Coming Attractions Trailer Night
Summer 2015 Blockbuster Sequels, Remakes, and Indies: Go See the Movies
Dedicated to the Memory of Our Friend and Colleague Bill Henry, Washington-area Film Critic & DC Film Society Event Co-Host
By Cheryl L. Dixon
On May 19, 2015, film fans attended a Film Society “Coming Attractions Trailer Night” program at Landmark's E Street Cinema like few others before. Film Critic and Host Tim Gordon and Film Society Member Adam Spector dedicated the program to the memory of Bill Henry whose sudden, untimely death left us all both shocked and saddened. A much beloved Film Critic and friend of Film Society, Bill co-hosted, with Tim (and before him, Joe Barber), our twice annual “Coming Attractions” program and annual Oscars Viewing Party event continually and consistently since 1997. After a brief introduction by Film Society Director Michael Kyrioglou, Tim and Adam spoke about Bill’s love for this event, his fun remarks, booming laugh, encyclopediac knowledge of film, and his favorite seat in the front row center...
As we were all grieving, Film Society leadership and the Coordinating Committee considered cancelling the program, but thought that we could best honor Bill’s memory by expressing our shared passion for the movies, which we do whenever we see them (or the trailers that represent them) and cast our opinions about them, whether good or bad, high-brow, or low-brow. That is what Bill would have wanted us to do and that’s exactly what we did. So, when we think of Bill, let us always remember him as more than a Film Critic, but as a consummate lover of movies, and a good friend, who loved to share his opinion about all things movie-related!
Indie favorite Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was selected as the best overall Film Trailer of the over 30 trailers in five categories shown at “Coming Attractions Trailer Night’s” Summer Edition program. Trailers covered included soon-to-be-released summer movies, including blockbuster sequels, remakes, and, of course, indies. Program attendees cast their votes, both informally (applause) and formally (ballot).
Host Tim Gordon led the always-spirited discussion on the trailers and gave the audience the full buzz on the effectiveness of the trailers themselves and a peek at the movies they represent.
The categories, the winners of each category, and general commentary follow. Whether by applause vote or official ballot, attendees are never shy about expressing their opinions. And they know that their vote counts. Audience feedback is handed over to the Studios and just might impact the course of future trailers and how they are used to more effectively market the films they represent. By now, many of the films associated with the trailers have been released, but remember that attendees at this event saw the trailers first! If you liked what you saw in the trailers, go see the movies! And if you missed the trailers, but like what you’re reading here, go see the movies!!
Here’s a summary of the winning films in each of the five categories and further discussion:
Out of the World
Mad Max: Fury Road - WINNER!
The Fantastic Four
Tim began with an overview of some of the movies based on these trailers that he had already seen and asked the audience whether there were any moves that they were looking forward to seeing. He also mentioned that Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was a Sundance hit, representing the story-driven film prototype, high in story and drama, but not a cash cow. Mad Max: Fury Road was the winner in this category. Tim confessed that he was partial to the earlier versions of this movie. Director George Miller’s effort looked terrific with lots of trucks, motorcycles, and zombie-like creatures on a hellish roadtrip. Charlize Theron is a woman empowered. A crowd-pleaser with excellent special effects.
Commentary: Lots of remakes in this category. Jurassic World borrows Chris Pratt from Guardians of the Galaxy and updates Jurassic Park to scare a new generation. Heroes don’t get any bigger in Ant-Man, as Marvel Comics continues its run of Superhero movies. Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas are featured in this redemption tale. Also time for a reboot of The Fantastic Four with Michael B. Jordan, Miles Teller, Kate Mara, and Jamie Bell on the team. Ditto for Terminator: Genisys with time travel disruption evident with Arnold Schwarzennegger’s character. No spoiler alert! Gorgeous George Clooney is in Disney’s Tomorrowland about a transportation device. Audience members weren’t impressed with the trailer. “What’s it about?” one member queried. Tim observed that usually the trailers tell us too much, but not in this case. And The Wolfpack looks really fascinating, either a documentary or mockumentary about a family of brothers that are shielded from the “real world” by being kept inside their home, barricaded from the outside world.
Infinitely Polar Bear
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl - WINNER! BEST TRAILER OVERALL!
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl about a boy’s friendship with a girl dying from leukemia seemed to Tim to be a bit like a remake of The Fault in Our Stars. A Sundance Grand Jury and Audience Award winner with Nick Offerman, Connie Britton, Molly Shannon, and John Bernthal. Tim assures us that it’s a fantastic movie, a three-hankie movie. Be forewarned.
Commentary: Paper Towns looked like a typical “teens in love” story with the nice guy pining for the girl, walking on the wild side, who goes missing. In Infinitely Polar Bear, Zoe Saldana and Mark Ruffalo attempt to keep the marriage and family together in 1967, but it’s really tough when the husband suffers from bipolar disorder. Aloft’s trailer was a little confusing, there are birds flying freely and themes of life and freedom, but the trailer doesn’t really tell us what the movie is about. Jennifer Connolly and Cillian Murphy star. In contrast, the Duplass Brothers’ Exec-produced Tangerine makes it very clear about the movies’ subject. It’s about two transgender female prostitutes’ adventures in the city. Alternately funny and gritty. With earnest performances. The two leads are actually transgender. Intriguing.
Spy - WINNER!
Melissa McCarthy reprises her role as the Queen of Physical Comedy as a spy in Spy. She’s a mild-mannered CIA Analyst who volunteers to go undercover, but she’s in way over her head and in good company with Jude Law, Allison Janney, Rose Byrne, and Jason Statham. LOL hilarious! A real audience pleaser!
Commentary: Move over Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo, Vacation has a new generation of Griswolds with Ed Helms and Christina Applegate. And, yes, they’re heading to Walley World. There were lots of chuckles for this trailer. Masterminds: It’s an SNL Reunion with Jason Sudeikis, Kate McKinnon, and Kristin Weig. Pixels: “It’s Game On or Game Over” tagline in an Adam Sandler trailer with video games (think gigantic Pac Man) coming to attack humans. “Why?” lamented one attendee. Is it a love triangle in Aloha with Bradley Cooper, Rachel McAdams, and Emma Stone? Writer/Director Woody Allen pairs Emma Stone this time with Joaquin Phoenix in Irrational Man.
Give it up for the Band
Love & Mercy - WINNER!
Ricki and the Flash
Straight Outta Compton
Magic Mike XXL
Got to hand it the Beach Boys. Celebrating the 49th anniversary of “Pet Sounds,” considered one of the greatest albums ever! Love & Mercy focuses on tortured genius Brian Wilson and his relationship with his girlfriend, other band members, and unscrupulous therapist. The trailer features Elizabeth Banks as the girlfriend. Paul Dano and John Cusack portray the younger/older versions of Brian Wilson.
Commentary: Surprise! Meryl Streep transforms herself as a Rocker babe in Jonathan Demme’s Ricki and the Flash. Her real-life daughter, Mamie Gummer, also stars as her daughter and Kevin Kline and Rick Springfield as her partners, past and present. Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and Eazy-E are front and center in Straight Outta Compton about NWA. “Our Art is a reflection of our reality.” Vince, Turtle, Drama, Eric, Ari. The guys from Queens and their hug-it-out agent are reunited in their first movie, Entourage, based on the popular HBO series of the same name. Hilarious. Channing Tatum and Joe Manganiello prove they’ve still got it in Magic Mike XXL. Watch ‘em strut their stuff! Jada Pinkett Smith and Elizabeth Banks join the cast. Lots of laughter, audience pleaser plus! Tim says Dope was another Sundance favorite in a story about three friends in Inglewood with one trying to get into Harvard. Writer/Director Rick Famuyiwa leads an ensemble cast including Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori, and Kiersey Clemons.
The Human Condition
Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation
Trainwreck - WINNER!
It’s a rom-com from Director Judd Apatow with Amy Schumer and SNL alum Bill Hader. This time it’s the guy who will commit, while the girl isn’t quite ready in Trainwreck. The trailer masterfully captures the humor factor. Wildly applauded!
