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August 4, 2019

How D.A. Pennebaker Changed the Art of Documentary Filmmaking

Robert Greene is a documentary filmmaker whose credits include the Sundance-acclaimed “Bisbee ‘17” and “Kate Plays Christine.” He teaches at the Murray Center for Documentary Journalism at the Missouri School of Journalism.

The first word that comes to mind while watching D.A. Pennebaker’s 1953 debut film “Daybreak Express” is love – love of light, love of movement, love of music, love of ideas. In five wildly inventive minutes, the great filmmaker, who died earlier this week in his home at the age of 94, uses various cinematic techniques to capture and recreate the rush of a New York City subway commute. Edited to an exuberant score by Duke Ellington, “Daybreak Express” was part of a groundbreaking group of films that revealed the abstract and musical potential of the observational camera. It was created by a man who loved the act of making things and loved pushing the documentary form forward.

A few years later, Pennebaker hooked up with Robert Drew, Richard Leacock, the Maysles brothers and others to invent a whole new way of seeing. As part of Drew Associates, Pennebaker – a former engineering student at Yale – literally built the 16mm sync sound cameras that would be used to launch the revolutionary Direct Cinema movement with films like “Primary” (1960). “A theater without actors” was how Drew described their new kind of documentary, and Pennebaker was immediately exhilarated by the possibilities.

“When we got equipment in hand, what was possible was so much more incredible than we had ever imagined,” he told Sam Adams in a 2011 interview. “I think Drew thought that we were going to be making documentaries, which is to say, we would be interviewing people about things going on and it would be kind of a journalism thing. I had no such intentions.”

A strident belief in the power of the observational camera was a hallmark of Pennebaker’s monumental career, and his legacy might best be defined by his shrewd understanding of the complexities of filming people. “Don’t Look Back” (1967) is a portrait of Bob Dylan in the midst of a career transition, but it’s also a two-way dance between camera and self-aware chameleon, with Pennebaker’s hard lens capturing and magnifying Dylan’s slippery shtick. He was rightly celebrated for his films about musicians – the Dylan film, “Monterey Pop” (1968), “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars” (1973) and “Depeche Mode: 101” (1989) essentially invented and re-invented the concert film.

original cast album company

“Original Cast Album: Company”

But for me, Pennebaker’s most important contribution might be his grasp of the possibilities of performance in documentary. His masterpiece “Original Cast Album: Company” (1970) is a stripped-down homily to the act of people acting; the contradictory power of people playing themselves for his exacting nonfiction camera is the de facto subject of all of Pennebaker’s films. “1 P.M.” (1971), his radical collaboration with Jean-Luc Godard, exemplifies Pennebaker’s commitment to innovative cinematic forms.

As much as his ingenuity, it was the image of Pennebaker that was so influential to several generations of documentary filmmakers. Yes, Pennebaker hung out with rock stars and sometimes looked like one himself, but that’s far less inspiring than how the man many of us came to know as “Penny” came to be seen. Starting with the Jane Fonda-starring “Energy War” (1977) and “Town Bloody Hall” (1979), where Norman Mailer debates a leading group of feminists including Germaine Greer, Pennebaker was inseparable from his partner Chris Hegedus. They founded Pennebaker Hegedus Films, married in 1982 and became a near-constant presence in the evolving documentary community for nearly 40 years. For many of us, Pennebaker and Hegedus were the model; their partnership looked like an ideal blend of romantic love and ambitious collaboration.

I’d never call Penny and Chris “friends” — I admired them from a reverent distance and shook their hands whenever I could — but in my own life, their relationship was a true guiding light. The image of them walking into rooms together will be missed; my own presence in those rooms made me feel so lucky.

Pennebaker’s son Frazer was their producer, and the sense that family and this kind of work were inseparable was a big part of Penny and Chris’ infectious allure. But so was their enduring devotion to making films. “The War Room” (1993) is the greatest political documentary ever made, an extraordinary behind-the-scenes look at Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 presidential campaign, which showed that everyone in politics, including strategists-turned-television personalities James Carville and George Stephanopoulos, were actors without scripts.

Editorial use only. No book cover usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Sonia Moskowitz/Pennebaker Hegedus/Kobal/Shutterstock (5872226b)D.A. Pennebaker, Chris HegedusThe War Room - 1993Director: Chris Hegedus / Da PennebakerPennebaker Hegedus FilmsUSAOn/Off SetDocumentary

D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus filming “The War Room” (1993)

Sonia Moskowitz/Pennebaker Hegedus/Kobal/Shutterstock

Pennebaker and Hegedus continued to produce vital work, and their last film together was “Unlocking the Cage” (2016), an affecting look at the thin line between the legal rights – and the emotional interior lives – of we humans and other animals, showing us all just how good they still were. According to Pennebaker’s friend Roger Friedman, who broke the news of his passing, Pennebaker died while writing his memoir. There was never a sense that the work would stop.

Penny just loved filmmaking. He loved ideas and he remained excited about the possibilities of what we do until his last days. In 2016, after a Sundance screening of my film “Kate Plays Christine,” I was a bit startled when the lights came up and Penny and Chris were sitting in the front row. During an answer to an audience question, I found myself pontificating about “observational cinema” but felt so self-conscious with two of the greatest living documentary filmmakers in front of me that I stopped and introduced them to the audience. Penny loved the ovation he received and he loved basically taking over the Q&A. He had a lot to say about my movie and it was an incredible moment in my life.

Afterwards, Penny, Chris, my partner Deanna and our two kids all stood in the hallway of the cinema, with Penny excitedly telling us about some of his unseen experimental films from the sixties that reminded him of my work. We talked for over 20 minutes. I was giddy and overwhelmed. Their kindness and the enthusiasm in his eyes is something I think about often. Imagine being that influential, having made those films, and still finding the time and energy to go deep with a younger filmmaker like me. Thank you, Penny, for showing me how to be. Thank you for paving the road for all of us to drive down.

Source: IndieWire film

August 3, 2019

D.A. Pennebaker, RIP: 5 Films That Defined the Documentary Legend’s Career

DA Pennebaker, the Academy Award-nominated director of 60 documentaries whose career encompassed more than 50 years, has died at the age of 94. A seminal figure of the cinema vérité movement, Pennebaker helmed such nonfiction masterpieces as “Monterey Pop,” “The War Room,” and “Bob Dylan: Don’t Look Back,” bringing his canny eye upon everything from 1960s counterculture to the urgent political issues of the day. He is survived by his wife and frequent collaborator Chris Hegedus. Pennebaker died of natural causes on August 1, according to his son, Frazer Pennebaker.

In tribute to the late filmmaker, IndieWire has assembled five must-see films from Pennebaker’s prolific catalogue.

“Primary” (1960)



Pennebaker edited Robert Drew’s groundbreaking 1960 “Primary,” which plunges us into the 1960 Wisconsin primary election face-off between John F. Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey, as they vie for the presidency. With its handheld camerawork and intimate proximity to its subjects, this was a groundbreaking moment for documentary film, and Pennebaker’s behind-the-scenes role in crafting a narrative out of the footage was key to unlocking the storytelling potential of the non-fiction format.









“Bob Dylan: Don’t Look Back” (1967)

Bob Dylan

“Bob Dylan: Don’t Look Back”

Leacock Pennebaker/Kobal/Shutterstock

Covering folk iconoclast Bob Dylan’s 1965 tour of England, “Don’t Look Back” offers an unprecedented look at Dylan and his cohorts, with appearances from beat poet Allan Ginsberg, folk legend and Dylan’s ex Joan Baez, Donovan, and Marianne Faithfull. In addition to knockout concert sequences, the film also presents a candid glimpse into Dylan’s torturous breakup with Baez. The now-iconic opening sequence, in which Dylan tosses out cue featuring the lyrics of “Subterranean Homesick Blues” (while Ginsberg lingers in the background) has been cited as the first real music video.

“Monterey Pop” (1968)

Monterey Pop

“Monterey Pop”


For his 1968 film, Pennebaker documented the epic Monterey International Pop Music Festival of 1967, featuring the likes of such marquee music legends as Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, The Who, Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding, Ravi Shankar, Eric Burdon and the Animals, and the Mamas & the Papas. Shot on 16mm, the film’s vérité sensibility is buoyed by camera operators Richard Leacock and Albert Maysles, who both went on to make documentaries of their own.

