Saturday, November 20, 2010

The 2010 Valley Film Festival Closing Night Screenings and Awards

Despite the technical problems that interrupted the final feature film, Pickin’ & Grinnin’, the shorts did go on and, at the audience's request, VFF10 had an encore screening of Goofyfoot; 52 Takes of the Same Thing, Then Boobs; and 500 Days of Zankou, followed by the 2010 Valley Film Festival award ceremony.

One highlight from the screenings was Sudden Death!, a very creative and campy short about a virus that hits L.A., killing everyone in its wake, but not before they all break out in song and dance.

And now, drum roll please...congratulations to all the VFF10 award winners:

Made in the (818) – Motel San Fernando (Sergio L'Rodriguez)
Documentary Short – The Making of The Nukes (Val Tasso & Joey Sylvester)
Dramatic Short – Goofyfoot (Chris Cashman)
Comedy Short – BBQ (Alex Berger)
Girls on Film – Now or Never (Angie Hill)

10 Degrees Hotter (short) – E-Pigs (Petar Pasic)
10 Degrees Hotter (documentary) – Butterflies (Ester Brym)
10 Degrees Hotter (feature) – Boiler Maker (Paul T. Murray)

And thanks to everyone who screened, attended, and/or helped out with the festival. A great way to end one decade and begin another.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

An Evening of Comedy Shorts at The 2010 Valley Film Festival

It was standing room only at the Saturday screening, with a bunch of comedy shorts together showing a range of sensibilities. We saw a great parody of Quentin Tarantino and his characters in Pulp Fiction. We saw some kids getting even with a mean old lady who killed their soccer ball. We saw a very jaded Jesus playing poker. And a professor telling his students (in his mind) what he really thinks of them.

Another creative one was Manual Practico del Amigo Imaginario (A Practical Guide for Imaginary Friends). Ever wonder where your imaginary childhood friends went after you got too old for them? Turns out they’re still out there, looking for work and support from each other. One of them has actually retained his human friend into adulthood, and has become a motivational speaker for the other out-of-work imaginary friends. But then the young man develops a love interest, and the old relationship is in trouble.

And there was the film that turned out to be the festival’s Audience Award winner, Alex Berger’s BBQ. Guys, be careful when you’re hanging around, grillin’ and chillin’ with other guys. Somebody might confess to something they’ll later regret, or that inspires the other guys to go further over the top.

By James Latham

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Great Pairing on the First Day of Screenings at The Valley Film Festival

One highlight from the first day was the comedy short 52 Takes of the Same Thing, Then Boobs shown with the longer Paid for Pain. The former film used some creative visual techniques to playfully evoke lots of interesting questions about film and sexuality, while the latter was a bare-bones documentary full of answers (at least tentative ones) about film and sexuality.

52 Takes has dozens of shots of an attractive actress facing the camera and uttering the same hollow cliché about story being the most important aspect of filmmaking. Whether this is supposed to be for an audition or to practice a scene is unclear, but each time she utters the line an offscreen male voice (the implied director) then says, “OK, now show your boobs.” She begins to pull up her top, but the money shot is always denied in playful ways, like with her breasts being covered by graphics that are slang terms such as rack and jugs. Seeing this 52 times could become tedious, but the film uses various techniques to compensate, and we do eventually get the money shot. Still, the potential for tediousness may be part of what the film is evoking about sexuality in film—how some people can watch the same thing repeatedly and not get bored by it, while for others once can be enough. The relations between story and spectacle, the suspense that movies rely on, and the power relations between actors, filmmakers, and audiences are some other interesting topics that this film evokes.

In the end, while 52 Takes just hints at a lot of interesting ideas about film and sexuality, Paid for Pain plunges in. The format is very simple—it’s two women making an actual micro-budget bondage video and talking about various aspects of what it takes to make the video, and what it means to be in this line of work. The film takes place on set (actually, in a rented house somewhere in the San Fernando Valley), with the offscreen male voice of the director (of the documentary) asking various questions, which the women answer very directly and articulately. This is one of those documentaries that’s like turning over a rock and finding a whole complex universe of strange activity underneath. It presents what for most people is a totally alien subject in a matter-of-fact manner that is neither titillating nor clinical. Via these two women, the film explores various issues such as why some people like bondage, how they do it in film vs. real life, and whether women performers consider themselves to be exploited or empowered by their work. (One way they feel empowered is by simultaneously handling multiple aspects of the shoot itself, including performing, directing, doing costumes and makeup, and tying proper knots.) They also talk about how their work provides a healthy outlet for people who otherwise might engage in riskier behavior. Well, maybe. In any case, the women convey sophistication and a sense of humor about a mode of filmmaking and sexuality that tends to be perceived in the crudest and most moralistic terms.

Together, and from very different perspectives, these films suggested a lot about film and sexuality, and did it very well. They demonstrated an independent spirit in filmmaking, taking on their subjects in ways that were frank, multifaceted, and illuminating. Way to go, VFF. Keep it up.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Meet-the-Filmmakers Party a Big Success

Over 200 people came to the VFF10 launch party, where there was plenty of food, drink, and mixing. They came early and stayed late, from around So Cal and the world, including France, Ireland, Poland, and Spain. Some were VFF veterans and others totally new to the 818. All showed passion for their work and for indie film generally.

We also had exhibits and tech-talking pros from Advantage Video Systems, Affordable Sound Stages, and Video Symphony.

Thanks to Jim Norman of Norman Vineyards for the wine, and to The Hot Box Truck for the food. And to the El Portal, always a great venue. Now on to the screenings at the CAP Theatre!

James Latham

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Countdown to VFF10...T-Minus 3 Days (Or Is It 2?)

The Valley Film Festival opens in two days. That's right, in two very short days, we'll give VFF10 a swift kick in the caboose with our first mini-film expo, followed by our "Meet the Filmmakers" party, complete with a few food trucks rolling in to make sure we eat as we booze-n-schmooze.  After that, we'll start our three-day marathon of Valley, American, and International film screenings. Many of the international filmmakers are in town for AFM, and will be at the festival for their screening, so here's your chance to connect globally!

And since this is an official "Countdown to VFF10" post, here's what we've been up to these last few days:
  • Two tech checks at CAP Theatre. Yay! Everything works. 
  • A third round of press releases went out w/a fourth to go out tomorrow.
  • Artwork at printer.
  • Reminder: Programs NEED to go to printer.
  • Promotion with IDA scheduled. 
  • Kirin delivery scheduled.
  • Food Trucks alerted (Thanks to @ValleyFoodTruck for bringing us The Hot Box Truck, The Greasy Wiener, and Onolicious Hawaiian BBQ pending parking & other obstacles.)
  • Reminder: Order awards.
  • Worked with the FIVE editors assembling our programs for our hard drives from 5:30pm-11pm -- that's right, we went digital this year.
That's definitely NOT it, but that's all we could remember of the last 48 hours. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

The American Film Market in 5 Hours

After attending the Festival de Cannes/Marché du Film for the first time two years ago, I've been a huge supporter of film markets -- an international sea of people are in the same place, for the very same reason: to buy, to sell, to look for money, and to talk about their projects. Chances are, if you stand in the same spot for five minutes, not only will you run into a few people you know, but you're sure to meet someone new too! 

For the last six weeks, I've been urging VFF filmmakers and fans to rally behind my American Film Market (AFM) mixer suggestion, to no avail. Because of the timing of The Valley Film Festival this year, I couldn't justify the expense of purchasing a badge. And so, I tried to sweet talk filmmakers attending the market to give me their tales from the trenches. On Friday, Lucas Figueroa (VFF10, Because There Are Things You Never Forget) emailed to say he was still trying to figure the market out.

Harmony Rebecca Jupiter (VFF09, All Dressed Up) is a VFF10 judge who happens to work for Recreation Media , one of the many companies with a suite a Loews Santa Monica. Because of our crazy schedules this week, neither one of us had a moment to meet up to exchange films, so Harmony invited me down to the market.

Even without a badge, I feel I got a full experience in half a day! 

The minute I walked into the chaos, I spotted Straw Weisman (VFF09 Trunk), and en route to the elevator, I thought I saw publicist Freddy Krepistman. I made my way to the 8th floor, where I waited for Harmony to meet me (see, without a badge, you can't actually explore the suites), we had our ten-minute pow-wow, and then I joined the Lobby Rats until my next appointment. 

I DID see Freddy Krepistman, who was making the rounds with financier Richard Ortiz. Without any asking on my part, it was inquired as to whether 1 or 2 million would suffice VFF. Just the thought made me feel all warm & fuzzy inside, but I know better. 

I took my $6 Pellegrino poolside, where I waited for Lucas, and watched the sunset. Since late August, VFF10 filmmakers have been involved in my everyday life, and some I consider my new BFF's right now. Such is the case with Lucas, and it was great to get to know him as a person before the festival opens in 4 days. 

From there, I moved west to Laemmle for the screening of A Man's Story - a documentary about fashion designer Ozwald Boateng. I don't know what film was screening prior, but Harvey Weinstein (looking good, I might add) and what seemed like the entire Weinstein Company poured out into the lobby. I was inches away (like 4) from Mr. Weinstein and tried hard NOT to eavesdrop, but I couldn't help it when he pulled out his smart phone and showed off pictures of his new baby. See, even Media Moguls have soft spots. 

I found out about the screening via a Facebook post on the AFM page by producer Al Clark. Full disclosure: I'm familiar with Al Clark's work and a huge fan of London to Brighton, but I knew nothing of Ozwald Boateng.

Not any more! Ozwald Boateng is amazing! This documentary followed him over 12 years (1998-2010) from divorce to having his collection stolen, to finding love again, to catwalk catastrophies, to his reign as king of House of Givenchy, and so much more. It was over 90 minutes but you wouldn't know it. The pacing was perfect, the soundtrack rocked, and every single scene was engaging. 

The downside to the evening? I was suddenly conscience to the fact that my clothes weren't tailored, which made me wonder how long it would take to learn to cut & sew, and a reminder to support my friends with couture lines: Tara Matthews Swimwear and Suno.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to meet Al Clark, but if he returns to L.A., I'd love the chance!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Countdown to VFF10...T-Minus 6 Days (An Early Round of Thank Yous)

The inaugural Valley Indie Film Expo launches in 6 days, and in one week VFF kicks off an intense 3-days of film screenings...welcome to The 10th Annual Valley Film Festival.

Earlier this week, I didn't think the VFF10 Team would have a moment to breathe until Sunday, November 14 at 11:59pm, yet somehow a calm found its way into our schedule, giving us a much needed rest today. Of course, this was after getting our material to the printer, scheduling another round of press releases, posting another call for volunteers, chasing down differently formatted films, hanging with the editors assembling our reel, following up with our 2010 judges, and, and....maybe I should call it the calm before the storm.

As I sat in the editing room this evening with 3 of the many editors assembling the festival, I felt very fortunate to have this great crew behind VFF10. And, as I was able to exhale a little later, I was overcome with guilt for not showering my entire fabulous team with kudos for their hard work and extra efforts. So, this blog post is dedicated to the talented and tenacious team who is working overtime right now to make sure that the 10th Annual Valley Film Festival goes off without a hitch in 6 days.

Jeff & Chris ~ You guys are doing an awesome job coordinating between FotoKem and Video Symphony and managing the editors. I saw first hand tonight that everything was under control. Psst, Mark, they're making your job as projectionist really easy this year.

Sahag ~
We'll miss not having you at the actual festival this year, but you followed through on your job as Talent Coordinator, and I'm sure Aaron will do a kick ass job filling your shoes this coming weekend.

Marie ~
I'm anxious to see this semi-secret surprise trailer you're putting together. I know I got to sneak a peek earlier, but I can't wait to see the entire thing. Your talent never ceases to amaze me and I'm constantly inspired by your work.

Ivan ~ Thanks for letting me bark orders at you the last few weeks. I still find it funny that when I said French New Wave, you came back with 80's New Wave designs, however, you've more than made up for it with the super 60's cool artwork. You totally got to the heart of what I envisioned this year.

Hillary ~ Thank you for returning for a third year to coordinate our volunteers. We need an army of them, and you do a great job at gathering and schooling them in all things VFF.

AJ & Maria ~
A billion thanks for taking the time to support VFF with your PR prowess. I understand that you two have such hectic jobs/lives and am humbled that you do this for me year after year.

Paul W. ~ You've been picking up my slack all month. Where would I (or the filmmakers) be without you chasing a task down to get it completed and off the "to-do" list. You rock!

Paul H. ~
You & Ilja (and Ivan too) have been with VFF since 2001 and I'm so grateful for you being there to hear me bitch...ABOUT EVERYTHING. And, yes, next year you can have your old job back ;-)

Ilja ~ Look at the magic you created for VFF! The website is beautiful, functional (with a few kinks) and really, really easy for me to update. I know you get paid $100+/hour for this work and truly appreciate the gift.

FotoKem & Video Symphony ~
You guys came through in our darkest hour. Thank you for the doing the job and assigning VFF your very best. A special TY to Kate at VS for always being super cool and accommodating.

That concludes my first round of cheers for the VFF10 Team. I'm sure I left off many, many people...eeks, I did...the screening group, judges, hosts. Oh, my! I'll shower them with love later on.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

VFF10 ~ 10 Degrees Hotter Short Films

From musicals (Sudden Death) to music videos (My Southern Can is Mine), to thrillers (Love Me Tender) and thrills (52 Takes of the Same Thing, Then Boobs),  to local gems and foreign finds, The 10th Annual Valley Film Festival has a varied selection of short films competing for the coveted 10 Degrees Hotter award. 

(Please note that these short films precede our feature films and do not screen in a single program.)

Screens with Paid for Pain on 11/12 @ 10pm
Directed by T. Arthur Cottam. The most important aspect of filmmaking is a good story. Another dirty little short from the award-winning director of Pornographic Apathetic and Filthy Food
Screens with Driver's Ed Mutiny on 11/14 @ 5pm
Directed by Peter Pasic, Slovenia. This partially animated short from Slovenia is about a husband and wife in a tiny village who are shocked when their pig gives birth to cyborg piglets.

Screens with Paid for Pain on 11/12 @ 10pm
Directed by Haik Hoisington, The Flower contrasts a utopian society that freely farms and consumes a pleasure giving flower with a society where the same flower is illegal and its consumption is prohibited. 

The Revelation screens with Butterflies on 11/13 @ 7pm
Directed by Vincent Diderot, France. La Revelation takes place in a theater, where viewers are captivated. On the screen, a spaceship captain is telling the world he has met people from outer space.
Screens with The Commune on 11/12 @ 7:30pm 
Directed by Matthew Morgenthaler, Love Me Tender is a dark comedy about seemingly innocent Emma Blake who is hoping to find true love at her university. But whenever a potential boy disappoints her- she kills him.

Bathing Micky screens with Home From the War on 11/14 @ 2:30pm. 
Festival de Cannes Jury Winner - Short Film
Directed by Frida Kempff, Sweden. 100 year old Micky has been a member of the local bathing club for almost half a decade. Every day, every season, she swims with her friends at her beloved bathing club. From her story we gain a perspective on ourselves, and on how our existence is but the fruit of coincidence.

Screens with Pickin' & Grinnin'  on 11/14 @ 8pm
Directed by Jame Gerrity, this music video features Madame Pamita (Pamela Moore) and also includes members of The Black Tongued Bells. A 1930s-style 16mm film utilizing vintage cameras of the era.

Screens with Boiler Maker on 11/13 @ 2:30pm
Directed by Monique Carmona, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back takes a hilarious look at the dark places we go through on the journey of recovery. Laura, the newcomer, decides to share at the neighborhood women's support group. As the semi circle of support gets thinner, we find out she's met someone she thought she could trust, rushed blindly into a no win situation and topped it off with a nice dose of no turning back.
Screens with Pickin' & Grinnin' on 11/14 @ 8pm. With John Larroquette
Directed by Adam Hall. Los Angeles has been overtaken by a virus known as Sudden Death Syndrome, a disease that causes its victim to die suddenly and has only one symptom... spontaneously breaking into well-choreographed song and dance.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

VFF10 ~ 10 Degrees Hotter Feature Films (Narrative)

The 10th Annual Valley Film Festival presents a series of three narrative feature films. Ranging from psychological thrillers (The Commune) to tense drama (Boiler Room) to a coming-of-age comedy (Driver's Ed Mutiny), these films showcase independent filmmakers from The Valley and other L.A. environs. 

THE COMMUNE (Elisabeth Fies)
When Jenny Cross (Chauntal Lewis) has to spend summer vacation with deadbeat dad (Stuart G. Bennett) on his creepy commune, she thinks clean living and boredom will kill her. But some fates are worse than death.

"It's been a dream of mine to make a psychological thriller that impinges a disturbing wallop on both sexes; movies like they made in the 1970s. It's a huge problem in our society that all women-centric films are now ghettoized as "chick flicks". Without practice empathizing with female characters in our media, men become less adroit at emphasizing with real women in their lives. I decided to make a male-genre-friendly feature film about a ripped from the headlines tale of ritualized sexual abuse, and use every tool filmmakers have to force empathy for the female protagonist while keeping the genre elements sensational and frightening enough that the film wouldn't be banned to Lifetime TV. Judging from the dazed look on audiences' faces and the critical reviews, The Commune team has succeeded in getting viewers to actually think about the female teenage victims of cults instead of sexualizing, objectifying, or dismissing them as mainstream media trains us to do." - E. Fies

The Commune screens on Friday, November 12, 7pm, at CAP Theatre in Sherman Oaks. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased here.

 BOILER MAKER (Paul T. Murray)
In this tense drama, bank robbers take an AA meeting hostage -- BIG mistake!

"I wrote Boiler Maker due to looking for a contained character-driven piece to direct.  Setting the hostage situation in an AA meeting appealed me since it was a unique world few ever get to see.  The eclectic group of characters there are already on edge battling personal demons, thus, heightening the drama and black comedy.  Filmgoers should see it because it’s powerful, well acted, life-confirming, and shows what can be achieved on a micro-budget." - P. Murray

Boiler Room screens on Saturday, November 13, at 2:30pm, at CAP Theatre in Sherman Oaks. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased here. 

Driver's Ed Mutiny follows three teenagers who have to make their way from Chicago to Los Angeles, each for their own personal reasons. With no other options, they hijack their driver’s ed car and embark on a coming-of-age journey down the historic Route 66, with plenty of bumps along the way. 

"I decided to make Driver's Ed Mutiny because John Hughes (who was still alive at the time) had stopped making movies.  Even worse, no one seemed interesting in making movies LIKE the eighties John Hughes films.  Nowadays most movies about teenagers are R-rated raunchy comedies that seem more interested in grossing the audience out than true character development, and there seemed to be a void of movies featuring teenagers dealing with real problems (but still told with a comedic vibe).  So I decided to make a modern-day John Hughes film, a sort of "Breakfast Club" on wheels.  
I also wanted to challenge myself as a filmmaker and make an independent film that traveled across the nation.  We ended up shooting in 51 locations across 9 different states." -- B. Hansen 

Driver's Ed Mutiny screens on Sunday, November 14, at 5pm, at CAP Theatre in Sherman Oaks. Tickets are $10 and can purchased here.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

VFF10 ~ 10 Degrees Hotter Feature Films (Documentary)

The 2010 Valley Film Festival presents documentary features on topics ranging from our forgotten heroes (Home from the War) to YouTube celebrities (Butterflies) and The Valley's other film industry (Paid for Pain: The Making of a Bondage Video).  VFF is proud to showcases the work of filmmakers all from the San Fernando Valley! Go (818)! 

For this series of spotlights, we asked the filmmakers to tell us how they chose their subject and why it was important to share.

Butterflies deals with the fascinated culture of new media, specifically YouTube, and the young people who make a living by posting videos.

I discovered YouTube in 2006, when it was just starting, and thought it would be useful to post my film and editing work. While doing so, I noticed vloggers (people who film their lives and post videos). I became very interested in the subject when I noticed that these regular kids had a huge following and were being treated like celebrities by their fans/audience. Soon after, YouTube partnered with a few of the most watched video makers, by having ads running on their videos. I approached a few to see if they would be interested in talking about their unusual "jobs".  A few interviews turned into hours of footage because the behind the scenes story of "making it on YouTube and becoming a celebrity in this "virtual Hollywood" was way more interesting, and way more complicated than I ever imagined. So Butterflies was born, and with it your guide on how to become famous on the Internet.

I think this documentary is important for everyone to see as it deals with the newest cultural changes in our lives. Internet has become our everyday companion and, besides entertainment, it provides many new venues where we can feature our work, make connections (business/personal), network and make living. Everyone should be interested in this new community that completely changes the way we interact among each other and the way we lead our lives. 

Butterflies screens on Saturday, November 13, at 7:00pm, at CAP Theatre in Sherman Oaks. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased here. 

Home from the War is the history of the men and women who fought a brutal, unpopular war, fulfilling their duty to a country that treated them with disdain and indifference. In their words.

Participants include: The Doobie Brothers, Nancy Sinatra, Robert David Hall (CSI), Rocky Bleier, Bobby Muller, Jan Scruggs, Adrian Cronauer (Good Morning, Vietnam) Joe Galloway (We Were Soldiers) Shad Meshad, Bob Wieland, Congressmen, Senators and a cast of hundreds.)

Home from the War screens on Sunday, November 14, at 2:30pm, at CAP Theatre in Sherman Oaks. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased here. 

Having lived in the San Fernando valley for more than 10 years, I have always been fascinated by the unique industry that exists here.  The world of adult video production seems to be both out in the open and, at the same time, a big secret.  In recent years, adult has gone mainstream.  Big porn stars appear on reality TV.  Showtime broadcasts the Adult Video  News awards, complete with red carpet coverage.  Yet, the day to day workings of the business remain hidden from most people.  I find it intriguing that, every day, huge numbers of regular people get up and go to work…the only thing that sets them apart is that their work consists of creating adult material. Sometimes the jobs people do could not be more unusual.  It is Sinn's job to endure pain.  It is Loren's job to inflict it.  And, of course, they both have to make it look good on video.  I think what makes "Paid for Pain" interesting is how casual and natural the situation feels.  It's like any other workplace. 

Paid for Pain screens on Friday, November 12, at 10:00pm, at CAP Theatre in Sherman Oaks. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased here.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Countdown to VFF10...T-Minus 10 Days

We're almost there! Can you feel the excitement through your computer? In 10 days, we'll be holding court at the historic El Portal Theatre, and here's your official invitation!

To start off the magical day, join us for our mini-expo: The 1st Annual Valley Indie Filmmaker Expo Presented by AVS

To celebrate 10 years of showcasing independent cinema, The Valley Film Festival has teamed up with Advantage Video Systems (AVS) to launch The 1st Annual Valley Indie Filmmaker Expo to further promote the exhibition, production, and education of filmmaking in L.A.'s San Fernando Valley.

We invite you to join us in the reception area of the historic El Portal Theatre to browse exhibits from 5-6 local vendors and to network with flmmakers, industry, and friends.

RSVP here:

AND...if you're reading this blog, you're a friend of VFF and that means you're invited to join us after the expo to meet the VFF10 filmmakers over a round of drinks, courtesy of Kirin and Coppola Wine.

RSVP here:
(this link is password protected. Email us for code)
Thursday, November 11, 2010

Expo Doors Open at 1pm
Drinks w/Filmmakers @8pm

El Portal Theatre
5269 Lankershim Blvd.
NoHo Arts District