Category Archives: #AFIFEST

MOLLY’S GAME Will Close AFI FEST 2017

Posted by Larry Gleeson

AFI has announced that Academy Award® and Emmy®-winning writer/director Aaron Sorkin will be honored by AFI FEST 2017 presented by Audi with a Tribute and Premiere Closing Night Gala screening of STXfilms and The Mark Gordon Company’s MOLLY’S GAME on Thursday, November 16, at the historic TCL Chinese Theatre. 

The Tribute will celebrate Sorkin’s career with a moderated discussion of his work followed by the Gala premiere screening. Written and directed by Sorkin, MOLLY’S GAME stars Academy Award® nominee Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba. The film was produced by Mark Gordon, Matt Jackson and Amy Pascal. Entertainment One (eOne) and The Mark Gordon Company financed the feature, with eOne directly distributing the film across its territories. (Sierra/Affinity handled international sales). The Closing Night Gala will be sponsored by VIZIO.

Note that all previously secured tickets to ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD and the two previously scheduled MOLLY’S GAME screenings will be honored at this newly announced Closing Night Gala.

“Aaron Sorkin is an American master, and we are proud to shine a proper spotlight on his directoral debut, MOLLY’S GAME, on AFI FEST’s Closing Night,” said Jacqueline Lyanga, AFI FEST Director. “As Sorkin embarks on this next chapter of his career, his talents are timely for a tribute as he brings his gift of crafting compelling narratives and complex characters to the story of female impresario Molly Bloom.”

One of our nation’s most acclaimed screenwriters, Aaron Sorkin has been honored with an Academy Award® for Best Adapted Screenplay for THE SOCIAL NETWORK (2010) and four Emmys® for THE WEST WING. Additional film credits include A FEW GOOD MEN (1992), MALICE (1993), THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT (1995), CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR (2007), MONEYBALL (2011) and STEVE JOBS (2015). Sorkin has also created and written THE NEWSROOM, SPORTS NIGHT, STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP and THE WEST WING for television.

ABOUT THE FILM

Oscar® nominee Jessica Chastain stars in Oscar®-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut, set in the glamorous world of high-stakes underground poker games. DIR Aaron Sorkin. SCR Aaron Sorkin. CAST Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Jeremy Strong, Chris O’Dowd, Bill Camp.

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(Source: afi.com)

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AFI FEST 2017: Stephen Altman on His Father’s Legacy

Posted by Larry Gleeson

As part of AFI FEST 2017 and the 50th Anniversary of the American Film Institute, a celebration of the late filmmaker Robert Altman’s work , a true master and icon of American cinema, is on display through a series of films.

Robert and Stephen Altman
Robert and Stephen Altman

Born in Kansas City in 1925, Robert Altman was one of the preeminent auteurs of American cinema, from his first studio hit M*A*S*H (1970) to his 39th feature A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION (2006). In the pantheon of American directors, Altman was a maverick who worked both inside and outside the Hollywood system. His films exhibit a trademark style of diffuse ensemble narratives, complex soundtracks and restless zoom lenses. Film remained Altman’s tireless passion until his death in 2006, and he remains an iconoclast of modern American cinema. This year, AFI FEST is proud to present 12 of his greatest achievements.

Ahead of the festival retrospective, AFI spoke with Stephen Altman, Robert Altman’s son and frequent collaborator. Stephen Altman served as the production designer on a wide range of Altman films, from THE PLAYER to GOSFORD PARK, which earned him an Oscar® nomination.

The Robert Altman Retrospective launches at AFI FEST on Thursday, November 9, with THE PLAYER. Head to the Film Guide for free tickets to all 12 Altman screenings.

AFI: You were a production designer on many of Robert Altman’s films. Can you talk about what it was like to collaborate so closely with your father?

Stephen Altman: It was heavy teamwork. He told me what to do, and I said “Yes, sir.” No, actually it started early on. I started as an apprentice editor and projectionist when I was 17, for CALIFORNIA SPLIT — if you’re a gambler, that’s a great one — and on NASHVILLE, I was apprentice editor and did projection for the dailies, but during the day I was helping the sound team. He had made that eight-track sound recorder, with seven mics, which was a new thing. Then I segued into property. I was then on the set for most of the filming, so [Robert Altman] got very used to me. It was an easy transition from there to being his property master and later his set decorator, then his art director, then production designer. I hadn’t stopped working for him since 1974. His last two films I didn’t work on. When he died, sadly, we were scouting locations for another movie. It was abrupt. Had I known that A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION was his last movie, I would’ve quit what I was doing and ran to it.

NASHVILLE
NASHVILLE

AFI: The AFI FEST Retrospective offers a wide-ranging survey of Robert Altman titles, including some his better known efforts such as NASHVILLE, as well as works awaiting rediscovery, such as VINCENT & THEO and KANSAS CITY. What are some of your personal favorites?

SA: MCCABE & MRS. MILLER may be one of my favorite films, not just a favorite “Bob” film. I think it stands out among all of them. I love THE LONG GOODBYE — just really watchable, and fun and interesting. M*A*S*H is timeless. It’s still funny to me, and cool. NASHVILLE I may not like as much as everybody else does, but I get it. I understand why it’s insane and wonderful at the same time. Of all of them, MCCABE & MRS. MILLER is maybe more conventional in some way, with real movie stars.

AFI: And what about a film like SHORT CUTS, which is three hours long but thoroughly engrossing from start to finish, and with a huge tapestry of characters and interweaving plots?

SA: That was very personal for me. It was very funny. At the first screening, it shook me. I used to be in property and editorial and so I would end up watching every single frame of film like a hundred thousand times between dailies and cutting the film. When I moved into production design, I avoided editorial, so when I watched the first cut I thought, “Oh this is fresh and new to me.” I left the screening and my dad called me the next day and said, “I think everybody loved the movie except one person.” I said “Who?” He replied, “You.” I was just shaken by the movie. It’s really heavy. I loved working on it. There’s another one, A WEDDING: it’s not similar but in an Altman kind of way, he turned it from a farce and a comedy into a tragedy without you realizing.

SHORT CUTS
SHORT CUTS

AFI: This retrospective is a treat for Altman fans, but is also meant as an entry-point for those who haven’t discovered Altman before. What would you say to a neophyte who’s starting to navigate the world of his films?

SA: You can see a thread in a lot of them, but they’re all really different. He never did the same movie twice. I would just say what he always said, which was, “Giggle and give in.” Some of them are more commercial or accessible than others. You go from something like MCCABE & MRS. MILLER to NASHVILLE — that’s a pretty big stretch in seven years.

AFI: 3 WOMEN is a good example of a movie that certainly would not be made today.

SA: Right. Exactly. That was the luxury of Fox films at the time. [Robert Altman] said, “Hey, I had this dream the other night. I wrote a script.” And Alan Ladd, Jr., who was running Fox at the time, said “Here’s a million-and-a-half dollars, go to Palm Springs and make a film. Don’t go over budget.” That’s how he used to do those kinds of things. That was quite a fun time in the desert. That’s his real weird dreamy thing. He loved playing with the camera. He had this kind of a water-and-oil mobile sculpture, what he called “the wave machine.” It looked like a flat aquarium. It had oil on the top and blue water on the bottom and it rocked back and forth on a machine and made what looked like ocean waves across the screen. He was always inventing those kinds of things. On QUINTET, he would put Vaseline on the lens to blur the edges.

3 WOMEN
3 WOMEN

AFI: Altman had the spirit of an independent filmmaker even while making studio films, where he maintained creative freedom. How did he accomplish that?

