Good Morning…

Eric Norcross filming The Long Island Project in Syosset, New York
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I just spent the past four hours walking around a very empty and extremely frigid lower Manhattan. The financial district between the hours of 1am and 4am is my favorite time to be strolling about NYC. In these hours I feel like the city belongs to me. All these skyscrapers, subway infrastructure and everything that goes with is there for me and only me. I can hear and see things that I might not pick up when the hustle and bustle begins around 6am. There’s a Chase Bank in relative close proximity to the Bowling Green where the door lock grinds loudly and the card reader consistently beeps – clearly these two security mechanisms are malfunctioning. This Chase branch has been this way for several years now. This is part of what I know of MY New York. It was broken when I was 29 and it’s still broken – even tonight, while I’m 32.

I thought a lot about my time here tonight – my entire time since I moved to this town on that fateful Labor Day weekend in 2003. Fresh from Maine, without a dime in my bank account – like most major decisions in my life, I didn’t take the financial aspects into consideration. If I had, I wouldn’t be here. Somehow, someway, it all has worked out in one way or another. You see, I moved here with the promise to myself that no matter how hard, complicated or crazy it got – I wouldn’t regret anything I did while I lived here and I wouldn’t let any kind of fear dictate my decision making. RISK IS KEY. Being an independent filmmaker in New York City has always seemed like such a special thing and IT IS. It’s not easy and you’re not guaranteed ANYTHING. Too few people ever have or ever will understand why it’s so important. It’s just that this is something that some of us HAVE to do. It’s the mother fucker at the top of a bucket list chock full of impossible shit and holy shit! I’ve made some films! I’ve screened some films! I’ve helped filmmakers get their films going, inspired other filmmakers, volunteered in service to the indie film community and encountered the kinds of people I never thought I’d mix up with. I did it all in NYC! I did it all as a New Yorker! As a New Yorker, I’ve lived in four of the five boroughs, in some of the wealthiest and poorest neighborhoods and for all of it I am grateful.

I’ve worked with some of the most kick ass people and some of sleaziest individuals on the planet. I’ve interviewed senators, assemblymen, district attorneys, heads of state and even convinced a sitting congressman to improvise a cameo for one of my old no budget movie projects. This guy, he was hot shit, the Illinois congressman that went after Clinton for the Lewinsky thing. Henry J. Hyde. Can you believe that? For all these years I forgot about this and it just hit me tonight – WOW! I’ve had commercials go to air here, in Long Island, Connecticut, upstate as far as Rochester! I’ve never even been to Rochester! On top of that, video spots I’ve directed have appeared on those small screens in the back of the NYC taxi cabs. That’s so weird but cool and to put this into perspective of where I came from, just a few years ago… WOW!

I lost all this for the past year or so because, well, I’ve been pre-occupied. It’s this monster project, THE SPACESHIP. You see, it has driven me batshit crazy. Some of you close to the project know first hand that “batshit crazy” is the understatement of the year. This bastard is as big as my move to NYC. It has all the same risks and cockups and doesn’t guarantee much of anything, at least not for me as a writer or director. But that’s okay. It’s one hell of a project and unlike everything that came before, I’ve really stuck to my guns on so many aspects of it: technical, aesthetic and approach. I’ve lost a lot of trust, friendships and credibility as a result of how this project has been handled so far and that’s okay too. You see, all these inconveniences, pains and emotions are a distraction. They’re meant to be, a distraction, created by fear and none of it really does anyone any good. These fears won’t exist when this is all over because all that will matter in the end is the final result – the finished film. Few will remember any of the cockups, the late checks and the hard days and those that pine over it or base their future professional decisions based on their experience with this project and with me should rethink what they’re doing with their lives.

I have little pride – I don’t much care for it. I find it hysterical actually. I am especially amused when someone claims to be proud of something they have no control over, like their heritage or something. But I do recognize something about me that I am proud of, a couple things actually. The first is that I’m proud that I’ve stuck it out in NYC as long as I have. It has been an “against all odds” kind of thing. This past September was my ten year anniversary and although I didn’t get to celebrate it in style like I was hoping, none of it was lost upon me. The second is that I have never, ever, chosen a project, either client or personal, based on its monetary value (to me). My dedication to a project has never been commensurate to the capacity of a paycheck, even in the worst of times. Maybe that’s why I ended up moving around so much or maybe that’s why my client work is so eclectic. Who knows. Maybe it’s more than that or maybe it has nothing to do with anything. All I can say is that as hard as it has been, I don’t regret a single day of it. It’s like that broken security lock on the Chase Bank – it isn’t perfect, but it’s part of the experience I was after when I made the decision to come here.

