Su-City Pictures East, LLC

Screenplay & Film Consulting By Susan Kouguell

Month: October 2015 (page 1 of 2)

The Changemakers: Tactics for Equality and Diversity in Film and Television (INDIEWIRE/SYDNEYSBUZZ)

The Changemakers:

Tactics for Equality and Diversity in Film and Television

By Susan Kouguell

Panel discussion at the 2015 Produced By New York Conference

President of Global Grind Civil Rights Organizer Michael Skolnik, Founder, Duly Noted, Inc.; Project Greenlight, Dear White People Effie T. Brown, Founder & CEO of MACRO Charles King, President of Gamechanger Films Mynette Louie, Television writer Pete Nowalk, Founder & President of LTW Lindsey Taylor Wood
Getty Images: President of Global Grind Civil Rights Organizer Michael Skolnik, Founder, Duly Noted, Inc.; Project Greenlight, Dear White People Effie T. Brown, Founder & CEO of MACRO Charles King, President of Gamechanger Films Mynette Louie, Television writer Pete Nowalk, Founder & President of LTW Lindsey Taylor Wood

In the lively and informative morning panel The Changemakers: Tactics for Equality and Diversity in Film and Television at the Produced By Conference at the Time Warner Center in New York, the conversation focused on the importance of taking action and concrete ideas to ensure that more people of color and women find opportunities in all levels of the film and television industry.

The speakers:

Effie T. Brown
Founder, Duly Noted, Inc.; “Project Greenlight,” “Dear White People.”

Charles D. King
Founder & CEO, MACRO

Mynette Louie
President, Gamechanger Films

Pete Nowalk
“How to Get Away with Murder”

Lindsey Taylor Wood
Founder & President, LTW

Moderator Michael Skolnik (President, Global Grind Civil Rights Organizer) opened with several statistics from the 2015 UCLA report on diversity from the Bunch Center: HERE

The report looked at 175 films, and 1,015 television shows over two years.

Lead actors: 75 % men, 25 % women
Directors: 94 % men, 6 % women
Writers: 87% men, 13% women
Television show creators: 71% men, 29% women
Lead actors: 83% white, 17% people of color
Directors: 82% white, 18 % people of color
Writers: 88% white, 12% people of color
Show creators 94 % white, 6 % people of color
Cable television show creators: 89 % white, 11% people of color

And perhaps what drew the loudest audience gasp from Skolnik’s last statistic:
CEO and chairs of the 18 studios: 94 % white and 100% men.

Skolnik : The good news is, if there is good news, is that the audience is demanding much more of us, and certainly on television there has been an explosion of diverse audiences on and off screen.

Skolnick asked the panel about some proud moments in their career.

Brown: In ‘Project Greenlight’ you are actually able to see an inclusive crew that looks like America. So, people watching in Middle America, for example, could see that they have a voice and place in film.

 

 

READ MORE HERE

The Writers Lab (INDIEWIRE/SYDNEYSBUZZ)

The first ever Writers Lab, a program targeting female screenwriters over 40, took place at Wiawaka on Lake George, New York from September 18-20, 2015.

 

Elizabeth Kaiden

The first ever Writers Lab, a program targeting female screenwriters over 40, took place at Wiawaka on Lake George, New York from September 18-20, 2015.

The group of mentors included Caroline Kaplan (“Boyhood,” “Time Out of Mind,” “Personal Velocity”), Kirsten Smith (“Legally Blonde,” “Ten Things I Hate About You”), Jessica Bendinger (“Bring It On,” “Aquamarine”), Mary Jane Skalski (“Win Win,” “The Station Agent”),Gina Prince-Bythewood (“Secret Life of Bees,” “Beyond the Lights”),Lydia Dean-Pilcher (“The Lunchbox,” The Reluctant Fundamentalist”), Meg LeFauve (“Inside Out,” “The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys”), and Darnell Martin (“Cadillac Records” and “I Like It Like That”).

Launched by New York Women in Film and Television (NYWIFT) and IRIS, a collective of women filmmakers dedicated to championing the female voice in narrative film, was funded in part by Academy Award-winning actress Meryl Streep, and with the collaboration of the Writers Guild of America East.

Kirsten Smith

Motivated by its screenwriting members who were frustrated with the paucity of development opportunities, IRIS founders Elizabeth Kaiden, Kyle Ann Stoke, and Nitza Wilson approached NYWIFT to support a screenwriting Lab exclusively for this demographic and The Writers Lab came into being.

