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How to Deliver Your Film to a Festival (2022 Edition)

A very unaesthetic projection booth

In 2018, I wrote a version of this article1 that treated the exhibition dominance of Digital Cinema Packages (DCP) as a historic certainty. Technology had advanced enough where the cost and/or ability to create a DCP were no longer considered a burden for independent filmmakers. As always with historic certainty, history happened: The COVID-19 pandemic catalyzed the widespread adoption of virtual film festivals. Separately, the call for justice and equality led to the widespread adoption of accessibility features for films. These concurrent developments, combined with the decline of the theatrical market and technological obsolescence, have created an environment that can be fraught for filmmakers.  Early in the pandemic, as freelance festival gig after gig evaporated, a friend told me that I…  Read more

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Trailer Watch: David O. Russell’s Amsterdam

Amsterdam (Photo: 20th Century Studios/Walt Disney Studios)

A ridiculously huge cast -- Chris Rock, Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, John David Washington, Anya Taylor-Joy, Robert DeNiro, Rami Malek, Taylor Swift, Alessandro Nivola, Andrea Riseborough, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Shannon, Mike Myers and Zoe Saldaña! -- are (mostly) all highlighted in this first trailer from David O'Russell's latest, the comedy/thriller Amsterdam. With cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki and production design from Judy Becker, the film is set in the 1930s and deals with three people who witness a murder and find themselves drawn into "one of the most outrageous plots in American history." Previously, David O. Russell was interviewed for Filmmaker's cover by Miguel Arteta upon the release of his Silver Linings Playbook. Amsterdam will be released by Fox on November…  Read more

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Back to One, Episode 210: Juliette Binoche

Read just a sample of Juliette Binoche's credits — Mauvais Sang, Three Colors: Blue, Damage, The English Patient, Chocolat, Certified Copy, Clouds of Sils Maria, Let The Sunshine In — and one thing becomes clear: few actors have been as internationally respected for such a sustained period of time. In this episode, she speaks about the importance of acting from the body and learning to use “sensation” as a starting point. She tells a story about feeling lost on the set of John Boorman’s In My Country, and what set her free should be a lesson to all directors. She talks about how the difficult circumstances surrounding the production of her two newest films, Both Sides of the Blade and…  Read more

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Homecoming Vibes: Olivia Peace and Jess Zeidman on Tahara

TaharaTahara

Way back when, during the last in-person Slamdance in the cursed year of 2020, I went to see Tahara, the feature debut of Northwestern University graduates director Olivia Peace and screenwriter Jess Zeidman.  The feature focuses on two teenage best friends and Hebrew students, Carrie (Madeline Grey DeFreece) and Hannah (Rachel Sennott), who face a gear shift in their friendship during the funeral of one of their classmates. Carrie is timid and awkward, Hannah is self-obsessed and inconsiderate. When Carrie kisses her Hannah to find out if she’s a good kisser or not, sparkles light up her world. Throughout the day, Carrie begins to question her sexuality, all the while grappling with grief.  The union between Peace’s stylish lens—incorporating a 1:1 Instagram…  Read more

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“Elvis’s Eyes Were Very Special”: DP Mandy Walker on Elvis

Baz Luhrmann and Austin Butler on the set of Elvis (photo: Kane Skennar)

While the use of larger format sensors like the Alexa LF and the Sony Venice has continued to accelerate—increasingly eclipsing Super35 as the default for robustly budgeted digital cinematography—the sprawling canvas offered by the Alexa 65 has remained more of a specialty, employed by projects seeking a scope of particularly monumental proportions. That’s exactly how cinematographer Mandy Walker envisioned Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis. “I remember Baz and I talking about the film really early on and thinking, ‘This character is larger than life,’” said Walker, who also used the Alexa 65 on Mulan and The Mountain Between Us. “Elvis was epic, and what better way to express that than shooting on the most epic format you can?” Shot almost entirely on the backlots and…  Read more

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Kiss Me Before You Wake Up: An Excerpt From Michael Almereyda’s Book, Tesla: All My Dreams Are True

Ethan Hawke in Michael Almereyda’s TeslaEthan Hawke in Tesla

Tesla: All My Dreams Are True, forthcoming from OR Books, is a jigsawed account of my attempts at conjuring a movie about Nikola Tesla over the past 40 years, tracking questions and clues about the elusive inventor’s life and legacy. The following excerpt is one of the least self-effacing of the 25 chapters, in which the author shamelessly confides early experiences as a screenwriter and director while Tesla’s name is hardly mentioned. This is in keeping with one of the book’s epigraphs, an injunction from Derek Jarman: “As the film falls apart, gather up your mistakes and treasure them.”  See shadow puppet plays and imagine that you are one of the characters. Or all of them. —Ron Padgett, How to Be Perfect  The first feature film I wrote and…  Read more

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“Not Just a Formal Thing, But a Political Ethic”: Alice Diop on We

NousNous

Alice Diop’s Nous begins with images of a white family looking through binoculars at an apparently uninhabited landscape, then cuts to a shot of the landscape itself, as if inhabiting their point of view. Immediately, then, the film suggests that the act of looking is one worth paying attention to. The question of who gets to look and how the looker reacts to what they see is inscribed, almost wordlessly, onto the film. I thought immediately of W.J.T. Mitchell’s Landscape and Power, which examines the artistic depiction of landscape as a politically charged one central to the formation of national identities and, often, the conquest of new land. As the film proceeded to vignettes on other subjects, mostly African immigrants…  Read more

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