SA: For the most part, they let him go. On one of his later films, THE GINGERBREAD MAN, with Kenneth Branagh, he was more of a director-for-hire. His shooting style, his camerawork and his editing are pretty much done in his head as he’s making the movie. The studio basically got scared of the movie, took it away from him and gave it to a Hollywood editor to try and recut it, with traditional close-ups and that kind of thing. They couldn’t do it, and they couldn’t even put it back together. They gave it back to [Altman] later and said, “Here, put it back together, do what you want. We can’t make any sense of this movie.” He had such his own style that it was hard for anybody really to interfere. It’s hard to go onto the set and say, “You’re doing this wrong.”

On THE PLAYER, we have that 10-minute opening shot. That was no improvisation. That was planned to a T. We built a model of the parking lot, with models of cut-out people. The camera was on this crane with a partially flattened tire and we used the parking lot as basically a huge dolly, and we rehearsed the hell out of that. We could have probably used the first take and walked away. They used take 16, and wrapped right after lunch, and we were four days ahead of schedule. He was really efficient with his money, and everyone knew that, so I think the studios let him be because he would only spend a certain amount of money and come back with a movie. People were eager to gamble with him.

THE PLAYER
THE PLAYER

AFI: Why do you think Altman is a filmmaker we are still talking about today?

SA: He was innovative; he didn’t give in. He had basically final cut on his movies. He was never rich, never got big budgets precisely because he would never let the studios make a movie for him. He said, “If you want a movie, I’ll make my movie.” He was brutal to screenwriters — you give him your script and it may not be recognizable at the end of the day.

After POPEYE, which was deemed the biggest bomb in the entire history of filmmaking, it was hard for him to get any kind of work. That’s when he was filming one-hour plays in a theatrical stage the size of your closet. They offered him M*A*S*H 2. He said, “I can’t do it. It would ruin my career. I’d be like everybody else.” At the end of the day, everybody’s pleased he didn’t do stuff like that. He stuck to his guns. I hate to put him on a pedestal but he was kind of pure in this way. He really didn’t give in to the pressure.

Actors loved him so much because he basically said, “Go out there and act.” Some people were intimidated by that, not having an actual script. “Wait, I’ve got to write my dialogue by myself?” The ones that loved it, embraced it, it was a big joy to them. I think he made everybody comfortable — except for the crew.

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(Source: afi.com)

 

World Premiere of Ridley Scott’s ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD Will Close AFI FEST 2017

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Academy Award®-nominated director and producer Ridley Scott will be honored by AFI FEST 2017 presented by Audi with a Tribute and World Premiere Closing Night Gala screening of TriStar Pictures’ ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD on Thursday, November 16, at the historic TCL Chinese Theatre.  The Tribute will celebrate Scott’s legendary filmmaking career with a moderated discussion of his work followed by the World Premiere screening.  Directed by Scott, ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD stars Academy Award® nominees Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams, and Academy Award® winner Kevin Spacey.  The Closing Night Gala will be sponsored by VIZIO.

One of our most prolific directors and producers, Ridley Scott is a four-time Academy Award® nominee, including Best Picture for THE MARTIAN (2016) and Best Director for BLACK HAWK DOWN (2001), GLADIATOR (2000) and THELMA & LOUISE (1991).  Additional films include ALIEN (1979), BLADE RUNNER (1982), LEGEND (1985), BLACK RAIN (1989), G.I. JANE (1997), MATCHSTICK MEN (2003), KINGDOM OF HEAVEN (2005), AMERICAN GANGSTER (2007), ROBIN HOOD (2010), PROMETHEUS (2012), THE COUNSELOR (2013), EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS (2014) and ALIEN: COVENANT (2017).

ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD follows the kidnapping of 16-year-old John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer) and the desperate attempt by his devoted mother Gail (Michelle Williams) to convince his billionaire grandfather (Kevin Spacey) to pay the ransom. When Getty, Sr., refuses, Gail attempts to sway him as her son’s captors become increasingly volatile and brutal. With her son’s life in the balance, Gail and Getty’s advisor (Mark Wahlberg) become unlikely allies in the race against time that ultimately reveals the true and lasting value of love over money.

