Tuesday, November 15, 2011

VFF11 Wrapup and Awards

We've finished our eleventh annual season of independent film from around the Valley and the world.  Attendance by filmmakers and the general public was strong during three days of screenings, with some sold out in advance, at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks.  The filmmaker reception at Decor Art Galleries in Studio City and the launch party at J.E.T. Studios in the NoHo Arts District also were well attended.

We screened a total of 34 films, including shorts and features, documentaries and fiction.  About half had some direct connection to the San Fernando Valley, such as being a location for filming.  On closing night, we presented the following awards:

Alumni Short – MINE (Greg Thompson)
Comedy Short – FISH! (Mark Eccleston and Damian Samuels)
Dramatic Short – GHOSTS OF SYLLABLES (Javier Grillo-Marxuach)
Girls on Film – BEYOND ESSAYS (Jules Dameron)

Documentary – ADVENTURES IN PLYMPTOONS (Alexia Anastasio)
Feature – BAD ACTRESS (Robert Lee King)
Short – THE SECRET FRIEND (Flavio Alves)

As Tracey Adlai said, "Award or no award, every film in VFF11 was strong and stellar. Thank you to our fabulous filmmakers!"

We also want to thank our sponsors Kirin, Primax Mortgage, Video Symphony, The Sign Language Company, Decor Art Galleries, Creative Handbook, and Community Partners.  Special thanks to Councilmember Paul Krekorian and his staff, Vicki Nussbaum and the Sherman Oaks Chamber of Commerce, and Bryan Rasmussen of the Whitefire Theatre.  And to the volunteers, alumni judges, and everyone else who helped make VFF11 a success.

Looking ahead, we will begin accepting submissions for VFF12 in January.

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

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What They’re Saying about Some Films We'll Be Showing

STALKED (Friday evening, 11/11):  Brian Morton, of Rogue Cinema, writes that “We've all seen the movies where some poor young, vulnerable woman is relentlessly stalked by a masked stranger.  Well, a new movie by Matthew Irving, Stalked, takes that premise in such a new direction that I don't know if I can tell you much about it without ruining the experience for you...but I'll try.” 

Morton gives the film his highest rating, “simply for the ending...if nothing else were good about this movie, that would earn it a great review...but it's not, everything about this short is amazing, it looks great, the acting is top notch and it's just a great short film overall!”

KISS (Saturday afternoon, 11/12):  This is the story of a naive young man who hires a lively prostitute to learn how to kiss.  As their love for one another grows, the reality of their different lives threatens to come between them.  "I wanted to do something that would challenge me in every aspect of filmmaking," says Justin Zagri, the film’s writer and director.  "I chose a controversial subject with a story that is difficult to tell in a genre I never thought I would be involved in."

The creator and director of the Action on Film Festival, Del Weston, says, "I love this film. The thought of new love mixed with jaded obsession and turned on its head by Justin makes for a beautiful film that questions everything we know about our first kiss."

HOLD THE MAYO (Saturday evening, 11/12):  In Jeffrey Williams’ short film, a beleaguered sandwich store clerk's bad day gets worse when a customer returns to prove the adage, The Customer is Always Right.  In this case, horribly, horribly, right.  Mark L. Miller, of Ain’t It Cool News, writes that this “is definitely one of those devious little films that outshine a lot of the dull full length horrors out there… This little short deserves an audience!"  Ajay Singh, of the Eagle Rock Patch, writes that "lurking beneath the plain violence is a mocking—and to many, shocking—humor of Hitchcockian proportions."

But Jeffrey’s personal favorite quote, sort of a badge of honor for this genre, is from a rejection letter from another film festival:  "The graphic scenes of violence and cannibalism may be too gruesome for all but the staunchest of horror fans.  The editing, however, was strong, as was the camera work."

LEGACY (Sunday afternoon, 11/13):  This is a short film about a young man being released from prison after twenty years, and being forced to confront the person who set him up...his own brother.  Jessica OrdoƱez, the film’s director, describes it as “a modern-day Cain and Abel story about two brothers, betrayal and redemption.”

The film is a manifestation of her personal philosophy about filmmaking:  “I want to make films that will lift my audience up and make them realize the miracle of life; films that show a view of compassion, faith and understanding.  I am very persistent and passionate about which path I choose to follow. For me, film is one of the basic forms of storytelling; it merges the audience with a vision, a world designed inside the head of the director.”

Edited by James Latham
For more on The Valley Film Festival, visit our website or Facebook page.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Three to See at VFF11

Here are three terrific feature-length films on our program.  Check out our website for more on these and the rest of our independent films from around the Valley and the world.

Few Options (Saturday night, 11/12/11):
Kenneth Johnson plays Frank Connor, a good man who made a big mistake and is finished paying his debt to society, or so he thought.  After more than twenty years in prison, Frank returns to Van Nuys to restart his life, but gets stuck.  He can’t get a decent job or place to live, even a driver’s license.  Life has passed him by, though some things remain the same.  He gets work as a security guard at a seedy strip club run by his old crime partners, and they take advantage of him, knowing he has few options.

