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in Filmmaking
on Dec 17, 2007

I want to take a moment and tell you guys about a new website that Peter Bowen, Nick Dawson and I from Filmmaker are involved with.

First, the history. In the late Spring of this year Peter and I had several conversations with Focus Features president James Schamus about film websites — what’s good out there, what’s not, and, most specifically, what’s missing from the film blogosphere. James talked to us about his vision of a site that would be dense with original content appealing to both cineastes as well as a more general audience enthusiastic about specialty film. Intrinsic to the idea was linking well and often so that the site offers a place for internet readers to learn more about the web’s vast array of film resources.

These conversations led to Peter and I being asked to co-edit FilmInFocus, which launched today. Click over to the site and check it out. There’s a lot of stuff already up and more to come in the weeks and months ahead. But back to the overall concept of the site for a moment. There’s obviously much to read about Focus releases, and we’ve commissioned articles that, we hope, provide thoughtful discussions about these films while frequently pursuing interesting tangents suggested by them.

And there’s a ton of non-Focus content on the site as well. Our partner on FilmInFocus is Faber & Faber, and it’s been a real thrill for Peter, myself and Nick to collaborate with Walter Donohue and Richard Kelley from that great publisher of film books. FilmInFocus is hosting Faber’s U.S. online site, and we have reprinted material from their back catalog, preview excerpts from their upcoming books and original, web-only content.

It’s almost easier to explain the site by guiding you through a bit of what’s on there already. Linked to from the main page is an excerpt from Michael Deely’s upcoming Faber & Faber book Blade Runners, Deer Hunters and Blowing the Bloody Doors Off: My Life in Cult Movies, in which the veteran producer describes the process of casting Harrison Ford in Blade Runner. As part of a regular series of articles dealing with new technology, Smart Bomb author Heather Chaplin profiles Ian Bogost, the writer, critical theorist and video game designer whose very clever politically-minded Flash games enliven the online New York Times editorial page. There are the first entries in a series in which notable artists give us their “Five in Focus” — lists of five favorite films related to a particular theme or topic. Composer and vocalist Diamanda Galas gives us her top revenge flicks (a particularly nasty list including Vigilante, Pyro and I Spit on your Grave); novelist Alan Furst offers up his top spy movies; director Justin Lin punches out his favorite fight scenes; and novelist Ian Rankin essays his most well regarded British crime films.

As the Focus release Eastern Promises is set in the world of the Russian mob, we commissioned In These Times editor Joel Bleifuss to outline a history of the Russian mafia, charting its growth and influence in both the real world and in Hollywood fictions. Also related to Eastern Promises, I wrote about the Russian criminal tattoo sub-culture, examining how the tattoos in the film were researched and created. In the piece I interview producer and filmmaker Alix Lambert, whose Mark of Cain is the seminal documentary on the subject. We link to her site, where you can buy her film, and stream excerpts from it at the FilmInFocus Screening Room. And too at the Film in Focus Screening room: four short films by Jamie Stuart in which our favorite short-film journalist profiles the Fall Focus directors: David Cronenberg, Ang Lee, Terry George and Joe Wright.

Another regular column will be something we call “Movie Cities” — essays which offer personal views of the writer’s home town through the prism of the movies. We launch with director John Waters talking about the old porn theaters in Baltimore and critic Kevin Conroy Scott taking us on a cinematic walk through the neighborhoods of Pigalle and Montmartre in Paris.

Focus has Atonement out now, and the site has Peter Bowen’s article on Sarah Greenwood’s production design, my interview with composer Dario Marianelli, and Nick Dawson’s long interview with James McAvoy on the craft of film acting.

Because the Focus release Reservation Road contained an interesting sub-plot in which Joaquin Phoenix’s character connects over the internet with other parents who have lost children in hit-and-runs, we asked Alicia Van Couvering to explore how the internet is changing the process of grieving; her piece links to a number of grief support groups that can be found online. And because Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution is set against a complex political backdrop, we asked Joel Bleifuss to explain to us what Shanghai was like in 1942. We also have novelist Rick Moody, whose novel The Ice Storm was made into a film by Ang Lee, writing about the process by which the director explores his own cinematic landscapes.

Keeping with the site’s goal to connect with other sites across the internet, we have a regular feature, “Behind the Blog,” which profiles different film blogs and the blogger behind them. The series launches with — who else? — David Hudson of the must-read Green Cine Daily. We also have the second installment up with Andrew Grant of the blog Like Anna Karina’s Sweater.

There’s a lot more, but this post could go on forever so I’ll just recommend again that you check it out. (You can post your comments and thoughts on the FilmInFocus message board.) And, finally, one more thing — Filmmaker is a “strategic partner” on the site, meaning each of us is going to help get the word out about the other through links and possible shared marketing efforts. So, because there’s an obvious conflict of interest when it comes to Focus releases and this magazine, we’re going to refrain from feature coverage of Focus movies for the foreseeable future, a policy we initiated a couple of issues ago when we began talks about this venture.

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