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Music video call for entries in Memphis

November 16, 2011

The 7th Annual Live From Memphis MUSIC VIDEO SHOWCASE announces a Call For Entries!

Live From Memphis™ is announcing a call for entries for the 7th annual Music Video Showcase. The Music Video Showcase will take place at The Warehouse in Downtown Memphis, TN from March 1st through 4th, 2012. The multi-day event will include music video showcases, panel discussions, parties, an award show and more!

Music Videos (not exceeding 5 minutes in length) will be accepted through January 31, 2012.

Videos from all over the world may be submitted. Awards include a jury award for “Best Music Video,” an “Audience Choice” award and a “Best Local” award. Each award receives a trophy and prize package. If you are a filmmaker, musician, or band with a music video – submit it now!

Since 2005, the Music Video Showcase has rocked the theaters with the best in Memphis music videos. In 2011, The Music Video Showcase expanded to include videos outside of Memphis and to be a multi-day event.

This is your chance to ROCK THE BIG SCREEN!

For more information about LFM’s Music Video Showcase and to submit your entry please visit: http://www.livefrommemphis.com/mvs, give us a call: (901) 523-9763, or email mvs@livefrommemphis.com

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Indie Memphis Wrap Up

November 7, 2011

It’s been a while for me on blog posts and for that I apologize. I’ve had a wild ride this fall with festivals, films and fun. A film I helped write and produce, Where I Begin, has been active on the circuit the past few weeks, picking up a few awards including Best Mississippi Film at Miss. International FF a couple of weeks ago and this weekend an award at the Maryville Film Festival. With that going on, I have ignored my duties as a blogger, but after the experience of the 14th annual Indie Memphis, I knew I had to try to find a way to explain just what all went on.

The first film I saw set the tone for the festival this year. Jeff, who lives at home by Jay and Mark Duplass was introduced by Craig Brewer who told fond stories of their time at Sundance when they all felt like the new kids and talked about if they would all still be doing this in ten years. Yup, they are and doing it well.  And it inspired me to think that they had stood in the same place as the rest of us newbies, wondering if anyone would watch their movies someday.

The film, about destiny and following your instinct and the signs put in front of you, got me thinking about proper story telling and finding a way to tell universal truth while also entertaining. This film has the perfect mix to do just that. I’ve seen all the Duplass brothers films and this is hands down my favorite of their work so far (and I am quite the fan girl of theirs so that is saying something). It comes out in theaters in March. Mark your calendars.

I spent some time talking with Craig Brewer afterwards about the film and filmmaking as well as future plans. Like the great champion of filmmakers he is, he was encouraging and kind to my future goals as he was with many others this weekend.

After the film and some socializing, I caught the première of the Memphis film Losers Take All  which had the audience enjoying seeing the final product after filming locally. The Memphis Film Commission presented a check to the producers after they participated in a special program that takes on newcomers to the film industry on crew and helps teach them on set. Then 41 percent (I think that was the number?) of their pay is recouped. It is a clever local incentive but the producers did note it helped since the Tennessee Film Commission never came through on the real incentive package (curious to know more about this case).

Later that evening in short films #4: Dark and Stormy I caught a few friends films that I have seen and love greatly including Pillow, Lukos, Murderabilia and got to enjoy Gerry Bruno’s Seven Souls which I hadn’t seen before but was a nice discovery.

I missed out on some other great films that day to hang out at the P&H with the great Coop Cooper and John Beifuss (it was a film critic love fest) before heading to the annual final party graciously held by Chris and Laura each year. It is always a treat and I was happy to spend time with friends from across the country that I only get to see at fests such as this one.

Sunday I caught up with the super talented Tanya Wright whose film Butterfly Rising played that evening. She and Christine Elise McCarthy (her film Bathing and the Single Girl also played) spoke on a women and film panel and took every opportunity to shift the focus away from being “women filmmakers” to focus on being filmmakers and using their time as actresses to help shape who they were as writers and directors. Both women also spoke about taking on challenges and embracing the unexpected in life similar to the tone of Jeff, Who Lives at Home. Both are writers first and Wright championed the writer as the original creator and the reason we are able to work in this business.

While I found the panel to be inspiring and uplifting, I couldn’t help wonder if I was being told something about being better about listening to my instincts and following this filmmaking thing through. As I head out this week to assist on Kim Voynar’s first film, I am encouraged to have met so many strong, talented women finding a way to express their voice. This includes running into the fantastic Ashley Martin Bias after her screening of Prairie Love (which won the Oxford Film Fest Best Narrative Feature earlier this year). If I had a smidgen of that woman’s talent, I’d be a lucky girl.

As if the entire weekend was not enough to inspire me to pick up my pen again and write something, then to cap it off as I was heading out, I run smack into Jason Baldwin after the screening of Paradise Lost 3. Standing there looking at a true life happy ending (such a rarity) I couldn’t find the right words to say anything about how inspiring it is to see the three free or how in awe I am of the tremendous filmmakers behind the three-part documentary. Several friends also met him at the same time. With all of us roughly the same age as the three, we all felt connected in similar ways to their story and to them. There was no way to not be moved by the moment.

As I am sure he is quite used to this reaction, when he asked if I wanted a hug, I realized that yes, it really was exactly what I needed to end the festival. So I hugged Jason Baldwin, in Memphis, as he stood free amongst supporters and filmmakers. And really there are no words that could have expressed what that hug did. People like Jason are why films need to be made. Stories to be told. Truths to be shown brightly on the screen. It’s time for me to remember that I have something to say and so do many other talented people and I want to thank Indie Memphis and the people I met along the way recently for reminding me that this is why we embrace the madness of indie filmmaking. Free hugs.

Low budget movies continue to roll in the L-O-U community

September 22, 2011

– OXFORD TOWN

A new low budget feature filmed in Oxford this summer is expected to premiere in early 2012 after Ole Miss cinema minor and junior Benjamin Cunningham managed to film for less than $2,000.

Cunningham, is a psychology major in the honors college and growing up did not have cable TV.

“My childhood was spent watching and rewinding VHS tapes when I wanted to be entertained,” Cunningham said. “Movies have always been a part of my life, and as I grew up, I began to fall in love with the ‘game’ of it — convincing millions of viewers to believe in your piece of art.”

His favorite genre is comedy but he wanted to find a way to blend laughter with a message.

His film, “Roommates” is the answer to that.

“It is absolutely hilarious, but you feel like you’ve really connected with the characters and learned something by the end,” Cunningham said. “It’s 60 minutes of fast-paced fun. The idea for the story came from deep, spiritual, inner longing. OK, not really; I’ve always wanted a pair of handcuffs, so I wrote the story around cuffs to give me a reason to buy them. I tell people those are the most expensive cheap handcuffs anywhere. The story was perfect for the actors, and the chemistry clicked instantly.”

“Roommates” centers around Cole Martin who comes from a private school in Nashville and drives a coupe. Dwayne Cutter, also known as “Peanut,” grew up on okra and deer meat. The only things they have in common: They’re both freshmen, and they’re now roommates. Cole can’t take it, but his girlfriend made him promise that he would give it a week before he tried to switch roommates. Finally, he reaches his last nerve and drags Peanut to the housing department. The housing secretary is an eccentric lady who tells them that the switching deadline has already passed. She does have a little trick, however, that will fix their problems in 24 hours. They agree to try it, and before they can react, she handcuffs them together, telling them to come back the next day. The pair hesitantly accepts it, but suddenly realizes that today is Friday … and tomorrow is Cole’s first debate tournament! By the time they get back to the office, however, it’s closed for the weekend. They are now men on a mission, looking for the lady with the keys.

Cast includes Jay Barnhart as Cole, Samuel McKay as Peanut, Stormie McClelland as Sarah and Adebanke Alabi as Hasina. Cunningham served as cinematographer, Dan Cunningham was sound and gaffer and Stormie McClelland was costume designer. Cast and locations were free and props were the only expense.

“Film is a mission for me. Making movies without sex scenes and F-bombs usually doesn’t cut it in the indie film markets. But there are so many people, especially in college, who are begging for quality work that doesn’t compromise,” Cunningham said. “There are several projects on my desk that are going to help fill this void, but I mostly want to encourage others who are interested in this same concept to go full steam ahead with their ideas. “Family film” is Hollywood’s response, but it is usually boring and dry. I want to create an entirely new market for movies oozing with conscious passion and technical precision.”

“Roommates” was filmed on a Panasonic AG-DVX100B in August. It is expected to premiere in 2012.

OFF + OMF = marriage of sound and film

September 8, 2011

The Oxford Film Festival and Oxford Music Festival are proud to announce the partnership of the two popular festivals into one weekend extravaganza this February 2012.

The date of Feb. 9-12, 2012 will host both the film and music festivals with film during the day until late evening and musical acts every night. Combined tickets to both festivals are available for those who love both music and film. The two festivals will be interacting in a variety of ways including music documentaries, music videos and a music panel to be held at the Lyric Theater along with great musical acts. The opening night of the festivals on Thursday, Feb. 9 will provide a special treat for film, music and literature lovers including a special Thacker Mountain Radio Show, world premiere of the Oxford Film Festival’s community film and the kickoff to the music festival.

“The more we talked about it, the more we realized how well the two festivals can compliment each other,” Daniel Morrow, music fest organizer, said. “One great benefit for local musicians will be exposure to the filmmakers visiting town for the weekend.”

“The Oxford Film Festival is excited to partner with the Oxford Music Festival,” OFF Executive Director Molly Fergusson said. “We look forward to showcasing Oxford’s very talented musicians to filmmakers from all over the country.”

A full schedule for both festivals will be released later this year. The Oxford Film Festival is currently accepting submissions in all categories but especially the Mississippi music video category. More information can be found on the website at www.oxfordfilmfest.com. A call for sponsorship for the joint festivals is currently underway.

The Help premieres; opens Aug. 10

August 4, 2011

OXFORD TOWN — While there are numerous reasons I could tell you to see “The Help,” such as supporting Mississippi film and filmmakers, supporting Ole Miss alums, the fact the lead of the film plays an Ole Miss graduate, the beautiful story, well-paced and well-shot film, and oh, the acting — there is one that has touched me even more: Civil rights icon and UM graduate James Meredith’s reaction after the premiere.

Meredith attended the Mississippi premiere on July 30 in Madison Malco Grandview along with hundreds of fans out to see the celebrities. After the screening, Governor Haley Barbour held a small reception for the filmmakers and special guests. It was there Meredith chatted openly about his own experiences during that time and how, despite what he went through, “The Help” gave him a new perspective that he did not perviously have. Meredith said that he learned something about Mississippi watching it (and reading the book) because he didn’t know the help and didn’t know those who hired the help. He was impressed that Stockett apologizes at the end of the book in case she got it wrong and was touched by the film.

Kathryn Stockett’s novel, originally planned for a small publishing run as she was told that she probably wouldn’t sell very many books, became the New York Times bestseller and a national sensation.

But, in the tradition of Mississippi, the rights to her book went to childhood friend Taylor rather than selling them to a Hollywood studio. Taylor, a native, knew the story had to be told right and had to be told at home.

Producer Brunson Green, also of Mississippi, took the script to Dreamworks and the rest is history with Christopher Columbus coming on board, bringing the film to Greenwood, and helping change the face of the state film industry. But it wasn’t a simple road, with Green and Taylor fighting all the way to keep the film in the state with the studio wanting to move it to Louisiana.

But they won the battle and, because of that, the film has an authenticity to it that can’t be matched.

In case you didn’t read the book, the story revolves around three main women, Skeeter (Emma Stone), Minny (Octavia Spencer) and Abilene (Viola Davis). Also key to the story is Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard), Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain), Charlotte Phelan (Allison Janney), Missus Walters (Sissy Spacek), Stuart Whitworth (Chris Lowell) and Cicely Tyson as Constantine Jefferson, the maid that serves as the catalyst for the story.

Skeeter graduates from Ole Miss and comes home to Jackson in the late 60s, right before the Civil Rights movement hits the town. She discovers that Junior Auxilary and finding a man is not all it is cracked up to be and her dreams of becoming a real writer lead her to ask questions no one else is asking. At the same time, Minny and Abilene are fed up and beginning to question their treatment as “the help.” The three woman meet in the dark of the night and bravely begin to tell the stories that no one talks about. The story is as much about the eye opening experience for women like Skeeter to the injustices around them as it is finding a woman’s strong voice for Abilene. While Taylor remains true to the heart of the book, there are some improvements to the end of the story for simplicity sake that I felt made the movie stand on its own two legs.

Most important to the film is the acting. I can not beat you over the head enough with just how strong a performance Taylor gets out of all of his actresses and the few actors mixed in. Specifically, Viola Davis who consistently churns out brilliant performances ranging from “Doubt” to “United States of Tara” is at her best in this. Her character is one of the most likeable, anyways, but Davis’ magnetism makes it impossible to peel your eyes away from her when she is on the screen. One of the easiest ways to do that is when Octavia Spencer is there with her. Spencer, who has been in all of Taylor’s films and got her start in the business with Taylor as a PA on “A Time to Kill,” is known for her comedic timing and sassy personality, but it is her quieter moments when she is beaten down, fearful that her character comes to life in a way that is so much more than even what Stockett or Taylor could have intended.

Stone also impressed me as Skeeter, with her bravery and willingess to be different — a role that is familar for Stone with such films as “Easy A.”

Of course Janney and Spacek are complete scene stealers whenever they are on the screen with their outstanding performances. Spacek brings a lightheartedness to the story that is a great example of Mississippi characters. Janney, playing a woman with cancer and struggling to handle a daughter that seeks to be different, ends up delivering one of the most compelling lines of the film in the third act. Janney spoke at the Governor’s mansion about the difficulty in delivering such a weighty line but if you see the film, you will know just how well she pulled it off.

But my favorite discovery was Jessica Chastain. I recently learned of Chastain in “The Tree of Life” but didn’t put together that was who was playing Celia Foote in “The Help” until recently. Chastain is a beautiful red head that is soft spoken and when I complimented her, asked to make sure I didn’t think she was Bryce Dallas Howard since most mistake them. But on screen, she is a white trash princess and she owns the screen. Foote was not my favorite character in the book but Chastain brings a vivacity and heart to the character that I didn’t know could be within the role. The film world is lucky to have this one.

My first experience with director Tate Taylor’s work was with the Oxford Film Festival. We had screened his short film, “Chicken Party” and later his first feature “Pretty Ugly People.” The one thing I knew about the Ole Miss alum was that he knew a way to blend drama and comedy and his group of friends, Allison Janney, Octavia Spencer and others, worked with his directing style to create fantastic little gems. “The Help” proves no exception.

—Full disclosure: I have previously programmed Taylor’s films for the Oxford Film Festival and read and provided feedback for early drafts of the script for “The Help.”

Oxford hotspot for filmmaking

July 28, 2011

Oxford Town —

Oxford, it seems, is the hotspot this summer for filmmakers as one feature is currently in production in town and several short films are about to begin just as another short has wrapped. A screening of the latest short film “The Ninth Floor” by Jordan Berger and Houston Settle will be held tonight from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Powerhouse Community Arts Center. Along with the screening, local filmmakers are invited to attend to mingle and learn about upcoming productions.

