Caroline of Virginia at Phnom Penh 2014

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Caroline of Virginia has been officially announced as an official selection of the 2014 Phnom Penh International Film Festival. This is a landmark event for me as a filmmaker as it is the first time my work will be seen outside of North America. I’m happy it was this particular film to make such an important achievement as it was the first film I made to get into a film festival to begin with and to be recognized with an award. It makes sense that it would continue to further my accolades.

Although I know the festival will be in September, I have not yet received the screening schedule so I do not know the exact date that COV will screen. I’m to understand the staffers there are working really hard on getting the scheduled locked and live, so stay tuned!

Please check out the film’s listing on the festival website at: http://www.ppiff.com/2014/caroline-of-virginia/ and connect with them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PhnomPenhIFF

COV-Still-BUS-STOP COV-Still-FINAL-SHOTWatch the production trailer on the festival’s YouTube Channel:

 

Finding Music

Caroline of Virginia
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From the get-go, I have always understood the importance of music in film and video media.

I made my first independent film in 1999, completed the first pass in 2000 and re-edited in 2002 when I got access to new technology. In 2002 I made my second film. In 2005 my third. In 2008 my forth, 2009 my fifth and sixth and so on. Regardless of the difficulty of the production of the intricacy of the script, the only constant with all of these productions is that it was easy for me to acquire music that I could lay into the soundtrack of each project. For Sixteen Stories, my first movie, I was able to get a friend from a neighboring town to compose three original pieces and on top of that I acquired, free of charge, the sync rights to a handful of relatively popular songs that were getting airplay in the Portland, Maine area the year I shot it. For the second film, Hero for a Day, I once again was able to obtain an original score and had a new score re-done when I re-cut the project in 2009. Every single project I’ve tackled, I’ve managed to pull through with some of the most kick-ass music tracks an indie filmmaker could expect on a no-budget production.

In 2011, for the first time, I paid for a music score when I hired a very talented musician named Peter Dmitriyev to compose themes for my medium length fairy tale film Caroline of Virginia. Additionally, I was able to acquire the sync rights to three different pop songs that to this day I’m still listening to on my MP3 player. Lipstick Lies had one of the best scores I’ve ever had in a movie, a variety of original compositions by the incredibly versatile Omer Ben-Zvi. Omer managed to mix an old fashioned sound with a contemporary feel to create an emotional work that aided in holding up what I consider to be a very fragile story. His cue in the last scene of the film plays perfectly over Samantha Cole’s performance, which is heartbreaking and inspiring. Omer went on to create an original piece for the mission video I directed for the American Lung Association, again adding a level of production value to a remarkably underfunded project and making my work seem a million times more professional.

Something has changed in the past two years since then. I have had the darnedest of trouble finding music and I do not know why. With my feature film The Spaceship in post-production, I’ve been prowling the forums and reaching out to everyone I’ve ever known, in an effort to find the right tracks for scenes that require different genre songs. Because of the kinetic nature of the story and its hop from one location to another, I have made it a point to find music from artists based out of or at least originally from the areas in which scenes are set. These are in no way areas of the globe that are strapped artistically – Maine for one, has numerous indie bands with professional sounding records that could easily be made available for consideration and New York… well get outta here, we know there are musicians a plenty. So why is it that this one film seems to be getting the snub over all of these other short and experimental projects?

I would love some of your ideas on how to find good, original, independently produced music and if you’re a filmmaker, your experience in dealing with the situation of music, specifically score.

Festival Programming / What Are “Good” Practices?

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Lately I’ve been engage in a lot of discussion regarding what constitutes “good” and “honest” programming practices, at least as far as film festival programming is concerned.  It’s a hot topic this year and I feel I should weigh in.  For years I’ve struggled with the film festival circuit – the system as a whole, mainly because I disagree with it.  A few years ago I started volunteering for several film festivals and screening series’ in an effort to understand it better but this only made things more confusing.  The only constant that seems to exist in the festival world is that there aren’t really any truly honest programming practices taking place, at least, that I witnessed.

My first behind the scenes festival experience came when I was an intern at a film magazine in the fall of 2001.  This particular magazine was putting on a film festival and their editorial staff was responsible for viewing the submissions and making the official selections.  I’ve written about this experience before, mainly as a warning to filmmakers: the editorial staff didn’t watch the films, they played the tapes while they worked but only when something of signifance stood out did they pay a little more attention.  For example: one of the submissions had William Baldwin as an actor, one of the editors noticed this and immediately approved the film for exhibition, without watching it further.  Not a very honest way to program.

A programmer in New York once told me that he doesn’t consider any work that isn’t shot on a superior format: film or Red cinema.  He wouldn’t even take 1080pHD anymore.  I told him “but Hugo was shot in 1080″ and he’d say “and I probably wouldn’t have accepted it”.  This guy didn’t last long – in fact he only had three years and abruptly quit the festival game because he wasn’t getting the content he had “hoped” for.  I assure you too, he might be gone but there are other film festivals that stigmatize raw format just as much as this guy – and some of them are ultra successful. Recently, my arch nemesis, Indiewire, published an article where staff from SxSW give their tips to filmmakers who are thinking about submitting. While these tips are generally meant to be helpful, I can’t help but to be conflicted as far as seeing eye to eye with their programming practices.  For example, one thing I agree with is that you should wait until your cut is final before submitting – programmers often only watch films once and if you send in a rough cut or an assembly and that version of the film is mind blowing – you’re out.  This is true for every festival and series – wait until it’s actually completed before submitting!  Janet Pierson insists that premier status matters and this is true for a lot of the bigger film festival and honestly I think it’s the most ridiculous rule a festival can have. The way I see it is that premiere status should NEVER matter – if it’s a good film and worth screening, it should be considered just as much as any other film, whether or not it has officially “premiered”.  Additionally, many filmmaker have started to label every single one of their screenings as premieres, often resorting to classifying each “premiere” by geographical location: New York Premiere, LA Premiere,. “this is our TEXAS premiere” and the fuckers actually get away with it too.  I continue to be baffled that this obvious bullshit flies with most of these film festivals.

This morning Emelyn Stuart, one of the organizers and programmers for the new Ocktober Music & Film Festival published a comment on her Facebook page, in regards to her first time experience as a festival programmer:

As a first time Festival Director (who was also in charge of programming) there are several lessons I learned that I want to share with you. 

1) Make your opening scene as strong as possible. If the judges aren’t “captivated” in the first couple of scenes, they may not watch your entire film. 

2) Several Filmmakers only submitted ONE DVD even though we asked for two, in several cases the ONE DVD they sent had problems, so they were disqualified. Follow instructions! 

3) Your synopsis is the introduction to your film, it is the first thing Festival programmers see – make sure it is interesting & intriguing. 

In this comment, Emelyn openly admits that she will not watch a film all the way through if it starts off slow. This in and of itself is complete and utter dishonestly as far as programming practices and festival integrity is concerned.  Obviously taste is an issue for all programmers, however, if it becomes a common rule that stories which take their time are to be rejected, there’s something seriously wrong!  In addition, I’ve seen fantastic films made by some incredibly talented filmmakers who couldn’t write a synopsis if their lives depended on it – I think maybe Emelyn needs to re-evaluate some of her core guidelines as far as festival programming goes.  Emelyn: you’d be surprised by some of the fantastic content that’s out there, provided you actually watch it and stop looking for reasons to take the lazy way out! Additionally, Emelyn received a comment in response to this posting from Robert LaRue, who insists that sending a festival a “24 minute experimental animation is not a good idea” essentially admitting that he would reject a work based on those perimeters alone without giving the film an honest consideration.  The fact that Stuart Film Group “liked” the comment suggests that her festival programmers agree and hold the same bias up against such films.

Some of the ideals I’ve instilled on the festivals I’ve worked with, and managed to change for the better, is honesty in programming. Among the rules I’ve pressed festivals to adopt when reviewing and programming paid submissions are: All films are watched twice by at least four different people – this rule is important and should be common across the board. Those four people should always consist of two men and two woman with an age range of 25-40 years. This is the bare minimum I believe a festival can get away with, as far as having a sufficiently balanced programming jury. The more the better too, with numbers comes honesty – you have people keeping one-another in check. Mix it up: race and culture is a huge issue with programming content.  You need to have people on your jury who understand that America is a mesh of different cultures and therefore you’re going to receive films made by people you might not understand and you can’t adequately create a program that caters to all those cultures if you don’t understand them. Art house: art house cinema is incredibly important and I believe all film festivals should have a section for this, if at least, for no other reason than to generate street cred and to maintain the integrity of the core art.  There are a lot of cinemaphiles who would be willing to donate their time to help get art house and Avant-garde projects programmed into the festival circuit, more so than is currently done.  This is something I’m constantly pushing for, but tend to get little traction.

Thanks for your time and as always, cheers.

-Eric Norcross

Reference Links:

IndieWire: 5 Tips for FIlmmaker Applying to SxSW: http://www.indiewire.com/article/5-tips-for-filmmakers-applying-to-sxsw-from-the-festivals-programmers

Emelyn Stuart / Stuart Film Group: https://www.facebook.com/emelynstuart

Emelyn Stuart Emelyn Stuart 2

DMW’s Future of Music Event – Coming Next Week!

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DMW MusicOn February 20-21, Digital Media Wire (host to Future of TV and Future of Film) combines Digital Music Forum East and West into one large event simply named DMW Music. The event will be taking place at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, 36 Battery Place, New York, NY. Film Anthropology will be in attendance of the event.

DMW Music still has open availability for music industry professionals interested in attending, along with 500+ of the most influential music and digital media leaders as they gather in Downtown New York to socialize, share ideas, do deals and learn about new technologies and services. This year’s event will be packed with great content, stellar people and a lot of companies that are new on the music-tech scene.

Register here: http://dmw-music.com/register/ For FilmAnthropology subscriber discounts, e-mail info (at) norcrossmedia (dot) com.

Filmmaker Profile: Kristina Harris

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I met Kristina Harris when she screened her short film DIMINISHED CHORDS at the 2012 Manhattan Film Festival. I initially reached out to her because both of our films featured main characters who were deaf and thought it would be cool to cross-promote our screenings.  

A couple months later, while helping NewFilmmakers New York program their fall series, I happened upon her submission on the WithoutABox list and reached out to her. I set up DIMINISHED CHORDS as one of the opening films of FallFest 2012.  It was only right that I interview her for the profile series.

Here’s Kristina Harris talking about her film: