Archive for June, 2006

Scott

LAFF 2006: Stacked Parking Darkly

Friday, June 30th, 2006

Scannerdarkly5Last night, I finally got to see my first film of this year’s Los Angeles Film Festival (earlier this week I had to cancel my man date to see Undoing with Paul, in favor of hanging out with Amy Sedaris and Paul Dinello. Paul was devastated, naturally, but them’s the breaks), the much-anticipated-by-me Richard Linklater film, A Scanner Darkly.

But before I get to the film, please allow me to make a brief, unrelated statement of fact: parking at the Ford Amphitheater blows.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the Ford as a venue, and year after year, the LAFF consistently programs a kick-ass screening series at the intimate little amphitheater (previous year’s standouts include Hero and March of the Penguins).

But damn if the stacked parking situation isn’t one of the most brutal, jaw-clenching traffic scrums in town.

Ah, well – enough! If the city tried to build a lot to actually accommodate all those cars, I’d probably scream about that, too. You can’t satisfy me, I s’pose.

Anyway, the film; it was cool-ish. Keanu Reeves was decent, Robert Downey, Jr. and Rory Cochrane were awesome, Winona Ryder was unrecognizable, and the headachey rotoscoped animation style of Waking Life has given way to a more stable, less epilepsy-inducing picture.

And though the crowd had to wait until nearly an hour after the posted picture start time to allow for a mob of Warner Independent suits and their associated army of publicists to find their seats (just siddown people!), the film seemed to be well received.Laff_swag_002_2

And now, the Swag Report: Not much. The WIP promotions people doled out these smelly rubber

bracelets with words like DOOM, DESPAIR, and DEATH embossed on them, as pictured (who’s freakishly veiny hand is that? I ain’t sayin’). Target also disappointed, with a bizarre plastic checker set that left most people a little non-plussed – though, as my date pointed out, the thing could be used for a little bath-time diversion, being waterproof, and all.

But I won’t hold lame swag against the movie. Definitely check it out if you’re into Phillip K. Dick, animation, or have ever done drugs in Orange County (you know who you are).

Eliza

LAFF 2006: What Killed the Poets?

Friday, June 30th, 2006

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Pity the poor filmmaker who must screen their film in a theater with no air conditioning for a crowd already grumpy about the heat. That’s what happened at the third and final screening of Mike Ott’s Analog Days yesterday. Watching this film in a stuffy theater with no air conditioning was super awesome, as I’m sure you can imagine.

Ott presented a sincere first effort about frustrated youth in a stubbornly ignorant and racist small-ish town in California. Here you’ll find the usual suspects: The painfully shy near-mute with a heartbreaking crush on a confused (and apparently kind of easy) girl who’s friends with another girl who is disillusioned with her community college film department (complete with irritatingly pretentious classmates). There’s the vigilante vandal, specializing in defacing the property of local racists, the sweaty, fast-talking, exaggerating lug and the one guy who got away from all of this. The actors are young and largely unknown and each was completely believeable. There was a very natural feel to their conversations, something that seems to elude many films about people of this generation.

Their story is not a new one, and that is fine. Ott even takes a stab at creating a little more depth, but seems to abandon that idea two thirds of the way into the film. Confusing editing decisions, grainy image quality and sound problems (of which there were many) aside, this is not a bad film. Had I seen it a couple years ago when I was living it, I’m sure I would have loved it. But as it was yesterday (and this may be due to the muggy theater), the thing I found myself appreciating the most was the music. Elliott Smith, Interpol, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, and one of my all time favorites, Joy Division, this was a shoegazer’s soundtrack.

(That said, I’d like to mention that since I saw it yesterday, it has stuck with me enough to make me wonder if my first reactions were too harsh, and I plan on seeing it again someday. I also look forward to whatever Ott comes out with next, as first features can be something of a learning experience.)

Oh, and after the film, a suprise – one of the most unique and fitting hand outs: our very own mixtape of songs off the soundtrack. (Thank you VW for still making stereos with a tape deck! Otherwise I’d never get any use out of the cassette.)

