Jury Coordination and Notes

Archive for March, 2018

Director’s Close Up: Real Life vs. Reel Life

Tuesday, March 27th, 2018

While there are plenty of challenges to bringing a fictional universe to the big screen like in, Wrinkle in Time, or getting the complex daughter/mother relationship just right in Lady Bird, neither face the unique challenge of presenting a real-world story to an audience in an entertaining matter.

The fifth and final week of 2018 Director’s Close Up featured directors of many IRL-based-productions. These directors not only question the real-life results but also allow the viewers to question it themselves. A brand-new film, I, Tonya talks about a scenario just like this. The director of the film, Craig Gillespie, talked about what they want the audience of the film to feel, which is a realistic issue for realistic films. Often the real-life story has a clear and cut result driven by journalistic feeds, but as many know, humans are much more three-dimensional than that. This allows these realistic films to give the viewer a whole new perspective on judging infamous people in society.

This principal is great in theory, but rarely in practice. A film may indeed show the third dimension, but also show a skewed truth. Jonathan Dayton, director of films like Battle of the Sexes and Little Miss talked about just this. Twisting the truth can be necessary to make a good film, but can also hurt the concept terribly by making the film more like fiction than reality. It causes false impressions of real-life people, or even worst, changes their place in history due to a false description. In this way, the people who create these films also take the risk of altering history and ruining people’s lives. Yet, if done right, it can reveal new truths and remind people of forgotten values.

Angela Robinson, director of Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, had a unique story to tell. Instead of making a film based on modern or somewhat modern events, she went nearly a century back to the creation of the famous superhero, Wonder Woman. While the story details may be commonly known, the intricate reasons for her creation are revealed and can be rather shocking. This is a perfect example of how a film can add to history, instead of destroying it. Before this film was made, little was known about the creators of Wonder Woman and was most likely kept secret. Now, it has been made public and adds a new side to the classic superhero. One could argue that these filmmakers are also historians, piecing together the past for our enjoyment.

In many ways, this was the perfect ending to the Director’s Close Up for 2018. It perfectly defines the concept of the event which is to show a whole new side of filmmaking that is not revealed from simply watching the film. There are often months, sometimes years of work and research dedicated to making these two hours of (hopefully) entertainment. Behind the camera of a motion picture is a small world that events such as these allow us to enter. Even if it is just for a moment, it opens up a whole new way of watching movies.

Images courtesy of
Wireimage and Film Independent

Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood: It’s a Beautiful Day Collection – Comprehensive Set of Shows by the Esteemed Mister Rogers

Monday, March 26th, 2018

This special set of 32 memorable episodes and over 15 hours of content celebrates the 50th anniversary of the beloved Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, the pioneering children’s television series from The Fred Rogers Company. Mister Rogers helps children learn the importance of being kind to others, appreciating what makes everyone unique, recycling and taking care of our planet, and much more in the classic series. The new release also includes a very special bonus episode – the series premiere, in original black-and-white! Through his popular daily TV visits, generations of young children have grown up with the kind and gentle Mister Rogers, who created a calm and safe place that welcomed all to his neighborhood. With real-life guests, adventurous field trips and charming make-believe segments, the iconic Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood encouraged kids ages 2 to 5 to learn about themselves and the world around them, speaking directly to the series’ young audience with his unique one-to-one affirmation of their self-worth. Celebrity guest stars have included: Tony Bennett, Julia Child, Margaret Hamilton, Michael Keaton, Yo-Yo Ma, Wynton Marsalis, Rita Moreno, and Bill Nye. KIDS FIRST! Adult Reviewer, Terry S. comments, “I will always have a special place in my heart for Fred Rogers, for his kindness and understanding of teaching and learning for the preschooler.” See her full review below.

Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood: It’s a Beautiful Day
By Terry Solowey, KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror

This is a wonderful collection of shows by the iconic Mister Rogers. I have fond memories of representing this program when I worked at WNET in New York launching the Ready to Learn program. I represented all the programs on PBS at that time, in workshops teaching preschool instructors how to use TV as an educational, interactive tool to supplement and enhance their curriculum. I will always have a special place in my heart for Fred Rogers, for his kindness and understanding of teaching and learning for the preschooler.

It is a walk down memory lane to view several episodes from the 60s to the following decades. It is interesting to note that, through the years, Mr. Rogers maintained the same routine which made him unique, influential and well celebrated for his kind manner – teaching children that they are special and unique in their own right. He is known for greeting children everyday by coming through his door, taking off his jacket and shoes, and putting on his sweater and sneakers. He invites his audience to share some time to explore, discover and learn new things. He sings to “make the most of this beautiful day, won’t you be my neighbor?” You feel as if he is talking directly to you.

The topics of the episodes varies, from helping children know what to expect on their first day at school to talking about different kinds of families from birds to people, learning about sharing, giving and receiving, and encouraging generosity and gratitude. Children learn about the world and how to live in it.

We are introduced to friends, neighbors and workers such as Mr. McFeeley, the speedy delivery man, Lady Aberlin, a good friend and Joe Negri, a music shop owner, photographer, builder, handyman and guitar player – a man of many talents and trades. We are also introduced to Daniel Tiger, who currently carries on Mister Rogers’ tradition in the animated series.

One of my favorite segments is on disc four, Encouraging Generosity and Gratitude. Here we see how fortune cookies are made: from mixing flour and eggs, that become cookie batter ready to go into baking pans on a conveyer belt, to how the fortune message is put into the baked cookie shape and packaged. Mr. McFeeley delivers fortune cookies to Mister Rogers, who shares some with him. Both men are happy to give and receive. In the trolley car segment and land of make believe, even though King Friday thinks fortune cookies are silly, others on the show love them. The magical part is when a special fortune cookie man pops out and speaks in Spanish and delivers fortune cookies through his fortune cookie hat to others. Daniel Tiger says, “Anything can happen in the land of make believe.”

Another segment that stands out features the celebrated children’s author Eric Carle, who invites Fred into his art studio and shows him how he makes his colorful art papers, which he turns into collages for his picture books. He reads “Head to Toe,” pointing out how different animals move their body parts and they both move their body parts along with the story. Eric Carle gives him a book as a gift, reinforcing the lesson of generosity and gratitude.

I give this DVD 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for young children ages 2 to 5 as well as parents, caregivers and early childhood teachers. If you are a fan of the current Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, then Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood is a must see for its ground breaking educational and entertaining programming. This DVD streets on March 27, 2018 so be sure to check it out.

Mascots Matter: Gender and Race Representation in Branding

Thursday, March 15th, 2018

Mascots Matter: Gender and Race Representation in Branding
Presented by Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media

How are products being marketed to children through brand mascots? And what role does gender and race play? Are boys and girls being marketed to differently and if so how does that effect the way they perceive gender roles? Join us as we answer these questions and present the first findings from our Mascots Matter: Gender and Race in Branding Study. Panelists include: Tiffanie Darke, Moderator, Editor in Chief, A+E channels History, Biography and A&E; Sarah Barclay, Global Executive Creative Director, J. Walter Thompson New York; Madeline Di Nonno, CEO, Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media; Torsten Gross, Executive Planning Director, J. Walter Thompson New York; Courtney Parker, Writer; Laura Treviño, Vice President, Marketing, The Jel Sert Company.

Mascots Matter: Gender and Race Representation in Branding
By Imani Baptiste-Green, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 16

The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media presented a Salon recently called Mascots Matter: Gender and Race Representation in Branding.  This salon touched upon varioua points of gender and race. The event’s main focus is on power, and how people succeed as long as they put their mind to it, no matter what the circumstances. The event was hosted by Madeline Di Nonno, CEO of Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, whom I had the pleasure to meet and talk with. The branding of mascots was discussed as how they convey the essence of brand marketing. This topic helped me formulate my own thoughts on the issues discussed.  

The atmosphere of this event has such a welcoming feeling, from when you walk through the front doors. I really enjoyed speaking with the other guests to get a better sense of the importance on how branding plays a role in how we view things! The mingling and meeting of new people made the night that much more memorable.

The five panelists shared their own stories which showed their strengths and the hardships that they still deal with, but embrace. For instance, being a woman of color, Courtney Parker, Executive Creative Director, JWT New York, expressed how she had to accept who she is in order to fight for what she wanted to do in life. And she has! I really admire every word that she had to say, especially since I too am a woman of color and have big dreams in life. She also quoted something her father once said to her: “There are two things that you will never be able to change and have to accept –  being black and a woman.” This really stuck with me, because I am now learning to embrace the skin that I’m in and loving it. Our society sends out so many hurtful stereotyping of people of color and women in general, which makes it difficult to work our way to the top. This event really enlightened how powerful women are and I adored it.

Torsten Gross, Executive Planning Director, J. Walter Thompson New York, was the only male panelist and had an amazing and powerful story to offer. He appeared to be very strong and comfortable, despite the fact that he has a disability. Not many people in this world accept people who struggle with disabilities, but Torsten did not let that affect his accomplishing what he wished to achieve in life. Sure, people treated him differently, but Torsten did not let that define who he is as a person. That too is a powerful message that was brought forward by this panel.

Women need to have a platform that gives them a place to show their projects and uniqueness that men cannot always offer. Their voices need to be brought forward and heard because, even though we are not men, we are equally important and have the same or more to offer. Our creativity needs to be expressed throughout the world and acknowledged! Without women, there would be no world!

Photo: Imani B. G. and mother

Director’s Close – The Independent Spirit: A Directors Roundtable

Tuesday, March 6th, 2018

 

Week four of Director’s Close Up: The Independent Spirit: A Directors Roundtable featured four directors and writers who are nominated for the 2018 Spirit Awards. The four talked about many interesting things, but what I found most helpful was their tips on how to keep a film’s budget low. Josh & Benny Safdie talked about attempting to keep budgets very low when filming Good Time, for which they are both writers and directors.

One story that really has a powerful message is when they were trying to get a crane for a shot. They decided to call a construction company that was doing work nearby and were lucky enough to get a crane for a very reasonable price. It shows that, even in what seems like the most unlikely scenarios, it never hurts to ask.

Chloé Zhao (writer/director, The Rider) had different methods for keeping expanses low. For shooting, she was able to get sets for little money by working on a reservation where permits are around fifteen dollars. Then, in post-production, she was able to raise a good amount of money just for soundtrack and editing. This allowed her to make an amazing film with an equally incredible score on a budget. She also talked about attempting to find the right story. She knew the person she wanted to make a film about, but didn’t know what specifically to do. After waiting for a long time, the story came to her. It just shows that allowing life to shape the film may sometimes be best in order to get it just right!

Sean Baker’s stories about directing The Florida Project taught many morals for creators to ponder about. Sean filmed it all on 35 mm, which means it was filmed on film stock instead of digital like most modern movies. Sean talked about various possible challenges in independent filmmaking, ranging from pressuring actors (or them pressuring themselves), to getting it right the first time, to overexposing the lighting in order to get it visible on film. 

I have to say, this event was truly inspiring and educational, especially for a young filmmaker like myself as well as movie enthusiasts in the audience.

By Gerry Orz, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

Images courtesy of
Wireimage and Film Independent

Director’s Close Up: A Wrinkle in Time

Friday, March 2nd, 2018

Week three of Director’s Close-up featured many people from the new Disney film, A Wrinkle in Time. Instead of focusing on acting, the panel focused on the many departments and resources it takes to make a big film of that proportion a reality. One of the most interesting discussions revolved around props. J.P. Jones,  prop master of the film, talked about the many small details that most viewers will never notice are put into the film. One anecdote shared is about one of the quilts used. He talked about looking far and wide for the perfect and how eventually he had an authentic African quilt made from scratch. Hair stylist Kimberly Kimble and VFX supervisor Richard McBride both talked about their personal lines of work and the challenges of trying to make the world they created real, but filled with a sense of noticeable fantasy.

A true eye-opener was the discussion about the location. Director Ava Duvemay, Director of Photography Tobias A. Schliessle and Supervising Location Manager Alison A. Taylor talked about the difficulties of finding the perfect place to set the film in. Alison travelled up and down California looking for a place to shoot. Tobias had to make sure it was feasible to shoot there  and it was finally up to Ava to see if her vision matched the location. After hours of looking, they settled on the West Adams area – one of the oldest neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Tobias also talked about his part in making the film feel fantasy-like. He used camera setups that purposely made the world they created look somewhat fake and impossible.

Editor Spencer Averick and Composer Ramin Djawadi shared details about their work after the film was done with production. Spencer took a pile of clips and rearranged them into a flowing and unique story. Ramin took Spencer’s work and carefully composed music for different parts, resulting in several final themes. Casting Director Aisha Coley shared a funny anecdote about trying to find the actor to play Charles Wallace. After traveling all over the world attempt

ing to find the perfect kid, they found Deric McCabe in Burbank, who apparently lives three blocks from where the auditions took place. This story stuck out, not only because it perfectly portrays the challenges of the work of good casting directors, but also shows that the answer can be quite literally under our nose (or in this case, three blocks from it).

All of the crew members showed a common message. While the actors are a crucial part of the film, there is a whole part of movie-making rarely looked at which lives behind the camera. If it wasn’t for their often unrecognized hard work, the actors wouldn’t have films to act in and viewers would not be able to enjoy such a masterpiece as Wrinkle in Time.

Images courtesy of WireImage and Film Independent.

By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

 

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