Pink Skies and Poetic Artifacts: DP Linus Sandgren on La La Land

Early in La La Land, Emma Stone’s aspiring actress rises from a restaurant conversation about the unpleasantness of contemporary moviegoing and sprints to the Rialto Theatre to take in Rebel Without a Cause with Ryan Gosling’s intractably traditionalist jazz pianist. The burst of exuberance doesn’t last. The Rialto later closes down and as Gosling waxes poetic about jazz’s declining cultural relevance you begin to feel that for La La Land jazz is just a surrogate for the state of film itself. La La Land is an ode to the magic of movies – at a time when going to the movies has rarely felt less magical. But I’m not going to prattle on with another “Do Movies Still Matters” diatribe. I can…  Read more


Hits & Misses: The Theatrical Performance of the Sundance Class of ’16

Love & Friendship (Photo by Ross McDonnell/Courtesy of Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions)

How do you measure success these days?  When more than two million people vote for you over the other guy and you still lose? When you receive no endorsements from a single major newspaper, your party’s leadership practically ignores you, and you still win? Or, perhaps, when your heralded Sundance acquisition earns a whopping $15.8 million at the box office, but you spend more than twice that in acquisition fees and prints and advertising costs to release it? (i.e., The Birth of a Nation). How about if your film isn’t released in theaters at all, but Netflix paid $5 million dollars to buy it (i.e., Tallulah)?  Simply put, as with contemporary politics, there are no certainties in American independent film…  Read more


Secret Pizza, #pizzagate and Hyperreality: How My Film About Alternate Realities Was Swept Into One

Automatic at Sea (credit: Zach Lanoue)

“In the province of the mind what one believes to be true, either is true or becomes true within certain limits.” – John C. Lilly “I don’t believe anything, but I have many suspicions.” – Robert Anton Wilson “Reality used to be a friend of mine.” – P.M. Dawn My name is Matthew Lessner. I have been making films for the past decade, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you’d never seen any of them. Several of my films have screened at big-name festivals, but none of them have been exactly championed or widely released. I’ve never been mentioned in this publication outside of festival line-up press releases, and the few times my work has been written about in the…  Read more


“I Have to Feel Sincere and Real When I Do It”: Joanna Fang on the Lifestyle Work of the Foley Artist

Joanna Fang

In Weiner, Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg’s documentary about Anthony Weiner’s attempted political comeback running for New York mayor, there’s a scene of Weiner shoveling a drippy deli wrap with a side of crispy fries in the back seat of his car. Between bites, Weiner chews through his hopes of a rebounding campaign after having sabotaged it by, once again, sexting on Twitter. He gazes out the car window, jaw muscles flexing, trails off mid-sentence, and dumps the plastic to-go container’s final fistful of french fries directly into his mouth. The masticating sounds of Weiner lunching were produced at Alchemy Post Sound in Westchester, New York. There, Foley artist Joanna Fang was recorded eating a 12-inch Philly cheesesteak in sync…  Read more


The 50 Most Anticipated American Films of 2017


The 2017 Sundance Film Festival is just a few days away, and with it begins a new cycle of stressing out about all of the movies that I haven’t been able to see yet. Hollywood operates on a very fixed theatrical schedule — leftovers dumped wholesale at the beginning of the year (I’m looking at you, Bye Bye Man), CGI franchises dominating the summer calendar, and Oscar bait rolling out from October on. Meanwhile, the landscape for smaller-budget but more adventurous films here in the States has developed its own windowing: the majority of American art films will premiere at festivals between now and May. First, Sundance will set the tone with an onslaught of new work, and then Rotterdam,…  Read more


The Asphalt Jungle, Loophole and More: Jim Hemphill’s Home Video Recommendations

The Asphalt Jungle: (Credit: The Kobal Collection, MGM)

Nearly 30 years after his death, writer-director John Huston remains, in my estimation, a slightly underrated figure in the landscape of American cinema. This may seem like a perverse statement given his multiple Academy Award nominations (including two wins) and the fact that several of his films (The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The African Queen, etc.) are widely acknowledged classics, but Huston is even better — far better, in fact — than his reputation suggests. His is a career of astonishing variety and endless probing, one that includes not only multiple jewels of classical Hollywood narrative like the aforementioned trio (as well as Key Largo and The Man Who Would Be King) but also searing wartime…  Read more


“We Basically Had Pianos Falling the Whole Time”: The Creative Team of MA at the Venice International Film Festival

Lauren Smitelli, Riel Roch-Decter, Brian McOmber, Celia Rowlson-Hall, Andrew Pastides, Allison Pearce and Aaron Schnobrich

With Celia Rowlson-Hall’s bold and original MA opening today in New York at the IFC Center, with wider digital distribution next month, we’re reposting Taylor Hess’s interview with the writer/director/star and her collaborators out of Venice. Check the IFC site for screenings and Q&A moderators, who include, tonight at 8:30 PM, Lena Dunham. Barefoot on a sandy shore of the Mediterranean coast, I’m only mildly bothered by the luxury cruise ships obstructing the horizon. It’s an otherwise picturesque pre-dusk afternoon in Venice, and I’m focused mostly on keeping up with Celia Rowlson-Hall, who sets an intimidating pace as we walk along the beach. She’s a speed walker and talker, totally unfazed by the sharp rocks that I continue to stumble…  Read more


Watch: An New Clip from Celia Rowlson-Hall’s MA

A woman, a man, a car and the desert. Widescreen. That’s the gist of this clip for Celia Rowlson-Hall’s highly-recommended MA, which opens tomorrow at the IFC Center via Factory 25. Check out the clip, read the synopsis below and see the movie! In this modern-day vision of Mother Mary’s pilgrimage, a woman crosses the scorched landscape of the American Southwest. Reinvented and told entirely through movement, the film playfully deconstructs the role of this woman, who encounters a world full of bold characters that are alternately terrifying and sublime. MA is a journey into the visceral and the surreal, interweaving ritual, performance, and the body as sculpture. The absence of dialogue stirs the senses, and leads us to imagine…  Read more



Joanna Fang

“I Have to Feel Sincere and Real When I Do It”: Joanna Fang on the Lifestyle Work of the Foley Artist

In Weiner, Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg’s documentary about Anthony Weiner’s attempted political comeback running for New York mayor, there’s a scene of Weiner shoveling a drippy deli wrap with a side of crispy fries in the back seat of his car. Between bites, Weiner…  Read more

Jan 17, 2017

Festivals & Events

10 Tips for Surviving the Sundance Film Festival

Sundance Survival Guides are a tradition here at Filmmaker. Producer and Contributing Editor Alicia Van Couvering wrote one in 2009 and again in 2012, and producer Mynette Louie offered her advice in ’15. This year, producer Alexandra Byer (Dark Night) remembers her own rituals for…  Read more

on Jan 18, 2017

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