Exciting Technology & Direct Connection: CinemaCon 2012 – Feature

CinemaCon, like its namesake Showest before it, has always been about exciting the theater owners with new technology and product meant to get them pumped for their direct connection to the customer. While the textures of this year from “Life Of Pi” to “Skyfall” provided some interesting visions, none was more discussed or contested like the footage that Peter Jackson showed of “The Hobbit”, shot at 48fps, which only a year or so after the acceptance of 3D and the near conversion to full digital, takes the string up one more notch. It is all about what you show.

Paramount Heading into summer, Paramount opened the con by honoring Dwayne Johnson with the “Action Star Of The Decade Award” with studio head Rob Moore calling him “franchise viagra”. Johnson, with his textbook charm along with director John Chu, best known for the”Step Up” films, introduced a dexterous element of scenes from the film which both showed humor and drama. Next, Tom Cruise, in a taped greeting from the set of “Oblivion” [directed by Joe Kosinski] in Baton Rouge, spoke before showing scenes from “Jack Reacher” directed by Christopher McQuarrie whose last helming outing was “Way Of The Gun”. Two scenes adapted from the graphic novel distinctified “tone” which Cruise mentioned in his opening remarks. Rob Moore then turned the stage over to Jeffrey Katzenberg who, after a great year with “Kung Fu Panda 2” and “Puss In Boots”, brought “Madagascar 3” and “The Guardians”. The third entry into the “Madagascar” franchise showed almost 15 minutes of the opening optimizing new animation techniques since the last one in the series with Chris Rock coming on stage saying that it was the best so far adding that some parts were “trippy” which reflected in a circus montage. “The Guardians” based on a children’s book is a completely different animal using “myth” and “belief” to approach its subject matter with an edge and texture. Chris Pine who leads the cast as the voice of “Jack Frost” spoke about the key in the character to finding “the center”. Interestingly, the whole time he was speaking, all of his remarks also applies everything he sees in this character to James Kirk for which he is currently shooting the sequel to “Star Trek” as. The ending of the presentation did not disappoint with Sascha Baron Cohen making his second public appearance as “The Dictator” complete with girls and soldiers in tow and walking through the crowd. After throwing some zingers on stage as is his MO, Cohen as the character angled out Katzenberg as the other “dictator” in the room before announcing (which most thought as a joke) that the film would be screening at 11pm up the Strip and that it was not a threat before he exited with great fanfare as Katzenberg kissed his ring.

Warner Brothers The texture of Warner Brothers relies in being able to follow up the powerhouse of Harry Potter. While the arrival of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp to introduce an extended trailer of “Dark Shadows”, it was Christopher Nolan talking about shooting almost a 1/3 of his “Dark Knight Rises” in IMAX that offered a stemming view of a brooding dark conclusion so much so that Adam Shankman who showed an extended trailer of “Rock Of Ages” including the first bit of Tom Cruise singing threw a “you fucker” line at Nolan because of how unbelievable bad ass it was. Director Jay Roach then talked about the balance of political “broo-haha” in regards to  his new film:”The Campaign” starring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis. However it was moving into fall that offered the most interesting view with the first glimpse of footage from Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby” in 3D which Luhrmann explained in a taped message from Australia allows you to see the actors shine without any visual effects. Lastly, Peter Jackson introduced in 3D from New Zealand, the first footage of 48 frames per second from “The Hobbit”. Like seeing “Avatar” for the first time, it takes some getting used to because it is a completely different movie experience in terms of perception with Jackson showing distribs around 10 minutes of footage. One piece in particular showing Gollum’s face very close to camera shows the distinctiveness of this frame rate as do flying shots (like those seen in the original trilogy). Another one very specific to the changing viewpoint of the immersion of the technology is when Gandalf is alone in the catacombs. The depth of the shot makes you think you are actually there though the process does retain an almost HD camera quality in terms of perspective which is rather hard to describe.

Disney Balancing out with the texture of brand specifications from Warner, the Mouse House used the cross structure promotion with Marvel, Pixar and Dreamworks to fuel the fire. Marvel presented a short clip from “The Avengers” intermixing Iron Man, Thor and Captain America with bone-crunching sound followed directly with the announcement of Thor II and Captain America II before Marvel President Kevin Feige showed a small clip leading to the production of Iron Man III which begins production in North Carolina later in the month. Progressing into Dreamworks, the aspect of “People Like Us” starring Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks (and directed by Alex Kurtzman of “Star Trek” and “Fringe” frame) capitalizes on the studio’s penchant for more novel based forms. “Lincoln” which makes its distribution stateside through Fox, was also mentioned, without texture of a trailer likely to be seen at Fox’s Presentation two days later. Disney Pictures itself started quietly with sleeper quality textures of the stop motion film “Frankenweenie” directed by Tim Burton which does contain odes to Brad Bird’s “Family Dog” episode of “Amazing Stories” and definitely suburban angles of “Edward Scissorhands”. “The Odd Life Of Timothy Green” starring Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton seems more reminiscent of Disney fantasy/morality films of the 70s like “Pete’s Dragon” depending on the tone of the eventual picture. “The Wonderful World Of Oz”, which just completed filming just a couple weeks ago, boasts a great pedigree in director Sam Raimi re-teaming with his “Spiderman” villain James Franco as the titular character here. The story details unearthed by the director speak to an interesting betrayal in the story of sorts centering around Mila Kunis’ character which fuels the intentions of what happens in the world. The footage shown dictates a mixture of sets, which producer Joe Roth identified as Detroit, as well as some interestingly created background CG mattes which might or might not be the final textures. Conversely, Jerry Bruckheimer was brought out by current live action film prexy Sean Bailey after a short live stage bit about Kermit wanting to be the Lone Ranger and Miss Piggy wanting to be the Good Witch in Oz. Entertaining for sure. Bruckheimer spoke of them shooting in Arizona with Johnny Depp coming out and speaking as well. Depp made reference to that fact that “I just saw a frog and pig out here. Did anybody else see that?” When asked about Tonto, Depp deferred in a show of modesty saying, kindly, that he wants the theater owners to see it when it is done. With no footage to speak of for the title with the exception of a photo, details are still scarce. John Lasseter, head of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, came out next to discuss his slate. “Wreck It Ralph” is a non-Pixar film which is interesting in its own right following a bad guy in an 8-bit video game stuck in an arcade. Lasseter spent a good ten minutes setting up the premise and characters before showing the first ten minutes of the film. John C. Reilly, who spoke about trying to improvise during the recordings with sometimes co-star Sarah Silverman, gives a definite heart to the character. A specific “bad guys anonymous” scene represents this with a dexterity and tongue-in-cheek element replete with visual gag cues. Representing beyond and speaking into the Pixar mode, the announcements in terms of new structures (beyond “Monster University”) border on more esoteric which might be undeniably groundbreaking with one being “The Last Dinosaur” with only a silhouette of a brachiosaurus present and another one that can be encapsulated as “Journey Into The Mind” but probably not in the “Fantastic Voyage” way. Finally, as a perspective of a film which has been interestingly placed without any real knowledge of it, Lasseter unspooled nearly a half-hour of “Brave” which follows the exploits of a tomboyish princess in the highlands of Scotland. While interesting echoes of Robin Hood play through especially when the heroes take disguise, what does seem to ring through. which was not prevalent before as much in the other Pixar movies (because this is inherently a human world), is the reactions of the animals and others in a more realistic way which was a hallmark of say “Beauty & The Beast”. It shows how the feature animation side of Disney is being impacted by Lasseter. While not at the full potential of Disney because of responsibility to the shareholders, he is pushing the bar in subtle ways as he can.

Filmmaker Forum: Martin Scorsese & Ang Lee Whenever you get Martin Scorsese in the room, the perspective becomes one of a film class which is interesting when he is speaking to a roomful of theater owners. The impact of “The Hobbit” footage at 48fps had been ringing for about 24 hours and everybody had an opinion on it, both good and bad. This forum was more about 3D with Scorsese’s “Hugo” pushing the barrier last year in terms of serious filmmakers from a dramatic point of view. Ang Lee, mostly known for his more direct non-genre dramas (but Oscar-winning fare) recently immersed himself in 3D for his Christmas release “Life Of Pi” which many said to be “unfilmable” (and for good perspective reason). While it is interesting to see these men discuss the virtues of this medium, it almost feels like they are behind the ball because the technology is moving so fast. Before the discussion began, a sample of 120fps technology was shown. The eye cannot see, for what is being said, beyond 60fps. The footage here was more smooth gliding elements but the separation dictates the depth. This is one thing that did interact in terms of the Scorsese/Lee discussion because lighting becomes even more of an important structure which Lee said drove him mad in certain respects on “Pi”. Scorsese reflects that the I/O, which determines depth in 3D, was something he and his cinematographer Robert Richardson constantly toiled with on “Hugo”. He however said it was one shot when Sascha Baron Cohen is staring down into the camera with his dog in forced perspective that gave him chills because it showed what the technology was capable of doing. Lee, still in the midst of figuring everything out on his movie, spoke on the essence of using water since a lot of his movie takes place in the ocean. The Taiwanese government ended up building him a massive tank but the camera was the first to use a housing to shoot 3D actually underwater. Neither had seen “The Hobbit” footage so they could not comment though Scorsese seemed visibly intrigued at everyone’s reaction. He compared it to a movie he showed to his daughter, her school friends and some of their mothers at his home in New York recently. It was from back in the 30s where the aspect ratio and the color changes during the film (much like “Wizard Of Oz” in some respects). People, he said, spoke the same way about color. It is just something that will eventually, after growth spurts, become a mainstay. 3D took a little longer but eventually is having its day.