It’s approaching 5:30am so I guess I should be getting some sleep now.

-E

Chinatown On Screen at Anthology Film Archives

Anthology Film Archives in New York City
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The Anthology Film Archives in New York will be screening a Chinatown On Screen series, later this month (Jan 24-26). Information from Anthology’s website is copied below for anyone interested in this series.

From Anthology Film Archives:

Whether you see Chinatown as a place or a state of mind, a purgatory or an oasis, a shrinking immigrant community or an expanding business district, its presence in our cinematic imagination is enormous. Situated north of NYC’s Wall Street, east of the Tombs, west of the old Jewish Ghetto, and mostly south of Canal, the neighborhood that began in the mid-19th century has maintained its distinct character – savory, hardscrabble, succulent, and cacophonous.

WE LANDED/I WAS BORN/PASSING BY explores a provocative array of images of the community from the 1940s to the present day. By embracing the perspectives of grassroots activists, performance artists, conceptual visionaries, home-movie makers, punk horror devotees, and journalists, the series raises questions about how we look at the neighborhood and how its representations have reciprocally shaped our imagination. Who lived in Chinatown at the beginning? Who lives there now? How and why has it changed? What language best describes Chinatown? Whose voices do we hear?

Inspired by the fabulously observant 1960s poetry of Chinatown’s very own Frances Chung, this 5-part film series looks at the streets, desires, shops, and struggles of an iconic community that only begins to reveal its stories when the most obvious outer layers are pulled back. Comprised of documentaries, archival footage, home videos, literary readings, photography, and performance, the series rings in Chinese New Year by opening a window to both early and contemporary conditions. Through it all, geography, memory, and observation compress and expand the imaginary and the real of this beloved section of the Big Apple.

Curated by Lesley Yiping Qin, Lynne Sachs, Bo Wang, and Xin Zhou.

We are grateful to the New York Public Library for allowing us to screen 16mm film prints of THE TROUBLE WITH CHINATOWN and THE YEAR OF THE RAT, to Electronic Arts Intermix for VOYEUR CHINATOWN, and to the Museum of Chinese in America for various home movies. Special thanks to David Callahan and Elena Rossi-Snook (Reserve Film and Video Collection at the New York Public Library), Antony Wong (Asian American/Asian Research Institute-CUNY), and Amanda Katz.

Jan 24

7:30pm

CHINATOWN ON SCREEN: PROGRAM 1: TWO COLD NIGHTS IN NEW YORK CHINATOWN

Jem Cohen’s NIGHT SCENE IN NEW YORK is a close nocturnal observation of the people and lights of this urban milieu. In contrast to Cohen’s beautifully shot yet vernacular street scenes, conceptual artist Gordon Matta-Clark’s black-and-white video work expresses a more distant gaze on the Chinatown community, offering an ambivalent and imaginary take on the same cityscape. Shot in the early 70s, Matta-Clark’s constantly panning shots move in-between buildings in the area, with the Empire State Building always hovering in the background thirty blocks away. This was a time when restaurants were still open at midnight for gamblers seeking food in the early morning hours.

Gordon Matta-Clark
VOYEUR CHINATOWN
1971, 60 min, video
&
Jem Cohen NIGHT SCENE NEW YORK (2009, 10 min, digital)
Plus: A reading from Crazy Melon and Chinese Apple: The Poems of Frances Chung

Jan 25

6:00pm

CHINATOWN ON SCREEN: PROGRAM 2: THE TOUCH OF AN EYE

The view from above – the bird’s eye view – can be omniscient and detached, playful and wicked. Shelly Silver’s TOUCH, a restrained yet endlessly sensual ciné-essay on loss and presence, takes us on a journey that begins with the psyche of an enigmatic son who returns as both insider and outsider to a Chinatown from which he escaped, as a teenager, as fast as he could. Celebrated 1960s community activist Tom Tam left an indelible mark on Chinatown. To our great surprise, he also shot irrepressibly inventive experimental films of the world he fought so hard to defend. Tam’s pixilated glimpse of a boy on a roof gives voice to a child’s sense of flight and the realization that he will never have wings.