I spoke with IRIS cofounder Elizabeth Kaiden to follow up about the first Writers Lab.

Kouguell: How many screenplays were submitted for consideration?

Kaiden: There were approximately 3,500 screenplays submitted. The selected participants were Sarah Bird (“Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen), Vanessa Carmichael (“The American”). Tracy Charlton (“Raised Up”), Kellen Hertz (“Ashburn”), Anna Hozian (“Anchor Baby”), Lyralen Kaye (“St John the Divine in Iowa”), Jan Kimbrough (“The Glastonbury Cow Party”), Billie Jo Mason (“The Cargo”), Peres Owino (“Basketweaver”), Gretchen Somerfeld (“Face Value”), Janet Stilson (“Jaguar Trail”), and Kim Turner (“It Goes Like This”).

 

Kouguell: 
What were some highlights from the three-day Lab?

Kaiden: 
Highlights included the chemistry, warmth and enthusiasm of the group, the bucolic setting in which serious and thoughtful individual meetings between
writers and mentors took place, the outstanding, locally sourced, group meals presented by Wiawaka chef Meg, and evening conversations around a bonfire.
Oh, and the weather was fabulous.

Kouguell: 
What is the next step for these writers selected for the Lab?

Kaiden: 
Writers are all revising their work and communicating with each other. They will use the feedback, resources, references, and friendships they took away
from the Lab to further develop their scripts and their opportunities.

Kouguell: 
In addition to the one-on-one meetings, what other events took place?

Kaiden: There were three panel discussions in which the mentors addressed specific craft issues and general industry insight, informal conversations, group meals,
as well as small, directed group conversations led by NYWIFT Board President Alexis Alexanian to address the challenges writers face in navigating the film
world.

Kouguell: 
What do you feel were some of the most positive outcomes from the weekend in Lake George?

Kaiden: 
The most exciting outcome of this venture, for me, is uncovering and bringing to public attention the field of women screenwriters, particularly its
enormous breadth and depth. The most positive outcomes of the weekend Lab, for me, include the sense of empowerment I believe the Lab gave the writers to
continue their work and develop their projects, and the supportive community of writers we all discovered, which can only further our goals of ensuring
that more of their stories will reach audiences.

Kouguell: 
Will the Writers Lab take place again next year?

Kaiden:
YES.

Kouguell: 
Anything else you’d like to add?

Kaiden: 
We were excited and delighted by the energy and enthusiasm at the Lab. It felt like an important event. It WAS an important event. We discussed and debated
issues of theme, tone, craft, structure, character, as well as production, representation, and target markets. The mentors were unbelievably focused,
supportive and encouraging. Serious work was done. The writers left feeling, I think, that their voices had been heard, and that they should all continue
to tell their stories. I think you will be hearing more from these writers and about these projects. And, although that would have been enough, everyone
had a blast.

 Read more:

Following Up The Writers Lab for Female Screenwriters Over 40

‘Suffragette Screenwriter’ Abi Morgan and ‘The Assassin’ Writer/Director Hou Hsiao-Hsien on Adapting Historical Events (SCRIPT MAGAZINE)

‘Suffragette’ Screenwriter Abi Morgan and ‘The Assassin’ Writer/Director Hou Hsiao-Hsien on Adapting Historical Events

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The Assassin and Suffragette are films inspired by true historical events.  While these two films could not be more different in genre and style, they do share a strong and determined female protagonist, whose unwavering actions drive the story forward.

Screenwriters Morgan and Hsaio-Hsien, also shared a similar writing process; they relied on extensive archival research to find the core of the story.

The Suffragette Panel

SUFFRAGETTE TEAM 3

(From L-R: Ward, Owen, Morgan, and Gavron)

Following a private screening at the Directors Guild of America Theatre in New York City, of Suffragette, Emmy-Award winner screenwriter Abi Morgan spoke on a panel with members of the Suffragette team, including Academy Award nominee Alison Owen (producer), Golden Globe Award nominee Faye Ward (producer), and BAFTA Award winner director Sarah Gavron.  After working together on the 2007 film Brick Lane, the four women began discussing making a film on the suffragette movement and the women’s fight to win the right to vote in Britain a century ago.

The panel discussed how the subject of the film was less fashionable when they started out with the project six years ago, stating:

“As we were preparing during the past year for the release of Suffragette, suddenly Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Emma Watson and others were saying, ‘I’m a feminist’ and they were making it a sexy subject — which is great.”

