Reel Talk: This summer in film

The film festival: a veritable treasure-trove of aspiring talent looking to gain exposure in one of the hardest industries to crack. 

Traditionally, festivals are designed to celebrate the voices of independent filmmakers, acting as the proverbial catapult to stardom. In reality, the major fests have often leaned towards celebrating the celebrity and, in many cases, left the door closed for truly independent creators. So, that leaves the local festivals to carry the burden of finding that next darling of the cinema firmament. And there are a few happening this summer right here in RI. 

Even before the pandemic, the film fest was becoming a bit of a tough sell. With the pervasiveness of the medium, access to content is easier now more than ever. So, what’s the draw of a live event? What can pry droves of starry-eyed souls off their couches to the local parks and auditoriums to view independent films with hardly any explosions? For a few local groups, the answer lies in creating meaningful programming that relates to their community. 

The folks at FLM FWD, pronounced Film Forward, set out to create festivals that tackle themes that are, according to festival President Lisa Lowenstein, “pressing subjects of our day as well as transversal subjects of interest to many people in our community.”  These issues: empathy and environment, are, according to Lowenstein, “urgent.” Hence the choice to brand the festivals in shorthand and, since their mission is focused heavily on community building, they’ve also removed the “I” from film, “because it is about a community-wide festival. Not an individual initiative.“

The organizers have re-envisioned the area where Barrington’s Town Hall and Library sit to form a temporary “village” that offers food, drink, live music and children’s activities as well as an area of information booths for local organizations to go with the film screenings. This will mark the inaugural year for their Environment Festival, happening June 24 – 26, and the second for their Empathy Festival, Aug 26 – 28. The Empathy Festival will also feature a section devoted to  the military, veterans and their families. 

What’s more?This year we are adding an alcohol-free after-party dance event just after the film screenings, with a DJ behind town hall,” said Lowenstein. “It will be held in the area we call ‘The Boulevard’ that is set up to resemble a European café-lined street with its mood lighting. It should be a blast!”

This is a free event. Follow FLM FWD on social media @flmfwdfestival.

The Block Island Film Festival, founded in 2018, is a non-profit event designed around the Block Island community. Like FLM FWD, BIFF’s organizers are focused on important cultural and environmental issues, as well as opportunities for young filmmakers through their student filmmaker competition. Founder/ Executive Director Cassius ‘Cash’ Shuman is truly excited about this. “The students get to network and learn from other filmmakers at the film festival,” said Shuman. “Education is a central and important part of our mission.”

The fourth BIFF, Sep 7 – 10, features film screenings, spotlight programs, tribute and award ceremonies, question and answer forums and nightly social mixers; most take place in their new venue, the Block Island Maritime Institute.  Shuman said, “It is located right at the edge of the Great Salt Pond, so it should be a spectacular setting for the film festival. We have some terrific documentaries that we are screening, and spotlighting in partnership with BIMI and its mission.”

Shuman is no stranger to Hollywood as, according to the BIFF website, he is an award-winning screenwriter, journalist and filmmaker, but BIFF organizers choose discovery over celebrity, focusing on the quality of the films rather than using energy to attract Hollywood A-listers. Even still, BIFF does attract some attention this year with the Terence Howard, Jeremy Pivens film The Walk.

The organizers are truly about making their community better and it shows. Any proceeds from the festival are donated to an Island nonprofit. Past beneficiaries include Friends of the Island Free Library and NAMI-Block Island, an advocate for those with mental health issues. 

Finally, perhaps the biggest and certainly the longest-running film fest comes from Flickers. Their Rhode Island International Film Festival™ (RIIFF) will take place at venues throughout RI, Aug 8 – 14, and features a hybrid event with a drive-in, outdoor and online screenings, filmmaking workshops, meet-and-greet industry events and seminars. 

Says Festival Director Shawn Quirk, “We make it our goal to highlight films of all shapes and sizes with the goal of appealing to the largest range of audience members possible.  Some will come to discover a collection of international shorts, others will come to support a local filmmaker or see an industry celebrity speak… RIIFF serves as an ideal meeting ground for both the film industry and audience members.”

Quirk is excited to have visiting filmmakers share space again – “RIIFF brings the world to Rhode Island every year, and we’re looking forward to celebrating Flickers’ 40th anniversary with everyone in August.” 

RIIFF also prides itself on connecting future auteurs with established makers. In recent years they’ve showcased films directed by William Fichtner, Karen Allen, Brad Hall, Denis Villeneuve, Bob Balaban and others. Says Quirk, by “placing newly discovered filmmakers in the same context as some of Hollywood’s leading talents, we can empower the next generation of filmmakers. Last year we had the pleasure of featuring the US premiere of You’re Dead Helen. The film was later short-listed for the Oscars and purchased by TriStar Pictures.” A feature version of that film is in the works with Sam Raimi as producer and the original director, Michiel Blanchart, at the helm.  