“The War Room” (1993)

"The War Room"

“The War Room”

Pennebaker Hegedus/Kobal/Shutterstock

Pennebaker and Hegedus received an Academy Award nomination for this documentary deep-dive into the 1992 presidential campaign of Bill Clinton. The film follows political commentator James Carville and ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos, beginning at Clinton’s New Hampshire primary, to paint a picture of the various scandals that emerged from Clinton’s candidacy, from his resounding “read my lips: no new taxes” proclamation to his much-publicized affair with model Gennifer Flowers. George Clooney said the movie inspired his 2011 political thriller “The Ides of March,” and it was lovingly spoofed in an episode of IFC’s “Documentary Now” series.

“Kings of Pastry” (2009)

"Kings of Pastry"

“Kings of Pastry”

Pennebaker and Hegedus collaborated for this delicate portrait of the world’s finest pastry chefs, tracking the Meilleur Ouvrier de France competition alongside Jacquy Pfeiffer, founder of The French Pastry School in Chicago, as he races to outdo 15 other culinary masters. This late-period work from the filmmaking duo showcased the lighter side of their filmmaking talent, but it also provided a cinematic alternative to the reality show cooking genre by focusing on its subjects and their industry as much as the food they produce.

Source: IndieWire film

August 3, 2019

Kevin Spacey Re-Emerges for Bizarre Poetry Reading

Kevin Spacey has once again emerged under puzzling circumstances. The embattled former “House of Cards” star and Oscar winner, who fell from grace in 2017 after sexual assault allegations against the “American Beauty” actor surfaced, made a strange public appearance in Rome over the weekend. Spacey surprised museum-goers when he set up shop at the Palazzo Massimo to perform a public poetry reading.

The poem, “The Boxer” by Gabriele Tinti, centers on a dejected fighter who bemoans his cruel fate while bleeding out by the ringside. “The more you’re wounded, the greater you are. And the more empty you are,” recounts Spacey, clad in a burnt-sienna suit, to a nonplussed crowd. This is no doubt yet another autobiographical flourish from the disgraced 60-year-old actor, who resurfaced last October in an unsettling video posing as axed “House of Cards” character Frank Underwood, where he used Underwood’s Shakespearean oratory to denounce the sexual assault claims that began with “Star Trek: Discovery” actor Anthony Rapp. (TMZ has the video of his latest public appearance here.)

Despite numerous allegations coming out of the woodwork from his former cohorts at the Old Vic Theatre in London, where Spacey once reigned as Artistic Director, the two-time Academy Award winner had a major personal coup earlier this summer. Prosecutors shuttered a case involving an 18-year-old accusing Spacey of groping him at a bar in Nantucket, Massachusetts.

Perennial Facebook poster and “Taxi Driver” screenwriter Paul Schrader weighed in on the video. “Render onto Caesar what is Caesar’s. Render unto Apollo what is Apollo’s,” he wrote. “Why have we returned to the place where we punish artists for their morals? Crime yes, morals no!” Schrader seems to be suggesting we separate the art and the artist from his personal life, but that’s a tough proposition for much of Hollywood. In fall 2017, Sony excised Spacey entirely from their film “All the Money in the World,” with director Ridley Scott swapping Christopher Plummer in Spacey’s place.

There are currently no films or TV series on the docket for Kevin Spacey, save a Gore Vidal Netflix project that will likely never see the light of day. Spacey wrapped production on the film mere weeks before the troubling allegations against him began to emerge.

Source: IndieWire film

August 2, 2019

How to create visual stories without an artist?

Source: Visual Storytelling

August 1, 2019

SXSW Alumni Releases – August 2019

Discover some of the SXSW Film Festival alumni films on release for August such as Good Boys, The Peanut Butter Falcon, and Vision Portraits. Check out the complete list below! Don’t forget that SXSW is accepting submissions for 2020, find out more info here.


