director interviews

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director interviews ( alphabetically ) more coming



Gregory Bayne | My Year in DIY, Guerilla Filmmaking | The Filmmaker Magazine Blog

A short collection of observations from my year of DIY.

My name is Gregory Bayne, and in 2010 I stumbled into a full time “DIY” film career without a back up, without a net, and without, in many respects, a clue. And, though over the course of 2010 I ran two successful crowd-funding campaigns (http://bit.ly/drivenks, http://bit.ly/poiks), made a fully fan-funded documentary feature (that people really seem to love), and released, with my collaborator, a narrative feature…I made less than enough money to scrape by, and currently find myself about to start this process all over again.

While this very fact has caused me to question my sanity, as I look forward to 2011, I take solace in the mere fact that I’ve survived, and at the very least have a much clearer idea of what in the hell I’m doing going forward.

Here are some observations from my year of DIY (in movie reference form).

The Good – Let’s be honest…Independence feels good
There’s a reason, even in this post-indie boom era, that folks like you and me still (perhaps foolishly) indulge ourselves in the art of independent filmmaking. We have stories we want to tell, and we want to tell them the way we want to see them. We love the control, we do…we thrive on the idea of creating something that fully represents our vision, that is ours…recognizably ours. Obviously our general lack of funds, gear, and crew at times inhibits our ability to fully capture that vision, but as a counter-balance our independence, in production, post, and beyond affords us the ability to be nimble, to go with the flow, to make changes on the fly, to go with our gut. The cliché phrase “with great power comes great responsibility” is suddenly ringing through my brain, and yes, it’s true, some of the worst films have been the product of a singular controlling vision, but so have some of the best, and they are the reason we all want to make films.

More…My Year in DIY, Guerilla Filmmaking | The Filmmaker Magazine Blog.

Ken Burns | On Music in Film

CLAIRE DENIS, “WHITE MATERIAL” | The Filmmaker Magazine Blog

Plenty of associations come to mind when one thinks of a Claire Denis film; the French auteur’s work is intelligent, nuanced, and frankly, often slow. Denis approaches her films like a sculptor, beginning with the giant block of matter that is a life (or lives) and whittling the irrelevant away until she finds a character’s essence. So it comes as something a surprise that the final act of Denis’ latest, White Material, plays out as something of a suspense thriller; Denis has worked in genre filmmaking before (notably Trouble Every Day), but typically inverts and eschews genre convention. However, while the suspense does truly build as White Material revs up for an unforgettable climax, nowhere in the film’s taut narrative does Denis lose track of her passion for character study.

Indeed, White Material features a protagonist who is as formidable and complex as any the filmmaker has yet put onscreen. Brought to life by Isabelle Huppert, Denis’ Maria Vial is a passionate believer in her family’s heritage — a coffee plantation in an unnamed African country. She’s a wildly stubborn, irrational woman, refusing to leave the country as armed conflict between rebels and the army escalates; the rebels have no great affection for the country’s French-colonial contingent, and the army’s feelings are no warmer. As tensions go from bad to worse, Maria is faced with the sobering consequences of her decision to remain at her family’s plantation.

What’s striking about White Material is how the film toys with viewer identification subtly, yet masterfully; at the outset, the audience naturally sympathizes with Maria. This sympathy is no doubt engendered by the fact that the film’s director is a woman who herself lived in Africa for a long period of time (albeit in her childhood). As the film continues, the audience is forced to reexamine its attitude toward Maria, as well as her scheming ex-husband (Christopher Lambert) and troubled son (Nicolas Duvauchelle). I had the opportunity to discuss this, and more, with Denis at the Crosby Street Hotel recently.

More…CLAIRE DENIS, “WHITE MATERIAL” | The Filmmaker Magazine Blog.

