Posts

Alumna Angelique Webster’s (’18) thesis film, RESPECT AND LOVE, to screen at the Smithsonian African American Film Festival

VCFA MFA in Film alumna Angelique Webster’s (’18) thesis documentary short, RESPECT AND LOVE, will be screening at the Smithsonian African American Film Festival at the National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington D.C. on Friday, October 26th!

Through a frank conversation about past sexual abuse by a priest, a mother and daughter get to know each other and re-imagine their relationship.

Angelique screened this beautiful film at her graduating residency last April. We were so lucky to not only get to see it but to get to meet her incredible mom and adorable daughter too! We are thrilled this film is reaching a larger audience and can’t wait to see where it lands next!

Angelique Webster is a filmmaker and educator who graduated from Lincoln University in 1996 and received her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2018.

Alumnus Daniel McGuire’s (’17) thesis doc, BALIAN (THE HEALER), premieres

 

Daniel McGuire’s (’17) thesis film, a feature documentary, BALIAN (THE HEALER),  premiered at the Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival in August 2018. The film will be going on to screen at the Newburyport Documentary Film Festival (September 2018), the Santa Cruz Film Festival (October 2018), and Filmfest 52 in Bethel, CT (TBD), with more festival showings to come. We are so excited to see this film out in the world!

A visually provocative film shot over 20 years, BALIAN (THE HEALER) is an engrossing fable of globalization. It tracks the remarkable rise and fall of a Balinese healer and priest after he is discovered by Western tourists.

 

 

“A magical portrait of a one-of-a-kind Indonesian trickster/healer.”

-Alan Berliner (Nobody’s Business, Wide Awake, The Sweetest Sound)

Check out the trailer below:

Daniel McGuire is a filmmaker with two decades of experience in feature films, documentary, electronic press kits, web-based media, multi-camera event shoots, ethnographic, industrial and training films. He is based in the Boston area where he has covered stories for Good Morning America and Inside Edition as a Field Producer, and for Al Jazeera English as a Correspondent. He frequently covers stories related to Health, Science, Technology and the environment at Harvard and MIT.

McGuire has worked as a correspondent for ABC News in Indonesia, where he covered politics and environmental issues. Fluent in Indonesian, he directed and produced the feature documentary “Crash Course: The Indonesian Student Revolt” (selected for the Rotterdam Film Festival). BALIAN (THE HEALER), premiered in August 2018. He has taught film and video production at the University of Northern Illinois and teaches seminars in video production for journalists. McGuire holds a BA from Wesleyan University, an MA from Northern Illinois University, and an MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Be sure to follow the film on Facebook.

Courage in the Extreme: On Till Schauder’s Latest Film “Warriors of Faith”

Article by Cameron Finch

It is just before noon on a sunny day at an outdoor Dusseldorf shopping center. Pigeons, hungry for crumbs, bob and weave through stroller wheels and fashionable feet. In the mall’s center plaza, two women sit on a bench eating ice cream. A child bends down to pet a dog. A man walks out of the Apple store with a new smartphone. A voice yells out, “Get down. Down!” A man in all black—his face covered, too—walks through the plaza, wielding a sparkling saber in one hand. His other hand is gripped around the neck of a prisoner, pushing the man down into submission. The prisoner wears an orange jumpsuit; his hands are tied behind his back. The man in black yells, “Put your head down,” and demands the prisoner to kneel. A gun is now pointed at the prisoner’s head. The glowing signs of H&M and Esprit pulse red behind the men.

Despite this act of violence, the women continue to eat their ice cream. The child scratches the dog behinds its ears. The man continues to walk, more interested in his newest gadget than the terrorism behind him. A young Arab man stoops in front of the execution site with a tripod camera, presses Record, and steps up to address the small crowd that’s now forming. He speaks to them in German: “What you’re seeing happens a hundred times a day in our countries. If I’d lie here with my head chopped off, would you do something then? We’re against this, against murder, against terror. But we have to see images like this. We have to wake up and do something against it.”

These men are not terrorists. In fact, they are anti-terrorists, working together to curtail the popular trend of radicalism found among Muslim youths in Germany. They call themselves 12thMemoRise and are the subject of award-winning German filmmaker Till Schauder’s latest film, Warriors of Faith, which recently won a German Emmy for Best Documentary in 2017.

While Schauder’s films, including The Iran Job and When God Sleeps, are classified as documentaries, it is the telling of a narrative story that drives all of his films. Rather than present a theme or subject, Schauder takes viewers on a journey full of deep conflict, intimate revelations of emotions, and dynamic transformations of selves within a dangerous and political world.

Warriors of Faith continues this trend as it follows Iraqi-born German citizen Hassan Geuad and his group of young German Muslims (12thMemoRise), who initiates a campaign geared against ISIS on Facebook and in crowded public spaces, such as the shopping mall shown in the scene above. Their main tactic is to utilize the visual shock of performance art to make their bold statements. For example, the group frequently simulates live executions, modeled after real ISIS footage. Their intent is to provoke a more vigorous response from German residents to the terrorism pervading Germany. Throughout the film, we see that their message is often misunderstood as supporting extremism rather than condemning it. However, their bravery and perseverance in the face of danger and defeat is inspiring. “We are Muslims,” the 25-year-old Geuad tells DW. “We are not former Muslims or Islam critics. And that’s our advantage. We speak out against terrorism.”

The film was shot on commission in 2016-2017 after a producer in Germany asked Schauder to participate in a pitch competition on the topic of “Extremism.” His list of potential subjects for the film included high profile terrorists and neo-Nazis. The members of 12thMemoRise were at the bottom of the list. Speaking about why he was compelled to choose them and follow their story, Schauder says he found their story “brave…The imperfection of it all was charming.”

Schauder describes his approach to filming as similar to a fly on the wall. “Always keep the camera rolling,” he says, “then cut out scenes and rearrange them later.” Once he knows the story he wants to tell, he can begin to subtly direct scenes or guide the camera’s eye to show certain elements. Schauder knew he had a story filming when the group had their “crisis” and almost broke up, which was then followed by a resolution and plans to make a come-back.  

Much of the film relies on tension and stress. At any moment, we feel as if something could go horribly wrong. We see human nature at its rawest: full of doubt, fear, anger, determination, and faith. The stress of Hassan’s internal crisis as leader of 12thMemoRise is doubled by the external terror of the world we live in today.

As any seasoned filmmaker knows, when shooting hundreds of hours of people’s personal lives, there is bound to be uncomfortable and delicate scenarios. In one scene of the film, a member of 12thMemoRise, Ahmed, is having a heated argument with his family. We the audience listen along with the camera outside of the closed door. We see shadows moving behind the glass. Navigating this liminal space of both giving respect to his subjects, yet still being privy to their conversation is a thin line. Yet, Schauder states: “I don’t censor myself when I’m shooting.” However, before releasing the film, Schauder shows these potentially revealing scenes to the family for their approval because “their safety and privacy is key.”

Speaking of safety, shooting scenes of simulated ISIS executions and slave markets in public arenas is not exactly a walk in the park. Similar to his previous shooting of “When God Sleeps,” high security was necessary to protect Schauder and his crew in case ISIS was to attack them or the members of 12thMemoRise. But as Schauder points out in the podcast, Art More Than Ever: “[To make films], you have to be flexible and persistent…and probably a bit crazy.”

It’s difficult to boil down all the intricate and provocative details of this film into one phrase, but the heart of Warriors of Faith has to be the “exploration of extreme courage.” Indeed, what these young men and women of 12thMemoRise are doing is dangerous in today’s world, but tremendously necessary. Schauder says: “They are not apostates who say ‘Fuck You.’ They are practicing Muslims, and it takes real courage to challenge a religion and reform it from within.” Yet, how can these stories be told without the courage of a filmmaker willing to risk his own safety in order to bring them to a broader audience? In this way filmmaking, too, works as a kind of activism, and serves as a catalyst for the fight against terrorism.

***
Cameron Finch is a second-year MFA in Writing & Publishing candidate at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is the managing editor of Hunger Mountain: The VCFA Journal of the Arts and an intern for the VCFA Publications/Marketing Dept. In addition to writing creatively, she also freelances for Michigan Quarterly Review and Buzzworthy Media. Learn more about her at ccfinch.com.

 

 

 

 

Till Schauder is a Brooklyn-based writer, director, and cinematographer. His films have premiered at major film festivals around the world including Tribeca, Berlin, and Tokyo, and are funded through grants, partnerships and co-productions with organizations like the Sundance Documentary Institute, Fork Films, The Catapult Film Fund, The Jerome Foundation, NYSCA, Film und Medienstiftung NRW, FFA/German Federal Film Board, ITVS, ARD, ZDF, ARTE and many others. His films include: SANTA SMOKES,  THE IRAN JOBWHEN GOD SLEEPSWARRIORS OF FAITH (GLAUBENSKRIEGER), and REGGAE BOYZ. In addition to teaching at VCFA, Schauder teaches film at NYU’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies and is a frequent guest speaker at other film schools.

 

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.