The Suffragette Story
The story centers on Maud, a working wife and mother, who is secretly recruited to join the U.K.’s growing Suffragette movement. Inspired by the outlaw fugitive Emmeline Pankhurst, Maud becomes an activist for the cause alongside women from all walks of life. When increasingly aggressive police action forces Maud and her fellow Suffragettes underground, they engage in a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse with the authorities, who are shocked as the women’s civil disobedience escalates and sparks debate across the nation.

Highlights from Screenwriter Abi Morgan

SUFFRAGETTE MORGAN

“Maud was a composite character based on three women we read accounts on.  I had done a number of biopics before and it’s so hard to squeeze in a whole life and it’s so difficult; you’re trying to find a prism.

It took us a long time to find the story.  I wrote too many drafts to admit to. But throwing away a draft is liberating.  Most of the work is a process of failure and then improving on that failure.

In this film, we’re seeing the suffragette movement after they already had years of peaceful protests.  We wanted to capture the moment when they move from pacifism to activism, and as a result there were four of five amazing historical events, such as the Night of Broken Panes. Then we started reading about the testimonies of the working women and that’s when it profoundly changed for me.

You can’t ignore the world around you when you write.

We found in the archives information about the police surveillance operation and the police violence, as well as sexual harassment in the workplace. Issues that echoed today.  It seemed very relevant. At the core of this film, we are hoping to empower all women to fight for equality and to use your vote. In the UK we have a very complacent and very ambivalent voting public and we have a dwindling youth vote.”

Inspector Arthur Steed warns Maud about her activities with the suffragettes:

MAUD
(to Inspector Arthur Steed)
What are you going to do? We’re half the population.

The Assassin

At the New York Film Festival press screening, Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien spoke about his new film The Assassin for which he won Best Director at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.

The Story

The Assassin: Abducted at age 10, Yinniang is now a Tang Dynasty assassin dedicated to the art of killing until memory transforms her course of action.

Director Hou Hsiao-Hsien

Hou Hsiao-Hsien: “The story is based on historical facts and then I fleshed out the characters. There is a lot of information from the Tang Dynasty — tales, legends and novels. I first came across this story in college. I wanted to bring this realism into the film.  I wanted to do this film in the wuxia genre. I wanted to draw inspiration from Samurai movies from Japan as a long tradition of this martial arts practice that would be more in line of how I see the wuxia genre; it should be based on the realistic depiction of human capacity.”

When Jiaxin, the princess-turned-nun and Yinniang’s abductor, admonishes Yinniang for not following through with an assassination she states:

“Your skill is matchless, but your mind is hostage to human sentiments.”

Tips on Adapting a Screenplay Inspired from True Events

You have 120 pages or less to tell your compelling story. Your goal is to make every word on the page count.

‘Suffragette’ Screenwriter Abi Morgan and ‘The Assassin’ Writer/Director Hou Hsiao-Hsien on Adapting Historical Events

 

– See more at: http://www.scriptmag.com/features/suffragette-screenwriter-abi-morgan-assassin-writerdirector-hou-hsiao-hsien-adapting-historical-events#sthash.nLh6RlkK.dpuf

read more here

A Conversation with the SUFFRAGETTE team (INDIEWIRE/SYDNEYSBUZZ)

A Conversation
with the ‘Suffragette’ Team

by Susan Kouguell

Academy Award nominee Alison Owen (producer), Golden Globe Award nominee Faye Ward (producer), BAFTA Award winning director Sarah Gavron and Emmy-Award winner screenwriter Abi Morgan spoke about their new film “Suffragette.”
Faye Ward (producer), Alison Owen (producer), Abi Morgan (screenwriter), Sarah Gavron (director)

 

At a private screening at the Director Guild of America Theatre in New York City on October 10, Academy Award nominee Alison Owen (producer), Golden Globe Award nominee Faye Ward (producer), BAFTA Award winning director Sarah Gavron and Emmy-Award winner screenwriter Abi Morganspoke, following the screening of their new film “Suffragette.”

The four women met when working together on the 2007 film “Brick Lane,” and soon after began discussing making a film on the suffragette movement and the women’s fight to win the right to vote in Britain a century ago.

“Suffragette” centers on Maud, a working wife and mother, who is secretly recruited to join the U.K.’s growing Suffragette movement. Galvanized by the outlaw fugitive Emmeline Pankhurst, Maud becomes an activist for the cause alongside women from all walks of life. When increasingly aggressive police action forces Maud and her dedicated fellow Suffragettes underground, they engage in a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse with the authorities, who are shocked as the women’s civil disobedience escalates and sparks debate across the nation.

MORGAN: “ I had done a number of biopics before and it’s so hard to squeeze in a whole life –it’s so difficult; you’re trying to find a prism.”

GAVRON: “Maud, a fictional character, played by Carey Mulligan, was a composite character based on three women we read accounts on.”

MORGAN: “We wanted to capture the moment when the suffragettes move from pacifism to activism and as a result there were four of five amazing historical events, such as the Night of Broken Panes. Then we started reading about the testimonies of the working women and that’s when it profoundly changed for me.”

OWEN: “The subject of the film was less fashionable when we started out with the project six years ago. It’s a sexy subject now. As we were preparing during the past year for the release of “Suffragette,” suddenly Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Emma Watson and others were and saying, ‘I’m a feminist’ and they were making it a sexy subject — which is great.”

Family Connections

Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith, a key target for the suffragettes, was the great-grandfather of star Helena Bonham Carter. The team commented on
Bonham Carter’s serious yet light-hearted remarking on having posthumous arguments with him about his negative stance on the suffragette movement.

The Look of the Film

GAVRON:
“We felt the film should feel visceral and connected to today. We talked with the production designer to create a 360 set and we had two cameras rolling
all the time. The clothes were actual stock; we used clothes of the time. That was the aesthetic of the piece. We shot in 16mm in the daytime to give it
that gritty grain. We developed a reel of film from the archives and saw the close-ups of those women in the funeral; the faces at the end of our film.”

One Message of the Film

MORGAN:
“At the core of this film: Hoping to empower all women to fight for equality and to use our vote. In the UK we have a very complacent and very ambivalent
voting public and we have a dwindling youth vote. We want this film to encourage people to please use your vote.”

The Team Addresses the Suffragette Protests and How Media Attention Can Make Or Break a Movement

“We found in the archives the police surveillance operation and the police violence as well. Sexual abuse in the workplace. Issues that echoed today. It
seemed very relevant.”

OWEN:
“After 50 years of peaceful protests, the media ridiculed the women in the press for being ignored — erased. One of the things that was very poignant, was
that the suffragettes were all about getting attention; their emphasis was non loss of life. When Emily Wilding Davison throws herself in front of horse,
she did so in front of Pathé newsreels and cameras. It was a strategic move.”

(Davison stepped in front of King George V’s horse Anmer at the Epsom Derby in June of 1913, suffering fatal injuries. Her funeral, organized by the
Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) was attended by thousands of suffragettes and thousands of others, marking a turning point for the Suffragette
movement.)

Media Attention Today

For their cover, Time Out London invited the film’s stars Carey Mulligan, Meryl Streep and Anne Marie-Duff to wear t-shirts with the slogan: ‘I’d
rather be a rebel than a slave’ – a partial quote taken from a 1913 speech given by Emmeline Pankhurst. This quote has sparked outrage in the U.S.

Pankhurst’s entire quote was: ‘I know that women, once convinced that they are doing what is right, that their rebellion is just, will go on, no matter
what the difficulties, no matter what the dangers, so long as there is a woman alive to hold up the flag of rebellion. I would rather be a rebel than a
slave.’

THE SUFFRAGETTE TEAM: 
“The original quote was intended to rouse women to stand up against oppression — it is a rallying cry, and absolutely not intended to criticize those who
have no choice but to submit to oppression or to reference the Confederacy, as some people who saw the quote and photo out of context have surmised.”

OWEN:
“We all acknowledge and are aware of how acutely sensitive that slogan was in the U.S. We need to keep having the conversation. I hope it’s about diversity
in front of and behind the camera. If it becomes a narrative about a film that is so sincerely meant to promote all women all over the world, then it’s a
misstep and unfortunate.”

WARD: “
We need more diversity in every respect in filmmaking. We need an industry that’s going to want to make that work.”

THE SUFFRAGETTE TEAM: 
“Meryl Streep recently said at a press conference about the film, how female voices are hard to be heard: ‘People read ‘Rotten Tomatoes’ and less than a
fifth who rate the movies are women.’ The quartet of women chuckle: “We thought about doing ‘Equal Tomatoes.” Their tone more serious now: “Something that
reflects the diversity of our society equally and properly.”

READ MORE

Director Hou Hsiao-Hsien: THE ASSASIN

Hou Hsiao-Hsien
Director Hou Hsiao-Hsien
At the New York Film Festival press screening, Hou Hsiao-Hsien spoke with Dennis Lim about his new film “The Assassin” for which he won Best Director at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.

 

Filmed on location in Japan and on set in Taiwan, “The Assassin” centers on the story of Yinniang, who, abducted at age 10, is now a Tang Dynasty assassin dedicated to the art of killing until memory transforms her course of action.

The Story

Hou Hsiao-Hsien: “There is a lot of information from the Tang Dynasty — tales, legends and novels. I first came across this story in college. I wanted to bring this realism into the film. The story is based on historical facts and then I fleshed out the characters.

I wanted to do this film in the wuxia genre. I wanted to draw inspiration from Samurai movies from Japan as a long tradition of this martial arts practice that would be more in line of how I see the wuxia genre; it should be based onthe realistic depiction of human capacity.”

"The Assassin"
“The Assassin”

 

Working with Actors

Hou Hsiao-Hsien : “I work with actors and actresses I have worked with together before; they know my style and how I work on set. They will know the script and know the mood I want to create. There is no rehearsal. They come to the set prepared. They know what the scene is about. I have to set up the lights and camera, and I set up the dolly and tracks, and then I ask them to go onto the set I created for them. Hopefully they will be inspired by this mise-en-scène, and the location. The actors immerse themselves and embody the characters. Things happen naturally. Sometimes they do take after take, and when they get too comfortable, they get mechanical and unnatural. I want to somehow change the scene for them, to really act. The long takes go with that particular way of directing.”

Aaron Sorkin on Adapting STEVE JOBS (SCRIPT MAGAZINE)

Aaron Sorkin on Adapting the Film ‘Steve Jobs’

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Danny Boyle, Aaron Sorkin, Seth Rogan

 

Director Danny Boyle, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, Walter Issacson, (writer of the authorized Jobs’ biography), along with actors  Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, and Michael Stuhlbarg took to the stage after the New York Film Festival press screening of Steve Jobs.  The conversation centered on creating the characters of this film based on the actual people and making them their own and not a caricature.  The cast spent time with their real-life counterparts to learn more about them.

Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet

Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet

Danny Boyle:  “It wasn’t about the actors being a look alike or imitating physical mannerisms of the real people. Jobs was a historical figure.  His life was really Shakespearean.”

Adapting a book into a screenplay can be challenging in and of itself, but it can be further challenging when the book is a biography. Examples of book to screen adaptations based on a real person include The Aviator, Schindler’s List, Ray,The King’s Speech, Lincoln, Raging Bull, 12 Years a Slave, American Sniper, Frida, Wild, and Straight Outa Compton.

Jeff Daniels and Walter Walter Issacson

Jeff Daniels and Walter Issacson

Aaron Sorkin’s The Social Network (for which he received the Oscar® for Best Adapted Screenplay) shares similarities to the script for Steve Jobs; The Social Network is about the behind-the-scenes of the founding of Facebook and Steve Jobs is a behind the scenes look at the founder of Apple.

The structure of the Steve Jobs screenplay is literally set in three distinct acts — each taking place backstage at a major iconic product launch — the Macintosh in 1984, NeXT in 1988, and the unveiling of the iMac in 1998.

Sorkin: “It started from Walter’s book. I know what I wanted to do and what I didn’t want to do and that was a biopic. That was a cradle-to-grave structure that audiences are so familiar with and I didn’t want to land on all the greatest hits.”

“I like claustrophobic spaces. I like compressed periods of time. I like the ticking clock.  I like things that are behind the scenes, in this case literally behind the scenes. I wondered if I could take all of the work Walter had done (in his biography) and if there was a way to dramatize the points of friction in Steve’s life and dramatize it in this way.  I identified five or six conflicts in Steve’s life and have those conflicts play themselves out in these scenes backstage—in places where they didn’t take place.”

When adapting a book into a screenplay, find the shape of the story and the story arc. One major plot element in this film that drives the engine of the narrative forward is Steve Jobs’ initial denial of paternity of his daughter, Lisa. The story arc is Steve finding his way to being a father to her by the end.

Unless you are writing a documentary, there are liberties to be taken.  Fictionalizing events, combining several characters into one, and reorganizing the time lines are just some of the elements that can be employed in the adapting process. Consider what makes the main character in the biography interesting to you and what elements of the story you find engaging. Use the answers to these questions as your jumping off point. Find the essence of the story you are adapting and bring your characters to their new lives in your screenplay.

From Steve Jobs:

STEVE JOBS
Musicians play their instruments. I play the orchestra.

READ MORE HERE

MICHAEL MOORE: WHERE TO INVADE NEXT (INDIEWIRE/SYDNEYSBUZZ)

A Conversation with Oscar® winner Michael Moore at the New York Film Festival

Moore’s latest film, “Where to Invade Next” explores the current state of the nation.

 

 

Michael Moore and Susan Kouguell

Twenty-six years ago — (Michael Moore reminded me how long ago it was) — I was an acquisitions consultant for Warner Bros. and discovered a new documentary at the Independent Feature Film Market. I ran to the payphone (yes, pre-cell phone days) downstairs at the Anjelica Film Center and called my boss to tell her she must see it. The film was “Roger & Me.” Warner Bros. picked up the film.

Since then, Moore continued making provocative and impassioned films, including the Academy Award-winning “Bowling for Columbine,” “Sicko,” “Fahrenheit 9/11,” and “Capitalism: A Love Story.” Moore’s latest film, “Where to Invade Next” explores the current state of the nation.

Moore: “My film is about us. I just decided to tell a story about America without shooting a single frame of the movie in the United States.”

Former Radius Founders and Co-Presidents Tom Quinn and Jason Janego are teaming with Alamo Drafthouse Founder and CEO Tim League to form the yet-to-be-named distribution label and will distribute “Where to Invade Next.”

"Where to Invade Next"
“Where to Invade Next”

Here are highlights from the New York Film Festival press screening.

The idea for the film

“I was 19 and I just dropped out of college. I got the Eurail pass and youth hostel card and spent a couple of months going around Europe. I was in Sweden and broke a toe, and I was sent to a clinic. I went to pay the bill and there was no bill. I never heard of such a thing. And all through Europe I kept running into things like that. And I thought why can’t we do that? The idea grew organically as most of the things do in my films.”

Planning ahead

“Don’t give me too much credit for thinking this out a whole lot in advance. We don’t think it would be really cool to sit down at the lunch table with a can of Coke and see what the kids do.

The best stuff is what I don’t plan out. What my field producers do in terms of research — I have them tell me only the basics, I don’t want to know any of the research. When the Italian couple (in the film) tells me about the 15 days paid vacation, this is the first time I’ve heard it, even if the field producers know it. I don’t want to act. We don’t do a second take. If the sound guy says we didn’t get it, you can’t ask them (the subjects) to do it again. We’ve seen too many documentaries like that. It has to happen with them and me in the moment.”

No, Michael Moore is not running for office

“…to say that you have the right to regulate a woman’s uterus but not guns? It’s like, I think the only safe place for guns is in a woman’s uterus. Then
they would be regulated by our Republican congress!

I talk politically a lot, but if I really just wanted to make political speeches, I would run for office or give sermons.”

“I went to pick the flowers and not the weeds.”

A line from Moore’s film, which he further details: “Every country has a lot of problems. I didn’t go there to make a film about your countries. There are
a lot of things you’re dealing with, but that’s not my film. My film is about us, not about you. I just decided to tell a story about America without
shooting a single frame in the United States.”

About Michael Moore’s Happiness

“The difference about this film (compared to his others), some people say it’s not so angry, (that) I’m happier. I’m angrier than ever. Maybe I came up
with a more subversive way to deal with that anger with the condition of this country.”

In closing

“We’re filmmakers. We love the art of cinema and we love what it can do to move people through fiction or non-fiction.”

READ MORE HERE

 

Director Robert Zemeckis Talks ‘The Walk’ and Adaptation (SCRIPT MAGAZINE)

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Director Robert Zemeckis Talks 'The Walk' and Adaptation by Susan Kouguell | Script MagazineDirector Robert Zemeckis at THE WALK New York Film Festival Press Screening

At the recent New York Film Festival press screening of The Walk, director Robert Zemeckis spoke about adapting his film for the screen.  Based on the book To Reach the Clouds by Philippe Petit (the tightrope walker), The Walk is written by Robert Zemeckis and Christopher Browne.

Zemeckis:  “I came upon the children’s book The Man Who Walked Between the Towers; it had eight pages of illustrations.”

Written and illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein in 2003, the book recounts Philippe Petit’s 1974 tightrope walk between the top of the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers.

Zemeckis: “I started developing this project and Philippe’s story, almost 10 years ago, way before the documentary ‘Man on Wire’ was made. It was a great documentary; it lets you in to see what all the real characters were thinking and how they did this, but the thing I always wanted to do was Philippe’s story. I wanted to present the walk itself, and of course it couldn’t be done in the documentary because there were no moving pictures of the walk ever recorded.”

In researching Petit’s true life story, Zemeckis found a passionate and driven character who performed the walk because he had to, purely for self-expression.

Zemeckis: “Petit is an anarchist who pulled off an artistic coup.”

Finding the dramatic elements of the story

There were all the elements in this real life story and in the children’s book already built-in for a compelling screenplay: a unique protagonist and his unlikely gang of international recruits to help make the actual walk a reality.  It’s a caper film, except there is no theft.  The adventurous goal that drives the narrative forward is for the protagonist and his gang, to plan, execute, and to survive the walk between the Twin Towers.

What to Keep and What to Cut

There were some elements from the actual coup that that were condensed, such as in real life, Petit made eight crossings, but in the film he does six.

Breaking the Fourth Wall

In the film, Petit’s character, speaking from a perch on the Statue of Liberty, talks directly to the screen, a choice Zemeckis says he made to keep the audience emotionally connected to Petit in order to convey how his character is feeling.

Zemeckis: “All artists are anarchists in some ways, some more extreme than others.”

Screenwriting is — and forgive the metaphor — like walking a tightrope. There are only so pages you have to convey your compelling story and characters, as you make every word count.  It is always a balancing act, deciding what to include and what to cut from the original source material, while conveying the strongest elements of the story onto the page in an engaging and unique way.

Go forth on the screenwriting tightrope and bring out your inner artistic anarchist!

More articles by Susan Kouguell

READ MORE HERE

 

Woodstock Film Festival Winners

"The Babushkas of Chernobyl"

The 2015 Woodstock “Fiercely Independent” Film Festival celebrated its Sweet 16, and came  to a close on October 4.

The awards went to:

Best Feature Narrative: “Oliver’s Deal” directed by Barney Elliott

Honorable Mention: “It Had to be You” directed by Sasha Gordon.

Best Feature Documentary: “Incorruptible” directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi.

"Oliver’s Deal"
“Oliver’s Deal”

Honorable Mention: “The Babushkas of Chernobyl” directed by Holly Morris, co-directed by Anne Bogart.

 

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ROSEMARY RODRIGUEZ and SILVER SKIES (INDIEWIRE/SYDNEYSBUZZ)

A Conversation With Director Rosemary Rodriguez About Her New Film ‘Silver Skies’

by Susan Kouguell

 

“Silver Skies,” Rosemary’s second feature, chronicles a group of seniors whose lives turn upside down when their Los Angeles apartment complex threatens to be sold out from under them.

Jack McGee, Alex Rocco, George Hamilton, Valerie Perrine, Jack Betts and Barbara Bain in "Silver Skies"

I had the pleasure of speaking with writer and director Rosemary Rodriguezin midtown Manhattan two days before her film “Silver Skies” will have its United States premiere at the Woodstock Film Festival on Saturday October 3.

Rosemary Rodriguez wrote and directed the feature, “Acts of Worship, “which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, was nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards, including the John Cassavetes Award for Best Feature. Her episodic TV work includes “Empire,” “The Good Wife,” (where she is a regular director), “Manhattan,” “Rake,” “Elementary” and “Vegas.” She is currently directing the new Marvel series on Netflix, “Jessica Jones.”

“Silver Skies,” Rosemary’s second feature, chronicles a group of seniors whose lives turn upside down when their Los Angeles apartment complex threatens to be sold out from under them.

 

We began our conversation talking about the evolution of “Silver Skies.”

Rodriguez : It took about ten years. I ended up going to the MacDowell Colony with an outline for “Silver Skies” and wrote the script while I was there. Then, when I directed a “Law and Order” episode, I hit it off with (star) Dennis Farina and he loved the script. He helped to get the movie made. Fast forward almost two years later I called Dennis and told him we got the money. We picked the start date, and then he passed away two weeks later. I was devastated when he passed away. But then things fell in place. Fred Roos and Arthur Sarkissian came to the reading of the script, and they said, ‘let’s do this movie.’ The movie is dedicated to Dennis. He was my guardian angel.

Kouguell:
In “Silver Skies,” the theme of ageism is tackled straight on. The characters in this ensemble piece are threatened with the possible loss of their
homes and livelihood. You describe “Silver Skies” as very personal and inspired by your parents’ aging. The characters of Nick and Phil are inspired
by your father, who was a bookie in Boston, and the character, Eve, by your mother.

Rodriguez
: Valerie Perrine’s character always has flowers; that was my mother. I watched my parents get old when I was still young. I saw how their relationships
changed. You think logic would say life would get easier when you get older, but the emotional truth is that life still happens on its own terms. I think
seniors don’t have a voice in this world. These are people who want to have sex. They want to work. They want to spend money. Make money. Have money.

Kouguell:
You don’t shy away from thought-provoking issues, facing this generation, including the sexual assault of one female character and another main character’s
choice she made of personal survival that causes the death of her spouse.

Rodriguez
: My role model for directors is Robert Altman. His movies were a slice of life. The ironic thing about being a human being on this planet is that you have
no idea what is going to happen next. The movie is real life. You’re going on a roller coaster ride; there are parts you’re laughing because life is like
that, and then the rug gets pulled right out from under you.

The issues women go through, and with this female character with her husband abusing her, and feeling guilty over surviving, doing whatever she had to
survive, whatever way she needed to behave was maybe ‘not as a good girl’ would, and coming to terms with that. Sexual abuse to elders is real. Elder abuse
is real. I wanted to bring that issue in, as well as bring in that feminist message in there.

Kouguell: 
In “Silver Skies,” the trepidation and excitement of newfound love is complicated by raw emotion as seen in one character’s
personal and financial insecurities with a recent widow.

: Love doesn’t stop people at a certain age, it doesn’t stop their desires. It doesn’t matter what age we are. To work with these wonderful actors and Alex
Rocco in particular — he was just like a teenage boy when doing his scenes with Valerie Perrine, saying: “I’m used to playing killers, I’m not used to
playing lovers.”

(Alex Rocco passed away July 18of this year.)

Rodriguez
: The recent memorial for Alex was on the racetrack: “Friends of Rocco” – it was the seventh race, it was dedicated to him. I loved him dearly. I miss him
dearly. It was intended as a celebration of this wonderful man. His character reminds me of my dad. As I told my dad when it became clear he had to retire,
I told him, “You always wanted to go out a winner.”

Kouguell: 
The film stars Barbara Bain, George Hamilton, Jack McGee, Valerie Perrine, Mariette Hartley, Howard Hesseman, Jack Betts, and Alex Rocco. Did they have any
input into the script?

Rodriguez
: They definitely did. They stuck to the script a lot. I’m a big collaborator; I want to hear what people have to say. In the film George Hamilton’s
character is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Jack McGee’s brother, George Hamilton’s mother, and my dad, all had Alzehimer’s and we shared our
respective experiences to further develop George’s character. In a way it was a tribute for George to his mother, for Jack to his brother, and mine to my
father.

Kouguell: 
You’ve earned great success as a director on “The Good Wife.” How has directing television influenced your work as a director on “Silver Skies”?

Rodriguez
: I can work efficiently and quickly, and in television that’s some of the skill set that gets developed. My instincts are very sharp. The idea out there is
that we’re less creative working in television, but the real truth is we’re under such pressure that we can make decisions quickly, and also go with your
heart and instincts. It’s very quick and very satisfying, and of course millions of people see your work in a shorter window of time and that is opposite
of a movie.

Kouguell:
Currently, you are the 4th Vice President of the Directors Guild of America. Although there is more media attention on the low percentage of women
directors getting work in the industry, the numbers are still not rising fast enough.

Rodriguez
: The DGA works very hard and we all work hard to address the issue of diversity. It’s been a problem for many years. My involvement in the DGA is
reflective of how much the DGA cares about women directors and minority directors, and wants to get us out there. It’s a benefit to the Guild. There’s a
lot of content there now and opportunity for diversity. I want to be meeting with you in a few years when this isn’t an issue any more; where there are not
“female directors” – that there are just great storytellers and that we don’t have to separate each other.

Kouguell:
Some final words about “Silver Skies”?

Rodriguez:
The way these actors enriched my life was unexpected and so profound. These are people with 50 and 60-year careers in a tough industry. These actors showed
up and put their hearts in these characters. They’re artists. They were there for the love for what they do. They just loved the characters. They had
beautiful chemistry together. We are part of each other’s lives. I never could give back to them what they gave to me.

 

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