Best Film School Today

As a young person wanting to enter the film industry, one of my big questions was always whether or not to go to film school. And if so, which one?  There are plenty of stories about people who learned everything on their own.  But I felt I would like the help of some formal training and in the end, I did a very theory-laden degree from the Sorbonne. An NYU screenwriting summer school class complemented this experience.  It gave me great exposure to films from around the world.

Before deciding to do that course, I inquired about a few other well known schools:

FTII in Pune, India – where many prominent people in Bollywood went

NYU – where Spike Lee, Joel Coen, Martin Scorsese and countless other legends trained

FAMU – in Prague, Milos Forman’s alma mater.

Lodz (pronounced Woodge) where Polanski and everyone from Poland went. This five year program even attracts international students who spend an entire year learning Polish before they start.

Den Danske Filmschole – where Lars Von Trier and other Dogma guys developed their style

This week at the festival in Clermont-Ferrand, I heard about the KHM in Germany. If I knew about this place twenty years ago, I’d have tried to attend. There’s still time. Maybe in twenty years, I can get a job teaching there.

The KHM of Cologne (Kunsthochschule für Medien Köln) is a truly unique school, founded on a novel idea – bringing together the teaching of artistic disciplines with media and science courses. In just 20 years, the school has become a goldmine of talent, clearly illustrated in the large numbers of international prizes received annually. Here’s a behind the scenes look at their success.

Founded in 1990 as an unprecedented teaching experiment, the KHM of Cologne continues its mission to educate future artists. « From the start, the school has provided a unique course load which combines arts, new media, and sciences… It all started with a key observation. We noticed that in the preceding twenty years, media and new technology have tended to mix and interact with art, offering exciting new possibilities, » remarks Ute Dilger, a representative of KHM.

You could even say that this wish to unify « Everything » in the process of making images is reminiscent of the days of the « Bauhaus » movement. « We are trying to best prepare our students for the future ».

Although KHM is based in Cologne, a city which is home to many television channels and media companies, the school is entirely government funded. Admissions applications are free of cost, and students are selected based on the submission of portfolios. « Our students should find the form of artistic expression which is best suited to them, and by providing them with such a diverse range of subjects, we help them make that choice, » explains Raimund Krumme, professor at the KHM. « If you were to only learn in one area of creative expression, you would definitely limit your creative potential. »

The school features an abundance of great professors, and the diversity of the teachers is another huge plus. « The professors are very accessible and we do so many things with them, » says Pauline Flory, a French student at the KHM. It’s an intense experience. Learning is constant, and being at the KHM means applying yourself all the time. « The typical student of our school has a great curiosity and a hunger to try all kinds of things to see what is possible. Our students are quite astonishing, and really unique, » beams Raimund Krumme. This one of a kind concept attracts students and teachers from all over the world.

With fifteen films in competition at Clermont-Ferrand and two Oscars for Best Short Film, the Kunsthochschule für Medien of Cologne remains a few strides ahead of other schools.

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2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Fresher than ever.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 4,400 times in 2010. That’s about 11 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 8 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 41 posts. There were 7 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 1mb.

The busiest day of the year was March 8th with 155 views. The most popular post that day was Interview on the Web Series.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were alphainventions.com, facebook.com, mysteo.com, twitter.com, and simplicitas09.blogspot.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for stephen king, david lynch, the last picture show, kartik singh, and last picture show.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Interview on the Web Series March 2010

2

Stephen King “On Writing” September 2008
4 comments

3

Lynch: Not Moving the Story Forward July 2009
1 comment

4

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995) April 2008
1 comment

5

Best Indian Short Films February 2009
2 comments

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TOP 5 Reasons YOU Should Submit Your Film To The 2011 Kansas City FilmFest

https://i1.wp.com/kcjubilee.org/files/2009/03/amc_mainstreet_square.jpg

1. Times a wastin’ – the next due date is December 15th.

2. Your entry fee is discounted if you upload your screener.

3. Our final judges include senior programmers from Sundance, Toronto, SXSW, Slamdance.

4. Your film may screen in the state of the art, all digital AMC Mainstreet Theatre.

5. It’s our 15th anniversary and the celebration is going to be a real barnburner.

Kansas City FilmFest 2011 – Call for Entries – Our 15th year celebrating independent filmmaking.

Presented by the Kansas City Filmmakers Jubilee

All filmmakers, anywhere, are invited to submit your short or feature film – drama, comedy, documentary, animation, or experimental work. It must have been completed since January 1, 2009.

DEADLINE DATE:  December 15, 2010  (Other deadlines: 1/15/2011 & 2/04/2011)

ENTRY FEES:  Vary by short or feature and increase with each new deadline date

SAVE $5 on your entry fee by UPLOADING your screener to our secure website and save on postage too. If you prefer to send us a copy – SEND your screener (DVD-region 1), check, entry form to: KC Jubilee, 4826 W. 77th Terrace, Prairie Village, KS 66208-4321

EARN $5 for each filmmaker you get to submit a film. JOIN our Jubilee Affiliate Program. CLICK HERE to sign up!

Go to our website – kcjubilee.org- for complete details, entry form, and pay fee online. You may also submit through WAB.

Check out our special CinemaJAZZ division if you have made a work (short or feature) inspired by JAZZ

Kansas City FilmFest is scheduled for April 6-10, 2011.

Visiting filmmakers will include – Andy Anderson, Elvis Mitchell

Jurors will include senior programmers from Sundance, Slamdance, SXSW, and the Toronto International Film Festival.

If you have any questions – call 913-649-0244 or email: kcjub@kcjubilee.org

Fred Andrews
President, KC Filmmakers Jubilee
kcjub@kcjubilee.org
kcjubilee.org
kcfilmfest.org

PS – This is an awesome festival.  If you want to hear more about my experience with this festival (I have shown four times here, and I won Best Narrative Film in 2008), drop me a comment here or drop me a line by e-mail.  Kartik

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John Hughes really was Peter Pan, until 1987

This week, I stumbled upon a Breakfast Club audio commentary done after John Hughes’ death.  In it, Judd Nelson and Anthony Michael Hall share stories about Hughes.  They marvel together at how plugged in to teen life he was.  To illustrate, Nelson recounts that in Sixteen Candles, Hughes added a detail to the props: Molly Ringwald’s notebook had The Psychedelic Furs written on it.  The amazing thing is that at that time, this band had yet to record their first album!  How do you get so up on teen culture?  To what lengths did he have to go to discover bands and teen lifestyle?  Clearly, it was his passion.  And it was not his generation.  He was in his 30’s when he made these movies:  34 on Sixteen Candles, 37 on Some Kind of Wonderful.  Was it an adamant refusal to grow up, to become the adult, the enemy?

I don’t know many filmmakers who steep themselves in youth culture.  While Larry Clark and Gus Van Sant come to mind, their films are dark and sometimes perverse.  They are like creepy old guys hanging out with kids.  It’s like, “Who’s the old dude?”  These guys have made some good films, but they are not films I care to see more than once.  And their relationship to youth culture comes off as a little bit pathetic and gross.

It wasn’t like that with Hughes.  His films soar with humor, life, emotion and well-observed quirkiness.  He was not a cultural tourist or cultural vampire.  There was no trying to be a teenager.  He WAS a teenage, and not only that, he was the coolest teen of them all.

Then in 1987, his career took a sharp turn.  Hughes shifted away from these teen films to focus on movies that would cross over beyond teenagers to all demographics.  And successfully: 1990’s Home Alone remains the top-grossing comedy of all time.

What changed?

Had he said everything he wanted to about teen life?  Maybe.  But I cannot help noticing that by “growing up”, he also moved into a life fraught with “adult” problems: pressure to succeed, conflict with Hollywood, and eventually, a retreat from public life altogether.  It’s a pretty high price to pay.

Below is the Op-Ed by Molly Ringwald, published in the New York Times on August 11, 2009.

ps – This week is Thanksgiving.  If you don’t know Planes Trains  and Automobiles, check it out!  Careful though.  While it will definitely make you laugh,  it may also make you cry.  You’ve been warned.

THE NEVERLAND CLUB

In life, there is always that special person who shapes who you are, who helps to determine the person you become. Very often it’s a teacher, a mentor of some kind. For me, that person was John Hughes. Along with the rest of the world, I was stunned when I learned that he had died of a heart attack last week at 59.

