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Digerati Doing Cool Stuff in NYC, Or IFP Features Television, Web & Digital Content for Fall

SCREENMANCER NYC ALERT: July 21, 2016 (Manhattan, NY) – Digerati who dig film, this is a heads up for you about IFP in NYC. What is IFP? The Independent Filmmaker Project, breakfast of “champions of storytelling” also lunch and dinner out. Read on… ifpcrowd16

Today, IFP announced their expansion to support TV, Digital, Interwebs, VR and App-based Series at its upcoming IFP Film Week. Series showrunners and creators will take part in the IFP Project Forum, the only International Co-Production Market in the U.S. featuring stories for all platforms. As announced, after 37 years in Manhattan, IFP Film Week is moving across the river to Brooklyn.

The event will set up shop in DUMBO anchored around its headquarters, the Made in NY Media Center By IFP; Film Week will run from September 17th through September 22nd, 2016.

In recent years, IFP and Filmmaker Magazine have played a vital role in launching the careers of many of today’s rising stars active in the television, new media and web series space, prompting the decision to expand to platforms outside of film.QTFMIPF16
These rising stars include series creators Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair (High Maintenance), Deston Daniel Cretton (Upcoming Minors with Ryan Coogler), Lena Dunham (Girls), The Duplass Brothers (Togetherness) Moria Demos & Laura Riccardi (Making of a Murderer), Ava DuVernay (Queen Sugar), Robert Eggers (Upcoming Rasputin), Ingrid Jungermann (F to the 7th) Todd Rohal (MOPZ), Amy Seimetz (The Girlfriend Experience), directors Nicole Kassell (The Americans), Seith Mann (The Breaks), Stacie Passon (Transparent) and Dee Rees (Bessie) as well as those forging their own storytelling paths such as Laura Poitras (The Intercept).

In addition to expanding across multiple platforms, IFP is proud that over 50% of the participating projects in this year’s Film Week are inclusive of range of races, genders, sexual orientations, ethnicities and physical abilities in key creative positions, fostering future projects that break out of the norm. These diverse projects span across all areas of film week.

“IFP Film Week is delving into such exciting new territories this year,” says IFP Executive Director Joana Vicente. “In this changing technological landscape, it’s imperative to give voices to those who think outside the box and look to not only film and television, but also web, digital, and VR platforms to get their stories out there.  We’re also thrilled that these voices will belong to more and more women, people of color, and members of the LGBT community.”

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Under the curatorial leadership of Deputy Director/Head of Programming Amy Dotson & Senior Director of Programming Milton Tabbot, forty-five projects have been selected. The slate includes narrative and non-fiction series (limited, mini and full-season series) in all formats, from VR and Snapchat-based series to comedy, drama and genre pilots. Over half of the selected projects have already shot their pilots independently; in addition, many feature veteran creatives from the film, television and web space presenting new series pitches.

Highlighted projects on deck… 

  • According To My Mother, a comedic series from actor Daniel K. Isaac (Billions)
  • Awkward Celebrity Encounters, an animated web-comedy from Caveh Zahedi (The Show About the Show)
  • Big Fun, a French/American thriller series from producer of France’s Hero Corp
  • House of Psychotic Women, from the producer of The Greasy Strangler
  • The Illegal, from the team behind award winning Canadian mini-series Book of Negros and the executive producer of OWN’s Greenleaf
  • Love & Stuff, a limited, non-fiction series from director Judith Helfand (Blue Vinyl)
  • The Order, a dramatic thriller from director Jim Mickle (Cold In July)
  • Sex Ed, a drama from producers of Teen Mom & Serial: Season 2
  • Untitled Flint Police Project, a non-fiction series from the team behind T-Rex.
  • Newcomers include Shugs & Fats (2015 Gotham Award Breakthrough Series), The Come Up (2016 Series Fest Winner), and Namaste, Bitches.

