24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Emily Rome

L.A. Asian Pacific Film Festival expands to Long Beach

May 10, 2012 |  2:16 pm

Sunset Stories

“The sexy ninja.” That’s how Korean American actor Sung Kang described the bulk of his roles to filmmaker Ernesto Foronda, his director in "Sunset Stories." Fononda was happy to give Kang the opportunity to do something different, and more complex, in his dark romantic comedy, which screens at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival this weekend.

“I’m really focused on telling Asian American stories and resisting these stereotypical depictions,” Foronda, who was born in the Philippines, said. “Where can you find a movie with an Asian American male lead with the romantic interest being a Latino woman? No one else is going to tell those stories.”

Sunset Stories” centers on the chance re-encounter of May (Monique Gabriela Curen) and her ex-fiancé JP (Kang), whom she left five years earlier. Shot and set in East Los Angeles, the film premiered at Austin's South by Southwest festival in March. Now Foronda, the film’s co-writer/co-director, and Silas Howard, who co-directed, are looking forward to presenting it to a hometown crowd this Saturday, when it will be LAAPFF’s domestic centerpiece screening.

The festival runs today through Sunday, May 20, featuring movies from more than 20 countries, all with an Asian themes or by Asian and Asian American filmmakers. In its 28th year, the festival is again presented by Visual Communications, an Asian Pacific American media arts center based in L.A.’s Little Tokyo.

“Sunset Stories” is one of 46 feature films, along with 142 shorts, that LAAPFF’s organizers hope will reach a wider audience this year as they work to expand the festival to the outer reaches of Los Angeles County. In addition to returning to the Directors Guild of America in Hollywood and CGV Cinemas in Koreatown, the festival will screen films at the Art Theater in Long Beach.

“My goal is to really expand the scope and footprint of the festival,” said LAAPFF’s artistic director Anderson Le. “The Long Beach venue is the first initiative to expand.”

2012 marks Le’s first year overseeing the festival, after three and a half years as a programming consultant. He and Visual Communications executive director Shinae Yoon hope to bring festival screenings to the San Gabriel Valley and Orange County in the future.

“To reach into some of these larger Asian American communities in L.A. we knew that we would need to take our programming to other parts of L.A.,” Yoon said. “This year in Long Beach we’re doing a heavy run of Pacific Islander works as well as Cambodian films to reach out to those communities down there.”

Le also is hoping to create programming beyond the annual festival, including a potential mini-festival of Taiwanese films in the fall.

“Cinema in Taiwan is experiencing a renaissance, and actually a lot of Taiwanese American filmmakers are moving to Taiwan to make Chinese-language films. We want to showcase that trend,” Le said.

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Indie films find financial backers online through Kickstarter

May 10, 2012 |  8:00 am

Somewhere Between

This post has been corrected. See note at the bottom for details.

Paul Li is a Bay Area doctor whose show business experience is mostly limited to visiting the multiplex. Yet Li, through the website Kickstarter, managed to help underwrite the coming theatrical release of the Chinese adoption documentary “Somewhere Between.”

Li joined with about 1,400 other donors to raise more than $100,000 to finance “Somewhere Between's” U.S. distribution. “It really struck a very emotionally resonant chord,” said Li, who with his wife is raising an adopted Chinese-born daughter. “It really connected with me on a personal level.”

Increasingly, outfits such as Kickstarter and its chief rival, Indiegogo, are helping ultra-low-budget productions make their way into movie theaters.

Looking to raise money to finance a movie's production or distribution, a filmmaker will take his or her project to the Internet, pitching not only its premise but also a specific fundraising goal and deadline. There's no chance that the donors will make any monetary return on their gifts, but they can receive plenty of perks — from free DVDs to invitations to movie premieres — to encourage contributions.

“The kind of art and culture that we like are things that tend to be more on the margins and aren't easily funded,” said Kickstarter co-founder Yancey Strickler. “Normally, people put money into things because they're gonna make money and that's a primary motivation. But the kinds of things that we like ... they just want to exist and to be heard.”

It's called crowd-funding — the fundraising campaigns usually entail hundreds of small contributions rather than a handful of large gifts — and Kickstarter and Indiegogo are being used to finance all manner of creative endeavors, but they are particularly addressing a perilous bottleneck in the independent film world.

