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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!

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.

Alumna Emilie Upczak’s (’15) feature film, MOVING PARTS, makes the festival rounds

 


MOVING PARTS, the narrative feature film, directed by VCFA aluma Emilie Upczak, premiered at Denver Film Festival in November (2017). MOVING PARTS also played at Havana Film Festival in December (2017) and San Francisco Indie Film Festival in February 2018. MOVING PARTS was produced by  John Otterbacher,  with music composed by Rafael Attias, both also VCFA MFA in Film alumni (’15).

Synopsis: After being smuggled into Trinidad and Tobago to be with her brother, Zhenzhen, an illegal Chinese immigrant, discovers the true cost of her arrival.

About the film, Upczak tells Sydney Levine of Medium, “The movie has taken shape in a way I feel very excited about, from the storytelling to the acting to the cinematography and score. I’m also proud to be telling a story about life experiences that are not commonly represented: that of immigrants, the disenfranchised, the desperate, or another way to view them: the strong.” To read more from this interview pop on over to Sydney’s blog.

Faculty member Josephine Decker’s film, MADELINE’S MADELINE, dubbed a “mind-scrambling masterpiece,” premiered at Sundance ’18

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!

Writing is Writing: An Interview with Annie Howell and Lisa Robinson

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 partwhere the writing is changingbecause 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 deferwriting 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 academiaa lot of that world is the personal and the professional mixed togetherand 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 comfortableshe’s a little bit older, not in her 20s anymore, has a sense of who she is and what her life is going to beand 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 scenarioswe 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 happenwhich is, through actual physical relationships with other human beings. When you have the ability to silently interact with othersby that I mean, the charactersit’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 waysthrough 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

Student Spotlight: Lex Lybrand’s thesis film, MAYBE SHOWER

Current MFA in Film student, Lex Lybrand, just dropped the trailer for his thesis film project, MAYBE SHOWER. Written and directed by Lybrand, MAYBE SHOWER stars Kelsey Thomas (SUMMER LEAGUE), Rachel DeRouen (GLASS), and Megan Simon (INDOOR CAT). With Carlos O’Leary (THE TROLLS), Jeff Pearson (HOME REMEDY), Nathan Ehrmann (THE TROLLS), and Caitlin French.

Ash, Shannon, and Wendy are all late. You know… LATE. As their collective anxiety grows, they band together to face their fears, confront the potential fathers, and egg a car or two. All part of the world’s first MAYBE SHOWER.

On October 26th, 2016, Lybrand wrote the following on the “Maybe Shower” blog, and we just had to share it here because, well, it brings us great pride:

I’m sitting in a dorm room in Montpelier, Vermont just a couple of days before Halloween. There’s snow on the ground, I can see my breath in my room, and I’m almost out of coffee. I haven’t been this happy in a very long time. 

This is the last day of my first week at VCFA’s MFA in Film residency. I entered this program with no idea what I would work on while I’m here… but now I know. I’m excited to announce that I have begun work on my next feature screenplay, and I plan to take it from conception to reality during this 2 year program… This is gonna be fun.

MAYBE SHOWER will screen this April at our spring residency and will be hitting the festival circuit soon. Visit the MAYBE SHOWER site to learn more. We can’t wait to see this one! Congrats Lex!

Check out the trailer below. (See if you can spot another one of our talented students in the film, Mr. Kris Atkinson. We love to see our people crewing for each other!)

(Lybrand photo courtesy of George Nicholas)

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!

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.