Commentary: Inside Out was one of our bonus trailers, where Disney & Pixar combine efforts to create a cartoon featuring a depiction of the emotions in our heads. It’s another SNL and The Office Reunion with Amy Poelhler and Bill Hader as just two of the voices that give voice to such emotions as fear, anger, and sadness. Film Society Member Wendell Wagner leans over to me and whispers that this has been done before. Anybody remember the TV show, “Herman’s Head?” Can’t wait for the new version of Man from U.N.C.L.E. with Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer and reprising the roles of CIA Agent Robert Vaughn and KGB Operative David McCallum as the Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin characters from the original 60s TV show when Cold War spy shows were the rage. Yeah baby! Tom Cruise and company take on yet another impossible mission in Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation. Director Antoine Fuqua presents Jake Gyllenhaal in Southpaw, a boxing picture and redemption story. And in Self-Less, Sir Ben Kingsley and Ryan Reynolds prove that immortality has its side effects.
Of course, the evening would be incomplete without the bonus trailers. We saw Crimson Peak, A Guillermo del Toro trailer about a haunted house. The house appears to be a living, breathing thing. This had stunning visual effects and an endorsement by Stephen King! Next, it was DC Comics’ turn to trot out the Superhero movie. Are you ready for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice? Coming to an IMAX theatre near you in 2016! Absolute power corrupts absolutely is the tagline. Two for the price of one! Commented one attendee. Indeed. Last, but not least, cue the orchestra. The Star Wars movie. Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens. C-3PO, R2D2, Han Solo, and Chewbacca return and join new characters. Ready your light sabers!
These trailers weren’t included in the audience voting….
And so, our very sated movie-going audience enjoyed a full evening of trailer film surprises and promotional giveaways and prizes just for showing up. Always nice to add a free DVD to one’s collection, and there were lots of t-shirts, books, movie posters and other assorted movie memorabilia to please any discerning movie fan. See you at our next trailer program, and at the movies!
Thanks to all of the DC Film Society Directors, Coordinating Committee Members, and Volunteers for putting together this twice-annual educational program. And thanks to our uber host,Tim Gordon, and special guest, Adam Spector, for providing their heartfelt commentary and Tim for, as always, sharing his opinions and tolerating ours, Allied THA, Landmark Theatres, DC Shorts, Women in Film & Video, and Filmfest DC.
The End of the Tour: Q&A with Actor Jason Segel
By Annette Graham, DC Film Society Member
A preview screening of The End of the Tour (James Ponsoldt) was shown July 30 at Landmark's E Street Cinema. The film follows the five-day interview between Rolling Stones reporter David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) and novelist David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel) which took place after the 1996 publication of his novel "Infinite Jest." The film is based on Lipsky's memoir "Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace."
A few comments from director James Ponsoldt (from the press notes): “Biopics have a tendency to flatten out and reduce the complexity of a life. I usually have a fierce aversion to them. The End of the Tour is more like a snapshot of two lives taken over just a handful of days. The script is largely if not entirely based on the actual recorded conversations, so the veracity isn’t really debatable. But then Donald Margulies transformed that into great drama. It begins as a story about how a journalist approaches an elusive subject, but that story gets further complicated by ego, insecurity, jealousy, vulnerability and admiration. Ultimately, it becomes a kind of platonic unrequited love story.... We’ve all had the experience of a brief encounter with someone we’ve admired from a distance – whether professionally or a relative or an artist you get to meet – where this person has taken on all this meaning, all this emotion, yet they are a stranger and what you get is never quite what you expected, either in terms of who they are or how you react to them. This is a story about that moment, and it’s also a story of a man looking back at it years later, so it’s about memory, about something that was lost and about a kind of regret.... Simply put, David Foster Wallace sparked change in popular writing in our time – something that happens maybe once in a generation. He’s like Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Tom Wolfe, or Jack Kerouac before him. He gave a voice to the things a lot of people are struggling with right now, one that was hugely creative and funny and had a personal impact.”
Actor Jason Segel took questions from the audience after the screening.
Moderator: This is like a funhouse mirror. An actor playing David Lipsky interviews an actor playing David Foster Wallace re-creating a real-life thing and now I interview the actor playing David Foster Wallace. That seemed to be part of the theme of the movie.
Jason Segel: That they were in it together. You have two people with competing agendas. A lot of the movie is like a not-so friendly tennis match. You need each other to continue the volley but yet you also want to win the point. So there is some question of how long do I play this back and forth before I try to level a serious shot at this person. You feel that sort of tension running throughout the whole movie. James Ponsoldt, our director, directed a movie called Smashed and The Spectacular Now. He's a genius at the beginning of his career. He is able to create this tense narrative underneath the dialogue. None of that is actually in a lot of the dialogue but you feel it. There are scenes where he stays on Jesse's face while I'm talking. And until I saw the movie I didn't realize that was what that scene was about--this little change in Jesse.
Moderator: This movie has a lot of subtext--what you were saying and also what the viewer brings to it if they are at all familiar with David Foster Wallace. How do you play that?
Jason Segel: I think there are a few things going on. I have had a lot of time to think and talk about this. A lot of movies are like a conversation with a contrarian, where David Foster Wallace has something that he would like to say. He's going through something real and vital right at that moment and he meets somebody who he thinks he can have this conversation with. And the conversation keeps getting stopped before he can get to his point. I've had that frustrating thing, like if someone has had one drink too many or they're just a natural contrarian whereas you're trying to make some point. I'm not trying to think about whether or not the Irish are a race or a people (everyone laughs); I have a thing I'm trying to say to you. I feel that is what is so interesting about the climax of the movie to me is after I leave and Jesse Eisenberg is left alone in the house and starts taking that quick mental dictation. And he arrives at the St. Ignatius quote and has this realization, "Oh, no, I might have missed the whole story. He was trying to tell me something and I was so obsessed with my agenda that I missed it." There's another element of the story that is a guy talking to his younger self. David Foster Wallace looking back through the tunnel and seeing this kid who is all ambition. He hasn't done a thing yet. David Lipsky thinking, "If I just get there, then I'm going to feel better. It must feel great there." And David Foster Wallace looking back saying, "Be careful, I've just found out there's no there. This tunnel just goes on forever." This guy has just unloaded a book that took years to write, 1,000 pages; it's been as well received as possible. On this press tour people were saying, "What's next?" What a terrifying question after that amount of time. Not sure who says this.
Moderator: You are on a press tour. You made the film more than a year ago.
Jason Segel: I finished the film last April. So I've just been sitting quietly on this. I didn't want to do anything else until this came out. I just felt like I was so proud of this. I'm self-aware enough to know that people weren't going to know what to think until they saw the movie. I know that when the script came across someone's desk, they didn't think, "Get Jason Segel on the phone stat." (everyone laughs). I've been waiting it out. I've been really excited.
Moderator: People are saying this is a departure for you and in some ways it is. Why? Do you think it is?
Jason Segel: I do think it is. I could probably find some way to say that it's not and acting is just acting. But given how terrified I was it was a departure. That's a pretty good indicator. It's reflective of what I was thinking about at the time. You spend your 20s feeling more frivolous. Forgetting Sarah Marshall is really what I felt like at 24, where a breakup is the biggest thing that's ever happened. And you call it The Breakup to your friends. I think I found that by 30 I was thinking about other stuff. I was at this moment where my TV show was coming to an end, this cycle of comedies I was doing was coming to an end. I was looking forward thinking, "I'm 34 years old and alone in a room with a piece of paper." When I read that line I thought, "I have to do this if they'll let me."
Audience Question: During your preparation for the role did you read any of his books and did you read the Rolling Stone article? Did you get a sense of his character?
Jason Segel: There used to be a chyron at the end of the movie and we took it off. The Rolling Stone article was never printed ultimately, to the great relief of David Foster Wallace from what I understand. And they also never spoke again. I read some of the short works which is an easier introduction to David Foster Wallace. "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again," "Consider the Lobster," these are easily consumable chunks if you are just getting started and they are as funny as anything you have ever read. They are nonfiction and it's David Foster Wallace being himself. However, then I read "Infinite Jest" for this movie and I felt like despite it being fiction it was more personal than even the nonfiction. As a matter of fact, I viewed it more as a man talking in metaphor than I did fiction. When I read it I felt like an SOS was being sent out saying, "Hey, this is how I feel. I am feeling dissatisfied. I am feeling that what we've been promised since we were young that pleasure and achievement or entertainment are going to make us feel good. I don't feel that way and does anyone want to join in this conversation?" It does remind me of when I read Catcher in the Rye in high school. You read this thing and what I have been expressing as "get out of my room," this person has written a novel about. (everyone laughs) That's the beauty of writers like that who offer a surrogate experience is that they're in essence saying, "All right gang, we're in this together. I seem to be the one with the good vocabulary, so let me do the talking."
Moderator: Tell us about how you read it in a book club.
Jason Segel: I had a book club in my little town. When I bought the book I asked the guy at the counter, "How long should I give myself to read this book?" And he said, "First time?" And I said, "Yes, first time." And he said, "Hey, man come over." Another book guy came over. He said, "This guy's going to read Infinite Jest. How long should we give him." And then it was like an episode of Parker Lewis Can't Lose. One looked at the other and said, "Book club?" And the other went, "Book club!" (everyone laughs) We did this book club where we would read 100 pages a week on our own and then get together on Sundays and talk about it. What was really amazing about it and really informed me a lot was that you had four guys, different ages, different life experiences, all identifying with this central theme that we need to be really careful about where we place our value and dissatisfaction. This idea that is told to us is that a good life will be to work really really hard so you can come and crack open a beer and watch television on a big giant screen. And a lot of people don't feel good and maybe there's a reason.
Audience Question: Did you ever come to any answer for yourself of the question David Foster Wallace poses "What does it mean to be a human being?"
Jason Segel: I feel like these are issues that he was circling around in all his work. The closest he came to an answer is in a speech called "This is Water," where you feel like it's a decade or so later and he's a little closer to a solution that he would like to talk about. Maybe if we put our faith in power we are going to need to exert more power over others; if it's wealth we're never going to have enough money. But if you make it some version of a higher power, some version of community, and being accountable to your friends and family, being a good guy, and then being able to let yourself off the hook. I had access to Lipsky's tapes and there's a quote I heard, he says to Lipsky, sounding so tired, sounding done, "You are saddled for your whole life with this other you. The voice at the end of the day that either tells you everything's fine or tells you that you're nothing." And we all know that voice. And he said, "One of the things I've learned is that I need to make friends with that other me. That's going to be the longest relationship I have." And I think there's a lot of truth to that. You've got the crazy friend with you and you have to learn to manage him. The crazy friend is tired, make sure he gets a nap. I think it's a sense of community and a higher power.
Audience: How does that make it into your acting?
Jason Segel: David Lipsky keeps accusing him of putting up this facade. But Lipsky seems to think that the facade is for other people. What I think is that yes there is a facade but when you're dealing with depression you realize that it's your responsibility to manage your own feelings. And so I think the facade was a construct for David Foster Wallace to feel okay. "No, I'm not trying to trick you, I'm trying to trick me." So that's how it played into my acting.
Moderator: You can see "This Is Water" on Youtube, it's a 23 minute version. It's the Kenyon commencement speech.
Audience Question: What was it like to work with Jesse Eisenberg?
Jason Segel: Jesse is a superior intellect. He's one of the smartest guys I've ever met. I've never met a better actor, a better friend. We didn't meet until this movie; I had never known him before this. We had a meet and greet dinner, me, Jesse and the producers. You could tell we were feeling each other out. We talked about how Jesse and I are both writers and David Lipsky and David Foster Wallace are writers. Someone at the table asked me how I got started writing. And I said that It was by necessity. "No one was knocking down my door to play Captain America." And without missing a beat Jesse said (imitates Jesse Eisenberg's voice), "No but you could probably play the captain of a weaker country." (everyone laughs) I knew at that moment that I was going to have to show up really sharp and ready. We were staying at the same hotel. We would drive together to work every morning and we would go over our lines for the day because there was so much dialogue. And we would act with/against each other for 15-16 hours and then we would drive home and get a doughnut and talk about what we had done. And then go our separate ways and start again the morning. I felt a real kinship with Jesse. "And they never spoke again." (everyone laughs)
Audience Question: Is it more terrifying to play a real life person than a fictional person?
Jason Segel: Yes, definitely. There are a few different challenges in playing someone real. I wanted to proceed with great empathy and respect to the fact that there are people who love David Foster Wallace personally and in varying capacities. And I knew, coming from comedy, one of the risks is that it looks like a sketch or impression. So there is this balance of wanting to measure accuracy with being more focused on capturing the essence. Then there is this other wild card possibility that no matter how good a job I did, the way that the way a body can reject a perfectly good organ, that this movie plays and you just say no. There is some version where you just say I don't accept Jason Segel as David Foster Wallace. That was what was really scary going into Sundance. Will this be okay? Everything went great and I felt a lot of relief.
Audience Question: Why was the Rolling Stone article never published and why did you not put that in the introduction?
Jason Segel: I'm not sure why the article was never published, they might have not thought it was a big enough story. We went both ways on it. It's a better question for our director. I think they thought it's better to let you walk away from this movie and have a conversation. I have a larger thought about that. Movies have become really polarized in a way that I think is fine; they all have their merit. But there is one side of the big tent pole movie which is more escapism. Maybe you had a tough week and you go out on a Friday night and it's great. That's important; it's fun. The middle area of movies has moved to television. Television has gotten so nice and a movie that's just pleasant is better watched at home really. You can eat and push pause. (everyone laughs) Then there's other kind of movie which is where The End Of The Tour falls where the real hope is what the art house movie used to be, you go with a group of people and make a night of it and you see the movie and maybe go have dinner and there's discussion to be had. So maybe that's why you don't put the chyrons on. Creatively if I had an opinion, it's because now you get to walk away and say, "I wonder what happened with those two," and a whole discussion takes place.
Moderator: My theory is that the editor is a jackass. No editor should say "There'd better be a story there." It's the editor's job to help you find the story.
Audience Question: Why was your book club all male?
Jason Segel: I think it may have to do with male pride. Some of the things that maybe I wanted to talk about with that group of dudes, I might have felt too vulnerable talking about with a group of women, like feelings of inadequacy, feelings of existential loneliness. Maybe it's that. But I think times have changed. I think it's really applicable to an age, to a period of your life. In your 20s you labor under the illusion that this is going to pay off. And then no matter what you accumulate and no matter what you achieve, you realize that this is not scratching that particular itch.
Audience Question: This is not your normal film. Do you feel more pride in it?
Jason Segel: I feel a lot of pride about which I don't think I never felt before. It is pride that I have a change that I made mentally. When they said, "That's a wrap." I felt like, well, I've done everything that I possibly could. And that's it. Now I just have to face reality. At this point in my life I can handle that. There's a chance this whole movie is out of focus. This is what you find out in life, all sorts of stuff can happen. You do your best and let yourself off the hook. I feel a lot of pride that I did everything I possibly could to make it great and to be of service to the project.
Audience Question: What thoughts do you have about David Foster Wallace?
Jason Segel: My answer is complicated. One of things I think is really a potential pitfall would be to deify David Foster Wallace. He means so much to so many people, to not acknowledge that he is man just like us. We relate to him more for the flaws. That's the whole point of why we relate to him. He's just one of us with maybe a greater emotional vocabulary. I locked in and relished all the warts. Those are the parts that made him feel like me. There's a thing I try to do in my performance, where my interior life isn't matched up to what is happening in the scene. Lipsky and I are having a conversation but David Foster Wallace has something else going on in his mind. That's something I definitely deal with. There are times if you saw me on a CCTV, I'm just sitting, but there is a war going on in my brain. That is what I empathize with most. I'm a smart guy but it would be arrogant to say, "The thing I really identified with is his capacity with language." (audience laughs) I identified with the parts where he is uncomfortable.
Audience Question: I was struck by the physicality and visceral quality. How did you give the embodiment a whole other layer?
Jason Segel: When I was 12 years old, I became six foot four. Kids used to stand around me in a circle. One by one they would jump on my back, and the other kids would chant, "Ride the oaf, ride the oaf." (everyone laughs) But I made it out alright (everyone laughs). I learned and spotted something in his interviews. When you are my size and things like that happen, some people develop into real proud men, and I''m jealous of them. They stand up straight whereas I adopted this thing where I kind of subjugate my self. I noticed it and tried not to do it as I got older and felt more comfortable in my own skin. I would hunch over and speak more quietly and my head would be down, so as not to assert my size. I thought that was a really good metaphor for a guy trying to lower himself intellectually to the people around him. That "ah shucks" thing. Then when Jesse pisses me off and I stand up straight, "No more of this." you really feel it. Because I'm a lot bigger than Jesse is.
