Posts

Ian Cheney’s (’18) films, THIRTEEN WAYS and PICTURE CHARACTER, premiere

 

Alumnus Ian Cheney’s (’18) thesis documentary, THIRTEEN WAYS, will screen at the DC Environmental Film Festival on Thursday, Mar 21, 2019.

A series of scientists (and, for good measure, a few nonscientists) travel to a plot of Maine land they have never seen before. One-by-one, through all four seasons, they walk the land and describe what they see. What unfolds is an unusual meditation upon the human relationship to the natural world and the power of different ways of seeing.



PICTURE CHARACTER, directed by Cheney and Martha Shane, will premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in NYC on Sunday, April 28, 2019.

Emojis (Japanese for “picture character”) have emerged as a way for billions to communicate. Their widespread use and ability to convey complex and subtle feelings could mean the world is on the cusp of discovering a new language. Directors Martha Shane and Ian Cheney take us deep into the world of picture characters, from the private non-profit international consortium that standardized emoji offerings and decides on the introduction of new ones, to the campaigns for new emojis such as those depicting menstruation and Argentinian mate, and to the very beginnings of emojis in Japan. 

Picture Character follows the path of smiling poops and heart-eyed faces, tackles the development of skin tones, and tracks the evolution of the global digital language. Like a good use of a chin scratching emoji, the documentary is both thought-provoking and fun, and it will insure that viewers never look at another emoji, or think of language itself, the same way again.  (Sudeep Sharma)

Be sure to check out the full lineup of 2019 Tribeca Festival films.

We expect to see both of these films have a busy festival year–stay tuned!

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.

 

 

 

VCFA at Sundance Film Festival 2019!

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.

Ian Cheney (’18), Jason Rosenfield (’18) and VCFA faculty member Annie Howell

 

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.

Ian Cheney (’18) center, enjoying a meal with Lena and Werner Herzog, and Greg Boustead (co-producer THE MOST UNKNOWN).

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 student Damon Davis also attended the festival, as did recent VCFA residency special guests Ramona Diaz and Nancy Schreiber. We hear Mike Day was also spotted out in the crowd!

 

Susan Kelechi Watson (THIS IS US), Annie Howell, and Anna Margaret Hollyman (SISTER AIMEE). Kelechi Watson and Hollyman starred in Howell’s 2012 film (co-directed with Lisa Robinson), SMALL, BEAUTIFULLY MOVING PARTS. Hollyman also starred in Howell and Robinson’s 2016 film CLAIRE IN MOTION.

 

Alumnus Jay Koski’s (’16) THE PEPIE LEGEND’s latest festival showing, plus short doc BAIT SHOP screens

Alumnus Stewart Jay Koski’s thesis documentary, THE PEPIE LEGEND, will screen at at the Wildwood Film Festival  March 22nd-23rd, 2019. This will be the third festival showing for THE PEPIE LEGEND, with more to come!

About the film:Full-time folklorist and book author Chad Lewis reveals a 150-year-old legend that continues to resurface in modern day. In an attempt to solve the puzzle of this long-sought legend a $50,000 reward has been offered for indisputable proof of this Midwest lake monster. Filmed entirely on location.

Additionally, Koski’s short doc, BAIT SHOP, which he also created while here at VCFA, is an official selection to the Speechless Film Festival March 29th-30th, 2019. Films selected for this festival celebrate the art of visual storytelling with little to no dialogue.

Alumna Kathy Bruner’s (’17) feature length documentary, LAST YEAR AT THE CROSSING, screening at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival

Alumna Kathy Bruner’s (’17) thesis feature length documentary LAST YEAR AT THE CROSSING will be screening at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in Missoula, MT on February 16th, 2019.

About the film: A heartbreaking, raw and ultimately hopeful story of four teens trying to earn a diploma at a last-chance high school in Indiana. Their struggle against hopelessness, drug culture, failed family structures and poverty is met by a dedicated school administrator who tries to help them rise above their circumstances.

The Art and Craft of Cinematography: Nancy Schreiber, October 2018 Residency Recap, Special Guest

Residency weeks in the film program are always a whirlwind of learning, discussion, inspiration, and camaraderie. We were fortunate to host the funny, warm, and wise Nancy Schreiber at our October 2018 residency. We were blown away by the wealth of knowledge and expertise she was able to share with us–it was a great week! While here on campus, Schreiber treated us to a lecture titled “The Art and Craft of Cinematography” as well as a workshop where she reviewed student clips and assessed their individual work from an aesthetic and technical perspective.