Sony While franchises seem to pile on with respect to the Sony brand, the intention seems to reflect that bigger is better quality. While “MIB 3” and “Total Recall” showed extended structures in 2D, it is interesting to perceive their eventual release.The time travel perspective of Men In Black does not quite have its plot direction set in the footage shown but the humor, as always, plays dry and loose with Josh Brolin doing a spot on impression that you would almost think that Tommy Lee Jones is doing the voice over. “Total Recall” oddly enough recreates an almost deja-vu situation because the set ups in terms of plot device to the original are eerily similar with a swig of “The Fifth Element” thrown into the mix. The world is intense and Kate Beckinsale, melding a character that mixes Sharon Stone and Michael Ironside from the original, is bad-ass especially in an extended foot chase sequence that just screamed with adrenalin yet felt wholly original. The intention of what Douglas Quaid is being accused of here is played a little more than conjecture. “That’s My Boy” looks to bring Adam Sandler back to full resolution after the misfire that was “Jack & Jill” but the man experiments with comedy (albeit more low brow) much like Will Ferrell but with more success on an ongoing basis. This is an R-rated romp that has textures of “Little Nicky” but with more curse words and breasts. Sort of like Billy Madison grown up. It looks hilarious because Sandler’s character can go nuts because Andy Sandberg takes on Adam’s usual role with aplomb. It should kill for sure. And as the announcements proved, “Grown Ups 2” is around the corner a summer from now. “The Amazing Spiderman” also seems to be trying to find its footing. The hardest thing in rebooting the franchise is selecting the right tone and space within which to set it. The humor and action shown here is seeking a balance for sure and the scale surely feels much bigger than the last franchise. Andrew Garfield’s approach is more aloof at times though Emma Stone stabilizes the structure. Denis Leary as the police captain who sees Spiderman as a threat will bring some added tension and the more comprehensive view of Lizard Man promises interesting feelings but it all contains relevance in heart depending on the end product. “Resident Evil: Retribution” shows Paul W.S. Anderson pushing the 3D ideals but the mythology is getting extremely deep. However as long as Milla Jovovich can wield a sword and guns with fire blazing behind her (with extended I/O mind you) people will flock. The final perception allowed was a first look at the Bond film “Skyfall” directed by Sam Mendes. The teaser is dark with overcast skies and dark rooms. It seems almost built like a brainwash sequence. The music is rumbling and has tendencies of foreboding much like “Road To Perdition” which gave chills. Granted it gives no perspective of overall story but the tone indicated feels much like “The Dark Knight Rises”: a dark humor that mixes with tragedy.

20th Century Fox With two summer films that hang on the precipice with different elements at stake, the ideas are humming. With “Prometheus” and a bang up viral campaign, director Ridley Scott seems to know what he is doing. The extended trailer showing the landing sequence onto the planet in its full glory has a dexterity and industrial feeling that only Scott can do. “Alien” DNA plays heavily into the trailer from the ship to the Space Jockey. The blood letting definitely paints it well. It looks phenomenal on the big screen. “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” I have been interacting with over the past couple months. It is a near idea that is perched between real life and genre which is always a hard sell. Director Timor Bekmambetov has the chops to make it happen and the new footage plays to more the historical basis and less of the acrobatics which may be a conscious decision. “Neighborhood Watch” is another interesting amalgamation with Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill moving into an alien invasion hybrid comedy where they become defenders of their community, swilling beer and taking no bullshit. It is interesting but the line being walked is a tightrope. The final perception to be mentioned on Fox’s upcoming slate is “Life Of Pi”, Ang Lee’s 3D epic to be released at Christmas. Lee showed one sequence and one scene from the film to show what he is trying to do. What comes across for sure is a necessity to use 3D as a storytelling mechanism of immersion. The sequence involves the marooning of the lead character on the ocean and the sinking of the freighter he is traveling on. At first it seems almost simple but the single long takes show a deeper thought at work. Like “Titanic” in a way but more intimate, Lee’s camera follows the actor (picked from a worldwide casting search) underwater trying to save his family who is trapped in the water below deck. The 3D camera picks up the bubbles which gives a much more real feel. Pi, the lead character, ends up on a life raft which a zebra (there are a lot of animals on the ship) jumps onto. The perspective of that and then a Bengal tiger (an integral part of the story) jumping on as well while rain is pouring down, makes on realize that there is a lot of stuff going on technically here. One of the most beautiful shots comes around this point where you can see the sinking ship lingering below Pi in an overhead shot with its lights still on. He disappears below the surface and you get a sense of scale. When 3D starts to be used for this kind of thing (which Cameron embraces as well) is when you will get some killer stuff. The other scene Lee showed is very reminiscent of “Old Man & The Sea”. You can tell at a point it is in a studio stage while Pi and The Tiger fight over their food of flying fish along with tuna that sail into the boat. It has that aspect of Anthony Quinn and the primal fight. The tiger (which is probably CG but it is so seamless as not to be believed) blows Aslan from “Narnia” out of the water with its reality.

CinemaCon, showing new advances, continues to challenge theater owners and, by extension, audiences by trying to keep up with changing technology and rights conversion which, while exciting, always seems to come with a bit of apprehension but ultimately interest.

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Family Progressions & Jungle Tribulations: The ABC Winter 2011 TCA Press Tour – Feature

The revolving structure within the new idealism of ABC under the stewardship of Paul Lee reflects a more family based structure despite the success of more edgy fare like “Modern Family” and “Cougar Town” With the exception of “Off The Map” which takes advantage of post-“Lost” Hawaii assets, most of the new material revolves around the Disney Channel and Lee’s former post at ABC Family. The intentions are not unfamiliar but reflect changes in regards to structure of the former regime.

Paul Lee addressed the elements of forward momentum with a much more committed hand than the previous incarnation only hours after his new post was assigned. In regards to his recent thoughts, he distinctified that the company has really stood behind their Wednesday comedy block before dictating that “The Middle”, “Modern Family” and “Cougar Town” would be picked up for next season. Lee continued with intention saying that his goal is really to make ABC Studios “a showrunner culture”. He worried when they launched that there were too many shows. Even big broadcast networks, he explains, need to have a place and time. He points to “Body Of Proof”, the new Dana Delany show, as being “a very good procedural” but admits that now the networks have to “play and compete 12 months a year”. He examples “Castle” as being the target of the ABC brand. He continues describing the network, and broadcast studios in general, in that “we brought the dinner party and we brought the guests but the showrunners need to continue” the progression. Both them and the network behind them have to “be willing to fall on your face” but do it within branding.

In speaking to new ideas in the process, he mentions a “fabulous procedural” that Shonda Rhimes [of “Grey Anatomy” and “Private Practice”] is working on. They have also made two pick ups with “Smothered” and “One Up” which he explains are both comedies. In terms of existing comedies, he volunteers that “Cougar Town” has a very distinctive voice. In terms of “Mr. Sunshine” headlined by Matthew Perry, they will be placing that show after “Modern Family” within the schedule. He admits a couple years ago ABC couldn’t have been able to anchor an hour on Wednesday. Comedies, in Lee’s mind, take a while to find themselves.

Approaching the other end of the spectrum with a series like “V”, 10 episodes were ordered because within that they could maintain quality control. In the same vein, Lee addressed the interaction of Marvel within the Disney family and how that could impact ABC. His thought is that with something like Marvel, you can get the whole company behind the idea which keys back to his focus on brand, Lee also admits to the fact that the networks are living in a fragmented universe (i.e. DVR, online watching) which changes the way viewing is tracked. Marketing becomes critical but there needs to be time to do so. When interrelating to other networks, he points out that shows like “The Good Wife” and “Glee” fit the ABC Brand though he admits his favorite ABC Shows are “Modern Family”, “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Dancing With The Stars”.

Disney Channel’s “Lemonade Mouth” uses the strength of “Glee” to use the inherent star-making behind some of Disney’s successes into a specified movie aimed at creating an essence of edginess without sacrificing values.

Debra Chase, who also produced “Cheetah Girls” and “The Princess Diaries”, describes the production as “a movie with music” with “these characters trying to find their voice”. The key was to find a group that would “become a band with their band performances”. She said that they spent three months looking all over the world to find the best prospects. The script was based on a novel by Mark David Hughes and the title comes from the organic lemonade machine which is the cornerstone of the school. Chase’s hope is that the heart, soul and spirit of the book still lives on in the movie.

Patricia Riggen, who also directed the Spanish film “Under The Same Moon”, says that every song in the movie is special and worked from character, revealing a duality. She points out with the kinds of songs the kids sing, they are more mature and can stand on their own. For her it was a challenge to do serious storytelling on a 8 week shoot where it was about walking into an empty room and bringing the voices together.

Adam Hicks, who plays Wen, says that music motivates people whether they know it or not. The first thing he does after writing music is that he wants to tell people. The key in “Lemonade Mouth” was that in doing all the rehearsals, they could show that they all legitimately play the instruments on and off camera. His angle is writing rap which he has been doing since the 4th grade but said he “loves the surprise [from people] because I have red hair and freckles”.

Tisha Campbell-Martin, best known from the TV series “Martin”, says that she started out doing musicals Off-Broadway before graduating to “Little Shop Of Horrors” and “Rags To Riches”. She says originally she couldn’t get arrested in getting a comedic role. Seeing these young people in the movie however reminded her so much of herself.

ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars” continues the act of trying to balance family programming with an edge using the story of a quartet of women who are targeted by anonymous foe, paving the way for “Mean Girls” reversal.

Exec producer Oliver Goldstick focuses the idea that the series is specifically about romance and that the soul mate connections are structured through the episodes. Balancing that with the implements of a procedural allows the show to use subtext in a series of cycles. The structure of the narrative, he explains, can rotate into mini-seasons like a 3-act play taking into account the theme of responsibility as the central cornerstone of the series.

The girls involved kept balance with how much they wanted to be aware of the world beyond the script. Lucy Hale, who plays Aria, only planned on reading the 1st book but ended up getting through the middle of Book 5. This allowed her a perception beforehand of this girl’s life although she says “I haven’t had any girls confessing their love for teachers” which is the flaw of her inherent character. Shay Mitchell, who plays Emily, says that when she auditioned she hadn’t read any of the books but read them as they shot the pilot. She says that she fully embraced her character’s style as an Adidas model but hopes to have her in heels by the end of the season.

ABC Studios’ “Off The Map” takes into possibility the infrastructure created by the recently retired “Lost” imbuing a new medical show set in the jungles of South America spearheaded by powerhouse showrunner Shonda Rhimes.

