Online Shorts Fest with Callie Lane

Callie Lane's feature script, Unnatural Girl, won 2nd place in our 2008 screenplay contest.  We are thrilled to screen her first short film, TALK, starring Emma Rigby.  You may recognize Emma from the hit tv series "Once Upon a Time in Wonderland".

Click here to watch TALK.

About:  Callie is an award-winning writer-director and producer of film and theatre. She is currently prepping her first feature, the paranormal romance Dickens and Isabella, for an Autumn 2015 shoot.  She is also busy writing Book 2 of her U.S. set Wonderland crime fiction series for a leading international publisher. Book 1 publishes May 2015. She is developing her first crime fiction TV series, The First Detective, with Runaway Fridge Productions (Runaway recently produced Frank starring Michael Fassbender).

How long have you been directing/writing?  From the age of 7 I was writing scripts and bossing around friends and family to ‘star’ in my plays!

How many short films have you directed? Just one.

What is your top advice for first-time directors? Take a deep breath and own your material but never be afraid to ask for help/advice/encouragement.

Is there any one part of the process that you enjoy more than the others? I love it all, from writing, to casting to the final edit. But my favorite part of directing is having to come up with answers to all the questions everyone will ask throughout the process. Especially as writer-director: all eyes are on you! Scary, but true. I find this collaborative process the most creatively rewarding part of the entire process, thinking on your feet and coming up with a new way of doing something/looking at it from someone else’s perspective and/or with their input.

Talk

When Michael's girlfriend Eloise surprises him with a day out at the beach he is blissfully unaware that soon his life will begin to spiral out of control.

When Michael's girlfriend Eloise surprises him with a day out at the beach he is blissfully unaware that soon his life will begin to spiral out of control.

What drew you to wanting to tell this story? The idea just flashed fully formed into my head one day while out lunch shopping! I dashed back to the office and wrote the script in 40 minutes. I’d never had an idea for a short film before…and I’m still waiting for inspiration for the next one!

What kind of camera did you shoot on?  16mm. Film all the way. I insisted on it. I thought it might be the only film I ever make, might as well do it to the best of my abilities before film goes to the great technology graveyard in the sky. It made everything so much more expensive but we’ve had great feedback from audiences so that made all the expense/extra time spent worthwhile.

What were some of the challenges in getting this film made and how did you overcome them?  The British weather almost killed the film stone dead. We had to film on one of the busiest beaches in the UK (Bournemouth), so had to wait until the school vacation was over and families were all done with the beach. That’s early September in the UK. But the weather on the only two days I could keep a cast/crew of 20+ people away from home kept changing from cloudy to brilliantly sunny and was completely screwing up our continuity. You’ll see why continuity of weather is so important when you watch the film. My next film I’m hoping to film in Malta as that’s guaranteed sunshine and hopefully we won’t need to rush out during filming and buy umbrellas for the cast/crew!

Watch TALK now!

 

Online Shorts Fest with David Renaud

We're so excited to introduce writer/director David Renaud and his short film, THE MORNING AFTER, to you.  David is the perfect example of what hard work and passion can accomplish.  He seems to actually know how to create time out of thin air.  David is a full-time medical doctor, his wife who produced the short is a lawyer and they also have two toddlers!  Clearly David doesn't believe in excuses. 

About David: A native of Toronto, Canada, David is a renaissance man who brings new meaning to the term script doctor. Prior to embarking on his career as a writer and director, he earned his Doctor of Medicine from the University of British Columbia and completed his Family Medicine Residency at the University of Toronto where he earned the distinction of serving as Chief Resident. He spent the next several years suturing his way across two countries and four time zones and saving lives from the barren wilderness of the Canadian artic to the glistening beaches of Santa Monica.

David is also an award-winning writer and director. He obtained an MFA in Screenwriting from UCLA where his script Handicap Heist was a Quarterfinalist in the prestigious Academy's Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting and a Semifinalist in the Samuel Goldwyn Writing Awards competition. His film The Morning After (2014) is an Official Selection of dozens of major festivals throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Europe including the Oscar-qualifying 2013 Palm Springs International Shortfest and the Oscar-qualifying Rhode Island International Film Festival (RIIFF Flickers) where the film won the Echoes of Earth Grand Prize Award. The film is scheduled to air in the fall of 2014 on Shorts HD, the premiere cable short film channel. Prior to attending film school, David also wrote and directed the award-winning short film The Getaway (2006), winner of an Audience Choice Award at the D.C. Shorts Film Festival.

