I’m a veteran of several film festivals including the Newport Beach Film Festival, the Berlin International Film Festival, the American Film Institute's AFIFest Hollywood and AFI DOCS, the famed Venice International Film Festival, the San Luis Obispo SLO Film Fest, and the Santa Barbara International Film Festival's family of festivals including the SBIFF, the SBIFF Wave Festivals and the SBIFF Showcase Film Series. To date I’ve written and published over 100 film reviews and have work posted on four sites including sbccfilmreviews.org, imdb.com. I have also been published in Classic Film Images magazine.
In addition to writing reviews and covering film festivals, I am currently seeking distribution for new films. I have contacts in several major markets including Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, and Cannes, France.
So when you’re looking for your film to get noticed, remember HollywoodGlee can help. We have professional marketers, respected critics and the most knowledgeable contacts on what film festival and/or distribution channel is right for you and your film.
See you at the movies!
Film Mode Entertainment Presents First Look Footage of Ken Jeong, Temuera Morrison,
Daniel Gillies and Jason Isaacs’ RAINFALL
LOS ANGELES (November 10, 2020) – Clay Epstein’s Film Mode Entertainment announces the AFM market premiere with first-look footage of the highly anticipated sci-fi action epic adventure RAINFALL, starring Ken Jeong (Crazy Rich Asians, The Hangover), Temuera Morrison (Aquaman, The Mandalorian – on Disney+ ), Daniel Gillies (The Originals) and Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter series of films, The OA, The Death of Stalin, The Patriot, Black Hawk Down).
The film is produced by Carly & Carmel Imrie (Occupation, Red Billabong) and American co-executive producer Todd Williams (The Nun, Alex and Me).
“We are very excited to be presenting what some outlets have already dubbed to be one of the most ambitious Australian films ever attempted. This film is a lot of fun and will take the audience on an intense and emotional ride from beginning to end. Rainfall is loud and proud!” Said Carly and Carmel Imrie.
Film Mode Entertainment is representing worldwide rights on RAINFALL outside of Australia and New Zealand.
RAINFALL is currently in final post-production.
About Film Mode Entertainment
Film Mode Entertainment is a leading worldwide sales agent, production entity and distribution company, focusing on commercially driven feature films of all genres and budget sizes. Film Mode represents projects at all stages of the filmmaking process, often as Executive Producer, with the aim of helping producers and distributors achieve maximum exposure for their films. Film Mode’s recent titles include CRYPTO starring Kurt Russell, Luke Hemsworth and Alexis Bledel, HOOKING UP starring Brittany Snow, Sam Richardson and Vivica A. Fox, STAGE MOTHER starring Academy Award nominee Jacki Weaver, Lucy Liu and Adrian Grenier, and DREAMKATCHER starring Radha Mitchell, Lin Shaye, and Henry Thomas.
Previous releases include SUGAR MOUNTAIN starring Jason Momoa, and THE GOOD NEIGHBOR starring Academy Award nominee James Caan. Film Mode accelerated their growth and expanded their capabilities by entering into a partnership with SCREEN MEDIA, representing their catalogue of more than 600 titles, including WHAT’S EATING GILBERT GRAPE starring Leonardo DiCaprio, who was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for his performance, and MONSTER, starring Charlize Theron who won an Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Actress for the film. The company also has its own distribution arm, as well as a documentary label, DocMode. Film Mode is based in Beverly Hills, CA.
(Source: Press release provided by Lon Haber, Lon Haber & Co.)
Day 1 at the 2020 Online American Film Market (AFM) kicked off its morning session with Keynote Speakers, Mark Gill of Solstice Studios, and Elissa Federoff, President of Distribution. Neon. Both conversations offered a plethora of detailed and insightful information on topics ranging from exhibition to distribution and timing of releasing films during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The first-afternoon session, “Spotlight on Russia,” hosted by Roskino CEO, Evgenia Markova, provided an introductory overview of New Russian Cinema and upcoming Russian Television Series. High energy features with strong production values were on full display. Seeking co-production and co-funding partners, one of the first pieces presented was Die Hards from Russia’s Channel 5 TV, closely resembling the Bruce Willis-led, global phenomenon Die Hard franchise. Covering the full gamut of genres with Russian gangsters, love stories, inspirational, historical, and war, a look at the “Spotlight on Russia,” was illuminated.
The dramedy of Chicks seeks to capitalize on both the local and global markets with a swanky and sultry cast dealing with real-life situations with comedic relief. Set for a 2020 November release, Check it out. You’ll be glad you did!
Red Ghost set in WWII theatre of combat puts on full display the unearthly prowess and determination of the Russian soldier on the battlefield – cunning, baffling, powerful! A must-see piece.
Other promising TV and theatrical titles featuring strong Russian-themed action include The Conquest of Siberia and Run.
The Queen, a teenage comedy featuring a social media darling who also doubles as a professional tennis player has all the dressings of when Maria Sharapova meets a randy Clueless’s, Alicia Silverstone.
Wrapping up the impressive Russian lineup were the animated features for the young viewer, The Golden Hive, and the older viewer, Silver Skates. Targeted features with compelling narratives. Highly recommended!
The follow-up session to “Spotlight on Russia” featured a panel of Russian women sharing their experience with key art and merchandising in “The Wow-effect of Russian Movies’ Marketing Localization,” moderated by Screen International’s Geoffrey Macnab.
An excellent primer on developing a consistent audience and being sensitive to regional cinema differences.
A storied filmmaking industry featuring the pioneering and ground-breaking montage of Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin, Russian Cinema is seeing widespread popularity throughout Europe and is finding more followers on Youtube. Hostess Markhova showcased the riveting series, Zuleikha Opens Her Eyes, released on YouTube in April 2020. The powerful storyline with exquisite costuming and make-up, make this an Editor’s Choice.
Keep an eye for these pieces and for opportunities to team up with production and distribution companies.
The 2020 Online American Film Market (AFM) kicked off its Day 1 morning session with Keynote Speakers, Mark Gill of Solstice Studios, and Elissa Federoff, President of Distribution. Neon. See below for highlighted topics from the moderated conversations follow. The AFM continues through December 13th. For more information visit the AmericanFilmMarket.com.
“Our idea was that we could be first and probably elevate a film of an otherwise modest budget of $33 Million Dollars against Tenet which is hundreds of millions of dollars or Mulan and that we might have an opportunity to elevate the movie. And that is actually what happened. But it wasn’t for the faint at heart because we had five release dates. Every time we thought it was done another outbreak would happen somewhere in the US or theatres wouldn’t open or Tenet would move. It was just the hardest thing I’ve ever done and I’ve been doing this for a long long time.”