Rhimes admits that there was alot of resources left over from “Lost”. What got her interested was the voice of Jenna Bans who had served as producer with her on “Grey” while she continually spearheads new shows including one revolving around a fixer set in Washington D.C. That new show (which is in development) follows an intelligence specialist which Rhimes describes as a “crisis manager” and is loosely based on a woman named Judy Smith.

Bans, for her part, speaks that with “Off The Map”, what strikes her most about these specific characters is that none of them are at the top of their game. They all need to start over and, at a character level, “you are beginning with a huge difference”. In her eyes, the jungle is their pharmacy and they don’t have technology at their disposal and, because of this, they can “delve into stories that no one else can really do”. As a writer, she says she started writing to the chemistry onscreen that you see offscreen. She sees the series as a mix of action/adventure and comedy but also with a political twist creating what she calls “a nice blend”.

When Bans was researching the project and talking to doctors in the US, she says she came across alot of physicians where their private practice was their day job but their hobby was going away to these countries to do this. The village in the series is not completely far away from an actual commerce center but is completely surrounded by alot of remote villages. With supplies 10 hours or so away by vehicle, different substitutions must be made like using coconut milk as a substitute for fluids (which she says is done in third world countries). Episode to episode, she says they will not make the gore too gratuitous. The zipline material in the first episode will be the most extreme. Bans continues that there are different ways of practicing medicine which is what struck her and got her excited about the show.

The different doctors bring their different functions into play with brevity. Zach Gilford, who plays Dr. Fuller, says that sometimes on TV, one can be pigeonholed into a certain character base forever but, with a show like this, that stretched the possibilities, the rules are different because “you get to see different parts of the island and places you would never find”. Martin Henderson, most known for his role in the film “The Ring”, says that “to find a group of people that get on well is unique whether it was a conscious effort or not” but adds “that it is fortuitous and translates” on camera which Mamie Gummer, who plays Dr. Minard, admits “mirrors the characters”.

Inherent Laughter & Social Repercussion: The PBS Winter 2011 TCA Press Tour – Feature

PBS always is indicative of a cross-section of political, nostalgia and a mix of tangible intelligence. The idea is one of perceiving the world through a myriad of eyes which ranges from the essence of independent film in “Independent Lens” to intrinsic investigative reporting on the edge with “Frontline

Beginning the relevant nature works with the Pioneers Of Television highlighting “The Best Of Laugh In”. One of the biggest shows of its time, especially when there was only three networks and viewers could get as high up as 60 million, the sky was the limit but finding new and creative ways to deal with sponsors, censors and the like was always a challenge.

George Schlatter, producer of the show, always relates finding the cast. With the silken voiced Gary Owen, who is now known the world over, the mogul found him in the men’s room of The Smokehouse (across from Warner Brothers Burbank) against the tile wall. With Jo Anne Worley, it was always if nobody else could do it, give it to her. Lily Tomlin bowled him over in the first moments. She came to him in a show he did in NY that got canceled and was doing a barefoot tapdance. What really focused his attention was when she did her rubber freak who ate erasers and everything else. He recalls that when she went on to do Ernestine, the phone operator, for the first time, he made a signal for her to do the dialing with that one finger. Also whenever Lily did her Church Lady (way before Dana Carvey), she made her knees creak. The censors thought it was something else. In terms of maintaining a sense of spontaniety, they always gave the band a heads up when they were doing something a little out there so they could be sure to contain their laughter. Schlatter still remembers the ball they had with the Farkle Family in dealing with the censors. He told them to go “look it up in your Funk & Wagnalls” (which was a popular encylopedia at the time). There were many guest stars. Kirk Douglas came to mind because his sons (specifically Michael) were such fans of the show and encouraged him to go on. One of George’s favorite characters was Gladys but he attributes that to being “glandular” with the scene of her on the bench with her paramour having the pockets out of his coat being the best. In terms of Roland & Martin and their working relationship (which people have always asked about) he says they “were the best nighclub act but couldn’t talk to each other”.

Lily Tomlin follows up the texture of her audition of the barefoot tapdance by saying that she lasted three weeks on that other show “before they fired me”. In terms of Ernestine, she says that George told her that they needed someone on the switchboard as a joke. After doing her rubber bit on-stage (like not a day has passed), she admits that during the time of the show she was too rigid politically to the point that she wouldn’t take a picture with John Wayne. This of course, she said, was fueled by the fact that they had ratings on their side. Her favorite character was the fast talker although she admits “Ernestine thinks she the boss”. The key to the show’s success over the years is that, she says “people get turned on when they see other people having fun”.

Gary Owens, the man with the voice, says that Artie Johnson recommended him to George. One of the most intrinsic moments he remembers is when Billy Graham was a guest. Artie was still wearing his Nazi helmet and comes around to see who’s who. He tells Graham that he has been talking to the man upstairs to which Graham says “Really?” Artie retorts, “Yes. He thinks you’re a schmuck”. Owens also recalls that when Nixon did his “Sock It To Me!” bit on the show, he [Owen] was talking to the incumbent Humphrey on “Meet The Press” when it all happened. He mentions that his father had a deep voice “and so did my mother actually”.

“Forgiveness: A Time To Love & A Time To Hate” takes an “Emotional Life” perspective as to how people deal with the tendencies of letting go but finding closure at the same time.

Helen Whitney, the director of the film, wanted to make something that was passionate but also small in its edification but distinct in concept. This idea seemed to resonate the most deeply for her.

One of the most interesting interrelations for her is the aspect of a wife who abandoned her husband and children and then many years later tries to come back to at least be part of their children’s lives. Daniel Glick, the father, says that 11 years ago he never thought he would be sitting on the stage with his ex-wife but realizes now that forgiveness as an “actual” is not a linear concept but resonated in the themes apparent within this show. The major obstacle is how the production would affect his kids because even though the cameras have been around, they haven’t actually seen the finished product.

Liesbeth Gerritsen, the mother who left, admits that, in being an agent of suffering, it is hard to know how to ask for forgiveness. She see it as “a gnarly question with a gnarly answer”. She can’t admit to say that the experience was therapeutic but only to agree that it was very painful. There however was something about the process, she says, which brings to the forefront that “you cannot be forgiven unless somehow you pay”.

For others like Terri Jentz who was terrorized by an attacker, she provides the perspective that she doesn’t believe that one can dismiss an unforgiveable evil. Her path created an interesting paradox as she looked to new age thinking for an escape. She thought after 15 years she had forgiven this unknown man who escaped but she began to realize that it was just a deadening of her will.

“Independent Lens” is a more and more visceral way is bring the experience of film festivals to public television. In a more saturated world finding this kind of material needs a voice.

“Wasteland”, directed by Lucy Walker, which IR saw at the Provincetown Film Festival, tells the story of an Vic Nunez, a well regarded artist, taking his idea of sustainability into a creative project in the landfills of his native Brazil. When Lucy was at film school at NYU she was always interested in doing profiles of young artists but the reality of approaching the daily life was never that possible at that time in terms of consuming the viewer. She never thought she could do it because the idea of that kind of immersion, at times, doesn’t exist anymore. What surprised her is the lack of awareness she had to the amount of trash in the world. With Nunez, she realized that “the richness of the story was in the rescue of the ingredients”. Nunez grew up poor in Brazil and the film was about recapturing that innocence that he sees in the people there now. In Walker’s mind, that is the kind of thinking that resets the art world. The Brazilian angle of it also offered interesting government involvement because the actualization of the project, more than an art installation, became a social outreach.

Tamra Davis, director of “Jean Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child” (which was also a film picked up from last year’s Sundance Film Festival), speaks of her relationship with the artist when she was going to film school (again at NYU). Her first experiences in front of the paintings hit you because (as she describes) they are “arresting” and “loud” to the point that you can “hear them”. Basquiat referenced many things in Davis’ estImation because “he was sampling the world around him”. She met Jean Michel at an art show in Los Angeles when she was 19 and he was 22. He actually mentioned to her about making a movie about him because as she puts it, “it was a reason for us to hang out with each other”. A couple years later, they actually did a formal interview. The resolute aspect is that in order for people to see your work, you have to be known which means placing yourself out there personally for your art to be seen. She accepts the ideal about how the film made in the mid-90s approaches Jean Michel’s life and has she has talked personally to Geoffrey Wright who portrayed the artist but what surprised her is that there was no discussion about his race in that movie. She says that subject was big to Jean Michel. She continues that she made this film for Jean Michel as a friend but also a girl since many women supported him. She wanted to embody her love and sensitivity for him but also relate what life was like for him on a daily basis.

Intonating the adjoining ballroom with a sense of a gala club, Harry Connick Jr. took to the stage to perform songs indicative of his style for PBS’ new special “Harry Connick Jr. On Broadway”. Having in recent years made his own transmutation to Broadway, one would expect that he would be playing to that tendency but all roads for him still track back to his roots as an 11-year-old in New Orleans.

Upon taking the stage the first inference Harry speaks of makes traction to Frank Sinatra whom he has been often compared to, though Connick prefers to see himself as a “piano player” though he joked about his “super-talent” when riffing with his bandmates. “The Way You Look Tonight” used the simple progression of the bass and drums to coordinate the crooner’s silken voice. With “Mason Street Blues” he brought out an exceptional trombone player featured on the program which gave that undeniable Louisiana twang without going into full jam. His sax player then came out as Connick abandoned the piano for a miniscule time frame to sing a slow tempo serenation of “And I Love Her” by The Beatles which was not on the special. Its inclusion showed the range of interpretations that this performer can see life through though he admits that his personification of jazz offers a certain idealism which, when he tried to make a couple funk records, somehow played short. After bringing up a trumpet player for one of their trademark jams (which Connick says sometimes certain audiences don’t understand because they come to hear him sing), the musicianship comes through.

His trademark “It Had To Be You”, best known as a full big band progression, here was done purely with the piano and a sax on a down tempo giving it a different lounge heavy intensity that plays exceptionally different with a sense of knowing. The ending rush was an inventive Mardi Gras Stomp with all the instruments playing in tandem and Connick allowing his jazz cronies to shine closed the set..

