April, 2007 Archives

30
Apr

Blessing in Disguise

by Pj in Random

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BY PAMELA JO BOWMAN, MANHATTAN, USA — I woke up today and, like all days, checked my email. Being a member of the press covering the festival at Tribeca I receive numerous emails every day. Today was no exception. As a member of the press, my job is to attend the press conferences, the press screenings and the general audience screenings. All three have a different feel or nuance.

The press conferences allow the press to ask questions of the writers, actors, producers and directors. It can be a more intimate setting that allows you discuss the motivation of the actors and filmmakers. It can also be far less intimate because, at these conferences, the goal is to sell the film. The passion and commitment to the film can create a stir and, as press, we can influence the ultimate success of a film by the films we choose to cover.

The press screenings allow the press to view a movie without the distraction or influence of the paying audiences. The oddest thing is that press screenings at Tribeca are extremely small. Most are very poorly attended with just a handful of press present. While it encourages objectivity, it doesn’t do much to promote enthusiasm because the theater is so “dead.” At other festivals, the press screenings tend to be better attended. We have been at Tribeca press screenings with as few as four (4!) members of the press in a theater that holds 400.

The audience screenings are typically packed. You can feel the excitement and anticipation for the film. A lot of this excitement or lack thereof, has been created by what the press has written or not written about the film. The press can and does influence the interest and support of film. So you would think allowing the press to do their job would be a priority. (See Cyndi’s post about the value of the press from a distributor’s point of view for more on this.)

cgpjrisk.jpgToday our email from Tribeca informed the press of a new procedure to acquire tickets to an audience screening. So far we have been unable to even get into a single general audience screening. The new process is that we need to ask 24 hours prior to a screening for tickets. They let us know in the morning if we will be blessed with tickets. Oh boy. Since there wasn’t enough time to request tickets, we decided to play it safe and go to a press screening of a film we’d heard really good things about. (Sundance pal, Levi Elder, told us THE POUGHKEEPSIE TAPES was one of the best films he’d seen.) We can always get into press screenings so we decide “better safe than sorry.” At least we could be certain we’d have something to write about.

The screening was set for a new venue, the Clearview Chelsea West. Being a little tight for time, we hailed a cab headed north. We arrived with at least 15 minutes to spare. We were informed, however, for unknown reasons, that the film ad been removed from the list for press. We were curtly informed that it would not screen. Would have been nice to know. Could have saved 10 bucks on the taxi and slept in. But, then, a blessing in disguise, we wanted somewhere to sit so we went to the TOWARDS DARKNESS Press Conference (see blog entry) and talked with some very talented folks. It all turned out in the end.

27
Apr

What’s the Story?

by Pj in Random

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BY PAMELA JO BOWMAN, MANHATTAN, NEW YORK – Today we took the opportunity to watch three documentary films at a venue for the press. WILL EISNER, PORTRAIT OF A SEQUENTIAL ARTIST; TWO EMBRACES; BETWEEN HEAVEN AND EARTH. We do like documentaries. We recognize how more people are beginning to appreciate them as well. We acknowledge that the public is becoming more sophisticated and more interested in these types of films.

You might wonder how a documentary on a man known for his contribution to the comic book world could reach a sophisticated audience but anyone who has been watching the evolution of the graphic novel craze knows that it does. eisner.jpgPORTRAIT addresses Eisner’s contribution not only to animation but to young animators. Many artists including Neil Gaiman expressed their awe for his talent and their appreciation for enlarging the comic book venue to the adult population with adult topics, concerns and opinions. Eisner’s work was revolutionary. It expanded to more than the typical superhero stories. Comics became political and relevant mainly because of Eisner’s insight and vision. Eisner died in January of 2005 but his work has enabled others to see a different possibilty and experiment with their own vision.

TWO EMBRACES (DOS ABRAZOS) is a movie from Mexico. Since I lived there for 17 years, I am always interested in movies from and about Mexico. This was actually two movies blended together by a shared moment. What I appreciated about these films is the subtle acting that occurred. When you live in Mexico you realize that children are taught to act at festivals and school plays and presentations with theater flair and overly dramatic preformances. Watch a novela and you will know what I mean. In TWO EMBRACES, the actors were subtle and thus more powerful.

As for BETWEEN HEAVEN AND EARTH, we weren’t sure for quite some time if we were watching a feature or a documentary. We weren’t sure if the story was about the circus or the political situation or the social ramifications in Uzbekistan. There were some amazing shots and even some story lines I wish they had developed more, but mostly I wish they had chosen one of the story lines and developed it into a more thoroughly satisfying film.

After today’s viewings, we felt that there are some amazing stories that need to be told. More voices that need to be heard. The ability to create these beautiful shots should enhance the story. Today’s technology should enable the filmmaker to add more depth to their story, but first the story has to be clear and crisp and did I mention clear? We know we can do some amazing things with the software that is available to us. We must not forget that it begins with the story and it should be about the story and it should end with the feeling of experiencing an unforgettable story. That’s the story for today’s slate of films.

27
Apr

Divine

by Pj in Random

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BY PAMELA JO BOWMAN, TRIBECA, NEW YORK – We walked by a restuarant in Tribeca and I immediately wanted to eat at this restaurant.tribeca-grill.jpg Any eating establishment that has several limos out front and chauffeurs waiting under the awning seems like a safe bet. It took a bit of convincing for me to seriously consider the money side but Cyndi can be convincing about enjoying life in the moment. When will we be in New York again?

So we squared our shoulders and walked in like we owned the place. Turns out Robert DeNiro owns the place! They offered to take our coats and asked if we were listed. We were not of course but they seated us anyway!

We were pleasantly surprised by the prices and delighted with our entre choices. I believe Cyndi used the word divine several times with her Wisconsin accent! Imagine that! After her being a tad grumpy she perked right up after tasting the bread and wild mushroom and fontina ravioli. We really wanted the dessert but there was no way we could eat another bite and then walk, not roll, to the subway.
We will be frequenting the TRIBECA GRILL again before I leave. After all darling, it was divine!

27
Apr

Whining at Tribeca

by Pj in Random

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BY PAMELA JO BOWMAN – MANHATTAN, NEW YORK – Today was a busy day! It was a beautiful rainy New York day. We won’t discuss what happens to my hair on rainy days. Not very relevant. So Cyndi decides to override my cheap ways and hails a cab! To tell you the truth, it would have been faster to walk to the subway. She was mad that I was up and ready to hit the road by 8 a.m. Some people are a tad temperamental in the morning!

So we get to the private screening facility to watch THE DEVIL RODE ON HORSEBACK This is a documentary based on Brian Seidle’s experience in Dafur. Brian was a retired soldier hired as a peace keeping observer (the entity that hired him was never really established). Using his camera, he was able to document the genocide that was occurring there in 2003 – 2005 (and continues to this day). This movie showed Brian witnessing the massacres and also his own self-revulsion at being unable to stop the murders that were occurring right in front of him. He was convinced that his photographs would provoke an immediate response from the world and, in particular, the U.S. government. Although his message is very clear, I felt the film would have been more affective as a narrative feature. I believe more people would have been reached and more would have reacted as Brian naively expected.

I would like to address the whole Tribeca private screening experience. Apparently, in the past at Sundance, the press were allowed to check out movies to take home for private viewing (until last year when someone decided to copy them and distribute covertly). So, they discontinued that option. At Tribeca, they set up a little room with maybe 10 stations for press and industry to view films on a large flat panel display. We all wear earphones. These do enable you to hear your movie but they don’t quite mask the sound of everyone walking on the wooden floor above the screening room, people talking outside the screening room and even the noisy reactions of other screeners viewing other movies. The DVD of the movie we watched kept freezing and doing an unpleasant digital dissolution. Very annoying! Someone needs to resolve this issue.

tribecagirl.jpgAfter viewing this movie, we both needed to take a moment and absorb the information and the graphic images of the film. We walked, in the rain, to our next venue, a film workshop. This workshop discussed the different digital cameras and how they all are transferred to film. We were able to view short clips of current films (like CONTROL ROOM and IRAQ IN FRAGMENTS and JESUS CAMP) with details on the cameras and methods used by their filmmakers. We were really able see the benefits and shortcomings of different cameras and formats in the process of converting a film to (literal) film. This made me feel confident and relieved for our feature, which was shot on a Sony HD HVR-Z1U. The documentary, however, was made using four different cameras and four different formats. What a nightmare that puppy will be to blow up! OOOPS.

Afterwards, we went to a few of the press coverage screenings. Nice, but there are no Q&A’s. We hope tomorrow (when we see a movie with a festival audience) that there will be Q&A’s. We really enjoy the insight and understanding the Q&A’s provide regarding the filmmakers’ process and goals.

26
Apr

New York Minutes

by Pj in Random

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BY PAMELA JO BOWMAN, MANHATTAN, USA — On our first taxi ride in New York our cab driver tried to rip us off. I looked at the meter and saw $25.50. I asked if we could swipe our credit card. The swiper was right in front of me! Nope. Cash only. How much? $40.00 dollars. Huh? We let him know we might be from somewhere else, but we aren’t dolts! That same day another taxi driver took the long way around. It took 20 minutes to go 5 miles! I picked up on their tricks. Tonight we took a taxi. He tried the tricks. He asked if we wanted to go 6th ave or 10th. We told him whatever was fastest. He said you can never tell in New York City. I told him to drop us off right where we were. We were a block from our B&B. That will be $4.30. Now we are talking!

We have experienced some wild animals. They are called rats. So far we have met three. I wanted to take a picture of this rather large rodent, but they scurry around so fast!

wickedpJ.jpgTonight we rode the subway up to Broadway. I am getting really good at swiping my subway card. You would think I was a local. I am amazed at the night life of this town. Everyone is out walking around. Broadway was sooooo cool. We had a Mary Tyler Moment without the hat!

I love this town! I have not experienced the New York attitude except from people who aren’t really from New York! Funny how that is. After our cab situation, I was so disappointed that I put on my tough girl in your face don’t mess with me attitude. One of the reporters I met today asked how long I have lived in New York! Oh about 24 hours!

The subway has been another grand experience. We bought an unlimited 7 day pass. I can ride anywhere for 7 days! I would like to say it was a conscious choice to ride the “6” downtown, but it was an error made by my traveling companion. You should never trust those teacher types! So off we went, climbed up the stairs, crossed the street to get to the other side of the subway, down the stairs and here comes that lovely public transportation. We even heard a guitarist entertain us in the station. How cool is that?

I haven’t even mentioned the food yet. There are these cute little cafes everywhere! So much competition can be a good thing for the customers! We have tried Italian, American. I have been told the Mexican food is something to avoid. How can I live without salsa! Someone help. This is New York City. Get a rope! Tomorrow will be another grand adventure. Wait that would be today! What is the point of sleeping? It really does get in the way! I don’t want to waste my New York minute.

26
Apr

Masseuse Wanted!

by Pj in Random

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PAMELA JO BOWMAN – MANHATTAN NEW YORK – Yep, we are in New York City! Trying to attend the Tribeca Film festival. Today we rode the subway down to Tribeca. We managed to locate the building on Greenwich for our credentials. Then we headed 1/3 mile away to the press lounge. Tribeca.jpg

We found out where we could set up interviews with industry people. We found out about private screenings so back to the Greenwich location to set up some screenings. We found out the movie we signed up to cover tonight was really just the red carpet arrival of “the stars”. We had to stand and wait for any available seats. We had to go to the theater where that screening was being held to buy any available seats for the films being shown within 24 hours. (several miles away, and no shuttles.) We asked about tickets for a screening to be held in 4 days. I think that would be out of the 24 -hour requirement, but no, we still had to go to the theater and wait ‘stand by’. Great fun! We were unable to get in. Back and forth we walked to get information and to find out they could not accommodate us. My feet, I can’t feel my feet! Numb, numb, numb. We have had some New York minutes, but that will be another blog!

We realize that this is our first experience at Tribeca. Our only reference is Sundance and SXSW. Every festival has their own way of producing their festival. What we have discovered is that Tribeca is in Manhattan. What that means is if you want to see any screenings you have to plan very carefully because the location screenings are very far apart. The best choice is to stay in the same location and see whatever they happen to be showing for the day. The private screening idea is pretty cool, but the movies of choice are limited to those that need more media exposure. All in all, it is a little frustrating as far as press goes. pjmap.JPG
So, if all else fails, enjoy the food, learn to ride the subway, take pictures like a tourist and enjoy being in New York City! OK. Left to my own devices, I know how to do that! Tomorrow is another day. Hopefully we will be more successful in covering this event as it progresses! All I have to say, ok…all I have to say right now is… know a good foot masseuse?

21
Apr

Africa Captured

by Pj in Random

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BY PAMELA BOWMAN, MESA, USA – We all had preconceived ideas of what Africa would be like. These images reflect moments where we stopped and grasped what was real for each of us.
tree.jpg
sunset.jpg
Photographs by FilmZambia Unit Photographer Mike Montesa

20
Apr

We Did IT

by Pj in Random

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PAMELA JO BOWMAN – MESA, ARIZONA – This last Wednesday, Cyndi and I flew over to LA to talk to two producers. We went looking for direction and information about distribution and marketing. These seasoned producers were very helpful. At the end of the day we were exhausted from the amount of information we obtained and exhilarated in learning that we were doing things right. We are seeing the results through the interest of some serious distributors. We told them whom we had contacted and who had responded and they assured us that any of those companies were reputable and could be trusted to package our projects successfully. happyjabbes.jpgThere were two moments that made me realize the truth of the saying “Ignorance is bliss.” In viewing our trailers both producers commented how ambitious it was for our crew to think we could go to another country and start the film industry there. Both producers had to swallow their amusement at our naiveté. Seeing our situation through their eyes made us laugh at ourselves and also smile because we didn’t know what we couldn’t do and so we ended up doing it. It all began with Jabbes. He didn’t know what he was asking for when he approached Cyndi requesting her to help him shoot a movie in Zambia. None of us did, but we did it.

19
Apr

In The Dark and In the Light

by Pj in Random

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BY PAMELA JO BOWMAN – MESA ARIZONA – This 52 year old widow graciously allowed our film crew to set up our equipment and shoot a scene in one of the three rooms in her home. Laying in the corner of the room, on a thin mattress, was one of her six children, a son. lady2.jpgHe was a young man, probably in his early twenties. He was so small and thin he seemed more like a child than a man. He was dying. One of the actors told us that at one time he was a vibrant young man, full of life and mischief. I spoke with this woman about her life, her dreams, her hopes. She professed not to have any. I asked her if she was happy. “No, I am not. I have so many problems.” She has lived a hard life providing for her family. She lives day to day, but she lives. After the shoot, Cyndi offered her financial compensation for her home, a “location fee.” We were told the family could live for a year on that location fee. We also gave her two bags of candy to pass out to the neighborhood children. It was then that we saw a smile beneath her sad eyes. We have been back in the U.S. for many months but this woman’s eyes still haunt me in the darkness and in the light.

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