On his perceptions of the theatrical landscape before releasing Unhinged and what he learned:
“It looked like Asia was well ahead of the US and Europe certainly too so we allowed the international folks to release first which is not all that common and it worked out great….What we were looking at were three things you have to get to line up. There are three sets of planets: There are the theatre owners obviously. There were other distributors, notably Warner Bros. for Tenet and at that time Disney with Mulan. And then, of course, there’s the public health situation. Our theory was if we waited until Fall things could easily get worse – which is what we see happening. Our thought was that in the Summer we had a chance. And going first was important since no one else wanted to do it. I’m glad we did. It worked out well for us but it was also an important statement to make about why theatres matter and that people would go.”
Other Countries and Pandemic give hope.
“You’ve got more and more films pushing, FOX has just moved a couple of things. It just does not look good. So I was glad to see Pfizer released good news about a possible vaccine. That’s clearly going to be key. The other thing that is incredibly heartening in the long-run is if you look at Japan and China and Korea, where the public health situation is under control, they’re breaking records. So, people like going to the movies. They just want to do it in a way that allows them to relax and enjoy and feel comfortable doing it and not enough of them are right now in the US.”
On what makes a film like Unhinged ripe right now for the current marketplace.
“I have three theories about that. The first is the movie has to be good enough. The second is, for some reason men seem to be a little more willing to go to theatres than women. And third is that it’s a good way to blow off some steam. We’re all living in a very very tense time. Unemployment is high. Everything is uncertain. It’s tough for everybody. So if there’s a chance to go and just enjoy some craziness on the screen as opposed to the craziness in our real lives, that’s what the exit polls are telling us that people are liking about these kinds of movies.”
Why Solstice stuck to a full theatrical release for Unhinged.
“Where possible, we want to be in theatres. That’s what we’re [Solstice Studios] all about so as others are running from it – you’ll see the majors making fewer movies for theatres which were coming anyway but are now just accelerated – that will create more opportunity in the long run for mid-sized films to run in the way that they used to. The impressive list of films that the AFM has been a part of for the last 40 years, those are precisely the kinds of films that are going to benefit from this once there is a vaccine.”
On the potential of having a shortage of films for the international markets by next year. Will we hit a dry spot?
“What we’re starting to see from the production side is a number of movies gearing up for late winter or early spring starts. But that means they’re delivered a year from then so by the time we get to Cannes or certainly Toronto I think there is going to be a shortage of films.”
On Good Joe Bell
“We bought Good Joe Bell for the world which means that we will sell it internationally after we’re done doing a little bit of work on the film. I thought it was very very strong but not quite where it needed to be in terms of hitting critical mass. It will be done in the next 2 ½ – 3 weeks and then we need to probably take it to Berlin and we’re looking at releasing it for Academy Award consideration – which is by February 28th this year. I’ve never seen that before. It’s an emotionally compelling film. We all unanimously agreed on that which never happens.”
On Selling International
“We have chosen so far to just sell the movies one at a time to independent distributors in all the key markets. It’s worked out surprisingly well. It was fascinating working with all these distributors as they were facing what we were which was essentially ‘Is our country going to be open? Are the cinemas going to be open? Is anybody going to go?’ And what was just so impressive was how many of them – whether it was the UK or France or Australia or Italy, there are so many countries that did so well with the movie [Unhinged]. The reality is that on this movie we got out alive and getting out in a pandemic was quite an achievement. A huge part of that was the international distributors taking a lot of risk in trying to do what we did, and in some cases doing it even better than we did. Australia was blow out good for example and this was with 30% of their country closed.”
Moderated by Brent Lang, Executive Editor, Film & Media, Variety
On theatrical coming back.
“We know that audiences will come back to the movie theatres. That the theatrical landscape will be vibrant again. This is very exciting news about the vaccine because potentially it makes the span of time a little shorter…”
“We’ve always projected we would be back and our movies would be in those theatres. We love the cinema so much. It is the best way to see a movie I truly believe there is no virtual offering, there is no streaming equivalent there’s no digital equivalent to being in a movie theatre with an audience having a completely immersive experience in the dark, no phones, no talking, no distractions and of the audience being a character in that film. That really changes the whole dynamic.”
On how NEON has adapted a pandemic strategy in the short term.
“Over the pandemic, we’ve released a ton of films. We’ve released more films than probably the majority of our independent counterparts have. We’ve been buying films, we’ve been producing films. We’ve taken this opportunity to pivot our strategy and release our films digitally and with Hulu.”
“Ammonite, we are releasing this Friday in theatres and then we’re putting it on PVOD on the 4th of December. This is the first PVOD release that we’ve done and we’re really excited about it. Inside this pandemic and inside this award season, this is a highly strategic way that we are releasing this film. LA is not open, New York is not open, San Francisco is not open so we don’t see the theatrical box office at this moment to be the same as it has been in the past and we believe it will be in the future. This has been previously very very successful for us when we released Bachelorette for example or Snowpiercer – the VOD was so robust that it actually made the film just as viable as if we had put it in theatres and spent the P&A. So this works great for Ammonite. We have several other movies on our slate and we would absolutely love them to see them in theatres. We have Gunda, we have The Killing of Two Lovers, we have several other films for next Spring that we have not yet slotted for our release calendar and fingers crossed theatres are back and everyone is going.”
On why they’ve been so active releasing films during this time.
“Independent film has always been a very very difficult business. It’s always been hard to release these films. We’ve always found challenges in the marketplace with theatres even when every screen was open. We’ve always felt the competitive nature of the business. When tentpoles were there when other independent films were there and we were all vying for our spot. So we’ve always been up against something and it’s never stopped us. We truly want to bring films to people. We want to bring them out when people want to see them the most which are now when they want to be fulfilled by something. Our films and a lot of Independents are, in some cases, so much more important than the tentpoles because they reach so many different audiences and really specific niche audiences who may not find something in the digital space.”
“We really wanted to stay relevant and bring, buy, and release films at a time when production is struggling, and the exhibition is struggling. We want to support artists. So much of this time period has been in doubt and we don’t know when we will ‘get back to normal’. I don’t think we should wait to get ‘back to normal’. We should pivot and figure out strategies that will help us now.”
View on Drive-in Theatres.
“I think what has shifted is that they typically were seen as theatres that only play very commercial films. They haven’t been in the space of anything really different. And now they’re playing the independent film for the first time. They’re playing art releases. They’re playing movies from smaller companies and not just the major studios and that’s what has shifted so much about drive-ins. We love having them in our plans. People feel safe. I see them sticking around. I think we’ve opened up both the audiences for Drive-ins and the theatres themselves to think more about independent film.”
On Windows Shifting
“The reality is that multiplatform releases have always been around. We’ve always had then as part of our strategy for certain kinds of releases and many other companies have as well. We’re no stranger to the short window or the multi-platform release. What’s exciting about right now is that the studios are kind of acknowledging it as a way to release a film. NEON is not a company that believes every film is one size fits all – there will always be films for us and for the entire world that will need a very long and thought out release in theatres for 180 days before they go to VOD. We love those. Films like Honeyland. We would have never released that in any other way than a long thought out release. Parasite the same thing. But then there have been other films like Snowpiercer that we did a compressed window and we put it on VOD and it was very very successful for us. It made in excess of $10 Million on VOD. And the fact that we can be flexible, I think just opens up many more avenues in our business.”