Afterwards, the ideas of the man behind the music ventured with a discussion that covered his influences and various thought processes moving up inside the music. Of course, in tandem he brought the comparisons to Frank Sinatra which he explains like linking someone to Brando in acting. Sinatra had a certain phrasing that made his possibilities look deep and endless but this came out of an enlongated thought process. One of the more interesting influences Connick mentioned of his was Freddie Mercury which he said created these infinite thoughts without being pigeonholed or held back by anything. Connick relates that he spoke to Brian May about this in-depth. The crooner also mentions that he went to the Manhattan School Of Music so technique and practice always comes to his mind. Someone, like Mercury, he says, had no training and the amazing elements he could create were astounding. Connick also mentioned his support of the Saints being a true Orleans boy. In terms of a cutting contest, the one person he says he might be reserved to go up against is Art Beau but says that he rules on New Orleans ground. When asked about the evolution of the definition of jazz, he says that the song remains itself though the idea of who is singing it might not. They key is that the personification of it is timeless whether seen through a young boy or an old man.

The other undeniable performer of this tour resided in the notion of David Foster, who is responsible for some of the most enduring songs of the past couple decade. Evidenced by his calm demeanor and humor, his successes and drawbacks haven’t fazed him as he speaks in between certain songs about how their timeline interrelates to each of his different wives and what they got in the divorce settlement.

Needing nothing but a simple baby grand, the act of the way that Foster can coax structures out of different performers are intriguing. He admits he is no singer which brings about comparisons to Barry Manilow but his instinct in terms of reacting to the American people during a specific period of time were, and still remain, remarkable. Take for example, as he spoke, the two young people that he is shepherding right now. After having achieved success in cross-over with Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli, he is currently working on the debut album of Jackie Evancho, the 10-year old prodigy that sounds like a fully trained adult opera singer.

The greatest gift to talent, in being able to capture what they are capable of, is a sure hand but also exceptional expertise and success on you end plus a sense of humor. In recollecting to the small rapt audience, Foster broke down the progression of his hits songs in an unorthodox way: which wife (he has had three) got a condo or certain baubles from it. He doesn’t sound bitter but makes no apologies for it either. He plays these songs and you begin to realize in a small part the immense impact (at least on easy listening) he has had over the years.

In terms of Wife #1, he begins playing “Look What You’ve Done To Me”, the hit song from “Urban Cowboy” made famous by Boz Scaggs back in 1980 and the one/two punch of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “After The Love Is Gone” and “September”, which alone is enough to make a career. What is essential about these songs is how effortless they feel which, as most songwriters will say, is the ultimate compliment.

In terms of Wife #2, the 80s were ruled in texture of Foster through Chicago and Peter Cetera. The blockbuster “Chicago XVI” and “XVII” albums were structured by harder hitting modern pop with heavy drums and guitars while still maintaining the melodic element that made their early hits possible. This new approach gave them an edge and two of the biggest hits through songwriter/producer Foster were “Hard To Say I’m Sorry” and “You’re The Inspiration” which redefined the band. When Cetera left the band, one of his biggest hits after was the love theme for “Karate Kid Part II” called “The Glory Of Love”, which was again penned by Foster and sported that same necessary edge. Also interspersed among the time period was his instrumental hit for “St. Elmo’s Fire” which became a chart topper as well under his own name.

Again remember, during this whole performance is playing all these live on piano as well while explaining their context. Fast forward to the 90s with Wife #3 (he always remembers his motif) when he worked with Whitney Houston on “The Bodyguard” soundtrack. He wrote the hit “I Have Nothing” and then re-purposed the Dolly Parton song “I Will Always Love You” into the massive life changing single it became. After this structure he began working with Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli mixing the notions of classical and pop into a fusion that is still being perceived today.

The first of the live performers to come on-stage was Charice, one of Foster’s new additions (alongside Evancho), who did at amazing belting version of “All By Myself” that simply knocked the floor over, especially when she an upper octave at full pitch and never wavered.

Donna Summer, proving not to be undone by any means, came out and blasted with a cover of the Foster-penned “Unbreak My Heart”, originally sung by Toni Braxton, with a fervor that shows her voice is nothing if not stronger than when she first used it. Wrapping up the evening, she continued into the song she did with Foster in the 70s that permeated and still remains a stalwart around the world: “Last Dance”.

Two intense live performances. “Great Performances” indeed.

Tavis Smiley, who made a big structure with his intrinsic investigation with director Jonathan Demme into New Orleans on his last trip to the press tour, conceded that he doesn’t like the word “interviewer” instead liking to refer to himself as a conversationalist. For him, the key to his show is about listening generously because if you do it well enough, your subjects will open up to you. The idealistic aspect is knowing the difference between optimism and hope. Hope structures the foundation that times will eventually get better. Smiley thinks that this perception of “hope” is wrong and stands to reason why the nation is not unpacking and taking the economic threat more seriously. While he points out that government is to blame, he does think that “we have to engage in the right kind of discourse in regards to civility”. Politicians are not more important to him than artists though. In fact, for his perception, it is quite the opposite.

“Frontline” continued the discussion on the perspective of intelligence sources versus the actual ground level advances in the persistent effort to protect borders. Dana Priest, one of the lead investigators on the terrorism front, says that the ideas start from what government and private enterprise has built since 9/11 and what is a viable tangible fact. Her focus is watching these organizations and how they grow. The possibility resides in the fact of how the government spies on people. If suspicions are heightened, how do the intel committees looking at these issues weigh the points especially if it involves classified material. She specifies though that the Obama administration has been much more specific and vigilant than the Bush administration in its intent to move the matter through the courts. Priest believes that there is a responsibility to the job they do but the balance is to not suffer the consequences, especially when you find a source willing to talk.

Miles O’Brien approaches a different front with his ongoing and deep seated investigation into the airline industry especially in its outsourcing of maintenance to foreign countries. He makes the specified example of a major US airline moving their maintenance hub from San Francisco to Bejing. What that creates is the situation where no one can get into the hangars to see what is actually being fixed. The regionals do less outsourcing offshore but he explains, even going back to the Buffalo crash, that Continental had no legal responsibility whatsoever because the plane itself was a regional contract. No airline wants a crash but what is happening is that there is a system in place and, slowly but surely, the margin is being eaten away. All the decisions add up but the concern is that the crack seen in all these little decisions will add up to a hole that eventually will run all the way through.

The PBS outlay “POV” takes the approach of looking at a problem or situation and unraveling it at its core by the people living it.

“Where Soldiers Come From” attempts to bring a perspective in the aspect that, even at a purely psychological level, the basic aspects of a person can change when coming home from war, even if they don’t see it.

Director Heather Courtney, known for her documentary “Letters From The Other Side”, describes the aspect that her subject is encapsulated in a rural area and a very small town. The problem returning from war here is that are absolutely no employment opportunities. The incentive of signing up for $20,000 is a powerful one. After war service, Courtney admits that TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) has become the hidden war wound. It is complex and not necessarily easy to explain. The idea of her film for her started off in rural America. The physical subject of her film is Dominick Fredianelli whose father was a few years ahead of her in high school. She says that she didn’t have aspirations to be a war reporter in following Dominick with his deployment but “I needed to be there”. She says it was unusual to be embedded but admits that most of their mission is “alot of boredom” with some “wonderful conversations”. With verite, she says, you can get great stuff but you have to be taping for a couple of hours to get that nugget.

Dominick, as the viewpoint through which the narrative is based, says that once he graduated high school, he had to be ambitious. The deployment was in his head and, before and since, he has been treated very well by the veterans administration. He says that when someone asks him if they should join the guard, he says that it comes down to a personal decision. He did it “for my family, my friends and my girlfriend”. He currently goes to a school for design but it was important for him to get this story out there. He admits though it is hard to do every day things with Courtney sitting there with a camera. The key in this kind of outreach is compassion so people have more of an idea what the soldiers go through over in war zones.

Storycorps” blending the essence of social media and animation takes an interesting approach to the idea of a family story taking the audio and placing it against an animated milieu. Different booths were set up at various functions and festivals for people to go in and tell their story to be possibly put on file in the Library Of Congress which acts intently as a motivator.

David Isay, the founder of Storycorps, says that the process is a new thought into the idea of storytelling. At the end of a storytelling session, 2 CDs are burned. One is given to the person relating the story and the other goes to the Library Of Congress. Some of the stories are broadcast on NPR and a select few are adapted for PBS. It all started with a radio program he did. He gave a couple of kids audio recorders which they took around their housing projects. Some of the people they recorded eventually died and the recording was all that was left. It created an “ah-ha!” moment. From there they set up a booth in Grand Central to tap the cross-section though he admits that “you just worry about the Jerry Springer Factor”.

James Ransom, whose story about one of his teachers named “Miss Devine”, was adapted into animation says that he didn’t know what the final result would look like but that the creation of it was “how she was”. He relates that he went into one of the Storycorp booths in Sarasota, Florida. It was an Airstream trailer and the actual interview progressed like a fireside chat. He says what is aired is simply a smaller part of a larger conversation. When he asked his cousin about Miss Devine, she related that she was stern but she was mean. At the time, Ransom relates, corporal punishment was OK but “she was the keeper as far as we were concerned” with “a superpower that was unique”. He admits that there was lessons learned. He remembers listening to plays on the radio but says that Storycorps takes these ideas to a new level because the key to it is “about being yourself”.

PBS continues to address sociological aspects of continuing society both from an intellectual but also an emotional standpoint in how everybody from soldiers to major corporations make decisions that change the balance.

Collaborative Progressions & Event Ideals: The 2010 International Film Festival Summit [IFFS] & International Music Festival Conference [IMFCON] – Feature

The reflection between two perceptions of music and film function in much the same way across the board but the intention and repercussions are always interesting to witness.

With the advent of continuing element of the IFFS (International Film Festival Summit) and now the consecutive IMFCon (Internation Music Festival Conference) there is an introspective mix of different elements playing in tandem while these festivals of passion but also business minded gathering maintain their possibilities.

