Student Spotlight: Mark Schimmel’s KILL THE LIGHT

Current MFA in Film student, Mark Schimmel, just dropped the trailer for his new 22 min. narrative short film,  KILL THE LIGHT. Check it out below!

Cheryl, a mysterious woman left for dead on the side of the road is found by Ray, a county sweep who picks up road kill. Together they unravel the mystery of Cheryl’s haunted past.  

Directed by Schimmel (The Originals, Operation Snowplow, Geppetto’s Secret), KILL THE LIGHT features Coburn Goss (Man of Steel, Superman vs. Batman).

Other credits for KILL THE LIGHT include:
Written by Lee H. Ross (Downloading Nancy, Benjamin Troubles)
Cinematography by William R. Nielsen (Chicago Fire, Sirens, Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll)
Music by Angelo Panetta (Creedmoria, Mad Town)

To learn more about Mark and his work visit his website.  Also, check out the great article with Mark on MovieMaker about shooting a short and the filming process for KILL THE LIGHT.


We look forward to seeing where KILL THE LIGHT screens, and of course, what’s next for Mark!

Student Spotlight: Louisa de Cossy, Nasty Women Film Fest New England

VCFA MFA in Film student Louisa de Cossy, working with a team of women in her hometown of New Haven, Connecticut, helped to organize an exciting new film festival: Nasty Women Film Festival New England. The inaugural Nasty Women Film Fest took place this past November (2017) at the Ely Center for Contemporary Art. All proceeds from the event benefited Planned Parenthood of Southern New England (PPSNE), Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services (IRIS), and Make The Road CT.

Louisa de Cossy worked as organizer, advisory and technical support to the NWFF. In her words, de Cossy describes the initiative:

Nasty Women Connecticut is a collective of artists, activists and curators living in New Haven,
CT. In the Spring of 2017 we came together and welcomed the community to submit works of
art to an open call for works of art at the Institute Library in New Haven. It was at this incredibly
successful event that the idea to create a film festival in New England emerged, again bringing
diverse voices within our community, while utilizing the arts as the vehicle of communication.

This Film Festival would focus on issues affecting those on the fringes of our society; women,
Immigrants, LGBTQ and black community. This year NWCT (Nasty Women CT) teamed up with
ArtSpace City-Wide Open Studios which was based on the theme of “Fact vs Fiction.” Along
similar lines, the Nasty Women Film Event encouraged all film submissions to represent real
stories and experiences which centered or touched on the themes of women and LGBTQ issues,
racism, immigration and refugee issues. The organic growth of this Festival came to fruition
with support from the Arts Council, The Ely Center of Contemporary Art and ArtSpace. Our
primary focus and a goal we were able to realize was raising community awareness and funds
for Planned Parenthood, IRIS and Make the Road CT.

It was the spirit of collaboration and shared intent that fueled us throughout this process. One
of our main objectives was to show others how doable it is to run a Film Event in one’s
community and to bring people, young and old, together for discussion, art-making and
screenings. By giving voice to those who are disenfranchised and often silenced or
misrepresented, we sparked dialogue and critical conversation, while raising money and
awareness about issues we face firsthand.

(NWNH) invited all New England film makers, experienced or novice, to participate in our Nasty
Women Film Event, the first in North America. We included 15 films in total out of 65
submissions and screened these on opening night– as part of the project we also filmed
testimonials of what it means to individuals to be a “Nasty Woman.” We filmed these interviews
with members of the New Haven community during Open Studios. The film exhibition which
included these testimonials, provided a forum for communication about critical challenges
through the medium of moving image.Film-making is a critical agent of social change, and the
NWNH Film Event offered an opportunity for artists of all ages to share their voice, art, and, stories
in an open and inclusive forum. We plan to continue to foster community, raise awareness and
build this movement by hosting the film event each year and continuing to archive similar
testimonials which we will bring to colleges and universities in the coming year.

