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RIP Jonas Mekas (1922-2019)

Jonas Mekas in I Had Nowhere to Go

I only met Jonas Mekas once, briefly, in the most technical and unimpressive sense of “met”: I was coming out of Anthology Film Archives, emerging from a press screening and grimly proceeding to the nearest USPS branch. He asked why I wasn’t smiling, for which I didn’t have a good or succinct answer, and turned tail. I blew it! He didn’t identify himself and didn’t need to: Mekas’s status as an East Village institution and NYC film legend was imprinted on me long before I moved to the city. Artforum‘s obit puts it succinctly: “His output, which spans seven decades and even more films, along with over twenty books of prose and verse and innumerable mentorships, has inspired generations of…  Read more

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Back to One, Episode 42: Imogen Poots

If you didn’t know Imogen Poots was British, it is understandable. Few young actors transform so chameleon-like, role-to-role, applying accents so skillfully. I was first wowed by her in Peter Bogdanovich’s She’s Funny That Way and then I actually didn’t even know it was her in Green Room until I saw the credits. She floored me again in Frank and Lola opposite Michael Shannon, in an entirely different kind of role. Now she plays a drifter with questionable parenting skills, who steers into escalating trouble in Mobile Homes, and by the end of the movie her performance wrecked me. In this half hour she lifts the hood on her craft, and we get to peek in. Mobile Homes is out…  Read more

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Shadows Under Strain: DP Lol Crawley and the Cipher of Vox Lux

Vox Lux

When it comes time to “punish” the image of a film, say with filtration, grease (generously applied to the front of the lens), or underexposure, cinematographers regress from their dear and safe technical jargon and assume the barbarous dialect of medieval executioners. They don’t just underexpose their picture to see how it reacts under strain, they “suffocate” it, “break” it, and “destroy” it — sometimes in spite of itself. The digital image is nary embraced and mostly worked against, its sterile lines deliberately corroded and beaten to a duller moosh. Cinematographer Lol Crawley BSC (Ballast, 45 Years) tortures the film stock until the blacks bleed shades of blue, a method he employed on The Childhood Of A Leader, his first…  Read more

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Are Film Festivals Struggling?

The Cleveland International Film Festival (photo: Andrew Wells)

When the Los Angeles Film Festival shuttered after 18 years, the independent film community mourned. There were “R.I.P. LAFF” posts on Facebook, lots of sad emojis and expressions of shock (“absolutely floored,” said one filmmaker). But the closure of LAFF, along with the recent consolidation of the American Film Institute’s two festivals, AFI Fest and AFI Docs, suggests broader challenges for film festivals across the United States, from potential shifts in corporate and individual giving to the incapacity for sustained growth. The good news is that film festival attendance appears to be thriving. “We’ve grown every year, in attendance and overall revenue,” says Ryan Watt, executive director of IndieMemphis. Other festivals, from Dallas to Denver, San Francisco to Sarasota, Florida,…  Read more

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Simulation Training: Action Director Lawrence Ribeiro on Exercises That Help Prepare for Stunts

Lawrence Ribeiro (center), in the gym with a fight consultant from John Wick: Chapter 2

The following is an excerpt from action director Lawrence Ribeiro’s new book Action Realism. Due to the speed and the nature of stunts and my overall point of view (shooting with the intent of making the images visceral or dynamic), I have come up with some exercises. Scenarios, locales, speeds and context of the story will dictate how I train. Sometimes you need a supply of guts, sometimes you need to overcome your fears, but the truth of the matter is that my feet rarely touch the ground when shooting. It’s more mental than physical, as a few close calls can throw you off your game. How I prep is different than how first (main) unit will prep. Obviously, the camera,…  Read more

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Documentary Producers Alliance Fights “Credit Creep” with Proposed Industry Guidelines for Producer Credits

In the world of documentary film, where projects gestate and then are produced over the course of years, and with funding often raised in stages from a variety of different sources, the determination of producer credits can turn into something like the Wild West. There are usually one or more producers who are actually producing the film, and they are supported by a bevy of archival producers, field producers, etc. But what about all the executive producers, co-producers, presenters, etc. — how did they become involved in a film, and what do their credits mean? The question is more than academic, because a kind of “credit creep,” where financiers, who might traditionally receive executive producer credits, are sometimes are given…  Read more

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Remembering Mark Urman, 1952 – 2019

Mark Urman, at left, with Half Nelson producers Lynette Howell, Jamie Patricof and Alex Orlovsky at Sundance

Mark Urman, the film publicist, marketer, distributor, father and husband, was one of the significant figures of the indie film boom of the 1990s and 2000s, participating directly in its rise and adapting to its shifts over the decades. His death last weekend at the age of 66 came as a shock to his colleagues in the industry and a great loss to his friends and family. “We’ve all been shedding tears,” says Jamie Patricof, producer of Half Nelson, one of the breakthrough indies Urman shepherded. “He was such a unique voice in our business, and he was really able to make movies work that people thought would be impossible.” First working as a publicist at DDA, and then as…  Read more

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Filmmaking

Us

The 50 Most Anticipated American Films of 2019

Hello! Happy New Year! The fine folks at Filmmaker have invited me back to put together my (now) annual list of the 50 most anticipated American films of the year. I thought about making the list shorter this time around (because 50 blurbs is really…  Read more

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Jan 7, 2019

 

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