Last year, 469 independent films were released theatrically, a huge increase from 2002's total of 270 titles. The most prominent art house distributors — companies such as Fox Searchlight and Sony Pictures Classics — typically handle only a dozen or so movies a year each. Although million-dollar sales deals generate film festival headlines, the vast majority of movies receive puny distribution offers (or none at all), leaving their backers swimming in red ink with little chance at breaking even.

After premiering at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, “On the Ice” received good reviews and a couple of distribution nibbles, but none that would cover more than a fraction of the Alaskan coming-of-age drama's $1-million budget.

So, the film's makers decided to fund their own distribution and turned to Kickstarter to raise $80,000. The campaign succeeded, and “On the Ice” rolled into a handful of theaters this February, where it has grossed more than $70,000 to date. While those sales still leave “On the Ice” well short of making a profit, the theatrical release should boost DVD sales.

“The Kickstarter money allowed us to hire a public relations firm, to make a trailer, to have posters — all the things you need to do to put your movies into theaters,” said Lynette Howell, one of the film's producers. “And it's still in theaters. It just keeps going.”

Kickstarter campaigns must reach their funding goal by a deadline set by the project's creators, or all funds go back to donors. On Indiegogo, filmmakers who come up short can return funds to donors or pay a 9% fee to keep the balance. For projects that reach their goals, Indiegogo charges a 4% fee, while Kickstarter levies a 5% charge. Furthermore, Kickstarter accepts donations from all around the world,  but the recipient of any donation must have a U.S. bank account.

Linda Goldstein Knowlton, the director and producer of “Somewhere Between,” said she wasn't sure her $800,000 film should try for a theatrical release until it started winning festival prizes, including the people's choice award at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival. “It's really hard to distribute a documentary theatrically if you're not Michael Moore,” she said. “But the response to the film was beyond our dreams. It plays well with a crowd.”

All the same, the reaction from potential distributors was muted. “Even without seeing it, they feel it's a very niche thing,” Goldstein Knowlton said.

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Chat with 'The Raven' actor John Cusack on Thursday

April 24, 2012 | 12:55 pm

Edgar Allan Poe and John Cusack
Romantic comedies of the 1980s like "Say Anything" and "Sixteen Candles" launched John Cusack's career, but since then, his acting resume has continued to broaden -– from the thriller "1408" to the dark comedy "Being John Malkovich" to the quirky dramedy "Martian Child."

Now Cusack is preparing for the release of "The Raven," in which he plays 19th century writer Edgar Allan Poe. And at noon Thursday (Pacific time), you can chat with Cusack live on 24 Frames about "The Raven" and his other films.

Opening Friday, "The Raven" mixes the "history, fantasy and legend" of Poe, the actor told an audience at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books over the weekend.

A period mystery/thriller, the film follows the crimes of a madman inspired by Poe's dark and horrifying poems and tales. A Baltimore detective (Luke Evans) recruits the expert on these stories — Poe himself, of course — to get inside the mind of the killer and help track him down.

The role "was a great opportunity to immerse myself in Poe's mind. It's not a place I'd want to immerse myself in year-round, but it's a nice place to visit," Cusack said at the Festival of Books.

Cusack began visiting that mind in August 2010, when he was cast in the film and spent several months researching the author before a two-month shoot in Eastern Europe.

Sign up for the live chat with Cusack below.

RELATED:

Edgar Allan Poe festival gets San Diego engaged

Comic-Con 2011: John Cusack calls Poe 'godfather of Goth'

Working Hollywood: Gábor Tóth runs the carriages in 'The Raven'

— Emily Rome

Photo: The real-life Edgar Allan Poe, left, and John Cusack in "The Raven." Credit: Larry Horricks / Relativity Media.


Cannes 2012: Watch trailers of six films playing the festival

April 19, 2012 | 12:19 pm

Moonrise_kingdom-620x311

Bruce Willis, Wes Anderson, Josh Hutcherson, Marion Cotillard, Lee Daniels and Nicole Kidman are among the talents bringing films to the Cannes Film Festival, whose lineup was announced Thursday. The prestigious festival kicks off in the southeast France town on May 16. Check out the trailers below to get familiarized with some up this year’s films.

