INTERVIEW: Ed Burns

Filmmaker Ed Burns; photo credit: Adam Schartoff © 2011

Described as something of a companion piece to his 2001 film, “Sidewalks of New York”, Ed Burns’ latest film, “Newlyweds”, is a love story shot mockumentary style, about a couple, Buzzy and Katie (Ed Burns & Caitlin Fitzgerald) each in their second marriage.

Bent on keeping their new relationship free of drama, the newlyweds are tested when Buzzy’s half-sister Linda arrives unannounced at their Tribeca condo. A whirligig of trouble, Linda (Kerry Bishé) upsets the balance, possibly for the better. Shot for a song around the streets of his Tribeca neighborhood, Ed Burns’ latest film is the result of called-in favors, new favors promised and a minuscule budget. There is an air of spontaneity and light-heartedness around this comedy. It shows in the making. According to Burns, the same day they went and purchased their camera and equipment at B&H photo in Manhattan, they decided to begin shooting.

On Demand Weekly’s Adam Schartoff sat with Ed to discuss “Newlyweds”. A year had transpired since they last discussed his last film, “Nice Guy Johnny” and the state of VOD.

On Demand Weekly (ODW): We spoke about a year ago when “Nice Guy Johnny” went on VOD. You were very outspoken and excited about your new distribution strategy of bypassing theatrical. It’s one year later, you’ve got a brand new movie called “Newlyweds” only days away from going on demand. How have your feelings evolved?

Ed Burns: Funny, Comcast is going to be releasing a press release soon, I heard, that says the viewership for independent film on demand has gone up 75% in the past 12 months. Read more

2011 Filmwax Favorites

Kirsten Dunst in a press still from Lars Von Trier's MELANCHOLIA

In no particular order and making no distinction between films which have found distribution or are still looking.   No distinction between docs or ficts either.  I loved these movies! I’ve also missed a ton of movies that I am still trying to catch up with, including “Take Shelter”, “Hugo”, “Young Adult”, “Tin Tin”, “Midnight in Paris”, “The Help”

“Melancholia” (Lars Von Trier)
“Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles” (Jon Foy)
“Green” (Sophia Takal)
“Putty Hill” (Matt Porterfield)
“Battle for Brooklyn” (Michael Galinsky & Suki Hawley)
“Drive” (Nicolas Winding Refn)
“Margin Call” (J.C. Chandor)
“Another Earth” (Mike Cahill)
“The Color Wheel” (Alex Ross Perry)
“Bombay Beach” (Alma Ha’rel)
“Bobby Fischer Against The World” (Liz Garbus)
“The Arbor” (Clio Barnard)
“Strongman” (Zachary Levy)
“Cold Weather” (Aaron Katz)

Filmmaker Heather Courtney & her subjects of WHERE SOLDIERS COME FROM; photo credit: Adam Schartoff © 2011

“Incendies” (Denis Villeneuve)
“Higher Ground” (Vera Fermiglia)
“Martha Marcy May Marlene” (Sean Durkin)
“Cedar Rapids” (Miguel Arteta)
“Septien” (Michael Tully)
“Where Soldiers Come From” (Heather Courtney)
“The Descendants” (Alexander Payne)
“Shame” (Steve McQueen)
“Weekend” (Andrew Haigh)
“Undefeated” (Daniel Lindsay & T.J. Martin)

Plenty of others well worth mentioning that were also terrific: “Rid of Me”, “Surrogate Valentine”, “The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975″, “Bill Cunningham New York”, “The Interrupters”, “Bellflower”, “Silver Bullets”, “Bad Fever”, “Catechism Cataclysm”, “If a Tree Falls”, “My Perestroika”, “Tabloid”, “Circumstance”, “Pina”, “The Skin I Live In”, & “The Artist”.

Holiday Crowd-Fundraising Tips from 7 Documentary Insiders

IMDb, to date, lists 7,262 documentaries released in 2011, and there’s no telling how many were made that remain unreleased. That’s a lot of money that must have been raised (or that will continue to appear on credit card statements). But fundraising hasn’t increased so much as it has just gone public with tools such as Kickstarter and IndieGoGo. Public fundraising campaigns that might have once been seen as acts of desperation now seem commonplace if not protocol, whether it’s for a story about a video game (“Minecraft: The Story of Mojang” — $200,000+ in crowdfunding) or a male porn mogul becoming a gay rights activist (“Seed Money: The Chuck Holmes Story “— $25,000 in crowdfunding). How do you raise money at a time of year when folks are spending their dollars on holiday gifts, travel, food or the past year’s underpaid taxes? The holiday season is no holiday for documentary producers looking to raise funds, but some documentarians say it’s as good a time as any.

Marshall Curry

Marshall Curry, Filmmaker (“If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front”) There’s so much competition to get funds from traditional doc funders (Gucci/Tribeca, Sundance, Cinereach) so sometimes it’s smart to also go off the beaten path. If you are making an “issue” documentary, try approaching funders who care about your issue but don’t usually fund films.

Read more

INTERVIEW: Sophia Takal

Sophia Takal loves movies. Loves making them and watching them. After the success of 2010’s “Gabi On The Roof in July” which was directed by then boyfriend/current fiancé, Lawrence Michael Levine, the two collaborated on the new “Green”. He acted & produced, she acted & directed.  A hit at this past season’s SxSW, the film then was shown at 2011 BAMcinemaFest and a number of other screenings around the States and in Europe. She was among Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces New Faces, and just this week was among Paste Magazine’s 20 Best New FIlmmakers of 2011.

Sophia and Lawrence have become friends and so I must add that I while both “Gabi on The Roof in July” (which is screening with The Filmwax Film Series on January 18th) and “Green” stand on their merit, I am absolutely biased. Lawrence, who directed “Gabi” and who stars in “Green” also plays a central role in the upcoming “Richard’s Wedding” (dir. Onur Tukel) in which I also have a minor role.

Adam Schartoff: “Green” is like an archetypal indie film. It’s really compelling and completely non-commercial film making. How do you suppose it would go over at the multiplex?

Sophia Takal: I don’t really know how anyone will react to this movie. I do feel like audiences must be tired of watching the same movie over and over again which is why it’s getting harder and harder to get people into movie theaters. There’s not that much stuff that feels new or challenging. I think if more films were put in front of them that were more challenging, they’d like them too. It’s just a matter of exposure.

Schartoff: You made an intensely personal film. Who do you think will respond strongest to it?

Lawrence Michael Levine & Sophia Takal at BAMcinemaFest screening of GREEN; photo credit: Adam Schartoff © 2011.

Takal: I think women identify pretty strongly with some of the themes. And I’m not just referring to the hipster women. I’ve had women come up to me at festivals, women in their 60s, who really understand the feelings behind the main character. So, that’s been exciting that more women are identifying with the movie who are not just my age or a similar background.

Schartoff: Were you always aware that this was a film that women in particular were going to strongly respond?

Takal: I forget at what point I began to realize that we were giving a voice to something that lots of women had expressed but I don’t know that I ever set out to do that. I think I wanted to explore something that other women around me were relating to. And from there I started thinking about my obligations to a larger audience. But it started off with just my own experience.

Schartoff: Do you think you achieved creating a message? A personal message?

Takal: I think so. That’s actually one thing I feel really good about. I put it out there and didn’t pretend these feelings didn’t exist. With “Green”, I think I made it okay for women to acknowledge that they have those feelings too. I think that’s one of the great thing about film or art in general, exposing something personal and not feeling so alienated. In this case, exposing something in myself that other people don’t necessarily want to acknowledge. Maybe those things are ugly or unattractive. Read more