Tom Tam BOY ON CHINATOWN ROOF (1970s, 3 min, 16mm-to-digital)
&
Shelly Silver
TOUCH
2013, 68 min, digital

8:00pm

CHINATOWN ON SCREEN: PROGRAM 3: CHINATOWN PROBLEMATICS

How can realities be engaged if the idea of a place has already been mediated by a sense of otherness and displacement? It all began with the name “Chinatown”, a specific place that can be found in many cities of the world. THE TROUBLE WITH CHINATOWN was originally aired on WNBC in the early 1970s as a survey of social and educational problems. A 2013 CNN “exposé” on the “dirty, dangerous firetrap” at 81 Bowery Street sparked a report to the NYFD which led to the eviction of tenants who couldn’t afford another place to live. We can link the tenants’ reactions today to those in Tom Tam’s silent film TOURIST BUSES, GO HOME!, a 1969 document of Chinatown protests against tourism. Shelly Silver’s 5 LESSONS AND 9 QUESTIONS ABOUT CHINATOWN interweaves fragments of neighborhood lives with questions of history, change, a sense of belonging, and home. The program will be followed by an informal talk by photographer Corky Lee, an activist in the Asian and Pacific American community for the past forty years.

Bill Turque/WNBC-TV THE TROUBLE WITH CHINATOWN (1970, 26 min, 16mm. Print courtesy of the Reserve Film and Video Collection of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.)
Tom Tam TOURIST BUSES, GO HOME! (1969, 12 min, 16mm-to-digital)
Shelly Silver 5 LESSONS & 9 QUESTIONS ABOUT CHINATOWN (2011, 10 min, digital)
CNN report on 81 Bowery St: “Eviction & Protest” (2013, 4 min, digital)
Photos and artist talk by Corky Lee ca. 15 min.

Total running time: ca. 75 min.

Jan 26

5:00pm

CHINATOWN ON SCREEN: PROGRAM 4: BOWERY STREET PLAYBILL

Quotidian life is provoked and embodied in this eclectic playbill of Chinatown. We begin with Eric Lin’s quietly rueful look at the closing of the Music Palace, the last Chinatown movie theater on the Bowery. This poignant vanishing of the communal film experience contrasts with Ming Wong’s reenactment parodies of Roman Polanski’s CHINATOWN and its persistent obsession with profiling LA’s Chinatown as a lawless enclave. From the upfront self-mocking of PAPER SON, to two lesbians munching fortune cookie messages in I AM STARVING, to following grocery shoppers home for dinner in THE TRAINED CHINESE TONGUE, everyday experiences constantly negotiate the personal. Interspersed are two observational films of Chinese New Years, one a 1940s home movie and the other a cinematic gem from 1960. Chinatown-born photojournalist Alan Chin will provide an artist’s vision of the neighborhood through his candid, sharply rendered insider’s eye.

Eric Lin MUSIC PALACE (2005, 9 min, 16mm)
‘Home Movie of Chinese New Year Parade at time of WWII’ (1940s, 4 min, 16mm-to-digital. Courtesy of the Museum of Chinese in America.)
Bryon Yee PAPER SON (1997, 10 min, digital)
Ching Yau I AM STARVING (1998, 12 min, 16mm)
Laurie Wen THE TRAINED CHINESE TONGUE (1994, 20 min, 16mm)
Jon Wing Lum YEAR OF THE RAT (1963, 14 min, 16mm. Print courtesy of the Reserve Film and Video Collection of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.)
Slideshow of photos by Alan Chin (1970-2010, 10 min)
Total running time: ca. 85 min.

7:30pm

CHINATOWN ON SCREEN: PROGRAM 5: A TIME OF TWO SQUARE MILES

Mixing live readings and videos, this program investigates domestic and public spaces in Chinatown. With the active presence of the camera, immigration experiences are translated into local visual terms without losing immediacy or historicity. Shanghai-born performance artist Jiaxin Miao carries his suitcase between two strange locations – a restaurant in Chinatown and Zuccotti Park – and then boldly hangs and sprays colors onto roast ducks. Galvanized by flickering and fast forward motions, Tom Tam’s intimate camera work captures the communal life of a health fair in Columbus Park. Lynne Sachs’s hybrid documentary is set in shift-bed rooms in Chinatown where performers tell their own stories while transforming their everyday movements into dance. At some point, the performers are challenged to leave their shared, self-supporting world. After traveling ten thousand miles to get here, what is it like to go five miles further? Followed by readings of work by novelist Ha Jin and poet Frances Chung, who belong to two different generations of Chinese-American writers.