The full list of organizers include:

Luciana McClure, Lead Organizer
Debbie Hesse, Lead Organizer
Louisa de Cossy
Trish Clark
Abbie Kundishora
Laurie Sweet
Carolyn Paine
Valerie Garlick
Megan Manton

The Arts Paper published a great recap of the first night of the festival with the following quote from Lead Organizer, Luciana McClure:

I think right now, considering everything that’s happening from the current administration, there’s a need for solidarity … a need for people to feel that their voice matters. I think having the film fest allows people to hear other stories. It allows us to create a dialogue, engage with people that might not think the same way, might have different upbringings or just be different in a sense that we might not understand. We grow up watching films, it’s always been part of everyone’s life. People sit down and watch movies together. Storytelling and filmmaking has been part of our world for generations. It’s bringing people together, and I think it’s a positive way to bring people together in a common space to share ideas.

To learn more about this incredible collaboration visit their website. We look forward to seeing what 2018 has in store for Nasty Women Connecticut!

Process. Patience. Passion: Alan Berliner, October 2017 Residency Recap, Special Guest

The VCFA MFA in Film residency week is always an inspiring time for our students, and this past October was no exception. We were lucky enough to have the brilliant and affable Alan Berliner join us as a special guest. As is the usual format with our special guests, Alan gave a lecture in addition to a screening of his film with a q&a period following.

In his lecture, Alan shared wisdom about his filmmaking process, editing and what it means to be, as he says, “a collagist.” We viewed and discussed clips of his past work (WIDE AWAKE, EVERYWHERE AT ONCE), and got a special sneak peek of his newest (top secret, 40-years in the making!) project. Berliner provided candid and compelling insights into how he approaches his art and the creative process. Just a few pearls: trust the process, play, detour, and consider the “spectrum of revisions” by looking at things at the molecular level, in which he states, “I make molecules. Put them together. I’m making compounds…Everything has meaning.”

Below is an excerpt (teaser!) of his lecture for a small taste of what we were so fortunate to experience from his visit:

For those familiar with Alan’s work, specifically elements showcased in his film, WIDE AWAKE, you know about his copious collection of “subject matter” and the meticulous ways he catalogs all of these pieces he has gleaned from the world in his studio space in Manhattan. To get an idea the New York Times gives a brief description:

…Stacked on metal shelves that line two walls of the studio are hundreds of color-coded film cans and boxes. Red denotes black-and-white 16-millimeter footage; orange, sound; yellow, 16-millimeter color; blue, his family’s home movies; green, others’ home movies; violet, found photographs from around the world; gray, slides and transparencies. “It’s spectral, you see,” Mr. Berliner said.

Elsewhere along the shelves are subsections of emotional ephemera: discarded photo albums, love letters, suicide notes and journals, some found in flea markets, others in the trash. Cabinets are filled with wooden objects, pieces of carpet, flipbooks, toys, kaleidoscopes, zoetrope strips. Things for cutting. Things for pasting. Things for labeling. Things for measuring. A file cabinet is marked with the names of birds. Open a drawer, and the corresponding call rings out.

… Would he describe himself as obsessive? Pause. “Of course,” he said. “I’m not afraid of that word.”

It was fascinating to hear Alan discuss his “Living Laboratory” in detail while viewing his work, both in finished form and in rough cuts. Berliner is, above all things, an artist married to his “process, patience, and passion.”

For the screening Alan brought his film, FIRST COUSIN ONCE REMOVED. Trailer is below:

In a 2013 article in IndieWire, Berliner writes about viewing his films with audiences,

For me, watching my films along with the audience has always been a necessity — an intrinsic part of my understanding of what it means to be a filmmaker.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve always seized the opportunity to be a fly on the wall inside the real-life laboratory for which my film was intended: a group of perfect strangers intimately gathered in a dark room to watch something I’ve just spent years of my life putting together.

…I’ve always believed that finishing a film is just “the beginning” of the end of my filmmaking process.  I say “the beginning of the end,” because this new (and exciting) phase in the life of the film initiates a critically important part of my creative process — the chance to observe audience response as a way of gleaning insights both about my film and about filmmaking; things I’ll take with me when it’s time to make the next one.

