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Student Spotlight: Mark Schimmel’s short THE MUSICIAN

Current VCFA MFA in Film student Mark Schimmel is hard at work on his second semester project THE MUSICIAN. Mark is already getting tons of publicity for this film which he wrote and directed, and stars the amazing musician Anne Harris.  We are excited to share the most recent article from Reel Chicago in which he is featured:


View the trailer:

And the music video from the film is just gorgeous:

We can’t wait to see the completed film! Be sure to follow along on THE MUSICIAN’s facebook page to keep up-to-date on the project!

More about Mark:

Mark Schimmel has been directing award winning commercials, television, short and feature films for the past 18 years.  His work is conceptually driven and supported by images that communicate with emotion.  He’s directed notable actors such as Eric Roberts, Claudia Christian, Rene Auberjonois, Bill Ratner, Lance Barber and Academy Award nominee, Woody Harrelson.

Mark Schimmel was born in Chicago.  He studied drawing at The Art Institute of Chicago, photography at Columbia College, and completed his BFA at PRATT Institute, New York City.  Schimmel is scheduled to complete his MFA in the winter of 2019 with VCFA. Early in his career Schimmel designed movie posters for Miramax Films and was an Imagineer for Walt Disney Productions.

Kathy Bruner (’17) and John Bruner (’17) each have their thesis films screening at the UFVA Conference

We are so excited to announce that two more alumni are also screening their VCFA thesis films at the UFVA (University Film and Video Association) Conference July 23rd-26th, 2018 in New Mexico! Power-couple Kathy and John Bruner, both teach at Taylor University and both received their MFA’s at Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2017.

Kathy Bruner’s feature documentary LAST YEAR AT THE CROSSING tells the story of four at-risk teens struggling at a last chance high school in Indiana, and their dedicated school administrator who holds out hope that they can succeed.

In John Bruner’s short GROUNDED, a career-focused pilot and his very proper mother embark on what may be their last road trip.

Additionally,  Jochen Kunstler (’16)  is serving on the Conference Planning Committee as Screenings Co-Chair.

We are thrilled to have such a strong VCFA presence at UFVA!

Student Spotlight: Rick Mitz on Norman Lear, Character Before Jokes, and Why to Get an MFA in Film

Current VCFA MFA in Film candidate, Rick Mitz, has worked in the industry for decades and teaches screenwriting. Here he discusses his incredible journey to VCFA and his thoughts on screenwriting and the act of expanding one’s art.

I got my first job in NY at GQ Magazine.  I showed up at the editor’s office and said, “I’m here about the writing job.”  He looked me over and said, “Well, you certainly aren’t here about the modeling job!”  He saw my confused  look and felt so bad he hired me on the spot. My first article was “How to Fold Your Pants,” and I wrote for GQ for years.

One day, quite by accident, I ran into an agent in a waiting room.  He had read some of my articles and suggested I should write a book.  Since my favorite thing was TV–watching it, not writing it, that is–I decided to write a proposal for a book on the history of TV sitcoms.  It sold and “The Great TV Sitcom Book” was published (1980). As luck would have it, one of the people who bought my book was TV producer/mogul Norman Lear, who flew me out to Hollywood and put me under contract. Keep in mind, I knew nothing about TV (except how to operate the remote) and less about writing (except how to fold your pants), but he mentored me and we created several shows together over the years.  It was a crash course in how to write and run a TV show and I learned a lot. One of the biggest lessons I learned from Lear was on set of one of our shows. We had just had a rehearsal run-through for the execs and network when, out of nowhere, the janitor came up and gave us a “fix” to a scene we thought was working perfectly. When he left, I remarked, “Oh, great, now the janitor is giving us notes.”  Lear turned to me sternly and said, “Don’t forget that janitor is who’s going to be watching our show at home. And more than that,  you have to listen to the note beneath the note. He’s probably wrong about how to fix the scene, but the real note is that there’s something wrong and we need to look at it.” And we did.  And we made it better. And I never rolled my eyes at another note since. As Lear would say, “it’s all part of the collaboration.”

I worked on many  TV shows– in Hollywood, in NY, in London–and soon had my own shows on the air.  I was doing a documentary series for AMC about Hollywood, and one of the subjects I was interviewing taught at a small boutique film school and wondered if I would ever be interested in teaching there.  So, I found myself teaching screenwriting–short films and TV writing. As a teacher, I channeled what I had learned from Lear (beyond “listen to janitors”), which was to always write from character–not plot, or jokes, or situation, but character. Figure out who the character is and, more importantly, how s/he became that way.

I was offered a full-time faculty position, the only catch being, I had to get my MFA.  I found out about VCFA, which has a low-residency film program. Frankly, I enrolled with a  real attitude that this was just a means to an end. Except it wasn’t that at all. For my first semester, I wrote a short film (something I’d taught, but had never done) about a serious subject (ditto). My professor, the very nurturing  and wise Michel Negroponte, gave me notes unlike any I had ever received before. He pushed me–no, pulled me–to get out of my comfort zone and go deeper, richer, to get out of the predictable and repetitive, and to immerse myself in the unexpected places of the world I had created. It was like I was learning how to write all over again, or perhaps write from the very beginning! And it worked.  I ended up writing a script that was unlike anything I had ever done, something I am more proud of than anything I’ve ever written. Most importantly, that work–and future work I do at VCFA–now informs the way I teach and write going forward.

This essay was previously published at Script Mag.

More about Rick:

Rick Mitz is a screen and television writer as well as the author of several books. Mitz has been teaching screenwriting at Columbia College Hollywood since 2001 and is now “lead faculty” and head of the Screenwriting Department. In addition to his work as a writer, Mitz has been a programming consultant to both the UK’s Channel 4 and ITV since 1994. Before that, he worked extensively with television producer Norman Lear on several pilots, specials and series.

Mitz has written original screenplays for Universal, Embassy, Warner Bros. and Paramount. He has created and executive produced the TV series “aka Pablo” (ABC), “Hi Honey, I’m Home” (ABC) and “The Lot” (AMC), as well as episodes for such comedies as “You Again,” “Valerie” and “Square Pegs.” In addition, he has written 100 episodes of “The Spin-Offs” web-series, as well as the feature screenplay, “She Started It,” for his own production company It’s Mitz Productions. Mitz was also head-writer of ABC’s “TV Guide’s 50 All-Time Greatest Shows” special and wrote and produced “Hollywood’s Best-Kept Secrets” for AMC.

His book, “The Great TV Sitcom Book,” was the first book written on television situation comedies, was a best-seller. In addition, he wrote “The Apartment Book,” as well as several career books for young adults.

 

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 will also be playing at the Maine International Film Festival in Waterville, Maine on July 14th and July 19th, 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.