A reading of an excerpt by novelist Ha Jin (ca. 10 min)
Tom Tam CHINATOWN STREET FESTIVAL (1970s, 5 min, 16mm-to-digital)
Jiaxin Miao CHINAMAN’S SUITCASE (2011, 6 min, digital)
Lynne Sachs YOUR DAY IS MY NIGHT (2013, 65 min, digital)
A reading of poetry by Frances Chung (ca. 10 min)
Total running time: ca. 105 min.

FA Filmmaker Profile: Matthew Harrison

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Courtesy October Films

Matthew Harrison and Kevin Corrigan.

Recently Film Anthropology flew out to Los Angeles to interview filmmaker, artist and television director Matthew Harrison, about his life and career. From his roots in the New York underground art scene to his achievements at some of the world’s most influential film festivals, Matt Harrison tells all. He talks about starting out shooting super 8 as a child and winning his first award at the New York Downtown Film Festival, which encouraged him to bring up his game and how he went on to win the jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival.

Matthew elaborates on working with Super 8, 16mm, his first union experience and how he came to work with Martin Scorsese on his feature studio picture Kicked In The Head.

Matthew’s film My Little Hollywood, which he shot in the mid-1990′s was recently completed and has spent the past year in the 2012 and 2013 festival circuit.

 

 

Direct Link URL: http://youtu.be/kZ-R3jufBss

 

Matthew’s Official Website: http://www.filmcrash.com/

About Filmmaker Profiles: This video is the first in a brand new incarnation of the Filmmaker Profiles series, a collection of interviews that Eric originally started at the Anthology Film Archives when he volunteered with the NewFilmmakers series.

The Sonnet Project / Shakespeare Exchange

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The Sonnet Project, produced by the Shakespeare Exchange in New York, is a project that requires filmmakers to contribute pro-bono work on a relatively large scale.  It has been attracting many filmmakers, including me, and has been underway for a few months now.  The project works like this: a filmmaker selects one of Shakespeare’s sonnets and creates an experimental short film out of that sonnet. The film is shot in a specific NYC location, chosen by the Shakespeare Exchange and features an actor approved by the Shakespeare Exchange, more specifically by the project’s producer, Ross Williams. Why would a filmmaker participate in this program? Let’s just say, for the sake of art and the chance to network with people in the theater community.  At least, that’s why I chose to take on this project.  I created a short film for Sonnet 21.

SONNET 21

So is it not with me as with that Muse
Stirr’d by a painted beauty to his verse,
Who heaven itself for ornament doth use
And every fair with his fair doth rehearse
Making a couplement of proud compare,
With sun and moon, with earth and sea’s rich gems,
With April’s first-born flowers, and all things rare
That heaven’s air in this huge rondure hems.
O’ let me, true in love, but truly write,
And then believe me, my love is as fair
As any mother’s child, though not so bright
As those gold candles fix’d in heaven’s air:
Let them say more than like of hearsay well;
I will not praise that purpose not to sell.

The sonnet was recited by a Shakespearian trained actor (named redacted), who I had two previous collaborations with: Lipstick Lies, my short film that dealt lightly with a shift in parallel dimensions and my upcoming feature The Spaceship which deals with… well, you know, spaceships and New York real estate. We were required by the Shakespeare Exchange to film the experimental short at a specific NYC Location: Gracie Mansion. A date was set this past spring for the shoot and the actor and I ventured uptown to Gracie Mansion where we started to set up for the shoot. Keep in mind that in New York, video and filming doesn’t require a permit as long as you don’t assert control over a public area. It is also not illegal to film anything in New York (building, people or other) as long as you film from public property, in this case, a city owned park. The Security Guards at Gracie Mansion had their own ideas about filming laws and essentially threatened us into keeping our filming of the location to a minimal. They even went as far as to threaten to confiscate my camera gear if they felt I was being intrusive. With that, the actor and I made the shoot as quick as possible, keeping the mansion framed in the backdrop, but not going as far as to film the location by itself or from close-up angles.  We took about 15 takes of the actor reciting the sonnet in various character voices and then called it quits when Parks Authority vehicles started showing up.  We managed to get in one great take in an authentic Shakespearean dialect.  Keep in mind too that my camera gear on this project was a canon HDSLR, a handheld microphone and a small tripod.  At the time of production and still, at the time I write, none of this gear legally requires a permit to utilize on city property.

It took me a few weeks to edit, mainly because of my production of The Spaceship. When I finally got around to delivering the final cut, I didn’t hear from the producer of the Sonnet Project, Ross, for a good part of the summer. Last night he e-mailed me to ask that I re-film it or at the very least, re-edit it with more b-roll shots of Gracie Mansion. He made sure to include a snarky little sentence at the end of his e-mail: “can you create a new edit that adheres more accurately to the expectations of the project?” Well, the answer is no, not unless the Shakespeare Exchange is willing to send a producer, with permits, to take care of the business end of filming in what the City of New York clearly perceives to be a sensitive location. Hear me out: I have no problem producing film or video on a pro-bono basis – I hate HATE HATE money, especially when it concerns an artistic endeavor like this. I think it has destroyed film, theater and other forms of art, and has even been responsible for the constant near collapsing of my current feature film project.  Therefore,  I am more than willing to play ball and not ask for ‘nor expect compensation for any of the experimental film work that I do – but I will not produce a single frame if that means risking confiscation of my gear. I’m okay too with the producing organization setting specific guidelines, but if they’re going to be picky about such guidelines, they need to provide the artists providing these pro-bono services and works of art with the resources necessary to stick with these guidelines. In this case, they should have sent us permits and a representative equipped to deal with any security or police that might try to shut the production down.

That is all I have to report. Unfortunately it’s not the happy result I had hoped for when I started this adventure with the Sonnet Project. The most I wanted was a completed short film on their website that I could post a link to.  It would have been a simple and rewarding entry on Film Anthropology.  Instead it has become a warning to artists and filmmakers to be careful about who you offer your free time to, or at the very least, ask more questions “what if this happens, or that” etc.

Cheers,

-E

Filmmaking: Friendship, Art & Storytelling

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Eric Slating "The Spaceship"Recently I had a conversation with one of the supporting actors from my new film THE SPACESHIP, which is currently in post-production.  We were talking about the various people we had worked with on the production, the cast and the crew alike, and all their various personalities.  We talked about all the people who had a positive outlook for the project as well as those who didn’t think the project would go anywhere.  The project is so big and the cast/crew so diverse, that there is no consensus.  At one point during the conversation, I told this actor that so many of the people we brought on board had never worked on an indie film before and so they have no respect for what it takes to get these things off the ground.  The actor gave me a puzzled look and quickly shot back “so what’s a take?” almost as if implying that it doesn’t take much.  Immediately I realized just how out of touch many people are, who haven’t engaged in full time production duties.

Independent film making is one of the most difficult tasks one can engage in. You could know everything there is to know about telling a story in motion picture form, but somehow someway, things don’t always go according to plan. If I put my mind to it, I’m sure I could mathematically figure out exactly how to produce one of my most complicated scripts into an impeccable indie film, right down to the last frame and sprocket hole.  But it wouldn’t work – if there’s one thing Vietnam taught us is that you could be the best of the best and know the ins and outs of your plan down to the teet, but the human condition will always interfere and fuck things up.  Things do not work out the way they should – hardly ever.  This is mainly because of two factors, communication of creative ideas and individual personalities.  The communication of creative ideas has pretty much been taken care of, as there are all sorts of mechanisms that directors can use to relay their ideas to their creative team. Personalities on the other hand, are a whole different thing, especially when it comes from people who haven’t a shred of experiencing on the production side.

In independent film making, there are people who are way down there (points to the floor)… and waaaaay up there (points to the sky). I consider myself in between. Every time I finish a project and see it through to the festival circuit, I feel slightly elevated.  In my personal opinion, anyone who has produced an indie film and has plans to do another, exists in this middle part of the spectrum, mainly because of their willingness to go through it again. That part is so huge.  Every production has people who are way down there – like so far down, they don’t stand a chance of ever coming up. Those people are bad for indie film, we don’t need them.  Those are the people who complain about every little thing, who are afraid to leave their comfort zone and just accept things the way they are.  They are the people who don’t care about the project or the other people on the project and isn’t in it for the end result, unless that end result is an enormous paycheck.  They’re involved because they have false ideas on what they can take from it and when they realize they’re not going to get what they want – they concentrate their efforts on shutting it down and ruining it for everybody.  They’ll keep you on your resume as long as they have to and then remove you the first instance they can, because in the end, their careers will likely be commercial oriented.  These people appear in all departments all across the board and have shown up to every set I’ve ever been on.  They’re like pebbles in the shoes of every truly independent filmmaker out there  The individual people will likely only appear on your set for one project and you’ll never see them again – but similar folk will always pop up in the future.