Outreach is always a continuing idea but all the different aspects change at such a rapid pace that usually makes adhering to a few rules seem to make the most sense.

Paul Cohen, who heads the Torchlight Program for Florida State University, whose film school has grown with exceptional leaps and bounds, says that it all balances between the kind of information being put out in terms of business possibilities and raising it to the quality of films being made. The opportunity, Cohen explains, in terms of what a film festival offers is “crossing over”. He points to this in terms of outreach from the industry by talking about new digital institute by Digital Domain being built in Palm Beach. The paradox to the situation is that even though there will be a Torchlight connection, it becomes myopic because of all the budget cuts.

Moving on, the first of the panels dealt with conceptualizing how basic film festivals operations need to be run. A research fellow from St. Andrews College in Scotland proceeded this on the aspect of his thesis. Within his structure, which,though sound, runs counterculture to the way interaction needs to occur, he solidifies an Open System Model (OSM) that begins with securing resources but then transforming it (through programming).

The brimming points of what causes failure are always bent within the confines of film, money or people problems (which is basically all there is anyway). The strategies though that can be balance against these problems involve cooperative alliances, date placements, geographic location, identifiable function, participation-based incentives, legitimatizing affiliations (who the board members are and who comes to the festival) and resource control (24-hour film competitions are an example).

Gabe Wardell, who used to head the Atlanta Film Festival, offers percepective in knowing who and where you are. In Georgia, for example, he says the aspect of funding is motivated purely by business as a red state (pointing to sponsors like Nissan or the like – which provide “pride purpose” bases). By comparison, he says that blue states are more likely to integrate specifically with the idea of the arts consortium aspect of an event. He appeals that a festival should not “compromise the artistic integrity” but that the “mission should indicate diverse work”. He admits though, based on his experience, that it can be “a treacherous environment”. He admits at one point they lost the Georgia Council Of The Arts but only got it back through the tenacity of the community of “naked dancers”. Grants, though, in his perspective are 1/10 of what they were.

In perspective to approaching it from the filmmaker point of view, Robert Baruc, President Of Screen Media Films, who is known the industry over currently for picking up mid tier indie films, encouraged the fests to bring in more distributors. Like media in many ways though, distributors are more encouraged to come if their way is paid. The more they know and the easier it is to get there, the more it will happen (and likely result in possible buys at the festivals besides Toronto, Sundance and the like). He admits though that the best place to watch films is at the festivals because of the audience (even if one is aware of the hometown perspective). He does warn that festival fever has happened where even distributors get into the energy of doing a buy (which happens at Sundance often) but that “the reality of a distruibutor coming to pick up a picture at a festival is more possible than ever before”.

Different other aspects from programming to finance makes themselves known. In terms of genre programming as indicated by a programmer for SxSW, it becomes an aspect of vetting and luck while others are dictated by the extension of what their audience will allow. Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis with its older demographic knows not the engage in too graphic material though Precious went over well there last year. Edmonton Film Festival showed “The Loved Ones” but resolutely placed it as counter-programming on opening night against “Score: A Hockey Musical” which also opened Toronto.

The hurdles of year round programming and box office management swirled in tandem. As with finance and fundraisiing, Liana Bender from Mill Valley Film Festival uses the approach many times of “three times an offer, one time an ask”. John Storm, the Managing Director of the Lone Star Film Festival, approaches the problem using the ticketing process as a multi-tiered task. The first screen is for the ticket. The second is for donation. The third is to join the film society. Another angle that became profitable for them is in “lights up ad -roll” which runs before the regular sponsor trailers. The changing aspect of film festivals has distributors for bigger ticket items not just asking for flat rate but also for part of your gate sales. Grants and sponsorships are important to the process but require intense audits that can cost a film festival $10,000 minimum on the back end.

Pursuing on the alternate end with music festivals creates an interesting dichotomy with the film festivals. Film by community is a widespread experience and many directors and programmers provide progression with filmmaker to play from point to point. Music festivals function differently because unlike the fact that a film can be played wide and far without worrying most of the time if the director is actually there, for musical performers the artist must decide which provide a higher dollar or public bang for their time.

The first of the music fest panels interrelated to the ongoing health involving the “State Of The Festivals”. Different genres obviously create a different amount of buzz in terms of what the fans will pursue.

From a country point of view, Jay Frank, Senior VP of Music Strategy for CMT, says that there is very little middle ground for a festival crowd to see a main headliner and small indie outlays together in the current climate. The rest of the possibilities have collapsed. He continues that there are plenty of acts at the bottom that can play the second stage but “no middles that will draw a bulk of the crowd”. The number one thing that festival goers want, according to Frank, is “value, value and more value”. The event is also about making communities though the acts are still infinitely important. Value though, he states, is “mostly a perception and not an actual”. A great moderator is monitoring conversation of the fans. Franks points to OpenFaceBookSearch as a great way to modulate that though he continues that not all social media is online. Having people go out to talk to the fans during the concerts, even if it is just a junior intern, shows that the organization is listening to its constituents.

Sarah Baer, who co-founded the Vans Warped Festival, which graduated its elements to a touring stage element, evidences the comparison by saying from her perspective that it is not necessarily about who is headlining. The advantage of being able to be in different states takes away the aspect of having to be a destination festival. From that same perspective, they can negotiate with an act that wants a $30,000 advance challenging them to a consecutive state where they are being paid. However certain ideas of values beyond that can backfire. Even though they try $10 tickets and group-ons (which offer discounts for larger groups of people), ultimately if someone pays $10 for a ticket but still has to buy a $12 beer, they will remember the $12 beer. In terms of length and stamina of show, if the show starts at 11am, by 5pm people will be going on based on that perspective because they are out of money and hungry. For Vans, most of their actual tickets (72%) are purchased on day of show which causes, from their perspective, a significant amount of nail biting. Trying to trick the public by advance ticket sales isn’t working anymore since concertgoers are being smarter and more selective. That said, from their beginning, Warped has gone from year one playing to 30,000 people to over 700,000 this past year though Baer admits they did scale back but within that structure, didn’t send any artists home, take away catering, alter on the promoter and hold back the production side. It was all in administration but within this ideal they had to make a much more specific look at their writing.

Persuading the ideas of profitability on a free festival offers a much different set of challenges. Andrew Dreskin, who co-produces the Virgin Free Fest sees from the perspective that there is more and more reasonable behavior from the industry. From the high end, there is simply not that many A -list headliners anymore and there are really no new ones. However that translates well for his festival because it is all indie and small artists within a free structure. But it is also about alternative perspectives. When they were a paid festival, they would truck some of the Burning Man people out from Northern California to do art installations. When they switched Baltimore as the free fest, they didn’t want to admit that the audience became blue collar. He details that they charged as a paid fest $99 for a day but that included Radiohead and The Beastie Boys. The last year they had Foo Fighters and Bob Dylan but the promoter told them that he could get 18,000 people for Foo Fighters alone but that number ended up being the take for the whole day. In reality, the reason the fest can be independent is because of their benefactor in Virgin head Richard Branson. The way the money structure works is that Virgin Mobile funds the event and then recoups money from subsponsors. Certain aspects of that can reduce the ticket price on the paid side if you have a main line sponsor. Motorola did a similar operation with Free Fest called The Layoff Louge where you showed your pink slip and then stepped up to a Wheel Of Fortune-type wheel with Branson spinning.

The next panel circling around the periphery of “Agents, Artists & Festivals” approaches its tendency that deals need to be made. Creativity and the artistic rendering only goes so far with money as a perspective is involved.

From the headlining artists perspective, Mark Dennis, who works for CAA out of Nashville and counts among his clients Keith Urban, Zac Brown Band, Willie Nelson and Alison Krause, says that in terms of deadlines, they don’t book 12 months or 2 months. It all works along that 6 month window and not much further. The further out a festival tries to book, the less likely it is to happen. The reality is that there is 18 different ways to play any market. An examples he gives is that with Bumbershoot in Seattle, there is an aspect of playing the casinos versus the festivals. Ultimately though, the negotiating process will take time; Bob Dylan being a perfect example in his mind. However, most agents will not tell you to “hang in there” if it isn’t going to happen. Dennis does admit that there “is no doubt that there has been a difference in the way that offers talk, especially to artists”. The performance fees haven’t gone a whole lot lower but he concedes that they have gotten a lot more creative. Artists like the ones he represents will be willing to work for back end but there always has to be a gaurantee.

Mark Lorre from Skyline Music, as a comparison, handles smaller mid-level acts like John Sebastian, Artuto Sandoval and Ivan Neville’s Stump Da Funk. The aspect of dealing with lower level promoters versus someone like CAA he admits is a completely different ballgame. However, that said, he offers the perspective that many more bands are touring now despite the fact that the festival experience peaked in 2008. He himself advises most of the club acts not to book the summer and instead wait for the festivals.

Bob Babisch, VP Of Entertainment for Summerfest in Milwaukee, offers the perspective for a perennial who mixes many different genres. In terms of negotiation, country always starts early in the season. The Europe Festivals alter the progression since many larger bands work on that schedule but “different genres work at different times”. In terms of variable fees, he offers that the big A+ acts range from $60,000 to $100,000, the C/B+ work within the $20,000 range and the smaller ones between $5,000 and $10,000.

Collaboration rounds out the perspective of life within the music festival circuit adhering to the thought that both community and competition breed together. Different goals breed different inferences of cooperation but everything works in tandem.

Beginning with the aspect of citywide integration, Hilary Leftick, co-founder of the Pop Montreal International Music Festival, finds her balance working within a small team even though the annual event uses 50 different venues all over town. Montreal itself though is very compacted in its festival outlays because of the consistent snow from November to May. One big problem interacting with the city that she encountered was that, even though the metropolitan center was a sponsor, city laws made outdoor posters illegal which made street marketing, which is essential to their outreach, challenging.

Two other different perspectives move within more rural progressions but each present their own initiatives.

Doug Cox, Executive Producer of the Vancouver Island Music Festival, says reaching out beyond the confines can help pointing to the fact that this year is the first where they are hiring an American publicist to become more well known though that can take a huge cut from their budget. On a local level, they do need local hotel owners to buy ads but that ideal itself becomes a Catch 22 because, by that same token, they cannot get cheap rooms.

