for our amazing truancy of the last several months. All our
fault. If you'll only read on, I promise to make a boring
excuse short or, at the very least, mildly entertaining.
many of you know, several months back the Rag's
Editor-in Chief, Mr. Gil S. Ripley, and yours truly began
scribing something a little beyond our previous experience:
Reality Shows. Okay, stop laughing. On second
thought, go ahead and laugh because now it's funny. Back at
the beginning, when we were so desperate for money that we
began pitching reality shows, it really wasn't so funny. We
invented many show ideas brilliant and inane, most of which
were pitched and summarily rejected, until miraculously -
here's where it gets funny - one was deemed worthy of making.
It has been a long, very strange process, but I will cut to
the chase and tell you it's a wild contest show and we are
finally scheduled to start shooting it at the end of August.
this time I know you're hooked but I am bound by confidentiality
and can only gloss over the show's concept for you. The gloss
is really just two parts hot air, three parts smoke and a
pinch of manure. (In other words, Hollywood phraseology.)
So, here goes: it's Survivor meets Fear Factor
by way of The Eco-Challenge. Keeping to
the industry standard, the show is shrouded in secrecy to
deflect possible copycat shows, but I can say that we are
shooting on an island in the Caribbean. The production team
is trying to make the aforementioned reality contests appear
tame by comparison, and Gil came up with the pseudo-title
The Ultimate, Ultimate Challenge which surely covers
enough about us. On with the Rag, and the world of indie film!
Oh, wait! Independent film, that reminds me... Coming to a
film festival near you, Mr. Ripley and I will soon be featured
in a documentary about television shows and the writing that
creates them. A small crew from Acme Pictures
here in New York has been following the whole process: how
we pitch, how we work (or in Gil's case, being late for work),
and what goes into the very best TV shows.
behalf of the entire Rag team, I
want to say we missed you all terribly while we were away.
And judging by the copious email jamming our inboxes, I can
see you missed us, too. Very sweet of you. The majority of
the emails say that we can increase our ejaculation by 581%,
just by taking two pills daily. Again, very sweet of you.
It's great to be back.
Dave Roberts, Managing Editor
two weekends each October, the stunningly colorful Berkshire
Mountains of western Massachusetts play backdrop to the Williamstown
Film Festival. Run by writer and showbiz buff extraordinaire
Steve Lawson, who began the festival in 1999,
the event provides huge support for indie film from a community
long known for its devotion to the arts.
long ago, the Festival Rag found Steve at
home mixing his trademark Grey Goose martinis, and pried loose
some of the secrets behind running one of the best-curated
film events in the country.
Rag: How many submissions do you expect to receive for
the festival this year? And how is it possible to screen them all,
let alone pick the ones that will actually win a berth on the schedule?
Lawson: Last year we got 360. Willing members of the Board
pre-screen and evaluate general submissions, but in the end I see
at least part of every film that comes in.
How often do you accept a film unseen, for whatever reason, like
for instance, it screened well at another festival you admire?
Of 135 films at WFF in six years, I've booked just one title without
seeing it first. That was Roger Dodger, because Campbell
Scott is a friend and I felt implicitly that the film would be worth
including. And it was.
Filmmakers will often pursue big names on small movies - even at
the expense of telling a good story well. This often succeeds in
getting them into festivals, and it certainly helps drive ticket
sales. But is it a good idea?
Dylan Kidd's last film p.s. had an all-star cast (Laura
Linney, Topher Grace, Gabriel Byrne, et al). Clearly they all wanted
to work with him after Roger Dodger put him on the map.
I think it's as fallible to slam an indie just because it has "names"
as it is to tout an indie because it was made with unknowns on a
shoestring. It all comes down to quality, which knows no hard and
Most filmmakers would attend most festivals their films are shown
at. Does their attendance help the festivals in return?
Audiences love to hear the back story, the war stories - how much
did it cost? How long was the shoot? What would you do differently
next time? On the rare occasion when things screw up and we don't
have at least one visiting artist here to talk about the film, our
audiences feel let down; they're just "seeing a movie."