Documentary Feature, 2019

A majestic ode to the power and beauty of water, and humanity’s fragility in its wake. Stunningly cinematic, and a must-see theatrical experience.

In theaters August 16


World Premiere, Narrative Feature, 2019

Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut is a smart, savvy, and irresistible ode to female friendship, starring Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein.

Available August 20

Good Boys   

World Premiere, Narrative Feature, 2019

Profane, crude, and utterly hilarious, exactly as a film about 6th Graders should be. Produced by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.

In theaters August 15

The Peanut Butter Falcon   

World Premiere, Narrative Feature, 2019

Newcomer Zack Gottsagen stars as a young man with Down Syndrome pursuing his dreams of backyard wrestling supremacy. Also stars Shia LaBeouf and Dakota Johnson.

In theaters August 9

Raise Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins   

Documentary Feature, 2019

This vivid documentary paints a thrilling portrait of the life and career of Texas firebrand Molly Ivins.

In theaters August 28

Vision Portraits   

World Premiere, Documentary Feature, 2019

Rodney Evans’ kaleidoscopic, deeply personal film explores how loss of vision impacts the creative process, with the prism of Evans’ own experience as its emotive, creative core.

In theaters August 9

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Join Us for SXSW 2020

We are open for business! Registration and housing are now available for the 2020 SXSW season. Get inspired by previous Keynotes, Featured Sessions, Red Carpets, and Q&A’s on our YouTube Channel.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and SXSW News to stay current with all things SXSW.

See you in March!


The post SXSW Alumni Releases – August 2019 appeared first on SXSW.

Source: SxSW Film

August 1, 2019

Join Us for SXSW 2020: Register to Attend & Book Your Hotel

Do you have 2020 vision? SXSW 2020, that is. Each March in Austin, diverse groups of creatives across interactive, film, and music industries converge at the SXSW Conference & Festivals. Journey into Austin’s own world’s fair of the future – the premier destination for global thought leaders working on new ideas to cultivate creativity and build a better future during 10 days of collaboration.

Make plans to join the world’s brightest creators in 2020 today – registration is now open! Purchase a 2020 SXSW Platinum, Interactive, Film, or Music Badge at the lowest registration rate of the season now through September 27.

SXSW dedicates itself to helping creative people achieve their goals.

Founded in 1987 in Austin, Texas, SXSW is the premier destination for thousands of creatives from a vast and diverse range of industries to discover what’s next. From March 13-22, experience an event packed full of conference sessions, showcases, screenings, competitions, exhibitions, tacos (so many tacos), networking events, awards ceremonies, mentor sessions, and so much more.

Register to attend and book your hotel to begin your SX adventure and help us write the next chapter of SXSW. Learn more about SXSW programming, badge access, and hotel booking below.

Programming Overview

SXSW Conference (March 13-21)
The conference program provides an opportunity for global professionals at every level to participate, network, and advance their careers. With one unified conference that spans 20 Tracks of programming, experience compelling Keynotes, Featured Speakers, panels, sessions, book readings, podcasts, and more session formats.

SXSW Interactive Festival (March 13-19)
Playing host to a variety of evening networking events, the Interactive Festival also holds numerous esteemed competitions and awards ceremonies honoring some of the tech industry’s most important innovators and cutting-edge companies. Have a game-changing tech startup? Learn more about SXSW application categories.

SXSW Film Festival (March 13–21)
Celebrating raw innovation and emerging talent, the Film Festival has become known for the high caliber and diversity of films presented alongside its smart, enthusiastic audiences during its nine-day event footprint. Ready to premiere your own film? Submissions are now open for feature films, shorts, episodics, and VR/AR/MR projects. Learn more about application deadline periods here.

SXSW Music Festival (March 16–22)
Featuring a variety of new, developing, and established Showcasing Artists, the Music Festival brings together 2,000+ artists across all genres. Dive into a curated mix of performances across Austin with artists, industry professionals and fans from around the globe. Want to take the stage? Showcasing Artist applications are open through October 25.

SXSW Comedy Festival (March 13-21)
Running simultaneously with the Interactive, Film, and Music Festivals, the Comedy Festival presents uniquely diverse programming of comedic performers, showcases, and events. Catch rising stars, established greats, and surprise guests all SXSW long.

Exhibitions (March 14–21)
Beyond the festival scope, SXSW hosts many different world-class exhibitions that connect creatives across all industries. Take your discovery a step further at the SXSW Trade Show, Flatstock, SXSW Marketplace, SXSW Wellness Expo, and more. Explore all the available exhibition opportunities to position your forward-thinking company in front of thousands of creative professionals this March.

Coming later in the season, a suite of event resources will be released to help registrants prepare for the adventure ahead including the online SXSW Schedule, official mobile app, and more event navigation tools. In the meantime, view the 2020 Timeline for a general breakdown of our daily programming schedule.

Badge Access

All attendees will receive primary entry to programming associated with their badge type, in addition to enjoying secondary access to most other SXSW events. There are four SXSW Badge types: Platinum, Interactive, Film, and Music. Badges are tied to three access types:

  • Primary: admitted first
  • Secondary: admitted second, after primary line
  • Convergence: one line where all badges have equal access

The Platinum Badge remains your best bet with primary access to all of SXSW. If you have an Interactive, Film, or Music Badge, you have primary access to the respective Conference tracks and events of your badge type, plus secondary access to other tracks and events outside your badge type, giving you the chance to experience more of what SXSW has to offer. Use the Badge Comparison Chart to find out what each badge gets access to.

Register Now

Book Your Hotel

Let SXSW Housing & Travel be your guide to finding the best hotel accommodation for you or your large group. SXSW Housing & Travel has been contracting the lowest rates in Austin during SXSW for over 25 years. Our team of housing specialists offer a personal booking experience and help cater to your individual needs.

SXSW rooms and rates are available exclusively to registered attendees. After you purchase your SXSW Badge you are ready to book your room!

Check the Hotel Availability page to see all available hotels from a wide selection of downtown Austin options. Next, reserve your hotel stay by following the instructions in your registration confirmation email to activate your account. You can also book a reservation by signing into the SXSW Cart directly and selecting “SXSW Hotels” from the dropdown menu.

Rooms during March go quickly, so be sure to book early! Review the Housing FAQ to learn more about our services.

Check Hotel Availability

Join Us for SXSW 2020

Register to join us this March! Curb your anticipation for March 2020 by taking a look back at videos from previous Keynotes, film premieres, sessions, and more on the official SXSW YouTube Channel and browse Photo Galleries.

Currently enrolled students may apply here to purchase a SXSW Interactive, SXSW Film, or SXSW Music Badge at the special discounted price of $395. Groups of 10 or more can also save big with Group Registration rates.

Register Now

To stay in the SX know – sign up for SXSW Event Updates and read SXSW News for announcements, deadline reminders, programming features, and beyond throughout the 2020 season.

Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for the latest SX coverage.

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Photo by Aaron Rogosin

The post Join Us for SXSW 2020: Register to Attend & Book Your Hotel appeared first on SXSW.

Source: SxSW Film

July 31, 2019

Guide to Submitting a Music Video to the 2020 SXSW Film Festival

The 2020 SXSW Film Festival is accepting submissions! The Early Deadline to submit is August 22, 2019 at 11:59pm PT. Take a look at our requirements below if you are interested in submitting a music video. Don’t forget to take a look at our Film Submissions page for additional deadlines and fees.

Music Video Submission Guidelines

  • All Music Video submissions must be under 10 minutes in length.

  • SXSW does not place any restrictions on the premiere status of music videos. The vast majority of music videos screened at SXSW will have premiered online prior to the festival.

  • It’s important to note that only OFFICIAL ARTIST APPROVED music videos are eligible for SXSW.

  • The music video should be the official music video for that song by that artist. As in, the artist and/or label commissioned the video and has their approval to be made.

  • Your music video must have been completed in 2018, 2019 or be on track for completion in early 2020.

  • SXSW does not accept trailers or rough assemblies, but will accept work-in-progress cuts (picture lock with temp sound, color, etc.) Please be aware SXSW will not screen multiple updates/versions of your music video for programming consideration.