“Oxford continues to be an attractive location for films with three films being shot in Lafayette County over the next four weeks,” Yoknapatawpha Arts Council Director Wayne Andrews said. “The work the Oxford Convention and Visitors Bureau is doing to attract filmmakers coupled with the work the Oxford Film Festival has done to build support for locally produced films has made Lafayette County a receptive community for independent filmmakers.”

While not every film made locally draws attention of crowds due to the low budget filmmaking process, Andrews said the films are equally important as creative arts for the town.

“The types of independent films that are made in Lafayette County do not require streets to be closed or large trailers for stars so they are not highly visible. The fact that we have films being produced in our community is something we need to tap into to draw other films to the community,” Andrews said. “The support local filmmakers get to produce their work is important. These filmmakers show their films at festivals and work on other films across the country. They talk about the support our community provides for film. By supporting local films we are attracting larger independent films because the skilled labor they need to hire is here, the community is supportive and the locations aid in setting the tone and background for the film.”

During the reception and screening tonight the community will have the opportunity to hear about two films that will be filming in Oxford and Lafayette County. The reception and screening will feature information about “TUBE” the second movie by Jordan Berger and Houston Settle and “That Strange Thing on the Grocery Shelf” a documentary short by Jillian Pecoraro who will direct her first film following work on four other films shot in Mississippi.

Following the screening Berger and Settle will share the story for the upcoming film including information on roles yet to be cast and opportunities for members of the community to be part of the film. The two filmmakers will be raffling off a chance for someone to break into the business by offering someone the chance to win the title of “Executive Producer” and have their name on the big screen.

Pecoraro will be inviting people to take part in her short about regional foods.

“The idea behind ‘That Strange Thing on the Grocery Shelf’ was to explore how regional foods are part of our community and memory. I wanted to show the trade off in having national brands available at any grocery store. It means that sometimes you lose food traditions or instead of a staple in the grocery store, the items become a nostalgic gourmet item,” Pecoraro said.

The film will feature a tasting party as a key portion of the film where participants will be asked to sample regional food items from Moxie, which once was the number one soda in the United States, to Cherry Mash, which is one of the oldest candy bars manufactured and is the pride of Missouri.

A suggested donation of $5 is requested which will be donated to the filmmakers to help support their films.

 

When Justin met Mila

July 25, 2011

I read  the lede of a review today about Friends with Benefits, the new romantic comedy – emphasis on the comedy – starring Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis – that said the film did not break new ground from recent film “No Strings Attached.”

Duh.

The genre has not breaken new ground on male-female friendships since “When Harry Met Sally.” But, that doesn’t make the film any less watchable.

Sure, we know where the film is going to end as soon as we get the traditional “meet-cute” between our two main characters, Dylan (Timberlake) and Jamie (Kunis), but its the pop culture jokes and the plethora of side characters with strong acting chops that make this a fun ride.

Woody Harrelson makes the top of that list, playing a gay sports editor and voice of reason for Dylan. We also meet Dylan’s family, sister Annie (Jenna Elfman), nephew Sam (Nolan Gould of Modern Family) and father Mr. Harper (Richard Jenkins). Jenkins brings a certain gravitas to the film that without would make the film less grounded.

But Jamie also has interesting side characters including her trying to be sexy but way too flighty mom (played by Patricia Clarkson – think through that one with Timberlake and you will get the joke).

The conventions remain intact even as the two main characters navigate the “joke” of romantic comedy movies and real life relationships while struggling with their emotional flaws. Jamie’s appears to be that she believes in love which in this cynical comedy makes her ‘crazy.’. Dylan’s is your typical guy who doesn’t want to get too close issue which we learn in the opening scenes.

“Friends with Benefits” is the perfect example to remind us that sometimes it is not the destination but the journey that matters. How the films ends is not surprising, but it is all the fun before we get there that makes this one worth a viewing.

But ladies, take note, if planning to sign up for a friends with benefit plan, don’t expect Prince Charming to be at the end of the bed. In the real world, it is just a friend that you are likely throwing away.

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