Saturday, February 21, 2009
When Chris Wong's friend, Edward Tom, decided to become an educator after working for years at Saks Fifth Avenue, Wong knew he had to tell his story.
While the film's subjects are an African American student and an Asian American (two races that are not typically known to get along in the inner-city environment), Wong says the film "isn't about racial conflict, because that issue really doesn't pop up, but I think that's definitely an interesting aspect....seeing them work hand-in-hand is pretty revolutionary."
Any why did they decide to sneak preview it here?
At 12.3o today Big Sky will present another one of Berlinger's great films, Gray Matter, a contemporary story that illuminates one of history's darkest periods. It's a compelling tale of murder, conspiracy, guilt and redemption. It accounts Berlinger's hunt for 89-year-old Dr. Heinrich Gross, one of Austria's leading forensic psychiatrists and alleged murderer of hundreds of handicapped children. A Q&A will follow the film.
At 2.30 plays Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, an in-depth portrait of the most successful heavy metal band of all time, as they faced monumental personal and professional challenges while recording their first studio album of original songs in five years. The film trades rock-star posing for truthful introspection, and reveals an intimate portrait of the individuals behind a legendary band and their unique creative journey. A Q&A will follow the film.
Friday, February 20, 2009
What Brendan Canty and Christoph Green have created with their Burn to Shine project is a way for artists to gather in one spot and create something that can never be recreated.
It began in 2004 when a friend offered them a house given to him by an old woman who had recently died. The friend wanted to honor the woman, and Green and Canty came up with this idea, which eventually became Burn to Shine--the first one was shot in Washington D.C., when many of the bands there were in flux. Other featured cities include Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, and Chicago.
"I thought it'd be interesting, like that photo in Harlem with all the jazz bands," explains Canty. "Then when you look at it in 20 years, it illuminates the relationships that people had. My idea was to film a bunch of people who were connected...a community of musicians in one day...not to create a full-blown documentary, but just to create a portrait."
I talk with Alan Rosenblith, director of The Money Fix, about his background, the state of the economy, the evolution of Twitter and the truth about where our money is made.
The Money Fix screens tonight at its WORLD PREMIERE at 4.45pm.
T: What inspired you to make such a film?
T: What does your company have to do with the message your film conveys?
I founded Community Prosper as an Oregon based non-profit whose purpose is to promote the use and development of peer-to-peer based currency (one type of currency design). Recently, I have been working with a Twitter-based start-up that uses Twitter to make payments in micro-currencies called "Twollars." I think this kind of direct audience engagement is how to ensure financial success for social-purpose documentaries in today's Internet-based media climate.
T: Do you have a filmmaking background?
T: What is the biggest misconception people have about money?
The second misconception is that money is a THING in the sense that there is only so much of it. Money is actually nothing more than information about who owes who what. And this is a very good thing. Right now, we are experiencing a "credit crunch" which means money is disappearing. But think about it, we are still all here with the same talents and resources. The only thing that is missing is money to enable exchange. The problem is that, as a culture, we make something that is inherently just information (and therefore sufficient) into something scarce. This is in fact the sole function of our financial system. Think about it, if you have to make money to live, you have to compete for it. That is not something inherent, but rather something that is there by design.
T: How did Big Sky get to be the place you premiered your film?
T: Who do you hope to reach with this film? Who is your audience?
T: Any future projects?AR: I am really passionate about using filmmaking as a catalyst for human evolution (particularly in the domain of money), so I am working on a series of follow-up pieces to THE MONEY FIX that will get into greater depth. The issues around money go VERY deep, and I think there could be several more feature length films worth of material there.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Big Sky Documentary Film Festival Announces Award Winners
Best Feature: Rough Aunties by Kim Longinotto
Artistic Vision: In A Dream by Jeremiah Zagar
Best Short: Bronx Princess by Musa Syeed & Yoni Brook
Artistic Vision: The First Kid to Learn English From Mexico by Peter Jordan
Best MiniDoc: Jennifer by Stewart Copeland
Artistic Vision: The Secret Life of Beards by Melanie Levy
Big Sky Award: Red Gold by Travis Rummel & Ben Knight
Programmer’s Choice Awards
Best Editing: Crude by Joe Berlinger
Best Cinematography: Ashes of American Flags by Brendan Canty & Christoph Green
Best Music Doc: The Choir by Michael Davie
AWARD SCREENING SCHEDULE
Fri. Feb 20, 2009 at 7 pm - In A Dream, Jennifer & The Secret Life of Beards
Sat. Feb 21, 2009 at 7 pm - Red Gold; Bronx Princess; The First Kid to Learn English From Mexico,
Sun. Feb 22, 2009 at 8 pm - The Choir & Rough Aunties
Thanks to the nine-member festival jury:
Hutton, a neuroscience and art history major, had never made a documentary, much less a film, but felt the issue was topical and was compelled to expose a story about the newest and deepest oil discovery in the United States.
He returned to North Dakota that following May (in 2006), when news of the oil discovery began to peak. Hutton and his crew of two, with a budget of $10,000 (all tracked on an Excel spreadsheet by their "finance manager"), produced an account of what he describes as an "historical moment."
Just in the past years, says Hutton, the North Dakota landscape has transformed from a flat, uninhabited wasteland to a sprawling scene of power lines, trailers and "bobbing creatures" digging 10,000 feet for one of the world's most precious resources. The state had a surplus of $1Billion last fiscal year and is hugely profiting from this boom; there are hundreds of jobs for the transient workforce, but housing is scarce.
The film just won Best of Fest at the Oxford Film Festival and will go on tour after leaving Big Sky.
Hutton hopes to make his next film about artificial intelligence and a process to measure its existence, called the "Turing Test."
It's a straightforward piece about people and their art cars--nothing more, nothing less. What drives people to decorate their cars? Is it ego? Insecurity? Obsession? After 13 years, Blank (son of filmmaker Les Blank), may have figured it all out.
Check out Blank's cool site here. He's currently working working on a film about The Burning Man Festival (shot on 16mm) due out in the Fall of 2010.
Award-winning filmmaker, journalist and photographer Joe Berlinger has created some of the most compelling non-fiction films of the last thirty years. Whether exploring the dark terrains of child murder and siblingcide or the complications of a heavy metal group's therapy, Berlinger's films go deep into the complex topography of humanness.
He has also directed and produced numerous hours of television, including the Sundance Channel series, Iconoclasts.
Berlinger joins Big Sky 2009 for an intimate look at his work.
BROTHER'S KEEPER 11.45am
PARADISE LOST: THE CHILD MURDERS AT ROBIN HOOD HILLS 2pm
REVELATIONS: PARADISE LOST 2 10am
GRAY MATTER w/ICONOCLASTS 2.30pm
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
- There seems to be more paying work in doc filmmaking than in fiction filmmaking.
- Consider trimming your feature down--it may work better that way.
- Posting online may affect its possibility of being widely distributed.
- Wear lots of hats; learn to do one or more thing in the business.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Are people's attention spans shortening or are they just more hungry for solid content?
- How do you feel about posting your shorts for free?
- Who would want to watch this film?
- What's the film's niche market?
Thursday's panel is on the business of documentary--how to distribute your independent work in the world of mass media. Moderated by Chris White. 2pm at the Crystal Theatre.
Photo by Cathrine Walters
Today Doug Whyte, director of the International Documentary Challenge, comes to us from Portland, Oregon to discuss short-form documentary and its place in a market driven by high-profile documentary features. What are the broadcast, exhibition and internet options for short-form docs?
Join us at the Crystal Theatre, 515 Higgins Avenue, at 2pm.
FREE and open to the public.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Today's discussion focusing on the art of documentary film welcomed seven panelists whose films ranged from the debated "art doc" to more formulaic pieces and features by amateurs to works about "cultural collision."
- How do you get at the truth in your filmmaking process?
- How much of your own tone, interpretation and subject-to-director interaction goes into that process?
- How truly objective can a documentary be?
- How many varieties of documentary film are there within the genre? ie Post-modern, avant garde, fly-on-the-wall, directorial inclusion, etc.
Photo by Cathrine Walters
Panel members will include Richard Beer of Film Action Oregon; John Kane, director of the short Frontier Youth; Lisa Whitmer of No Strings Attached; and Mike Murphy of the Media Arts Department at U of M.
Hosted by the Crystal Theatre, 515 S. Higgins Avenue, Missoula
2pm on Tuesday, February 17th
*FREE and Open to the Public
Monday, February 16, 2009
That is why I like the SHORTS PROGRAMS.
Monday at 1.15pm SHORTS PROGRAM #3 New York Stories
Monday at 9.45pm SHORTS PROGRAM #4 Some Dreamers
Tuesday 6.30pm SHORTS PROGRAM #5 Wide Open Spaces II
Wednesday 5pm INTERNATIONAL DOCUMENTARY CHALLENGE FILMS
Sunday 3.15pm SHORTS PROGRAM #6 What Work Is
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Mann recently finished his retrospective at Big Sky, lives in Toronto and once lived on a commune.
The Boston-based Alloy Orchestra has been around since 1991 when Ken Winokur and Terry Donahue united their unique percussion backgrounds with a pianist who was later replaced by the current pianist, a trained compositionist and a former punk rocker, Roger Miller, nearly 11 years ago. Their premiere film was the Fritz Lang classic Metropolis. (The man who asked them to provide the score apparently didn't like the 1980's Freddy Mercury version.) The ensemble insists on using only the best prints available, and has travelled as far as New Zealand and Sweden to play their compositions made for both short and feature-length silent films.
One of the most intriguing aspects of the band is the "rack of junk" that travels with the trio to every gig. Depending on the airport stipulations, however, the number of instruments may vary.
The rack of junk may include any or all of the following:
2 or 3 gongs
2 truck springs
metal pipes used as chimes
a metal bedpan
a real drumset torn apart and spread out
cakepans used as untuned steel drums
a giant xylophone made of 2x4's
Terry Donahue, a percussionist, has also picked up the accordion and the musical saw, or what he calls the "poorman's theramine," a rare instrument typically used in the early 1900's. He uses the saw because "has a lot of traits that work much better for us. It is much more durable to travel with and lends itself to the junk thing very well."
"We anticipate we'll be together for a long time, so it's been worth our learning instruments and learning styles of music that we can bring into the band," says Ken Winokur, the second percussionist.
He picked up the clarinet 8-10 years ago because he felt the group needed more melodic instruments.
"I figured it was warm and pretty instead of the harsh metal stuff."
Roger uses sheet music, but leaves room for improvisation, while Terry tries to memorize as much as possible, but phases it out as quickly as he can. Kerry composes a kind of "complex storyboard." For him, it's all about reading ahead and anticipating which sticks he needs for which drum or cymbal at which time.
While the musical compositions aren't too difficult to sort out, Winokur explains that choosing films is not as easy as it looks, and that being "commissioned" is usually not an option.
"We typically will figure out what we want to do or get asked by a film festival, so the trick for us is to figure out what will represent our tour for a year or more," says Winokur. "Because we don't want to do one film just once...if we're gonna do it, we're gonna do it a lot."
"So that's the trick: finding a film that we wanna play and that people want to see that can be accessible. Some festivals want the really obscure ones."
"When we were asked to do it [Metropolis], we did it the way we thought it should be done," says Donahue. "We didn't look back at the old scores and think of it as something old...we still try to think of these things that work as pieces of art that will stand the test of time. We just try to play music we think is appropriate to the film."
One the trio's toughest challenges is their likelihood as a percussion-based band to overwhelm the score with drums and too much noise even when the scene is soft and quiet.
"I think what's difficult for us is that we have a tendency to be large and exciting
and powerful, I mean, that's our style, but all the films don't call for that, and all the scenes don't call for that, so I think it's important to keep control of ourselves and bring the volume down, and bring the emotion qualities," says Winokur.
"The best example of that is Blackmail (Hitchcock, 1929)," adds Donahue. "We want to be drummers and we want to hit'em and Blackmail is so...suspenseful. It's one of the hardest ones just for that reason, because everytime you wanna play something, you gotta pull back and say no, i only have to play a quarter of what I want to play."
"But on the other hand I think that adds to what makes the score really work for it. Because our feeling of tension of pulling back translates into a feeling of suspense which is perfect for a Hitchcock movie. Mostly we try to find the feel and vibe and the rhythm of the movie, try not to overplay it then go from there. Sometimes it's easier said than done."
Audiences ("little kids, hipsters and grandparents") continue to be moved by their compositions and follow their work around the world. Their next project, Man with a Movie Camera, will premiere in St. Petersburg, Russia in April.
In the short film 'Jennifer,' filmmaker Stewart Copeland explores his relationship with his mother through a recorded conversation between eighth-grade students and astronauts aboard the international space station.
It plays at 3pm today in Wilma 1 with the shorts series.
Director Stewart Copeland hails from Tullahoma, Tennessee and graduated from Webster University with a degree in film production. He continues to shoot photography and short films, adding to his repertoire of visual arts.