Audience Question: The climax to me is when he starts to flirt with the ex-girlfriend. It's interesting. He says, "Be good." What was going through your mind? What do you think was going through his mind?
Jason Segel: "Be a good guy" was an improv. There is very little improv in the movie because it would be arrogant to paraphrase somebody else's language. What happened there was just different than what was scripted. The way it was written was that I walk in and I'm very angry and I grab him and shove him up against the refrigerator. We tried that a couple of times. It just didn't feel right and it wasn't reflective of what we had done up until then. I walked in and did it the way it felt like and I said first time, "Be a man." Then James Ponsoldt, came running out and he said, "That's better, that's close, but I think it's 'Be a good guy'." And then we said, "Be a good guy," and Jesse started crying. And he looked down and I said, "Look at me." And he said, "I am." But he was looking down. It was one little moment where you feel real good, that you were present, you weren't trying to have a big acting moment. That's special; that's teamwork. There was nothing flashy going on, just three guys trying to make it the best they could.
Moderator: Is the theme or point of view of the movie yours or Jesse's?
Jason Segel: I think the theme is this terrifying moment when things go exactly the way you hoped they would go and you still feel the same. Writing is very lonely, incredibly lonely. Every page you write is "No, I can't meet you for dinner tonight." That's my experience with it. When I write a script it takes three months maybe and so that's three months of "No, I'm not going to do that fun thing." To write a book like Infinite Jest is years of "No I can't meet you for dinner tonight." That is so lonely. And the whole time you are laboring under this assumption that what you;re doing is going to be good. That's a long time to cling to that idea that for four or five years you are able to maintain the confidence that what I'm writing is even going to make sense. Or that people are going to like it or buy it or it's worth it. I'm not going to deliver this 1,000 page thing and they're going to say "You're crazy." That's a possible outcome too. It works. You've done it for years, you've been holding on to this idea and it comes out and it goes as well as it can possibly can go and nothing has changed inside of you. That is terrifying to me. So that's what I think the movie is about.
The End of the Tour is scheduled to be in area theaters August 7.
We Come As Friends: Q&A with Director Hubert Sauper
By Ron Gordner, DC Film Society Member
We Come As Friends (France/Austria, 2014) was shown at British Film Institute theatre during the 2014 BFI London Film Festival in October 2014. The director Hubert Sauper also directed the highly lauded earlier documentary Darwin’s Nightmare in 2004 which also soberly dealt with colonialism, globalization, and outside businesses taking advantage of local Lake Victoria, Tanzania populations. We Come As Friends shows the war-ravaged South Sudan claiming independence from North Sudan and its brutal President, Omar al-Bashir. A tiny, homemade prop plane wings in from France. The documentarian Hubert Sauper is also the pilot and presents many fascinating stories and aerial shots of the land. The Colonial history of Sudan is presented, and sometimes little has changed. The film also follows U.S. evangelical leaders who feel they need to shame the natives about their nudity and to be clothed according to Biblical standards. Also Chinese employees of an oil facility are shown and also within the context of the environment and toxicology.
BFI Moderator: As an African viewing your film, I am somewhat concerned how it has been perceived by African audiences. Who is the film meant for? Is it more for European audiences than African audiences? Do you see yourself more as an artist. a human rights activist, or a filmmaker who wants to bring attention to these issues? What was the first concept for this film? Did you decide to build an airplane first? I love your photography of the planes and the aerial shots of the people as ants. It really presents globalization in a unique perspective.
Hubert Sauper: The motivation for the film is not just to make the world a better place. I am an artist, not to be pretentious. I studied both feature and documentary film making. Some people may leave the film and go to the Sudanese Embassy and say get rid of Sauper. I have had some unfriendly reactions and threats that concern me. It is a piece of media that stirs up human rights issues. There are many layers in the film.
Audience Question: I wanted you to address the concept of Colonialism in your films. Is this something that was a theme planned in the beginning of the film or did it just come gradually as the film unfolded?
Hubert Sauper: The film is very conceptual. Using your creative ideas can be useful. You have to deal with clichés also of science fiction, Colonialism, and people with machine guns or walking in step in Central Africa. Before a hundred years ago there really was not straight line separating areas in Central Africa. Now we have straight lines and borders. We took off as becoming friends or as clowns on a plane. I was arrested and in jail in Libya and in Egypt for two months and constantly under threat.
BFI Moderator: But why did you give the military credits in your film then?
Hubert Sauper: Well, frankly because they let me live (audience laughter). I realized the only way to survive this environment is to become part of it. We met the soldiers and the leaders. We mutated in part with the armies, my friend Barney and I, and that allowed us access to the military. We became what we hated most, but had to become chameleons to get the stories. I somewhat had to become part of the Colonial realm and concept to accomplish making the film. There are many layers showing the development of Africa. Someone from Africa will see a very different film than someone from Europe or America who has a concept from what they have seen on TV. I was searching really for an archive. There are painful legacies of Colonialism moments in their history like King Leopold of Belgium outsmarting many people with contracts in place. I finally came upon this village chief and the crazily written contract issue which was jaw-dropping, but at the same time providing a living history or archive of what was needed to be shown. The contract was run by a former Texas friend of President Ronald Reagan. He was sent out as a refugee expert and used his influence and opportunity to prey upon this village. He thought the land should be his for a mere $25,000. It’s crazy stuff like this which has to be shown to be believed. Also you can never present the amplitude of a country with 7,000 mines in it.
Audience Question: I was struck by the great cinematography and very personal stories of the killings and the starving children but even more of the winds that blew everything away. I know you think about this in your other films also; do you have any solutions to break the unbreakable chain of events we see in Sudan and elsewhere?
Hubert Sauper: I’m not sure I’m an expert or have the solutions, but the first step is what we are doing here to bring awareness about the problem. Also awareness to global warming and climate change, or rape in the world, or violence to women and children. These are just statistics in the newspapers or TV until you speak to a person that has experienced it. Film can convey those issues. We have 150 people in the audience watching the film tonight that may have as many different approaches or ways to help. I am a filmmaker, not a policymaker. I wouldn’t allow the import of certain things. We have to understand the nature of Nazis, and other issues. Even here in the U.K. the Nazis were at first welcomed by many as fighting against the Russian Communists. Later there comes out the true nature and mission of the Nazis.
Audience Question: I was curious about your clip of Hillary Clinton speaking about Africa. Did this happen as an opportunity or did you seek it out?
Hubert Sauper: We saw African programs and then she appeared on some channels and it was like a ghost appearance. You need to be a hunter and gatherer of such things as they appear. It’s like the part about space travel discussions with the Chinese oil workers. I initiated that discussion including mention of Star Wars which I showed briefly on my own computer. It’s important for filmmakers to trigger situations and discussion also. Some filmmakers say they are just viewing or watching but I don’t like to hide such opportunities.
Audience Question: I am from South Sudan. No one comes out as a good guy, Americans, Europeans, Chinese, Sudanese business. So do you think you see the worst side of people?
Hubert Sauper: No I don’t think I am a pessimistic person. If you go to the doctor and he sees black spots on your lungs, it is not pessimistic. It is what it is. I don’t give a lot of great solutions that have already been proposed by NGOs and other groups. I think that nonfiction films show a link to what has happened. I am joyful to show the film, not be pessimistic. As white Judeo-Christians, we want to be good and do good. We would land on the banks of villages, and we were many times brought dying or very ill relatives. I am not sure if they thought we had some magic cure since we swooped down in airplanes or not. We did do screenings along the banks of the Nile, on the white canvas of the plane. Kids and others laughed and enjoyed the films shown. We did not put that in the film because I am not George Clooney or the Great Hubert the Good. It’s not that I am pessimistic to leave that out.
Audience Question: What do you feel is your responsibility as a filmmaker, being also a foreigner, and really human being in making films in Africa?
Hubert Sauper: I know people can sometimes have repercussions from being filmed. We purposely do not include many names in the credits as a protection for some of the participants of the film. No one was threatening the President or other officials. I do try to minimize the risks for them, yes.
The film will open August 21, 2015 at the AFI Silver Theatre.