“Moonrise Kingdom,” directed by Wes Anderson
Opening the festival is the Edward Norton-starring comedy by Wes Anderson. It’s his first film to appear at Cannes. Set in the 1960s, "Kingdom" centers on two young lovers who run away from their New England town, prompting a search party to go after them. Focus Features will distribute the film in the U.S. starting May 25. Bill Murray, Bruce Willis and Frances McDormand round out the cast.

“On the Road,” directed by Walter Salles
Starring Kristen Stewart, Garrett Hedlund and Sam Riley, this long-gestating adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s 1957 Beat novel will be in competition at the festival. Executive produced by Francis Ford Coppola, the film also features Viggo Mortensen, Terrance Howard and Amy Adams.

Continue reading »

Woody Allen’s 'To Rome with Love' to open L.A. Film Festival

April 12, 2012 | 11:05 am

To rome with love

After whisking audiences to France last year with “Midnight in Paris,” Woody Allen is bringing another Europe-set comedy to the big screen with this year’s “To Rome With Love.” Film Independent announced Thursday that the new movie will open the Los Angeles Film Festival on Thursday, June 14.

Written and directed by Allen, “To Rome With Love” marks the filmmaker’s first on-screen role since 2006’s “Scoop.” Also starring Ellen Page, Jesse Eisenberg, Alec Baldwin, Penélope Cruz and Greta Gerwig, the film depicts the romances and adventures of people in Rome. The cast plays a collection of Americans and Italians.

“I can’t think of a better way to kick off this year’s festival than with the original independent filmmaker himself, Woody Allen. It’s a true honor for Los Angeles to host the North American premiere of 'To Rome With Love,'” Festival Director Stephanie Allain said in a statement.

The festival's screening at L.A. Live's Regal Cinemas will be the film's North American premiere.

“To Rome With Love” opens in Italy on April 20, and Sony Pictures Classics will distribute the film in the U.S. for a limited release on June 22.

The Los Angeles Film Festival, sponsored by the Los Angeles Times, runs June 14-24 and will screen over 200 feature films, shorts and music videos. Passes are currently on sale to past festival attendees and Film Independent members, and will be available to the general public on April 22.

RELATED:

Indian Film Festival highlights emerging directors

L.A. Asian Pacific Film Fest to kick off with 'Shanghai Calling'

Oscars 2012: When Woody Allen got funny at Academy Awards

— Emily Rome

Photo: Ellen Page and Jesse Eisenberg in "To Rome with Love." Credit: Sony Pictures Classics


Angelina Jolie-starring 'Maleficent' gets March 2014 release date

April 9, 2012 |  2:11 pm

Maleficent

2012 is the year of retelling “Snow White” with a spotlight on the evil queen (as played by Julia Roberts in “Mirror Mirror” and Charlize Theron in “Snow White and the Huntsman”), but two years from now, the villain of “Sleeping Beauty” will get her own lead role in “Maleficent.” Disney announced Monday that the Angelina Jolie-starring film will hit theaters on March 14, 2014.

Exploring the origins of the evil fairy godmother in 1959’s animated “Sleeping Beauty,” this live-action feature will reveal what leads Maleficent to curse Aurora to spindle-induced slumber.

Coming from a trio of filmmakers who all worked on Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland,” the movie is written by Linda Woolverton (“Beauty and the Beast,” “The Lion King”), produced by Joe Roth (“Knight and Day,” "Snow White and the Huntsman") and will be the directorial debut of Robert Stromberg, who won art direction Oscars for “Avatar” and “Alice in Wonderland.”

Jolie publicly confirmed her participation last month, when she told Entertainment Weekly that the project is "not anti-princess, but it’s the first time they’re looking at this epic woman… I’m having a lot of fun. I’ve already got my horns fitted. My kids are very happy."

RELATED:

Angelina Jolie shrugged off Oscar leg jokes

'Mirror Mirror': What happened to the fairy-tale renaissance?

Snow White, Katniss, Hermione, ‘Brave’: Defiant girls with old souls rule

– Emily Rome

Photo: Maleficent in Disney's 1959 animated feature. Credit: Walt Disney Studios


Trailer music: The sounds that marketed Spock, Spidey and more

April 8, 2012 |  5:00 am

Star Trek, Spider-Man 2 & Avatar

From the orchestra that backs the Starship Enterprise to the choirs that follow Spider-Man swinging through New York City, music for trailers has drawn a larger public spotlight in recent years with the releases of previews becoming higher-profile events.

In Sunday's Calendar section, we explore the fact that much of the music featured in advertising for movies is produced by trailer music libraries. These companies compose music (typically one- to three-minute tracks) for clients at studios and trailer editing houses, who then select pieces from the libraries’ albums to license for use in previews.

Here are the stories of how some of that music attracted fan followings for four of those libraries.

“Star Trek” (Trailer music library: Two Steps From Hell)
The third trailer for J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” set records, as it was viewed more than 1.8 million times during its first 24 hours on apple.com in March 2009. Featuring the track “Freedom Fighters” by Two Steps From Hell, the preview put the Los Angeles-based trailer music library on the map.

In a deviation from most trailers that include multiple cues of music, the majestic yet ethereal track plays throughout the preview. “That gave people some time to latch onto the music,” said Thomas Bergersen, co-founder of Two Steps From Hell.

“Avatar” (Trailer music library: Audiomachine)
Later in 2009, “Avatar” broke “Star Trek’s” record with the teaser trailer for the soon-to-be box office king. It was viewed more than 4 million times during its first day on apple.com. So the rest of its marketing campaign had a lot of early hype to live up to. Twentieth Century Fox hired several trailer editing houses to try their hand at cutting advertising for the film before the studio decided on Culver City-based company Wild Card.

“When we were dealing with something that was as out of the box as 'Avatar,' it's often great to have multiple sets of eyes and different perspectives looking at it because there are many ways to attack it,” said “Avatar” producer Jon Landau. “By going out to a couple different trailer companies, we were able to see how different people looked at the material, which was very helpful.”

The first full-length trailer for “Avatar” featured the tracks “Akkadian Empire” and “Guardians at the Gate,” both by Beverly Hills-based library Audiomachine. Nick Temple, owner of Wild Card, said of the latter track, “While it was still big and felt like it was a huge ride, there was still an emotional sense to it.”

Watch the trailer below, where “Akkadian Empire” begins one minute and six seconds in, followed by “Guardians at the Gate,” which plays through the end. (The first music cue is from the score for Michael Bay’s “The Island.”)

“Spider-Man 2” (Trailer music library: Immediate Music)
In 2004, the marketing for Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man 2” pushed Immediate Music (one of the first trailer music libraries, founded in 1993) into a bigger public spotlight. Their track “Lacrimosa Dominae” plays from 1:50 to the end of the trailer below.

“The last 45 seconds of the trailer, they blasted the music –- there were no sound effects… no dialog, no narration,” said Yoav Goren, president of Immediate. “So it was really one of the first times you could really hear a trailer track on its own. And I think that also spurred people wanting to buy this stuff.”

The track is on one of Immediate’s public release albums, “Trailerhead.”

“How to Train Your Dragon” (Trailer music library: Future World Music)
Future World Music’s rousing and adventure-ready track “Dream Chasers” fueled the second half of the trailer for “How to Train Your Dragon.” The track runs from 1:09 to 1:57 in the video below.

“That was one of the big campaigns that I think really blew the door off for us,” said Future World owner Armen Hambar. “We just couldn’t believe how much of a response we got.”

RELATED

'Amazing Spider-Man': Andrew Garfield's angst [trailer]

'Total Recall' debut trailer logs 10.8 million views in 48 hours

‘Hunger Games’ trailer music may be beginning of new trend

– Emily Rome

twitter.com/EmilyNRome

Photo: Trailers for J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek," "Spider-Man 2" and "Avatar" have featured music composed by trailer music libraries. Credits: (from left) Paramount Pictures, Columbia Pictures, 20th Century Fox.


Indian Film Festival highlights emerging directors

April 6, 2012 |  2:23 pm

Chittagong Indian Film Festival

In India’s long fight for independence, the first defeat of the British came not at the hands of soldiers but of untrained teenagers, led by a schoolteacher, in 1930. This piece of history is the subject of “Chittagong,” the opening-night movie at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, which runs Tuesday through April 14 at Hollywood’s Arclight Cinemas.

“Chittagong,” having its world premiere at the fest, is the directorial debut of NASA scientist-turned-filmmaker Bedabrata Pain, who was born in Kolkata and has lived in Los Angeles since 1992. Inspired to write the film for its “story of human triumph set in a political background,” Pain also hopes to spread awareness of the historical incident -- which he said is known by few even in India.

IFFLA, now in its 10th year, will screen 33 features and short films. Christina Marouda, a native of Greece who watched many Indian films as a teenager, started IFFLA after working for AFI Fest. “I felt that there was a gap and someone should do something about it.”

In the last decade, she’s seen Hollywood’s interest in Indian cinema grow, following the Oscar romp by “Slumdog Millionaire” and the investment by Indian conglomerate Reliance ADA Group in DreamWorks in 2009. A larger spotlight on Indian entertainment has come, Marouda said, with more Indian actors in such TV shows as “The Big Bang Theory” and “Outsourced” and with the films of Mira Nair, director of “The Namesake.”

IFFLA screens films made in India, about India and by filmmakers of Indian descent, and Marouda says it’s more than just a festival. “It’s more like a festival/film commission/agency .… We are really the platform that is trying to bridge that gap” between Indian and American filmmakers.

That sometimes means taking an active part in the making of a movie, as with this year’s closing-night film, “Patang.” It's the feature debut of Prashant Bhargava, whose short “Sangam” screened at IFFLA in 2004. Keeping in touch with the director since then, the festival organizers helped Bhargava find financiers for his feature and are involved in marketing the upcoming self-distributed release of “Patang.” The Los Angeles premiere for the film, about a family reunion at a kite festival, will close IFFLA on April 14 at 7 p.m.

Bookending the event with two first-time feature directors is part of the festival’s endeavor to find new filmmakers, especially as the landscape of Indian movies is changing.

“There is a new, emerging core of Indian filmmakers that are young and hip and willing to take risks,” said shorts programmer Terrie Samundra. “They are films that are willing to make you uncomfortable, critique tradition, taking apart old structures and political alliances -- we see that with [films about] sexuality, relationships, politics, identity.”

But the festival’s 10th year is also a time to look back, as it presents an anniversary retrospective. Chosen in an online vote from IFFLA’s previous audience and jury award winners, the fest will screen three films from past years: “Udaan,” “Lions of Punjab Presents” and “Black Friday,” which was banned in India for its controversial telling of the 1993 bomb blasts in Mumbai.

Awards for this year’s films will be presented following the screening of “Patang,” and IFFLA will host its fifth annual Industry Awards ceremony on Thursday at the House of Blues on Sunset Boulevard.

The awards “highlight those executives that have managed to deal with the challenges of either distributing Indian content or producing Indian content … and bridging the gap between the two film industries,” Marouda said.

Among the honorees this year are Kishore Lulla, chairman and chief executive of India-based Eros Entertainment, and Michelle Satter and Alesia Weston, who head the Sundance Institute’s lab for Indian screenwriters, Mumbai Mantra.

The Industry Awards luncheon -– along with seminars and One-on-One, a meet-and-greet for industry professionals and aspiring filmmakers –- is part of IFFLA’s effort to be a filmmaker-friendly festival.
The hope to be a resource and an inspiration for emerging filmmakers is shared by “Chittagong” director Pain.

“India is a very young country and the youth in India is a sort-of untapped force still, and they can do wonders,” Pain said. My film "in some ways is telling them, ‘Don’t be afraid, just go for it.’ ”

Tickets are available at indianfilmfestival.org. Admission is $14 except for the opening- and closing-night galas, which are $75.

-- Emily Rome

Photo: Delzad Hiwale in "Chittagong."  Credit: Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles


‘Hunger Games’ trailer music may be beginning of new trend

March 23, 2012 |  8:30 am

Jennifer Lawrence and Liam Hemsworth in 'The Hunger Games'

After several months of building buzz, "The Hunger Games" hits theaters today. If you're a fan who's been watching the trailers for months while biding your time for the film, you may be wondering about the preview's powerful music.

The track used in the trailer (the first full-length one released for the movie) is "Deep Shadow," written by T.T.L. (a.k.a. Through The Lens), a collaboration of new-wave Italian musician Tying Tiffany and her producer, Lorenzo Montana. Inspired by industrial and electronic music, the duo started the T.T.L. collaboration to write more music for movies and television. They also composed a track in the trailer for Ralph Fiennes' "Coriolanus," called "It's Here."

A portion of "Deep Shadow" begins one minute and 16 seconds into the "Hunger Games" trailer, and the full track is available for download on the website of the duo's label, ZerOKilled Music.

It's a track that stands out from the typical music composed and licensed for trailers -– music driven by big orchestras and rousing choirs. A mysterious and unearthly East European violin runs through "Deep Shadow," driven by booming percussion and culminating with the rich purring of uilleann pipes-inspired symph.

"We used a lot of ethnic instruments that we found during our tour," Montana said.

Continue reading »

Shorts Awards honors Oscar nominees, ‘Wallace & Gromit’ creator

February 25, 2012 |  5:09 pm

'Wallace & Gromit' creator Nick Park
The Film Independent Spirit Awards wasn't the only pre-Oscar ceremony happening this weekend: On Friday, the second annual Shorts Awards presented film slate-shaped plaques to the nominees competing in the short film categories at Sunday's 84th Academy Awards and honored "Wallace & Gromit" creator Nick Park with a lifetime achievement award.

Park was not at West Hollywood's Soho House to accept the prize, but in a video acceptance speech he said, “I’ve always loved making short films. It’s a good way to get ideas out quickly. Many see it as a stepping stone to features, but I will always go back to short films.”

An enthusiasm for shorts permeated the event, which was presented by ShortsHD, a cable network that exclusively airs short films.

“We are entering the golden age of short films,” said producer Marc Bertrand, on hand to support his Oscar-nominated animated short “Dimanche,” citing an increase in options for independent distribution, as well as the technology that makes it easy for anyone to make a film.

To honor that technology, ShortsHD this year created the Shorts Technology Awards, whose winners Friday night included the Apple iPhone 4S and the app Movie Slate by Pure Blend Software.

“I think audiences have now opened their eyes for short films,” said Norwegian director Hallvar Witzø. His 25-minute short “Tuba Atlantic” is nominated in the live action shorts category. He pointed to the success of ShortsHD’s limited theatrical run of the Oscar-nominated shorts, which had earned $1.196 million at the box office as of Friday, ShortsHD chief executive Carter Pilcher announced at the event.

“Nobody knows the directors. Nobody knows the actors. But people want to see them anyway,” Witzø said.

The event seemed to be a bit of a rally for the nominees. During a presentation of clips from the Oscar-nominated films, “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” got the loudest cheers of the animated group, to which the film’s co-director Brandon Oldenburg said off-stage, “Wow, we have fans."

“I’m king here,” said Luke Matheny, attempting to describe the small celebrity status that has followed his 2011 Oscar win for a live action short. “There are a few communities where people know who I am, and the Oscar-related short film community is one of them.”

Matheny told 24 Frames that he’s “rooting for ‘Raju,’ ” a 24-minute German-Indian film, to win the Academy Award in the live action category. “I thought it had a real battleship of a plot ... and just kept making the right artistic decisions throughout the whole movie until it was over,” said Matheny, who is prepping his first feature, “Love Sick.”

The Shorts Awards also presented visionary awards to Joan Collins, Ray McKinnon, Marcy Page and Bill Plympton, as well as the International Award to Turkey, an honor earned largely because of the Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival, which takes place each fall in Antalya, Turkey.

RELATED:

Movie review: Oscar-nominated short films

Oscar predictions: What's going to win the short film races

Oscars 2012: Shorts categories have multiple Irish, Canadian noms

–- Emily Rome

twitter.com/EmilyNRome

Photo: "Wallace & Gromit" creator Nick Park Credit: Carlo Allegri / Imagenet


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