Alumnus James Curry’s (’17) documentary MASTERJAM screens at the UFVA Conference

Alumnus James Curry‘s thesis documentary project, MASTERJAM, will screen at the UFVA (University Film and Video Association) Conference July 24th, 2018 in New Mexico.

$h!tstorm. snafu. fubar. clusterfu ©k. masterjam. The fallout of a sibling’s suicide on a family, the accelerated deaths of the parents and the investigation into the root cause.

Check out an excerpt of the film below:

Congrats James! It’s so exciting to see this film making the festival rounds!

Till Schauder’s REGGAE BOYZ, European premiere at Krakow Film Festival, nominated for Best Documentary

REGGAE BOYZ, a film by VCFA MFA in Film faculty member Till Schauder, has it’s European premiere at the Krakow Film Festival (2018) this week. The film is nominated for Best Documentary at the festival. The film screens Wednesday May 30, 1:30 p.m.Pod Baranami Cinema  and Friday June 1, 8:00 p.m.ARS (followed by a Q&A).

“Without a doubt one of the funnest and most entertaining documentaries in years” filmdienst.de

 


Plagued with one of the highest murder rates in the world, Jamaica tries to inspire its populace by qualifying their national soccer team – the “Reggae Boyz” – for the World Cup. When their efforts start to fall short, a colorful German coach enters the scene and forms an unlikely alliance with legendary reggae musicians and a Rastafarian factory worker to unite Jamaica beyond the soccer pitch. 

 “The easy touch of this film never conceals that at its core this is about the struggle of the third world.” 

The film is also currently in theaters in Germany Check out the German trailer below!

Mike Day wins Peabody Award for his film THE ISLANDS AND THE WHALES

Congratulations to current VCFA MFA in Film faculty member Mike Day whose film, THE ISLANDS AND THE WHALES, has been awarded a 2017 Peabody Award!

An exquisitely photographed documentary that explores the inextricable links between oceans poisoned by coal burning power plants and the direct impact they have on people of the remote Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, who struggle between maintaining their traditional way of life and the long-term health repercussions of mercury poisoning.

Day says of the film, “THE ISLANDS AND THE WHALES shows the unique Faroese community wrangling with the environmental problems we face. I hope the film gives us a chance to take stock of how we interact with the natural world and encourages us not to ignore the clear signs of the damage we are causing. There is a chance to act now before it’s too late. If we don’t, like the Faroese, we all risk putting contaminated food on the table.”

To read more about the film, and to watch some great interviews with Day, visit the PBS POV site.

The Peabody Awards recognize 30 stories each year in television, radio, and digital media that depict important societal problems. The awards are based at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. The Peabody board of jurors is an assembly of critics, journalists, media scholars, and industry professionals.

The full list of documentary winners are:

“America ReFramed: Deej”
“Chasing Coral”
“Indivisible”
“Last Men in Aleppo”
“Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise”
“Newtown”
“Oklahoma City”
“The Islands and the Whales”
“Time: The Kalief Browder Story”

The 77th Annual Peabody Awards Ceremony will take place on May 19th, 2018 in New York.

Mike Day is a Scottish director and cinematographer. Formerly a lawyer, Day founded Intrepid Cinema in 2009 before heading out into the North Atlantic on a boat to make his first documentary, THE GUGA HUNTERS OF NESS, commissioned by the BBC. While at sea filming, Day met a group of Faroese sailors, which lead to the creations of his next film, THE ISLANDS AND THE WHALES. The film went on to win multiple awards and picked up the 60th CINE Golden Eagle Award, a BAFTA nomination, and a Peabody Award (2017).

Day was listed as one of “10 Filmmakers to Watch” by Filmmaker Magazine, with films funded and supported by the Sundance Institute, San Francisco Film Society, The Filmmaker Fund, Creative Scotland, and Danish Film Institute and many others his films have screened with broadcasters worldwide including the BBC, ARTE, ZDF, NRK, DR and POV on PBS with theatrical releases in the US, UK and around Europe and Australia.

 

 

 

 

Film faculty Till Schauder’s film, WHEN GOD SLEEPS, premieres on PBS April 2nd, 2018, plus an interview on the “Art More Than Ever” podcast

Award-winning filmmaker, and VCFA MFA in Film faculty member, Till Schauder has been traversing the globe with his film WHEN GOD SLEEPS. In addition to its bustling festival showing, we are excited to announce WHEN GOD SLEEPS will have its US broadcast television premiere on this season of Independent Lens on PBS on April 2, 2018, at 10:00 PM EST.

Additionally, be sure to have a listen to Schauder’s conversation with Art More Than Ever podcast host Erica Heilman where Schauder discusses the process of creating documentary films and how he handles working with challenging subjects.

“I’m very greedy as a filmmaker…I’m a hunter-gatherer. I know from experience that with this massive amounts of footage you get nuggets…that people think are too good to be true almost.”

About the film:

“ ‘My songs didn’t make me famous. The fatwa did.’ WHEN GOD SLEEPS unfolds against the backdrop of the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks in the Bataclan concert venue and European right-wing backlash against Middle-Eastern refugees. It deftly weaves the journey of exiled Iranian musician Shahin Najafi with historical context and intimate biographical detail, rooting the narrative in Najafi’s immediate and unavoidable reality, living under a fatwa issued against him by hardline Shiite clerics. As Najafi juggles a personal life and budding romance in Cologne, far from loved ones, with a professional career whose high profile may cost him his life, he spars with bandmates who are ambivalent about the peril his status places on their lives, and battles German police who refuse to see the death threat on his head as a legitimate danger. With camerawork that underlines the intimate aspect of this film, we bear witness to the life of an outspoken artist defying powerful men intent on silencing him.”

—Cara Cusumano, Tribeca Film Festival

 

More about the filmmakers:

TILL SCHAUDER
Writer, Director
TILL SCHAUDER’s feature debut SANTA SMOKES which he wrote, co-directed and starred in, won several awards, among them Best Director at the Tokyo International Film Festival and the Studio Hamburg Newcomer Award. In 2012, Till completed his critically acclaimed first documentary THE IRAN JOB, which was released worldwide, mentioned as an Oscar contender and shortlisted for a German Academy Award in 2014. His latest documentary WHEN GOD SLEEPS premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival 2017 and is currently playing at film festivals around the world. WHEN GOD SLEEPS won the “Cinema for Peace Award” for Most Valuable Documentary of the Year during this year’s Berlinale, and the “Golden Heynal Award” in the International DocFilmMusic Competition at this year’s Krakow Film Festival. WHEN GOD SLEEPS opened theatrically in Germany and Japan in October. The U.S. theatrical release is scheduled for early 2018, followed by a nationwide broadcast on PBS/Independent Lens and a North American online release on Amazon. Till also recently completed WARRIORS OF FAITH, a feature documentary about Iraqi refugees in Germany combating ISIS through performance arts for which he just won a German Emmy. The film also won the “ARD Top of the Docs” Award and was a nominee for the Prix Europa. Till has a side career in acting. He appeared with Kate Winslet in the HBO Series “Mildred Pierce” and in Martin Scorsese’s HBO Series “Vinyl”. His production company, which he runs with his producing partner and wife Sara Nodjoumi, is based in Brooklyn.


SARA NODJOUMI

Producer
SARA NODJOUMI is an independent film producer and film festival programmer. She and Till Schauder most recently collaborated on WHEN GOD SLEEPS, which is co-produced by ITVS, executive produced by Motto Pictures, Catapult Film Fund, and Fork Films, and supported by numerous foundations including the Sundance Institute, Jerome Foundation, and NYSCA. The film premiered in competition at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival. It later went on to win the Golden Heynal award for Best Music Documentary at the Krakow Film Festival, as well as the Most Valuable Film of the Year award at Cinema for Peace in Berlin. Nodjoumi and Schauder are currently working on the feature documentary REGGAE BOYZ, which is in post-production. From 2004-2009, Nodjoumi worked at the Tribeca Film Festival as an Associate Programmer and is currently the Artistic Director of the New York Sephardic Film Festival. She also produced the feature documentary THE IRAN JOB, which was released theatrically and on Netflix worldwide. In Germany, the film was shortlisted for a German Academy Award. For THE IRAN JOB, Nodjoumi managed two of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns of all time. In 2016, she was invited to attend the Sundance Creative Producer’s Summit and in 2017 she was an IFP Cannes Producer’s Network Fellow.

Student Spotlight: Ian Cheney’s film THE MOST UNKNOWN premieres March 16th, 2018

THE MOST UNKNOWN, a documentary film directed by current VCFA MFA in Film student Ian Cheney, premieres today (March 16, 2018) at CPH:DOX in Copenhagen. THE MOST UNKNOWN, is a “scientific exploration of the unknown, where the greatest mysteries of physics and nature can be found at the bottom of the ocean and in outer space.”

