Through a rupturing of visual images and stammering of text, sound, and language, Annabelle is invited to escape a world of male dependence in search of liberty and self-reliance.
Super cool–congrats Frances!
Through a rupturing of visual images and stammering of text, sound, and language, Annabelle is invited to escape a world of male dependence in search of liberty and self-reliance.
Super cool–congrats Frances!
VCFA had fantastic representation at the Sundance Film Festival this year! In addition to pleasure-goers, like our own Annie Howell, several alumni and students were there to speak and show support for their projects.
Recent VCFA graduate Jason Rosenfield was at the festival in support of the new Amazon docuseries LORENA which he worked on as Supervising Editor. LORENA will be available to stream on Amazon February 15th, 2019.
Lorena Bobbitt became a household name in 1993, when accounts of a mutilation dominated headlines: she cut off her husband’s penis, and the country collectively gasped. Twenty-five years later, Joshua Rofé excavates the scandalized case through a modern cultural lens. Each episode of this four-part docuseries, executive produced by Jordan Peele, builds upon the last, exposing the issues surrounding the couple and their criminal trials—Lorena’s then-husband, John Wayne Bobbit, for marital sexual assault, and Lorena for malicious wounding. In unearthing the long-term abuse that precipitated the infamous night, Rofé dives into a wider discussion about the lack of support for domestic-violence victims, the power and fragility of the word penis, John’s increasingly unpredictable life post-recovery, and how the public’s insatiable appetite for the Bobbitts’ story paved the way for the 24-hour news cycle. Rofé’s re-examination restores depth to a woman reduced to parodies and caricatures and prompts us to reconsider our preconceptions.
Alumnus Ian Cheney (’18) was at the festival as one of five inaugural Science Sandbox Nonfiction Project fellows to participate in a panel discussion titled “Exploring Boundaries” which focused on the intersection between science and storytelling. Cheney was selected as a recipient of the Science Sandbox Nonfiction grant in November 2018 for his film THE MOST UNKNOWN which he directed and produced.
Through imagination and exploration and a deep sense of wonder, scientists and artists aim to reveal deeper truths about our world—in different and sometimes surprisingly similar ways. Join us, our project fellows, and other special guests as we celebrate the inaugural year of the Science Sandbox Nonfiction Project and engage in a conversation between legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog and renowned astrophysicist and novelist Janna Levin about experimental science storytelling.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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:
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!)
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.
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.
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.