  • All music videos must be submitted via a secure URL link. Please note, if you change this link or any of your login information prior to March 2020 without contacting SXSW your submission may become ineligible for consideration.

  • For specific questions about submitting your music video, look no further than our Film Submissions FAQ. Still have questions? Don’t hesitate to email filmfest@sxsw.com.

  • Once you have submitted, you will receive a confirmation email from SXSW within 48 hours. This email will confirm that your music video has been submitted correctly. If you do not receive this email within 48 hours, you should follow up by email (filmfest@sxsw.com) to ensure your project has been submitted properly and is under consideration.

  • All applicants will be informed of the status of their project no later than Friday, February 7, 2020.

  • Want inspiration? Take a look at 2019 Music Video Jury Winner Hurray For The Riff Raff – ‘Pa’lante’ directed by Kristian Mercado.

Submit Your Music Video

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Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and SXSW News to stay current with all things SXSW.

See you in March!

Hurray For The Riff Raff – ‘Pa’lante’ – Photo by John Feinberg

The post Guide to Submitting a Music Video to the 2020 SXSW Film Festival appeared first on SXSW.

Source: SxSW Film

July 28, 2019

Producer Thinks ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ Child Actor Earned an Oscar Nom With Cut Scene

Ten-year-old Julia Butters is certainly the breakout star of Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” In the film, she plays co-star to Leonardo DiCaprio’s middling screen actor Rick Dalton, and the two wax philosophical together. She tells him the goal of acting is “to achieve 100% effectiveness. Which is impossible.” It’s a brief, but haunting moment.

Tarantino, it turns out, discovered the young starlet off of TV’s “American Housewife,” in which she stars as OCD-addled Anna-Kat Otto.

Speaking to IndieWire, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” producer David Heyman said, of all the cuts in the nearly three-hour film, he most mourns a tour-de-force third encounter with Dalton’s “Lancer” costar (Butters). “Quentin is adept at throwing out a great scene,” said Heyman. “If she was in, she’d get an Oscar nomination for that performance. But it didn’t serve the film. It’s all about the film rhythm, to get where it needs to be. He cut out fantastic scenes, and reshaped things that made sense of the film as a whole.”

“Quentin likes to have the TV on in the background while he’s writing and I happened to be on TV while he was writing my character. He looked up and saw me and said, ‘Maybe she can try this.’ I’m so happy that the TV was on at that time and that moment because if it hadn’t, I wouldn’t be in the movie,” Butters told The Hollywood Reporter.

According to a recent profile from Vanity Fair, DiCaprio compared Butters to a young Meryl Streep. ““I’m like ‘Guys, she was 20!’ And I’m 10! There’s a 10-year difference,” she said. “I’m so happy that he did [that] — and so mad that he did at the same time.”

Butters’ character Trudi was inspired by an actual character from the 1968 Western series “Lancer.” Though usually not allowed to watch Tarantino films, her mother did let her watch “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” — albeit until the film’s bloody, insane climax.

Butters, who got her start in a 2014 episode of “Criminal Minds,” has also starred on episodes of “Transparent” and “The Kicks.”

Additional reporting by Anne Thompson.

Source: IndieWire film

July 28, 2019

Indie Box Office: ‘The Farewell’ Hits Top 10 as Non-Fiction ‘Honeyland’ Builds Buzz

It was more of same at specialized theaters this weekend. Documentaries dominated the openings, led by buzzy “Honeyland” (Neon), while response continues strong for family movie “The Farewell” (A24). Lulu Wang’s Sundance narrative dramedy starring Awkwafina bucked the current documentary trend by landing among the weekend’s Top 10 grossers, even in limited release.

Among the newbies, three Sundance non-fiction debuts opened decently with solid reviews: “Mike Wallace Is Here” (Magnolia), “For Sama” (PBS), and Netflix’s day-and-date title “The Great Hack.” A24 also threw “Skins” starring Jamie Bell as a neo-Nazi into a few theaters along with home availability, with grosses not reported. “The Mountain” (Kino Lorber) was the sole narrative debut to show positive reaction and possible further interest.


Honeyland (Neon) – Metacritic: 86; Festivals include: Sundance, New Directors/New Film 2019

$30,000 in 2 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $15,000

This marks the best opening PTA among documentaries in recent weeks. Neon has enjoyed significant success this year with several non-fiction films, led by “Apollo 11.” On paper, the fight to keep traditional beekeeping practices alive in rural Macedonia doesn’t seem like an easy draw. This well-placed film opened in one theater each in New York and Los Angeles, earned top-end reviews, and showed an impressive initial result which will encourage further interest ahead. Like Neon hit “The Biggest Little Farm,” “Honeyland” suggests that proactive show-and-tell environmental documentaries have appeal.

What comes next: Neon should be able to maximize the appeal shown here as it rolls out in an appropriate likely slower than usual expansion ahead.

The Mountain (Kino Lorber) – Metacritic: 66; Festivals include: Venice 2018, Sundance 2019

$16,013 in 2 theaters; PTA: $8,007

Jeff Goldblum and Tye Sheridan star in this biopic of a midcentury American doctor who popularized lobotomies as a medical treatment. (Ken Kesey’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” was written in part to expose the horrific procedure.) Rick Alverson’s drama opened in two exclusive New York/Los Angeles runs to mid-level initial results. It’s an unusual American independent narrative release for Kino Lorber, normally known for foreign language films, but consistent with its overall interest in distinctive titles.

What comes next: This should find appeal at core specialized theaters across the country in coming weeks.

A still from Mike Wallace Is Here by Avi Belkin, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by CBS NewsAll photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

“Mike Wallace Is Here”

Mike Wallace Is Here (Magnolia) – Metacritic: 73; Festivals include: Sundance 2019

$19,500 in 3 theaters; PTA: $6,500

Journalists are not the among the usual notable figures to get the documentary treatment. “60 Minutes” star Mike Wallace was memorably portrayed by Christopher Plummer in Michael Mann’s “The Insider” 20 years ago. Acquired by Magnolia at Sundance, this documentary opened at three New York/Los Angeles locations to mixed initial results.

What comes next: Eight more cities open this Friday, with other top markets following in upcoming weeks.

For Sama (PBS) – Metacritic: 90; Festivals include: South by Southwest 2019

$9,350 in 3 theaters; PTA: $3,117

The week’s best-reviewed film, among the best of the year overall, focuses on one woman’s experience over several years in wartime Syria. The documentary opened in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco exclusive runs to modest initial response.

What comes next: This will play in top cities limited runs ahead before its future PBS showing some months from now.

Week Two

David Crosby: Remember My Name (Sony Pictures Classics)

$29,396 in 11 theaters (+7); PTA: $2,672; Cumulative: $86,247

The initial top-city expansion for this latest musical-world documentary yielded modest results.

L to R: "Jiang Yongbo, Aoi Mizuhara, Chen Han, Tzi Ma, Awkwafina, Li Xiang, Lu Hong, Zhao Shuzhen." Courtesy of Big Beach.

“The Farewell”

Ongoing/expanding (Grosses over $50,000)

The Farewell (A24) Week 3

$1,554,000 in 135 theaters (+100); Cumulative: $3,692,000

Making it into the overall Top Ten in only 135 theaters, Lulu Wang’s compelling family drama is so far running ahead of A24’s “Eighth Grade” last summer in a similar release pattern. “The Farewell” added many high-end multiplexes this weekend, which reduced the stratospheric PTA. But at $11,510 for this number of theaters it continues to be a strong showing, with signs of some significant crossover appeal.

The Art of Self Defense (Bleecker Street) Week 3

$311,317 in 541 theaters (-9); Cumulative: $2,060,000

Jesse Eisenberg transitioning into someone able to stand up for himself if needed after a mugging took a steep drop in its second wide weekend despite holding at most theaters.

Maiden (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 5

$204,858 in 113 theaters (+29); Cumulative: $1,160,000

This documentary about a group of women circumnavigating the world by sea continues to expand, buoyed by positive word of mouth.

Booksmart (United Artists) Week 10

$(est.) 190,000 in 555 theaters (+472); Cumulative: $(est.) 22,433,000

United Artists brought this back for mostly single showing late in its release. That adds more to a mixed result gross, but still one that places it at the head of all 2109 festival showcased specialized releases, and by some distance.

Pavarotti (CBS) Week 8

$135,000 in 135 theaters (-8); Cumulative: $4,235,000

Another case of a documentary about a major creative force finding a strong response. Ron Howard’s film about the opera icon continues to maintain interest nearly two months into its run.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco (A24) Week 8

$133,800 in 114 theaters (-35); Cumulative: $4,106,000

High among acclaimed films, this idiosyncratic Bay Area portrait has remained a specialized niche item without a wide release. Which is fine. Not all films benefit from playing hundreds of theaters. The movie will be available on other venues ahead, and more limited play supports core arthouses. This long-running film could still reach $5 million, and that would be ahead of most narrative specialized releases this year.

“Echo in the Canyon”


Echo in the Canyon (Greenwich) Week 10

$118,000 in 118 theaters (-15); Cumulative: $2,906,000

Laurel Canyon musicians from five decades ago continue to draw interest with this documentary closing in on $3 million.

Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love (Roadside Attractions) Week 4

$95,125 in 83 theaters (+28); Cumulative: $561,216

Leonard Cohen and his muse gained some interest but not at the level of the similar-period music documentary “Echo in the Canyon.”

Late Night (Amazon) Week 8

$71,515 in 118 theaters (-28); Cumulative: $15,291,000

Despite its high-end Sundance deal, critical acclaim, and a wide release in appropriate theaters, this will end up with an under $16 million gross. That’s only about two-thirds of “Book Smart,” itself not as successful as predicted.

Wild Rose (Neon) Week 6

$77,800 in 144 theaters (-51); Cumulative: $1,388,000

Jessie Buckley as a struggling Scottish country singer in Nashville is entering the late stages of its modest run.

Sword of Trust (IFC) Week 3; also on Video on Demand

$55,683 in 55 theaters (+43); Cumulative: $156,012

Lynn Shelton’s Southern comedy starring Marc Maron is getting an above average number of theatrical dates parallel to home-viewing availability.

Also noted:

The Biggest Little Farm (Neon) – $36,480 in 61 theaters; Cumulative: $4,142,000

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Source: IndieWire film

July 28, 2019

Here’s the One Real Shot in Disney’s ‘The Lion King’ Remake

Of all the seemingly live-action shots in “The Lion King,” only one is real, and it’s the first shot of the movie. Director Jon Favreau tweeted this weekend, “There are 1490 rendered shots created by animators and CG artists. I slipped in one single shot that we actually photographed in Africa to see if anyone would notice. It is the first shot of the movie that begins ‘The Circle of Life.’”

The otherwise completely CG movie — which IndieWire called “a disastrous plunge into the uncanny valley” — boasts extremely photorealistic animals, and yet this opening shot of the setting sun, as “The Circle of Life” vaults from the screen and right into your nostalgia center, is the only moment that Favreau and cinematographer Caleb Deschanel actually shot. IndieWire recently interviewed Deschanel about achieving the film’s naturalistic look.

“The most important thing was to create a reality to the filmmaking in terms of shots and lighting,” Deschanel told IndieWire. “Jon didn’t want perfection. There were a lot of rough shots. But it’s not totally like a documentary, because in a documentary, you can’t get close to lions this way. And every animal movement and gesture was something that they can do in real life.”

Real or not, audiences have been swept away by “The Lion King,” with the film once again holding court as the top box-office champ for the second week in a row, earning $75 million this weekend and besting even Quentin Tarantino’s newly opened “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” Coupled with the film’s overseas take, “The Lion King” has already netted $1 billion globally and will surely continue to succeed as families come out in droves to see the remake.

IndieWire also spoke with the film’s VFX team about making “The Lion King” as a kind of feature-length nature doc. “We shot 12,000 takes of photography and whittled it down to the 1,600 shots that are actually in the movie,” said Adam Valdez, MPC’s VFX supervisor. “What Jon [Favreau] wanted was this magical combination of the best of what the animated film process has to offer and the best that live action has to offer.



Source: IndieWire film