Happily that doesn't happen much. Our policy is, we cover feature
filmmakers' travel and lodging, and put short artists up if they
can get here. Last season, seven directors flew from the West Coast
to WFF in Massachussets on their own dime, some for one day. Just
to take part.
What do you look for in a film, in order to invite it to the festival?
Does it move me, excite me, make me laugh? Is it striking? Does
it oblige me to see an aspect of life in a new, offbeat, personal
way? Put another way: Is it art?
example is Down to the Bone - which I saw at Sundance 2004,
where it knocked me out. A beautiful film about an upstate New York
mother who kicks a cocaine habit only to drift into an affair. Vera
Farmiga's performance is one of the best you'll ever have the good
luck to see. This is where festivals really earn their keep: showing
difficult work that genuinely matters.
On the flip
side of the coin, there's nothing I hate more than a film that basically
rehashes another film under a different title just because some
theme or subject is "in." Contemptible. Unfortunately,
there's a hell of a lot of that.
With the advent of cheaper filmmaking tools (video, digital editing
& screening), have you seen an increase in submissions, good
and bad? Which begs another question: Do you anticipate or recognize
a threshold from the audience in terms of acceptable image quality?
Submissions have skyrocketed in the last three years, especially
now that we work through Withoutabox and more and more directors
and producers are sending DVDs.
As for image quality, it depends on the individual film. If it's
well made, it tends to look good. The reverse is just as true.
FR: Has the WFF made a difference in any film's
or filmmaker's road to success?
God, I hope so. More and more, filmmakers are returning to WFF with
their latest work, which suggests they acknowledge we've played
some role in their growth as artists. The post-season quotes I receive
from alumni aren't just polite - they're genuinely glad to have
screened here. Last season, one director was near tears after her
film - I thought we'd screwed up the sound! But no, she was crying
because she was happy; it was the first time she'd ever seen her
own work on a big screen. You can't ask for higher praise than that.
The WFF has grown from 5 films six years ago to 39 films in 2004.
Has there also been a measurable change in the quality of film submissions?
I'd say just as many bad films are being churned out now as then,
probably more. That's the case with any art form: bad will always
far outweigh good. But hey, if art was easy everyone could do it.
The salient thing is, our standards have risen. In the beginning,
titles of high quality - Tape, The Station Agent, Spellbound,
Down to the Bone, Speak, A Touch of Greatness - would've been
glowing exceptions at WFF. Now, they're the norm.
Bonus Question: Without looking at the onion jar, are you currently
on your fourth or fifth martini?
I take the Fifth.
Wasserman’s Iron Pocket Makes the Festival Rounds
by Carl Merrick
have all the good thrillers gone?
The marriage of the thriller with Independent Cinema
has always been a natural partnership. Audiences and critics alike
are always hungry for new ways to be frightened, and the knowledge
that we’ve been lured in by the tricks of a director’s
no-budget toolbox only heightens the effect.
Yet when scavenging the landscape of Independent
Cinema, one finds that the genre has been all but exiled to late-night
festival screenings and niche events. The thriller is now widely
regarded as a guilty indulgence, a style-over-substance exercise
in instant gratification that must be pushed to the outskirts of
the festival program to make way for more issue-driven entries.
In lieu of this polarization in festival programming, the concept
of the ‘issue-driven thriller’ may strike many as an
writer and director Daniel Wasserman seeks to challenge
this notion with his ambitious short thriller, Iron Pocket.
Under the label of Wasserman’s budding production
company Red Herring Pictures, the young director has crossed genres
into dangerous terrain, crafting a short that may be too thought
provoking for pulpy midnight fare, and too maverick to headline
packs the most he can into the film’s 13-minute duration -
charging the characters and action with tension from the first frame.
The gritty thriller launches into play when Jonah (played by Patrick
Shefski) arrives at the apartment door of his friend Marc (Simon
Kendall) at a late hour in great distress, following some violent
act. As he walks Marc through the strange circumstances leading
up to the present, we plunge into the skewed perspective of his
memory, boiling up to a violent crescendo as our narrator’s
reliability comes into question.
Iron Pocket shifts haphazardly between switchblade
editing and slower straight-razor rhythms; The erratic pace keeps
the focus on the strengths of the story, and away from the weaker
aspects of the film (the evident lo-no budget and at times uneven
cinematography). Wasserman, however, generates solid performances
from the ensemble cast, with Kendall showing particularly solid
in his portrayal of Marc, acting as the audience’s anchor
in contrast to Shefski’s volatile Jonah.
film calls to question the grave consequences of racial prejudice
in our daily perceptions, doubling as cautionary tale and caustic
urban thriller. As Iron Pocket works towards its climax,
the outcome will shock few viewers - striking a tone that is not
so much predictable as it is inevitable.
Rag will be keeping tabs on Iron Pocket as it makes its
festival run – with hopeful entries into the LA Shorts Fest
and Palm Springs International on the West coast, Coney Island International
and Big Apple on the East, and stretching out even to our northern
neighbors with submission into Rebelfest and the Calgary International
Film Festival. Keep your eye out for Wasserman’s Iron
Pocket as the issue-driven thriller makes its rounds.
Dan a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- At the time of writing, we received word that Iron Pocket
has been accepted to screen in the Los Angeles International Short
Film Festival in Hollywood, CA, as well as the Coney Island Film
Festival in Brooklyn, NY.
Bromberg Has Long Lost Films on Display
by Dave Roberts
Serge Bromberg ascended the stage at New York City’s
French Institute this past Fall, a ravenous group of film junkies
in attendance had no idea they were about to share a communal watering-of-the-mouth.
That sounds revolting, I know, but the audience response to Bromberg’s
collection of vintage celluloid scratching and dancing across the
screen as he improvised eloquent piano accompaniment, or broke into
a stream-of-conscious narration was truly Pavlovian.
From a Chest is Bromberg’s ever-changing traveling showcase
of films that were once lost, now found, and miraculously nursed
into recovery by his Paris-based company Lobster Films.
content of the program spans a wide range – from wildly imaginative
Art Nouveau animation to playful travel films and ancient commercials
to the first known attempt at synch-sound. A rare, and untraceable
clip boasts some of the only captured footage of gypsy guitar legend
Django Reinhardt, and some gems shine particularly bright, having
been painted frame-by-frame in arcane attempts at giving film a
color pallette. The show’s climax is one such rarity –
a hand-painted, long-lost version of the legendary Trip to the
Moon by Georges Méliès. Each clip is preceded
by a small story about the film’s conception, and in many
cases, its discovery and restoration.
the films showcased left the audience reeling, the real showstopper
was the understated plight of crusaders like Bromberg to save and
preserve these otherwise lost wonders. The bulk of these reels were
rediscovered after being thought long gone, in places like flea
markets and dusty antique shops, on the shelves of vendors unaware
of their value.
mortality of film is at the heart of Bromberg’s passionate
rants – resulting in gasps from the audience at tales of competing
film studios boasting celluloid bonfires to show their willingness
to produce new films. But the greatest predator of old film is time
itself, as we learn with Bromberg’s account of a woman who
left the shop unwilling to sell her discovery for the modest price
Lobster Films could offer. The stubborn woman returned mere weeks
later, and in that short span of time, the film had already decayed
past the point of recovery. Since 1984, Bromberg and his cohorts
at Lobster Films have undertaken the painstaking charge of repairing
films at times so fragile that they crumble to pieces upon being
Bromberg preached his message passionately, which this Ragster will
repeat without shame: Keep your eyes open for old film reels, because
you could be the next to uncover some of the treasures still lost,
including an entire film by F.W. Murnau, a Charlie Chaplin picture,
and even a vanished Alfred Hitchcock. If you should uncover some
priceless reel, do the right thing and contact Serge Bromberg and
Lobster Films to ensure that your celluloid discovery does not remain
lost and forgotten.
Bromberg brings his traveling one-man exposition on lost films,
Retour de Flamme, back to New York on two dates this fall with two
all-new programs. Catch him at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on
Friday, October 21 (www.bam.org)
and at the French Institute Alliance Française (www.fiaf.org)
on Monday, October 24.
further information on Serge Bromberg and saving lost films, visit
film industry, as a single component of mass entertainment,
weaves its very fabric from strands of talent, technology,
and knowledge that spans and transcends mediums and methods.