Ian Cheney’s film demonstrates how a meeting of researchers can take place across disciplines, and it is a magnificent portrait of the desire of modern research to understand the unknown and make it tangible. A project, which brings us all the way where research is not about results and peer reviews, but about approaching adventure. -CPH:DOX

Check out the trailer below and this Motherboard write up to learn more!

Ian Cheney is an Emmy-nominated and Peabody Award-winning documentary filmmaker. His most recent films include THE SEARCH FOR GENERAL TSO, released by IFC Films / Sundance Selects, and the forthcoming documentary film BLUESPACE, which explores the terraforming of Mars and the waterways of New York City. Ian is in his final year here at VCFA, and we are thrilled to see his thesis work, as well as his future endeavors!

Student Spotlight: George Nicholas’s films ANTIGONE, SOAP N SUDS, and 7 SPLINTERS IN TIME

 

Current VCFA MFA in Film student, George Nicholas’s short experimental documentary ANTIGONE, a twelve minute meditation on life, death, presence, religion, family, emptiness, and light centered upon the death of the filmmaker’s beloved Mother, has several scheduled screening this Spring (2018).  Nicholas created this film while here at VCFA, and writes,

I spent the first two semesters working on an experimental documentary about my mother’s death from cancer in 2014.  I had made brief overtures at starting the film before I arrived at  VCFA,  but I’m glad that I continued it while here, or I would have given up on it for the potential scale of it and the gut-wrenching emotional journey that met every editing session.  With the good advisement of some truly wonderful faculty, and the keen insight of a fellow student… I was committed to finishing it, and it had its world premiere at the Cyprus International Film Festival in Paphos, Cyprus in June (2017), where it received the Nostimon Imar Award, an award given to the film that best embodies the sense of “nostimon imar,” from a passage in Homer’s Odyssey, loosely translated as “the day of the sweet return to one’s homeland,” a film for the Greek and Cypriot diaspora.

ANTIGONE also screened at the 2017 8th Bridges International Film Festival of Peloponnesse and was nominated for best documentary at the 2017 Kerry Film Festival, Killarney, Ireland both in October of last year.
In 2018 (so far!) ANTIGONE will screen at:
  • Three Rivers Film Festival, Pittsburgh, PA, (2018 dates not yet posted) Three Rivers Film Festival only accepted 10 shorts, and ANTIGONE was one of them. Nicholas calls his return to Pittsburgh a  “bittersweet homecoming, as most of the 8mm footage was shot there in my childhood and before.”

 

 


Additionally, Nicholas’s short animated film, SMOKE N SUDS, also completed while here at VCFA, will have it’s world premiere at the 13th Athens ANIMFEST in Athens, Greece, March 15 – 18th, 2018! SMOKE N SUDS is a lo-fi animated film (reminiscent of early Jim Jarmusch) that follows two punks who meet at a laundromat in late 80’s Hell’s Kitchen NYC.

Finally, 7 SPLINTERS IN TIME, a film that Nicholas helped produce and was the DoP of, had its world premiere at Cinequest in San Jose on March 3rd, 2018.

Horror Society writes of the film, 7 SPLINTERS IN TIME is an intricately constructed, visually arresting, graphically exotic and groundbreaking lo-fi sci-fi detective story that mashes up Phillip K. Dick and Raymond Chandler.


Congrats George, we are thrilled for you!

More:

George Nicholas is an award-winning New York – based filmmaker and director of photography. He was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to first-generation Greek immigrants, picked up his father’s love for photography at age 7, and wrote and directed his first play at 11. He studied drama at the University of Texas, Arlington, moved to NYC in 1998, worked as a sound technician for Off-Broadway Theater and as a roadie, working with bands like the Rolling Stones, before moving a bit north to attend the Conservatory of Film at the State University of New York at Purchase, where he graduated with a BFA in Film Production. He has worked as a cinematographer professionally since 1992, and his work has been shown worldwide on air and in festivals. George has produced and directed music videos, including Elizabeth Cook’s “Sunday Morning,” which aired on VH-1, GAC, and CMT. His 2004 short film, “Exact Fare,” won the CINE Golden Eagle Award, and his most recent film, “Antigone” won the Nostimon Imar award (for films of the diaspora) at its premiere at the 2017 Cyprus International Film Festival. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Radio, Television, Film at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, and prior to that taught at and was the Technical Director of Film and New Media at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. He currently resides in Mamaroneck, New York with his wife, Marie, their son Peter, and two cats. He is a bassist and vocalist for the J.D. Southard Band and the upright bassist for The Quarter Moon. Nicholas will graduate from VCFA MFA in Film April 2018.