Eliza

LAFF 2006: Get Down Proper

Thursday, June 29th, 2006

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One week into the Los Angeles Film Festival (with three days left), and I’m not sure which is funnier: Boys’ & Girls’ Guide to Getting Down, Paul Sapiano’s energetic and saucy how-to film, or the fact that The Eliza Hajek Hate Club has it’s first member. That’s right, I got an angry phone call today about a comment I made about filmmakers only doing what they do for swag bags. I thought it was obviously sarcastic, but said woman didn’t think so. She accused me of being materialistic and an embarassment to my gender. She told me she’d pray for my soul (ooh, how dramatic!). I told her she didn’t have to read my posts if she was offended, and she said not to worry, she wouldn’t be reading my "trash" anymore, so I guess that means I can be as sarcastic as I want without someone taking it seriously.

ANYWAY, back to the important stuff: Boys’ and Girls’ Guide to Getting Down. I tried to do some research on it, but the powers that be have blocked the website from my computer, citing "Sex" (oh my!) as the reason, which means that the website must be really, really awesome. Someone will have to let me know. The movie, which centers around a large group of 20-somethings "getting down" (or trying to), is presented in the fashion of retro educational films. It’s quite clever, and very funny. The friend I saw it with complained that he didn’t learn anything from the film. I didn’t expect to actually learn anything from the film, I expected to be entertained, and I was. I’ve actually been quoting it for the past couple days, and will continue to until it becomes popular and everyone knows that I’m ripping it off…

And now I’d like to take this time indulge myself (yes, even more) and attempt a sort of "Eliza Recommends" section. It’s where I’ll (try) to find interesting communities or organizations or website pertaining to film, and it’s sure to be sporadic at best, as I’m a kind of new Angeleno and am still discovering a lot of stuff myself. We’ll see how this goes. My first "ER" is Film Radar. Scott actually turned me on to this. It’s like the Bible, if the Bible was a website devoted to letting people know about damn near every specialty screening or series or lecture or what have you going on around here. So check it out.

Tonight I go to Mike Ott’s Analog Days, which I am looking forward to. After that, I plan on shooting people with tranquilizer darts so I can steal their swag bags, because that’s what embarrassments to their gender do.

(Film Radar is also on MySpace, just so’s ya know – Ed.)

LAFF 2006: Intellectual Honesty

Thursday, June 29th, 2006

Last week I was quoted in an article in the LA Film Festival launch issue of Daily Variety.

The issue was about all of the great talent filmmakers could find in Los Angeles, and I was there to talk about how the low budget contracts allow you to work with SAG talent no matter what your budget. But I was surprised to find that the focus of the piece became how many filmmakers “…opt for a non-union production for creative as well as budgetary reasons.” (You can read the article here: Download daily_variety.doc).

Now, I’ve been misrepresented in the media before (“Former Porn Star Convicted in Charity Extortion Scheme, Triple Murder”- for the record, I have never appeared in a porn film!), but what truly bothered me were the quotes attributed to the filmmakers of Quinceanera.

This may seem shocking, but I really don’t have a problem with non-union films. Two of my favorite indie films last year, Four Eyed Monsters and The Puffy Chair, were non-union films (although both sets of filmmakers promised me their next movies would be SAG). There are many legitimate reasons why someone might make a non-union film and some of them are really good films (and from what I’ve heard, Quinceanera is one of them). But the main reason I don’t have problem with non-union films is that, frankly, if there weren’t any non-union filmmakers, I’d be out of a job.

The first thing the director said that pissed me off was his quote about wanting "someone who had a similar background to this character, rather than an actress from Beverly Hills faking it."

What an insult.

Los Angeles is full of actors from every background. In fact, at the LAFF Filmmakers Reception I met a SAG actor who described how he came to the U.S illegally by swimming across the Rio Grande. You can’t get much more real than that (Oh, and before any of you Minutemen out there start forming a lynch mob, he’s legal now…).

But the real problem I had with this filmmaker’s comments was the attitude that his film just couldn’t have been made under a union contract.

There is nothing in any SAG contract that prevents a filmmaker from using unknown actors in their film. It happens all the time. The actor I mentioned above got his SAG card because Ken Loach hired him and many other “real” people for his film Bread and Roses (Maria Full of Grace was another SAG film, where the lead actress, Catalina Sandino Moreno, wasn’t a member at the time).

In fact, on SAG’s lowest budget agreements, a filmmaker can use both non-professional and professional actors and the terms of the contract only apply to the professionals. In other words, very low budget producers can use as many or as few professional actors as they want and don’t even have to pay the non-professionals.

If the Quinceanera filmmakers were novices, I might attribute this to ignorance. But they aren’t. These are industry pros with numerous credits in film and television.

So I decided to look a little further into this production.

During a panel at the Sundance Film Festival, one of the directors was quoted as saying he is supportive of SAG but “there just needs to be a little bit more flexibility for low-budget films. We never would’ve been able to make this movie (if we had to hire all SAG actors).”

Once again, nothing prevents a filmmaker from hiring non-union actors on a SAG film. However, for budgets over $200,000, they do have to pay all the actors union rates. So, I have to assume that the budget for this film was more than that amount. In the same panel, it was revealed that the budget for Quinceanera was less than $1 million.

Lots of films with budgets much lower than that are able to use SAG contracts and pay all of the actors. Tadpole, The Station Agent, Pieces of April, Personal Velocity, Hustle & Flow, and Me and You and Everyone We Know quickly come to mind, and several of these films had budgets less than $200,000.

So these filmmakers are trying to say that Quinceanera, a film with a budget between $200,000 and $999,999 that was shot on HD couldn’t be done under a SAG contract?

Please.

Look, if you want to make a non-union film because you have problem with unions, or because you don’t want to meet the minimum working conditions, or because you don’t want to pay union rates, fine. That’s your right. But say that. Don’t try to make it about “freedom” or the “spirit” of the film.

Eliza

LAFF 2006: Guess who just learned how to create links!

Wednesday, June 28th, 2006

Now, because I know that none of you can go that long without hearing my thoughts on the happenings at the Los Angeles Film Festival, here I am again with more reports for your reading pleasure!

June_27_2006_001 Monday was the day of Austin Film Society’s very enjoyable cocktail reception at the Westwood Brewing Company. Scott and I drove over there, wishing we had DMG along for the ride to guide us through a group of people neither of us know. (She is so popular, if SAGIndie were a high school, she’d be the cheerleader who was Homecoming AND Prom Queen!)

ANYWAY, so we arrived and engaged in some scintillating conversations, including one with Matt Dentler, a strapping young man and a curator/programmer for SXSW, among other things. DMG likes him, so we figured we would too. And we did. (Almost as much as we liked the super gift bags they had prepared for us – Zippo lighter? Beer Cozy? Austin, you are my kind of people!)

*I’d like to take this moment to thank Scott F. Garner for ditching me when I was cornered by an older man who actually used the line "Can I buy you a drink?" When I reminded him the drinks were free, he asked if I was an actress. Or a model. Or a…librarian. Awkward.*

After the party ended Scott left and I went to meet Paul at the W for the Filmmaker Reception hosted by Harrison Ford. Only I got there a little early. Like an hour early. So I practiced my Hollywood skills and stood in line talking on my phone to my mom making awesome deals and talking to awesome people about awesome things. Paul arrived and I got another who’s who of the party schooling. It’s very exciting for me, as a recent college grad and pretty new Angeleno, to be allowed to converse with and learn from such successful people. It gives me hope in a city that can be as depressing as watching Showgirls on USA. As the host of the evening, Harrison Ford gave what we were told was a good speech, but that we couldn’t really hear. I was lucky enough to get some time to talk to Thoma Kikis of Darkon and Matthew Cooke of Deliver Us from Evil, two documentaries I was dying to see, but due to scheduling conflicts could not. (I have heard great things about both, though, and promise to see them someday…It gives me a lot of pleasure to see documentaries capture a lot of attention, and these two – from what I have heard – really deserve it. I fancy myself a budding documentarian, and can only hope to be in their position someday. I actually over heard someone say that so far, they have only seen Deliver Us… {and Chalk} because those were two films they could be sure were going to be good, and they only like to watch "good things". Oh! You like "good things"? A rare and novel preference, indeed!)