A thoughtful, simmering drama about a man struggling to start over and do the right thing, with a strong yet nicely understated performance by Kenneth Johnson.  Rainn Wilson has a small but solid role as the cousin who reluctantly lets Frank live in his garage, so long as nobody can see him. 

If you’re tired of crime films with lots of action and little else, here’s a grownup character-driven film with an engaging story.  An L.A. premiere from director George Pappy.  For more info, check out the film’s website and Facebook page.

Rats & Bullies (Sunday afternoon, 11/13/11):
A distraught teen takes what she thinks is her only option, and, sadly, it’s her last.  This documentary traces the events leading up to fourteen-year old Dawn-Marie Wesley’s suicide in 2000 due to bullying.  As The Huntington Beach Independent writes, the film “explores the secret world of teenage behavior, addressing violence as well as intimidation through less explicit means, such as rumor spreading, shunning and gossip.”  It also explores how bullying can affect whole communities and what can be done about it, including legal action.

This is the L.A. premiere of the film Cassidy R. McMillan and Ray Buffer made to help expose bullying and prevent it.  For more info, check out the film’s website and Facebook page.

Bad Actress (Sunday night, 11/13/11):
This is a dark comedy about has-been TV actress Alyssa Rampart-Pillage, played by Beth Broderick, and her dysfunctional family.  Her husband Bernie is the appliance king of the Valley, and Alyssa’s career has been reduced from the glamorous “HMO Nurse” series to appearing in his TV commercials.  Things go awry when their daughter, aptly named Topanga, leads a protest against the family business because the appliances aren’t environmentally friendly.  After Topanga dies in a tragic golf ball incident, Bernie has a spiritual awakening and tries to give away the family fortune, but Alyssa intervenes.  Events spiral as people die, or go to jail, and Alyssa’s career is revived. 

Spoofing contemporary pop and celebrity culture, including the crazy actress and the family and friends she harms, this film has some similarities to movies like Serial Mom and Mommie Dearest, but with a Valley touch.  Directed by Robert Lee King, who also directed Psycho Beach Party.  Cameo by Corbin Bernsen.  For more info, check out the film’s website and Facebook page.

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

Sunday, November 6, 2011

One of the VFF11 Films: George Bradshaw on “Public Museum”

By James Latham
Among the several short films we’re screening this year is Public Museum, a comedy about a smug and jaded museum curator who’s been downsized. Dropped from a prestigious big city museum of natural history due to an exhibit he did on lesbian lizards, he finds himself in a “transitional job” at an oddball natural history museum somewhere in small-town middle America. Seeking to revive his career, he must confront an embarrassingly bizarre museum collection, an eccentric staff, and his own pomposity and fear of failure.

George Bradshaw wrote and directed Public Museum, and I wanted to talk with him about the film and some related issues, including his career in marketing and advertising. George has had over fifteen years of experience working as a Creative Director specializing in entertainment, fashion, and sports. Public Museum is his first film.

James Latham:  You’ve screened Public Museum at some other festivals, including Cannes’ Short Film Corner, and are now developing a feature-length version as well as a documentary on the contemporary democratization of art.  But your professional background is in marketing / advertising. What motivated you to go into filmmaking, and how has your background helped or challenged you in that process?

George Bradshaw:  Initially, what motivated me to go into filmmaking was watching Star Wars at a drive-in from the hood of my parents’ car in 1977.  The wish of someday working with / for George Lucas is also why I went to graduate school at Pratt Institute for my MFA in Computer Graphics.  I guess you could say I owe a lot of inspiration to the other “George.”  In the end, I chose a different path as a Creative Director on Park Avenue in the marketing world.  It was a great way to cut my teeth as a “big idea” generator, copywriter and business person, as well as the director of a group of talented creative people…all transferrable skills to filmmaking.

JL:  Is this a career change for you, or are you keeping the day job and adding filmmaking to your professional repertoire?

GB:  I currently divide my time evenly between being a creative director, filmmaker and songwriter.  I have so many creative ideas that I perpetually feel like I am running out of time.  At this moment, specifically, I am doubly focused on the film side because I am very proud of Public Museum and hope to bring joy to people by showing it.

JL:  It’s a little simple to say, but Public Museum sort of mixes aspects of Night at the Museum with Fargo. What inspired you to do this particular film?  Have you or your colleagues on the film worked much in museums, or lived in small-town America?

GB:  Firstly, I am humbled to be in the same sentence as those two terrific films. Thank you. The initial inspiration for Public Museum came from an art installation in Grand Rapids, MI called Michigan: Land of Riches, the great film This is Spinal Tap (obviously) and my own life as a New Yorker who moves to the mid-west.  My brief experience working in an actual museum was an internship at The Cape Ann Historical Association in Gloucester, MA, which is a terrific little museum.  But I did grow up in a family of artists and musicians in a small-town, and then spent many years in the Big Apple, so I have always been surrounded by art and culture.  I can’t tell you how many times I had to sing and/or play my guitar in front my whole family at Christmas!  Fortunately, I had my brother Robert Bradshaw to commiserate with, who has since gone on to become one of the world’s most recognizable living classical composers. He was gracious enough to do the music for Public Museum. Isn’t nepotism great?!