Stay tuned for the upcoming “Spotlight on Russia” coverage!
JOSH HUTCHERSON AND MORE JOIN LIEV SCHREIBER’S ACROSS THE RIVER AND INTO THE TREES
Venice, Italy/ Los Angeles, CA, November 9, 2020: Tribune Pictures and The Exchange announced today that feature movie adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s final novel and NY Times bestseller ACROSS THE RIVER AND INTO THE TREES just added award-winning actor Josh Hutcherson and award-winning Italian actress Sabrina Impacciatore.
Propelled to stardom by the HUNGER GAMES franchise and the critically acclaimed independent film, THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT, Hutcherson currently stars in the Hulu TV series Future Man. Impacciatore wrote and starred recently in Italian box office success THERE IS NO PLACE LIKE HOME.
n pre-production in Venice, Italy, Hutcherson and Impacciatore are joining six-time Golden Globe nominee actor Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan, Spotlight, X-Men Origins: Wolverine), award-winning Italian breakthrough actress Matilda De Angelis (Susan Bier’s The Undoing), award-winning Italian Laura Morante (CHERRY ON THE CAKE, THE BALL) and Academy Award-nominated Italian actor Giancarlo Giannini (QUANTUM OF SOLACE).
Produced by Robert MacLean of Tribune Pictures, the adapted screenplay by BAFTA-award-winning screenwriter Peter Flannery is directed by award-winning Spanish director Paula Ortiz (THE BRIDE) with award-winning director of photography Javier Aguirresarobe (BLUE JASMINE, VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA, THOR RAGNAROK, THE ROAD).
The film is being produced in association with Jianmin LV and Spring Era Films. John Smallcombe and Ken Gord are also producing, William J. Immerman and Justin Raikes are Executive Producers. Andrea Biscaro is Italian Line Producer. Filomena Cusano is production counsel.
ACROSS THE RIVER AND INTO THE TREES is the story of Colonel Richard Cantwell, played by Schreiber, a semi-autobiographical character partially-based-on Hemingway’s friend Colonel Charles T. Lanham. Hemingway had his own relationship with Italian aristocrat, Adriana Ivancich. Cantwell is a complex and conflicted character, wounded and damaged both physically and mentally by the war, seeking inner peace, and trying to come to terms with his own mortality.
“Adding Josh to this internationally renowned cast is very exciting. His popularity and talent will help make this film even more valuable to our buyers,” said Brian O’Shea, The Exchange C.E.O.
Hutcherson is represented by The Beddingfield Company, The Gersh Agency and Hansen, Jacobson, Teller, Hoberman, Newman, Warren, Richman, Rush, Kaller & Gellman, Impacciatore by Gianni Chiffi and Volver Consulenze Artistiche.
The Exchange’s Virtual AFM’20 line-up includes Liev Schreiber’s ACROSS THE RIVER AND INTO THE TREES, Noomi Rapace’s THE THICKET, Kumail Nanjiani’s THE INDEPENDENT, Trace Lysette’s MONICA, Zoe Saldana’s KEYHOLE GARDEN, Anna Faris’ SUMMER MADNESS, Sundance’20 SPREE, Tribeca’20 Drew Barrymore’s THE STAND-IN, completed movie GRINGA, Sundance’20 and Berlinale’20 documentary WELCOME TO CHECHNYA, documentaries WELCOME TO DALE and STREET GANG,
ETHAN HAWKE BOARDS ABEL FERRARA’S NEW POSTMODERN, WAR-TIME THRILLER
“ZEROS AND ONES”
CAPSTONE GROUP’S BLUE BOX INTERNATIONAL TO LAUNCH SALES AT AFM THIS WEEK
LOS ANGELES, CA (November 9, 2020) Four-time Academy Award-nominated actor and filmmaker Ethan Hawke (First Reformed, Boyhood), Cristina Chiriac (Siberia, Tommaso) and Phil Neilson (Siberia, Ben-Hur) have joined seminal filmmaker Abel Ferrara’s (Bad Lieutenant, The Funeral, Kings Of New York) upcoming thriller Zeros and Ones.
Both written and directed by Ferrara, filming begins in Italy later this month.
JJ (Ethan Hawke) is an American soldier stationed in a Rome under siege, locked down, and at war. The Vatican being blown into the night sky is only the beginning of our hero’s journey to uncover and defend against an unknown enemy but threatening the lives of the entire world.
Christian Mercuri’s Capstone Group will launch sales at AFM this week under its Blue Box International label and will co-rep domestic with CAA Media Finance.
Zeros and Ones is produced by Diana Phillips (Bad Lieutenant, Siberia, Alfie) of Rimsky Productions, and Philipp Kreuzer (Guns Akimbo, The Happy Prince, Run & Jump) from Maze Pictures. Award winning cinematographer Sean Price Williams who most recently lensed Cannes Film Festival Official Selection Good Time directed by Benny and Josh Safdie and starring Robert Pattinson, anchors the production below the line team.
Danny Chan of Almost Never Films will serve as Executive Producer alongside Brent Guttman and Don Young.
“Zeros and Ones is a film of lockdown and war, danger and espionage, American soldiers, Chinese middlemen, Mid Easternholy men, provocateurs, diplomats, rogue elements of the CIA and KGB. I cannot wait to roll the cameras next week in a way that is safe because this film was written during and with anunderstanding of the pandemic,” declared Ferrara
“Buyers are hungry for compelling and original storylines in the hands of master filmmakers and Zeros and Ones ticks all the right boxes,” Mercuri stated. “Coupled with worldclassproduction values and locations that includes the eerie backdrop of present-day Rome which has a feeling of Paris at the end of WW2, this film is a package not to be missed.”
In a career that spans over three decades, Ethan Hawke’s prolific filmography includes screen performances in Dead Poets Society; Reality Bites; Gattaca; Training Day; Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead; Boyhood; Born to Be Blue; Maudie; Richard Linklater’s trilogy Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight; and First Reformed, among countless others. He is also a noted filmmaker, author, and currently makes his television debut as star, co-writer, and executive producer of Showtime’s critically acclaimed limited series, The Good Lord Bird.
Long-time independent filmmaker Abel Ferrara has built a cult audience following with his stylish, neo-noir imagery, gritty urban settings, and provocative award winning films. A Film Festival favorite, his credits include Siberia, The Addiction, The Funeral, Blackout, Pasolini, Tommaso, Mary, Bad Lieutenantand the crime-thriller King of New York starring Christopher Walken.
ABOUT CAPSTONE GROUP
Capstone Group is an independent film financing and international sales company focusing on high quality commercial films with worldwide box office appeal. Established in 2017, Capstone is headed by renowned international sales and distribution veteran Christian Mercuri who has sold, financed and produced over 150 feature films with distribution contracts exceeding $1.7 billion USD and a worldwide box office exceeding $3 billion USD. In its first years, the company has financed and/or licensed films with
International stars such as Angelina Jolie, Mila Kunis, Chris Pratt, Jackie Chan, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis. Prior to forming Capstone Group, Mercuri helped finance and distribute projects such as The Wolf of Wall Street, The Expendables, Dumb and Dumber To, and Out of the Furnace.
AFM 2020 ONLINE SET TO OPEN MONDAY WITH A RECORD 562 exhibitors, PARTICIPANTS FROM 78 COUNTRIES, More Than 1,450 BUYERS AND 465 FILMS Screening
205 Speakers from 20 Countries Come Together Over 70+ Sessions Covering a Breadth of
Timely Topics Critical to the Global Independent Motion Picture Industry
Los Angeles, CA – November 9, 2020 – Kicking off today, the American Film Market (AFM®) announced today that it will welcome the global industry with participants coming from 78 countries and 42 U.S. states – more countries than any AFM in the last decade. To date, a record 562Exhibitors are registered for AFM 2020 Online from 48 countries with the largest exhibitor presence coming from the United States with 259 companies followed by Italy (59), the United Kingdom (46), Russia (25), Germany (20), France (19), Canada (17), Republic of (South) Korea (14), Japan (12), and Thailand (11). The current list of Exhibitors can be viewed here.
The world’s Buyers will also be in attendance with 1,468 Buyers from 66 countries confirmed to date, the largest number coming from the United States, followed by Japan, the United Kingdom, Republic of (South) Korea, Spain, Germany, Italy, France, and Canada. Buyers from the world’s leading digital platforms will also be in attendance. 465 films from 184 companies and representing 24 countries will be screening in the AFM’s On Demand Theatre.
In keeping with its mission to provide timely information and knowledge, the AFM will present its largest programming lineup to date with 205 speakers from 20 countries across 71 sessions centered on opportunities and solutions for finance, production and distribution in the wake of the pandemic. The Programming kicks off online on November 9 at 9:30 AM PST with The Future of Film Conference featuring Keynote Conversations with Mark Gill, President and CEO, Solstice Studios and Deadline’s Anthony D’Alessandro; and Elissa Federoff, President of Distribution, NEON and Variety’s Brent Lang. Panels and presentations in partnership with leading industry organizations and institutions will also take center stage, including AAFCA, BFI, NAACP, NALIP, NIFS, SAG-AFTRA, SAGindie, The Black List, The Film Collaborative, USC Annenberg Hollywood, Health & Society, WGAW, and Winston/Baker.
The AFM2020.Online platform was created to serve AFM’s multiple audience segments and features eight dedicated areas including Industry Offices, LocationEXPO, the On Demand Theatre and MyAFM. One of AFM 2020’s key differentiators is its truly unique and interactive video networking capabilities. With technology provided by the company Filmocracy, participants can meet in the Networking Pavilion with 180 online tables for video discussions on preset topics or meet-ups they can schedule. Filmocracy also supports the two Stages, including session replays, and the Info Center, enabling AFM to provide the “face-to-face” connections that happen organically in Santa Monica.
Jonathan Wolf, AFM Managing Director commented, “The global film industry has set aside this week to connect for deal making, presentations, and education, and to gather marketplace intel from one another. AFM’s engaging online experience, with the types of serendipitous meetings that happen organically in the halls, hotels and parties each year in Santa Monica, will keep everyone in touch and ensure that independent film continues to reach audiences around the world.”
The AFM programming lineup will take place live on Stages 1 and 2 with replays available within a few hours. View the full schedule of sessions and speakers for AFM 2020 Online. Highlights include:
Monday, November 9
Global Sales and VOD in partnership with The Film Collaborative: Wendy Bernfeld, Rights Stuff,Todd Olsson, Highland Film Group,Brian O’Shea, The Exchange, Orly Ravid, The Film Collaborative and Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP, and Gabrielle Rozing, Fortissimo Films.
Using Artificial Intelligence to Inform Success: Nadira Azermai, ScriptBook, Tobias Queisser, Cinelytic, Debajyoti “Deb” Ray, RivetAI, and Andrea Scarso, Ingenious.
California: The State of On Location Filmingpresented by the Film Liaisons in California Statewide (FLICS)
Tasha Day, City of Long Beach, Eve Honthaner, The California Film Commission, Sabrina Jurisich, Film Shasta, Beverly Lewis, Placer-Lake Tahoe Film Office, and Donna Washington, FilmLA.
Discover New Voicesin partnership with Winston|Baker: Adhrucia Apana, Curiosity Entertainment, Janaé Désiré, Creative Artists Agency, Gina Reyes, Verve Talent & Literary Agency, Sophia Yen, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP, and Viviana Zarragoitia, Three Point Capital.
Show Don’t Tell Podcast:Director and host Noam Kroll and screenwriter Bryan Hill to talk Screenwriting on a Micro-Budget.
Trends in Japanese Cinema & Television presented by JETRO: Chiyako Slawinski, Producer & Consultant and Chuck Williams, Lightbeam Entertainment, LLC.
Spotlight on Russia: Meet Russian Content at AFM 2020presented by ROSKINO: Evgenia Markova, ROSKINO
Tuesday, November 10
Spotlight On: Production in Alberta presented by the Calgary Film Centre: Linda Ambury, Production Manager and Producer, Luke Azevedo, Calgary Film Commission, Tom Cox, Seven24 Films, Mark Ham, Alberta Film Commission, and Erin O’Connor, Calgary Film Centre.
AFM’s Pitch Conference: Producer & Agent, Cassian Elwes (Mudbound, Dallas Buyers Club), Elizabeth Haggard, Participant Media, and Lee Jessup, Screenwriting Career Consultant & Coach.
The Filmmakers Podcast:Hosts Giles Alderson and Ian Sharp talk to Writer/Producer/Director Dan Mazer (Borat, I Give it a Year) about making movies, working on set and the writer/director/producer relationship.
The Producer’s Guide Podcast: Founder of Broken Road Productions, Producer and host Todd Garner and WWE wrestler turned actor John Cena will discussProducing Comedy in Today’s Hollywood, A Serious Business.
Indie Film Hustle Podcast:Host Alex Ferrari and Producer Franco Sama on Raising Money in a COVID World & The Future of Film Distribution.
Building a Marketing Toolkit for Independent Features: Katherine MacDonald, Paramount Pictures and Russell Schwartz, Pandemic Marketing Group.
High Concept and Low Budget: Using the Writers Guild of America Low Budget Agreement in Uncertain Times:
Made by Africans, Watched by the World: Mayenzeke Baza, AAA Entertainment, Bradley Joshua, Gambit Films, Rethabile Ramphakela, Burnt Onion Productions, Pascal Schmitz, AAA Entertainment.
Navigating and Negotiating Intimacy on Setin partnership with SAG-AFTRA:Amanda Blumenthal, Intimacy Professionals Association, Gabrielle Carteris, SAG-AFTRA, Jim Kleverweis, Executive Producer (Euphoria, Insecure and Silicon Valley), Alicia Rodis, Intimacy Directors and Coordinators, and David White, SAG-AFTRA.
New Zealand: Challenges and Opportunities for Film in a COVID World in partnership with the Screen Production and Development Association of New Zealand: Richard Fletcher, SPADA and Libertine Pictures,Patrick Frater, Variety, Rob Tapert, Executive Producer (Don’t Breath, The Grudge), Chelsea Winstanley, Producer, Executive Producer, Director (This Too Shall Pass).
Wednesday, November 11
Producing Without a Completion Bond featuring Jill Goldsmith, Deadline, Brad Krevoy, Motion Picture Corporation of America, Brian O’Shea, The Exchange, and John Sloss, Cinetic Media.
Low Budget Films with Huge Profit Potential: Jillian Apfelbaum, Village Roadshow Pictures, John Rhodes, Screencraft, Nick Spicer, XYZ Films, and Zachary Tarica, The Forest Road Co.
Managing Financial Risk from Script to Screen: Ryan Broussard, Media Services Payroll, Gregoire Gensollen, Tucker Tooley Entertainment, David Offenberg, Loyola Marymount University, Gary Raskin, Raskin Gorham Anderson Law LLP.
Facts Matter: Health & Science Accuracy Onscreenin partnership with USC Annenberg Hollywood, Health & Society: Kate Langrall Folb.
Blockchain Streaming Platforms presented in partnership with the Blockchain Global Entertainment Alliance: Patrice Poujol, Lumiere Project, Jake Craven, Breaker, Adrian J. Garelik, CEO, Flixxo, Trinabh Gupta, UCSB, Serban Simu, Eluvio.
Film Riot Podcast: Host Ryan Connolly and writer/director Colin Levy talk Directing a Blockbuster Film on an Indie Budget.
Thursday, November 12
How to Secure the Right Cast for a Greenlight: Randall Emmett (The Irishman, Power), Caroline Couret-Delegue, Film Seekers,Jenny Jue, Downtown Casting,Laura Rister, Untitled Entertainment.
Pandemic Production Challenges & Solutions: Richard Botto, Stage 32, Chris Moore, Producer (Manchester by the Sea and Promised Land), Celine Rattray, Maven Pictures, andJennifer Westin, MarVista Entertainment.
What’s Working in the Pre-Sales Marketplace: Kimberly Fox, MadRiverInternational, Jeffrey Greenstein, Millennium Media, Inc., Jeremy Kay, Screen International, and Nat McCormick, The Exchange.
The Black List Can Change Everything About How You Find Future Projects with The Black List’s Franklin Leonard and Terry Huang,
A Conversation with Lloyd Kaufman:Make Your Own Damn Movie in 60 Minutes or Less!
Who Did I Offend Now? Cultural Competency in Storytellingpresented in partnership with the NAACP:Kyle Bowser, NAACP, Darnell Hunt, UCLA, and Brittany A. Little, Universal Television.
U.S. Film Incentives: From Application to Audit presented by Media Services Payroll Presentation:
Nicole Ameln, North Star Incentives, Inc., David Benavente, Cast & Crew Entertainment Services, David Brauer, Brauer & Co., PC, Marco Cordova, Monarch Private Capital, Ryan Broussard, Media Services Payroll,
Friday, November 12
Working with Sales Agents: Tamara Birkemoe, Foresight Unlimited, Clay Epstein, Film Mode Entertainment, and Jordan Yale Levine, Yale Productions.
Keep Calm and Carry On Filming in partnership with the British Film Institute (BFI:)Adrian Wootton, Film London and the British Film Commission, Anna Mansi, British Film Institute, Julia Oh, Film4, and Alison Thompson, Cornerstone Films.
Deciphering Streaming Models & the Path to VOD Distribution: Audrey Delaney Blue Fox Entertainment, Bruce Eisen, Digital Advisors Linda Nelson, Indie Rights, Lise Romanoff, Vision Films, andJames Schamus, Symbolic Exchange.
Standing Out in the Streaming Game – What Platforms and Audiences Want: Scilla Andreen, IndieFlix,Cameron Douglas, FandangoNOW, and Erick Opeka, Cinedigm Digital Networks.
Distributing & Monetizing Feature Documentaries: Anna Godas, DogWoof,Gregg Goldstein, Variety, Kevin Iwashina, Endeavor Content,John Von Thaden, Magnolia Pictures, Krista Wegener, Participant Media.
Navigating Hollywood During COVID-19 : How To Find Success For Your Project During A Global Pandemic in partnership with the African-American Film Critics Association (AAFCA): Jen Barrett, Creative Shop Facebook, Megan Colligan, IMAX Entertainment and IMAX Corp, Malik Ducard, YouTube, Mike Jackson, Lifted Film Co., andGil L. Robertson IV, African-American Film Critics Association (AAFCA).
Everything You Imagine In One Country: Colombia:Catalina Porto, Caracol TV
Casting Global Talent: Who do Latinx Audiences Want to See?in partnership with the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP):Christopher Acebo, Broken English Productions, Aaron Ashford, Pantelion Films, Liliana Espinoza, NALIP, Carla Hool, Casting Director.
About the American Film Market® (AFM®)
The AFM is the most efficient film acquisition, development, and networking event in the world. More than US$1 billion in production and distribution deals are closed every year — on both completed films and those in every stage of development and production. Over five days in November, 7,000+ professionals from 70+ countries access the entire global catalog of available films and projects, attend world-class conferences, and connect with decision-makers. The AFM is produced by the Independent Film & Television Alliance®.
(Press release provided by Jennifer Garnick |VP, Communications Independent Film & Television Alliance)
I concur. Thank you to Michael and the entire AFI FEST team for making this year’s ‘mostly virtual’ festival top-notch!
Highlights of the 2020 festival included a Centerpiece Drive-in screening of ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI… (DIR Regina King) at the Rose Bowl; the World Premieres of I’M YOUR WOMAN (DIR Julia Hart), PINK SKIES AHEAD (DIR Kelly Oxford) and REALLY LOVE (DIR Angel Kristi Williams); screenings of highly anticipated films including COLLECTIVE (COLLECTIV) (DIR Alexander Nanau), THE FATHER (DIR Florian Zeller), I CARRY YOU WITH ME (Heidi Ewing), MY LITTLE SISTER (DIR Stéphanie Chuat, Véronique Reymond), NEW ORDER (NUEVO ORDEN) (DIR Michel Franco), NINE DAYS (DIR Edson Oda) and WOLFWALKERS (DIR Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart); a conversation with Dr. Stacy Smith on the portrayal of characters with mental health conditions in film and television; a discussion with the director and cast of SOUND OF METAL with the Deaf community; a conversation with Academy Award® nominee, producer, director and writer Ava DuVernay about elevating and supporting BIPOC filmmakers; the Indie Contenders and Doc Roundtables; and Tributes to Sofia Coppola, Kirby Dirk, Mira Nair and Rita Moreno.