Not long after hearing the horrible news, I found myself talking on the phone to Anthony Michael Hall, my friend and co-star in several of the movies John directed. His experiences mirror mine to a large extent. Both of us were catapulted from obscurity and planted in the American consciousness through the films that we did with John. Michael, as he prefers to be called, will be forever associated with “geekdom” just as I will always be the girl whose 16th birthday is forgotten. But for both of us, what really matters is less the mark that these films left on the world than the experience of making them with John, the mark it made on us.

We stayed on the phone for a while reminiscing about our old friend and mentor. Since the days of John’s death, we have both been inundated with missives from friends and acquaintances, sending us their condolences the way you would for a close family member. Yet the strange thing is, neither of us had talked to John in more than 20 years.

Most everyone knows that John retreated from Hollywood and became a sort of J.D. Salinger for Generation X. But really, sometime before then, he had retreated from us and from the kinds of movies that he had made with us. I still believe that the Hughes films of which both Michael and I were a part (specifically “Sixteen Candles” and “The Breakfast Club”) were the most deeply personal expressions of John’s. In retrospect, I feel that we were sort of avatars for him, acting out the different parts of his life — improving upon it, perhaps. In those movies, he always got the last word. He always got the girl.

None of the films that he made subsequently had the same kind of personal feeling to me. They were funny, yes, wildly successful, to be sure, but I recognized very little of the John I knew in them, of his youthful, urgent, unmistakable vulnerability. It was like his heart had closed, or at least was no longer open for public view. A darker spin can be gleaned from the words John put into the mouth of Allison in “The Breakfast Club”: “When you grow up … your heart dies.”

I’m speaking metaphorically, of course. Though it does seem sadly poignant that physically, at least, John’s heart really did die. It also seems undeniably meaningful: His was a heavy heart, deeply sensitive, prone to injury — easily broken.

Most people who knew John knew that he was able to hold a grudge longer than anyone — his grudges were almost supernatural things, enduring for years, even decades. Michael suspects that he was never forgiven for turning down parts in “Pretty in Pink” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” I turned down later films as well. Not because I didn’t want to work with John anymore — I loved working with him, more than anyone before or since.

John saw something in me that I didn’t even see in myself. He had complete confidence in me as an actor, which was an extraordinary and heady sensation for anyone, let alone a 16-year-old girl. I did some of my best work with him. How could I not? He continually told me that I was the best, and because of my undying respect for him and his judgment, how could I have not believed him?

Eventually, though, I felt that I needed to work with other people as well. I wanted to grow up, something I felt (rightly or wrongly) I couldn’t do while working with John. Sometimes I wonder if that was what he found so unforgivable. We were like the Darling children when they made the decision to leave Neverland. And John was Peter Pan, warning us that if we left we could never come back. And, true to his word, not only were we unable to return, but he went one step further. He did away with Neverland itself.

“I just remember how fun it all was,” Michael said on the phone.

It was: the concerts he took us to (the blues great Junior Wells at Kingston Mines in Chicago), the endless mixed tapes he made for us and, most of all, the work itself. It doesn’t even seem like you should be able to call it “work” because we enjoyed it so much.

There’s a scene in “Sixteen Candles” where my character, Samantha, and Michael’s character, “the geek,” have a heart-to-heart talk. The scene lasts all of six minutes, but it took us days to film because we were all laughing too hard. John, too. He sat under the camera — his permanent place before directors retreated to the video monitor — while the assistant directors stood around rolling their eyes waiting for him to stop laughing and reprimand “the kids.” But how could he? He was one of us.

About 15 years ago, I wrote John from Paris, where I was living, to tell him how important he was to me. I had been on a François Truffaut kick and had just watched the series of “Antoine Doinel” films that he had made with the actor Jean-Pierre Léaud. There was something in the connection of actor and director that I recognized in us, particularly in the first film of the series, “400 Blows.”

After Truffaut died, I heard that Jean-Pierre Léaud had suffered a kind of breakdown, going so far as to drop flower pots on people from high-storied buildings. This is most likely a rumor, French film lore, but I think I now understand how painful it is to lose someone like that. John was my Truffaut. A week after I sent my letter, I received a bouquet of flowers as big as my apartment from John, thanking me for writing. I was so relieved to know that I had gotten through to him, and I feel grateful now for that sense of closure.

