Beasts of the Southern Wild – Nominated for Best Picture Oscar!

Beasts of the Southern Wild has been nominated for Best Picture! I had a chance to interview director Benh Zeitlin over the summer and write about the film for On Tap.

Beasts was a labor of love for Zeitlin – he spent two years editing it – and the film features non-actors in lead roles, like Quvenzhané Wallis, who was nominated for an Oscar for an Actress in a Leading Role. This brave little kid is the heart and soul of the movie, the eyes through which we experience the story.

Beasts of the Southern Wild is a crazy film and unlike anything else you’ll see all year.

How to Lead a Fascinating Life but Make No Money: My Year in Writing

Lawless poster with Tom HardyThe more interesting the work, the less it pays – that’s the rule I uncovered in 2012. It’s the reason why technical writers are paid well (you want to write a help guide for Sharepoint?) while film reviewers are paid poorly (you get to see movies!).

However, it was a great learning experience to meet so many creative folks. Truly inspiring to meet people who had written books, made movies and created web sites.

The highlight of the year was the work I did for On Tap, the free monthly entertainment magazine in DC. There’s still a special thrill to see your name in print that no digital facsimile can replace. I wrote about Lawless, Beasts of the Southern Wild, The Dark Knight Rises, V/H/S, Mansome and The Sessions. Continue reading “How to Lead a Fascinating Life but Make No Money: My Year in Writing”

DC Shorts – Early Deadline Jan 31

filmmakers at the DC Shorts City View party
Filmmakers at the DC Shorts City View party

Enter your short film or screenplay in DC Shorts! Early deadline is Jan 31, 2013.

The DC Shorts Film Festival and Screenplay Competition is the largest short film event on the East Coast. Now in its tenth year, DC Shorts will showcase 150 films from around the globe — including the largest collection of Russian short films to ever be screened in the U.S (new this year). Hundreds of filmmakers and thousands of audience members to mix, mingle and explore the art of short cinema. DC Shorts takes place over ten days in September.

I’ve been a film judge, screenplay contest judge, screenplay competition manager, post-film Q&A moderator and photo coordinator. You name the job, I’ve probably done it. And the term I would use to describe this festival is “Quality.” Attendees and filmmakers have all remarked on what a professionally produced event this. Festival director Jon Gann prides himself on treating filmmakers well – it’s really a festival for them.

If you’re a screenwriter, getting into the festival means seeing your work performed before a live audience. Plus, you could win $2000 to turn your short script into a film. (Here are my tips on how to win the screenplay competition.)

Filmmakers can count on premieres before sophisticated cinephiles, as well as making connections with fellow directors. And some great parties.

It’s no wonder that MovieMaker magazine called DC Shorts “one of 25 festivals worth the entry fee”.

I strongly encourage local screenwriters and filmmakers to enter the competition. We love to highlight talented people from the greater Washington area. American University students have done particularly well in the competition.

So save yourself some cash and take advantage of the DC Shorts early deadline of January 31. Enter your short film or screenplay and good luck!

Behind the Screens – Read it for Film Festival Secrets

Behind the ScreensDo you dream of walking down the red carpet? Want to see your film on a big screen?

Then get Behind the Screens, the new book by Jon Gann that uncovers what film festival programmers really think. Gann, the founder of the DC Shorts Film Festival, has interviewed the directors of top festivals from around the country, including:

• Ashland Independent Film Festival
• Byron Bay International Film Festival
• CineSlam/Pride of the Ocean
• DC Shorts Film Festival
• LA Comedy Shorts Film Festival
• Napa Valley Film Festival
• New York Film Festival
• Prescott Film Festival
• Razor Reel Fantastic Film Festival
• Scottsdale Film Festival
• Seattle International Film Festival
• Sonoma International Film Festival
• Sundance Film Festival
• Tallgrass Film Festival
• Washington Jewish Film Festival

Every film festival is different. Rather than blindly submitting your film to every festival you’ve ever heard of (and paying hundreds in submission fees), spend $20 to get this book. Do some research and target the right festival for your film. Behind the Screens reveals what programmers are really looking for, in their own words.

Full disclosure – I’m a friend of Jon’s and have been a judge for DC Shorts for years. DC Shorts is unique in that anyone can volunteer to be a judge. The films selected reflect an urban sensibility and a preference for comedy. A lengthy documentary on deforestation wouldn’t be a good choice for DC Shorts while a “meet-cute” flick set in Dupont Circle would be ideal.

