January 2008

Thirteen Ways of Looking at Sundance

What does Sundance mean to independent film and filmmakers in 2008?


Breaking Through: For the makers of "Slingshot Hip Hop," a film about Palestinian rappers, Sundance is a place to get noticed.

Sundance is growing in every which way, from the number of submissions (more than 8,000 this year) to the festival's online presence (which now includes a number of downloadable shorts). But as it gets bigger, is it getting better? That's the question that The Independent's Erin Trahan posed to upstarts looking for their big break this year, veteran filmmakers, Park City locals and more.

Sundance is growing. More submissions than ever--8,000 for 2008. More screenings. More countries of origin represented in both the feature and documentary competitions. More arms of the Sundance empire--institutes, labs, the Sundance Channel--at work. More categories to sift through than a sane film-goer can practically comprehend, let alone stand in line for.

Mastering Archival Footage: How to Find It, When to Use It

To make "Doc," a film about her father, Immy Humes had to master of a mountain of source material


An Independent Doc: Immy Humes's latest film recalls the life of her brilliant, troubled father, the late H.L. "Doc" Humes

As if it wasn't hard enough for Immy Humes to make a film about her brilliant but rough father, H.L. "Doc" Humes (pictured at left), she also had to contend with a mountain of source material. Assembling all of it and then incorporating it into a polished narrative took her 16 years. In the end, Doc features photographs from the fifties, black-and-white film footage from the sixties, reel-to-reel video from the seventies, and much more. And did we mention the hundred-page FBI file? Humes recently spoke with The Independent's Mike Hofman about the process of hunting down this material, and then how she came to choose a structure that knit it all together. Check out clips from her film on our Watch page.

Immy Humes is adept at bringing a light touch to dark subject matter as she did in her Oscar-nominated 1991 short A Little Vicious, about a dangerous pit bull and the family who loved him, and 1996’s Lizzie Borden Hash & Rehash, about the abiding fascination Americans have for the New England spinster who was accused of being an ax murderer.

Take a Trip, Make a Film: A Look at Study-Abroad Programs

Need a change of scenery? Here are five programs that allow filmmakers to study abroad.


London Calling: The New York Film Academy runs month-long courses in London, Paris, and Florence. (Photo: Loretta Shing.)

If you're looking to get away from your day-to-day routine while also brushing up on filmmaking skills, then a study-abroad program may be right for you. London, Paris, Florence, and Ottawa all play host to summer workshops. You can also take animation courses in New Zealand or work towards a degree from New York University in Singapore. And in Prague, you can brush up on state-of-the-art technology in a film-school building that dates to the 11th Century. The Independent's Lynn Tryba has compiled a guide to programs that range in length from weekend seminars to six-week sabbaticals.

When it comes to taking filmmaking classes abroad, the question is not so much “Why?” as it is, “Why not?” As anyone with a passion knows, procrastination and perfectionism are barriers to creativity, and they can become all the more pernicious when you're stuck in an unchanging daily routine.

Writing a Companion Book to Your Film

Charles H. Ferguson, the director of "No End in Sight," talks about his award-winning documentary and the follow-up book due out this month


The Odd Couple: In "No End in Sight," filmmaker Charles Ferguson reveals the coolness between Paul Bremer and Jay Garner.

Over the course of an hour and 42 minutes, Charles H. Ferguson's Oscar-nominated documentary No End in Sight offers a powerful indictment of U.S. policy in Iraq in the period immediately following the May 2003 invasion of the country. The filmmaker, who recently picked up the Best Documentary award from the New York Film Critics Circle, has authored a book that updates the film, and asks, What's next? Ferguson recently spoke with The Independent's Mike Hofman about the film, the book (due out January 28), and the war. To first view the film's trailer, go to our Watch page.

An examination of how the Iraq War went so wrong, Charles H. Ferguson’s documentary No End In Sight is by turns forensic and surreal, a synthesis of devastating facts, damning archival footage, and poignant interviews with well-placed Iraqis and Americans who tried in vein to keep catastrophe at bay.

Distributor Q&A: Wolfe Releasing

How one of the oldest and largest distributors of LGBT films stays on top of an ever-changing industry


"Loving Annabelle" one of Wolfe Releasing's hits.

In the 23 years that Wolfe Releasing has been in business, LGBT cinema has flourished, moving beyond a cult following and entering the mainstream culture.  And with
that, Wolfe's focus has shifted towards representing new award-winning LGBT
films from around the world, as well as rescuing classic lesbian and gay films
from oblivion. The Independent recently caught up with Wolfe executive Jenni Olson.

A lot has changed since 1985, when Kathy Wolfe started Wolfe Releasing in order to distribute lesbian films on video.  For one thing, 20 years ago, the acronym LGBT—which stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender—didn't even exist. 

The Doc Doctor's Anatomy of a Successful Film: "Divan"

Filmmaker Pearl Gluck uses her quest to reclaim a sofa to unpack the story of her Jewish heritage


An Antique Road Show: In "Divan," filmmaker Pearl Gluck uses a sofa to chart her Jewish heritage.

In Divan, filmmaker Pearl Gluck embarks on a quest to reclaim a sofa on which esteemed rebbes slept. The journey takes her and the audience from New York City to Hungary, Ukraine, and Israel. The documentary has been accepted by more than 40 festivals including Tribeca, had a run at Film Forum in Manhattan, and aired on the Sundance Channel in the U.S. and on Channel 8 in Israel. You can watch the trailer, or check out previous columns that analyze the success of the films Rock in a Heart Place and Kiran over Mongolia.

About this new column: Many filmmakers ponder in anguish, How do other people—celebrated people—do it? Am I taking too long to make this documentary? Does everybody spend as much money as I am spending, or am I spending too little? And when filmmakers share their lessons learned in interviews in the glossy trade magazines, their tales seem to follow the arc of otherworldy heroes rather than real documentary makers, i.e. human beings like you and me. So starting this month, the Doc Doctor decided to go out into the world (this real world) of filmmakers who are successful and find out how they made it. Each month, her "anatomy" will be a chance to learn from their hits and misses in real life examples. —Fernanda Rossi, story consultant a.k.a. the Documentary Doctor

What an Actor Looks for in a Filmmaker

William Mapother of "Lost" and "In the Bedroom" talks about what compels him to work with independent filmmakers


Quite a Charmer: Though best known for scary roles, actor William Mapother played nice in the indie "Moola."

Actor William Mapother may be best known for his performances in the TV series Lost and the films In the Bedroom, in which he portrayed Marisa Tomei's abusive husband, and The Grudge. But the actor also works on independent projects such as the 2006 comedy Moola and the forthcoming film Hurt. Mapother recently spoke with The Independent's Erin Trahan about what he looks for in a script, and how indie filmmakers can position a project to attract Hollywood-caliber talent.

He’s most recognized for his menacing role as Ethan Rom on Lost, most respected for playing the cheated-on, threatening husband in In the Bedroom, and most pitied as an innocent victim in The Grudge.

The Trailer for "Staub (Dust)"

One of the films being screened at Rotterdam. (Achtung: The trailer is not subtitled.)

Subtitle:

One of the films being screened at Rotterdam. (Achtung: The trailer is not subtitled.)

The Trailer for "Freeheld"

Winner of the Oscar for best documentary short

Subtitle:

Winner of the Oscar for best documentary short

The Trailer for "War/Dance"

One of five films nominated for best documentary feature

Subtitle:

One of five films nominated for best documentary feature

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