I like "good things" too, so I was excited about another gift bag (!!!) Don’t believe the liars who say they got into this business for "the love of film" or "to tell stories that need to be heard". They’re here, we all are, for the brick of expensive soap that smells of lemony goodness and keychain/flashlight combo.

Life is good, loyal readers, life is good.

Eliza

LAFF 2006: All in a Day’s Work…

Tuesday, June 27th, 2006

71275102kw009_sagindie With this past Sunday came SAGIndie’s first ever cocktail reception for the LA Film Festival, held at the swanky sushi joint, Tengu. We’ve been a sponsor of the fest for many years, and we hate to be a Johnny-come-lately group, so it seemed fitting to get in on the libation/celebration this year. When it’s the first time you try anything new like this, especially with so many more established parties occuring all around you at the same time, it’s a little nerve-wracking. Turns out, we didn’t need to worry at all. The party was a well attended success, mainly due to our incredible hosts for the evening: Jason Lee, Debi Mazar, Elliott Gould and Eddie Izzard. We even had crashers! People don’t just go and crash boring parties. As a seasoned pro at crashing parties, I should know.

ANYWAY, the food served was fabulous, consisting mostly of things I can’t pronounce, which is fine because you don’t pronounce food, you eat it. The free vodka was Absolut-ly wonderful as well. I can see me and the grapefruit flavored Absolut having a long, wonderful relationship ahead of us. The night passed entirely too quickly for the amount of fun that everyone was having, but as we all know, all good things must end (and then come back bigger and better the next year!)

I’d like to take this time to thank our volunteers for the night: the bewitching Annick Wolkan, the enchanting Jennifer Matthews, the pulchritudinous Marcus Grewe, the charming Jeremy Marisigan and the amiable Matt Antonucci. Thanks again for working so Scott, Paul, DMG and I didn’t have to!

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Well, I’ve got to get out of here – there’s a screening of The Boys’ and Girls’ Guide to Getting Down I’ve got to get to. Paul is off to Undoing and Scott gets to interview Amy Sedaris and Paul Dinello about their highly anticipated film prequel to the cult television series, Strangers With Candy. He’ll be writing a Pulitzer Prize winning interview for SAGIndie’s film spotlight series, so keep a look out for that. (Just don’t let it go to his head, or next thing we know, he’ll demand that we pay for his rent in the Hotel Chelsea so he can channel his inner Gregory Corso.) DMG’s been out of the office this week, so if you see her, tell her we miss her and we want her to come home.

Eliza

LAFF 2006: On Babes in a Cave

Tuesday, June 27th, 2006

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As I said on Friday, DMG and I had tickets to see Neil Marshall’s The Descent at the Ford Amphitheater (an excellent venue in it’s own right, but perfect for this screening). This was our second screening at the Los Angeles Film Festival, and a much anticipated one for us, as Paul and Scott had seen it at Sundance and were quick to praise this film about “hot chicks trapped in a scary cave”.

As an avid horror film fan, I’ll see just about anything that promises to scare me. That said, I was a little doubtful as to the fright value, so to speak, of a film where several attractive women spelunkers amble around in tight clothes underground.

How wrong I was! (WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD!)

I’d like to point out that in said cave there are creatures of the super heinous variety, but (for me at least) the real terror came from the idea of being trapped in a cave: the total absence of light, the frighteningly small enclosed spaces, the very real possibility that you will never, ever escape. Add a small army of ravenous predators, hunting by sound alone, and you have got yourself a pretty scary situation, especially if you are as ridiculously claustrophobic as I am. I should also mention that if you’re more into the gore aspect, you won’t be disappointed.