Mistress America: Q&A With Greta Gerwig and Lola Kirke
By Annette Graham, DC Film Society Member
A preview screening of Mistress America (Noah Baumbach, 2015) was held on July 26 at the AFI Silver Theater. The film is about two women who are about to become stepsisters. One is a college student and aspiring writer and the other is a ditzy free spirit. Actress/screenwriter/producer Greta Gerwig and actress Lola Kirke were present to discuss the film. AFI programmer Todd Hitchcock was moderator. Recording devices weren't allowed, so this write-up is more of a summary of what was said rather than our usual style of transcript.
Todd Hitchcock welcomed both Greta Gerwig and Lola Kirke, noting that Greta was making her second appearance at the AFI and welcoming Lola for the first time.
Todd Hitchcock: How did this film come about?
Greta Gerwig: Frances [Ha] was such a great collaboration, writing together [with Noah Baumbach] and the group of people--set designer, cinematographer, producer. We found a way of working that gave us a lot of freedom and a lot of days. On an independent movie usually you shoot in 19 days which is quite stressful. We shot this in 60 days and Frances in 50. Noah is a perfectionist and likes to have maximum freedom and ability to make it as refined as possible. After we made Frances we wanted to wite another one and make it in a similar way. It felt like we had a band and wanted to make a second album (everyone laughs). I had ideas and we watched 80s movies and screwball comedies. We wanted to write another movie about women and the primary question was not whther you are going to be with this guy. That's usually what women have to do in movies. That's just not that interesting for me. And Lola's character was 18 and mine was 30 so we wanted it to be a generational thing.
Todd Hitchcock: How did you cast Lola?
Greta Gerwig: We looked at a lot of actresses for the part of Tracy. I first saw Lola on tape and she had such a unique speaking voice. You want to watch her and you feel interested in her. She came in to audition for us in person and she was quite confident and funny. We thought, "No, Tracy is shy," but we kept watchhing the tape and thought she could channel this. It was clear at a certain point that she was the one. We had her audition so many times.
Lola Kirke: Like 14 times.
Todd Hitchcock: How do you weigh these projects as they come to you?
Lola Kirke: At this point in my career, choices are something I don't usually get to make. You are just grateful that people want to work with you. I'm so glad I got to be part of this movie because I'm really proud of it. I can't believe this is real.
Audience Question: How much of the film was scripted?
Greta Gerwig: It's 100% scripted. We don't do improv. You can't change a word. If it sounds spontaneous, it's because we forced everyone to say all the likes and ums as written. This is how we like to work. For Noah and me, the words are the jumping off point each time. I gravitate to filmmakers where the words are paramount. I never found a better one than Howard Hawks, so I'm living in the wrong time.
Lola Kirke: We do so many takes that the words end up becoming more fluid and it lends to the spontaneity.
Greta Gerwig: We talked about films by Howard Hawks, George Cukor and Ernst Lubitsch and how funny and fast they are. They are theatrical and I love them. It took a long time to shoot the sequence in the house where we'd be going through rooms and everyone had to pass each other at the exact right time. It felt like an old studio film.
Audience Question: Did you have instant chemistry?
Lola Kirke: I don't know if it was instant but it was pretty quick.
Greta Gerwig: We got along too well for Noah's taste. "Stop giggling, stop talking. You are losing focus before takes."
Audience Question: Lola did a lot of auditions and her character was shyer. Did that influence the way you wrote the screenplay?
Greta Gerwig: No. The idea behind the character of Tracy was someone who comes into her own power. We always knew she would be going on a journey where she finds her voice as a writer and as a person. We write the scripts and then cast them. We don't tailor it to the people. They tailor themselves to us.
Audience Question: You were on the cover of Film Comment. Would you prefer being analyzed by a reviewer for Film Comment, a magazine for cinephiles as opposed to Entertainment Weekly?
Greta Gerwig: I didn't know we were going to be on the cover of Film Comment and was very flattered. I like the writers at Film Comment. Amy Taubin liked the last movie we did (Frances). I respect her a lot and think she's a very serious thinker about films. Noah did an interview with Alex Ross Perry which was in that issue. I think filmmakers interviewing other filmmakers is always interesting. They know what the limitations and struggles are and how difficult it is to make movies. I'm thrilled that anyone would write about us. I don't care about serious criticism vs. other criticism. I'm just happy that there is any serious conversation about cinema at all.
Audience Question: Is this a generational film? What elements are specific to being 18 or 30 in 2015?
Greta Gerwig: I don't see it as a generational film. Yes it takes place in 2015 but I think it's more about the psychology of being 18 and the psychology of being 30 rather than what it means to be 18 now or 30 now.
Lola Kirke: I agree. That line in the film, "I wish we still lived in feudel times" summarizes the mission of the film. People try to be something and fail but then accept themselves in some other way, which is a timeless idea.
Audience Question: What were your ideas about friendship?
Greta Gerwig: It was an exploration of a friendship, idolizing someone and then seeing cracks in the thing you are analyzing. The idea of an immediate family formed out of thin air. I had friends whose parents got divorced and then remarried and all of a sudden they were going to meet their new sister or brother. They are strangers but all of a sudden they are family. Idolizing someone and then tearing them down. Wanting to have someone looking up to you. I'm just interested in different ways women relate to each other, whether it's a mentor relationship, a best friendship, mothers and daughters, or sisters.
Audience Question: How does your creative process work?
Greta Gerwig: We don't write together in the same room. We talk about it and if we get enough of an idea, I'll go away and he'll go away and we'll write some pages and then we'll swap pages. Then we read over what we wrote. We generate a low of raw material that way. It's like putting a puzzle together but also figuring out what the image is at the same time. We write separately, we trade and then we edit each other's work. We spend a lot of time reading out loud over and over again. We'll trade off parts and read one part after another. Because the language is so important and the rhythm of the words is so important it's all about hearing if something doesn't sound right. We'll go back and take it out or change it. It's fun. It's also egotistical. You go off and write something and trade. I like to sit there waiting for him to laugh. Writing is so interior and it's so long before anyone sees it. It's nice to have an instant audience of one.
Audience Question: How does your rehearsal process work?
Greta Gerwig: Noah likes to do rehearsals on camera. That's one of the reasons for having such a long shooting schedule. Everyone auditions for their roles. We put them through many rounds of doing it. He likes getting first impressions in case it's exactly what he wants. I like rehearsal more
Lola Kirke: I noticed that in ost movies there is a total lack of rehearsal. It comes in when you're shooting. What's so cool about doing so many takes is that you get to really warm up into the scene in those 25 takes (laughs). Film is so visual and so dependent on the camera. When you do get rehearsal it's really just for the camera. There's something great about having that magic happen in the camera and not in a rehearsal beforehand.
Greta Gerwig: I come from the theater and feel like some film actors are freaked out by rehearsal. They have this idea that the magic will happen and they didn't capture it and it will never come back. My idea is to do two weeks of rehearsal where you really work on it and then go away from two months and then come back. But no one is going to give me money to do that.
Audience Question: Did you use multiple cameras?
Greta Gerwig: We shoot with one camera. Noah had shot a film with more than one camera. He felt he had less integrity. If you are accounting for two cameras you have to adjust the shot so you don't get the other camera in it. He feels he does his best with one camera.
Audience Question: Could you discuss the scene of the woman who came up to her in the bar?
Greta Gerwig: We wanted that to be a completely standalone scene. I think Brooke was mean and didn't know it. Most people if confronted in a bar, "You were mean to me in high school," you would say, "I'm so sorry." But what is amazing but also terrifying about Brooke is that she does it all over again. She says, "What is wrong with you." That's what makes her so amazing to Tracy. Who has the gall to do that? I think she was mean. I think Tracy knows Brooke's shortcomings and failures before she allows herself to know them. And it comes out in her writing.
Mistress America will be in theaters in late August.