When I decided to dedicate an enormous portion of my life to motion picture storytelling, I did so with the assumption that I wouldn’t make a lot of money – but with the hope that one day I could, that is, if I developed my skills enough that someone would see value in what I can do.  Whatever happens, I’ll always be of the opinion that indie film isn’t and shouldn’t be about money, and if you’re in it for the paycheck, you’re ALWAYS going to be disappointed, no matter who it is you’re working for.  I learned this back in high school when I made my first movie and I’m dumbfounded that there are so many people who don’t seem to get it.  The only production related jobs I’ve taken strictly for the paycheck were corporate commercials for product brands.  When it came to indie films, PSA’s and other important or artistic based endeavors, I always took the job on its own merits and worked out the compensation later because to me, the compensation was the least important part of my reasoning for engaging in these projects.  Some projects I turned compensation away, in exchange for creative control (which so many of my vendors would NEVER do).  As far as I’m concerned, everyone should operate this way – unfortunately most people don’t and often turn work away because budgets are too low or making money is more important than artistic integrity.

Indie filmmakers shouldn’t be treated in the same way studios are treated, whether it be by cast, crew or the unions.  Most of the indie productions you’ll work for aren’t insured, have no benefit plans and aren’t even union signatories.  This should tell you everything you need to know about the nature of the production.  Don’t get me wrong, by all means, it’s not a bad thing.   I prefer the smaller, under financed productions for a lot of reasons.  Money destroys – it doesn’t create, especially when it comes to art and you can see that very clearly in the structure currently dominating the Hollywood industry.  This brings me to the area of financing, which probably deserves a dedicated article as well.  The people I mention as being “way down there” tend to believe that just because a filmmaker is unable to acquire financing, that a film doesn’t deserve to be made – a Darwinian mentality so to speak.  Obviously this is not my belief structure at all and my goal with this blog, Film Anthropology, is to promote the creation of film and art, regardless of resources and to work towards changing the mentality of those that are responsible for the support of the creative types who engage these projects head on.  Many of us can do it alone if we have to, but prefer not to.  I’ve been accused of being arrogant and that by not raising “proper” funds on some of my projects, that I don’t “truly” care about said projects.  Clearly I disagree.  These are the words of people who have not attempted, and will likely not attempt, to produce their own independent film.  If they do, they’re the type who will only do it when the conditions are “just right”.  But what they don’t realize is that the conditions will never be… “just right”.

In his Anti-100 Years of Cinema Manifesto, acclaimed experimental filmmaker and founder of the Anthology Film Archives, Jonas Mekas, once said: “The real history of cinema is the invisible history: history of friends getting together, doing the thing they love.”  I couldn’t agree more and live by these words every time I jump into a production – whether fully financed, penniless or crowd funded.  Film making will always be about friends getting together to tell a story.

-E

Observation: Actor Turned Director

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So this guy I know, an Actor turned Director, let’s call him Antonio (it’s a fictional name). I met Antonio last spring when he asked me to edit and finish one of his films, on a pro-bono basis.  Up to this point he has made two shorts. One starring him and one not starring him.  The second one that didn’t star him was the one I was hired to edit.  I whipped out the first pass assembly within days and finished the final cut in a couple of weeks.  Then, Antonio asked me to fix the ending of his previous short film, the one that starred him.  I was not the original editor of that film and I did not elect to take any editorial credit, although I do credit myself with the strength of the ending  as it’s a million times stronger than it was before.  In fact, aside from one festival, after I made the cut with the new ending, several other festivals jumped onto the bandwagon and agreed to screen it.  I stayed in touch with Antonio for many months after the films were completed to advise him on the festival process and to support him during the promotions some of his events.  I also decided to help out Antonio by including his films in a series I program for, in an effort to get them screened back to back in an actual movie theater with professional grade equipment.  The screening was a success.  Many of his actors and actresses, their families and some press people I invited, all came out and it was a good time.  But then something strange happened: even though there were pending festival submissions on the film I edited, he had it being broadcast live on IMDB.  Now, while I’d like to assume ignorance is bliss, this just isn’t the case.