Entertainment was born from two sticks and sheepskin pulled
tight around a hollow log, or from man conglomerating and
howling at the moon in unison. We love and embrace independent
film first and foremost, but we also feel it appropriate
to include featurettes from the other entertainment niches
- in the case of this issue, a singer/songwriter who brings
charisma, potency, and style to his audience, and a theater
company that has proved its fresh approach, talented actors,
and bright, creative writing is a formula for success on
Markus Varjo, Publisher
York City is proud to welcome a newfound musical phenomenon -
Temar Underwood is a neo-soul powerhouse, and
he is poised to penetrate the masses with his creative, smooth,
and potent lyrics.
his arrival in New York City in 2002, Temar has focused on writing
and recording - preparing for this very introduction to the world.
His debut album, Ad Lib to Fade, will reveal to the world
a compelling young artist who blurs the line between genres with
his mix of rock, folk, and soul/r&b.
a charismatic and confident persona, he offers lyrics that are
thoughtful and clever, surrounded by dramatic arrangements, with
poignant vocals fueled by a sincere and raw emotion.
grew up in Northeastern Ohio (the Cleveland Area), always too
shy to perform for others. He would often cry when he participated
in youth performances in front of the congregation of Mt. Moriah
Baptist Church. However, as early as eight years old he developed
an unusual love for artists like Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, and
Tina Turner, and would practice elaborate concerts in the basement
of his family’s home. (His parents and siblings thought
he was really weird.) Once he began performing with his high school’s
nationally recognized theatre program, he got over his stage fright
and well - a star was born.
attending Ohio University in the B.F.A Theater Performance Program,
Underwood decided to pursue an unregimented music career in New
York. Upon relocating, he discovered a lifestyle and creative
environment that would help to ignite his career.
was an actor for a long-time, and still am,” Underwood says,
“but I had a talk with myself and realized that music has
always been my passion and I’ve used some of those things
I learned as an actor and playwright to access the things I always
wanted to say as singer, a songwriter, and performer.”
foundations in acting and singing can be seen right now! Temar
is part of the cast of the Vampire Cowboys latest development,
Drowning in Denmark, playing at Center Stage in NYC.
Check out the next feature for more information.
tuned for Ad Lib to Fade, and if you'd like to read,
look, and listen to more, head over to Temar's website, www.temarunderwood.com.
Cowboys Theatre Company presents: A First Bite Presentation of
Drowning in Denmark : A Vampire Cowboy Hamlet
Written/Directed by Qui Nguyen & Robert
Ross Parker; Original Music by Dan Deming.
in Denmark is the Vampire Cowboys' self-created action-adventure/horror
sequel to William Shakespeare's Hamlet. Set five years after the
events of the original, the play follows the story of a newly
resurrected Ophelia and her quest to save Denmark from an impending
zombie invasion. This high-octane dissection of Shakespeare skewers
the worlds of sci-fi, horror, and musicals with both irreverence
First Bite is the Vampire Cowboys' developmental series where
original Scripts are created and presented to an audience for
the first time. It is VCTC at its most raw - a comic book adventure
minus its color.
an audience member at First Bite, you can help be part of the
Vampire Cowboys’ creative process by coming to see this
raw performance of Drowning in Denmark and then stick
around to talk with the company or email email@example.com
with your responses. Let 'em know what you loved, hated,
got confused by. Your notes will help the company shape the play
as they get ready for its official World Premier in May of 2006.
This is your chance to help shape tomorrow’s Vampire Cowboys
production today! For more info, please check out www.vampirecowboys.com.
24 - 27, 2005 at CENTER STAGE, NYC
5 PERFORMANCES : Wed, Thurs, Fri, Sat @ 8pm plus a bonus late
Friday Night performance @ 11pm!
at CENTER STAGE, NYC, 48 West 21st Street, 4th Floor.
are $10; for reservations, call 212-696-7806 or send email to
Love Affair : Telluride Film Festival
One of the easiest ways to get to Telluride, Colorado's
famous film festival – locally dubbed The Show – is
to take a plane to Denver or Albuquerque, rent a car, and then drive
seven hours to a tiny mining town way up in the Rocky Mountains.
That may sound like a lot of effort for a weekend getaway, but ask
anyone who's ever done it and they'll tell you it is very worth
The Telluride Film Festival is hailed by nearly
everyone as one of the world's greatest film festivals. How can
that be? you ask, cutting me off. Is it the celebrity attendance?
Spectacular location? Hot chicks? The first two are good reasons,
but no, stop asking and let me tell you. For the 32 years it's been
running, people love The Show for its purity, its humility and its
selection of great movies, all of which are premieres when they
The 2005 event is as usual on Labor Day weekend,
September 2-5 and as usual none of the films on its programs will
be announced until the festival opens – That's crazy! you
again interrupt, but trust me, it makes for a very low-hype affair
and a damn enjoyable one.
Biggest drawback of The Show may be its brevity,
since most of the time you'll be waiting on line to get into one
of the town's makeshift-but-state-of-the-art cinemas. But so is
everyone else including the big movie stars, famous directors, and
local mountain hermits so there's no complaining but plenty of meeting,
greeting and sucking in of fresh Colorado air.
YesCal : Mill Valley Film Festival
Mill Valley, California host its eponymous annual film festival
October 6-15, 2005. It's sponsored by the California Film Institute
and draws many industry heavyweights, a good number of whom already
live near there in the fine Northern California hills. One of them
even has his own winery and though he is fat and bearded and famous,
shows up occasionally like any dedicated film fan.
Loaded with several filmmaker-friendly programs
like Valley of the Docs and V(ision) Fest, which is a celebration
of new technologies, the non-competitive Mill Valley fest is extremely
popular with West Coast cinephiles and Marin County cinescientists.
Its popular daily shorts event, 5@5, no doubt appeals to short-film
lovers, who really never get enough, and also the locals too who
probably attend on their breaks from working at the mill.
MVFF is the only Bay Area festival running in the autumn, and in
the shadow of Sequoia National Park so don't miss the spectacular
seasonal beauty. But careful not to be crushed by the giant falling
Cinema : The Louis Vuitton Hawaii International Film Festival
It's said that the Hawaiian alphabet only has 12 letters, and all
but two of them are vowels. Makes for an easy game of Boggle, and
shows you just how creative these Pacific Islanders can be with
However, their premiere film event, the Hawaii International
Film Festival has plenty of resources to work with and is now in
its 25th year, thanks to major support from luggage king Louis Vuitton
and the cine-love of many locals. The Asian and Pan-Asian presence
makes this one of North America's biggest festivals – more
than 10,000 tickets will be sold this year, and the market is as
well-attended as the screenings.
True, ten days of sitting still in dark rooms on
a tropical island may sound like another inane and punishing reality
show but there's plenty of great cinema to be seen because the festival
organizers look for quality over celebrity. Let's face it, how often
are you in Hawaii? You can go surfing back in Brooklyn.
The fest runs October 20-30th this year, and will
no doubt again pull high-level talent and buyers from all over the
world – especially the Pacific Rim – toward this volcanic
: Monaco International Film Festival
more of a neighborhood than a country, the tiny principality of
Monaco has for many years been world-famous for gambling, nightlife,
beautiful people and royal goings-on. These days the neutral nation
is also getting attention for its celebration of non-violent films.
Inaugurated in 2003, the Monaco International Film
Festival is held in Monte Carlo (anywhere else and it'd be in another
country) and will effectively take over the kingdom – in a
very non-violent way of course – something all of Europe has
avoided doing since 1861. This year the fest will run December 8-11
and again showcase the world's best and most gentle movies.
Tthe place is already stocked with celebrities and
international film financiers, so it's by default a star-studded
event. Bring your passport, your tuxedo and your lucky dice.
wants to hear from you. We're your megaphone!
a story idea? Want some exposure? Wanna get famous? Wanna wax Gil's
back? Pitch the editorial backbone of The Rag : Dave Roberts
and Gil S. "I'm a Hairy Mutha" Ripley (firstname.lastname@example.org)!
BE THE BEST MARKETING TOOL FOR THE INDEPENDENT FILM COMMUNITY EVER!"
- overheard, speaking
to mirror: Markus Varjo, Co-Publisher, The Festival
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