Directed by Ridley Scott, TriStar Pictures’ and Imperative Entertainment’s ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD is written by David Scarpa, based on the book by John Pearson. Produced by Dan Friedkin, Bradley Thomas, Quentin Curtis, Chris Clark, Ridley Scott, Mark Huffam and Kevin Walsh, the film stars Michelle Williams, Kevin Spacey, Mark Wahlberg, Romain Duris, Charlie Plummer and Timothy Hutton.

The film debuts in theaters this December.

 

(Source: afi.com)

AFI FEST 2017 New Auteurs and American Independents Lineups Announced

Posted by Larry Gleeson

AFI has announced the films that will be featured in the New Auteurs and American Independents sections at AFI FEST 2017 presented by Audi.

From November 9th through the 16th, AFI FEST 2017 takes place over eight days in Hollywood! Get an express pass here.

afi-fest-2011-logo-and-free-ticketsHighlighting first- and second-time feature film directors, New Auteurs is the festival’s platform for upcoming filmmakers from all over the world to showcase their new films. This year, the section is comprised of 11 films, nine of which come from female directors.

The American Independents section represents the best of independent filmmaking this year. Pushing boundaries of form and content across narrative and documentary cinema, this section includes 11 films from both fresh new voices and filmmakers returning to AFI FEST.

Pictured above: Lola Kirke in GEMINI

NEW AUTEURS

AVA – After an adolescent girl discovers she will soon go blind, she confronts the problem in her own way in this disturbing, visually bold debut. DIR Léa Mysius. SCR Léa Mysius, Paul Guilhaume. CAST Noée Abita, Laure Calamy, Juan Cano. France

CLOSENESS (TESNOTA) – Controversial and beloved in equal measure, the film centers on a young woman eking out an existence in a remote region of Russia, and the choices she must face when her brother and his fiancée are kidnapped. DIR Kantemir Balagov. SCR Kantemir Balagov, Anton Yarush. CAST Atrem Cipin, Olga Dragunova, Veniamin Kac, Darya Zhovnar, Nazir Zhukov. Russia

HANNAH – Charlotte Rampling gives another career-defining performance in this taut and layered film as a woman dealing with the fallout of an abhorrent crime committed by her husband. DIR Andrea Pallaoro. SCR Andrea Pallaoro, Orlando Tirado. CAST Charlotte Rampling, Andre Wilms. Italy, Belgium, France

HAVE A NICE DAY (HAO JI LE) – This morbid, hilarious animated noir cuts deep into the greed fueling the Chinese economic miracle. DIR/SCR Liu Jian. CAST Zhu Changlong, Cao Kai, Liu Jian, Yang Siming, Shi Haitao, Ma Xiaofeng, Xue Feng, Zheng Yi. China

HIGH FANTASY – Four South African friends on a camping trip discover they’ve switched bodies in this found-footage sophomore feature that cathartically examines racial and gender issues. DIR Jenna Bass. SCR Jenna Bass, Qondiswa James, Nala Khumalo, Francesca Varrie Michel, Liza Scholtz, Loren Loubser. CAST Qondiswa James, Nala Khumalo, Francesca Varrie Michel, Liza Scholtz, Loren Loubser. South Africa

I AM NOT A WITCH – A nine-year-old girl ignites a rebellion in the witch camp where she’s been imprisoned, in this bold debut that beautifully mixes satire, superstition and ambiguity. DIR/SCR Rungano Nyoni. CAST Margaret Mulubwa, Henry B.J. Phiri, Nancy Mulilo. France, UK, Germany

MILLA – The happy but impoverished life-on-the-fringes of a young French couple is captured with observational care and quiet grace in this striking new work. DIR/SCR Valérie Massadian. CAST Severine Jonckeere, Luc Chessel, Ethan Jonckeere. France

PENDULAR – This intense and unforgettable debut melds sculpture, dance and film in a tale brimming with sexual passion. DIR/SCR Júlia Murat, Matias Mariani. CAST Raquel Karro, Rodrigo Bolzan, Neto Machado, Marcio Vito, Felipe Rocha, Renato Linhares, Larissa Siqueira, Carlos Eduardo Santos, Valeria Barretta, Martina Revollo. Argentina, Brazil, France

SUMMER 1993 – In this unforgettable and autobiographical debut, a six-year-old girl goes to live with her extended family in the Catalan countryside following her mother’s death from an AIDS-related illness. DIR/SCR Carla Simón. CAST Laia Artigas, Paula Robles, Bruna Cusí, David Verdaguer, Fermí Reixach. Spain

WHAT WOULD PEOPLE SAY (HVA VIL FOLK SI) – A Norwegian-Pakistani teenage girl must bear the consequences of her rebellious actions in this powerful sophomore feature. DIR/SCR Iram Haq. CAST Maria Mozhdah, Adil Hussain, Rohit Saraf, Ekavali Khanna, Ali Arfan, Sheeba Chaddha, Lalit Parimoo, Jannat Zubair Rahmani, Nokokure Dahl, Trine Wiggen, Maria Bock, Sara Khorami. Norway, Germany, Sweden

WINTER BROTHERS (VINTERBRØDRE) – A loner in a snowy mining community is pushed to violent extremes in this hypnotic, beautiful debut out of Denmark. DIR/SCR Hlynur Pálmason. CAST Elliott Crosset Hove, Simon Sears, Victoria Carmen Sonne, Peter Plaugborg, Lars Mikkelsen. Denmark, Iceland

AMERICAN INDEPENDENTS

THE BALLAD OF LEFTY BROWN – Bill Pullman gives a career-best performance in Jared Moshé’s cleverly scripted, thrilling love letter to the Western. DIR/SCR Jared Moshé. CAST Bill Pullman, Kathy Baker, Jim Caviezel, Tommy Flanagan, Peter Fonda. USA

BODIED – A meek white-boy rapper wants to spit fire, but does cultural appropriation outweigh his desire? DIR Joseph Kahn. SCR Alex Larsen. CAST Calum Worthy, Jackie Long, Charlamagne Tha God, Anthony Michael Hall, Rory Uphold, Dumbfoundead, Walter Perez, Shoniqua Shandai, Dizaster, Debra Wilson, Loaded Lux. USA

CALIFORNIA DREAMS – Beautiful and multilayered, Mike Ott’s latest work of docufiction centers on struggling individuals in Valencia, CA, and the profound chasm between their lives and dreams of stardom. DIR Mike Ott. CAST Cory Zacharia, Patrick Ilaguno, Carolan J. Pinto, Neil Harley, Kevin Gilger AKA K-Nine. USA

EL MAR LA MAR – A stunning new film from Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab, EL MAR LA MAR dives into matters of life and death at the U.S.-Mexico border in the Sonoran Desert, where legions of immigrants are dying to cross. DIR/SCR Joshua Bonnetta & J.P. Sniadecki. USA

THE ENDLESS – Filmmaking duo Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead return with another fiercely original sci-fi horror film, this time set in a UFO death cult. DIR Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead. SCR Justin Benson. CAST Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead, Callie Hernandez, Tate Ellington. USA

FITS AND STARTS – Wyatt Cenac and Greta Lee star in this fantastic and funny debut centering on two married writers — one successful, the other not so much. DIR/SCR Laura Terruso. CAST Wyatt Cenac, Greta Lee, Maria Dizzia. USA

GEMINI – Lola Kirke stars as a personal assistant who must figure out who killed her famous employer (Zoë Kravitz) in this neon-drenched neo-noir from director Aaron Katz. DIR/SCR Aaron Katz. CAST Lola Kirke, Zoë Kravitz, John Cho, Greta Lee. USA

LIFE AND NOTHING MORE – AFI FEST alum Antonio Méndez Esparza’s sophomore feature follows the day-to-day struggles of an African-American mother and her troubled son, who is getting ever closer to following in his imprisoned father’s footsteps. DIR/SCR Antonio Méndez Esparza. CAST Andrew Bleechington, Regina Williams, Robert Williams, Ry’Nesia Chambers. USA

MR. ROOSEVELT – Triple threat Noël Wells directs, writes and stars in this funny tale of a struggling comedian returning to her hometown to mourn an old pet, and play third wheel to her ex and his new girlfriend. DIR/SCR Noël Wells. CAST Noël Wells, Nick Thune, Britt Lower, Daniella Pineda, Andre Hyland. USA

SOLLERS POINT – This moving portrait of one young man’s frustrated attempts to rise above his obstacles after being released from prison is the latest film from indie director Matt Porterfield. DIR/SCR Matthew Porterfield. CAST McCaul Lombardi, Jim Belushi, Zazie Beetz, Everleigh Brenner. USA

THOROUGHBREDS – Anya Taylor-Joy and Olivia Cooke star in this darkly comedic thriller that recalls films like HEAVENLY CREATURES and HEATHERS. DIR/SCR Cory Finley. CAST Olivia Cooke, Anya Taylor-Joy, Anton Yelchin, Paul Sparks, Francie Swift, Kaili Vernoff. USA.

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(Source: afi.com)

AFI FEST 2017 Opening Night MUDBOUND

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Hollywood, California is the place for an Opening Night Gala. The American Film Institute’s AFI FEST 2017 presented by Audi will open on Thursday, November 9, 2017, at the historic TCL Chinese Theatre, with the Netflix film MUDBOUND. Directed by Dee Rees and co-written by Virgil Williams and Rees, the historical period drama features cinematography by AFI Conservatory alumna Rachel Morrison (Class of 2006). The film stars Academy Award nominee Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Mitchell, Jason Clarke, Jonathan Banks, Mary J. Blige and Rob Morgan.

Set in the rural American South during World War II, Dee Rees’ MUDBOUND is an epic story of two families pitted against one another by a ruthless social hierarchy, yet bound together by the shared farmland of the Mississippi Delta. MUDBOUND follows the McAllan family, newly transplanted from the quiet civility of Memphis and unprepared for the harsh demands of farming. Despite the grandiose dreams of Henry (Jason Clarke), his wife Laura (Carey Mulligan) struggles to keep the faith in her husband’s losing venture.

Meanwhile, Hap and Florence Jackson (Rob Morgan, Mary J. Blige) — sharecroppers who have worked the land for generations — struggle bravely to build a small dream of their own despite the rigidly enforced social barriers they face.

The war upends both families’ plans as their returning loved ones, Jamie McAllan (Garrett Hedlund) and Ronsel Jackson (Jason Mitchell), forge a fast but uneasy friendship that challenges the brutal realities of the Jim Crow South in which they live.

MUDBOUND will be in select theaters and on Netflix on November 17, 2017.

AFI FEST to Present Robert Altman Retrospective

Posted by Larry Gleeson

AFI has announced an inaugural, annual retrospective to spotlight one filmmaker of global significance, as part of AFI FEST 2017 presented by Audi, running November 9–16, 2017, in Hollywood, CA.