For the full series slate, please visit:

http://www.ifp.org/press/ifp-announces-series-slate-for-project-forum-at-ifp-film-week/#.V40exJMrLXQ

A number of activities will take place at IFP Film Week aimed at helping connect content creators with industry leaders in television, and new media that can help them complete their latest works and connect with audiences.

  • Series showrunners and creators will take part in the IFP Project Forum, the only International Co-Production Market featuring stories for all platforms. Specifically, over 3,500 meetings are set up to support the future of storytelling by connecting content creators with financiers, executives, influencers and decision-makers in film, television, and new media.
  • All projects will also participate in Screen Forward Pitches, an all-day, exclusive live pitching session with top television, new media and digital execs in hopes of moving their projects – and careers – forward.
  • 20 projects will also be showcased publicly at the outdoor Screen Forward Showcase, an open to the public project featuring highlights of the new program.

Reflecting this year’s inclusion of web and television projects, IFP Film Week is sponsored by HBO and Amazon Studios this year; HBO will support all documentary and non-fiction interests of the week, while Amazon Studios is committed to supporting our producers across all platforms and genres.

Who Pays For This?

The IFP and IFP Film Week are generously supported by a group of loyal corporate, foundation and government benefactors. The 2016 Sponsors are Premier Sponsors HBO and Amazon Studios; Gold Sponsors A&E Indie Films and SAGIndie; and Silver Sponsors National Film & Video Foundation of South Africa, Shutterstock, Sofia Independent Film Festival and Telefilm Canada. IFP Film Week is also supported by grants from the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the New York State Council on the Arts and the Time Warner Foundation.

More About IFP

The Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) champions the future of storytelling by connecting artists with essential resources at all stages of development and distribution. ifp16The organization fosters a vibrant and sustainable independent storytelling community through its year-round programs, which include Independent Film Week, Filmmaker Magazine, the Gotham Independent Film Awards and the Made in NY Media Center by IFP, a new incubator space developed with the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment. IFP represents a growing network of 10,000 storytellers around the world, and plays a key role in developing 350 new feature and documentary works each year. During its 38-year history, IFP has supported over 12,000 projects and offered resources to more than 20,000 filmmakers. More info at www.ifp.org

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Susanna White’s “Our Kind of Traitor” Is the Le Carré That Came In From The Cold

Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

If in the fifty-odd years since British spymaster John le Carré began plying his trade as a novelist, you have somehow missed any of the screen versions of his works, know this: there are favorites. Everybody has one: from 1965’s Richard Burton classic The Spy Who Came in From The Cold to 2005’s The Constant Gardener (Rachel Weisz, Ralph Fiennes) to 2011’s Gary Oldman-starrer Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy.

The author, born David John Moore Cornwell (1931-), hasn’t helped matters by continuing to write brilliant works and toying with his audience, even poking fun at his own legend.  “In the old days it was convenient to bill me as a spy turned writer. I was nothing of the kind. I am a writer who when I was very young, spent a few ineffectual but extremely formative years in British Intelligence… It is forty years since I hung up my cloak and dagger. I wrote my first three books while I was a spook. I wrote the next eighteen after I was at large.” The point is, nearly every major star through the last five decades has signed on to a le Carré project because they are so well-crafted. From Sir Alec Guinness, Sean Connery, Michelle Pfeiffer, to more recent entries such as Tom Hiddleston, the public has definite opinions.

The usual favorite TV adaptation is, Hiddleston in BBC’s recent “The Night Manager” mini-series (from the 1993 book) notwithstanding, Guinness in 1986’s “The Perfect Spy.” The best movie is usually pegged as Burton in The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, based on le Carré’s third novel published in 1963. Laborious lists have been made of Top 10’s. There’s the Karla Trilogy, Russia House, Panama Tailor, Little Drummer Girl — the point is, the bar is quite high. So British Director Susanna White’s just released le Carré entry, Our Kind of Traitor, from the 2010 novel of the same name, looks to have some stiff competition as a new addition into the record books. Or does it?

