Tuesday, June 10, 2008

No sneezing pandas or desperate pleas to leave Britney alone plagued New York's IFC Center on Thursday night, when several web-based filmmakers gathered to screen and discuss their works. The event, titled "Where Internet and Film Collide," was co-hosted by the Independent Feature Project and IndieGoGo as a part of Internet Week New York, but none of the projects featured over the course of the evening resembled the lackadaisical style of your average YouTube phenomenon. Instead, the event brought strong examples of the ways independent cinema can flourish in cyberspace. The films themselves each had their own specific audiences, developed online through a variety of methods, but in every case, creative ambition paved the way to rigorous experimentation.

Two of the featured artists were no strangers to Stream readers: Our tech columnist, Jamie Stuart, screened two of his favorite shorts: NYFF45: Part Two, and 12.5 Seconds Later..., both of which he has discussed in his weekly column. Since the event was moderated by Filmmaker magazine editor Scott Macaulay, the producer of Stuart's New York Film Festival shorts, their conversation in front of the audience after his films were shown took on a personal tone. "I remember the first time we ever had a meeting," Stuart told Macaulay. "You asked me to bring along the scripts, and I was like, 'There aren't any scripts.' It's a combination of improvisation and editing." That pretty much sums it up: Stuart's NYFF shorts explore the frantic environment of media events with a lyrical edge, and NYFF45 gets it best, particularly when Stuart continually cuts from the jittery hands of anonymous photographers to glorious close-ups of Nicole Kidman (doing press for Noah Baumbach's Margot at the Wedding). It's a surreal moment that underscores a specific kind of chaos associated with the crassness of celebrity obsession. Stuart summed it up: "I have no interest in reality. My goal is to pervert it."

Read more in Stream...

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

"It's not terrific. It's tiresome." So concludes hotshot producer Joseph Levine in Albert and David Maysles' classic 1961 cinema verite documentary Showman, which received a rare screening last night at New York's IFC Center, concluding its annual "Stranger than Fiction" series. The hustling entrepreneur whose ferocious penchant for movie marketing forms the centerpiece of this intensely provocative work represents a dying breed. "As I look at it now, I think, 'Why spend so much time with a guy whose actions are not to be emulated?'" reflected Albert Maysles, the seventy-two year old surviving member of the filmmaking duo, during a post-screening Q&A.

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Monday, June 02, 2008

Calling Joe Swanberg a historic filmmaker might be pushing it, but his professional emergence has unquestionably coincided with historic developments. More than ever before, artists have discovered new outlets for exposure and distribution on the internet, and Swanberg has utilized both aspects. The twenty-six year old Chicago-based director has been churning out low-budget films about the day-to-day romantic dalliances of twentysomethings since 2005, when his first feature, Kissing on the Mouth, established him as a mainstay of the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin — and, by extension, the contemporary landscape of American independent cinema. Since then, he has completed three more features, two of which (Hannah Takes the Stairs and Night and Weekends) were purchased for theatrical distribution by IFC Films. Hannah opened last year, while Nights is scheduled to premiere on November 14. However, the primary venue that showcases Swanberg's observant profiles of young adult behavior lies in cyberspace.

Since 2006, Swanberg has been developing the web series Young American Bodies for Nerve, and the show recently began its third season, this time appearing for a larger audience on IFC.com. Conceived as short segments detailing the lives of a few struggling Chicagoans (including their sex habits, which Swanberg refuses to censor), Young American Bodies has brought attention to Swanberg's work outside of the festival circuit as he continues to direct features. Meanwhile, he recently launched a quasi-detective series called Butterknife for the film discussion site Spout. With his extremely specialized subject matter and incessant DIY approach, Swanberg rides the wave of new media without compromising his creative interests. In a phone conversation from Chicago, he spoke with Stream about his unique professional trajectory, the philosophies behind his output, and upcoming projects, including a collaboration with Oscar-nominee Noah Baumbach.

Read the interview in Stream...

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