDS Saturday 8/13 3:30 pm, 5:30 pm, 7:00 pm - LIVE MUSIC / Q&A Sunday 8/14 3:30 pm, 5:30 pm Monday through Friday 8/15-8/19 5:30pm, 7:00pm Saturday 8/20 3:30pm, 5:30pm, 7:00pm Sunday 8/21 3:30pm, 5:30pm, 7:00pm

 

 

 

ATLFF 2011 - Fall into it

Most people know Curtis Jackson as 50 Cent, a hugely successful rapper with Platinum albums and a humdinger of a survival story that tops even the most hardcore gangsta Rap peers. Yes, he was shot 9 times and got stronger.

What people may not know is how serious Curtis Jackson is at becoming a thespian. Sure, every rapper ACTS, we see them all the time in movie and television. However, most don’t take as much of their budding careers into their own hands the way Jackson does.

In his latest film, 50 Cent transforms his famously buff physique into a frail cancer patient. Losing 60 pounds for the role, photos shocked many when they were released depicting the emaciated Jackson . Such dedication to a role has often been lauded in the past, DeNiro’s famous weight gain for Raging Bull; Christian Bale’s shedding of rough 60 lbs for The Machinist. However, when it came to 50 Cent, there’s always some skepticism to be found. He can’t simply take his work as an actor seriously it seems. He must be pulling a stunt for publicity. It seems like a dangerous way to court publicity for someone who arguably doesn’t need it.

Atlanta filmgoers were able to judge for themselves as the movie in question, Things Fall Apart screened at the Atlanta Film Festival this year. Produced by 50 Cent’s production company Cheetah Vision along with Hannibal Pictures, the film is directed by Mario Van Peeples (New Jack City) and stars Jackson, Ray Liotta, Lynn Whitfield as well a Van Peeples. The story follows a promising college football player who’s struck with tragic circumstances at the height of his collegiate career.

 

I was able to discuss the movie as well as other topics with Hannibal Pictures who produced the film with Cheetah Vision Films.

 

Questions

What drew you in particular to this project?

 

The screenplay was a very touching and powerful script with a challenging role for Curtis. We had recently worked with him and producers Randall Emmett and George Furla on Gun and were looking to collaborate on a new project. Mario Van Peebles is a director and actor whose work we admire, and we knew that he would be able to pull off an emotional and compelling film. Still, it is not exactly our bread and butter; we specialize in selling action thrillers, and if there were any reservations about Things Fall Apart, they derived from the movie falling outside of our particular area of success. When we saw the completed film we knew we had made the right decision to come onboard. We saw the weight that Curtis lost, but that only superficially captures his dedication to the role and to the story. Seeing the film that Mario crafted, the performances – everyone in the movie is on their A game. Lynn Whitfield, Ray Liotta, Tracey Heggins, Cedric Sanders – it was like everyone fed off of Curtis and Mario’s dedication and vision for the film.

Were there any concerns about Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson playing the lead in this film which is a departure from the roles he’s taken on in many of his previous movies?

 

Never. And if there were, Curtis would have erased them, anyway. He’s that confident and that driven, with a tireless and infectious work ethic. Curtis wrote it, produced it, stars in it and largely financed it.

 

Hannibal Pictures is known for it’s ability to make foreign sales, yet Urban films are said to be a hard sell. Was there an element that set this movie apart from most Urban films?

 

Yes, the movie takes place in an urban setting but the setting of a film doesn’t qualify as the film’s genre classification. If the themes are universal, then a movie will translate to wide audience, but – fairly or not -- the “Urban” film label seems designed as a signal to “mainstream” audiences that the movie does not relate to them – it’s a niche term. Things Fall Apart is not a niche movie. It’s a movie about humanity, bravery, honorability and integrity, about a man who, through horrific circumstances, comes to realize that he has not always been the best person he could be and through the dramatic physical transformation will learn and decide to make people around him shine and fulfill their life. Another genre restriction that some have tried to apply to the film is “Sports movie,” when in fact the sport of football functions solely as a metaphor for a personal dream – something that anyone can relate to. The film is a crowd-pleasing inspirational, emotional journey. I think what sets it apart from most films in general is the Curtis’ determination but it goes much deeper than that. When you take Curtis’ character, Deon, out of context, he’s not a great guy. He’s selfish, driven only by his own agenda, and pretty blind to the ways his behavior affects those around him. On the page, this was much more obvious, and it struck me that there was a chance Deon could come across as unlikeable. I thought it was cool that Curtis would write and want to play such a flawed character. One of the things that keeps Deon from being unlikeable is an understated vulnerability – even in the early “top of the world” scenes. But the ultimate reason the movie and the character arc works is because of Mario Van Peebles’ excellent direction. The story is told strictly from Deon’s point of view, a brilliant decision that allows the audience to learn about Deon’s flaws as he discovers them, at the lowest points of his life. Mario’s direction inspires empathy for Deon and reinforces his ultimate redemption.

 

What other projects does Hannibal Pictures have in release or coming soon?

US distributor Anchor Bay will be releasing The Big Bang theatrically in New York and Los Angeles on May 13. The stylistic thriller stars Antonio Banderas as a private eye whose search for a missing woman lands him in hot water with a trio of tough LAPD homicide detectives, played by Thomas Kretschmann, William Fichtner, and Delroy Lindo. It’s a wild, roller-coaster of a movie with great supporting performances from Sam Elliott, Sienna Guillory, Autumn Reeser, and Snoop Dogg – to name a few. We’re very excited about the release and believe it’s Antonio Banderas’ best performance in years. Casino Jack, starring Kevin Spacey in a Golden Globe nominated performance as Jack Abramoff, was just released on DVD by Fox and Hannibal new brand Classics will release Touchback starring Kurt Russell and Brian Presley and Set Up with Bruce Willis, Curtis Jackson and Ryan Philippe. Additionally, we’re always developing new projects such as Sleight of Hand, USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage, Escobar, Amityville: The Legacy 3D, and Red Squad with great stories and talent while continuing to please audiences all over the World and build our catalogue.

 

More information on Things Fall Apart and other Hannibal Pictures films can be found at www.hannibalpictures.com

No Little feat; Bret Wood completes another indie feature

Bret Wood is an example of an atypical filmmaker for the Atlanta scene. He’s a scholar of classic film and someone bold enough to make period pieces on an ultra-low budget. The fact that he’s also been an enthusiastic participant in the popular community film activities like the 48 Hour Film Project right next to the weekend warrior auteurs show that he’s also willing to have fun with filmmaking too.

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