HarrisMcGregorStarring Ewan McGregor, Stellan Skarsgård, and Naomie Harris, Our Kind of Traitor remarkably has nothing to fear from the past, because this film will be remembered as The Movie That Came in From The Cold. What does that mean exactly? Cold, as in cold shoulder, for one. Look at the lighting in Oldman’s Tinker, Tailor. As a bleak and calculating reflection of its subject matter, this is a near-perfect le Carré example. Yet, as with nearly every single adapt, perhaps with the exception of 2005’s Constant Gardener which leans more toward the emotional, the archetypal classic take on John le Carré’s spy-craft deconstruction of “The Circus” (shorthand for MI6) is usually a stoic rendering with an intellectual view toward Deception and Betrayal, in capital letters. Deceit and eroding loyalty are the two mainstay themes of his work. Here’s where Our Kind of Traitor parts company.

Director Susanna White spins something entirely different into the fabric of espionage: layers of emotional complexity. This isn’t the hand-wringing kind of sentimental nonsense, it is the intricate emotional mining of subtext for our entirely human lead characters. Smug-free, the players in Our Kind of Traitor seem to understand exactly what the consequences are, and why the risks are worth it. EwanStellanWhite pre-loaded the odds of success here, not only with casting choices like the inexorable Harris and Damian Lewis, but with Nicolas Winding Refn’s DRIVE (Ryan Gosling) screenwriter Hossein Amini, a great choice. Her previous projects include HBO’s “Generation Kill” series, where she directed Stellan’s son Alexander Skarsgård, yes of Tarzan fame, and she had previously worked with Ewan McGregor.

An interview with Susanna White follows, but for now, here’s a snapshot of the plot, courtesy of our friends at Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions, the film’s distributors. You’re welcome to use your best Announcer Voice while you read this… “While on holiday in Marrakech, an ordinary English couple, Perry (Ewan McGregor) and Gail (Naomie Harris), befriend a flamboyant and charismatic Russian, Dima (Stellan Skarsgård), who unbeknownst to them is a kingpin money launderer for the Russian mafia. When Dima asks for their help to deliver classified information to the British Secret Services, Perry and Gail get caught in a dangerous world of international espionage and dirty politics. The couple is propelled on a perilous journey through Paris and Bern, a safe house in the French Alps, to the murky corners of the City of London and an alliance with the British Government via a ruthless and determined MI6 agent (Damian Lewis).”

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Q: The first thing I wanted to ask you about is Brexit, since it just happened. How do you feel about it?

Deep despair, deep despair. It’s a terrible dark business for Britain. Most of my friends have been in deep shock.

Q: How do you think it will effect the film industry for the UK?

Its hard to know yet. At the moment an immediate impact is on the Pound against the US dollar. In terms of being a filmmaker in Britain, of course I’m here (in Los Angeles) now, there may be certain EU grants we are eligible for, that we won’t be eligible for (post-Brexit). People are doing a lot of analysis now — there were big email round-robins sent from the producers association urging people to stay in the EU. I just don’ t know. I think we won’t know for a while.

Q: Since you directed Emma Thompson in Nanny McPhee Returns (2010), is Our Kind of Traitor a departure for you?

It’s a big change. To go from a four-quadrant family film to a different kind of film. But in the context of me having done a lot of TV more similar to Our Kind of Traitor, Generation Kill and more adult drama, you could say Nanny McPhee was the departure. So it’s obviously very, very different, something that is a thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat. But they have Ewan McGregor in common. He was in Nanny McPhee Returns (as Mr. Green), which means they have a great cast in common.

My work as a director has been very varied. In some ways (this film) is muscles I’ve used before — I’ve done CGI and fight sequences. What was new was to make sure a suspense was working the movie.

Q: Were you a le Carré fan?