Bret Mosiman, co-founder of the Wakarusa Music & Camping Festival in Arkansas, highlights the wonders of sharing great deals using the perspective that if a festival can find good insurance for $10,000, it helps all to share that information.

The International Film Festival Summit and the newly burgeoning International Music Festival Conference speak to the growing fraternity of such widespread and niche festivals. With the standards of distribution and saturation of material changing at every single point, discussing both the accomplishments, obstacles and tribulations the world over helps to both increase the functionality of these arts outlays but also create cohesive perspectives to increase profitability in an overall sense.

Finality, Character & Texture: The ABC Winter 2010 TCA Press Tour – Feature

ABC has show an ability for a specific cross-section of shows that push the envelope. While some like “Pushing Daisies” and “Better Off Ted” sometimes start to fall along the wayside, other successes like “Castle”, “Cougar Town” and “Modern Family” show that by angling the formula to a not-set portrayal, one can reap great awards. However with “Flash Forward” not performing as high as thought, the behemoth of “Lost” accelerates into its final season.

Lost The influx of many of the cast members for the final season were met with a thundering round of applause for this show who, in many ways, captured the zeitgeist the way few other shows in the past couple years have been able to do.

Emile de Ravin, who plays the returning Claire who had been missing since we saw her in Jacob’s hut a few seasons back, mentioned that they have seven more episodes to film in Hawaii. Her fondest moments have been when the whole cast has been together because of its family connotations though when she read the pilot back in the beginning, it took 3 times before it made any sense.

Evangeline Lilly, who was picked out of obscurity to play Kate, admits that as she was coming out for these final interviews, she knew she was going to “cry like a baby when it ends”. One of the aspects people don’t know is how hard filming the show can be. For her, the most lingering moments that stay in her mind come from the first season especially in the scenes when Claire gave birth and Boone died. That specific episode for her “culminated everything we were talking about”. The most intrinsic point for her was trying to find Kate as a character. Also being on Hawaii shooting can be a double-edged sword (in her estimation). She says “living in paradise is a little bit of a prison” because “when we’re on the island, we are on the island” but there is “an innate sense of freedom now that we are anticipating the end”.

Daniel Dae Kim, whose character Jin, morphed from a non-English speaking character to utterly subtle feats of discourse, says that the moment for him that defined the show was when they were launching the raft in the first season because that provided a culmination of thought. Now with the 6th season, the narrative style is again changing somewhat which distinctly makes it all the more challenging.

Josh Holloway, who created one of the most nuanced con-men in TV history, with the nickname-spewing Sawyer, says the whole experience has been incredible but there has been something about this last year. He admits a certain propensity for group scenes. He says they take two or three days to film but if you position yourself right, that is key, and admits he has gotten very good at that. For him, the premiere this year felt big like a finale which points for an interesting end to come. He thinks back to when he read the original pilot. His first impression was that Sawyer “was an asshole” and that he, as an actor” had “to figure out how to stay alive” because “unless [Sawyer] became something different, he might die soon”. He parallels the aspect of Kate explaining “as Evy says, to play a character within a place, you have to explore new character perspectives”. Josh’s observation of this man becomes that “Sawyer has been walking the fine line of humanity but retaining his edge”. This comes on the aspect of the writers putting him through every possible situation, both emotionally and physically. The scariest thing of all was “the whole Juliet thing”. He thought the audience might reject those two characters getting together because it was “discovering his humanity while being salty”. He admits that many of the greatest points of his life happened during the show: “validation as an actor, marrying, having a baby, my first home”.

Michael Emerson, who emerged in later seasons as a major character in Benjamin Linus, says that, with a show like “Lost”, it is better to be in the dark adding that “it is nice not to be burdened with the secret” because “that seems to get in the way”. In terms of the moments he remembers most, he jokes “that I have alot of fond memories of breathless confrontations in small rooms”. He says the Whidmore Bedroom and Jacob scenes are “scary and I love them”. He also mentions a scene when he and Sawyer are on a cliff and trading Steinbeck quotes all the while with Ben saying “I have a rabbit in my backpack”. In terms of the ending of season five, he thought it to be a master move adding “that it was a two-part cliffhanger but sufficiently mind-bending”. He ultimately sees Ben “as a character that reacts in a calculated way but once in while acts in a childishly impulsive way”.

Terry O’Quinn, who undertakes the enigma of Locke, says that he found out that he wasn’t real Locke during last season about a month before the episode aired, indicating that he was completely unaware to the fact for most of last season. For him, there is no true special moment in the series though he remembers when they were hanging out between a break in filming listening to Naveen Andrews playing guitar under the famous Banyan tree. He also reflects back to the pilot with JJ telling him that at first in the beginning with Locke there wouldn’t be alot but later on there would be.

Damon Lindelof, who along with fellow executive producer Carlton Cuse, have become the think tank of “Lost” after the departure of co-creator JJ Abrams, says that the idea of ending with the 6th season is “doing it while we still care” calling “Lost” “a once-in-a-career experience”. ABC allowing them to end the series on these specific terms is what Damon terms “a tremendous gift”. He echoes Evangeline in that they can’t believe it is coming to an end. In terms of what they tell the actors in terms of the story, he jokes that “quite honestly, we don’t speak to them at all”. He uses the example that if they told Terry O’Quinn (who plays Locke) that he was actually playing a guy from 1000 years ago, it would completely alter the approach. For Lindelof, the most memorable points in the show are the bridging aspects in creating these connections. For the following seasons, they usually start writing in the summer time but the inherent challenge always was walking the bridge, even when time travel came into play. In terms of the finale, he says with a wry smile: “Get ready to scratch your heads America”.

Lindelof says the major shift since the show started is informational because of the minutae that the fans follow vigorously. The biggest obstacle is to “guarantee a shitty ending” to “Lost”. For him, “the worst ending we could provide is a safe ending” but “you can’t take a risk just to take a risk” because ultimately in respect they “have no excuse to say anything other than ‘this is the way we wanted it to end'”. He admits that there is hope on their parts to wow the audience with the finite possibilities of the finale because “it wouldn’t be ‘Lost’ if it wasn’t an ongoing or active debate”. In terms of story for the final season, “there is an inherent process that when ending something, you always think about the beginning. He reflects on an earlier comment by Josh about the essence of new character perspectives because “you want to show the audience the before of where the characters were then”. He says he does reflect on what the legacy of the show will be but realizes that in the weeks after the series finale airs, the only thing people will be thinking about is just that episode. He makes a comparison to “The Sopranos” because people remember absolutely everything about the diner scene and the fade to black. The end always moves in mysterious ways.

Carlton Cuse, who runs the show with Damon, says that “we came up with the final image of the show in the first season but we started to add elements to that as we went along towards the end point”. The character stuff, he adds, works itself out as you go along but that the process of ending the show was fun because, as in many seasons before, the actors didn’t know where it was going beyond the next given script. The network has not pressured them for a spin-off but definitely says that “we are ending this story”. As far as the moment he remembers most, it involved Jack swimming out with the dog to save the drowning girl. In terms of the new season, the premiere picks up exactly where the finale last season left off. He agrees that they have been very circumspect about what actually might be going on in the 6th season. Jack and Farraday, he says, believe that the bomb going off might reset everything. He warns that not every question will be answered because they still want to maintain a fundamental sense of mystery.

Executive Briefing: Stephen McPherson The enigmatic and charming head of ABC entertainment actually made a point of introducing the “Lost” cast stating that many of the crew and some of the cast were still in Hawaii shooting but that “we look forward to finishing the journey”.

He recollects that when they were shooting the pilot for “Lost”, “with Evangeline, it came down to 24 hours before” when they barely got her work visa cleared from Canada. He credits Abrams and Lindelof for having a plan and a mythology in what “arguably will be one of the most influential shows of the decade”. He compares the season premiere “to nothing different than a gigantic movie” adding that “they put all they spend on the screen”.

In terms of ABC’s fall, McPherson announced the picks up of “Cougar Town”, “Modern Family” and “The Middle” for next season. No decisions, he says, have been made yet on “Hank” or “Better Off Ted” while “Castle” is their highest performing repeat show saying that, with the Alyssa Milano episode, the show “has met its stride” adding that he “hears so much anecdotally about that show”. To that point, he says that many “shows are alchemy to some extent”. With “Modern Family”, the pitch was simply “a big family”.

In terms of two new and expensive shows finding their footing, McPherson says, first off, with “V”, they always intended it to be in chapters but that production issues came into play. With “Flash Forward”, he said, it was a bit different because the repeat viewers didn’t seem to be coming back. The show’s reaction has to be supportive of its production. That is why they did a big push about bring “Flash Forward” back while making “V” more independent of that conversation. He sees a similar possibility in the upcoming “Happy Town” because it is also “serialized and event” but “honestly it all comes down to how it performs in the end” adding that they don’t have a set premiere date as of yet.

In terms of the response on the ongoing NBC difficulties, he says that “seeing a great network tumble is not something we revel in” because “it is disconcerting to see that happening in the industry”. That said, McPherson states that they are actually up 8% in their 10pm slots because the inherent situation has put “an emphasis on creative shows” adding that “we are very happy with the way things have gone down.”

The Deep End One of the few new shows that ABC is bringing forth is this lawyer drama which uses the rookie perception to show this cutthroat world in a new era.

Exec Producer David Hemingson, whose experience in the legal world provided the basis for the series, calls it “a confluence of circumstances” since “the show mirrors the beginning of my career. Billy Zane, as the venemous Cliff Huddle, calls his character “a shark” with a personality “always moving…always calculating”. He sees Cliff as operating on his own code because even though he and his wife are very passionate, he can’t keep his hands off of everybody else so he is interested how they handle his infidelity.

Clancy Brown, an actor best known for his genre turns in “Highlander” and “Starship Troopers” and recently mentioned as a front runner for the movie adaptation of “Lobo”, sees the story as a reflection of present day mediaries in that “you just look at the headlines and see the struggles between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law”. Matt Long, embodying series lead Dylan Hewitt who must deal with attacks on all sides, used lawyers in his family as reference but understood the key to the character is “to add to the situation but not add to what the hell is going on” but “it also helps to know what you’re [actually] saying.

Fun, Rules & Marriage: The NBC Winter 2010 TCA Press Tour – Feature

NBC has weathered some turmoil over the past months as the structure of returning full bore to the restructured pertinence of scripted programming reflects in many of their aggressive pilot strategies. With new shows like “Parenthood” moving into the fray and “Parks & Recreation” gaining traction in an increasingly powerful Thursday night line-up, the process of recovery within a constantly malleable structure continues.

Parks & Recreation With the new season approaching, the show, always in the shadow of “The Office”, is beginning to make strides and find its own identity.

Michael Schur, one of the exec producers, admits there was an arbitrary pause in their first season. Their set is very simple with a big building and a big long hallway. The role of Chris came through on a technicality and now seems to be one of intense loyalty to the fans. It comes down to when the story calls for it, comedic license can be taken.

Nick Offerman who plays Ron, the boss, said initially, during the auditions, all Shur said was that this guy had a really big mustache. And that is all he said.

Amy Poehler jumps in quickly for her few-words co-star saying that she believe Ron liked her character Leslie because he made her job easier. It became for her all about that co-dependent relationship. She admits that she likes that there was a slow build to the heat. She says “it felt very genuine…like a fine wine”. Even when they were tweaking the rules of the characters, she said Leslie’s fundamental beliefs remained the same.

Greg Daniels, who also exec produces “The Office”, says that the moment when Nick’s character stood up and defended Leslie created a sense of optimism in the show’s trajectory because that began a type of “grudging relationship”. For him the idiom that describes it is “more nope…less dope. Initially the stories were structure within Leslie being responsible for predicatments but found it worked better when she was simply placed there. Most of the time when the camera catches Leslie’s eye rolls, she doesn’t even know it’s happening.

Amy volleys back in that it is because “we have the sweet freedom to improvise”. She then jokingly says though that when they give Aubrey Plaza, who plays the sullen and effortless secretary April, money, she throws it back at them yelling “Keep your dirty money!” Aubrey responds in monotone fashion, saying that she “does like these people sometimes” and that she “doesn’t hate everything” but “this her reality”. She deadpans the fact that they shot a scene a couple days ago and she didn’t even know they shot it.

Aziz Ansari who plays the always schemiing co-worker Tom, runs at a nice clip. He says that it surprises him what kinds of lines of his character people quote back at him. He lets loose with another zinger that he “likes dickin’ around and wastin’ my time” but that he “throws in little jokes here and there”. He said that The Roots compared the Parks cast to the WuTang Clan calling Amy “The RZA” and Ron “ODB”. When asked about maybe some cross-over into “30 Rock” or other such shows, he mocks that “it would be a terrible idea”.

The Marriage Ref Jerry Seinfeld returns to television in a format where he hardly needs to be on-screen and admits it was brought to his mind by his wife. Again the angle that brings simple perceptions like this can always make the best ideas.

Seinfeld, for his part, says that what he has learned in talking about the show, is that it is impossible to explain or even nail down what kind of show it is. In trademark style, he puts the question to the media as a challenge. Some of the arguments they encounter on the show are familiar. Some are not. It has to feel like something that is already there which is what most excites him about the scenario. This show is basically about married couples having real fight in their home. The selected panel will watch the argument and comment. He posturizes that sports simplicity is what is missing from marriage. He has lived in his apartment in NY for 10 years and he and his wife have had new differences of opinion. He says that “we are not going to fix your marriage”. One argument for example, involves a couple where the dog dies and there is an argument whether or not to stuff it. What they do is end the argument once and for all. To make another sports analogy, Jerry says that he likes it when an ump blows a call at a game.

His wife again is the one that actually said he should do this show. The crew that works on location is the one who did “Supernanny”. As far as if the panel should be experts, Seinfeld says that is not their thing calling it “more about laughing at yourself”. They won’t be approaching certain subjects like kids or things like that because “that shows that the marriage is really in trouble”. In true Seinfeld fashion, he makes another analogy, saying that he was thinking about the AOL/Time Warner deal the other day and saw it not as a screw up but just that “the timing was wrong”. For him “sometimes it can be the right idea at the wrong time…that’s show business”. In terms of how that figures into his comedic approach, Seinfeld simply says “I’m a stand up comic. There are no rules. Once you have the cameras, it is on you.” He makes the concession that it was the critics that kept “Seinfeld” on the air. In his estimation, there are no refs in show business but, in marriage, everyone has an opinion on it. He said his uncle used to pull him aside and say “Jerry…don’t get married” but reflects that “now experiencing the conversations Jess [his wife] and I have, I thought it was funny enough”. That is why it was his wife’s idea and not his.

Seinfeld then talks about the host of the show Tom Papa whom he calls “a very dangerous man” and “an addictive human being” reflexively calling himself jokingly “like a drug dealer on a school playground” because “the more you get, the more you want”. He says all of his comedian friends love Papa. Seinfeld likes him because “mainly he’s funny and we share a marriage perspective in that it is funny”. In terms of interesting arguments shown on the show, Jerry mentions one couple in which the guy parks his motorcycle in the living room. However, even when Tom approaches them, Jerry says that the man doesn’t raise his voice. In true sardonic style, Seinfeld says “the prizes are not going to be that good” but that the drive “in making the show is making you laugh”. He uses his still popular sitcom as a reference point saying “when I was doing my TV show, people would come up to me and say ‘this would be great on your show, and I would walk away. On this show though, it works”.

Tom Papa, shiny with a glint of mischief in his eye, sits right next to Jerry with the simple idea that “this show is about surviving”. In his mind, the way comedians think is “whether this one is right or this one is wrong”. His role in this experiment is that “if you are married and have trouble, it is the judges’ call is to convince me which way I should go”. His angled perception that when a husband and wife are in a fight, the husband is always trying to find out what the fight is about. Reaction is all about instinct and this show Papa perceives, like Jerry, is sports oriented. For Papa, “ultimate power is quite a responsibility” but says that ” he is just there to be funny” which “is a role very natural for me”.

Overseas Wrangling & Enticing Narratives – The 2009 American Film Market – Feature

The angle of the American Film Market always depends on the selling process in any given year. With this year’s inception, the influx of the economy continues to reflect within the buying and selling of entertainment. What this has done in many sectors is “lean and mean” the material being offered which inevitably makes the entire progression more efficient. With the aspect of Asian (and specifically Chinese investment) becoming more of a given, the keying of foreign investment and specifica talent utterly plays into the mix.

Films #1 The key in the angled process is looking what is debuting and offered in any given year. A progression of daily trades, film catalogue and the like tend to bring elements into focus. The titles begin with Alpine Pictures with their animated take in “Dorothy Of Oz” starring the voices of Dan Aykoyd and Kelsey Grammer. This time Dorothy returns to Oz to battle a character called Jester who uses the Wicked Witch Of The West’s magic wand to turn people in the kingdom into china dolls. American Cinema International brings two into the mix from director Michael Polish in the form of “Smell Of Success” (formerly called “Manure” when it played Sundance) which stars Billy Bob Thornton and Tea Leoni as the owner and sales rep of a manure company who must battle against a slick talking competitor (played by Kyle McLachlan) for control over the business. The second entry from Polish and ACI is “Stay Cool” starring Winona Ryder, Hillary Duff and Chevy Chase as a swirl of re-united love at a high school where youth battles against maturity. Following this, Archlight Films has two films in pre-production with “The All Of It” directed by Gilliam Armstrong and starring Liam Neeson about a priest forced to deal with an undeniable sin of one of his parishioners as well as “The Chase” directed by John McTiernan tells the story of Scalpel, a Lambourgini test driver who signs up for a heist that goes awry. Following with a reflexive eye is “Down & Dirty Pictures” from Celsius Entertainment. The film, currently in pre-production, which is to star Vincent D’Onofrio and Andy Serkis, is adapted from Peter Bart’s follow up to “Easy Riders, Raging Bulls” about the filmmaking wars of the early 90s, the rise of the Weinsteins as well as the age of Tarantino, Rodriguez and Sundance.

Panel: Selling Your Film Overseas As the transition from “Down & Dirty”, the true reflection in the industry becomes, with a changing landscape in terms of distribution in the States, how important the overseas sell makes to a film. The reality is that overseas can be more important than the US deal but securing one at times reflects the other because it shows the ability to appeal to a wide audience.

The key to the panel was to take a basic script that can be made for a price but taking into account the location and stars can be changed. In bringing it before the said diverse constituents, the question becomes how should one proceed in the global marketplace.

Tim O’Hair, packaging guru at Paradigm, begins with the initial questions: what elements do you have and what do you need in order to make your picture? The next question then becomes: how flexible can you be and what is equity involved? The key is knowing what your talent is worth in the marketplace. That dedicates a budget more than anything. The market is asking in its current inception for higher value at lower cost. The key is to piggyback as much as possible, he says. In terms of talent, think “manager” because they are always easier to get to than “agents”. The reality is that if the script is not good enough or of relevance to the star in passing the “sniff test” then it won’t go anywhere anyway.

Robert Katz, President Of Production at The Film Department, takes the ball bringing in real world examples saying that that when they were making “The Painted Veil”, starring Edward Norton and Naomi Watts in Asia, they received 10% of their budget from China (without whom they could not have made the movie). A majority of risk though, he agrees, comes from selling a picture foreign. The paradox is that if you can come upon North American distribution (which is becoming much rarer in this space), then your value abroad becomes that much more prevalent. The problem with local equity is that it runs the rein of becoming too specific.

Doug Hansen, financier for Endgame Entertainment, says that the specifics are the idea but ones needs to make sure to provide a balance. For example, he says, don’t make “Euro pudding” that doesn’t fit into the buy structure for any territory. The question becomes, for him, is how commercial is the project and can you define the audience. Try to secure distribution overseas multi-territory through companies like E1, Pathe & SMDM especially if the film has that kind of appeal (which, of course, is easier said than done). The reality of the production business also necessitates that fewer pictures are getting made. The maount of pictures being produced in the marketplace went from 400+ a year or so back to 180 currently. Their new film, “Hungry Rabbit Jumps”, starring Nicolas Cage, January Jones and Guy Pearce starts in December and is their first production this year which defines the caution being taken.

