Tag Archive for Film

Film Studies Hosts Independent Filmmaker Series

The Wesleyan Film Studies Department and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are hosting the 2010 Independent Filmmaker Series through April 29.

The series features a different film and guest speaker every week. The program consists of a diverse array of films and speakers which showcase the very best in contemporary independent cinema.

All shows in the series begin at 8 p.m. in the Center for Film Studies’ Goldsmith Family Cinema. They are free of charge and open to the public.

April 8: Writer/director Courtney Hunt will speak after a viewing of her film, Frozen River.

April 15: Writer/director/producer Jason Reitman will speak after a viewing of his film, Up in the Air.

April 22: Director Miguel Arteta ’89 will speak after a viewing of his film, Youth in Revolt.

April 29: Producer Sadia Shepard ’97 will speak after a viewing of the film, The September Issue.

Writer and director Sam Fleischner ’06 was the April 1 guest. He spoke about this film, Wah Do Dem, which won the Best Dramatic Feature Award at the 2009 Los Angeles Film Festival.

For more information, contact Joyce Heidorn at 860-685-2220 or David Laub at 860-685-2125.

Students Create Web Episode Series About College Life

Robby Hardesty '11 and Chris Correa '10 are actors and writers in the new FutureHouse Pictures web series, ENROLLED. Correa, creator of FutureHouse Pictures, hopes to create seven episodes by the time he graduates.

Robby Hardesty '11 and Chris Correa '10 are actors and writers in the new FutureHouse Pictures web series, Enrolled. Correa, creator of FutureHouse Pictures, hopes to create seven episodes by the time he graduates.

When college students Chris and Robby woke up outside after their 21st birthday bash, they assumed their night included dancing, girls and a fist fight. But a friend later confirms the intoxicated duo spent the entire party outside lying on top of their cars.

“What were we even doing out there, man,” Chris asks a hung-over Robby.

The characters “Chris” and “Robby,” played by Christopher Correa ’10 and Robby Hardesty ’11 are two of four main characters in the new FutureHouse Pictures Enrolled web series. To date, the FutureHouse Pictures staff has created two episodes, screened exclusively through YouTube.

Correa ’10, who started up FutureHouse Pictures this year, debuted the Enrolled pilot Nov. 12. To date, it’s had more than 2,200 views.

Caitlin Winiarski '10 plays the role of Caitlin' in Enrolled.

Caitlin Winiarski '10 plays the role of Caitlin' in Enrolled.

Enrolled is a collaborative effort; Correa, Hardesty, Josh Margolin ’11, and Caitlin Winiarski ’10 write, film and act in the show.

“When I first planned to start a production company, Josh, Robby and Caitlin were the three names that I knew needed to be on board,” Correa says. “We’ve worked together on campus at one point or another, and I think all of them bring something unique to the table.”

In the group’s initial meetings, they talked about – and watched – every television show that they could. They took mental notes and brainstormed a story line. They decided to tell stories of four friends that live together on campus.

The first episode focuses on the show’s main protagonists,

Östör, Sousa ’03 Screen Films Oct. 29

The 35-minute film, Songs of a Sorrowful Man, will be screened at 5 p.m. Oct. 29 in the Powell Family Cinema inside the Center for Film Studies.

The 35-minute film, Songs of a Sorrowful Man, will be screened at 5 p.m. Oct. 29 in the Powell Family Cinema inside the Center for Film Studies.

A film directed by Ákos Östör, professor of anthropology, emeritus, and edited by film major Joe Sousa ’03, explores the life of a painter, composer and singer living in West Bengal, India.

The 35-minute film, Songs of a Sorrowful Man, was screened Oct. 29 in the Powell Family Cinema inside the Center for Film Studies.

The “sorrowful man,” Dukhushyam Chitrakar is a charismatic figure who encourages women to take up the traditional craft of scroll painting and musical composition pursued almost exclusively by men before.

In a series of edited sequences, the film chronicles Dukhushyam’s vision of the decline and rebirth of his art; his tolerant Sufi Muslim spirituality; his engagement with Hindus, Muslims and the modern world; his encyclopedic knowledge of changing musical and painting histories and techniques; the influence of his beliefs on his way of life, and his teachings for future generations of painters and singers in his community.

Joe Sousa '03 and Matt Sienkiewicz '03 directed and produced <em>Live: from Bethlehem</em>.

Joe Sousa '03 and Matt Sienkiewicz '03 directed and produced Live: from Bethlehem.

Another film, directed and produced by Sousa and Matt Sienkiewicz ’03 producer/director was shown after Songs of a Sorrowful Man. Live: from Bethlehem, is a feature documentary and online video source that tells the story of how journalists from the Ma’an Network have declared independence from hate-filled propaganda and are revolutionizing media in the Palestinian Territories.