Toward the end of my phone call with Michael, we spent a little time catching up on mutual friends and family. I told him that my 5-year-old daughter, Mathilda, had just secured the part that she wanted in her theater camp — Tiger Lily, the Indian princess in “Peter Pan.” Michael made me promise to invite him to Mathilda’s debut as a fellow thespian. So in a few weeks we’ll drive to the theater and spend a couple of hours with Tiger Lily, Peter, Wendy and the Lost Boys.

Turns out, you can return to Neverland. At least for a little while.

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Callback Trailer

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FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions – Callback

1. What was the budget?

Callback is a no-budget feature.  Our goal was to get through production for under 5,000 euros.  And we almost did.  Had it not been for crashing the car, we would have stayed in that budget range.  We took a setback on  that one.  But all told, even with post-production and marketing, we are still at about 10,000 euros or $13,000.

2. It says France-USA.  Are you American or French?

This is an English language movie.  I am American, but I have been based in Paris for 15 years.  I arrived in France for film school and have been here ever since.  But I am interested in reaching an American audience, hence the film shot in France, but in English.

3. So I won’t have to read subtitles in this movie?

I should warn you, there is one short scene in French, but it only lasts a couple of minutes.  And it is subtitled.

4. You crashed a car?

Yes.  And we were filming when the accident happened!  No, the accident was not at all part of the story.  And fortunately no one was hurt.  You can read all about it in “No animals were harmed in the making of this movie, but a priceless German sportscar was”.  The book details the making of Callback.  The moral of the story for young filmmakers is this: get insurance and read the fine print to see what exactly gets covered.  If you know you need something special or extra, negotiate to get it.

5. Is this a mumblecore movie?

No.  Despite the low-budget of Callback, I just wanted to make a drama, not connected with the recent movement known as mumblecore.  If people want to call it that, feel free.  It was not my intention.

6. What were your influences?

John Cassavetes’ A Woman Under the Influence.  And the Dogma films from Denmark, especially Open Hearts by Susanne Bier.

7. Was Callback a Dogma movie?

Not quite.  We do use music.  And we also had artificial light sources in the movie.  And we picked costumes for the lead actors.  If you removed these three points, we would qualify for Dogma status.

8. Is Enrico Felucci a reference to Fellini?  To Bernardo Bertolucci?

Neither actually.  It references one of my all time favorite films, Douglas Sirk’s Imitation of Life.  In it, the Lana Turner plays an actress who lands a big role in the Enrico Felucci picture.  She then has to decide if she is willing to give up everything to be in the movie.  Not unlike what happens to Grace in Callback.

9. Why another movie about Hollywood?

There have been a lot of great films done about the movie business.  Some of my favorites are The Player, Living in Oblivion, Swimming With Sharks, Bowfinger and True Romance.  But when it came to Callback, I was not interested in dissecting or poking fun at Hollywood.  What mattered most to me was to show what Hollywood represents for actors.  It’s the ultimate stage.  If you make a big splash there, you could have an amazing career.  People know that, and not surprisingly, many are prepared to do any and everything necessary to land that role in a big Hollywood movie.  All actors are not like Grace, but that type of actor is out there.  I wanted to make a movie that honors the struggle, not just of those actors, but all actors.

10. Was there much improvisation?

I love the freedom that can come with improvisation, and I try to use it whenever I can.  Though most of what you see is scripted, within that frame, there are times when the actors used their own words and it was exciting.  When an actor is relaxed and really believes what is going on around him, the words that spontaneously come to him bring a truth that goes far beyong anything I could write.  I am grateful to my actors for taking that journey and trusting me.

11. Any future projects?

I am in development on my second feature.  And I recently received a public grant in France to make a short film dealing with Alzheimer’s disease.  Beyond that, I continue acting when parts come my way, and I do a lot of script doctoring.  And this fall will be my fourth year of mentoring high schoolers making their first short films.

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September 17 (3:30pm) & 19 (3:45pm), AMC 34th St. NYC

Coming this month to New York City, the first screenings of my debut feature film Callback, as part of the Urbanworld Film Festival.  Tickets are $13.50 and can be bought at the door or online.  Visit http://www.urbanworld.com for more information.  See you there!

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