The reality within the market balances on how sales purely motivate the consumer. In terms of one of the top sales agent within the realm of the budget, there is $200,000 taken right off the top. 5% of the budget is the going market rate of the budget in an age where studios and companies are cutting back the bottom line. Add on to that, 8½% is dedicated to residuals. In this way, as stated, it is sometimes good to find an established producer to partner with in the endeavor

D’Arcy Conrique, finance consultant, says that sales agents now are working in the thought process of guarantee models. The problem, in general, he says, is that it is harder to get a completion bond in terms of budget estimates that make sense. He says that the market, in his mind, can still take indie films but, even with the setting up of new P&A funds around town, the projects have to be precise (which has always been the case).

The reality is that the game is changing but the project has to be that much more solid in terms of a proven property or angle that can be seen from beginning to end.

Films #2 Taking into account the arena discussed above in terms of making an independent while perceiving the market overseas. The arena, barely discussed here, which was a big thought at the IFTA Production Conference was the influence of China as a financing partner. The reality is that they want to make local based films which in turn screams against the element of a cross culturalism. For example, China Promotion Film International is bringing three films to the table. “Gun Of Mercy” tells the story of a Chinese prison guard who must try to save people when massive floods threaten their city. He leads a ragtag group of prisoners and civilians to safety while personalities clash and allegiances divide. “Moonlight” follows a married woman who escapes her life to visit the opera of a small village where she discovers a secret love story which defined her stepfather’s life. Again, the ideal of the film permeates the national consciousness. Lastly within China Promotion is “Weaving Girl” which follows a female struck down by terminal leukemia who leaves her husband to find her lost love feeling that no one cared for her. After realizing her folly, she realizes her husband had been working tirelessly to pay the medical bills to try to save her. Next, Content Film offers up “Ironclad” starring Paul Giamatti and James Purefoy (of “Rome” fame) which is described as a “Medieval Magnificent Seven” combining “the visceral stylized action of ‘300’ with the impassioned heroism and romance of ‘Braveheart’”. Over at Darclight Films, Russell Mulcahy who just enjoyed renewed career vitality due to “Resident Evil: Extinction” brings “Bait in 3D” which chronicles a sleepy coastal resort that is overcome by a freak tsunami that traps many inside a supermarket during a siege with an armed intruder. The reality is that the sea has brought in other predators in the vision of packs of hungry tiger sharks wandering the town.

Film #3 Again hailing from Edko Productions in Hong Kong, Jet Li stars in “Ocean Heaven” (currently in production) as a father who runs an aquarium who must care for his autistic 20 year old son. Essential Entertainment follows with the high concept “The Diplomat” set to star Kevin Costner and Paul Walker about a government official about to expose a traitor when his wife and daughter are taken hostage by the same man. Exclusive Film Distribution continues in this vein of family in trouble made very lucrative by the success of “Taken” with “The Resident” (now in prost production) starring Hillary Swank and Jeffrey Dean Morgan (of “Watchmen” fame) about a beautiful young doctor who moves into a stunning loft apartment in Brooklyn only to find that there is somebody watching her. GK Films, headed by former IEG topper Graham King, shows its continual intent with three films currently in post production. The first, “Edge Of Darkness”, starring Mel Gibson and directed by Martin Campbell (“Casino Royale”), follows a veteran homicide detective that investigates hisbown daughter’s murder which leads into a looking glass workd of corporate cover-ups and government collusion. Following that is “London Boulevard” directed by William Monahan (who wrote “The Departed) and starring Colin Farrell and Keira Knightley about a young South London criminal, newly released from prison who becomes involved with a reclusive young actress. Last but not least is “The Rum Diary”, taken from the pages of Hunter Thompson, starring Johnny Depp and Aaron Eckhart in a story of “initerant journalist Paul Kemp who travels to Puerto Rico to work for a local newspaper and soon becomes obsessed with the wildly attractive fiancee of a shady businessman.” Hannibal Pictures also has a variety of projects in current states of structure. “Bagman” (aka “Casino Jack”) directed by George Hickenlooper stars Kevin Spacey, Barry Pepper and Kelly Preston, in the true story of a hotshot Washington lobbyist and his protege who fall from grace when their schemes to peddle influence lead to corruption and murder. “Big Bang” (now in production) stars Antonio Banderas and Delroy Lindo about a gang of ruthless cops who kidnaps a tough investigator who tells a story of a Russan boxer, a missing stripper and a surfer looking for “The Big Bang”. Anything is possible. Lastly, “Son Of No One” (in pre-production) stars Channing Tatum, Robert DeNiro and Terrance Howard in the story of “a young cop assigned to a precinct in a working class neighborhood where an old secret threatens to destroy his life and family”

Film #4 Hyde Park Entertainment brings forth the long gestating “Machete” from director Robert Rodriguez and his long time editor Ethan Maniquis. The provided synopis, newly available, states “the script follows an ex-Mexican Federale, Machete, who is hiding out in Texas as a day laborer. Impressed by his hulking psysique, Machete is hired by a corrupt senator to do hatchet jobs. When Machete realizes that the corrupt politicians who hired him have set him up for their own personal gain, he vows to seek redemption for himself and his people”. Second on Hyde Park’s list is “The Unbound Captives” directed by actress Madeline Stowe (of “12 Monkeys” fame”) and starring Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz and Robert Pattinson in a story set in 1860 with America on the brink of civil war. The narrative follows “Tom, a white frontiersman raised Comanche and his love for May, whose son and daughter are kidnapped by Indians. Their parallel lives intersect as they battle through a vast and violent landscape”. Icon Entertainment, well regarded in vast circles, brings two diverse stories into play. “Oranges & Sunshine” (in pre-production) stars Emily Watson and Hugo Weaving (of “Matrix” fame) in the story of Margaret Humphreys, a social worker in Nottingham, who uncovered the forced migration of children from the UK to Australia and fought to bring thousands of families back to together by exposing a miscarriage of justice. Secondly for Icon, “The Tempest” (in post production), directed by Julie Taymor (of “Across The Universe”) and starring Helen Mirren, retells the classic Shakesperean tale, this time having the title magician take female form as Prospera takes vengeance on her foes giving this age-old tale a whole new resonance. Lightning Entertainment brings “The Irishman” to the table directed by Jonathan Hensleigh (the writer of “Armageddon”) and starring Val Kilmer and Christopher Walken in the true story of Danny Green, a tough Irish thug from Cleveland who single handedly wiped out the Italian Mafia in the 1970s. Moment Of Truth Entertainment , by comparison, offers “Don McKay” which stars Thomas Haden Church and Elizabeth Shue in the story of a man returning to his hometown when he receives a letter that his ex-girlfriend is dying. When arrives back, he sees things are a little bit off in a town where everyone seems to hiding something. Returning the Asian continent, M-Line, out of South Korea, offers two distinct films. “Closer To Heaven” follows a man who is diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. At his mother’s funeral he meets a service worker there whom he knew back in childhood. They fall in love and she gives him the will to fight even as his situation worses and begins to be unable to speak. Sounds like a performing tour de force. “Yoga”, M’s second film, follows the star female host of a home shopping network,who enrolls in a yoga academy competing against others to achieve spiritual enlightment until “strange and eerie events begin to unfold”. Mandate adds two more films out of the gate. The first, Knock Out, from director Steven Soderbergh, casts unknown Gina Carano as “a top level private security operative convinced that she has been betrayed by her boss and her government” only to learn her suspicions are true.” “The Next Three Days” directed by Paul Haggis (“Crash”) stars Russell Crowe and Elizabeth Banks in a story about a couple’s life which is torn apart when a man’s wife is imprisoned for murder. After years of appeals, the man devises a dangerous plan to free her which may leave them alive or dead.

Quick Bits There are a lot of other films in play which simply have the would be partipants in play but without a released storyline. Gaumont has “Splice” (completed) starring Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley as well as “Twelve”, in post, directed by Joel Schumacher starring Chace Crawford and Emma Roberts. Morgan Creek has “Dream House” in pre, directed by Jim Sheridan (recently of “Brothers”) starring Daniel Craig along with “Passengers”, a sci-fi script in development with Keanu Reeves attached to star. Nu Image/Millenium has “Rambo V” in pre with Sly Stallone set to write and direct and “Drive Angry 3D” in pre as well with Patrick Lussier set to direct with Nicolas Cage starring. Odd Lot Entertainment has “Rabbit Hole”, currently in post, directed by John Cameron Mitchell and starring Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart. Paramount Vantage International, which is still in play, has “13” in post from director Gela Babulani starring Mickey Rourke and Jason Statham aking with “The Crazies” directed by Brent Eisner (of “Sahara”) starring Timothy Olyphant and Rahda Mitchell. Summit Entertainment, in full throttle with “The Twilight Saga” going full force has a three fold progression. “The Beaver” directed by Jodie Foster which co-stars her and Mel Gibson is in production. “Fair Game” directed by Doug Liman (of “Jumper”) stars Sean Penn and Naomi Watts is prepping. Lastly, “The Runaways”, in post, about the early band of Joan Jett, stars “New Moon” alums Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning. Voltage Pictures also has two in play. First “Game Of Death“, in production, directed by Abel Ferrara (of “King Of New York” fame) stars Wesley Snipes followed by “The Whistleblower”, also in production, starring Rachel Weisz and Monica Belucci.

The one angle to say is that the American Film Market this year is not hurting for product, and despite some purely formulaic narratives, perpetrated by money, a lot of the material, especially in post, seem to play exceptionally fluid and intelligent which bodes well for the movie going public whether it be on DVD or in theaters. With a moderation of films being made, only the better seems to move through the pocket or at least continue as guaranteed possibilities. As the panel attended indicated, North American distribution is all but certain but necessitates the backing from overseas to signal a commanding presence.