This year, AFI FEST will present the work of Robert Altman, with screenings and discussions of 12 films — historically the most programmed in the festival for one filmmaker. For the retrospective, legendary director/producer/writer Altman (1925–2006) will be honored with screenings and discussions of his classic  films, including: M*A*S*H (1970), MCCABE & MRS. MILLER (1971), THE LONG GOODBYE (1972), CALIFORNIA SPLIT (1973), NASHVILLE (1975), 3 WOMEN (1977), VINCENT & THEO (1990), THE PLAYER (1992), SHORT CUTS (1993), KANSAS CITY (1996), GOSFORD PARK (2001) and A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION (2006).

pictured above: NASHVILLE, #59 on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies

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(Source: afi.com)

 

The AFI FEST Interview: FISH STORY Director Charlie Lyne

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Charlie Lyne is an AFI FEST alumnus with his feature film FEAR ITSELF (AFI FEST 2016). AFI spoke to Lyne about his new short film, FISH STORY, which was  just released online and won the Short Film Audience Award at AFI DOCS. The film investigates a mysterious gathering rumored to have taken place in 1980s Wales, at which an unlikely group of people with one thing in common came together.

AFI: You work in both short and feature-length formats. Is the short format more freeing compared to feature-length? Is it harder to tell a story in a much shorter length? 

CL: I think stories can lend themselves to all kinds of runtimes, and one of the great sadnesses of contemporary film culture is the rigid distinction we draw between short and feature-length filmmaking. I’m lucky to have told a lot of stories that wound up being around 90 minutes long, or under 15 minutes long, because there are so many opportunities to show films of those lengths. People whose stories naturally end up 50 minutes long are f—-d!

That said, there are definitely unique charms and challenges to telling a story over a short runtime. For one thing, you can maintain a level of energy or visual dynamism that might be exhausting at feature-length, and you’re free to flout traditional narrative conventions without worrying that an audience will feel stranded. I think viewers are generally more patient and open-minded when it comes to shorts. 

cl

AFI: At what point in hearing this story did you decide you wanted to film it? Did you face any challenges as you tried to trace the people involved?

CL: I’ve known Caspar Salmon for a long time, but it was only a few years ago that he made the mistake of telling me the story of his grandmother’s attendance at a gathering for the preeminent fish-surnamed people of North Wales. After that, I couldn’t introduce him to anyone without immediately forcing him to retell the story, and each new telling (which seemed to be stranger and more labyrinthine than the last) would make me die laughing all over again. Finally, I talked him into committing the story to film.

The process of making FISH STORY was a genuine voyage of discovery, as I honestly never imagined my investigation would lead anywhere. I thought the film would wind up being about the futility of trying to prove what was, more than likely, a family myth. Obviously, it didn’t turn out that way, which was as thrilling to me as it hopefully now is to viewers.

AFI: You also work as a journalist. How does that experience lend itself to the style of documentary you work in?

CL: I’ve always identified more as a critic than a journalist, partly because I’m far from rigorous when it comes to journalistic practice. Weirdly, this film is by far the closest I’ve come to actual investigative journalism, which seems odd given that it’s about fish surnames, and that my investigative methods — which consisted mainly of looking people up in the phone book — were so rudimentary.

Still, now that the film has been picked up by The Guardian, I fully expect to see it honored at next year’s Pulitzers.

AFI: Your films have screened at festivals all over the world. As a filmmaker how important do you find it to travel with your films to festivals? Do you have any advice for other filmmakers who are trying to figure out how to navigate the film festival landscape?

CL: I can track a huge number of filmmaking opportunities I’ve had in recent years back to specific moments at festivals. There are so few other places where you’re surrounded by likeminded individuals from all over the world, and in a context of heightened artistic engagement — both with the films screening and the ideas being expressed all around you. I couldn’t put a price on it.

That said, the literal price of it can render festivals an impractical luxury for filmmakers just getting started in the industry, especially short filmmakers whose travel and accommodation is rarely paid for by the festivals themselves. Schemes like the British Council’s Shorts Support Scheme, which funds the travel of UK filmmakers like me to international festivals, are therefore invaluable. It’s just a shame so few countries have them.

Ultimately, as the line between short and feature filmmaking becomes more and more blurred — as it inevitably will — I hope and expect that festivals will begin to offer equal provisions to visiting filmmakers, whether their films run 10, 50 or 200 minutes long.

Watch the full FISH STORY here: