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Filmwax Radio Interview Series: VCFA Alumnx Amy Hesketh

 

VCFA is proud to be partnering with Filmwax Radio for a special series of interviews featuring VCFA alumni. The second installment of the series is with the brilliant and prolific Amy Hesketh (’18) whose aesthetic is quirky and smart–sometimes dark, sometimes funny, but always beautiful. In the interview Amy discusses her films, PYGMALION, OLALLA,  and BEARDBATH, among others. Amy and Adam cover a range of other topics including: Bolivian cinema, rural living, pushing boundaries, the value of long walks, and the collaborative nature found in Montpelier VT! Be sure to have a listen–enjoy!

The podcast is also available on iTunesStitcher, Spotify, Google Play & Youtube.

 

I make a lot of films about what I am experiencing in life. Some of my darker films were written and made in a time when I needed to translate the negative experiences in my life… I don’t know what writer’s block is! I just need to wash my hair, or sleep, and then I have an idea.

-Amy Hesketh on making films and where she gets her inspiration

 

Filmmaker Amy Hesketh has made 6 feature films and numerous shorts to date, including her most recent, PYGMALION, which is due out soon. In addition to being a graduate of the VCFA MFA in Film Program, Amy is also an adjunct professor of film at Olympic College in Washington State and one of the filmmakers at Pachamama Films.

Festival Roundup: Alumnus John Bruner’s (’17) thesis short, GROUNDED

Alumnus John Bruner‘s (’17) thesis film GROUNDED has had tremendous festival success this past year screening at: Woods Hole Film FestivalMaryland International Film FestivalAustin Indie FestCanada ShortsShort and Sweet Film FestivalGreat Lakes Shorts Festival, Independent Shorts Awards, as well as at the UFVA (University Film and Video Association) Conference.

GROUNDED will next be screened this April (2019) at the Ft. Myers Beach International Film Festival.

 

James is a pilot trying to move into management. He might miss his big chance because he has to take his aging and very proper mother home after her extended visit. As James struggles to get back on course, his mother runs out of time to reveal a secret that could be what finally slows James down.

The film is semi-autobiographical, recounting road trips the director took with his own mother more than a decade ago. It’s a story about some universal truths: how we sometimes put careers in front of people, how fears can block our enjoyment of life, and how we all crave a closeness within our families that’s sometimes hard to achieve.

 

 

 

 


More about John: John Bruner teaches film and media production at Taylor University. John has worked in film and broadcast/corporate television as an executive producer, director, writer, camera operator, editor and engineer. He envisioned and co-founded Taylor’s Los Angeles semester, preparing students to work in the entertainment industry. His career has taken him as far as Russia and Australia, from documentary and narrative filmmaking to television coverage of live concerts, political events, and sports.

 

Alumni Spotlight: Angelique Webster’s (’18) short doc RESPECT AND LOVE

Angelique Webster’s thesis short doc RESPECT AND LOVE is on fire! In addition to past screenings we highlighted last fall, here is a round up of upcoming film festival showings, with no doubt more on the way! (Keep on eye out on RESPECT AND LOVE’s official facebook page to keep apprised of all of the details.)

March 2019 Events:

Women in Media Film Festival– Newark, New Jersey

Rapid Lion Film Festival– Johannesburg, South Africa

POW ( Portland Oregon Women’s) Film Festival– Portland, Oregon

Universe Multicultural Film Festival -Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

2019 New England Graduate Media Symposium– Boston, MA

April 2019 (and beyond) Events:

American Doc Film Festival–  April 2019 Palm Springs, CA

Langston Hughes Film Festival– April 2019 Seattle Washington

Creatively Speaking Double Exposure Film Series– Maysles Documentary Center June 2019  Harlem, NY


It has been said that Gloria was the first African-American woman to sue the Catholic Church. RESPECT AND LOVE is a short experimental documentary, in which the filmmaker sits down with her mother 30 years later to gain insight on how those experiences have shaped her mother’s life.

 

 

We recently caught up with Angelique and asked her a few questions, here is what she had to say:

RESPECT AND LOVE is a deeply personal story for you and your family, in what ways did the concept change or evolve from the start of the project through its completion?

I think the major change to my film was adding my voice. My plan was to use my mother’s interview to tell the story. As I was going through the footage I realize that strong transitions were missing. Along with the need for smooth transitions, I decided to juxtapose my thoughts along side of my mother’s. The two storylines made the film fuller and much more three dimensional.

What is the most valuable piece of advise, feedback, or inspiration you received here at VCFA as an MFA in Film student?

The most valuable feedback I received while at VCFA was to go out on a limb and try something different. I never imagined that I would write a script, but I did. I was nervous and not very confident… but had really great support and feedback. It actually felt good to write. With the next film I am working on, I have started with writing. The writing allows me to see themes and ideas that may be useful with making a stronger piece.

Where do you see yourself and your work in the next 3 years?

In the next 3 years I see myself teaching, making films, and creating a community space for inter-generational filmmaking projects.


Angelique Webster is a filmmaker and educator. She  is a graduate from Lincoln University and received her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in April 2018. Since 2003, Angelique has worked with community members to use media as a tool to share their stories and promote the importance of media literacy. She recently finished her first short film RESPECT AND LOVE. She lives in Worcester, MA with her wife Isabel and 3 year old daughter Vivian.

 

 

 

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.

 

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!

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)

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.