American Black Film Festival: The Nation’s Largest Gathering of Black Film and TV Enthusiasts June 11-14, 2015
By Cheryl L. Dixon, DC Film Society Member
Welcome back to the 19th Edition of American Black Film Festival (ABFF)! It’s been quite a few years since I last attended this film festival. (See November 2006 Storyboard). Storyboard readers may recall that ABFF is considered the premiere showcase of film (and now TV) content produced by and about people of African descent. The Festival is unique in that in addition to movie screenings, panel discussions, parties, and premieres, it also features complementary Master Classes taught by entertainment professionals and workshops. This year, it also included a TV & Media Expo. A lot has happened since I was last here. First off, I was anxious to see if there was any difference with the Festival location having moved from Miami and L.A. to New York City. The Miami location had a laid back, tropical feel to it, more like the boulevard setting of Cannes to which this Festival has been compared (as the African-American version of Cannes). I was pleased to see that the ABFF maintains its cool vibe, but with a decidedly New York state of mind. Sorry, just couldn’t resist the cliché. Let’s just say that I didn’t miss the Miami heat and humidity. While I did, however, miss the beach, I must say I never get tired of seeing the lights, action, and excitement of Times Square, Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center, and so many other quintessential NYC landmarks and experiences.
What’s New, Exciting, and Different?
Location, location, location. As previously mentioned, ABFF is now held in NYC, a city known for its diversity, media, and entertainment. Plus, the Festival has partnered with Black Enterprise, its President and CEO Earl “Butch” G. Graves Jr. supporting the mission of promoting diversity in the movie and TV industries while leveraging Black Enterprise’s established “print, television and social media reach to extend both the visibility and cultural impact” (Jeff Friday, Founder, ABFF and CEO, Film Life). ABFF has revised its mission to include TV, making the NYC location dovetail nicely. The Motion Picture Association of America presented the New York premiere of the Opening Night Film Dope with appearances by Writer/Director Rick Famuyiwa and cast members Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori, Kiersey Clemons, Chanel Iman, Blake Anderson, and Quincy Brown. ABFF’s 2015 Ambassador Taraji P. Henson was interviewed by CBC Good Morning Co-Anchor Gayle King in “A Conversation with Taraji P. Henson.” A major highlight was the panel, “Empire Talks Back: Inside the Writers Room,” which spotlighted the history-making TV show Writers and made the gold “Empire” swag tote bag a must-have item at the Festival! As previously mentioned, a TV & Media Expo was added where the networks and broadcasters could showcase their programs and diversity initiatives. Actress Jenifer Lewis was presented with the 2015 ABFF Career Achievement Award at “The Best of the ABFF” Awards Ceremony hosted by “Real Husbands of Hollywood” Producer/Writer Chris Spencer. This event honored official selection filmmakers and talent contest winners and featured ALL the celebs you might expect to see in NYC!
Founding Sponsor and Premier Sponsor HBO, host of the 18th Annual ever-popular, HBO Short Film Competition and presenter of the ABFF “Comedy Wings Competition Finals,” was joined by several newer sponsors.
What hasn’t changed is that the Festival continues to successfully support both established artists and new, emerging, innovative talent and provide avenues for both public and industry recognition. Writers, actors, producers, directors, comedians, and now TV hosts all are embraced here and provided with opportunities to network and develop professionally. Established film and TV principals generously serve as mentors providing advice and inspiration for the next generation. With a bow to TV production and its sisterly relationship to film, ABFF under the able guidance of Founder Jeff Friday and Partner Butch Graves continues to provide a platform to both nurture and sustain Black talent in the “creative content community,” who provide “new perspectives to the media landscape” (Cynthia Lopez, Commissioner, Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, NYC) in front of, behind the camera, in the boardroom, the writer’s room and all ancillary positions utilizing the newest marketing and social media platforms.
Jeff Friday considers the ABFF to be a “platform for diverse storytellers” and a “go to resource for quality new talent.” ABFF remains the comprehensive “catch all” vehicle positioned to take things soaring to ever greater heights. Onward and upward! Can’t wait to celebrate with ABFF at the 20th Anniversary Edition. See you there!
2015 American Black Film Festival Winners List
“BEST OF THE ABFF” AUDIENCE AWARD (TIE): Knucklehead (Ben Bowman) and Last Night (Harold Jackson III).
Grand Jury Prize for Best Screenplay
Last Night (Harold Jackson III)
Grand Jury Award for Best Director
The Night Before (Kenny Young)
Grand Jury Award for Best Narrative
The Night Before (Kenny Young)
Grand Jury Award for Best Actor
Lisa Arrindell Anderson in The Sin Seer (Paul D. Hannah)
HBO® Short Film Competition
Stanhope (Solvan Naim)
Best Web Original
American Koko (Diarra Kilpatrick and Miles Orion Feld)
Althea (Rex Miller)
ABFF Talent Competitions
Comedy Wings Competition Winner
McDonald's Lovin' Video Competition Winner
Puppy Love (Richard T. Fields)
Female: Asha Kamali
Male: Rahmell Peebles
TV One Screenplay Competition
Deadbeat Dad Rehab (writer: Keronoda "Kiki" McKnight)
Career Achievement Award
So, Who Was There?
Essence Atkins, Salim and Mara Brock Akil, Kenya Barris, Gabrielle Beauvais, YaYa DaCosta, Dennis Dortch, Doug E. Fresh, Rick Famuyiwa, Lance Gross, Taraji P. Henson, Gayle King, Andrea Lewis, Jenifer Lewis, Shameik Moore, Joe Morton, Naturi Naughton, Norma Perrier, Issa Rae, Tracee Ellis Ross, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Janine Sherman Barrois, Roxanne Shante, John Singleton, Tasha Smith, Chris Spencer, Lorraine Toussaint, Malinda Williams, Larry Wilmore, To name a few….
A Conversation with Taraji P. Henson: Keepin’ it Real
By Cheryl L. Dixon, DC Film Society Member
As I sit in the Irish Pub Sports Bar Restaurant 1939 one block away from host hotel New York Hilton Midtown, having had an excellent late lunch/early dinner of lobster bisque soup and an apple-cinnamon flavored vodka drink, I feel compelled to write about what I just saw and heard today in “A Conversation with Taraji P. Henson.” This early afternoon event featured an interview of ABFF’s 2015 Ambassador, Academy Award nominee and actress Taraji P. Henson by CBS Good Morning Co-Anchor Gayle King. So I begin writing while in the pub, still utterly fascinated by the revelations at this afternoon’s event. I learned so much about Taraji that I didn’t know before and now I can’t wait to tell all.
First, Taraji, also now popularly known as “Cookie,” star of the ground-breaking, history-making, shake-your-butt-raise-your-arms-and-shout, “Empire” TV series, made a dramatic entrance into the Hilton ballroom where the event was held. Much to the amusement and delight of a jam-packed audience of over 500 attendees, Taraji entered the ballroom sashaying down the aisle from the rear, totally enthralling the crowd and setting off a frenzied and loudly applauded welcome. Introduced by the no less spectacular Ms. Gayle King, Oprah’s BFF, Taraji, her surprise entrance, and introduction by Gayle were HUGE. Make no mistake. Taraji is a STAR!
One might expect Taraji to be hysterically funny, offbeat, and by her own self-description, “quirky.” But who knew she also has such wisdom, such deep insights into her life, that she could also serve as a motivational expert to boot. In short, she is truly inspiring, a “keep it real” sistah, the kind of person you’d like to have as a BFF.
Almost all of the attendees emerging from this event were talking about her. They were fascinated by her pearls of wisdom served up in a very Cookie-esque style, a sweet combination of sugar and sass. She is incredibly endearing. Utterly charming. She somehow even managed to steal the spotlight from her equally impressive interviewer, Oprah’s best friend Gayle (King)! No mean feat/easy task! Gayle asked great questions, hard-hitting, and thought-provoking, of course, but it was the way that Taraji delivered her answers that kept the spotlight focused firmly on Taraji. Gayle was hampered by having to assume the “bad cop” disciplinarian, stern mother approach to adopt the disciplinarian role having to moderate the discussion to rein in attendees who wanted to make stray comments about their birthdays, or, heaven forbid!, dare ask for a photo op with Taraji. Gayle, like the protective mother hen, enforced Gayle’s Rules of Order to keep things moving seamlessly along.
Who knew? Taraji, a native Washingtonian, in case you didn’t know, revealed a lot about her personal life and her career. Film clips were interspersed throughout the interview to illustrate her commanding body of work in film and TV, including her much-heralded, Oscar-nominated performance as Queenie in the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
She was intensely “real,” unafraid to discuss her need to overcome her fears and develop self-esteem and confidence so she could get to the point where she could gather the courage to actually follow her heart and pursue an acting career. She discussed trying to divert herself into an electrical engineering career, actually her friend’s dream, because she thought she could make a lot of money at it. She admitted that she failed her courses and then had to confront herself and face the truth: she was no budding engineer. It was time to gather the courage to pursue her dream of becoming an actress, which, with her father’s encouragement, led her to enroll as a Theatre major at Howard University.