I’ve been a big fan since Richard Burton in The Spy Who Came in From The Cold. One of my favorites is The Constant Gardener. That brought an emotional side which is not usually associated with le Carré. But I had to be true to my own voice as a filmmaker. That’s why I open the movie with the dancer to make it feel very emotional at its heart. (The movement) makes it feel very contemporary, different than dark interiors.

Q: Where was it shot?

It was set it on a big landscape, Finland, Russia, France, Switzerland, UK and Morocco.

Q: There are parallel relationships in it, which is unusual.

There’s Perry (Ewan McGregor) and Gail (Naomie Harris); Perry and Dima (Stellan Skarsgård). Hector, Damian Lewis, is part of two marriages in the movie. Damian’s failed marriage has made him very lonely and warring with the system and the British establishment. Those are the emotional layers — maybe as a woman, it is looking at the consequences of violence. When somebody dies you really feel it in the movie. This will bring an audience which isn’t the traditional le Carré audience, perhaps it’s more accessible.

Q: It has a conscience, you mean?

Right, exactly. Thats what I set out to do. Make the movie that was inside of me.

Q: Did you always have Ewan in mind, because he has that strange sense of inner conflict usually?

He was the only choice. Ewan has that boy-next-door quality. (In the movie) his pride is slightly dented. His career hasn’t taken him to the place he has wanted. His wife is a successful lawyer in training. It’s a modern relationship, and I wanted to show how lost he is at the beginning of the movie — then there’s this unlikely relationship with Dima.

Q: Did you see Eastern Promises (2007) for background on the Vor? How did you research it?

(Laughs) I did look at Easten Promises. It is a movie with very clear tattoos — I am working with that writer Steve Knight on my next movie — we wanted to make sure we got those right. But mostly I thought ‘how am I going to do my version?’ This isn’t American Italian (read: The Godfather), this is completely different. 1sheetOKOT16We did quite a lot of research on the Vor v Zakone (def: “Thieves in Law” Russian mafia). We worked with someone who had been to Russia, and met someone on whom he modeled (Stellan’s) character. I also talked a lot with Frederico Varese (author of “Mafias on the Move: How Oragnized Crime Conquers New Territories”), on hand to advise as well. Also Stellan and I went on an adventure of our own. It was very important to both of us, (to explore his character) so he wasn’t just black-and-white, that we understood the circumstances in his life.

Q: Stellan Skarsgård is so good at inhabiting a role, so how was he to work with?

It was a complete joy working with Stellan. I’ve been a massive fan since Breaking The Waves (1996).

Q: He’s usually complex and sensitive, also (cruel) funny but humorous too —

Hopefully it makes the audience think about it, that (opening sequence) dancer suspended in the air. I hope it makes you think about masculinity a lot, (what it says) about being a man. A rediscovery of what it means to be a man.

Q: Can you name five female directors you admire?

Oh, lots. Jane Campion is the person who really inspires me, with The Piano. Kathryn Bigelow, for sure. Amma Asante (A Way of Life), breaking through in the way that she has. Then there’s probably a few other British directors who I am very connected with, Sarah Gavron (Suffragette, 2015). And a woman you will see her first film this summer — she is my generation, who hasn’t had a chance to make a film yet — Philippa Lowthorpe.

Q: The reason I asked you that question is because there was a time when it was nearly impossible to name five.

It’s getting better and it’s improving slowly.

Q: What’s your next project?

I’m working with writer Steve Knight (Eastern Promises). It’s based on a true story of a woman who is portrait painter in the 1880’s and had a relationship with Sitting Bull.

Q: Have you cast the female lead?

Jessica Chastain.

Q: She’s perfect for that role. Also, I really enjoyed Our Kind of Traitor, as an adult movie with those emotional elements you don’t see very often.

I’m happy you like the film. I think this the whole thing about bringing emotional layers that makes it different.

Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions released OUR KIND OF TRAITOR in theaters beginning July 1, 2016.

Directed by Susanna White, and written by Hossein Amini (screenplay), from the John le Carré (novel), the film stars Ewan McGregor, Naomie Harris, Damian Lewis and Stellan Skarsgård. To find out how to see it, click here or look for local showtimes.

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Pixel-Perfect BILAL Screened at Cannes 69th & Took a Few Years, 22 Countries to Create

SCREENMANCER ANIMATION ALERT: Recently Dubai’s first-ever CGI animation, BILAL, screened at the 69th Cannes International Film Festival, which featured an Animation Night on May 18. But the story behind BILAL, a 1400-year-old animated saga, is even more notable. The cast includes excellent actors Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (who played the yacht assassination target for Matt Damon in BOURNE IDENTITY), and Ian McShane from HBO’s “Game of Thrones” TV series, also PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEANBilalActor2BILAL had a sneak preview five months ago at the 3rd Ajyal Youth Festival, presented by the Doha Film Institute, in Doha, Qatar. This pixel-perfect, Disney-quality animation is said to have culled resources from 22 countries, tapping 327 creatives, in collaboration to complete on a budget of $30 M USD. Eponymous main character Bilal is actually based on a historic figure, a revered warrior, named Bilal bin Rabah. And who was he? “One of the most trusted companions of the Prophet Mohammed,” according to exhaustive research done by the film’s makers via Saudi-informed “forensic historians.”

What makes this film interesting is that you don’t necessarily have to know the backstory to appreciate the master-level craftsmanship on the CGI in BILAL. In fact, this project pays off the promise that ‘reality begins at 80 million polygons’ as coined by animation forefather Alvy Ray Smith, and really brings home the notion that this technology now has a life of its own as this fantastic tool available all over the world for people to tell make epic explorations.

When you watch this film, you see top drawer animation with a sincere message of “faith, hope and self-discovery inspired by the real life story,” as described by the filmmakers.

To quote them directly, “Director/producer Ayman Jamal said when casting the voice talent for the main characters they targeted the US because they wanted the actor playing Bilal ‘to be able to give an English and African accent and to convey the epic sense of the story inspired by real events that happened 1400 years ago.’” bilalarrow2American actor Jacob Latimore is teenage BILAL. According to Kidzworld, a portal for young actors, this Milwaukee native grew up with a love of Motown and singular gifts as a musician early on with a hit called “Superstar.” Which means he has the perfect voice control as a voice actor, not to mention his credits include roles in 2014’s RIDE ALONG (Kevin Hart, Ice Cube) and THE MAZE RUNNER, as well as a 2010 credit for VANISHING ON 7TH STREET. Over the course of this spirited and engaging film, Bilal’s character will age from 6 to 60 years old, and the intricate animation’s high-dollar production values make it a pleasure to sit through.

This is a multi-talent collaboration, as mentioned, with clever choices such as Atil Örvarsson, a composer from Iceland, to do the music. Örvarsson said he tried to “combine the archaelogical, historical nature of the story and make it accessible for an international audience. We used old instruments from the region and combined it with modern electronically synthesised music, we created themes for some of the characters and created a unique, other worldly sound for the witch doctor.”

Project point-person Jamal nailed the complexity of producing a movie of this scope in CGI, especially when the Dubai creative climate is more familiar with shorter projects. “The industry here is based on short movies and originally we wanted to work with an animation studio but we found there was no animation or CGI studio in the MENA region so we had to start the studio ourselves to make BILAL and that’s how we established Dubai-based Barajoun Studios.” BilalHugThe film itself was funded by individual investors from the Gulf Region, including Saudi Arabia with the Doha Film Institute. Expect BILAL to be on the radar this year, as Variety, Indiewire, Cartoon Brew, and Animation News have all tracked its progress thus far. Let’s hope this film has the harmonizing effect as intended, because the animation is truly pixel-perfect. Find out more about BILAL here, and watch for it to screen near you soon.

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