The acting is solid, the cinematography impressive and I see this being a hit. (The post film bathroom line consensus agrees with me.) My only minor objection is that someone told me the original UK ending, which in my humble opinion, is slightly better than what I saw, but certainly not enough to deter me from recommending this film.

I did have one mini triumph that night as well. Before the film began, I spotted an actor who held prime real estate on my bedroom wall in elementary school. I pointed him out and to my horror, DMG suggested I actually approach him. I refused, because I didn’t want to be that girl, but she insisted. Fifteen minutes of alternately hyperventilating and bursting into giggle fits and near tears, I did. It was very brief, but he was nice and I didn’t throw up on him (always a plus). I’m glad DMG made me do it, because I can see how it behooves me to have the ability to talk to anyone. It’s a trait that has gotten her fearless self quite far. Plus she bought me a beer for my “bravery”. What a lady!

Eliza

LAFF 2006: On Inspiration and the Old Men

Tuesday, June 27th, 2006

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Saturday night I went to Lian Lunson’s poetic documentary Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man.

The evening started with musical performances from Perla Batalla and Julie Christensen, Cohen’s backup singers since the beginning of time, and four Cohen covers by the witty and talented Martha Wainwright. The documentary itself focuses more on brief but insightful interviews with established singer/songwriters and Cohen himself, layered between truly moving musical performances by said interviewees. It seemed as though this was a live show, and I know I wasn’t the only one in attendance who felt this way.

I’d like to extend a plea to anyone (all seven of you) reading this: see this film. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a fan of Leonard Cohen, after this film you will be. (And if you still don’t like him, then you probably don’t like yourself and you need a good, hard look in the mirror.) As evidenced in the interviews with some of his more notable fans (Nick Cave, Martha and Rufus Wainwright, Bono), Cohen is one of the most remarkable and talented artists around. Any good filmmaker, budding or established, knows that inspiration comes from whatever stimulates you, be it any kind of art, conflict, nature, or current events. I feel confident that anyone who sees this will walk away with something, and hopefully go out and create something of their own.

Tonight, Scott and I will shoot back over to Westwood for Austin Film Society’s party celebrating Austin’s finest. Tomorrow Paul will attend Undoing, while I am at The Boys’ and Girls’ Guide to Getting Down, both of which were made with one of our very own Low Budget Agreements (!!!) Hey, if you can’t shamelessly plug yourself in your own blog, where can you?

Eliza

LAFF 2006: The Devil Wears Old Navy

Friday, June 23rd, 2006

Sagindie_003As this is my first entry here on the indieBlog, I’d like to say that I’m really enjoying the job so far. It’s definitely, like, my sixth or seventh best job ever. How could it not be? All the burnt coffee I want (free!), girl-dates with Darrien (also free!), more tickets to films at the Los Angeles Film Festival than anyone else I know (take that!), and the adoration of several totally uncreepy indie filmmakers who like to call and let me know they’re looking at my picture as we speak. (That’s great! Please do that more!)*

ANYWAY, so after work yesterday, I had my first of three girl-dates this week with Darrien. We were to attend the Opening Night Gala Screening of The Devil Wears Prada.

After inhaling some vaguely chicken tasting skewers down in Westwood, DMG and I cut through the back of a press line, where we saw Adrian Grenier. (See how he’s lovingly caressing the arm of my glasses while he tells me a secret in that picture?) Inside, we met up with some friends from The American Pavilion.

Then the speeches started.

Now, I’m sure this comment will come back to haunt me when it’s my own film premiere, but come on. Is it necessary to delay the screening even more so a room full of people can clap for Intel? And Target? And PopSecret? Apparently. (There should be a suggestion box for these things. I vote for one blanket clap at the end.) The director, David Frankel, was able to keep it to a manageable length. Nothing flashy (after all, this isn’t Vegas and he isn’t Celine Dion or Jesus) and funny enough. After his introduction, security paraded the attending cast down the aisle, right past me. I very nearly gave into the devil (DMG) on my left shoulder, who tried to convince me it’d be a good idea to leap onto Adrian. (It’s better to be wanted for acting like a psycho than not be wanted at all, right? Right?) In the end it was the angel (security guard) on my right whose presence convinced me to keep my hands to myself. For now. The movie was exactly as I expected it to be, cute and entertaining, with an excellent performance by Meryl Streep.

After the film, my date and I went to the party, where I marveled at her ability to pick people I should know out of a crowd of hundreds. She gets into this zone, and you can almost see her internal rolodex flipping furiously. The party itself was well attended and certainly well stocked with the traditional liver-pickling fare, where DMG created a new drink. I don’t remember what was in the cocktail, but I do remember I finished it in record time. We mingled and I was schooled on many of the players in the business before we decided it was time to go home. Tonight we see The Descent at the Ford Ampitheater.

Ok, well that was relatively painless. You can look forward to more posts by yours truly, because that’s what God wants, the way he wants Jessica Simpson to sing and George W. Bush to be president forever and ever!

*Internet sarcasm!

CineVegas 2006: Crashing The Boards

Wednesday, June 21st, 2006

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Hey indieBlog!  It’s us, your partners in non-traditional capitalization, CineVegas 2006, aka the World’s Most Dangerous Film Festival, albeit in blog form.  That’s right, the good folks at SAGindie were not only kind enough to host our 3rd Annual Filmmakers Bowling Safari, but they even invited us to post away on this reputable page.  Thanks!  And apologies in advance…

So the thing we had been asked to talk about was our gala, first-ever Honoree Reception, which took place on Friday, June 16th by the pools at the fabulous hard Rock Hotel and Casino.  Normally, this locale is the site of some truly debaucherous mid-afternoon parties, so we like to think that CineVegas brought things up a notch with our patent-pending blend of film, fun, and semi-formal attire.  The point of the evening was to present three of our four Honorees with their awards, so in attendance were Christina Ricci, recipient of one of two CineVegas Half-Life Awards, Taylor Hackford, recipient of the CineVegas Vanguard Director Award, and Helen Mirren, recipient of the prestigious CineVegas Marquee Award.  (Past recipients?  Glad you asked.  How’s about Tony Curtis, Dustin Hoffman, Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson, and Christopher Walken?)  Also lounging in their cabanas were presenters Catherine O’Hara, who gave Penelope co-star Ms. Ricci her award, CineVegas Advisory Board chair Dennis Hopper, who presented to Taylor, and Director of Programming Trevor Groth, who is already know to this blg, it would seem.  Finally, the whole shebang was hosted by Access Hollywood’ Maria Menounos, who is also a filmmaker in her own right.  (Longtime Listener, which she directed, played in one of our shorts programs.)

Everything seemed to go very well, as the speeches were moving, the crowd raucous, and, as we mentioned on our site, the electrified string quartet made up completely of beautiful young women.  Of course, this being CineVegas, the Honoree Reception was one of many, many events that night, including the World Premiere of Artie Lange’s Beer League, a screening of Jan Svankmajer’s new film Lunacy, and a massive party at the only flame-throwing nightspot in Vegas, Rain.  Things continued late into the night at the Palms Hotel and Casino’s newest wonderment, the Hardwood Suite, which features a half-court basketball hoop, two stories, a pool table, and four of the most amazing bathrooms we have ever seen.  There were celebrities, shrimp, bubble baths, and, most importantly, a unicycle basketball team sponsored by Red Bull.  The word ‘genius’ is overused these days, but whomever it was that designed the Hardwood Suite is just that and more. 

Hope this little glimpse into the World’s Most Dangerous Film Festival didn’t scare you all too much.  And thanks again to our hosts and sponsors SAGindie, without whom we wouldn’t be nearly so troublesome.   Filmmakers out there should check in on our site for submission information starting next year and the bravest among you should start training now for a visit next June!