Federico Fellini

Lixin Fan Interview, “Last Train Home” | filmmakermagazine.com

By Damon Smith

Not many first-time independent filmmakers land a coveted spot in the Sunday arts section of The New York Times and an interview on The Leonard Lopate Show. But 33-year-old Lixin Fan, a Chinese-born Canadian immigrant who splits his time between Montreal and Beijing, has generated a lot of interest among editors at major dailies and business publications alike for his documentary Last Train Home, a film about the annual New Year’s pilgrimage of 130 million migrant workers from Guangzhou province to their homes and seldom-seen families in the rural provinces. China’s status as an economic powerhouse regularly makes front-page news, along with stories about the country’s ongoing struggles to manage crises that seem to grow directly out of frustrations among its most disenfranchised. Recent docs have explored the heady, often devastating changes wrought in China by warp-speed industrialization and the construction of the Three Gorges Dam (the largest civil-engineering… more …

Interview with DocYard Founders: Ben Fowlie, Sara Archambault, Sean Flynn | NewEnglandFilm.com

In 2010, three artists decided to work together to create an environment in which filmmakers could not only interact and network with one another, but also with the audience. This collaboration between Ben Fowlie of the Camden International Film Festival, Sara Archambault of the LEF Foundation and Sean Flynn of Principle Pictures became the DocYard, a documentary series aimed at promoting and strengthening the creative community in the region.

This month the DocYard heads into its second series, which is taking place at the historic Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, MA, will showcase seven films every other Tuesday from February 1st to April 26th. The founding trio recently sat down to reflect on how the series first came into being and how they see it contributing to the filmmaking community.

K. Correia: What was the motivation behind creating The DocYard discussion series?

Ben Fowlie, Sara Archambault and Sean Flynn: All three of us have a strong interest and commitment to strengthening the documentary film community both in Boston and internationally. We realized that for a city with such a commitment and history to documentary film, Boston had no real ongoing event that allowed filmmakers and film lovers to come together to support each other and discuss their craft with other leading filmmakers from outside the city. One of the joys of creating events like this is that we get to bring some of our favorite films and filmmakers home to Boston and see how they resonate with our audiences.

The DocYard is a great event for them to meet experienced filmmakers in the city and start building relationships that may lead to that first internship or job in the industry. For instance, we continuously hear about filmmakers meeting up at The DocYard and going on to collaborate together. That is exactly what we were hoping for when we started to dream about this.

KC: Now in its second year, how has The DocYard series grown and where do you see it going in the future?

Fowlie, Archambault and Flynn: Our first season ran from June through October 2010. We screened festival favorites like Last Train Home and classics like Fred Wiseman’s Hospital. What we noticed was that there was a growing audience with a passion about documentary films and a great interest in coming together to discuss the form. We saw a major increase in attendance towards the end of our summer season and are excited about being able to capitalize on that growth and share more new and exciting work with our audiences.

We see the act of going to the theatre as an event that brings a community together. We’re hoping to keep that community growing by attracting more film students with an interest in documentary. We try to maintain the excitement of a festival setting throughout the year by bringing in visiting filmmakers, hosting post-screening discussions and continuing conversations at nearby restaurants and bars. Ideally, we are striving to make The DocYard the definitive series in Boston for the world’s best nonfiction cinema.

KC: How are films chosen for the series?

Fowlie, Archambault and Flynn: At this point The DocYard is a completely curatorial event, meaning that we do not take submissions. Most of the films that we screen are ones that one of us has experienced on the festival circuit and feel strongly that it should have a screening in Boston.

Even in a city this size, with all its art houses, there are a number of great films — especially docs — that go unnoticed or undistributed. While we only have about 16-20 slots a year that we can fill, we do feel that we’re providing programming that otherwise might not be available to the general public in a movie theatre — where these films are meant to be seen!

The interesting thing is that all three of us have different backgrounds in the documentary film world. Some of us fund them, some of us make them and some of us promote and program them, so between the three of us, not many films go unnoticed. What we do share is an obsession with nonfiction storytelling – and our different perspectives and personal interests have really made for some unique and well-rounded programming.