A few of my favorite additional highlights included Elle, an AFI Conservatory Showcase selection. Elle is a coming-of-age story and character-driven drama that explores themes such as self-discovery, unrequited love, and the ambivalence and intimacy that exists within female friendships. In the Director’s Statement, AFI Conservatory Alumna, Nicole Vanden Broeck writes,
“I have always believed in the power of cinema to comfort us, to tell us that we are not alone, that others have felt what we’ve felt, that we share our struggles and our heartbreaks, that there is someone out there that understands.”
Technically and artistically, Elle hits all the marks. Strong cinematography by Guido Raimondo. Warm and intimate production design from Evan Welch. Seamless editing (Chris Tenzis, Editor). Believable and highly naturalistic acting with Sarah Sawyer as Elle and Ron Dadon as Sam. And, an emotionally rewarding narrative written by Vanden Broeck and Asher Jelinsky and a beautiful mise-en-scene to match. Gabrielle Cordero produced Elle. Highly recommended with a runtime of twenty-one minutes and a team to keep an eye on!
At the Virtual Industry and Filmmaker Mixer, I had the pleasure of connecting with Matt Yoka, director of Whirlybird, his feature documentary on the pioneering and groundbreaking TV aerial news reporting team of Bob Tur and Marika Gerard. Yoka crafts his work from 2,000 hours of recorded flight tape, direct interviews, news archives, still photos, and more. The result is a dynamic visual history of the biggest Los Angeles news events in the last 30 years including the Los Angeles Riots of 1992 and the pursuant, criminal assault of truck driver, Reginald Denny, at Florence and Normandy after the Rodney King beating verdict and subsequent acquittal of the four white police officers charged. And, if that wasn’t enough the duo broke and captured the infamous O.J. Simpson ‘White Bronco’ car chase which became “the apex of live news coverage” with approximately 80 million viewers tuning in. A must-see!
While I didn’t get an opportunity to connect with Sean Penn during the mixer, I did view Citizen Penn.I’ve long been a fan of Sean Penn as an actor beginning with his Mick O’Brien role in the 1983 Bad Boys and I was semi-aware of his Haiti relief efforts in 2010. As an Army Reservist, my battalion was on alert for deployment. In the documentary, Director Don Hardy, sometimes eloquently and sometimes pragmatically, reveals Sean Penn has diligently changed his image through Penn’s extensive efforts to aid assistance to his fellow ‘man’ in war-torn, disaster-laden, disaffected countries beginning in 2002 with the war in Iraq right up to the current COVID-19-infected United States.
Utilizing a plethora of photographs, direct interviews, and archival news footage, documenting the devastation and suffering along with footage from one camera operated by a Haitian police officer who accompanied Penn at all times following the country’s 2010 earthquake. Penn was adamant about his efforts not being used for overt publicity but allowed the official to have and operate a camera at his own discretion. Penn stayed on the ground for several months returning often guiding not only relief efforts but also debris and gravel removal. More recently, Penn began hosting an annual gala raising several million dollars from a limited guest list as his efforts are taking root. Highly recommended and quite compelling. A must-see!
THE REAGANS (DIR Matt Tyrnauer), presented by Meet the Press and Chuck Todd, screened Parts 1 and 2 of this compelling and extremely timely re-examination of President and Mrs. Reagan. Chock full of evocative archival footage and illuminating contemporary interviews, THE REAGANS asserts Nancy’s central role in her husband’s career, shines a light on the darker aspects of the Reagans’ climb to power, and provides a revelatory perspective on how the political tactics used in the ‘60s and ‘70s are a progenitor of our current national politics. The screening was followed by an in-depth conversation between Chuck Todd and Tyrnauer as they discuss the subjects, several of the Reagan biographies, and Tyrnauer’s previous documentary, Where’s My Roy Cohn.
Belushi, from Showtime Documentary Films, directed by award-winning, filmmaker R.J. Cutler, reveals the complicated, singular, and too-short life of a beloved American icon who helped change American culture and comedy, John Belushi, a once-in-a-generation talent who captured the hearts and funny-bones of audiences around the world. From his early years growing up in Wheaton, Illinois, Belushi showed an extraordinary talent for comedy and music. But, it was a visit to the Second City theater in Chicago where Belushi established himself and from that moment on he became an unstoppable and pioneering force in the comedy world. His audacious rendition of Joe Cocker singing the Beatles “With A Little Help From My Friends,” proved to be the star shot launching pad. Cutler utilizes still photos, archival footage, home videos, animation, and telling letters from John to his high school sweetheart girlfriend and later wife, Judy, that paint a picture of Belushi’s passion, love, and humanly struggles.
Belushi’s insatiable drive for success and fame kept the candle burning at both ends. When his acting attempts in 1941, Neighbors, and Continental Divide failed to provide him the accolades of The Blues Brothers and Animal House, Belushi sought consolation and creativity in dark habits as he continually pushed himself for greatness. As a performer, John Belushi grasped the importance of developing and recreating himself on stage and felt a high degree of compulsion to do this on the big screen. Belushi’s ambitious drive and need for approval reached its limits on March 5, 1982, at the hotel Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood. Belushi was found alone, not breathing, and unresponsive. The coroner’s report stated the cause of death was “acute cocaine and heroin intoxication.”
Cutler captures what John Belushi was as a performer and scratches the surface of who Belushi was as a person. Told linearly using previously unheard audiotapes, the film also examines Belushi’s life in the words of his collaborators, friends, and family, including Dan Aykroyd, Jim Belushi, Penny Marshall, Lorne Michaels, Carrie Fisher, Chevy Chase, Harold Ramis, Jane Curtin, Ivan Reitman and his wife, Judy Belushi. As much as I enjoyed experiencing his comedic genius again, there is more to John Belushi than what appears in this screening of Belushi. Yet, Cutler does an excellent job of creating a framework of understanding some of the comedic legend’s motivation and unmet needs with a well-researched and documented biographical treatment. Belushi is scheduled to launch on November 22, 2020, on Showtime. Highly recommended.
Thriller/Drama Wander Darkly, is as good a film as I’ve seen this year. Written and directed by Tara Miele, and starring Sienna Miller as Adrienne and Diego Luna as Matteo, Wander Darkly is a surreal journey into conflict resolution between a young couple following a traumatic car accident. On its most basic level, Wander Darkly is a relationship film challenging boundaries while seeking the answer for continuity. In a very non-linear approach, the couple relives the past through the duality of their shared moments including fond memories from the initial courtship through the truths of the present as they attempt to rediscover the love that binds them together as they face an uncertain future. Miller in a tour de force performance crushes it as Adrienne pulling out all the emotional stops exploring grief, joy, and love. Wander Darkly is scheduled to be in select theaters, on digital, and on-demand on December 11th. Check it out! You’ll be glad you did!
Uncle Frank, an Amazon Original Film, starring Paul Bettany, Sophia Lillis, Peter Macdissi, Steve Zahn, and Stephen Root (Office Space), and directed by Alan Ball, tells the story of a young, rural South Carolinian woman, Beth, (Sophia Lillis) a precocious spirit with a connection to her rarely seen Uncle Frank.
