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Screenplay & Film Consulting By Susan Kouguell

Tag: Locarno Film Festival (page 1 of 2)

Susan’s: Highlights from the Locarno Film Summer Academy Master Class with Award-winning Director Agnès Varda

Agnes Varda with Stefano Knuchel at the Locarno Film Summer Academy Master Class

Agnès Varda

Stefano Knuchel, Head of the Locarno Film Summer Academy, invited me to sit in on his master class with the 2014 Locarno International Film Festival’s    Pardo d’onore Swisscom winner French film director Agnès Varda.

Known as the Grandmother of the French New Wave (a term with which she takes issue, as I cite in my Conversation with Varda).Varda’s film credits include     “La Pointe Courte”     (1955),     “Cleo from 5 to 7” (Cléo de 5 à 7, 1962), “The Creatures” (Les Créatures 1966), “Lions Love (…and Lies)” (1969), “Documenteur” (1981),”Vagabond“(Sans toit ni loi, 1985), “The Gleaners and I” (Les glaneurs et la glaneuse, 2000) and ”   The Beaches of Agnès” (Les Plages d’Agnès, 2008).

Speaking to the group of international students, Varda shared her passion for cinema, photography, and installation work, with humor and honesty. Here are    some highlights from Varda’s talk.

I asked Varda about finding inspiration and her writing process

I don’t search for ideas; I find them. They come to me or I have none. I would not sit at a table and think now I have to find ideas. I    wait until something disturbs me enough, like a relationship I heard about, and then it becomes so important I have to write the screenplay.

I never wrote with someone else or directed together. I wouldn’t like that. I never worked with (her late husband, director Jacques) Demy. We would show    screenplays to each other when we were finished.

When you are a filmmaker, you are a filmmaker all the time. Your mind is recording impressions, moods. You are fed with that. Inspiration is getting    connections with the surprises that you see in life. Suddenly it enters in your world and it remains; you have to let it go and work on it. It’s    contradictory.

Question from Student: How did you manage to navigate a male-dominated film world?

First, stop saying it’s a male world. It’s true, but it helps not to repeat it. When I started in film, I did a new language of cinema, not as a woman, but    as a filmmaker. It is still a male world, as long women are not making the same salary as men.

Put yourself in a situation where you want to make films; whether you are woman or not a woman, give yourself the tools: maybe you    intern, maybe you go to school, or read books. Get the tools.

On Filmmaking

We have to capture in film what we don’t know about.

If you don’t have a point-of-view it’s not worth starting to make a film.

Whatever we do in film is searching. If you meet somebody, you establish yourself, who you want to meet, what kind of relationship it is. Our whole life is    made up of back and forth, decisions, options — and then they don’t fit.

When one is filming we should be fragile; listen to that something in ourselves. The act of filming for me is so vivid, it includes what you had in mind,    and includes what is happening around you at that moment — how you felt, if you have headache, and so on. A film builds itself with what you don’t know.

Life interferes. You have friends. Kids. No kids. Then there is a leak on the wall. Everything interferes. It’s how you build the life with others.

Sometimes I go by myself to do location scouting. When I go by myself, something speaks to me in a place I’ve chosen and I know maybe we should take    advantage of that. We have to be working with chance. ‘Chance’ is my assistant director.













“Listen Up Philip” at the Locarno International Film Festival

A discussion with writer/director Alex Ross Perry, stars Jason Schwartzman and Jonathan Pryce, and cinematographer Sean Price Williams was held on 12    August 2014. In the Concorso internazionale at the Locarno International Film Festival,Listen Up Philip was also in competition for the Pardo d’oro    prize, the Golden Leopard. The film won the Concorso internazionale Special Jury Prize. On 13 August, it was announced that it will also screen in the New York Film Festival.

“Listen Up Philip”      – the story

Philip awaits the publication of his sure-to-succeed second novel. He feels pushed out of his adopted home city by the constant crowds and noise, a    deteriorating relationship with his photographer girlfriend Ashley, and his own indifference to promoting the novel. When Philip’s idol, Ike Zimmerman,    offers his isolated summer home as a refuge, he finally gets the peace and quiet to focus on his favorite subject: himself.

I ask Alex Ross Perry about his decision to use extensive narration voiced by Eric Bogosian

The narration is a gimmick. We talked about Husbands and Wives pseudo-documentary style and I think a film can have a gimmick like that. It’s an    interesting way to provide twice the amount of information. It’s not cheating, for example, to tell how long the characters have known each other, and to    see how to give background information about the characters. I thought since it was a film about writers this was the film to do it. I think good writing    is letting the situation play out naturally.