Student Spotlight: Tamara Perkins’s film LIFE AFTER LIFE screening at the GMFF, plus a teaser of her newest film

LIFE AFTER LIFE, a film directed and produced by current VCFA MFA in Film student Tamara Perkins, will screen at the Green Mountain Film Festival  this March (2018). LIFE AFTER LIFE will screen twice at the GMFF, once in Essex Junction (March 18th, 6:45-9:00pm) at the Essex Cinemas, and a second time in Montpelier (March 18th, 12:00-2:30pm) at the Pavilion. GMFF has partnered with the Community Justice Center of Essex and the Community Justice Center of Montpelier. At both venues, a q&a discussion is planned after the film with the filmmaker along with several other local voices with insights into the topic of re-entry post-incarceration, including: a Reentry Coordinator from the local Community Justice Center (CJC), a Parole Officer from the Department of Corrections, Formerly incarcerated person(s), Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) Volunteer from the local CJC, and (at the Montpelier screening) the Deputy Defender General of the State of VT.

LIFE AFTER LIFE  follows the stories of Harrison, Noel, and Chris as they return home from San Quentin State Prison. After spending most of their lives incarcerated, they are forced to reconcile their perception of themselves with a reality they are unprepared for. Each struggles to overcome personal demons and reconstruct their fractured lives. Grappling with day-to-day challenges and striving for success, they work to reconnect with family and provide for themselves for the first time in their adult lives. Told in an unadorned verite style, we experience the truth of their heartaches and triumphs. As their stories unfold over weeks, months and years, the precarious nature of freedom after incarceration in America is revealed.

 

With 25 screenings, panels, and healing circles that have reached over 4000 people in CaliforniaIndiana, Michigan, PennsylvaniaWashington, Vermont, and Texas (with recent calls to bring the film to Florida, Hawaii, New York and North Carolina), LIFE AFTER LIFE has been generating dialogue and fueling advocacy across the country, even inspiring some colleges/universities to teach to the film.

The Green Mountain Film Festival is presented by Focus on Film, a 34-year-old central Vermont organization whose purpose is to provide public film showings of cultural, social, and historic interest, to sponsor discussions of such films, and to provide an opportunity for independent filmmakers to exhibit their works. The festival enters its 21st year with continued dedication to bringing the best films from around the world to central Vermont.

We are so excited that LIFE AFTER LIFE will be here in Vermont at the GMFF, and look forward to the important and impactful dialogue the film and subsequent talks will bring to our local community.

Additionally. Tamara’s new film, THE WAITING LIST (working title), is getting under way. Check out the teaser below! More footage and info will be coming soon.

More about Tamara:

Tamara Perkins uses film as a vehicle for change, pulling from her work in restorative justice as a grief support facilitator, speaker, and non-profit director to found Apple of Discord Productions in 2006. Tamara’s 2013 TEDx talk, ‘Life After: Embracing our Common Humanity’ explores her experience as a crime survivor. Life After Life received a Media for a Just Society Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, and is selected for the following film festivals: Justice on Trial, FilmFest52, New Haven, and GMFF.

 

Student Spotlight: Jason Rosenfield

Current VCFA MFA in Film student Jason Rosenfield discusses his recent appointment to the Board of Governors of the Television Academy, representing the Documentary Programming Peer Group; his past service as governor (2006-2012) representing the Editors Peer Group; and his background that brought him to film and television.

Aja Zoecklein: Briefly, can you talk about the organization of the TV academy and your role there over the years?

Jason Rosenfield: I first began serving on the Executive Committee to the Editors Peer Group around 2003. After a couple of years, I was then asked to run for governor. I was kind of nervous; I’d never done anything like that before, but I was enjoying it, so I ran. Much to my surprise I was elected and I served three terms as a governor of the editors peer group from 2006 to 2012.

The experience was tremendous and it was a big deal for me, because it got me out of the editing room, literally and figuratively, and opened me up in a way that I had never really experienced before. When you’re in that room as a governor and you’re sitting on a committee with a studio executive, a camera person, a makeup artist, an actor [from the other peer groups]—you’re all just Jason and Jane and Bob and Stephen and you’re trying to get a job done, that editor label isn’t even there. So it kind of brought me out of my shell. The editing room appealed to me because I could just close the door and shut the world out, but this changed me and opened me up. I had a great time.

I decided to switch peer groups mostly because I wanted to be more involved in the documentary community. Since 2012, editing documentary features has been my primary occupation. I felt like I had contributed everything I had to the editors peer group. (I am still a hybrid-member though—I’m still a member of the editors peer group, but you have to pick one that’s your primary group.) Just this past year actually, the executive committee members asked me if I would run for governor again. I said yes because I like being in the room and I like what it does for me. I like the camaraderie. And, as I said, I wanted to do more for the documentary community. This was a way to do it.

AZ: Can you expand on some of the goals and initiatives you were part of as a member of the editors peer group?

JR: There were a number of things. First, there really wasn’t any kind of an opportunity for editors to meet each other who were working in television, so we created that opportunity. For example, American Cinema Editors (ACE) has an event every year prior to the Oscars called “Invisible Art, Visible Artists” where they put the five nominated editors on a panel at the Egyptian Theatre in L.A. to talk about their films and how they got into the business and how that particular film was cut/all the challenges involved. The event sells out every year. We wanted to emulate that for TV editors and that’s how “Prime Cuts” came about.

We produced a lot of individual panels and symposiums. There was one evening event which was called “Life and Death in the E.R.”—E.R. a double entendre for both editing room and emergency room. We put show runners and editors from three shows—a drama, a comedy, a documentary—that were focused in hospitals up on a panel to explore how they each approach the same subject in different ways.

There were panels that just focused on the different genres of reality television. There was a huge panel—the last one I did with that peer group—that we did at the United Artists Theatre downtown where J.J. Abrams moderated a panel with Transparent show runner Jill Soloway, Jeffrey Tambor, their lead cinematographer, and a couple of writers… It was an evening called “Anatomy of an Episode,” which I had been nursing along with one other editor on the committee for a long time. The idea of that was to take one episode from concept, to writer’s room, to production, to post, and finally to air and see what changed along the way. The impetus for that panel was how so many people in the other crafts—whether cinematographers or actors or writers—will come to the editors and say, “Whatever happened to my shot? Whatever happened to my close up? Why did you drop those lines and dialogue? What happened to this scene?” We realized that people really didn’t know what happened to their stuff once it got into the mill of the post-production process, so we created this panel to sort of cover that. We managed to attract 1,500 people for this gathering, which was insane for a peer group event at the academy, usually you’re lucky to get a hundred people.

So, the stuff we are doing is professional development, as well as networking opportunities and social gatherings so that the community [of editors] feel like a community a little more.

AZ: Although your post does not begin in the documentary peer group until January 2018, what sort of areas do you anticipate working on?

JR: The documentary peer group is something very different, which I didn’t really quite grasp until I started getting involved with it. The documentary peer group, from what I’ve seen so far, is made up of documentary filmmakers—meaning the producers/directors who are out there actually making the films/shows—but also development and programming executives from the big outlets: HBO, Netflix, Amazon, Discovery, National Geographic. These are above the line people so their concerns are very different. I’m the alone below-the-line-guy in this mix which is really interesting for me, because once again, it really expands my horizons. I can’t go in there and say “hey, let’s do something about how to edit a documentary” because they’re not interested in that, that’s not what their members want to know.

We are planning a series of events in the next 12 months—one in L.A., one in New York, one probably up in San Francisco, and one other possible location sponsored by one of these major streaming services or cable networks. The focus will be on how do you get your doc made: How do you get it financed? How do you raise the money? How do you get it distributed? What are the networks looking for?

So, it’s really more about the marketing and sales end of it and just, really, what do you do when you have an idea and how do you get to the final product… It’s a very different mindset, which for me is fascinating because I’m not simply doing the same things that I was doing before. It’s like a whole brave new world. Even though it’s not what I do for a living it opens me up to a whole other level of the business, which is why I got involved in the academy in the first place.

AZ: Incredible! While I’ve got you, tell me, how did you come to film editing in the first place?

JR: It was kind of a circuitous route. I went to University of Pennsylvania without any clear intentions. Architecture was on my mind, but I wasn’t sure of what I was going to do. Unfortunately, only three weeks into my freshman year my father got sick and I had to drop a bunch of courses and I was back and forth the rest of the school year. At this time, I retreated into a theater group at Penn—it’s where I found my refuge. I was harboring this secret passion—from when I was 11 years old and my parents took us to see West Side Story on Broadway—that I really wanted to be a performer, specifically, a dancer. At the end of the year [my father] died and we were deeply in debt. I had to leave school and get a job because there was no money to pay for school.

So, after five or six years of traveling, living in San Francisco and getting involved in the 60s, I ended up on a commune in northeast Vermont in a little town called Franklin. And, long story short, one day a group of people are going to visit friends at Goddard College (just down the road from [VCFA]!) and I went along for the ride. I ended up meeting this man and his wife who were running the dance program there. He was an ex-Graham dancer. We got to talking and he said, “do you want to come here and work with me? I can find you a place to live and get you a job on campus. I need guys.” So I did that. I lived in Vermont for about a year and a half working with him. I then decided to go to New York City and try my luck. I danced for a number of years, but I had injuries that were preventing me from getting anywhere near where I wanted to get to so I finally decided I needed to find something different.

Among the many part time jobs that I had supporting myself while I took dance classes, was a job with a guy who rented editing equipment so I was always watching what they were doing. One day I went out with some friends and made a little movie with a girlfriend who was a dancer recovering from an injury and taking a private dance class. When I sat down and started cutting that film, I started realizing that what I was doing was choreography and that I was able to dance now, again. That’s really how it all went.

AZ: Thanks Jason! Always a pleasure to chat with you. We can’t wait to hear more!

More about Jason:

Jason Rosenfield, ACE, is a two-time Emmy Award-winning film editor recognized for his storytelling skills in character-driven long-form documentaries, feature films and television series. Jason’s narrative credits range from Robert Altman’s classic Come Back to the 5 & Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean to the improvisational television comedy Free Ride. His documentary credits include the Oscar-nominated Blues Highway, HBO’s Emmy-winning Memphis PD and Teen Killers, Dick Wolf’s groundbreaking NBC series Law & Order: Crime & Punishment and CNN’s The Seventies. Over the last four years he has collaborated with three-time Oscar-winner Mark Jonathan Harris on Netflix’s award-winning Lost for Life and Swift Current, both directed by Joshua Rofe, and Harris’s own Breaking Point: The War for Democracy in Ukraine, which has received numerous festival awards and will be released theatrically in winter 2018.  He is currently serving as Supervising Editor on a 4-part Amazon documentary miniseries for executive producer Jordan Peele and creators Joshua Rofe and Stephen Berger.

Jason also serves as a story and editorial consultant and currently has two films in post-production and one on the festival circuit, winning awards from San Diego and San Francisco to Mallorca, Spain. Additional production awards have included an RF Kennedy Award, DGA Award, Peabody Award, several Emmys and Emmy nominations and prizes at American and international film festivals.

In 2001, Jason was elected to membership in American Cinema Editors [ACE], an honorary society of distinguished editors.  He has served as Associate Director of the ACE Board and was recently elected to his fourth term as Governor of the Television Academy, where he has developed and produced numerous symposiums and ongoing panel series. Jason is an Adjunct Professor at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts in the graduate and undergraduate programs. He has taught at Columbia College – Hollywood, is a mentor at the Stowe (Vt.) Story Labs Screenwriting Workshop and has taught abroad under the auspices of the American Film Showcase and U.S. State Department.

 

 

 

 

A MURDER IN MANSFIELD, a documentary produced by current student John Morrissey, at IDFA and DOC NYC

A MURDER IN MANSFIELD, a documentary film produced by current MFA in Film student John Morrissey, had its European premier at IDFA this past November (2017).  Directed by Barbara Kopple, A MURDER IN MANSFIELD also premiered in the U.S. at DOC NYC.

Now 38, Collier Boyle returns to his home town of Mansfield, Ohio, where as a 12-year-old boy, he was a prosecution witness in the trial of his father John. The elder Boyle was charged with the murder of Collier’s mother Noreen on New Year’s Eve 1989. After the trial, John was found guilty and Collier lost touch with every member of his family except his manipulative, narcissistic father, who still exerts power over him. To come to terms with his past, Collier revisits the places and people that were significant at the time: his childhood home, his high school, the court, the head of the investigation, his adoptive parents and his mother’s best friend, culminating in a confrontation with his father in prison. Collier’s memories come to life in the video reports of the trial in 1990, family photos, the heartrending letters he wrote to his father as a teenager, and shots from a drone flying above the snow-covered city. A Murder in Mansfield is a sensitive portrait of a brave man struggling to free himself from the burden of the past, revealing the far-reaching effects of a violent crime.

To read more about the film check out these great reviews by Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.

John Morrissey also spent time this last November (9-16, 2017) mentoring 12 filmmakers who were competing for grant money at the Malatya Film Festival Platform in Turkey to a great success.

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.