Antonio knows fully well that having a film “live” on the internet is a good way of ensuring it’ll get rejected from a festival. So why would he want to sabotage his own festival submissions? Why waste the money to submit and then do the one thing that would turn their programmers off to including it in their upcoming season? This is where I begin to speculate, using information from a variety of sources, but really, second hand info as told to me through people closer to Antonio than myself.  I’ve come to the conclusion that this wasn’t pre-mediated, but that he was clued into making this decision by an outside party.   When you have an actor turned director and that actor has one film that he’s in and another film he’s not in, he’s going to push the one he’s acting in a hell of a lot harder.  That’s understandable, but I can’t get it into my head on why he would take the extra step of sabotaging the film he didn’t act in.  Why make the film at all?

When I e-mailed Antonio about the live IMDB screener, he didn’t respond directly, but simply took it down.  Shortly after, I found out through another source that he had put it out there deliberately.  This entry is more of an observation – questions that lead to questions.  Is he sabotaging his own movie because he didn’t cast himself?  Why make a film and then sabotage its success?

-E

Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop

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MET - Faking ItOn January 27th, the “Faking It” exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art comes to a close. The exhibited explores the manipulation of photography, before the use of the extremely popular computer program: Adobe Photoshop.  In an exhibition made possible by Adobe, we get a glimpse of published and unpublished images that were manipulated using chemical or other physical means, that in the times these images were created, the techniques were considered revolutionary.  Sample after sample, we begin to realize that everything we think is new in post-production are quite ancient (some effects even dating back to the beginning of photography in the 19th century).  For example, the replacing of dull/bland skies with deep, partly cloudy skies, were a commonplace practice, specifically in the publishing industry.  Old photography technology often blew out the sky to nothing more than a white glare, so cumulus clouds had to be timed in later, in an extensive post-production process.  In a series of photographs to advertise dish sets, we see that the “bling” had been added by hand to make the china more alluring to high priced buyers.  There are a lot of examples of the “Applied Coloring” technique, where photos were quite literally colored by hand, in the same way old motion pictures were.

Filip Dujardin METNear the exhibit, in a completely separate gallery, is the The Joyce and Robert Menschel Hall for Modern Photography, which also has a concentration of “faked” photography. The content of this exhibition is rolling, as it is dedicated to showing work created after 1960 (and there’s always work being created after 1960).  One work I gravitated towards was an image created by photographer Filip Dujardin, who used the free program Google Sketchup, to create a photo-realistic image of a fictional building.  The fact that an image created using Google Sketchup is displayed at the MET is a sign of good times to come.

The MET writes on their website for the exhibit: Over the past two decades, digital technology has made us all more keenly aware of the malleability of the photographic image, and many lament a loss of faith in the testimony of the camera. What we have gained, however, is a fresh perspective on the history of the medium and its complex relationship to visual truth. Through today’s eyes, we can see that the old adage “the camera never lies” has always been photography’s supreme fiction. I couldn’t agree more.

-E

Radioman at Anthology Film Archives

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Radioman with Filmmaker Eric NorcrossThe world famous Radioman made an appearance at the Anthology Film Archives this week to support a documentary film focusing on his life and career, aptly titled: RADIOMAN. The movie was followed by a Q&A with the famous NYC extra and day player, supported by a few of his friends who he has worked with on various film sets.

Radioman is a character actor, day player and movie extra that has more than 100 films under his belt, has worked for some of the most powerful directors in Hollywood including Steven Spielberg, Ben Stiller, Martin Scorsese and exchanged lines of dialog with some of the film industry’s most expensive and sought after actors, including Matt Damon, Robin Williams, Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell and the list goes on.

Radioman Doc

Radioman Doc

Radio began his career as a heckler, sitting on the sidelines of publicly accessible NYC film sets. Beloved by the crews, the filmmakers began putting him in their movies and he has since become a staple of the NYC film industry. Some directors won’t wrap their productions until he agrees to make an appearance.

The documentary has picked up awards and honorable mentions at festivals in Europe and the Middle East and will be released in theaters in March 2013. You can find the film on Facebook (under the category public figure) and more media on the screening is available on the NewFilmmakers New York Facebook page.

You can view photos from the event at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/newfilmmakersny/sets/72157632420936819/

Likewise, here’ is a highlights video from the Radioman Q&A on the NewFilmmakers YouTube Channel:

Direct Link URL: http://youtu.be/xbFM4uXqk0k

Manhattan Film Festival Submission Testimonials

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mffavatarThe Manhattan Film Festival has released a video of filmmaker testimonials, featuring selected filmmakers from the 2012 season. Included are: Phil Nelson (Festival Director), Eric Norcross (Caroline of Virginia), Mark Blackman (Welcome to Harlem), Kristina Harris (Diminished Chords), Erik Peter Carlson (Transatlantic Coffee) and Chloe Elaine Sharf (Nora).

The video was produced to build support among the independent filmmaking community in the hopes of discovering works that would otherwise not be submitted to the festival. MFF’s regular deadline ends February 25th, 2013 so filmmakers have time. The late deadline is March 18th and WithoutABox users can submit up until April 8th.  For more information visit MFF’s website at: http://www.ManhattanFilmFestival.org and find them on Facebook & Twitter.

Direct Link URL: http://youtu.be/3Hv-dsVutFY

From The Pen Of: Alexander Jacobs

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The_Seven-Ups_1973In the forth installation of the ongoing series  designed to spotlight that “brutally neglected” figure “most often forgotten” in the film making process, the screenwriter, the Anthology Film Archives recently screened films penned by the late Alexander Jacobs. Last night they screened HELL IN THE PACIFIC, THE SEVEN-UPS and FRENCH CONNECTION II. Last night, NYPD Detective turned actor, turned author, Randy Jurgensen was there to introduce the film THE SEVEN-UPS and participated in a question/answer session afterward.

THE SEVEN-UPS is a feature length thriller from 1973 starring Roy Scheider and directed by Philip D’Antoni. Buddy Manucci (Scheider) is a police Detective who has been getting reprimands from his superiors in the NYPD because his team of policemen, known as The Seven-Ups, has been using unorthodox methods to capture criminals; this is made clear in the opening of the film as the gang of cops destroy an antiques store that is a front for the running of counterfeit money. The name “Seven-Ups” comes from the fact that most of the convictions done by the team heralds jail sentences to criminals from Seven years and Up.

In his introduction to the film, Randy Jurgenson talked about some of this experiences working on the film as well as his experiences working on the original FRENCH CONNECTION.  Mr. Jurgensen was one of the detectives on the real life French Connection case and is one of the men who figured out that heroine was being smuggled into New  York and New Jersey through Marseille.  Mr. Jurgensen made it a point to talk about the film’s famous car chase scene. Back when the film was made, every cop thriller had to have a car chase. It was the hip thing to do. He talks about how the chase in this film was created “real to reel”, meaning there isn’t anything in the sequence that’s fake, apart from creating intensity with the editing. What we see is what they filmed. The chase takes the audience from Hell’s Kitchen/Midtown West, up the Upper West Side, crisscrossing the streets from one avenue to the other as cops and bad guys make their way uptown to Morningside Heights and then West Harlem, Hamilton Heights, Washington Heights, we laugh as the the bad guy’s car plows through a haphazardly built police barricade and enters the on-ramp that leads the chase further onto the George Washington Bridge and we are in awe as the chase continues onto Interstate 95 through Fort Lee, New Jersey. Quite remarkable actually, because there’s no way in hell this could ever be done today. Many producers, yielding millions of dollars to the city, have tried but to no avail. What we see in THE SEVEN-UPS is not only history, but something you will not ever see again in New York City.

Serpico CardsLike many NYC made films from that era, New York City was the star of the show. It was clear that the filmmakers made a conscious effort to keep the camera outdoors as much as possible.  I enjoyed seeing some of the old neighborhoods – areas of Manhattan I have lived or worked in these past few years, as they used to be.  It’s quite grounding to see them in such dilapidated, under-developed states.  Anthology screened the film with a crisp 35mm print, that was in such good condition one would think the film was just finished yesterday. You wouldn’t think several decades had gone by.  This helped enormously in trying to figure out which neighborhood the actors were in, because imagery of building facades were projected onto the screen with such detail and street names that would usually be blurred on a DVD came out crystal clear. The format in and of itself was key in making it clear that this was REAL.

The film screened as part of Anthology’s FROM THE PEN film series, which puts an emphasis on the screenwriter. Today they are screening films penned by Waldo Salt, including MIDNIGHT COWBOY, SERPICO and COMING HOME all in 35mm format so if you’re interested in viewing these films how they were meant to be, stop by 32 Second Avenue this afternoon and give them a gander.

For screening schedule visit: http://anthologyfilmarchives.org/

-Eric Norcross