JL:  It can be.  Did you get to film in an actual museum?

GB:  We had the generous support of the Grand Rapids Public Museum, who granted access to their former headquarters – a historic Art-Moderne, WPA-era building – for our location. The building is extraordinary and added to Public Museum’s authenticity. It also became another very interesting character in the piece.

JL:  For the main character in Public Museum, his new job is a personal and professional hell.  But there are in fact advantages to working in small, obscure places. For instance, it can give you freedom to experiment and grow yourself and the organization without all the pressures, bureaucracy, and politics of a big institution. What’s your experience been with the merits of working in small and obscure vs. big and famous?

GB:  That’s a difficult question. There are merits and challenges to both. The philosopher Confucius said, “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.”  Nice work if you can get it.  Our main character, Spencer Cheese, would probably say that he prefers “big and famous” companies over “small and obscure” ones for the remuneration, growth and networking opportunities – none of which he has in his new job at Public Museum.  I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to work with huge, global clients during my days as an Executive Creative Director in a Park Avenue ad agency. I have been equally fortunate to juxtapose this experience with my newer experience working on short films and documentaries. Both provide fulfillment and enrichment for different reasons.

JL:  You screened the film at the Short Film Corner organized by the Festival de Cannes.  How does your experience there compare to the other festivals you've done?

GB:  It was truly an honor to be a part of Cannes in a small way. The Short Film Corner is a professional area not in competition. Public Museum has also screened at the Grand Rapids Film Festival, and we are very excited to be a part of The Valley Film Festival, too.  It is a privilege to screen at every festival because there are so many talented filmmakers making movies.  The good news is that there are a lot of festivals to choose from and advantages to screening at both small and large.  One might attract bigger names.  The other might be friendlier and more approachable.  I have only attended a few festivals, so I am by no means an expert, but every festival that I have taken part in has been run by a supportive community championing the art of filmmaking. The trick is to make a good movie and get in.

Another notable festival in which I have participated is the Nantucket Film Festival, which was an amazing experience.  My writing partner, Stephen Garvey, and I wrote a script called 9/11 Kevin that was honored with a staged reading in 2005.  We are currently working with Jace Alexander, Tom Cavanagh, Jim Gaffigan and their excellent teams to bring it to the big screen.

JL:  Are you planning to expand Public Museum into a feature?

GB:  I have a feature version idea that I am very excited about.  Hopefully, someone in the movie biz will see the possibilities in Public Museum (the great Paul Feig, are you out there?) and reach out.  But as Rick Page says, “hope is not a strategy,” so I am going to work really, really, really hard, too.

JL:  I worked for several years at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, first as an intern and then a gallery lecturer, and can say that your film does capture some of the oddities of museum culture.  But there are a lot more character types, issues, and situations that you could potentially mine for laughs. Any ideas for doing that?

GB:  I think that Spencer would join a Klezmer band that plays all Beatle covers called The Maccabeatles. Just kidding!  We have created a funny and interesting sandbox with Public Museum and I would welcome the chance to play in it for 90 minutes. There are a million ways to go because the museum world is so unique and ripe for parody. That said, it is also an incredibly relatable world because we have all had to negotiate the political waters of a job we hate at some moment in our careers. This is Spencer’s moment.

JL:  Tell us about the documentary you’re developing on the contemporary democratization of art.  What issues are you addressing?  What’s your POV?

GB:  This is a passion project of mine that will ask the question, “What is the public’s role in art?”  I am sure that if Spencer was asked, he would turn up his nose and snap, “None at all!” Coming from the point-of-view of an artist who wants people to experience and enjoy his work as much as possible, however, I’d have to disagree with him…respectfully, of course.


Public Museum will screen at the Valley Film Festival on Friday, October 11th, at 9:30 p.m., accompanied by the feature We Gotta Get Buscemi. To learn more about Public Museum, see its Facebook page. For more on George Bradshaw, check him out on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Party Like It’s The Valley: Social Events for VFF11

Mark your calendar.  Here are the party events for next week:

MEET THE FILMMAKERS - Wednesday, 11/9 @ 7pm-9pm
(Filmmakers and Invited Guests only.)
@ Decor Art Gallery
12149 Ventura Boulevard
Studio City, CA 91604
(Laurel and Ventura. Free parking behind gallery in CVS parking lot)

LAUNCH PARTY - Thursday, 11/10 @ 8pm-11pm
(The More the Merrier!)
@ J.E.T. Studios
5126 Lankershim Blvd.
NoHo Arts District, CA 91602
(Lankershim, just south of Magnolia)

CLOSING NIGHT PARTY / AWARDS - Sunday, 11/13 @ approx 9pm-Midnight
(7:00pm Ticket Holders and Invited Guests only.)
@ Whitefire Theatre
13500 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
(Ventura Blvd. @ Sunnyslope)

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