AMPAS Halts Grant Programs to "Re-evaluate" Support of Film Orgs

AMPAS Halts Grant Programs to "Re-evaluate" Support of Film Orgs

According to TheWrap, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has suspended its charitable/educational grant programs for a year to "re-evaluate" their impact. Unsurprisingly, concerned members of the film community have raised the alarm. 

The trials of being a film festival judge

Dave Garthmin, writing for Elgin Courier News:

We asked [the festival director] whether we should discuss what we just saw. He said he would prefer that we just fill out our ballots, with 5 points for the best film and 1 point for the worst. “There was one year when the discussion among the judges got a little confrontational down here,” he explained.

So we began poring silently over our ballots like six teenagers taking the SAT test.

Every festival is different – some encourage those lengthy discussions, others prefer to get things done as efficiently as possible. It's always nice to get a peek behind the judging curtain at a particular festival, though.

15 doc features picked to advance in Oscars voting process

From the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences web site:

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences today announced that 15 films in the Documentary Feature category will advance in the voting process for the 84th Academy Awards®. One hundred twenty-four pictures had originally qualified in the category.

I'm mildly disappointed that Being Elmo isn't on the list but one can hardly argue that the film hasn't been successful. If you also enjoyed its Muppety goodness, you can always vote for it in the IFP Audience Awards.

A sense of belonging in Austin at SXSW

I'm fond of telling filmmakers that friendships and business relationships are the real rewards of the film festival circuit. Seeing a dozen or so collaborators stand up in front of the awards audience at this year's South By SouthWest reaffirmed that feeling. They were the filmmakers who came together to help Lena Dunham make the festival's 2010 grand prize winner, "Tiny Furniture."

Typical of the smaller films premiering at the festival is "Tiny Furniture," a story of female post-collegiate ennui playing as part of this year's narrative feature competition. The movie marks a personal and professional leap that could only have been achieved through the support of SXSW, which played filmmaker Lena Dunham's debut feature, "Creative Nonfiction," in last year's lineup.

While at the festival in 2009, Dunham not only met cinematographer Jody Lee Lipes, but also her key collaborators for "Tiny Furniture," producers Alicia Van Couvering and Kyle Martin, editor Lance Edmands and costar Alex Karpovsky.

The festival "was really the connective tissue for my relationships with a lot of these people," Dunham says. "I just wanted to connect with other filmmakers but I don't think I expected it would be such a gold rush."

Awards Smackdown! The Jury vs the Audience

AudienceWhile doing some research I came across this entry on the Environmental Defense Fund blog:

At the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, the jury of film experts chose Forty Shades of Blue as the best dramatic film.  The Audience Award went to Hustle & Flow.  I don’t know which was a better film, but I do know Hustle & Flow went on to earn $20 million in wide release in the U.S., while Forty Shades of Blue topped out at $75,000.  I’m sure it doesn’t always happen that way, but it goes to show that the experts don’t always know what will succeed in the marketplace of ideas.

We at Environmental Defense Fund just finished something a bit like a film festival — a competition that challenged participants to make a 30 second ad that explains how capping greenhouse gas pollution will help cure our national addition to oil.  This week we announced two winners, one selected by our staff and another chosen by thousands of voters online.  Like at Sundance, the voters and the judges chose different winners…in fact, the video chosen by us "experts" came in dead last in the online voting.

This in essence, is the guiding philosophy behind distributor (and my employer) B-Side Entertainment: the audience is never wrong. When putting together your own festival and distribution plan, polling a wide audience (who doesn't know you) through test screenings is essential. Even when you can't trust yourself or your friends to evaluate whether your film is good or bad likely to appeal to festival audiences, your test audiences will tell you.

(Edited after Alex Orr rightly pointed out that sometimes "audience-pleasing" doesn't always equal "good.")

Read Climate 411 » Video Contest: Your Choice vs. the "Expert" Choice - Blogs & Podcasts - Environmental Defense Fund.

Photo by Till Westermayer.

Does a grant program like Cinereach have something for you?

CinereachindieWIRE posted this article about the Cinereach awards, about which I hadn't heard before. The Reach Film Fellowship looks like an intense program for nascent filmmakers, and Cinereach supports filmmakers in a variety of other ways, including "up to $400,000 in grants and awards to documentary and narrative films."

Last night’s event was the conclusion of the intensive six-month Reach Film Fellowship program in which McQueen, Russell and two other filmmakers - Jules Monteyne and Dena Greenbaum - were paired with mentors and advisors who helped them take their short films from script or treatment through completion.  In addition to Kim and Bishop, this year’s mentors were Producer Jeremy Kipp Walker (“Half Nelson”) and Writer/Director Nicole Kassell (“The Woodsman”). All four fellows received a grant of $5,000 at the start of the program, in addition to donated materials and services from sponsors like Kodak, Postworks and Showbiz Software.

There are a lot of filmmakers out there struggling in isolation (away from film-active cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Austin, where film programs abound) who probably don't think to explore their options when it comes to such aid. There's a lot of money -- not to mention services and expertise -- to be had just for the asking. Get googling and see what you can find.

Read Cinereach Presents 2009 Awards - indieWIRE.

SXSW announces 2009 awards winners

sxswI don't normally just rehash a press release, but I'm really happy about the fact that 45365 won the doc competition. It was in one of my stacks of screeners this year and while I can't say I championed it to the programmers or anything silly like that, it's really nice to see a film that you believe in early on become the competition winner.

I've been hitting a lot of panels this year (as those who follow me on twitter can attest), so you can expect some updates on those next week.

Feature Jury Awards

Winner – 45365
Director: Bill Ross
An inquiring look at everyday life in Middle America, the film explores the congruities of daily life in an American town Sidney, Ohio.

Honorable Mention – The Way We Get By
Director: Aron Gaudet
On call 24/7 for the past 6 years, a group of senior citizens transform their lives by greeting nearly one million U.S. troops at a tiny airport in Maine.

Winner – Made in China
Director: Judi Krant
Lost in Shanghai, an inventor discovers that it takes more than a bright idea to succeed.

Special Jury Award for Best Ensemble Cast – That Evening Sun
Director: Scott Teems
A ruthless grudge match between two old foes. Lines are drawn, threats are made, and the simmering tension under the Tennessee sun erupts, inevitably, into savagery. Cast: Hal Holbrook, Mia Wasikowska, Ray McKinnon, Walton Goggins, Carrie Preston

Audience Awards

Winner – Motherland
Director: Jennifer Steinman
Six grieving mothers journey to Africa in order to test the theory that “giving is healing.”

Winner – MINE
Director: Geralyn Pezanoski
After Hurricane Katrina, thousands of pets were rescued and adopted by families around the country, leading to many custody battles. Through these stories, the film examines issues of race, class and animal welfare in the U.S.

Winner – That Evening Sun
Director: Scott Teems
A ruthless grudge match between two old foes. Lines are drawn, threats are made, and the simmering tension under the Tennessee sun erupts, inevitably, into savagery.

Shorts Jury Awards

Winner – Thompson
Director: Jason Tippet
Since second grade Matt and Ryan have shared the bond of speech impediments, weapons, and things that go fast. But as their last days of high school speed by, the two friends find that their go-carts, dirt bikes, and RC cars can’t outrun adulthood.

Special Jury Award – Happy 95 Birthday Grandpa
Director: Gary Huggins
A fleeting memory in five minutes.

Winner – Shaman
Director: Luc Perez
Waiting for the bus on a rainy day in Copenhagen, the old shaman Utaaq sees a rare bird from his past. This makes him reminisce his youth, and a beautiful tale about the forces of nature begins.

Special Jury Award – Sweet Dreams
Director: Kirsten Lepore
A Stalwart cupcake escapes from his native land to discover what lies beyond the sugar skyscrapers and candy-condos. His violent shipwreck on a foreign shore forces him to adapt to a new lifestyle.

Winner – Cattle Call
Director: Matthew Rankin & Mike Maryniuk
A high-speed animated documentary about the art of livestock auctioneering.

Special Jury Award – The Idiot Stinks
Director: Helder Sun
Animation, Angst, Media, Martians and Miscommunication.

Winner – Thunderheist, “Jerk It”
Director: That Go-Noel Paul & Stefan Moore

Special Jury Award – Fleet Foxes, “White Winter Hymnal”
Director: Sean Pecknold

Jury Special Mention – New Pornographers, “Myriad Harbor”
Director: Fluorescent Hill

Winner – Performance Evaluation
Director: Breannah Gibson

Special Jury Award – TIE
Fresh Fruit
Director: Edward Kelley & Brenden Cicoria


A Hospital Bathroom
Director: Miguel Johnson

Big Sky Documentary Film Festival announces 2009 winners

Ordinarily I would just link to this but since they don't have the winners up on their web site yet I'll reprint the press release here:

picBig Sky Documentary Film Festival Announces 2009 Award Winners

For more information, visit or
call 406-541-FILM.

Best Feature: Rough Aunties by Kim Longinotto
Artistic Vision: In A Dream by Jeremiah Zagar

Best Short: Bronx Princess by Musa Syeed & Yoni Brook
Artistic Vision: The First Kid to Learn English From Mexico by Peter Jordan

Best MiniDoc: Jennifer by Stewart Copeland
Artistic Vision: The Secret Life of Beards by Melanie Levy

Big Sky Award: Red Gold by Travis Rummel & Ben Knight

Programmer's Choice Awards
Best Editing: Crude by Joe Berlinger
Best Cinematography: Ashes of American Flags by Brendan Canty & Christoph Green
Best Music Doc: The Choir by Michael Davie

Missoula, Montana - The Big Sky Documentary Film Festival is pleased
to announce its festival award winners, each of which will be
screened during a special encore presentation Thursday, February 19,
at Missoula's historic Wilma Theatre.

Award Screening Schedule

Fri. Feb 20, 2009 at 7 pm - In A Dream, Jennifer & The Secret Life of Beards
Sat. Feb 21, 2009 at 7 pm - Red Gold; Bronx Princess; The First Kid
to Learn English From Mexico,
Sun. Feb 22, 2009 at 8 pm - The Choir & Rough Aunties

Thanks go to the distinguished nine-member Festival Jury whose
members selected the 2007 award winners:

Documentary Feature Jury:
Dawn Smallman (Ridin' & Rhymin'), Richard Beer (Film Action Oregon/
Hollywood Theatre, Portland) , Brett Ingram (Monster Road,

About the Best Feature Awards, the jury said, "We chose to award this
film Best Documentary Feature because the bravery of the film's
characters is mirrored by the unflinching courage of the filmmaker's
vision. In Rough Aunties, Director Kim Longinotto's camera elegantly
captures compassion and humanity in a brutal world.

We chose to award this film the Artistic Vision Award because of its
seamless integration of style and content. Director Jeremiah Zagar's
cinematic artistry equals the stunning artwork created by his father,
the primary subject of In A Dream."

Best Documentary Short Jury:
Mike Bonfiglio (Crude, Metallica: Some Kind of Monster), Kristen
Fitzpatrick (Women Make Movies)

About The First Kid to Learn English From Mexico, the jury said The
Artistic Vision Award goes to a film that manages to say a great deal
about a number of subjects in a very short time and with
extraordinary storytelling, sound and images. This
beautifully-crafted, lyrical, almost impressionistic work shows the
world of a fascinating individual through his own eyes, as well as
those of the world around him. It was difficult to decide which of
the two awards this film deserved most, but the more we thought about
the phrase, "artistic vision," the easier it was to figure out.

Best MiniDoc Jury
Joe Beringer (Crude, Brother's Keeper), Brendan Canty (Ashes of American Flags)

Big Sky Award Jury:
Chris White (POV), Anna Rau (Montana PBS)

The programmers of the festival also awarded three special awards to
film which exemplified the artistic spirit of nonfiction filmmaking.
The films were selected from the 143 selections in this year's

Special thanks to Sponsors of the 2009 Big Sky Documentary Film
Festival, including HBO Documentary Films, Montana Film Office, The
Washington Foundation, The International Documentary Association,
Montana Arts Council, The Canadian Consulate, Montana PBS, Montana
Public Radio, KGBA, Rockin' Rudy's, Missoula Art Museum, First
Security Bank, NorthWestern Energy, The Independent, Sony, Media 100,
Edgewater/Doubletree, Best Western Grant Creek Inn, Red Lion Inn
Missoula, Campus Inn, Big Sky Brewery, Ten Spoon Winery, Thomas
Kemper Soda, Porta Brace, Docurama, Vann's Electronics.

For more information call (406) 541-FILM or see visit

New doc film awards seek to reflect "nonfiction film" community more accurately

Fueled by online discussion via blogs, a coalition within the nonfiction and film festval community is launching a new outlet to celebrate the best documentary films of the year.

It's unclear to me as yet how the documentary community at large benefits from this but I wouldn't say that docs are an overcelebrated art form, so the more the merrier. I'm sure there will be some discussion over at the D-Word.

Read indieWIRE's story: 15 Documentaries Named to New Shortlist; Festival Programmers, Doc Insiders Unveil New Nonfiction Awards.

Update: After reading AJ Schnack's entry on the rationale and purpose for the new awards, I have to say that it sounds like they fill a clear and present need to honor filmmakers whose work is going otherwise unrecognized (except, of course, at film festivals, which form the central basis for the nominations themselve). I'm looking forward to seeing how these awards develop.