Other festivals have their own unique attributes, shaped by the festival director and the audience. They have their own culture. Which is why it makes sense to get a book like Behind the Screens, where you get narrative information beyond what you will find in a directory of film festivals.

V/H/S: A Horror Flick for the YouTube Generation

vhsIn the latest issue of On Tap, I have an article on V/H/S, a new horror anthology that opens this week. In this bloody collection of short films, a group of thieves come across a stack of mysterious videocassettes, each more disturbing than the last.

Lots o’ blood, gore, genital removal, sex, nudity, impaling, screaming, running and shakycam. But if you’re into that kind of thing, then this is the movie for you.

I screened the movie on a laptop and had the chance to interview Joe Swanberg, one of the directors of V/H/S. His short film is pretty interesting – it’s a horror flick told by Skype, where you watch a guy and his girlfriend chat online, as things steadily go wrong. Directing two actors who were both on the screen for the entire movie was a real challenge, according to Swanberg.

It’s always interesting talking to directors – Swanberg shared the thrill of seeing his flick on the screen at Sundance. When he heard the shocked gasps of 800 people in a theater, he knew he had succeeded.

Photographing the DC Shorts Film Festival

I was a Photo Coordinator for the DC Shorts Film Festival, responsible capturing images of the event and managing the work of twenty volunteer photographers. DC Shorts is a ten-day long festival of short film that takes places annually in Washington, DC.

You probably think that photographing a film festival is a lot like this:

Filmmakers at 2012 Grand Bash
Filmmakers at 2012 Grand Bash | photo by Joe Flood

Lots of pictures of pretty people enjoying themselves in a glamorous setting. Which it was. But behind the scenes it was:

bag of a photo coordinator
Bag of a Photo Coordinator | photo by Joe Flood

Continue reading “Photographing the DC Shorts Film Festival”

Interview with Morgan Spurlock, Director of Mansome

Morgan Spurlock
Morgan Spurlock

What makes a man?

I had a chance to interview Morgan Spurlock for On Tap magazine. The director of Super Size Me discusses his new documentary Mansome, which explores male vanity in modern America.

From beard contests to the epidemic of manscaping, being a dude has become a lot more complicated.

Beasts of the Southern Wild – A Mad Fever Dream of a Movie

Check out my article on Beasts of the Southern Wild for On Tap. It’s one of the most visually stunning movies I’ve seen all year. Set among a crew of misfits in the Louisiana swamps, it’s a harrowing look at environmental calamity, with the type of real-life danger that you rarely see in films these days.

Alpha Wins AU Visions Short Screenplay Contest

I was fortunate to be a judge for the short screenplay category of the American University Visions 2012 competition. As an AU grad and screenwriter, I was glad to help.

In past years, my fellow judges and I agonized over the decision-making process. This year, it was easy. We all agreed on one script.

That screenplay was Alpha by Christina Pamies. She wrote a thought-provoking science fiction script about alternate dimensions. In her story, people have found a way to travel from the “alpha” and “beta” worlds, encountering different and less perfect versions of themselves. Alternate Services is responsible for returning these “rogues” to their own dimension.

Alpha by Christine Pamies

It’s hard to write a sci-fi story that you haven’t seen a hundred times before. Alpha kept my interest, especially as I realized that our world was the “beta” reality. Pamies did a great job at making this concept seem plausible and tragic.

One of the other judges described the script as “emotionally mature” which was an apt description. While the scenario was sci-fi, characters grappled with outlandish problems of identity and reality like actual people would. In other words, it’s believable, the most important test for science fiction.

See the rest of the winners of Visions 2012.

Also of note is Pretty All the Time by Annie Coburn, which won for Outstanding Narrative Production. This is a great script too – it won the 2009 DC Shorts Screenplay Competition – and now has begun its life as a short film on the festival circuit.

DC Shorts Screenplay Competition Open for Entries

Can you write a simple ten-page film script? Enter the DC Shorts Screenplay Competition and you could win $2000 and see your vision on the big screen.

And I’ll help – here are my tips on how to win the competition. I’ve been a judge for the competition for several years now.

You’ve got all winter to put your story on the page. The early deadline for the competition is March 31.