             “Listen Up Phillip”

On Jonathan Pryce’s character Ike Zimmerman

Pryce:    Ike Zimmerman — he’s everything I want to be. He’s my fantasy world of someone who is nasty to people all the time. I like that he’s a cynic. I enjoyed    playing a character who had no filter.

On Jason Schwartzman on his character Philip

Schwartzman:    I didn’t see Philip as mean and there is something nice about saying what’s on your mind and it was one of the greatest experiences for that reason. On one    hand they (Ike Zimmerman and Philip) speak their mind and they like to be around each other and on the other hand they don’t.

Why cast Jason Schwartzman as Philip?

Ross Perry:    He was far and away the best person for the part. Everyone asked if I wrote this for him. I didn’t. I wish I had.

Schwartzman    : We spent a month together in New York before the shoot, and we wrote every scene of the movie on notecards.

             Jonathan Pryce and Jason Schwartzman in “Listen Up Phillip”




Susan Kouguell Interviews Joel Potrykus, Writer, Director, Editor and co-star of “Buzzard”


Joel Potrykus, Writer, Director, Editor and co-star of “Buzzard”, and Producer Ashley Young

Returning to the Locarno International Film Festival after winning for Best New Director in 2012 for his feature Ape,” Joel Potrykus and his Sob    Noisse collaborators are receiving quite the buzz in the American independent film scene. I met with Joel Potrykus during the Festival to talk    about his films and “Buzzard.”

“Buzzard”     : Paranoia forces small-time scam artist Marty to flee his hometown and hide out in a dangerous Detroit. With nothing but a pocket full of bogus checks,    his power glove and a bad temper, the horror metal slacker lashes out.

Buzzard    exists to break genre, give a middle finger to romance, spit on sentimentality, and laugh at the status quo. It’s time to bring punk back to film.         —Joel Potrykus

Potrykus on “Buzzard


This is the final installment of the “Coyote,” “Ape,” and “Buzzard” films all starring Joshua Burge. It’s a loose trilogy. Josh does    not play the same character. This is my angry young man series, the world is out to get him. Same actor, same setting, which is a dirty Midwest city    landscape.

I never want to make a genre film, but I’m interested in making films taken from other genres. When people ask me: Is it is a comedy, a drama or horror? I    hate to answer that; it bothers me when I try classifying it. I don’t want it to fit into some mold. I would say it’s funny, but it’s dark, and some of it    is really sad. I would hope that it’s more than a dark comedy, an anti-romantic comedy.

On Writing

Some people have a rigorous writing schedule and work as a normal screenwriter. When I write a script, even when I’m not writing, I’m thinking about it. I    try to set a goal; I want it done in a month, for example.

I studied film and journalism at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids Michigan. I thought to pay bills I would be a critic.

I start with a character — I hate to say “character study” that sounds generic — and then focus on one person and one character. I’m interested in the    perspective of one person, and filter story through that perspective. My scripts centers on who that person interacts with.



Susan’s Conversation with Oscar Nominee Giancarlo Giannini


Conversation with Giancarlo Giannini

Giancarlo Giannini was honored with the Excellence Award Moët & Chandon on 13 August at the Locarno International Film Festival. The Conversation took    place the following afternoon.

Following his successes in the theater, Giancarlo Giannini made his film debut in 1965 in Gino Mangini’s “I criminali della metropoli.” In 1967 this    talented singer and dancer took on the popular “musicarello” genre in the film “Non stuzzicate la zanzara” directed by Lina Wertmüller with whom he    worked on nine films, including “Seven Beauties,” which earned both Giannini and Wertmüller Oscar nominations in 1977. Lina Wertmüller was the first    woman director to be nominated for an Oscar.

On acting

             Giancarlo Giannini in “Seven Beauties”

My acting training started as a stage actor at the Academy of Dramatic Art D’Amico in Rome; one of the oldest schools in the world. I spent 12 years as a    stage actor; that’s a profession you have to give your entire self to. I was like a monk.


Susan’s Interview with PERFIDIA director at Locarno

During the Locarno Film Festival I sat down with Perfidia writer/director Bonifacio Angius, star Stefano Deffenu, and Sardinia Film        Commissioner Nevina Satta.          “Perfidia”         is the sole Italian film in competition at the Locarno Film Festival where it just had its world premiere.

Perfidia : Angelo, 35, is unemployed, alone and without passion. He takes comfort in a bar, dreaming of meeting a girl with whom to start a family. On the    death of his mother he rediscovers his relationship with his father, Peppino, who had forgotten him.

Locarno Film Festival’s Artistic director Carlo Chatrian describes “Perfidia”  “turns the father-son relationship in a provincial city like Sassari    not so much into a model of the absence of relationships, but a prism through which we can read a country that has stopped communicating and is contenting    itself with survival.” The filmmakers refer to it as a simple and universal story shot in Sassari that could take place in any city of the province of    Italy. Bonifacio Angius states, Knowing the places of the film makes the story even more authentic.”

To read more:



The Conversation with Agnes Varda moderated by film critic and historian Jean Michel Frodon took place at the Locarno International Film Festival on 12    August. The rain clouds cleared just as Ms. Varda took the outdoor stage. Speaking about her career in photography, filmmaking and as an installation    artist, Varda offered honest insights about being categorized both as a female filmmaker and part of the New Wave, as well as anecdotes and words of wisdom    about her past and present work.

Frodon: There was an important event in the history of world cinema — the New Wave. Just before the official opening of the Locarno Festival we screened    “The 400 Blows,” but actually you started the New Wave with your film La Point Courte,” which was quite original, stunning, and unlike all the    others. You were no film buff, you were a woman, not a cinephile and being a woman with quite unique characteristics.

             “La Point Courte”

Varda:    I’m troubled with the term “New Wave”. The New Wave included a number of young, new filmmakers but to me, there was the group the Cahiers du Cinema critics    who loved American films, among them Truffaut. And like me, not knowing anything about filmmaking, were Jacques Demy, Chris Marker, and me. We were farther    to the left than the others. These people were grouped in the same category as if we were a group. I felt different from the Cahiers du Cinema movement. I    had no knowledge of French and American cinema, and I thought structure was more important than the way the films were shot.

My references were not from film. For example: When people would put their hands on their knees, I called that an “Egyptian shot,” or I would say, “Face”     rather than “close up.” I knew nothing about film jargon.

I asked Varda to expand on her feelings about being labeled as a ‘woman’ director.

Varda:    That hasn’t to do with feminism it is about what I could do with cinécriture (writing on film), — the idea I had for cinema. My life as a feminist is more related to facts; fighting for contraception and people who fight for abortion rights. I have been there with women on these battles. In my film    “One Sings, the Other Doesn’t” (1978) it was a time when women wouldn’t dare to speak about their problems. It was better for a while but today    again it’s not so good with abortion clinics closing, and so on. I fight for that. To make a statement about that. I don’t oblige myself to make feminist    films because it’s complex. I cannot make a propaganda film because cinema is more interesting. I would never film something degrading. You can speak about    rape, but you cannot film it. It’s very difficult what you can show — the body of a woman, the body of a man. I give a precise point of view with extreme    intensity but it cannot be made

To read more:







Mia Farrow was honored on 8 August with the Festival’s Leopard Club Award, which pays tribute to someone in film whose work has left a mark on the collective imagination.

I ask Farrow about the disparity of women directors working in the industry

Farrow cites Kathryn Bigelow as a success story and hopes the situation changes.

Farrow:    I haven’t worked with women directors yet but I would like to. Women are capable of doing anything. We’ve had some big hits. I hope one day when I do    another film if I have the time to work with a woman director. I would love to work with women. We are better communicators.


To read more:


Conversation with Armin Mueller-Stahl at the Locarno International Film Festival Winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award – Parmigiani

The conversation took place on a sunny afternoon in Locarno on 8 August 2014 moderated by Ralf Schenk.

The many notable directors with whom Mueller-Stahl has worked include     Costa-Gavras, Andrzej Wajda, Jim Jarmusch, David Fincher, Steven Soderbergh, Ron Howard, David Cronenberg and Rainer Werner Fassbinder.    Born in East Prussia, the Oscar-nominated Mueller-Stahl is a classically trained violinist and an acting school dropout. He moved to West Germany at the    age of 50, and later made the transition to working on American Hollywood and independent films and television.

Mueller-Stahl:     “This year I am 84, which is a long life by the way.”

When asked about the films he feels particularly attached to, his response is “Avalonand Music Box.”

             Armin Mueller-Stahl in “Avalon”

Mueller-Stahl:     “I filmed them in parallel over the same year. In “Avalon” (in the role of Sam Krichinsky) I played a German; I was the head of a Jewish family. And    in “Music Box.” I played Mike Laszlo a war criminal. The two roles could not have been more different. It was an unforgettable experience. I felt    like a kind of Mephistopheles.”

Sam Krichinsky in Barry Levinson’s “Avalon”:

“I came to America in 1914 – by way of Philadelphia. That’s where I got off the boat. And then I came to Baltimore. It was the most beautiful place you    ever seen in your life. There were lights everywhere! What lights they had! It was a celebration of lights! I thought they were for me, Sam, who was in    America. Sam was in America! I didn’t know what holiday it was, but there were lights. And I walked under them. The sky exploded, people cheered, there    were fireworks! What a welcome it was, what a welcome!”

Mueller-Stahl:    For Avalon there was a press junket with 12 Jewish journalists. The first journalist asked me, ‘Please tell me about your Jewish heritage.’ I made    a long pause. I didn’t answer straight, so I made a curve. ‘My grandfather came from St. Petersburg to Germany – unfortunately he got off at that stop    otherwise I would have been an American star and you wouldn’t ask me that question.’ I paused. ‘I’m not a Jew.’ Then another journalist put his hand on my    shoulder warmly, ‘You are a Jew’.

When I made Music Box with Costa-Gavras I said to him, ‘Maybe I’m (the Mike Laszlo character) not guilty in the very beginning. I would like to keep the door open to almost the end. This guy is guilty of course, in the end you know he’s guilty. He said, ‘No, it wouldn’t work.’ After three days,    Costa-Gavras came to me and said, ‘Let’s do it your way.’

             Armin Mueller-Stahl in “Music Box”

On playing many villains

I played many awful guys. There is always a dark side in a person. I’m always trying to find in a bad character the good in him.”

To read more:

SUSAN’S Interview on Locarno Pilot Project

The Locarno Summer Academy’s New Pilot Project – The Industry Academy

The Locarno Industry Office has joined forces with the Locarno Summer Academy to launch the pilot project Industry Academy (8 – 12 August), an    educational, multi-disciplinary program for young industry professionals.

    I met with Nadia Dresti, (Delegate to the Artistic Direction, Head of International of the Locarno International Film Festival), along with Sophie Bourdon    (originator of this project; international sales consultant and former director of Atelier du Cinema European) and Marion Klotz (longtime festivals manager    and acquisitions executive at Memento Films), to talk about their new program — the Industry Academy — a three-day intensive workshop.


When describing how this pilot program came to be, Dresti states, “We were thinking about what changes do we need in the film industry; and how can you    reinvent this industry if you project 10 years ahead from now, because it’s changing so fast.”

Dresti, Bourdon and Klotz explained that their impetus for the Industry Academy was born from the fact that very few European film schools offer courses    about the industry. Their goal is to fill this existing gap in film schools by offering a very practical shortcut to the international industry world.

Bourdon: “The idea is to share what is going on — to compare situations and experiences from Latin America, Europe, and so on, such as new ways of showing    films.”

To read more:

Susan’s Conversation with Melanie Griffith, Rachel McDonald and Gale Harold at the Locarno International Film Festival


Conversation with Melanie Griffith, Rachel McDonald and Gale Herold at the Locarno International Film Festival 2014

On a sunny afternoon in Locarno on 7 August, Boyd van Hoeij from Variety moderated a discussion with short film “Thirstdirector Rachel    McDonald and its stars Melanie Griffith and Gale Harold. The topics ranged from the making of McDonald’s film, to the actors’ takes on the differences    between working with men and female directors, to ageism in Hollywood.

I asked Rachel McDonald about using crowd-sourcing to fund “Thirst.

Rachel McDonald    : “We shot a teaser and put it on Kickstarter. I learned a lot about social media in a short period of time. We raised the money in two different rounds    and were able to do the shoot. I was overwhelmed by the generosity and people who had faith in us. There are two donors here in the audience today; they    drove three-hours from Italy today to be here! I think crowd-sourcing is amazing and people can be a part of telling a story in a different way.”

About Thirst

             Melanie Griffith

Rachel McDonald    : “Thirsts” themes are about compassion and about the human connection. There are definitely themes of mercy that reflect on ourselves and on each    other. Sometimes that comes in the form of a complete stranger or those already in our lives. With an undercurrent of addiction.”

Melanie Griffith:     “My character, Sue, is a down-and-out alcoholic. And this young man comes into her life and they have this sort of understanding and go through a    metamorphous together. And Rachel, I must say was an incredible director and allowed what happened without the words, to happen in this world. I’m here    because I love the film. I want to support her in many more movies.”

Gale Harold    : “My character, “John” comes in about halfway through film; he has an oracle quality, he’s saying things he doesn’t have reason to know about and makes    offhand statements that become echoed through the film.”

McDonald: “The movie takes place over a period of three days. The script, written by Michael Albanese, was inspired by a true story that    happened to him when he was living in New York City in the 90s, and was broke and disconnected, and got a temporary job in Hell’s Kitchen. We developed the    story together.”

Boyd:     “You had a screenplay and a great story, but how do you get Melanie Griffith in this movie?”


To read more:


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