More…Interview with DocYard Founders: Ben Fowlie, Sara Archambault, Sean Flynn | NewEnglandFilm.com.

Mel Gibson and Jim Caviezel interview about Passion of the Christ

Jean-Luc Godard interview‬‏

Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck Talks with Charlie Rose

Director Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck discusses “The Lives of Others” and the story he wanted to tell in the film.

Hitchcock Loves Bikinis

Paul Greengrass in conversation with David Morrissey | Alfred Dunhill

http://www.dunhill.com

After hitting critical acclaim for his film ‘Bloody Sunday’ (2002) Paul Greengrass was asked to take the directors chair for the final two films in the ‘Bourne’ series, the latter of which – ‘The Bourne Ultimatum’ (2007) — lead to him being BAFTA nominated. It was at this time that Greengrass became recognised as one of the world’s leading directors.

Jim Jarmusch

David Lynch Favorites Movies and FilmMakers

Guy Maddin talks about his editing style (and YouTube!)

This is a clip from the Media Funhouse interview of Guy Maddin, which took place in May 2007 during the NYC run of “Brand Upon the Brain!” as a live theatrical experience (the film was shown at the Village East for one week’s worth of screenings with a live mini-orchestra, Foley artists, a castrato singer, and a live celebrity narrator). The mention of Lou Reed refers to Reed’s having narrated the film the night before this interview was shot. Maddin offers here his reflection on his work appearing on YouTube, and the way in which the editing in his last two films has been markedly different from the preceding pics.

Michael Mann interview

The World According to Errol Morris | CAA | UC Berkeley

The World According to Errol Morris

By Pat Joseph

An interrogation of the director of “The Fog of War” and “Standard Operating Procedure”

Errol Morris studied philosophy at Cal. He was on the doctoral track, but left in 1975 before receiving his Ph.D. It wasn’t a happy parting. Years later, in a New Yorker profile, he said he had wanted to write his thesis on “the insanity plea and movie monsters and certain mechanistic fantasies we have about criminal behavior,” and that his feelings were hurt “when Berkeley just sort of kicked my ass out of there.”

Academia’s loss was filmmaking’s gain. Today, Morris, who has directed eight feature-length documentaries, including A Brief History of Time, The Thin Blue Line, and Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control, is widely credited with reviving and revitalizing the form. At the same time, some critics have questioned his frequent use of reenactments.

He is probably best known for The Fog of War, his documentary on fellow Berkeley alum, Robert McNamara ’37, who served as Secretary of Defense under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. The film, which won an Academy Award in 2004, is an intimate and riveting portrait of the man many still blame for the escalation of the war in Vietnam.

His most recent film, Standard Operating Procedure, is ostensibly about the torture and abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib. More fundamentally, it is a careful, almost obsessive, examination of the notorious photographs that documented that abuse. “The Abu Ghraib photographs serve as both an exposé and a coverup,” Morris has written on his website. “An exposé, because the photographs offer us a glimpse of the horror of Abu Ghraib; and a coverup because they convinced journalists and readers they had seen everything, that there was no need to look further.”

Errol Morris recently spoke to California about his films, his writing, and the nature of truth. Toward the end of the interview he mentioned that he had been invited to give the commencement address to the Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism this spring. Almost wistfully, he said, “I hope I do a good job.”

PJ: You’ve been blogging at The New York Times website, writing these very long and involved essays. Can you sum up what they’re about?

EM: I would say all the pieces, in one way or another, concern the idea of truth and to what extent can we say that a photograph or a motion picture is true or false. A lot of what I’ve written was motivated, at least in part, by my unending annoyance with claims that if photographs are taken in a certain way or documentary films are made in a certain way, that they become more truthful as a result, as if somehow the style of a film’s presentation guaranteed its truthfulness. And I think it’s a very deep misconception about documentary film and also a very deep misconception about truth. Truth in my view is not subjective or relative.

I’m very fond of asking anyone who says they believe in the subjectivity or relativity of truth—two very different, equally repulsive postmodern claims—how they would feel if they were being strapped into an electric chair for crimes they didn’t commit. And as they’re protesting their innocence someone says to them, “Well, it doesn’t really matter because truth is relative, truth is contextual, truth is subjective. I can think you’re guilty, you can think you’re innocent. We’re all entitled to our opinion.” Well, this is a very, very bad idea.

It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about truth in science or truth in journalism—truth depends on a quest to try to discover what’s really out there, what really happened. And it isn’t given over to you by simply following a set of rules, any more than objectivity is given over to you by simply following the scientific method. It’s an endless quest, an endless gathering of and thinking about evidence, of framing hypotheses…. And most of my films have been an attempt to try to find truth and also an attempt to investigate how people avoid that entire enterprise and are satisfied with things that are patently absurd and false.

A common response to your blog- one you’ve confronted in your own responses- could be summed up as “Who cares?”

Of course they care enough to write down “Who cares?” and ridicule those who do.

And why should we care? Because knowledge is about trying to determine, to the best of our abilities, what is real and what is illusion, what is true and what is false.

More… The World According to Errol Morris | CAA.

Charles Minsky, ASC | American Cinematographer: ASC Close-Up:

ac0810_Minsky_C

Charles Minsky, ASC

When you were a child, what film made the strongest impression on you?
Lawrence of Arabia(1962). At 16, I worked as an usher at the Beverly Hills theater where it played in 70mm for nine months, and I was reminded every day of the power and scope of movies. I knew every image and all the music cues, and I could recite every line. More importantly, it changed the way I regarded film, because I never tired of watching it. That had never happened before.Which cinematographers, past or present, do you most admire, and why?
Freddie Young, ASC, BSC, who turned me around and made me see how images could transport you to a completely different world. John Alonzo, ASC, for his work on Chinatown — his handheld work and the polished gloss of L.A. Conrad Hall, ASC, for his brilliant and innovative vision on Searching for Bobby Fischer; his use of light, long lenses and color made the world of chess appear utterly magical.What sparked your interest in photography?
Blind luck. On my first job in the business, I was told to carry camera cases and help the camera assistant. I spent three months doing everything that was asked of me, and before I finished, I fell in love with the camera. I hadn’t taken so much as a Polaroid before, but suddenly I was fascinated by cinematography. My life changed in a matter of months. I got a Nikon F2 and took as many pictures as I could afford.Where did you train and/or study?
All of my film education was on the job. I graduated from the University of California-Los Angeles with a degree in political science but didn’t pay attention to film until that first job, three years after I graduated. I took two film classes, but they weren’t very interesting.Who were your early teachers or mentors?
As a camera assistant, I worked steadily for five years with a commercial director/cameraman named Melvin Sokolsky. I watched him and learned how to conceptualize a project. I also watched and learned about lighting. I also worked for years as an assistant in the camera departments at Universal and Warner Bros. I worked with [ASC members] Matt Leonetti, Joe Biroc and John Alonzo, and with Ray Villalobos.What are some of your key artistic influences?
I love photojournalism, especially Robert Capa, Sebastiao Salgado, and Tyler Hicks of the New York Times. I also love paintings and prints by Charles Sheeler, Ralston Crawford, Georgia O’Keeffe and Paul Strand.How did you get your first break in the business?
After working as a social worker and a waiter, I went back to school to study psychology. Out of boredom, I got a job on a low-budget project in San Diego — my father knew someone who knew someone who wanted to make a movie. I was hired as a gofer. I never looked back.What has been your most satisfying moment on a project?
Finding the center of the scene I am shooting and making sense of it. Cinematographers are storytellers, and we are always searching to make an idea into an image.Have you made any memorable blunders?
On the first job I got as a union assistant, I white-lighted 1000′ of film on the first day of prep. I thought it was the end of the world.What is the best professional advice you’ve ever received?
I’m not sure it’s the best advice, but when I first began working as a camera assistant, Joe Ruttenberg, ASC lived next door. He took me into his house one day and showed me his two Academy Awards and told me to become an editor, because they had more control of his art than he did. It didn’t deter me, but it made me aware that I wasn’t in complete control of the finished product. It’s a lesson I’m still learning.What recent books, films or artworks have inspired you?
I read a lot of mysteries and enjoy Ken Bruen, Robert Crais, Michael Connelly, Robert Parker and Richard Russo. I just finished reading all of Ken Haruf’s books, including Plainsong. Movies: I just watched The Lookout and (500) Days of Summer.Do you have any favorite genres, or genres you would like to try?
I love all kinds of detective stories and would love to shoot more of them. I’m also a huge fan of children’s stories.If you weren’t a cinematographer, what might you be doing instead?
Teaching. I love working with students and sharing some of the knowledge I’ve retained over the years.Which ASC cinematographers recommended you for membership?
John Toll, Robert Primes and Bing Sokolsky.How has ASC membership impacted your life and career?
I consider myself lucky to be in the ASC. It’s a very inclusive group of professionals. It’s a safe place to exchange ideas and thoughts, and we share problems and solutions. People want to be members, and, once admitted, we are open and trusting of each other. It makes me proud to be in the ASC.

more…The ASC — American Cinematographer: ASC Close-Up:.

Interview with Kingdom Country Productions Documentary Filmmaker Bess O’Brien on film “Ask Us Who We Are” | NewEnglandFilm.com

The Artist and the Activist: Bess O’Brien of Kingdom County Productions

By John DeCarli

“Who needs Hollywood?” This hypothetical question, which adorns the website of Vermont’s Kingdom County Productions also serves as the company’s motto. It’s a constant reminder that the closed-off studio system of Hollywood isn’t the only place to produce films. Kingdom County’s own backyard does just fine. After more than a dozen films, Kingdom County Productions remains dedicated to capturing the unique voice and spirit of their own part of the country. Ask Us Who We Are, their new documentary about the extraordinary people that comprise Vermont’s foster care system, is currently touring the Green Mountain State and will soon make its way into New England and beyond.

Bess O’Brien, the director of the film, started Kingdom County with her husband Jay in 1991 with the goal of giving the inhabitants of Vermont’s beautiful Northeast Kingdom a voice and dramatizing their stories. “Jay’s vision was to create stories that come right from the Northeast Kingdom and that resound with the people who live here,” O’Brien explains. In the early days of Kingdom Country, those stories came courtesy of local writer Howard Frank Mosher, whose novels inspired three of Jay O’Brien’s narrative feature films.

When Bess O’Brien herself began directing documentaries in 1993, she too was motivated by the same philosophy, and strove to illuminate important issues prevalent in Vermont. “For me, part of the vision is that filmmaking should be more local,” O’Brien says. “So much of the media that people — especially young people — see doesn’t come from where they come from, it comes from L.A. and the inner city. All that is great, but when you’re living in a rural environment you need stories that are from here.”

Over the years, O’Brien’s documentaries have provided this local media to the youth of Vermont, but more importantly, they’ve provided an opportunity for young people to speak for themselves and share their own stories. “Film is a way of empowering youth,” O’Brien says. “It gives them their voice and makes people take them seriously.” The forum doesn’t stop after the film has ended, however. As with her other documentaries, O’Brien is hosting discussions featuring subjects of Ask Us Who We Are after each showing, which she sees as “a really powerful part of the screening process.” The goal is not just to generate conversation around the issue of foster care in Vermont, but to allow the children affected by the system to voice their own concerns. “I can just see their self-esteem grow. They get excited about touring with the film, and it’s just a great thing for them to be a part of these discussions.”

MoreInterview with Kingdom Country Productions Documentary Filmmaker Bess O’Brien on film “Ask Us Who We Are” | NewEnglandFilm.com.

For more information about Kingdom County Productions, and about attending screenings of Ask Us Who We Are, please visit www.kingdomcounty.org/.

D.A. PENNEBAKER & CHRIS HEGEDUS, “KINGS OF PASTRY” | The Filmmaker Magazine Blog

By Melissa Silvestri

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

D.A. Pennebaker is a legend in the world of documentary filmmaking. A pioneer in the art of cinema verite, he first made his mark with the 1967 classic Don’t Look Back, chronicling Bob Dylan’s final acoustic tour in the U.K. He met his partner (in directing and matrimony) Chris Hegedus in the 1970s, and they have co-directed nearly 30 films together since 1977, including the Oscar-nominated The War Room and the Sundance entry Startup.com. Their latest collaboration is Kings of Pastry, a whirlwind peek into the M.O.F. competition, a French pastry chef contest in which 16 of the world’s best pastry chefs compete by making nearly 40 different kinds of pastries, including elaborate and often fragile sugar sculptures, all to be named the Meilleur Ouvrier de France, or the Best Craftsman of France. Kings of Pastry tracks the journey of French pastry chef Jacquy Pfeiffer, a world-renowned chef who runs the French Pastry School in Chicago, and dreams of joining the ranks of his elite mentors.

But Kings of Pastry is far from a Top Chef competition, where amateurs bicker and fight with one another only to create sub-par meals and win celebrity attention. These chefs are the best and know it too. They share a sense of camaraderie and respect with each other. The way that Pennebaker and Hegedus capture this collegiality is so palpable — whenever a delicate sugar sculpture is in danger of crumbling, or a judge shoots a critical glance, tension fills the screen.

Filmmaker spoke with Pennebaker and Hegedus in their New York office earlier this month. Kings of Pastry opens at the Film Forum in New York City today.

More … D.A. PENNEBAKER & CHRIS HEGEDUS, “KINGS OF PASTRY” | The Filmmaker Magazine Blog.

Satyajit Ray (1984)

Martin Scorsese on the Films of Roberto Rossellini

Martin Scorsese Interview

Ridley Scott: Searchlab Lecture Part 1

Conversations with History: Oliver Stone

Lucy Walker Interview, “Countdown to Zero” | filmmakermagazine.com

Since her widely acclaimed first feature Devil’s Playground debuted at Sundance in 2002, London native Lucy Walker (one of Filmmaker’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film that year) has distinguished herself as a resourceful documentarian with a discerning eye for character detail. A study of Amish adolescents sampling the forbidden fruits of the modern world during “rumspringa,” an elective time spent away from the strictures of their traditional religious community, Playground was an insightful, humanizing portrait of a little-seen, faintly understood social milieu. For her follow-up in 2006, Blindsight, Walker again took on an uncommon challenge, trailing a group of sightless Tibetan teens attempting to scale the treacherous Lhakpa Ri peak of Mount Everest under the more experienced guidance of a blind climber. Even prior to venturing into documentary, and not long after she’d left NYU’s graduate film program, Walker’s talent was already apparent, as she earned two Daytime Emmy nominations for her work on the children’s TV program Blue’s Clues. More recently, at Sundance 2010, Walker was one of the rare filmmakers to unveil two features simultaneously at the festival. Waste Land is a profile of renowned artist Vik Muniz as he creates art out of garbage at the world’s largest landfill on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, collaborating with other trash pickers. While this film, winner of an Amnesty International Prize at the Berlinale in February, merits all the praise it has received, her other equally compelling new doc, Countdown to Zero, has an urgency that cannot be ignored.

more … LUCY WALKER, “COUNTDOWN TO ZERO” | The Filmmaker Magazine Blog.

More Coming ……