December 2007

Taking an Abstract Idea and Creating a Narrative

How the filmmakers behind "King Corn" crafted a compelling documentary about an inanimate subject matter


Stalking heads: In "King Corn," Ian Cheney (left) and Curt Ellis sow their own acre of crops. (Photo credit: Sam Cullman)

How do you make a compelling and funny narrative out of a subject as seemingly banal as food? As Erica Bernstein reports, documentarian Aaron Woolf's solution was to give two young friends $5,000, send them to Iowa, and tell them not to leave until they found a good story (or ran out of money). The result of this experiment is a smart, inventive, and visually stunning film called King Corn, which continues to open in theatres in selected cities across the country this December. To view the trailer, visit our "Watch" page.

King Corn is a slightly apocalyptic documentary that explores where we come from—or where our food comes from, at the very least. By interweaving a filmmaker-as-subject story of two guys, a cornfield, and some ammonia fertilizer with disparate elements, the film expertly tackles the complicated overarching issues related to farming subsidies in the United States.

A Loving Riff on Punk Life in Tokyo

Before filmmaker Pamela Valente left Japan, she filmed "Rock n' Tokyo", a loving look at the city's throbbing underground music scene


Yu-Gi-Oi!: Onoching, the front man for the Jet Boys, performed a set naked during "Rock 'n Tokyo." (Photo: Rick Hall)

Unlike most documentaries about music, Rock 'n Tokyo is not entirely a reflection of the filmmaker's passion for the artists—although Pamela Valente is certainly a big fan of the acts that appear in the film, including Guitar Wolf, Nine, The 5678s, and the Jet Boys (featuring front man Onoching, shown at left). Instead, Valente's film is really about Tokyo, a city she adores, especially for its strange comingling of rowdy punk kids with women who still wear kimonos and those dark-suited corporate “sararimen." Leah Hochbaum Rosner talks with the filmmaker about her passion project. You can see scenes from the film at our "Watch" page. (Photo source).

The first time Pamela Valente, 37, set foot in Tokyo, she was instantly swept away. The Brazilian-born filmmaker, who’d been living in France for more than a decade, loved Paris, but longed to return to live in a city where the pace was more frenetic. So in 2003, she up and moved to Tokyo.

The Doc Doctor's Anatomy of a Film: "Rock and a Heart Place"

In the second installment of this monthly feature, the Doc Doctor Fernanda Rossi presents a case study of "Rock and a Heart Place"


Holiday Express: spreading joy through the holiday season.

In the second installment of this monthly feature, the Doc Doctor Fernanda Rossi presents a case study of Rock and a Heart Place. The documentary features more than 400 volunteers who band together each Christmas to give the greatest gift: joy to the forgotten of society, the homeless, senior citizens, and the disabled of their neighborhood. The volunteers are pictured at left, and as part of our banner photo, above. To view the film's trailer, head over to our "Watch" page.

Case Study No. 2

Rock and a Heart Place, produced by Nancy Sabino and Michael Sodano
Running time: 80 minutes

Film Vitals

Logline: Each Christmas, 400 volunteers band together to give the greatest gift: joy to the forgotten of society, the homeless, the seniors and the disabled of their neighborhood.

Understanding the School Market: From Astronomy to STDs

The Independent's popular Distributor FAQ series returns with an interview with Joan Hartogs, the co-founder of Landmark Media


A Family Affair: Landmark Media's Joan Hartogs works with her husband Michael and their two sons.

The Independent's popular Distributor FAQ series returns. This month, The Independent's Katelyn Harding talk to Joan Hartogs, the co-founder of Landmark Media, based in Virginia, which distributes educational children's movies to schools and libraries. Among their recent titles: Animals A-Z about wildlife and Heads Up, a film about (you guessed it) the laws of gravity.

Running a family business. Keeping children’s education first. Staying independent through increased corporate consolidation amidst a radical overhaul of the way film and video is distributed. Given all of that idealism, it may seem that educational film and video distributor Landmark Media has its work cut out for it.

"Writer Interruptus" A Writers' Strike Screenplay

A non-WGA writer tries to find his way into Hollywood during the strike


The WGA strike nears a month.

Randy Steinberg's Writer Interruptus is the fourth in our series of original screenplays inspired by the Writer's Guild of America strike, which began on November 5. Most recently, the Television Critics Association cancelled its winter press tour as talks between the studios and the WGA broke down. In the meantime, you can enjoy our other strike screenplays, written by Rufus Chaffee, Dorothy Blyskal and Dane Young. (Photo source.)

INT. STUDY - DAY

A WRITER sits at his desk, hunched over a keyboard. He types in a few words; we see over his shoulder the words are FADE TO BLACK.

A Filmmaker's Holiday Gift Guide

Last minute ideas if you're shopping for a filmmaker


The Last-Minute Rush: Holiday shoppers in New York City.

Still out there hitting the stores? If you haven't known exactly what to ask for this holiday season, if you haven't yet managed to find the perfect gift for the independent filmmaker in your life—or if you're taking this opportunity to shop a little bit for yourself, too—The Independent's David Tamés offers some great ideas for gifts ranging from stocking stuffers starting at $23 to big presents priced as high as $2,600. (Photo source).

Still out there hitting the stores? If you haven't known exactly what to ask for this holiday season, if you haven't yet managed to find the perfect gift for the independent filmmaker in your life—or if you're taking this opportunity to shop a little bit for yourself, too—here are some ideas for gifts ranging from stocking stuffers starting at $23 to big presents priced as high as $2,600.

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