A wheelchair bound paraplegic who was permanently injured in a tragic car accident at the age of 19, David’s boundless optimism, intelligence, and determination have enabled him to overcome tremendous odds. He exudes passion, humor, and an infectious lust for life. He currently lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children.

How long have you been directing/writing?  My brother Jeff and I goofed around making short comedies in high school.  They were more like SNL skits than movies.  I didn’t really take it seriously until I made my first short film The Getaway (2005).  But I guess it all goes back to those early days.  The name of my production company, Flying Renaud Productions, harkens back to that time when my brother and I were young and wild and everyone in our Scarborough neighborhood knew us as the “Flying Renaud Brothers.”

Did you go to school for filmmaking?  After making The Getaway and realizing just how much fun you can have making movies, I started wishing this gig could be more than just a hobby.  Winning an Audience Award at the 2006 DC Shorts Film Festival gave me enough courage. That is also where I met my wife, Mia, a lawyer and film festival programmer who shared my passion for film.  A year later, we moved to Los Angeles and I entered the Professional Program in Screenwriting at UCLA.  That was a fantastic experience and it convinced me to continue on at UCLA and earn my Masters in Screenwriting. 

How many short films have you directed?  I have written and directed three short films -- The Morning After (2013), 22 lbs. (2009), and The Getaway (2005). 

What is your top advice for first-time directors?  1) Don’t listen to anyone who tells you this is a crazy thing to do.  They don’t have a clue what they are talking about.  Naysayers and waylayers can exit stage left.  Make your movie.  And don’t try and make “the” movie.  It should be fun.  Stressful likely.  Expensive probably.  But if it’s not fun, you’re probably taking it too seriously.  2) Know the story you’re trying to tell before you start preproduction.  If you’re new at this, you’re going to have a steep learning curve.  And if you’re smart, you’ll learn from you’re production team – the DP, Production Designer, Composer, Editor, and Sound Editor.   You’ll learn a lot from these people and that’s a great way to learn, but you don’t want to lose control of your film in the process.  If you have a clear vision and convey it well, then you’ll get your movie made.  3) Learn to love working with actors if you don’t already.  Most new directors get can pretty confident with their production team behind them, but they cower in front of their cast.  Working with actors is my favorite part of the process.   Show them where you want them to go, but let them lead you there.  If they can’t take you there, you screwed yourself in the casting room.    

Is there any one part of the process that you enjoy more than the others? My favorite part of the writing process is breaking the story, figuring out how it is all going to connect.  That is the fun part for me because it is when I feel there are no restrictions or parameters limiting my imagination and my creativity is at its height.

The best part of the directing process for me is working with actors to find the emotional truth in the script.  After the solitariness of the writing process, I really enjoy that collaborative aspect of directing in which you are working hand in hand with your actors to find those truths that make the moments real for them. 

The Morning After

A woman wakes up naked in bed with a sexy stranger and no recollection of the previous night's events. Sometimes you have to wake up to find the man of your dreams.

A woman wakes up naked in bed with a sexy stranger and no recollection of the previous night's events. Sometimes you have to wake up to find the man of your dreams.

What drew you to wanting to tell this story? I am a romantic. I believe in love at first sight. I believe that a kiss (or a dance) with a stranger can be electrifying. I believe in the coup de foudre -- that moment when “lightening strikes” and you fall in love with that one person you were meant to be with.  That is how it was for me when I met my wife Mia one life-changing weekend at a film festival in Washington, DC.

Life has taught me to cherish my desires and relentlessly pursue my dreams.  When I was 19 years old, I was in a serious car accident that left me in a wheelchair.  I survived my accident and found inspiration in the pursuit of my passions.  One of my biggest passions is making movies. 

The great romantic comedies pay tribute to our dreams of romance and passion.  This movie is my homage to one of the classic couples of cinema, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers.  No cinematic couple has enshrined romantic love so beautifully in terms of dance.  In The Morning After, Frank is a lounge singer with an almost boyish dedication to pursuing his dreams and chasing his passions, both artistic and romantic.  Mae is trapped in an unhealthy relationship with the wrong guy, one that is devoid of real passion and foundering on its own deceptions.  Her romantic chemistry with Frank is the catalyst she needs to enable her to face those deceptions and a powerful reminder of her own suppressed but innate need for passion and romance in her life.

What kind of camera did you shoot on? Topher Osborn (Dear White People) shot the film on the Red Scarlet.

What were some of the challenges in getting this film made and how did you overcome them? I would say the biggest challenge was finding the time.  Malcolm Forbes once said, “There is never enough time, unless you are serving it.”  I work full-time as a medical doctor and my wife/producer is an immigration lawyer.  We also have two toddlers so between us we don’t have a lot of spare time.  We just had to commit to a shooting date and make everything happen in the time we had available.  I wanted to shoot on the soundstage at UCLA because I felt we needed that type of location in order to pull off the fantasy sequence during the dance number.  I wanted disco balls and spotlights.  We had to shoot before the fall semester began and that limited our pre-production time to about two months. 

Watch THE MORNING AFTER now!

To learn more about the film, click here.

 

 

Online Shorts Fest with Melissa Anderson Sweazy

We are excited to screen Melissa Anderson Sweazy's short film, JOHN'S FARM.  Melissa's short script, THE DEPARTMENT OF SIGNS AND MAGICAL INTERVENTION, won the grand prize at the 2012 Vail Film Festival. We're happy to have her back.

You can check out her film here.

About Melissa:  Melissa Anderson Sweazy is a writer, director, blogger and photographer based in Memphis, Tennessee. Her feature screenplay Nessun Dorma was accepted into the 2013 Venice Biennale and her feature The Devil in Reverse was a finalist for the Darkwoods Entertainment Award at the 2013 Austin Film Festival. Her screenplay for The Department of Signs and Magical Intervention won the grand prize for a short script at the 2012 Vail Film Festival, grand prize winner at the 2013 Nashville Film Festival and was a finalist in the 2013 Showtime Tony Cox Screenplay Contest at the Nantucket Film Festival. Her short film John's Farm premiered at the :A Shorts Fest in 2013 and won Best Hometown Short at Indie Memphis Film Festival that same year. Her short film The Department of Signs and Magical Intervention will make its festival debut in 2015.

How long have you been directing/writing? Did one come before the other or were you always interested in both?  To my seven year old daughter's consternation, I declared myself a writer at age eight. (She is still undecided) But I was making home movies since I could operate a camera. As the representative of the French Club in my high school's Junior Miss pageant, I told the audience I wanted to move to Hollywood and direct horror movies. The host chided me for not smearing myself and my gown with fake blood. Needless to say, I didn't win.

Did you go to school for filmmaking?  I was an english major at Rhodes College in Memphis, TN. I took the first screenwriting course ever offered there. The professor liked my Tales from the Crypt spec and urged me to call HBO. So I called HBO. (In my defense, this was the 90s) The very kind and patient receptionist who took my call told me she couldn't help me but urged me to continue writing.

How many short films have you directed?  Two. John's Farm and the forthcoming The Department of Signs and Magical Intervention, in addition to music videos for a local record label.

What is your top advice for first-time directors?  Know that you will mess up. Directors traditionally aren't the type that enjoy being vulnerable and ceding control, but the sooner you get right with the fact that you will make stupid mistakes, that shots might not turn out as planned, that the weather will force you to shoot indoors, that a little chaos might reign, the better you – and your movie – will be for it. 

Is there any one part of the process that you enjoy more than the others?  Fundraising! Just kidding. I was surprised by how much I enjoy working with actors. I direct my own scripts, so I tend to be in my head, isolated for so much of the process. It's thrilling to finally be on set with the folks who are embodying the characters who have been relegated to the page for so long.

John's Farm

When an anxious parent brings his son to John's Farm for an epic, 'free-range' playdate, he must decide whether or not to violate the farm's strict social contract to rescue his son from a potential threat.

When an anxious parent brings his son to John's Farm for an epic, 'free-range' playdate, he must decide whether or not to violate the farm's strict social contract to rescue his son from a potential threat.

What drew you to wanting to tell this story?  I think a lot of modern parents suffer from a collective, existential dread that it is only a matter of time before something terrible happens to your children, and it will be your fault because you failed to be vigilant at all times. I'd read an article that talked about how, in four generations, children had lost their right to roam. I was haunted by this infographic that showed how over 100 years, children went from exploring for miles and miles to not being allowed past their driveway. Becoming a parent made the struggle all the more personal – and visceral. We want our kids to have the liberated childhoods we remember, but we’re too terrified of the ramifications.

What kind of camera did you shoot on?  The RED Epic

What were some of the challenges in getting this film made and how did you overcome them?  Coming up with the money. We dipped into our savings to make this which was unnerving to say the least. But my amazing DP Ryan Earl Parker urged me to upgrade to a better quality camera and it was a gamble that really paid off. The other major concern was shooting all 14 pages in two days, and we were outdoors to boot. So there was a lot of sitting and watching storm clouds, praying while refreshing the weather app on our phones, but at the end of the day, that fancy camera captured a much more dynamic range of light and really saved us in the edit.

Watch JOHN'S FARM.

To learn more about Melissa, and you should, her blog's awesome. Check out her site.

Online Shorts Fest with Michael Callahan

We're excited to introduce Michael Callahan, the writer and director of our next short for the VFF Online Film Fest.  Check out his short here.

Michael Callahan - Director & Writer

Michael Callahan - Director & Writer

Michael Callahan has directed trailers for best-selling video game franchises Battlefield, Titanfall, and Star Wars: The Old Republic. Together, these trailers have accumulated over 10 million views.

His short films have been featured on sites like SlashFilm, Film School Rejects and Short of the Week, and have played to audiences around the world.

He's produced campaigns for Sony, Google, DTS, and Fresh & Easy, and assistant directed for clients like Coca-Cola, Mentos, Jaguar, BiC, KFC, Durex, CollegeHumor, and Funny or Die.

In front of the camera, he co-hosted the television show "Life After Film School" for the Fox Movie Channel, interviewing filmmakers about how they got their start. In his free time, he loves trying new food, hiking a bit less than he'd prefer, and generally hanging around Los Feliz.


How long have you been directing/writing? I’ve been writing since I was about three years old. One of my first memories was sitting on the floor of my parents’ townhouse, dictating stories to my dad as he wrote them out on his typewriter. I’ve been directing for about 7 years.

How many short films have you directed? Total: sixteen. That I’d feel comfortable showing anyone: four.

What's your top advice for first-time directors? To loosely paraphrase Ira Glass: trust that your instincts are sound and that your taste is good, but understand that it will take time for your skills to develop. Don’t be discouraged when your execution doesn’t match your vision - it takes a long time to bridge the gap between the two. I’m still not even close to bridging that gap myself, and I doubt I ever fully will. The struggle between ambition and ability is a frustrating one, but it (hopefully) lessens over time.

Is there any one part of the process that you enjoy more than the others? I love rehearsal. Building a scene, beat by beat, with talented actors, is one of the most rewarding and - at the risk of sounding cheesy - magical things in life for me. One minute, everyone’s slogging along in the marshes - nothing seems to be working, nothing is clicking… and then, all of a sudden, everything comes together and you’re witness to something electrifying. It’s a kind of high, and it’s terribly addictive.

We're Having Sex

In an effort to save their sex-starved relationship, David and Kate decide to raise the stakes: have sex that night or break up.

In an effort to save their sex-starved relationship, David and Kate decide to raise the stakes: have sex that night or break up.

What drew you to wanting to tell this story? I wanted to explore the "undramatic" ways many relationships end. Over time, two people can grow apart as they either organically change and become incompatible, or simply learn that they were never right for each other in the first place. I believe this kind of ending can be even more painful than a "dramatic" one - there's no climactic conclusion, no definitive closure. Most breakups are slow, messy, and confusing, capped by painful epiphanies that take too long to manifest and often come far too late.

What kind of camera did you shoot on? Our insanely talented cinematographer Ashley Barron shot the film on a RED Epic camera.

What were some of the challenges in getting this film made and how did you overcome them?

The two biggest challenges were:

1.) Shooting the entire thing in 2 days. Our camera had technical difficulties on the first day, so we didn't get a single shot off until almost five hours in. These schedule constraints forced me to create a very minimal shot list, and cover each scene in as few setups as possible. This was a choice of necessity, but also an artistic one - I approached the piece as a character study, and wanted to allow the actors room to act. The fewer shots I captured, the more I forced myself to rely solely on Hannah and Brandon's performances.

2.) Staying true to the characters, and keeping ourselves emotionally honest in every scene. It was terrifying, because I knew we had nothing to hide behind. No action scenes, no special effects, and (like I just mentioned) not much in the way of editing options. We shot the final scene of the film at the very end of the second day, and the shot that finishes the movie was literally the only coverage we had of that moment. We had time for three takes before we had to leave the location for good, and I knew if we didn't "get" that shot in one of those three takes, the movie was not going to work. I am supremely grateful to have had Brandon and Hannah there to turn that scene into what it is. They're truly gifted performers.

If you haven't done it yet, check out his short film here.

To learn more about Michael and his work, visit his website.

Online Shorts Fest with Rita Blitt

We are excited to screen our first documentaries in our Online Shorts Fest.  Rita Blitt is an international, award winning painter, sculptor and filmmaker.  Check out her shorts here.

Bio

In 2000 Yehuda Hanani, international cello soloist and professor wrote:
“Rita Blitt’s art and life are inseparable. Every gesture, in both, is borne on the wings of spontaneous responses unfettered by self-consciousness and guided by childlike purity and trust, immediacy, and an unshakable belief in ultimate goodness. Her constant search for the spirit and essence of reality is accompanied by a sense of wonder and mischief. She lovingly conveys with experienced choreographic lines her vision of the world, where the kinetic energy of dance and an entire musical universe are transformed into the realm of the visual. The sculpture and drawings are by turn fluid and harmonious or rhythmic and staccato. In each instance they resonate with primal memories of collective symbols.”
Rita Blitt is an international, award winning painter, sculptor and filmmaker. Her works can be seen in museums, public and private collections. As a child, she won scholarships to the Kansas City Art Institute and returned there for further studies after attending the University of Illinois and graduating from the University of Missouri, Kansas City.
Blitt has installed over forty-five monumental sculptures up to sixty feet in height and has had over seventy solo exhibitions. Her works have been shown or installed in Australia, Canada, China, Germany, Italy, Israel, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Uganda and the United States.
Blitt’s art celebrates her love of nature, music, dance and the spontaneous flow of movement captured in the drawn gesture.

How long have you been directing?  Since 2003 with Caught in Paint (which screened at over 130 film festivals and won  16 awards).  But with earlier films, I was part of the planning and the whole process.

How many films have you directed?  Five films: Caught in Paint, blur, Caught in Nature with J.S. Bach, Collaborating with the Past, and Abyss of Time.

Is there any one part of the process that you enjoy more than the others?  I enjoyed selecting my artwork to be included in the films and working with the technicians to integrate my art with music and words.

About Caught in Paint

The artistic documentary captures the essence of an all day collaboration between choreographer David Parsons, the Parsons Dance Company, photographer Lois Greenfield and painter Rita Blitt. Creative sparks defy gravity!

The artistic documentary captures the essence of an all day collaboration between choreographer David Parsons, the Parsons Dance Company, photographer Lois Greenfield and painter Rita Blitt. Creative sparks defy gravity!

What drew you to wanting to tell this story? I met with David Parsons, the Parsons Dancers and photographer Lois Greenfield for a photo shoot to illustrate the similarity of movement in David’s choreography and my spontaneous drawings.  I had a hunch that this was going to be wonderful and so I hired a videographer to track this spontaneous day-long experience.  Thus, Caught in Paint evolved.

What were some of the challenges in getting this film made and how did you overcome them? I knew I wanted to capture in photos the Parson dancers and my act of painting at the same time. However, David and Lois were too busy to discuss plans in advance. So we met in Lois’ studio, I took out my paints, and the dancers put on whatever they wanted to wear.  Lois asked “What kind of music do you want, Rita?” and I responded “Classical!” and the very exciting day long photo shoot took place.

 The process of editing the resulting 1500 photos was magical.

The learn more about Rita, check out her website.