About his film, FIRST COUSIN ONCE REMOVED, Berliner tells Documentary Magazine,

“The other thing about the film,” Berliner explains, “is that you start out doing one thing, and then because it’s just part of life and it’s just the way the mind works, you end up going to some other place and doing something else, or realizing something else, or getting insights that take you to other places. I made a film about the memory loss of a man who had a lot that he both needed and wanted to forget. At the end I say, ‘You are in a film, and millions of people are watching and you can say anything you want.’ And what does he say? ‘Remember how to forget.’ And in context, what he’s saying is what is true in life: If we couldn’t forget, we would all go insane. So forgetting is a very, very powerful force in both sanity, and in keeping the world in perspective.

Visit Alan at his website to learn more!

The New York Times has described Berliner’s work as “powerful, compelling and bittersweet… full of juicy conflict and contradiction, innovative in their cinematic technique, unpredictable in their structures… Alan Berliner illustrates the power of fine art to transform life.”

Alan Berliner’s uncanny ability to combine experimental cinema, artistic purpose, and popular appeal in compelling film essays has made him one of America’s most acclaimed independent filmmakers. Berliner’s films, FIRST COUSIN ONCE REMOVED (2013), WIDE AWAKE (2006), THE SWEETEST SOUND (2001), NOBODY’S BUSINESS (1996), INTIMATE STRANGER (1991), and THE FAMILY ALBUM (1986), have been broadcast all over the world, and received awards, prizes, and retrospectives at many major international film festivals.  Over the years, his films have become part of the core curriculum for documentary filmmaking and film history classes at universities worldwide. All of his films are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.

 In 2006, the International Documentary Association honored Berliner with an International Trailblazer Award “for creativity, innovation, originality, and breakthrough in the field of documentary cinema.” Berliner is a recipient of Rockefeller, Guggenheim, and Jerome Foundation Fellowships and multiple grants from the NEA, NYSCA, and NYFA.  He’s won three Emmy Awards and received seven Emmy nominations.

Or, as Alan might prefer:

Alan Berliner spends every day alone in a room with his stuff, trying to tell stories.

Faculty member Annie Howell’s film, CLAIRE IN MOTION, now on Showtime. Howell’s LITTLE BOXES also available to stream on Netflix.

Annie Howell’s 2016 film CLAIRE IN MOTION, co-written and co-directed with Lisa Robinson and starring Betsy Brandt (of Breaking Bad), is currently available to stream on Showtime. The film premiered at SXSW. Annie Howell is a faculty member of the VCFA MFA in film program.

CLAIRE IN MOTION is the second feature film from filmmaking team Lisa Robinson and Annie J. Howell. Exploring a short period of time inside one woman’s life-altering crisis, the story begins three weeks after math professor Claire Hunger’s husband has mysteriously disappeared, the police have ended their investigation and her son is beginning to grieve. The only person who hasn’t given up is Claire. Soon she discovers his troubling secrets, including an alluring yet manipulative graduate student with whom he had formed a close bond. As she digs deeper, Claire begins to lose her grip on how well she truly knew her husband and questions her own identity in the process. Claire in Motion twists the missing person thriller into an emotional take on uncertainty and loss.

Lisa Robinson and Annie J. Howell have crafted a transfixing, thoughtful thriller — where the directors’ deft maneuvering around the intimate performance of Betsy Brandt keeps you glued to the screen.
— Oakley Anderson-Moore, No Film School

What can one say about a film as perfect as Claire in Motion? With a script that subtly explores the realm of emotional conflict, and powerful performances from its ensemble of actors, the movie is a gentle tour-de-force about trauma and healing …. One emerges after its brief 80 minutes as if from an intense, cathartic dream, haunted and challenged by its raw truths, perhaps, but made all the stronger for them.
— Christopher Llewellyn Reed, Hammer to Nail

Howell also wrote the screenplay for LITTLE BOXES (2016), starring the late Nelsan Ellis and Melanie Lynskey. LITTLE BOXES can be viewed world-wide on Netflix. The film premiered at Tribeca and was the largest sale out of the festival in 2016.

The Voyeur, Revealed: An Interview with co-directors Josh Kuory and Myles Kane, PART II

Part II of our interview with co-directors, Josh Kuory and Myles Kane, on their new documentary, Voyeur. Voyeur premieres on Netflix December 1, 2017. To read the first part of this interview head on over here.

AZ: How did this film change from your original story line, especially in light of the controversies regarding fact checking/Talese’s denouncement and subsequent redaction? Were there any “oh shit” moments that came up in your filming where you had to drastically shift course?

Kuory: Well, Gay tried to the cancel the film a few times. It’s always complicated and it’s not uncommon for documentarians to have trials with their subjects. Gay’s a combustible figure and there were times when it was a long long process. We tried to make our intentions clear throughout, but to be honest,  we barely knew each other when we started this thing, and had to put ourselves in the shoes of a subject and trust them and have them trust us. Issues come up, you work to smooth them out, and you know, a lot of stuff hits the cutting room floor–maybe it wasn’t relevant to the story, or it’s a very interesting idea that just couldn’t fit in the 90-95 minute format. A lot of different things… but we made it…

Kane: I think it’s what makes the film so unique feeling because even though we got in with Gay, the fact was, when we started, there was zero guarantee that we’d ever meet the Voyeur. We shot for months before meeting him, and it was all Gay who figured out how to get us out there to meet him, and then during that time–2 ½-3 years–we could only access Gerald through Gay. And then of course, with the New Yorker involved, and the book deal, it is amazing to everyone that we were able to remain under the radar and that all these outside corporate and business interests didn’t really get in the way or try to stop us, which is always a worry, especially with a high profile writer.

AZ: Now that the film is finished and out in the world, how do the two men feel about the the final product? Do they like the film?

Kuory: Yeah, yeah, I think so… We obviously wanted to show both Gay and Gerald the film before our world premiere at the New York Film Festival. We rented a private cinema for Gay and Nan Talese, his wife, and some of his book publishers came, and it was definitely a tense cold thing, not a lot of laughter happening, but, ultimately at the end of the day, he, you know,  clapped. You could tell that he felt, not conflicted, but that it was a tough watch for him. He consistently said that it’s a very honest film although he didn’t love a lot of what’s in it, it’s raw, but he respects it because he respects non-fiction. He said it was “tough, but fair.”

And similarly Gerald, we also rented a cinema…We had to fly out to Denver because Gerald doesn’t travel. Anita was there, and his son was there, actually. And, they laughed a lot. [Laughs] For them it was also similarly tough. We went out to dinner afterwards, and Gerald said it was really tough to watch certain segments, but again, he only thought we did a good job. It’s funny–this got a laugh at the world premiere– because one of the things he said was that it was very “professionally done,” and everyone laughed.

AZ: Josh, you worked on this film while pursuing your MFA in Film at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. How did being in the program at the time help shape the outcome of the final product and your trajectory as a filmmaker in general?

Kuory:  Myles and I had been making movies together for a long time, but I was interested in getting my MFA so that I could  teach full time. Looking around at different MFA programs, the VCFA model attracted me because of the low residency component and its affordability. I also recognized a lot of the faculty members. In the program, I was able to work with some amazing filmmakers that I had already known about and respected. I was familiar with their work and it was just really great to have the opportunity to sit down and bounce ideas and to workshop different cuts during a time in our project when we were waiting around for the article and the book to get released. It was a really good opportunity to kind of develop the footage we had and really understand what we had.

Another big thing that came from my time at VCFA, was one of my faculty advisors, Jeremiah Zagar–who Myles and I had both known prior to my time at VCFA, but I had the opportunity to work with him in the program–when he first saw our 14 minutes fundraising trailer, he was really excited. He, and his colleague Jeremy Yaches, came on board as executive producers and were both instrumental in helping us creatively get the film to hit its potential. They also connected us with Impact Partners who became our main funders…our creative team just really started to expand at that point and hit another level.

AZ: What’s next for you?

Kuory: We don’t know! [Laughs] Everyone thinks we’re trying to hide ideas from them, but we’re not. We have a laundry list of things and some of them are good, some of them are OK, and some are maybe…who knows? We’re meeting again this weekend.

AZ: Thank you both for taking the time. Congratulations on Voyeur’s Netflix premiere and we can’t wait to see what your next project will be!


Voyeur is now available to stream on Netflix!. Check out the trailer: