Spuyten Duyvil at Bad Film Fest

Spuyten Duyvil at Bad Film Fest 2014
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It’s so bad it’s good! That’s the idea behind the BAD FILM FESTIVAL and I’m humored and inspired to find out that my old YouTube Horror short SPUYTEN DUYVIL is an official selection of this year’s event.

Spuyten Duyvil was the first in a series of experimental shorts that allowed me to play around with different elements of the horror genre. This particular short experimented with brutality and gore (no other film I’ve made has either of those elements). Even though brutality & gore aren’t elements that I appreciate in movies, it was effective – so much so that Spuyten Duyvil remains my most popular YouTube upload to date.

Check out the April 11th schedule here. Spuyten Duyvil is second on the queue of shorts. Can’t make it to the screening on April 11th? That’s cool too – just head on over to YouTube and check out the original upload from 2008.

CLICK TO VIEW MOVIE

Seed & Spark | The Spaceship

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[Reblogged from The Spaceship Production Diary in its entirety]

Hey everybody,

We’ve launched a campaign to raise finishing resources through the website Seed & Spark. Please help us by contributing and just as improtant, spreading the word about our film and funding efforts. We’ve found the people for a Seed & Spark incredibly helpful and delightful to collaborate with and some of our peers have really jumped on board to get the word out. I hope you join us too!

-Eric

https://www.seedandspark.com/studio/spaceship

[Reblogged from The Spaceship Production Diary in its entirety]

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.

Paint & Die Happy via Guernica

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If all the world were populated by people in the arts, there would probably be no war.

Guernicamag.com has published a wonderful article on New York artist Kathryn Lynch. The article is largely made up of an interview that journalist Haniya Ra conducted with Lynch and published in December. Although not film related, the advice and approach Lynch discusses can easily be applied to independent film.

Lynch says about her work and the city she lives: “I don’t have much to say about the New York art scene, that’s not why I paint. I am interested in the work it takes to make a piece of art, not the world around the art market.” This rings true for me and some of the indie filmmakers I’ve developed a fondness for over the years. I find the people I most get along with feel the same way and it’s alleviating to see that this sentiment exists in artists from other mediums.

I urge everyone to read the full interview as Lynch gives us pearl after pearl on why she paints and will continue to paint with or without the common interpretation of success. The article is titled “Paint & Die Happy” and can be read here.

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

The Indie Film Community

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I write today with a damaged heart.  For several years now I have made a conscious effort to build up the independent film community in New York by volunteering at various film festivals, interviewing filmmakers and essentially networking the hell out of the artists who live and work here.  The idea of course is to connect every single one of us in a way where we don’t have to function as strangers or fear each other’s success.  Prior to 2010, so many filmmakers in this city treated their peers like they were competition but this just isn’t the case.  Art is so drastically different, especially on the independent level, that it’s absurd to think indie filmmakers are in competition with one another.  I have applied this logic to film festivals as well, united many of them by introduction or bridging them together through programming.

This month, some of the festivals I’ve worked with to solidify their involvement in the indie film community have come under attack.

indiewirescreenshotOn July 30th, IndieWire.com had published an extremely venomous article written by one JASON GUERRASIO.  It’s called “Is This Film Festival A Scam? Sometimes, It’s Not So Obvious“.  The title was changed the following day to “Can You Trust This Film Festival” after a notice was posted on the message board, by a lawyer citing that the title crosses the line from free speech to defamation.  I’ve taken an evening to break down Jason’s article, or should I say, rip it the fuck apart, in an effort to defend one of the festivals I truly respect, MFF.  I screened with MFF in 2012 and have been working with their founder, Philip J. Nelson for about a year now, to help with the branding of the festival and find new ways to build it as a service to the indie film community.  When I met Phil last year at the 6th annual festival, I gauged right away that he was a good man who believed in the future of independent film and wanted to be a part of many filmmakers’ successes.  That is why, upon seeing Guerrasio’s ridiculous article, I flipped a lid.  I initially responded to the article with a very well thought out comment that was four paragraphs long.  It was polite and offered a very good argument to why the article is inappropriate and biased.  The comment has since disappeared from the site.

My missing comment aside, I find Guerrasio’s article suspicious to say the least, mainly because this “journalist” managed to pinpoint the top most troublesome filmmakers of the past two years and tell their “horror” stories to the indie film world, only to do the entire indie film community a disservice.  It turns out, after some light investigation, that Jason is actually an employee at the Tribeca Film Institute, which as you all know, is an affiliate of the Tribeca Film Festival as well as Tribeca Cinemas.  This is important information for later.  The first part of the article I would like to comment on revolves around one Mira Gibson, a filmmaker who made a movie called “Warfield“:

Article excerpt:

“It was a fucking nightmare.” That’s how Mira Gibson described the premiere of her film “Warfield” at the Manhattan Film Festival last year. Certain it wouldn’t be accepted at the New York Film Festival or Tribeca, the Brooklynite wanted to screen in the city and thought MFF would be a good fit. (Editor’s note: Manhattan Film Festival should not be confused with the Manhattan Short Film Festival, a completely separate organization.)

She submitted her film and entry fee through online service Withoutabox; when the film was accepted, Gibson hustled to put the final touches in post. About 10 weeks before the 2012 MFF, she sent “Warfield” in the form of a thumb drive, along with specs.

When her big night arrived, Gibson was anxious—and not because she was about to unveil a film that she’d been hyping for months to her agent, manager, family, friends, cast and crew. The venue wasn’t readymade for a movie premiere: That year, the festival was screening films at The Producer’s Club, a Times Square space more suited for theater work.

It proved to be an omen of things to come.

As the lights went down and the picture came up, Gibson was horrified. “It’s the wrong one!” she yelled out. Her first audience was watching the version she’d submitted for acceptance—a work-in-progress with no color or audio correction, no credits or the score.

I remember Gibson from the 2012 season. I remember her wigging out at her screening because she didn’t like the venue and felt embarrassed that it was being held at the Producer’s Club. This was the same venue I got to screen my film, Caroline of Virginia, and I had no complaints. My cast and family had no complaints either. In fact, none of the filmmakers that screened in my block had complaints, ‘nor did most of the filmmakers of the other blocks I sat in on. In 2012 I attended almost all of the screenings, between the first Sunday of the festival and the last and she was maybe one of two filmmakers who pitched a fit about the quality of the projection.  Phil responded by re-programming the film on another day at another venue, the Hunger College Lang Auditiorium.

This woman doesn't look too unhappy, judging by the tweet and the pic she attached.

This woman doesn’t look too unhappy, judging by the tweet and the pic she attached.

I had the pleasure of talking to Mira again, at her second screening. She was in a relatively good mood and told me she was “impressed” by the festival and by their response to the situation. I tried to talk to her about the film, but she didn’t seem to want to talk to me about it. Her film was about a child rapist getting let out of prison so I thought it warranted some sort of discussion on the social ramifications of the subject, but she didn’t seem to have the ammo to go there. It’s strange that she was so angry about not having a Q&A.

It should be noted that Mira responded to the article on the comments section, regarding her interview with Guerrasio.  Gibson responded to me directly, insisting that she did not remember me and that she had plenty of nice things to say about MFF but Guerrasio chose not to use them.  Her comment has also disappeared from the website.

Article Excerpt:

On the surface, the festival sounds like a hidden gem among the thousands. However, after seven years, its profile remains very low (although for its first four years, its name was Independent Features Film Festival). And all the filmmakers interviewed for this story — whether they enjoyed the festival or not—commented on its rampant disorganization, lack of communication and screening ineptitude.

Seems like the writer, who works for the organization that works side by side with the Tribeca Film Festival, is throwing words around the MFF name to discredit it and keep it from growing.  Festivals start small – you can’t expect a festival that doesn’t have Bobby DeNiro as its mascot, to operate on that level do you?  Seriously, it’s an INDIE FILM festival!  It’s small, it operates on a very tight, out of pocket budget and it has kept a low profile because that’s the intention of its founder.  Just because a festival is high profile, does not make it a good festival, at least, not for independent film.

Article excerpt:

L.A.-based filmmaker Timothy L. Anderson screened his debut feature, the Coolio-starring dark comedy “Two Hundred Thousand Dirty,” at the 2013 MFF. Only available to fly to town on the day of his screening, Anderson was having lunch with a friend in midtown and prepared to do a final social media blast about the premiere when he got a call from his AD that the location on their Screen Booker page suddenly changed from the East Village’s Quad Cinema to Hunter College on the Upper East Side.”I was never emailed or called at all,” said Anderson about the change.

Panic ensued: Unable to get in touch with his festival contact over the phone, Anderson rushed to the Quad for answers and found only volunteers and staff who had none. Anderson then spent two hours waiting in the lobby until Nelson showed up, who only explained that there were booking problems.

“We did postcards saying it was at the Quad and they were right next to him as we were talking,” said Anderson. “So no one at the festival saw these and saw they were wrong? My lead actor was at the opening night party, no one said anything to him about it. I told [Nelson], ‘If you walk to the Quad and find out the film is now uptown, you’re just going to go to a bar.’” With only three hours before his screening, Anderson suggested a shuttle service.

“There were such repeated instances of clusterfuck.” 

Philip went above and beyond to correct this mis-communication and initially I was appalled that the filmmaker had cooperated with the interviewer, until I had been informed, by the filmmaker, that Guerrasio had omitted a very important piece of information: the filmmaker never felt scammed, and still doesn’t.  Philip paid for limo rides to the Hunter College venue, out of his own pocket, to keep things on an even keel.

You can see Anderson’s response posted in the gallery at the bottom of this article as an un-edited screen shot.

SUBMISSIONS

As I stated before, I was a selected filmmaker at the 2012 film festival. Yes, I won an award. It might not mean much to the main stream film industry, but it sure the heck meant a lot to me and it still does.  Someone liked my work enough to give me a screening and on top of that, a plaque.  Call it ego, or whatever the hell you want, but when you’ve gone through what I did to get my films made – dammit I want a place to screen and MFF provided it and I couldn’t be happier.  Mind you, the same film had been rejected from almost every other independent film festival in New York because of its awkward running time.  At 40 minutes most film festivals were unwilling to try and fit it into their program.  Phil took the challenge and made it work.  He has since acquired the reputation of being able to accept medium length films that other festivals are so unwilling to take a good look at.  My invitation to submit to the 2012 festival was done so because I had submitted to the 2011 festival and Philip couldn’t fit it into that year’s program because of the awkward run time that I mentioned.  He invited me to resubmit because he truly believed in the film, regardless of its run time.

As of this year, at my recommendation, it is now MFF policy to invite filmmakers who have been rejected from the current season’s acceptance list, to invite them to resubmit their films the following season with a fee waiver – in an effort to strengthen the relationship between the festival and the filmmakers – whether they screen or not.

RECENT INVOLVEMENT

This year I had the pleasure of advising Philip on programming at MFF on top of his festival’s branding. I introduced a lot of filmmakers to Phil and the festival. Why didn’t Jason interview any of them? Or any of the other filmmakers who were happy with the festival this year?  I would have done an interview. I know lots of happier filmmakers who would have and they’re not too difficult to locate.

THE TRIBECA MONOPOLY

SkyscrapersMonopolies in New York City are nothing new, especially when it comes to the film and television industries. In fact, the Los Angeles film industry wouldn’t exist today if it weren’t for greedy organizations like Edison, who held patents on many of the technologies filmmakers needed to achieve their works.  Filmmakers responded by heading out west, where the long arm of Edison couldn’t as easily reach them.  Without the need for city permits or the worry of wealthy and powerful men like those from the Edison company, film making in California thrived.

Tribeca is a massive organization that dominates many aspects of the film industry in New York and the tri-state area and is growing at an alarming rate.  For an organization that’s only about a decade old, Tribeca is massive and powerful.  This is disconcerting because of their influence in city politics, specifically with the Office of Film, Theater & Broadcasting.  For Tribeca to openly allow one of their staffers to publish defamatory and slanderous content against the smaller indie fests like this, is a slap in the face to the independent film community that I’ve worked so hard to strengthen.  Organizations like Tribeca often overlook films that don’t have celebrities or bigger budgets in the hundreds of thousands.  MFF on the other hand has no bias when it comes to a film’s budget, shooting format or whether or not it can appeal to academia.  If Phil and his programming advisers feel it has any level of value or true indie spirit, it will be seriously considered.  He’s taken films I don’t particular have an interest in, but has also taken films he doesn’t have an interest in, at my suggestion.  He’s advised by many filmmakers and promoters, from all facets of the industry, both indie and mainstream.  As far as programming goes, Philip Nelson is one of the most honest programmers I know.

This isn’t the first time that Tribeca has committed a misdeed toward Phil and MFF.  In 2010 Phil was forced to file a lawsuit against the Tribeca Film Festival for theft of his innovative interactive concepts.  You can read more here: http://www.theguardian.com/film/2010/jul/07/new-york-tribeca-film-festival

Tribeca Cineams vs. The Quad

In his article, Guerrasio insinuates that any festival that uses the Quad Cinemas is likely a scam.  This just isn’t true and is further proof of Guerrasio’s ultimate intention with this article.  It is clear to me that Guerassio, seemingly on behalf of Tribeca, is making a play to destroy the reputation of the Quad and any festival that rents the facility.  This makes sense when you realize that the TFI is affiliated with Tribeca Cinemas, another NYC movie theater.  It too is often rented by smaller film festivals.

Under The Bus

What’s of bigger concern is that the filmmakers Guerrasio interviewed were more than willing to throw the festival under the bus, because they didn’t get their way or were in some way, unhappy with their experience.  They failed to see the bigger picture or have an ounce of respect for the local indie film community, which depends on lower tier festivals, like MFF, to thrive.  I know many of you filmmakers will disregard or elect to not comment on this article because you want to stand a chance at gaining entry as an official selection of the Tribeca Film Festival, but everyone needs to understand why speaking out is more important than yourselves and why this cause is bigger than you.  People like Guerrasio and the other people over at Tribeca cannot be the only ones responsible for your future, you have to take control and not give them the satisfaction of putting this perfectly legitimate film festival out of commission.  They cannot be allowed to become the only people who have the authority to say what is good and what is bad in filmmaking.  They cannot be allowed to become the only people who have the credentials to dictate what is good or bad independent cinema.

MFF is a good festival run by a good person, Philip Nelson, who truly means well.  I’ve known him since the 2012 festival, it’s not long, but long enough for me to know that he’s an individual truly dedicated to independent cinema and the success of filmmakers worldwide.  Tribeca’s goal is growth and sponsorship,  that’s it.  Truly independent cinema doesn’t matter to them, I assure you.  If it did, they wouldn’t make such a blatant effort to destroy the reputation of a person they’ve never met and a festival they’ve never attended.

It is time that filmmakers take control of the indie film world in New York and tell Tribeca to leave the boutique film festivals alone.  This is not the first festival Guerrasio attacked and it won’t be the last.  This article is part of a series he has started in an effort to further rip apart the community of independent filmmakers and the festivals that support them.  In addition, Tribeca needs to pressure its staffers to not post defamatory media about other festivals and organizations, as it reflects badly on the part of Tribeca.  If Tribeca truly wants to contribute to independent film culture in a positive way, they’ll order Guerrasio to issue a retraction and cease with his ridiculous series of articles that explore the “underbelly of the film festival world“.  By publishing these articles, IndieWire has done a lot of damage to the festival and to the filmmakers whom the festival has supported.

Shit Happens – Get Used To It

It seems like some of these filmmakers haven’t been around the festival circuit much and aren’t aware that they need to come prepared and ready for anything.  Filmmakers need to understand that circumstances change and sometimes events don’t go as perfectly as they should. Festivals aren’t locked down. I’ve seen Tribeca change show times, venues and even cut Q&A’s. This is COMMON practice.  I don’t see Guerrasio calling Tribeca out on this.  But I KNOW it happens because I know a lot of filmmakers who have screened at the Tribeca Film Festival. I am friends with filmmakers who have won awards at Sundance and picked up like recognition at Cannes.  These same people have also  screened at MFF and saw what took place there to be common with boutique film festivals.  It is not a scam, it doesn’t make it non-trustworthy, it just is what it is.

The author of the article insists that its not honest to boot a filmmaker from a festival and that a legit festival would never do anything like that. This is complete BS. The author’s own employer, Tribeca, has engaged in similar acts, even going as far as to booting ticket holders from a screening because they were asking difficult questions to the filmmakers.  Check out the details of that situation at the New York Times website: http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/22/tribeca-film-festival-turns-away-protesters-who-had-tickets-to-gasland-sequel/

Other Festivals & Sponsors:

It’s important that I inform all of you that some of the festivals that the filmmakers that Guerrasio interviewed have had major successes at, also have similar complaints. Solvan Naim, the musician that made the movie Full Circle, claims that he’ll only screen at festivals with sponsors.  Solvan Naim did well at this year’s NYCIFF, but if you look them up on RipOff Report, they’ve got a complaint from another filmmaker who had the same problem that Mira had with MFF: he was pissed off that he had been programmed at the Producer’s Club.  In addition, other complaints included screenings being canceled and awards being given to people that had previously been affiliated with the festival’s founder/director.  Mind you, I only found it because I was reading Solvan’s Ripoff Report against MFF. Guess what? NYCIFF has Paramount Pictures on their step & repeat.  Does this make a person’s complaint any less important than those complaing about MFF? Sponsorship mean nothing.  Although I’ve never attended NYCIFF ‘nor have I talked with any filmmaker who has screened there about their experience, I would never assume that the festival or its founding directors had any other intention but good intentions when they decided they wanted to screen films on an annual basis.

The people involved in the defamation of MFF and the other festivals Guerrasio has targed are a vicious circle of filmmakers and film promoters who have nothing but selfish intentions. Or maybe they want to bully Phil into giving up the MFF name.  Who knows.  One thing is for sure, this guy Guerrasio, while heavily credentialed to write about Hollywood, is clearly not qualified to write about independent film and IndieWire is clearly not trustworthy a source of true independent filmmakers.

I urge everyone in the indie film community in New York and abroad to do your research and ask around before submitting your work to any film festivals.  Don’t go on Guerrasio’s article alone – from a filmmaker who has extensive experience with MFF, I can assure all of you that this festival is GOOD and operated by a phenomenal person and his amazing family.

Thanks for the ear,

-Eric Norcross | 2012 MFF Selected Filmmaker turned Volunteer

Mira Gibson tweet during her MFF event.

Mira Gibson tweet during her MFF event.

Tim Anderson Response

Jason 2Jason 3

Jason 1

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