She also spoke candidly about the challenges of being a single mother while still in college and opting to continue her college education despite the pregnancy. She spoke of disappointments in love with hopes unfulfilled of marrying her son’s father. Baby Mama Drama. She talks about her son as a motivating factor to advance her career. She arrived in California with her son, $700.00, and Jesus! She joked about her non-pc father who perhaps is a huge inspiration for her “Cookie” character, which we could best describe, as “Straight, no filter.”
Deeply honest, Taraji spoke of her spiritual journey in life, which, no doubt, echoes in and brings depth to her various performances in film and TV. While Taraji is wildly popular and famous world-wide as Cookie in “Empire,” Gayle reminded us that she is no overnight success, her hard work and determination to succeed led to the fulfillment of her dreams.
Gayle reminded the audience that Taraji’s tough, yet tender character “Cookie” with her unforgettable flair, sense of style, and quick wit, has won fans of all ages world-wide for the much-renowned, history-making, and groundbreaking “Empire.” “But we’ve loved her longer…” she says. Created by Lee Daniels (Director of Precious and The Butler), “Empire” is setting trends for its fashion, its music, and its memorable dialogue. It’s storyline about the music empire built by Cookie’s ex-husband Lucious, portrayed by Actor Terrence Howard, while Cookie took the fall in prison, is well-written, and thoroughly driving hordes of people of all ages to tune in week after week. The show lends itself to regular guest appearances by real-life entertainers, including Model Naomi Campbell. Did you know that it’s the only show ever on TV that has had an increasingly wider audience with each successive showing? Positive word of mouth has created a positively entertaining must-see TV addiction! And, watch out, if you haven’t seen the show, beware! It’s contagious and you will catch the fever. Guaranteed. Gayle reminded us and showed film clips to illustrate that Taraji has worked very hard for the success that she certainly deserves. Her immense talent was showcased in clips presenting her in a variety of roles in a variety of media, including film and TV, which have deservedly earned her critical acclaim: “Hustle & Flow,” “Think Like A Man,” “Karate Kid,” I Can Do Bad All By Myself,” “Baby Boy,” “Person of Interest,” “CSI,” and “Boston Legal” amongst her credits.
Gayle asked probing questions about what Taraji would like to see happen in her future as an actress. Taraji confessed that she would like to continue pursuing opportunities that provide her with a wider range of exposure. She would like to work in a franchise movie and to gain an international audience. She bristles at the idea that Black movies don’t sell overseas. “How do they know if they haven’t tried?” she asked. They discussed the idea that this misperception might become a self-fulfilling prophecy. But the conversation quickly turned from serious to humorous when Gayle explored the favorite expressions, the colorful language “Cookie” is known for by asking Taraji to read some of these lines in character. Taraji laughed out loud and, pretending to be exasperated, asked, “I have to work today?” This time it was the audience’s turn, laughter all around.
For the audience Q&A, there was time for three questions, one of which was from a Broadway actress who said that she had also shared the experience of Taraji having had Terrence Howard portray her husband (only in NYC!)….
My overall impression of Taraji from Gayle’s interview of her is that she is a deeply spiritual individual, who has overcome her fears and pursued her dreams and goals by surrendering her dreams and wishes to the Universe and waiting patiently for the result. A thought crosses my mind: “Courage is fear which has said its prayers.” Gayle did a fantastic job of asking a range of questions covering the full expanse of Taraji’s life and career. I’ve left out a few things out of the conversation that I’d like to have covered like the African origin of her name, which her father gave her, what the “P” stands for, and whether or not she is related to explorer Matthew Henson, but dear reader, I’ll leave those questions for you to ponder and to research the answers, because there’s so much more to Taraji, for us to discover, and watch on her continued life journey and her personal and professional endeavors. Besides, and I think Cookie would agree with a two-finger snap: “Enough said.”
How to Make and Monetize a Successful Web Series
By Cheryl L. Dixon, DC Film Society Member
Difficult choices. With so many interesting movies to see in competition: Narrative Features, Spotlight Screenings, Documentaries, HBO Short Films (my personal favorite!), and Web Originals, not to mention Talent Competitions, Talk Series, Master Classes and Workshops, Evening Receptions, and the TV & Media Expo. It was challenging deciding my ABFF daily schedule. It’s impossible to do everything! Plus, there was the temptation to sneak away for a few moments to visit one of my favorite museum gift shops in the world at MOMA. I could not resist!
Imagine then, what it was like to narrow down my selection for a third article. I decided to write about something different...
What makes ABFF stand out from other film festivals I’ve attended is its educational component and professional development opportunities for aspiring filmmakers and TV content creators of tomorrow. Where else can you find the opportunity to listen in live as Writer/Creator Kenya Barris and star Actress Tracee Ellis Ross informally chat about the first season of the TV show, “Blackish”? And then ask them questions about it? Up close and personal? ABFF has always been on the forefront of emerging media, technology that impacts the film and TV industries. Therefore, I decided to attend and report on an amazing opportunity for filmmakers to establish a TV series by actually creating a TV series on the web, and, make money while doing it!
After careful consideration, I selected the panel discussion “How to Create and Monetize a Successful Web Series” to write about. By utilizing the latest readily available accessible technology, i.e. youtube, I discovered the creative filmmaker can design his/her own TV series cheaply and easily and find funding sources such as gofundme or kickstarter, while building a fan base. Imagine, you too can serve as the Writer/Director/Creator/Actor/Producer, either and/or all categories! Become your own auteur! Be like Tyler Perry! Form your own Desilu! Follow in the footsteps of the TV greats! This is a relatively new avenue to launch oneself with lower barriers to entry than other more traditional approaches. And it occurred to me that what’s possible with TV would also be possible for film….
The scheduled panel included creators of successful, popular web series: Issa Rae (“The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl”), Numa Perrier and Dennis Dortch (Blackandsexy.tv), and Andrea Lewis (“Black Actress”). For anyone new to the web series world, ABFF featured episodes from Season Two of the “Black Actress” series on the actress who wants to be cast as more than “just Black.”
Collective pointers from the panel:
1. Digital Content Creation represents the future. Webisodes allow content creators to reach and build audiences for their digital work more cheaply and easily.
2. It allows for greater creativity/originality and the opportunity to see something “fresh.”
3. It offers accessible filmmaking, the opportunity to become entrepreneurial, to develop “core programming,” and “own our own stories.”
4. It’s an easy way to make money (if your show becomes a “hit”).
5. It allows for audience feedback to finetune episodes to determine the right formula for success.
6. It allows for developing marketing and distribution plans.
7. It allows for developing financing through Crowdfunding sources: indie go-go, gofundme, kickstarter, and sponsorship opportunities: partnerships, product placement, strategic marketing, and youtube, and grants.
8. It allows for research, learning, and growth.
Since I wrote the above, I have had the chance to observe firsthand the usage of iPhone 5S technology to produce the movie, Tangerine, a Sundance hit for which there’s already Oscar buzz.Yet another example of filmmaking accessibility. Filmmaking on the go, right from your smartphone. What’s next?
So, what are you waiting for, head honcho? Get going!
Calendar of Events
American Film Institute Silver Theater
"Tell It Like It Is: Black Independents in New York, 1968-1986" (July 4-September 5) is a series of key films produced by African-American independent filmmakers. Titles in August include Inside Bedford-Stuyvesant, Personal Problems, Ganja and Hess, The Long Night, and a Madeline Anderson Shorts Program. The series ends in September.
"Keepin' It Real: '90s Cinema Now" (July 2-September 16) covers films from the 1990s. Titles for August are Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Cruel Intentions, Fight Club, 12 Monkeys, 1991: The Year Punk Broke, The Matrix, The Grifters, Three Kings, Showgirls, Heavy Weights, The Big Lebowski, Boogie Nights, Living in Oblivion, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Babe, Goodfellas, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) with more in September.
