“Paul and the Badger, Episode #1”

This blog post writes itself, the publisher tells me. Last week, the Chicago Underground Film Festival gave the Best Narrative Short award to Paul Tarrago’s “Paul and the Badger, Episode #1.” None of us were there, but the publisher heartily endorses the award, having seen the film at the N.Y. Underground Film Festival in March. He says you won’t find a better film about mortality that involves a contemplative badger puppet, he guarantees it. Watch it HERE. Note the key scene in which they call Uncle Duncan for help, asking him, “What’s the difference between dying for a cause and suicide?”

We don’t usually link to online videos (unless it’s vérité stuff like THIS), but this film might make your day. Note: it’s 11 minutes long and will be hard to disguise at work. Apologies for the quality of the video; this is one of the reasons we don’t believe in online video.

Paul Tarrago is a member of the London-based film collective Exploding Cinema.

Submission Fees, Festival Policies, and Without a Box(tm)

Over the last week or so, there has been a lively discussion about festival and venue submission fees and Without a Box(tm) on the Frameworks listserv. Many experimental filmmakers on the list seem rather put off by what Without a Box (WAB) is doing and its potential impact on film festivals and other venues. In short, WAB is selling a service where a filmmaker pays a flat fee ($500) to mass-submit to festivals and venues. WAB covers the submission fee for that festival, and/but gets a cut of it from the fest or venue.

Here is what a few people had to say about it:

>All in all, I found WAB to be very unhelpful and unconcerned with
issues confronting experimental film, formats and issues.

>If you see withoutabox listed for a festival, then you know that festival cares little for you and your film or for ANY filmmakers.

>The Ann Arbor Film Festival accepts entries from WAB, and we DO care for filmmakers and their films.

>If a festival wishes to use the withoutabox system then they must impose a fee. The festival effectively has no choice.

>Thus as withoutabox spreads, so do the entry fees.

The discussion is not just about WAB, however, If you travel back through the thread a few days, they discuss the pros and cons of submission fees, in general. Click HERE to start reading the WAB discussion. To go farther back in the discussion, click HERE for the summer archive; this page is sorted by subject, and start reading at “The Tank” on August 21st.

We’d like to say again that the JSF has no submission fees.

Short Film on the Big Screen, . . . in France, Anyway

What does a big-budget short film look like? You’ll have a chance to watch 19 of them when ”Paris, Je T’aime” opens in the semi-near future. This French feature is a two-hour collection of 5-minute films directed by big names. The subject is, predictably, Paris. And “love,” maybe. And probably smoking and being nonchalant. Each film is set in one of 18 different neighborhoods.

Just how big-budget is this feature? I saw a budget estimate of $16 million and 5 production companies attached, including Canal+. But we’re not judging. It’s a fine idea. We have always said that short film belongs in movie theaters.

The list of directors is strong. Among them are Olivier Assayas, Ethan and Joel Coen, Alfonso Cuarón, Christopher Doyle, Alexander Payne, Walter Salles, and Gus Van Sant.

The U.S. release date isn’t scheduled, yet, but I predict it’ll be in Dec. or Jan. Watch the so-so trailer HERE (find the film annonce), if you’re bored or like Natalie Portman.

Opportunities for Short Film if You Like Music

The Film2Music Competition was recently announced by the composer Kubilay Uner. You provide the visuals to one of the tracks off of his new cd (“Cinematic”), he provides an esteemed jury and a sizable set of prizes. Grand Prize=$10,000; two Second Prizes=$1,000 each; Online Audience Award=$5,000. You’ll probably agree that this is pretty good money for short film, these days. Plus there are meetings with some Hollywood film types.

Visit the competition’s website HERE. You can listen to the tracks and visit Kubilay’s website, as well. You might note how professional the websites are; I started to get suspicious, so I wrote to them and asked if it was all some cross-promotional corporate deal—you know, e.g., some Viacom/Paramount/MTV synergy of evil. Well, Kubilay wrote me back personally and told me that it’s not. Apparently he has some Hollywood friends that are helping out, but that it’s an independent venture. Plus, the music is not commercial stuff. Again, check out his website.

Another somewhat similar competition I’ve found is being hosted by the band The Residents and the Metropolitan Museum of Art—“The River of Crime Community Art Project.” Filmmakers are invited to provide a film for a 1:30 track off of “River of Crime,” their new CD (of sorts). They’ll post the winner on YouTube and it’ll show at MoMA. See the previous post for how we feel about YouTube, and MoMA’s pretty cool, too.

Anyway, there are worse reasons to make a short film. At least one of the JSF’s many films was created to accompany a piece of music (“Cakewalk” by Jeff Economy (JSF, Vol.2)), and we’re very fond of it.

How to Get Your Short Film Reviewed, and YouTube: What Is It Good For?

The other day a filmmaker wrote in and asked how one might get one’s short film reviewed. I sent the question out to several JSF vets, and a general response came back: good freakin’ luck.

Fortunately, there are some exceptions, however rare. We were happy to read a review of three short films in Volume 1 of the JSF that appeared in the new issue of Film International. And we had more good news yesterday with the review of Brian Liloia’s (JSF, Vol.4) film “Sí, Se Puede!” on today’s Cinematical. Erik Davis writes a weekly feature called “Eat My Shorts: Something Different,” and yesterday he drew attention to Brian’s documentary and to the Journal. He invites people to submit their short films to him for his weekly inclusions. So voila.

Sure, Erik’s feature directs you to online films, but you can’t blame him: that’s where most of the films are. The JSF can only publish four DVD’s a year, right? Anyway, if one is open to competing with online films, there is at least one more website to submit your film to: The Daily Reel. This site promises to “showcase the best in online video” by sifting through it all and recommending a daily Top 10. We can’t vouch for the films, but Anthony Kaufman is one of the reviewers, and he’s okay by us.

Around the office, the only online videos we find ourselves watching are things crashing and things about to crash.

Lightboxes and Video Art in San Antonio

If you find yourself in San Antonio this month, stop by the Salon Mijangos to see the work of Leslie Raymond (JSF, Vol.1). Last Saturday night, Leslie and Jason Jay Stevens (comprising Potter-Belmar Labs) performed there to open the exhibit. Their filmic performances are “improvised cinema”—live-mixing audio and video, weaving sampled media and original work. The JSF published a piece of their work in Volume 1 (“Amelita Destruction”), but beholding it live is a treat.

The August exhibit, however, is on the walls all month. Leslie says the lightboxes were created “with imagery taken from my video work, and highly worked over with digital processes.”

If you thought San Antonio was devoid of contemporary art, you’d be wrong. At least in July and August, you’d be wrong. July is the town’s Contemporary Art Month, with a slew of events and exhibits all month long. She says there is plenty of art being made in S.A., and that video work is infiltrating all kinds of art. The way she talked about it, I feel like making an illegal immigration- or “porous borders” analogy, but I’ll not. Anyway, viva el video, and buena suerte Leslie and Jason.

JSF Production Update:

Thanks to everyone who came to the screening last night. The place was nearly packed, and it was a good time. A few people brought submissions, which was great. It was also nice seeing some of the JSF friends in one place for the first time.

The release yesterday went well until our email server crashed. It’s not the first time. We’ve been busy for a few days sending out the new volume. We’re keeping the Post Office in business. We should be done with the mailings in a day or two.

Whatwith the screening, it’s been a really busy week (and weekend), so the publisher has given us the afternoon off! We are flocking to go see Miami Vice. (We’ve left our irony in our lockers at the office.) The publisher rolled his eyes at us and headed for the Turkish bath or wherever he disappears to.

For Immediate Release: Volume 4 Released Today

It only comes around four times a year, so every release day is a celebration, around here. Today is more special than most because we’re having a screening tonight downtown.

The Journal is still dependent on word-of-mouth support, so please spread the news. Below is the press release.

for immediate release

The Journal of Short Film releases Volume 4 (Summer 2006)

Columbus, OH (August 8, 2006) The Journal of Short Film released Volume 4 (Summer 2006) today. Its ten films represent five different countries and nearly every genre of film imaginable. The summer volume contains more than the usual thrills and comedy, but maintains the Journal’s manic commitment to diversity.

The JSF is a quarterly DVD providing its subscribers collections of exceptional, peer-reviewed short films. It was the first DVD publication to make the Top 10 list of BEST MAGAZINES for 2005 in The Library Journal.

Some of the films in Volume 4 have appeared at the Cannes, Sundance, or Toronto festivals. Comedies come from the Basque region, the offices of The Onion, and the Columbia University film school. A noirish thriller comes from England. Two very different films about immigration come from Hungary and New Jersey. Experimental films span the worlds of music performance, automated abstraction, and romantic obsession.

1. ÉRAMOS POCOS – Borja Cobeaga (2005, 16:00) When his wife leaves him, Joaquín turns to his son to help him bring his mother-in-law out of a home to do the housework. 2. THE MAN WHO MET HIMSELF – Ben Crowe (2005, 9:50) Who is Stephen Maker? Did he fake his own death, or do doppelgangers really exist? 3. BEFORE DAWN – Bálint Kenyeres (2005, 12:00) Before dawn the wheat quietly undulates on the hillside. Before dawn some people will rise while others will take away their hope. 4. DUMB ANGEL – Deco Dawson (2005, 9:00) Equal parts improvisational performance, experimental film, behind-the-scenes documentary, music video, and audio composition. 5. ROBO-CLONES – Steve Delahoyde and Nathan Rabin (2005, 5:30) A timely and provocative look at an explosive social issue: the effect of murderous robot clones on workplace morale. 6. THE OPTION OF WAR – Nick Fox-Gieg (2005, 6:30) A soldier is taken prisoner in the night by a pack of jackals who demand that he betray his sleeping friends. 7. WHY I DON’T GO TO THE MOVIES – Paul Karlin (2004, 7:00) The force of romantic obsession and the doldrums of life with a goddess lead to a strange vow. 8. DEPRESSION – Louis Lapat (2005, 13:20) How do you fight depression? Routine exercise, daily work, and an insecure girlfriend to soothe your ego when feeling down. 9. ERRATA – Alexander Stewart (2005, 7:00) An abstract film made by photocopying copies of copies thousands of times. Each frame of film is a copy of the previous frame. 10. ¡SÍ, SE PUEDE! – Brian Liloia (2006, 14:00) A timely documentary giving a voice to undocumented immigrants currently facing reform issues in the United States.

The JSF is continuing its open submissions policy and will have a guest editor for Volume 5 (Fall 2006). Lucy Raven will join the editorial board of the JSF for its one-year anniversary volume. Lucy is a filmmaker, artist, and founder of The Relay Project (www.therelayproject.com) in New York City.

The JSF is available at www.theJSF.org and www.Amazon.com.

Contact: Karl Mechem, publisher, The Journal of Short Film, contact@theJSF.org


Documentary and the Interview Subject, Part II

Last week we raised the question of how to get the best information out of an interviewee while filming. (A JSF-vet. filmmaker had reported that interviewees were increasingly telling him the best stuff off-camera.) I floated the question to some other JSF vets and they came back with some interesting responses. Some are common sense, but some are a bit more illicit.

Try to avoid conversations with your subject about the material you intend to discuss. If you talk about the material off-camera, the subject might end up spouting off essential details at that time, and then forget about the juciy details once it comes time for the formal questioning. I guess most people rarely tell a story the same way twice, after all. When you are actually doing the interview, play it casually. Making the subject feel comfortable is pretty key. Or, if you are setting up for the interview, prep the interviewee with what you plan on talking about without posing any of the actual questions. Give them an idea of what you want to talk about, but don’t give them too much time to start forming answers ahead of time.

He also advises having your camera ready, in case the subject starts talking without prompting. Another filmmaker offered the following:

Everyone, it seems, has an “on screen” and “off screen” persona. People naturally feel freer to say what’s on their mind when they know the camera isn’t rolling. Sometimes they are justified. Sometimes they are just shy. One way to circumvent this dilemma is to keep the camera rolling. Start shooting before you say “action” and keep the camera going after you say “cut.” Video is cheap enough.

One more trick: Tell your on-screen interviewee that this is “just a rehearsal.” But tape it. And, if it’s better than the actual interview, use some of the footage.

That’s right, he went there. He admits that you’ll still need to get the person’s approval, afterward. Both of them stress that it’s important to make the interviewee as comfortable and relaxed as possible.

One of the publisher’s friends, a guerrilla historian, offered this:

. . . the first thing that jumps to mind for me is you HAVE to make sure that the person being interviewed trusts where the documentary is going and that the information that is being searched for will be treated respectfully and honestly.

. . . The film maker needs to empower and embolden the interviewee by assuring him/her that by telling the truth, the larger truth can be seen, explained, understood. As long as the person being interviewed trusts that the documentary will achieve those ends, then maybe more honesty can get captured on film.

What seems kind of obvious is actually pretty complex. Among other things, interviewing is a combination of camera tactics and logistics, psychological nuance, and establishing trust. Some of this stuff can’t be learned in film school. Experience helps, so get out there and start making mistakes.

Columbus Premiere of The Journal of Short Film; Volume 4 To Be Released 8/8

Tuesday’s the big day–besides it being the release date for Volume 4, it’s also our hometown premiere. Below is the announcement. Spread the word.

Join us for an evening of the best short films you’ll never see anywhere else. The Journal of Short Film is produced here in Columbus and is pleased to premiere a selection of its films for hometown filmmakers and film buffs. The Journal is a pioneer in the DVD magazine field. Its quarterly volumes provide a new avenue of distribution and exposure for independent filmmakers while giving short film the attention and respect it has long deserved. Besides publishing films from all over the world, the JSF also wants to help unite the Columbus filmmaking community. The screening will be hosted downtown by the Columbus State Educational Resources Center and the Marketing & Graphics Communications Dept. of Career and Technical Programs. This free program will be held in Franklin Hall, Room 104 on Tuesday, August 8th, 7:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. The publisher will be on-hand to accept film submissions in person.

“intriguingly open-minded”–The Washington Post
“Best Magazines of 2005”–The Library Journal
“an excellent contribution to the arena of filmmaking, facilitating
access to cutting edge works”–Film International

Visit the Events page of the website for more details.