Wednesday, August 24, 2011

“’Their real influence is their own imaginations’: Dorothy Supri on the International Student Film Festival Hollywood”

By James Latham

Young filmmakers today have more and better opportunities than ever to make movies and get them seen. At the VFF, we’ve screened some films made by teenagers, while other festivals are solely devoted to the work of young filmmakers. Recently I spoke with Dorothy Supri, who, along with Robin Saban (pictured, second from right, with student filmmakers), runs the International Student Film Festival Hollywood. For nine years, the ISFFH has screened a wide range of works by students from all over the world. I wanted to talk with Dorothy about her organization as both a youth-oriented program and a fellow LA-based independent film festival.

James Latham: The ISFFH shows works made solely by student filmmakers of all ages. Tell us more about it.

Dorothy Supri: Like we say on our website, art is and always has been our universal language and the ISFFH has been successfully reaching out to student filmmakers all over the world for more than eight years. We have screened films from all seven of the world’s continents.

The ISFFH reaches out to student filmmakers of all ages, from elementary to graduate school. It is this generation of story tellers that will be influencing the following generations. The ISFFH gives them a platform to be seen, offering students the unique opportunity to gain the recognition of film industry leaders and create career development opportunities.

The film industry is constantly searching for creative, new artistic talent and vision. We seek to serve as an international liaison bringing together promising creative talent from all corners of the earth.

The constant reach of human creativity for more refined and powerful methods of artistic expression has led to the creation and expansion of new media: music videos, abstract features, hybrid film, animation, etc. We seek to open a flow of international talent and to celebrate new artistic discoveries from all over the world. We seek that singular, challenging, and passionate student talent.

JL: You screen a wide range of films—features, shorts, dramas, comedies, animation, documentaries. What trends, if any, have you seen recently in the documentary films? What kinds of information / issues are especially interesting to young filmmakers these days?

DS: Personal stories have been a big part of documentaries, such as the life struggles of a filmmaker’s family. It may be a story of a life lost in a battle of one form or another; or of a previous generation and how it has built the character of that family today.

I’ve seen a number of films without dialogue. Personally, I really enjoy seeing a story told without words, you simply watch it unfold with image and sound. It can be very dramatic and very touching.

JL: Yes, sometimes the lack of technology can be a plus. What are some other films you’ve screened that were technically simple, but still very creative, emotionally powerful, entertaining, or informative?

DS: One film that comes to mind is Omer, a documentary about a quirky street performer that simply told his story on camera. It was the chosen character himself that made the story so incredibly touching and powerful.

Also, elementary age animation and claymation have got to be some of the simplest, yet most creative and entertaining films! Kids are able to tell their story in a fun, simple and direct approach without over thinking and fuss. Their real influence is their own imaginations.

JL: How has your location in Hollywood helped the ISFFH and its filmmakers? What challenges has location posed, if any?

DS: Our location has a tremendous advantage for student filmmakers as it allows them to visit the epicenter of filmmaking. Many students make plans prior to the festival to visit schools while here where they may have the opportunity to further their education. Others may visit working studios and most will take time to see Hollywood itself.

JL: What's the biggest misconception about your festival? OR, what do you feel is the biggest misconception about film festivals generally?

DS: I don’t know what misconceptions anyone may have of our festival, but I do know that our participants are given a tremendous opportunity to interact with each other and other guests including working people in the industry who attend to lend their support. The ISFFH allows the filmmakers to have their film screened in front of an audience and to build connections. We have a warm, welcoming atmosphere where even the most timid filmmakers end up engaging with others.

JL: Any parting words of advice for filmmakers who want to submit to the ISFFH?

DS: When applying to the ISFFH or any film festival, be sure to fill out the entry form completely, yet keep your answers concise. Also, be sure to give correct contact information; there is nothing worse than to win an award that will never make it to you.

Also, don’t miss an opportunity to have your film screened among your peers and receive friendly feedback. It is a rare occasion that you will have so many likeminded people in one place; from different cultures around the world to exchange ideas and techniques with—memories that will last a lifetime.

The International Student Film Festival Hollywood takes place this November 5-6th. The deadline for entries is August 31st.

For more on The Valley Film Festival, visit our website or Facebook page.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Looking Ahead: Comic-Con 2012

Photo Courtesy of Erik Engman
Yes. We know. We're a little late in recapping Comic-Con 2011. If you don't live under a rock, you already know that Cowboys & Aliens had its world premiere there, and that Steven Spielberg announced the return of the Jurassic Park franchise at this year's convention. Since you already know this, we're going to prep you for 2012.

Approaching its 43rd year, San Diego Comic-Con is produced by CCI (Comic-Con International), the non-profit organization also responsible for WonderCon and Alternative Press Expo (APE) both held in San Francisco.

Despite Hollywood's increasing presence, the biggest misnomer is that Comic-Con is only for the socially inept, awkward super fans of science fiction. Wrong! Sure, you'll find people from all over the globe wearing Stormtrooper costumes, or dressed up as Dr. Who, but you'll also find families, bucket list checklister's, collectors, thrill-seekers, and pop-culture hounds. Somewhere in this mix, you will fit in.

First, save the dates: July 12-15, 2012. Preview date, for badge holders only, July 11.

Next, decide now whether you want to attend for 1 day or the full 4, or somewhere in between. This is critical. Trust us. Trying to find a hotel in San Diego a month before the convention is near impossible. And, if you do find a room that late, it'll average $300+ a night. We once paid $400/night for a hotel, so listen to us when we tell you to book now for 2012. FYI, the hotel you want to be at is the Marriott Marquis Hotel and Marina.

"Like" Comic-Con on Facebook and follow them on Twitter, so you know when 2012 tickets go on sale. Pre-registration for 2012 took place during the 2011 convention, and festival badges and single tickets will go on sale around February 2012. Queue up at your computer the day they become available because they sell out in a matter of hours. Once the first batch of inventory is sold out, Comic-Con will not release more tickets until just days prior to the convention, which may thwart your plans. If you are applying for Professional Accreditation, we suggest you purchase a day pass anyway, as security. If you do get the professional badge, Comic-Con will allow you to return your ticket for a refund within a certain time frame.

OK. You've saved the dates, booked your hotel, and have purchased your ticket. Now what? You wait. You wait until the schedule of panels, screenings, autograph signings, etc. get published, which can be as late as 3-4 weeks prior to the convention. If you're a super fan, you know exactly what you want to do, see, touch, and create. But if you're just a regular Joe or Jane trying to get the most out of this experience, listen up:

Comic-Con is overwhelming even when planned out properly. There will be lines for everything. From the smallest of seminars to the largest of studio unveilings, to the coffee kiosk and bathroom, there will be long, long lines. Get used to it. You're going to have to choose between spending 1/4 of the day waiting for Frank Miller's autograph or waiting 45-minutes for the panel, Trends in Young Adult Fiction. If the autograph isn't a must have, explore the various panels and choose to attend one on a topic you know very little about. Take advantage of the MySched feature to help you plan, and just know that you will not be able to do everything, so don't even try.

If panels aren't your thing, Comic-Con also has a film festival component. From ANIME, to documentaries, to narrative shorts and features, we can guarantee you'll find peace, quiet, and plenty of seats at a screening. The Comic-Con International Film Festival is held at the Marriott Marquis Hotel and typically the filmmakers, cast and crew are in attendance. VFF09's Enigma screened at CCIFF in 2010. Additionally, previously released studio features and kid-friendly films can be found.

Photo Courtesy of Erik Engman
Looking for retail therapy? You need not look further than the convention floor where you'll find collectibles, clothing, original artwork, music, DVD's, and more from the likes of indie artists and large corporations like Hasbro and LEGO. Bring cash. Cash will allow you to keep track of what you're spending and may give you some price negotiating leverage. The best time to buy is Sunday at 5pm, an hour before the convention ends. Retailers don't want to pack up the merchandise they brought, they want to get rid of it and, in most cases, they slash their prices ridiculously low, and have been known to give stuff away for free.

Speaking of free, swag is plentiful...but you're going to have to go outside of the convention center to find it. Roam the historic Gaslamp Quarter and you'll be able to collect goodies galore. From t-shirts, to posters, to buttons and other promotional items, it's all out there if you look. One of the coveted pieces of swag this year was a Pan Am Airways replica tote to promote ABC's Pan Am. Sadly we were not able to get our hands on one.

If the crowds and convention become too much for you, don't forget that you're in San Diego! Steps away from the Pacific Ocean, world class dining, a world-renowned zoo, and Tijuana, Mexico! Explore and have fun.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Countdown to VFF11...T-Minus 100 Days!

It's that time of year again...the countdown to The Valley Film Festival's opening night: 11.11.11.

In addition to it being International Spinal Tap Day ("The numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven...") it's the 11th Annual Valley Film Festival. Kismet!

There's still time for you to submit a short or feature, in any genre. The VFF11 call-for-entries is open through August 15th. The VFF11 program will be announced around September 15th, with ticket sales starting October 1st.

Our countdown will celebrate our small victories and our 2011 sponsors & supporters, as well as share our day to day ramblings and submission musings until T-Minus 1 arrives. Join us!

For example, a trend that our screening group noticed was, practically every short film we reviewed this week included a shot of the iconic Hollywood sign. No joke. At one point we took bets. Cyrus won.

Now it's your turn! What trends have you seen in films recently? This could be anything from genre, to product placement, to audience participation in the theatre. 

Contribute. It's fun. 

The 2011 Valley Film Festival will take place November 11-13 at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks.