“Without a doubt one of the funnest and most entertaining documentaries in years” filmdienst.de
“Without a doubt one of the funnest and most entertaining documentaries in years” filmdienst.de
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”
“Last Men in Aleppo”
“Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise”
“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.
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.”
More about the filmmakers:
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 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.
MADELINE’S MADELINE, a film written and directed by VCFA MFA in Film faculty member Josephine Decker, made its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, January 18th-28th, 2018. MADELINE’S MADELINE was selected in the NEXT category, which Sundance distinguishes as, “Pure, bold works distinguished by an innovative, forward-thinking approach to storytelling… Digital technology paired with unfettered creativity promises that the films in this section will shape a “greater” next wave in American cinema.”
Synopsis: Madeline got the part! She’s going to play the lead in a theater piece! Except the lead wears sweatpants like Madeline’s. And has a cat like Madeline’s. And is holding a steaming hot iron next to her mother’s face – like Madeline is.
IndieWire, has called MADELINE’S MADELINE a “mind-scrambling masterpiece… one of the freshest and most exciting films of the 21st century.”
Check out this great clip of Decker and her cast discussing the film at Sundance:
It’s always exciting when a filmmaker who has generated acclaim on the festival circuit finally lands at Sundance, whether it’s Sean Baker with “Tangerine” or Andrew Bujalski with “Computer Chess.” This year, one of the notable directors making her Sundance debut is Josephine Decker, the experimental filmmaker whose intense psycho-sexual thriller 2013 “Butter on the Latch” was a sleeper hit on the circuit. Now she’s in NEXT with a somewhat more traditional movie, “Madeline’s Madeline,” a reportedly hypnotic drama about a young woman keen on landing the lead role in a rather unorthodox theater piece. The cast includes Miranda July and Molly Parker, but the titular star is New Jersey native Helena Howard, who may be a genuine Sundance discovery. “It’s a concentrated storyline and she really pulls it off,” Groth said of Decker’s direction. “It looks different from her other films but her authorial voice comes through as well.”
-Eric Kohn, IndieWire
Decker has received previous acclaim for her films, BUTTER ON THE LATCH and THOU WAST MILD AND LOVELY. Congrats Josephine! We can’t wait to see MADELINE’S MADELINE!
Current VCFA MFA in Film faculty member, Annie Howell, along with her co-writer and co-director Lisa Robinson, discuss their film CLAIRE IN MOTION (now available to stream on Showtime), their co-writing process, character development, and how film can be vehicle for change.
Aja Zoecklein: How did you first meet and when did you begin your collaborative teamwork?
Lisa Robinson: We met at NYU grad school, but didn’t actually make any films together there. After we finished school we had both written our own features and were trying to get them made but financing was taking a while…we had a conversation about an idea and decided we should make a web series together. It was called SPARKS and was eventually syndicated by the Sundance Channel, which was great. We had fun with it. We would each write an episode and kind of piggyback off each other. From there, it kind of naturally evolved into making a feature, SMALL, BEAUTIFUL MOVING PARTS, which was partly based off the series.
Annie Howell: When we made CLAIRE IN MOTION, I was living in Athens, Ohio and teaching film full time at Ohio University. As soon as I landed I was like “oh, this could be a really interesting place to make a film.” Lisa visited, and I would send her pictures, and that was one of the jumping off points, just thinking about this interesting town that is not as often seen on screen.
AZ: What is your writing process like? How do you structure your writing as collaborators—together in a room, separate, both?
AH: We typically write independently, swapping and sharing ideas. For the two features, for example, we would have this really long running text/blast email conversation that never stopped! (laughs) Which is great because it’s what the writer’s brain does anyway, but you are just sending it off to another person. We both like having our assignments, agreeing on what that is, and then coming back together with the results. We had a couple of times when we would sit in front a whiteboard together to figure out whatever challenge was in front of us.
AZ: Do you write differently knowing that you will be directing the work?
LR: I don’t think we write differently because we’re directing. The script has to communicate to not just us, but to our actors and to the rest of the crew. It needs to be just as transparent in terms of what we’re trying to do as it would be otherwise. The prep is actually the really important part—where the writing is changing—because you are starting to manifest the stuff, physically: you’re picking locations, costumes, actors… It’s such a crucial part of the translation; it’s at that moment the writing gets pulled into the directing space.
AH: I agree, the writing doesn’t defer—writing is writing. We probably have our producer’s hat on a bit: Is this possible? Can we write for a location that we already have? But, consistently, the writing has to work first.
AZ: The characters in CLAIRE IN MOTION are so well-fleshed out. I never felt like anyone was behaving inauthentically or outside of their spectrum of responses. As writers you get the fun task of people-ing your world, how do you go about writing your supporting characters?
AH: For this film, again, it was really informed by this particular town, and also our shared knowledge of the world of academia—a lot of that world is the personal and the professional mixed together—and so we brought those instincts, impressions, and experiences to the table. Often it’s so challenging and difficult to understand your protagonist and to keep searching for that thread or theme. Supporting characters can often come much quicker, which helps to build that confidence in the writing. In this case the place that she is in and the people around her are just such an important part of the story…
LR: Since Annie was teaching and living there she had a lot of interesting encounters and specifics to bring to it. Since I was further away, I brought a more abstract mental state to it, more along the lines of, what is Claire going through and what kinds of characters would trigger her or bring out parts of her psyche? Those two things combined helped create some of these character.
AZ: While part mystery/thriller, CLAIRE IN MOTION really tells the story of a woman who is faced with the reality that, in truth, you never can know somebody entirely, and that, perhaps even more importantly, that lack of recognition extends to yourself as well. What prompted you to explore this subject matter in the way you did? Did you know going in that you wanted Claire’s evolution to start at x and end at y?
LR: We knew we wanted her to go through a tragedy and have to grapple with that uncertainty, and letting the viewer grapple with it as well. We weren’t quite sure how we were going to do it, or even what the tragedy was going to be, but we were interested to see how that uncertainty shifted her identity. We set out to explore a character in a place in her life where she is comfortable—she’s a little bit older, not in her 20s anymore, has a sense of who she is and what her life is going to be—and we wanted to upset that, let that run out, and see how she shifts and changes.
AH: We also had some time in the writing process to really chew on a number of different scenarios—we played quite a bit with it in terms of plot, running a lot of what-ifs. We have a strong shared value that we want our audience to have their own experience, so we weren’t going to wrap everything up neatly. The persistent interest in theme being: the not knowing of life and how that can surprise you; what you learn from it and how you might be damaged by it; and inevitably, how you have to just keep going.
AZ: In light of the current state of the world, how do you see filmmaking as an art form shaping and/or informing us as humans?
LR: There’s a lot of exciting films out there right now. GET OUT is a really amazing example of a film that is surprising and exciting in terms of genre, subtext, and choices…So, I’m still really excited about stuff I’m seeing every year. Film is such a powerful medium because it hits people on multiple levels at once. Unfortunately, that means film is related to propaganda, to Facebook, and to all this discussion about fake news. It is just such a powerful force that spreads out in all these different mediums, but, I still think it’s a great tool for change. We see films like MOONLIGHT or LADY BIRD, these are very particular voices that are getting widespread attention. It’s so great.
AH: A well-crafted visual story provides this opportunity for identification, empathy, complication of stereotypes, and personal introspection that’s unlike or dissimilar from the other other ways in which those things happen—which is, through actual physical relationships with other human beings. When you have the ability to silently interact with others—by that I mean, the characters—it’s a totally different process of growth. These stories are important for any person who is interested in evolving, and I am glad we can do that in different types of ways—through literature, through cinema, through just observing and watching.
AZ: Thank you Annie and Lisa!
Annie J. Howell is an award-winning screenwriter and director. Howell’s first film, co-written and co-directed with Lisa Robinson, was SMALL, BEAUTIFULLY MOVING PARTS, followed by the duos second feature, CLAIRE IN MOTION. In 2016, LITTLE BOXES, a film written by Howell and directed by Rob Meyer premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, where it sold to Netflix. The script for LITTLE BOXES is the recipient of an IFP Emerging Narrative Award for Best Feature and a San Francisco Film Society/Kenneth Rainin Foundation grant. Howell’s other credits include a short for the vanguard ITVS series FUTURESTATES, as well as the web series SPARKS, also created with Robinson and licensed to the Sundance Channel.She teaches in the MFA in Film program at Vermont College of Fine Arts, as well as City College, and has also been a member of the faculty at Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies, Ohio University’s MFA in Film, and at The New School, where she was the Founding Director of the Graduate Certificate in Documentary Media Studies Program.
Lisa Robinson is an award-winning screenwriter and director. Her credits include the feature films CLAIRE IN MOTION and SMALL, BEAUTIFULLY MOVING PARTS, both written and directed with Annie Howell. Robinson has directed several episodes of television, including the Emmy award-winning A CRIME TO REMEMBER and the series FUTURESTATES, that had its series premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. Robinson has written and directed several award-winning short films. She also works as a screenwriter and wrote MIND BLAST, an IMAX film for the Blue Man Group. She is the recipient of the Martin E. Segal Prize, the Mitsubishi Digital Media Lab Award for Excellence, and a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship. Robinson is currently Associate Professor of Film at LIU. www.lisarobinsonfilm.com
VCFA MFA in Film faculty member, Dan Schrecker, has been nominated with his team for a Visual Effects Society Award for his work as Visual Effects Supervisor on the Darren Aronofsky film MOTHER!. They are up for the award for Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature, along with fellow nominees from the films DARKEST HOUR, DOWNSIZING DUNKIRK, and ONLY THE BRAVE. The 16th annual VES award will take place February 13, 2018. The full list of nominees can be found here.
VCFA’s MFA in Film program screened MOTHER! here in Montpelier at our October 2017 residency. It was such a treat to have Dan here to talk with us about his work and the film.
To read more in detail about the VFX of MOTHER!, check out this great interview with Dan by vfxblog from September 2017 .
Dan Schrecker is an award winning visual effects artist and animator. He is the Creative Director and Visual Effects Supervisor at Look Effects, Inc., with offices in Los Angeles, New York, Vancouver, Canada and Stuttgart, Germany.
Dan earned his Master’s Degree from NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program and his BA in Visual and Environmental Studies with a focus on Animation from Harvard University. Dan was nominated for a BAFTA Award in 2011 for Best Special Effects for the film BLACK SWAN and for Visual Effects Society Awards for BLACK SWAN, THE WRESTLER, THE FOUNTAIN, and FRIDA. His work includes being Visual Effects Supervisor on WARM BODIES, MOONRISE KINGDOM, LIMITLESS, BLACK SWAN, PRECIOUS, THE FOUNTAIN, FRIDA, REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, and Darren Aronofsky’s MOTHER!. Through his career Dan has supervised and created visual effects, designed titles and motion graphics, adding to his expertise in multimedia and interactive formats, traditional cel animation and claymation.
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.