When a death in the family occurs, Beth and Uncle Frank embark on a road trip back to South Carolina delving into deep interpersonal dialogue on sexuality and death before being unexpectedly joined by Wally. Along the rest of the way, Beth is exposed to bigotry, homophobia, and a warm, loving relationship. Once she and Uncle Frank are back in small-town, rural Creekville, South Carolina, the past reveals itself, and moments for self-reflection and overcoming imposed beliefs come to pass.
Uncle Frank, a character-driven drama, is quite entertaining and could easily pass for a period piece, much like Green Book, with its costuming by Megan Stark Evans, production design by Darcy C Scanlan, its superb cinematography by Khalid Mohtaseb, and with the layered narrative (screenwriting, Alan Ball) dealing with family, remorse, death, loss, same-sex relationships, religion, as well as social norms and beliefs in the Deep South.
Seeing Bettany cast had a lot to do with my viewing selection of Uncle Frank. And, he doesn’t disappoint as he carries the heaviness, the emotional weight, of Uncle Frank. My hat’s off to Casting Director, Avy Kaufman (Brokeback Mountain). Bravo! Uncle Frank is scheduled for a U.S. release (internet) on November 25th, 2020, and is a beautiful, entertaining film. Very warmly recommended viewing!
The Closing Night Presentation was the World Premiere of MY PSYCHEDELIC LOVE STORY (DIR Errol Morris), followed by an interesting conversation between Indiewire’s Ann Thompson and Morris (available along with 69 other conversations here.) In MY PSYCHEDELIC LOVE STORY, Morris delivers a tell-all story of Johanna Harcourt-Smith, a once young, Swiis born, Paris-raised, jet-setting, an aristocratic, Jewish woman who cavorted with the high priest of LSD, Timothy Leary. My Psychedelic Love Story is the story of Harcourt-Smith and O’Leary as they circumvent extradition and indulge themselves in daily acid trips for a two-month period before Leary is extradited back to the US, incarcerated, and eventually released. At the time there was much speculation Harcourt-Smith was a CIA plant – a Mata Hari of sorts. MY PSYCHEDELIC LOVE STORY will be airing on Showtime!
Wolfwalkers, an Apple Original Film from Cartoon Saloon, the Kilkenny, Ireland, the animation studio that previously produced The Secret of Kells (2009) and Song of the Sea (2014) completes an Irish folklore animated trilogy spanning slightly more than ten years.
Wolfwalkers is set in 17th-century Ireland, a time of great change with successive transfers of land from catholic to protestant ownership and where administrative and political power passed into the hands of a new English minority (Irish Historical Studies, Vol. 15, No. 60, Sep 1967, pgs. 366-375). Literary references to the Arthurian Camelot myth and to historical figure Oliver Cromwell are smoothly incorporated as well. Moore and Stewart encapsulate this situation in a magical friendship that develops between two young girls, Robyn and Mebh.
Wolfwalkers, steeped in historical significance, is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful films I have had the pleasure of viewing and experiencing and it’s a film the whole family can watch! Wolfwalkersis set to be released theatrically on October 30, 2020, by WildCard in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and on November 13, 2020, by GKIDS before debuting on Apple TV+ on December 11, 2020.
Announces Speakers from CAA, Cinedigm, Dogwoof, EFO Films, Elevated Film Sales, Endeavor Content, FandangoNow, IndieFlix, Magnolia Pictures, NAACP, Participant, ScriptBook, UCLA, Universal, Verve, and Winston Baker
Networking to Take Center Stage with Opportunities to Connect via Video by Genres, Location, and Specialty Topics
Los Angeles, CA – November 3, 2020 – Ahead of its kick-off next week, the American Film Market (AFM®) today announced new topics and speakers added to the expansive AFM 2020 Online programming lineup that will bring 70+ sessions and 200 speakers over five days, November 9-13, alongside the AFM’s marketplace and screenings at AFM2020.online.
Plans for AFM’s Networking Pavilion have also been revealed. This truly unique online experiencegives attendees the opportunity to explore and join over 100 video discussions / “tables” every hour with small groups focused on various genres and specialty topics ranging from Documentary to Horror to Socially Responsible Storytelling. Additional “tables” will offer hourly meet-ups for dozens of countries and U.S. cities, providing the “face-to-face” connections that happen organically in Santa Monica.
While the AFM doesn’t officially start until Monday, November 9, three buildings on the AFM Campus – the Industry Offices, LocationEXPO, and the On Demand Theatre will go live on November 4 for pre-market screenings and project previews.
Additional topics and speakers joining AFM’s two online stages and previously announced conferences, panels, conversations, workshops, podcasts and presentations, include:
AFM’s Pitch Conference featuring Producer & Agent, Cassian Elwes (Mudbound, Dallas Buyers Club), Elevated Film Sales, Elizabeth Haggard, VP Narrative Film, Participant Media, and Lee Jessup, Screenwriting Career Consultant & Coach.
How to Secure the Right Cast for a Greenlight featuring Randall Emmett (The Irishman, Power), Co-Chair & Producer, EFO Films,Caroline Couret-Delegue, Managing Director, Film Seekers,Jenny Jue, Owner & Casting Director, Downtown Casting,Laura Rister, Producer, Untitled Entertainment.
Who Did I Offend Now? Cultural Competency in Storytellingpresented in partnership with the NAACP with Kyle Bowser, NAACP, Darnell Hunt, Dean of the Division of Social Sciences and Professor of Sociology and African American Studies, UCLA, and Brittany A. Little, Vice President, Drama Development, Universal Television.
Distributing & Monetizing Feature Documentaries with Anna Godas, CEO,DogWoof,Gregg Goldstein, Author, Variety, Kevin Iwashina, Agent, Endeavor Content,John Von Thaden, Head of Acquisitions, Magnolia Pictures, Krista Wegener, EVP, Sales and Distribution, Participant Media.
Using Artificial Intelligence to Inform Success featuring Nadira Azermai, Founder, ScriptBook, Tobias Queisser, Co-Founder & CEO, Cinelytic, and Debajyoti “Deb” Ray, CEO,
Discover New Voicespresented in partnership with WINSTON | BAKER with Adhrucia Apana, Founder & Producer, Curiosity Entertainment,Janaé Désiré, Media Finance Executive, Creative Artists Agency,Gina Reyes, Television Lit Agent, Verve Talent & Literary Agency,Sophia Yen, Partner, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP, andViviana Zarragoitia, Vice President, Three Point Capital.
Standing Out in the Streaming Game – What Platforms and Audiences WantfeaturingScilla Andreen, Co-Founder & CEO, IndieFlix,Cameron Douglas, VP of Home Entertainment, FandangoNOW, and Erick Opeka, President, Cinedigm Digital Networks.
Blockchain Streaming Platforms presented in partnership with the Blockchain Global Entertainment Alliance with Jake Craven, VP, Content Partnerships,Breaker, Adrian J. Garelik, CEO, Flixxo, Trinabh Gupta, Professor at University California Santa Barbara, Rouslan Ovtcharoff, Founder, Blockchain Global Entertainment Alliance,Patrice Poujol, Founder & CEO, Lumiere, and Serban Simu, President & Co-Founder, Eluvio.
As previously announced, AFM’s programming will kick off on November 9 with two marquee one-on-one conversations: Mark Gill, President and CEO of Solstice Studios, will take the online stage to discuss his views and predictions of how independent film, the marketplace, and audience consumption will change in the near future with Deadline’s Anthony D’Alessandro. The morning will continue with a dialogue with Elissa Federoff, President of Distribution for NEON, who will share her insights with Variety’s Brent Lang on the future of feature film distribution and exhibition.
About the American Film Market® (AFM®)
The AFM is the most efficient film acquisition, development and networking event in the world. More than US$1 billion in production and distribution deals are closed every year — on both completed films and those in every stage of development and production. Over five days in November, 7,000+ professionals from 70+ countries access the entire global catalogue of available films and projects, attend world class conferences, and connect with decision makers. The AFM is produced by the Independent Film & Television Alliance®.
(Source: Press release provided by Jennifer Garrick, VP, Communications, Independent Film & Television Alliance)
Posted and reviewed by Larry Gleeson during the virtual 2020 AFI FEST presented by Audi.
Filmmaker Matt Yoka, who I had the distinct pleasure of connecting with at the AFI FEST Industry and Filmmaker mixer, brings home Whirlybird, a fascinating, real-world tale of Los Angeles-based reporters, Bob Tur and Marika Gerrard, who revolutionized real-time news reporting from the air. Yoka crafts his work from 2,000 hours of recorded flight tape, direct interviews, news archives, still photos, and more.
The result is a dynamic visual history of the biggest Los Angeles news events in the last 30 years including the Los Angeles Riots of 1992 and the pursuant, criminal assault of truck driver, Reginald Denny, at Florence and Normandy after the Rodney King beating verdict and subsequent acquittal of the four white police officers charged. And, if that wasn’t enough the duo broke and captured the infamous O.J. Simpson ‘White bronco’ car chase which became “the apex of live news coverage” with approximately 80 million viewers tuning in.
Prior to these two major national news events, Bob had also previously rescued 54 people from a crumbling rooftop at the Portofino Inn in Redondo Beach, Calif. during a winter storm with winds up to 50 miles per hour. The hotel was surrounded by water and was being pummeled by massive, crashing waves. As what can only be described as a herculean effort, Tur managed to whisk away the stranded guests to higher ground in fourteen separate takeoffs and landings. The rescue made news headlines and jumpstarted his and Marika’s network career with KCOP.
By itself, any one of these events would make for a great story. And they are. Interestingly, Yoka goes on to explore the interpersonal and intrapersonal dynamics between Bob and Marika primarily with footage from their aerial reporting. What emerges is a strong working relationship with Bob’s perfectionism and Marika’s “go along to get along attitude.” The pair produced footage unmatched with Bob’s aggressive piloting and Marika’s willingness to hang outside and keep a steady camera rolling under less than optimal conditions including live rounds being fired at them during their three-day virtually non-stop coverage of the 1992 rioting.
Unexpectedly included in present-day time is MSNBC journalist, and Bob and Marika’s daughter, Katy Tur, an MSNBC journalist and author of the 2017 “Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History,” as she reflects on the rise and fall of her parent’s helicopter reporting empire, the current state of, and decline of, major network broadcast news reporting, and her parent’s marital relationship. Yoka includes this section as Katy and Marika are seen in casual conversation.
With Whirlybird Yoka manages to distill a 15 plus year time span into a 1:43 film run time. With a focus on the newsgathering, Yoka delivers a very informative segment before introducing and exploring a surprising and deeply personal human-interest twist reminiscent of Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner as Zoey Tur comes to terms with who she is as a person and explains why she performed so aggressively and behaved so inappropriately as Bob.
A seminal piece on the newsgathering industry in Los Angeles coupled with a timely human-interest story involving transgenderism and news reporting at the highest national level, Whirlybird is highly recommended viewing.
Posted and reviewed by Larry Gleeson during the virtual 2020 AFI FEST presented by Audi.
Thriller/Drama Wander Darkly, a Lionsgate production, written and directed by Tara Miele, and starring Sienna Miller as Adrienne and Diego Luna as Matteo, is a surreal journey into conflict resolution between a young couple following a traumatic car accident. In a very non-linear approach, the couple relives the past through the duality of their shared moments including fond memories from the initial courtship through the truths of the present as they attempt to rediscover the love that binds them together as they face an uncertain future.
The film opens with solemn non-diegetic music as introductory titles roll. An aerial tracking “god shot” follows a car traveling down a nightscape city street that could pass for West Los Angeles. An interior shot of the moving vehicle reveals a young couple with a newborn in a heated exchange. Tension is in the air. Dominance and control. Neon lights flash giving an illusion of a video game. Mention of splitting up. Then a massive collision.
From here mise-en-scene and cinematography get very interesting as time becomes fluid with death and out-of-body astral planing. Carolina Costas creates this fluid time continuum effect through various camera angles, movements, and lens choices. Imagine Christopher Nolan’s Inception cinematography and mise-en-scene where up is down and down is up as our lead characters are passing in and out of linear time going forward and back revisiting critical moments in their relationship trying to explain to one another what each was experiencing in those moments. I’m thinking Ghost (1990) meets Before Sunrise.
In the Q & A following the film led by AFI Programmer Claudia Puig, Miele revealed the impetus for the film came from her life experience of being in a traumatic car accident with her husband. The experience changed her perspective on mortality and the adrenaline-fueled lifestyle she led. Sienna Miller also participated and shared Adrienne was one of her most challenging roles as an actor due to numerous emotional arcs, beats, and emotional u-turns. Miller and Miele seemed to both agree on the success of the film hinged on how surreal her character could be. In addition, Wander Darkly was shot in Los Angeles and Miele really wanted the story to be an LA story about an interracial couple. Producer Monica Levinson brought some of her surreal magic to the production set with the inclusion of dolphins!
On its most basic level, Wander Darkly is a relationship film challenging boundaries while seeking the answer for continuity. Miller in a tour de force performance crushes it as Adrienne pulling out all the emotional stops exploring grief, joy, and love. Luna is no slouch as Matteo either. Steadfast and earnest as he explains his flighty behavior with axioms of “for better or worse,” and “you have to take the good with the bad.” As contentious as the relationship is/was, watching the two come to a resolution was emotionally moving and deeply satisfying to watch. The sound design by Frank Gates and the music by Alex Weston was more than complementary. They were an integral part of the film’s narrative as were the dolphins.
Wander Darkly is as good a film as I’ve seen this year and is scheduled to be in select theaters, on digital, and on-demand on December 11th. Check it out! You’ll be glad you did!