"Ingrid Bergman Centennial" (July 2-September 13) covers Swedish, American and Italian films starring Ingrid Bergman. Titles in August are Fear, Stromboli shown with Bergman and Magnani: The War of the Volcanoes, Europe '51, Journey to Italy, The Bells of St. Mary's, Elena and Her Men, Anastasia, Cactus Flower and Joan of Arc. More in September.
"Best of Totally Awesome: Great Films of the 1980s" (July 2-September 15) brings back favorites from the past eight editions of the Totally Awesome summer series. Titles for August include The Princess Bride, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Batman (1989), The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, Blade Runner (Final Cut), Evil Dead II, The Transformers: The Movie (1986), Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, Ghostbusters (1984), Spaceballs, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Say Anything, Die Hard, Better Off Dead, The Goonies, Clue, Brazil, and Blue Velvet. More in September.
Special Events for August include Gone with the Wind, Seven Samurai, Barry Lyndon, Guys and Dolls and an extended director's cut of Once Upon a Time in America.
Freer Gallery of Art
The 20th Annual "Made in Hong Kong" Film Festival takes place in July and August. Titles in August are Full Throttle (Derek Yee, 1995) on August 2 at 2:00pm, Gangster Payday (Lee Po-Cheung, 2014) on August 7 at 7:00pm, The Long Arm of the Law (Johnny Mak, 1984) on August 9 at 2:00pm, a Jackie Chan movie to be picked by the audience on August 14 at 7:00pm, and Diva (2012) with director Heiward Mak in person.
National Gallery of Art
The Gallery is now back to its auditorium in the East Building.
"Maysles Films Inc.: Performing Vérité" runs from July 5 to August 2. The remaining films in August are Grey Gardens (Albert and David Maysles, 1976) on August 1 at 1:00pm, Salesman (Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin, 1968) on August 1 at 3:00pm, and Gimme Shelter (Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin, 1970) on August 2 at 4:00pm.
"Titanus Presents: A Family Chronicle of Italian Cinema" is a retrospective of films produced by Titanus. All films are 35mm. On August 8 at 2:00pm is Toto Diabolicus (Steno, 1962); on August 8 at 4:00pm is The Fiances (Ermanno Olmi, 1963); on August 9 at 4:00pm is Le Amiche (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1955); on August 15 at 1:00pm is Days of Glory (Giuseppe de Santis, Mario Serandrei, Marcello Pagliero and Luchino Visconti, 1945); on August 15 at 3:00pm is Violent Summer (Valerio Zurlini, 1959); on August 16 at 4:00pm is The Days Are Numbered (Elio Petri, 1962); on August 22 at 2:30pm is Roma Ore 11 (Giuseppe de Santis, 1952); on August 23 at 4:00pm is Il Bidone (Federico Fellini, 1955); on August 29 at 2:00pm is The Leopard (Luchino Visconti, 1963); and on August 30 at 4:00pm is The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (Dario Argento, 1970). More in September.
National Portrait Gallery
On August 20 at 6:30pm is An American Diary about the career of artist Roger Shimomura.
Smithsonian American Art Museum
On August 6 at 6:30pm is Mid August Lunch (Gianni Di Gregorio, 2008), part of a series of Italian films about food. Samples of Italian cannoli will be available after the film.
Washington Jewish Community Center
On August 11 at 7:30pm is the documentary Forbidden Films (Felix Moeller, 2014) about Nazi propaganda films. On August 16 four films are shown about the 70th anniversary of WWII's end. At 12:15pm is The Man Who Crossed Hitler; at 2:15pm is Castles in the Sky; at 4:15pm is Copenhagen; and at 6:15pm is Wodehouse in Exile.
Four films are shown in "Screen Giants Summer Series" August 22-30: The Apartment, Dog Day Afternoon, A New Leaf and Young Frankenstein. See the schedule, all play as double features.
Library of Congress
On August 12 at noon is Zemene, a documentary about a young Ethiopian girl and an American doctor helping Ethiopian children with spinal deformities. Filmmaker Melissa Donovan will be present for discussion.
On August 20 at 4:00pm is a lecture by Steve Zeitlin "The Poetry of Everyday Life," followed by a screening and discussion of the films Boom: The Erie Canal and The Grand Generation with Paul Wagner.
Two summer comedies are shown in August. On August 24 at 6:30pm is Fack ju Gohte (Bora Dagtekin, 2013) and on August 31 at 6:30pm is Coming In (Marco Kreuzpaintner, 2014).
The Japan Information and Culture Center
On August 19 at 6:30pm is Postcard (Kaneto Shindo, 2011), based on the director's wartime experiences. On August 28 at 6:30pm is an anime film Grave of the Fireflies (Isao Takahata, 1988).
The Textile Museum at GWU
On August 20 at noon is a short documentary film Threads of Time: Handmade Textiles for Weddings in Fez, Morocco (Louise Mackie, 1996).
On August 15 at 2:00pm is Harvey (Henry Koster, 1950) starring Jimmy Stewart.
Landmark's Bethesda Row Cinema
"Movie Rewind" is a new series of classic films on Wednesdays. On August 5 at 7:00pm and 9:30pm is Blues Brothers (John Landis) and on August 12 at 7:00pm and 9:30pm is Brazil (Terry Gilliam) shown in the uncut European version.
On August 5 at 8:00pm as part of "Avalon Docs" is Our Man in Tehran (Drew Taylor and Larry Weinstein, 2013), a documentary about the true story behind the film Argo.
On August 12 at 8:00pm is the dark comedy Krasno (Ondrej Sokol, 2014), shown in the "Czech Lions" film series.
The "French Cinematheque" film for August is Number One Fan (Jeanne Herry, 2014) starring Sandrine Kiberlain.
The "Reel Israel" film for August is Next to Her (Asaf Korman, 2014) on August 26 at 8:00pm.
On August 27 at 8:00pm is a one-time show of Coming Back to the Hoop (Jane Pittman, 2014)).
Italian Cultural Institute
On August 11 at 6:30pm is the romantic comedy Every Blessed Day (Paolo Virzi, 2012).
Anacostia Community Museum
On August 12 at 1:00pm is the PBS docudrama Underground Railroad, The William Still Story (2012) about a Philadelphia clerk who helped runaway slaves. Discussion and Q&A after the film.
On August 22 at 2:00pm is Soul of a Man (Wim Wenders, 2003), an award-winning documentary about the musical careers of blues musicians Skip James, Blind Willie Johnson and J.B. Lenoir. Discussion and Q&A afterwards.
On August 1 at 11:30am is a class "Music in Movies" about music composition for film, hosted in conjunction with the Star Trek performance at 8:30pm. Learn about the creative process of major motion picture composer Michael Giacchino.
On August 1 at 8:30pm is Star Trek (J.J. Abrams, 2009) with Emil de Cou conducting the National Symphony Orchestra as it plays Michael Giacchino's score live.
On August 8 at 8:15pm is "The Music of John Williams" with Emile de Cou conducting the Washington Chorus and the National Symphony of music from Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Jaws, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, Hook, and more.
On August 21 at 8:00pm is "Disney in Concert." Songs from Disney films Frozen, Aladdin, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and others are sung live with accompaniment by the Wolf Trap Orchestra and synchronized video from the movies.
International Spy Museum
On August 11 at 6:30pm is OSS 117: Lost in Rio (Michel Hazanavicius, 2009), a spy spoof starring Jean Dujardin.
On August 5 at 7:00pm is the short documentary This Little Light of Mine: The Legacy of Fannie Lou Hamer followed by a discussion with filmmaker Robin Hamilton and NPR host Michel Martin. In partnership with the Library of Congress American Folklife Center.
On August 3 at 6:30pm is a special event Dalai Lama Awakening shown with Compassion in Action.
Japanese anime films are shown in August including Summer Wars (Mamoru Hosoda, 2009) on August 8, 10 and 13 and Dragon Ball Z Resurrection F (Tadayoshi Yamamuro, 2015) on August 4, 5, 6 and 8.
The hand-cut silhouette animated film The Adventures of Prince Achmed (Lotte Reiniger, 1926) has four performances August 13-15. Tom Teasley provides music accompaniment.
Montpelier Arts Center
On August 12 at 8:00pm is Big Hero 6 (Don Hall and Chris Williams, 2014). Shown outdoors.
Busboys and Poets
On August 11 at 6:30pm is Summer (Colette Bothof, 2014) from the Netherlands at the 14th and V location.