The film chronicles the struggles, failures and triumphs of the network, the only major independent news source in the Palestinian Territories. Following the lives of the station’s reporters, producers and photographers, the documentary provides an in-depth, balanced look into the challenges of making news in one of the world’s most combative regions.

Östör and Sousa discussed their films following the screenings.

Fleischer ’97 Makes Feature Film Debut with Zombieland

At left, Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson in Zombieland.

At left, Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson in Zombieland.

The hit movie Zombieland marks the directorial debut of Ruben Fleischer ’97 and was number one at the box office when it opened nationwide on October 2.

During its opening weekend, the film sold $25 million worth of tickets in the U.S. and Canada and cost Columbia (Sony) Pictures and co-financier Relativity Media only $23.6 million to produce. It has remained in the top 10 films at the box office in the weeks that followed. The film also was notable for ending a recent trend of poor openings for movies with horror elements such as Jennifer’s Body and Sorority Row.

Zombieland stars Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Abagail Breslin as four quirky characters who join forces to battle flesh eaters as they head for Southern California, a supposedly zombie-free zone. The film’s popularity may in part be attributed to its combination of genres; the film mixes elements of an action-adventure, a road movie, a buddy comedy, a love story, and, of course, a zombie movie, which broadens its appeal beyond zombie film fanatics.

In her review in Entertainment Weekly, Lisa Schwarzbaum wrote: “Zombieland is a polished, very funny road picture shaped by wisenheimer cable-TV sensibilities and starring four likable actors, each with an influential following.”

Fleischer majored in history at Wesleyan and worked on various web sites after graduation. He then landed a job as a production assistant on Dawson’s Creek, where he was mentored by writer Mike White ’92 who helped him get a job as assistant to Miguel Arteta ’89, who was directing the film Chuck & Buck (written by White). Fleischer also worked with Arteta on his next feature The Good Girl. He also directed music videos and commercials, produced the MTV cult hit Rob & Big, directed episodes of Jimmy Kimmel Live, and filmed behind-the-scenes footage for Borat.

Fleischer was recently profiled in The Washington Post by Ann Hornaday and commented on why zombie movies continue to attract audiences. He said: “In a way, zombies are expressing anxieties that we have about ourselves as a people… the more-modern zombie movies are more of a statement about our society, where there’s a lot of anxiety about pandemics and viral diseases, and there’s concern about our food supply and contamination and the way the environment is being threatened. It’s just general anxiety about the future and what catastrophes could possibly happen.”

Kail ’99 Directs Broke-ology at Lincoln Center

Francois Battiste, Wendell Pierce and Alano Miller in Broke-ology. (Photo by T. Charles Erickson)

Francois Battiste, Wendell Pierce and Alano Miller in Broke-ology. (Photo by T. Charles Erickson)

Thomas Kail ’99 is the director of a new play, Broke-ology, by Nathan Louis Jackson, which opened on Oct. 5 at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center in New York City. This touching and often humorous play concerns two African-American brothers who care for their ailing widowed father in Kansas City, Kansas, as they face their own responsibilities. Kail elicits first-rate performances from the four-person cast, which includes Wendell Pierce  (The Wire), Crystal A. Dickinson, Francois Battiste, and Alano Miller.

Thomas Kail '99

Thomas Kail '99

The play opened to several positive reviews. In his review in The New York Times, Charles Isherwood wrote:  “Mr. Jackson writes easygoing, believable dialogue, and the play is moving in its exploration of how time and circumstance — and the hard fact of poverty — can diminish hope, divide loving siblings and ultimately extinguish life itself.” Isherwood also singled out Kail’s “sensitive direction.”

Kail directed the Tony Award-winning musical In the Heights on Broadway, and he recently directed a production of The Wiz at New York City Center.

Broke-ology runs through November 22, 2009. For tickets, visit www.telecharge.com or call 212-239-6200.

Stem Cell Research Topic of Recent Screening

From left, Laura Grabel, the Lauren B. Dachs Professor of Science and Society and Professor of Biology stands with Jessica Gerstle,  the filmmaker of The Accidental Advocate, and Laura Stark, assistant professor of science and society and assistant professor of sociology.  Stark arranged for the film about one family's personal journey with stem cell research and politics to be screened in the Powell Family Cinema on Oct. 7.

From left, Laura Grabel, the Lauren B. Dachs Professor of Science and Society and Professor of Biology stands with Jessica Gerstle, the filmmaker of The Accidental Advocate, and Laura Stark, assistant professor of science and society and assistant professor of sociology. Stark arranged for the film about one family's personal journey with stem cell research and politics to be screened in the Powell Family Cinema on Oct. 7.

Grabel, at right, speaks to Gerstle during a reception that followed the screening. (Photos by Stefan Weinberger '10)

Grabel, at right, speaks to Gerstle during a reception that followed the screening. (Photos by Stefan Weinberger '10)

Alumni Films Shown at Toronto International Film Festival

Michael Cera in Youth in Revolt, directed by Miguel Arteta '89.

Michael Cera in Youth in Revolt, directed by Miguel Arteta '89.

Several Wesleyan alumni-related films were part of the recent program on view at the Toronto International Film Festival, which was held Sept. 10–19. The festival has become the launching ground for films from around the world as well as for films that go on to win prominent awards.

Among the films shown were Youth in Revolt, directed by Miguel Arteta ’89 (Chuck & Buck, The Good Girl), a very funny comedy based on the cult novels by C. D. Payne about the misadventures of a sex-obsessed 14-year-old Nick Twisp with a French alter-ego who inspires him to misbehave. Michael Cera (Juno, Superbad) gives one of his best comic screen performances as Twisp.

Paul Schiff ’81 is the producer of Solitary Man, which features an excellent performance by Michael Douglas as a 60-year-old car dealer who faces a family and career meltdown. The film, which also stars Susan Sarandon and Mary- Louise Parker, has a sharp-edged, character-driven screenplay by Brian Koppleman who co-directed the film with David Levien.

Natalie Portman and Charlie Tahan in Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, based on a novel by Ayelet Waldman '86.

Natalie Portman and Charlie Tahan in Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, based on a novel by Ayelet Waldman '86.

Other films screened at the festival were Down for Life, the gripping and grim movie about a day in the life of a Latina teenage gangsta in Los Angeles, directed by Alan Jacobs ’80; and Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, written and directed by Don Roos (The Opposite of Sex, Happy Endings) and based on a novel by Ayelet Waldman ’86. The latter film has a fine ensemble cast, with a powerful performance by Natalie Portman as a difficult and abrasive Manhattan young lawyer who grieves for the death of her baby daughter as she also tries to bond with her stepson, whose real mother, played by Lisa Kudrow, finds her incompetent.

Angels and Demons, with Screenplay by Goldsman ’83, Opens at Number One at the Box Office

Angels and Demons is number one at the box office.

Tom Hanks and Ayelet Zurer in Angels and Demons (Photo by Zade Rosenthal/Sony Pictures)

Oscar-winner Akiva Goldsman ’83 (with David Koepp) co-wrote the screenplay of Angels and Demons, directed by Ron Howard, which was number one at the box office at $48 million during its first weekend.

The film opened nationwide at at 3,527 theaters on Friday, May 15. Based on the novel by Dan Brown, Angels and Demons is a prequel to the best-selling thriller The Da Vinci Code which follows the adventures of Harvard University symbologist and theology sleuth Robert Langdon.

The movie version of The Da Vinci Code, which also had a screenplay by Goldsman, was a hugely popular film internationally, opening worldwide in its first weekend at $232.1 million. Both Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code feature Tom Hanks as Robert Landon with Ron Howard as a director.

Documentary By Hutton ’09 Gaining Acclaim

Noah Hutton '09.

Noah Hutton '09.

Next to the Sundance Film Festival, the annual South By Southwest (a.k.a. SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas, may be the most prestigious forum for new independent films in The United States. So when Noah Hutton ’09 had his film Crude Independence accepted by SXSW in the documentary category he couldn’t help feeling excited.

“It was a huge honor,” he says. “The festival has evolved so quickly in the past few years to be one of the top US film festivals with an international spotlight and it was a perfect place to show our work. The exposure you receive there is invaluable.”

Though it wasn’t his first film, it was the first feature-length documentary Hutton had directed on his own. He had previously worked as a co-director on a documentary about Uganda in the summer of 2007. After that project was finished, Hutton began looking for a new subject. Soon after he read an article in The New York Times about the recent oil boom in North Dakota.

“I had a gut feeling that there was a film to be made and I boarded a plane two days later to spend my winter break scouting out the area and shooting some preliminary footage,” Hutton says.

A promotional postcard of Crude Independence.

He settled on the area in and around Stanley, N.D., a formerly sleepy town that found itself on top of potentially the largest oil field in North America. The landscape of the town and it surroundings, and the investment of oil speculators, had created overnight millionaires next door to people who weren’t so fortunate.

Hutton returned to the East Coast in search of funding. He soon found three individual investors, including one whose name carried a significant amount of cache in the film world: Jonathan Demme.

“Jonathan Demme is involved in the Jacob Burns Film Center in New York City, which is the same one I’m associated with,” Hutton says. “He came to the screening of my documentary on Uganda and introduced himself after, saying he would be interested in seeing what I did next. Soon after I sent him the proposal for Crude Independence and he came onboard.”