In her lecture Schreiber covered her career trajectory beginning as a psychology major to a PA in New York City, examples of her work, influences, some practical advice on equipment, how she prepares for a job, and thoughts on being a woman in a still predominantly male profession.

Such a huge part of my job today has nothing to do with the photography. It’s all about the people management and making sure I’m on time, on budget, and everybody is happy up above, and everybody is happy on my team. [My] psychology background really helps in getting through some of these crazy shoots. It’s not all the time that we get to work with our friends… which is why I still love Indie cinema–it’s still all about the passion and family, not the bottom line.

the conformist Jean-Louis Trintignant

A list of some of Schreiber’s favorite Director/DP collaborations include that of: David Lean and Freddie Young, Bernardo Bertolucci and Vittorio Storaro, and Stanley Kubrick and John Alcott. Looking at  various stills from stunningly photographed films (CITIZEN KANE, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, THE CONFORMIST, BLADE RUNNER, AMERICAN BEAUTY, SEVEN, AMELIE), Schreiber ruminated on the various elements of composition and technical effects that make these films so successful. For example, THE CONFORMIST (a must see for all, according to Schreiber!) is a film that she frequently revisits prior to starting any new projects as a means of getting visually stimulated: “the composition…the combo of production design, wardrobe, lighting…is just WOW!”

In terms of her own work, Schreiber showed a montage of her past projects discussing various choices and challenges of each. She spoke in detail about filming MAPPLETHORPE, YOUR FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS, and MOVING PARTS (which we also screened here at residency followed by a panel discussion with Schreiber, the writer/director Emilie Upzcak (VCFA ’15), the producer John Otterbacher (VCFA ‘15), and the composer Rafael Attias (VCFA ‘15) ).

 Communication. Prep. Time. You just really need time… and then you have to learn to let go.

When discussing her process of procuring work from a script, Schreiber says she always asks for a lookbook in order to begin getting the visual of the film (color, tones, mood). She also makes a point to find out who the director is (if possible) and what their general aesthetic is like. Prior to the interview, Schreiber prepares by reading the script multiple times taking copious notes on character and visualization beginning the laborious process, once hired, of breaking down the script scene by scene in what she call the “Choreography of the Look.” The most important work for the DP, according to Schreiber, is to comprehensively understand the character and the range of emotions, “I want to know everything about character. It’s disturbing these days how everyone is so involved in the technical–’What Camera?’ Who cares! They are just tools!” Finally, once satisfied with her understanding of the scope of character, Schreiber and her team will work from shot lists (or a storyboard, if it is a more active scene). Schreiber says she always prefers to shoot in natural light, which is especially helpful on lower budget films where “you must gear how you are shooting to the budget.” In terms of really emphasizing the emotions, Nancy works with natural light whenever possible to get the “eyelights” as she believes “you have to see into the eyes to see the soul,”  continuing with a laugh, “even if it is just one eye.”

***

Nancy Schreiber is a prolific and award-winning cinematographer with decades of experience and over 130 credits in narrative film and television, as well as music videos, commercials and documentaries. (Titles include FX series “Better Things”; HBO’s “The Comeback”; and the films “Your Friends and Neighbors,” with Ben Stiller; “Loverboy,” directed by Kevin Bacon, with Kyra Sedgwick, Sandra Bullock, and Marissa Tomei; “The Nines,” starring Ryan Reynolds and Melissa McCarthy; and “November,” starring Courteney Cox.) Schreiber became an official member of the American Society of Cinematographers in 1995, being only the fourth woman to have been voted into membership. In 2017, she was awarded the ASC Presidents Award, the first woman to receive this award. Schreiber also recently received the Susan B. Anthony “Failure is Impossible” Award in recognition of her contributions to the art of filmmaking as one of the few female cinematographers working today. Schreiber was on Variety’s 10 Cinematographers to Watch list before taking home the Best Cinematography award at Sundance. She’s been nominated for an Emmy, an Independent Spirit Award, and was presented with the Women In Film Crystal/Kodak Vision Award. She is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

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.