Learn about this year’s lineup – and the local film night on Wednesday, Aug 10 at Dusk (cosponsored by Motif, Dusk and R1 Entertainment Center) – at film-festival.org

Lovecraftian Films Designed to Terrify

What H.P. Lovecraft-themed magazine would be complete without a list of Lovecraftian-style movies? Ridley Scott, John Carpenter, Joss Whedon and Sam Raimi have all made films with a heavy Lovecraft influence. So, here’s a list to help creep the shit out of you and your loved ones.

Die, Monster, Die! (1965) is a take on Lovecraft’s The Colour Out of Space. The film stars legendary horror actor Boris Karloff and is about a radioactive meteorite wreaking havoc on a small New England estate. Lovecraft’s original text is a seemingly impossible one to adapt to the screen due to the meteorite’s incomparable-to-anything-of-this-earth color. The film suffers from a weak script but does boast a tremendous performance from Karloff.

The 1985 nugget Re-Animator is the most well-known of any Lovecraft adaptation. The film is a sometimes loose adaptation of Lovecraft’s Herbert West – Reanimator series. In the film, Jeffrey Combs plays Herbert West, a scientist who helps invent a serum that can bring people, and cats, back to life. He teams up with a medical student and together they get into Frankenstein-ian hijinks. It seems Combs became a popular choice for Lovecraftian film as he appears in a few others including 1993’s Necronomicon: Book of the Dead and From Beyond (1986). On a side note, Re-Animator was the code word for pot between Lester and Ricky in American Beauty.

die-monster-die-1965John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) is reminiscent of Lovecraft’s novella At the Mountains of Madness.  In the film version, researchers are trapped at an Arctic station and are terrorized by a shape-shifting creature that has been frozen in the ice for millions of years. The Thing creeps into the station, taking the appearance of the researchers that it absorbs. There’s a solid performance by a bearded Kurt Russell as helicopter pilot turned hero, R.J. MacReady.

Ridley Scott’s films Alien (1979) and Prometheus (2012) are considered to deal with Lovecraftian principles. Much like The Thing, both use At the Mountains of Madness as a primary source, the latter more than the former. Instead of the Arctic, we’re in space.

The Evil Dead, The Evil Dead 2, and Army of Darkness make up Sam Raimi’s trilogy (before Spiderman). The first two films have Ash (Bruce Campbell!) battling unseen evil in a cabin in the woods, the final film sees him battling a very visible evil as he defends a medieval city. All three of the films revolve around the Necronomicon, the fictional book of magic that Lovecraft created and is now used to explain the unexplained and fill in the holes of a disjointed narrative.

Children of the Corn is like Lovecraft’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth, but the film deals with a Midwestern town run by a cult of children who worship an elder god who inhabits the corn fields instead of a seaside town run by a cult worshipping an elder God of the ocean as in the story. And when that creepy manchild screeches at the ginger kid saying, “He wants you too, Malachi!” you’ll freak for sure.

In 2012, Joss Whedon made Cabin in the Woods, a Lovecraftian horror flick with an updated twist. This film shows five young (and obviously wicked hot) college students venturing up to a cabin for a weekend of fun. What they don’t know is that an organization called the Faculty had somehow coerced them into doing so in order to sacrifice them to The Ancient Ones, gods who once ruled the earth. The Lovecraft influence is hammered home at the finale when one of the Faculty is killed by a merman; terrifying creatures from the sea are a Lovecraft favorite.

I Am Providence

Howard Phillips Lovecraft’s profound influence can be seen in nearly every artistic medium, horror or otherwise. From graphic novels to video games, horror novels and films, there have been multiple adaptations of his work. There are also countless pieces that are based on, influenced by, and deal with his many themes and concepts. Progressive ideas such as cosmicism and deep time are now associated with being integral principles of Lovecraft’s work so that when his contemporaries deal with the same concepts, they are said to be employing “Lovecraftian” ideals. Lovecraftian, in its basic sense, refers to a type of horror fiction that focuses on the unknown instead of gore. Although some of Lovecraft’s stories contain gore, his main focus was dealing with his characters’ states of mind. His stories are written with a first person perspective, allowing the reader insight into the character’s state of mind and often the deterioration of the mind. Detachment is also a central theme in Lovecraft’s work. The heroes in his stories are typically advanced thinkers, scholarly types, but also loners in the sense that they seek isolation above socialization.

All accounts of Lovecraft confirm that he was a sheltered child, attached to his mother. Once his father died of syphilis, his relationship with his mother became more complicated. Perhaps it was her fear of losing the boy as well that led her to viciously attack his self-esteem. She reportedly called him hideous and ugly, forcing him to lock himself away in the attic of their house on Angell Street. This is where he began to imagine macabre stories of freakish, monstrous, grotesque creatures who hide and lurk in the shadows.

He became an Indifferentist, believing that things much older than mankind, older than Earth, are looking down upon us with indifference. His work was a departure from the traditional gothic horror and dealt more with a maligned world where the creatures don’t really care about humans. He created gods on earth – creatures that would haunt and terrorize the humans that Lovecraft despised so much. These characters were his self manifestation, his desires, him.

Through astronomy, he learned the boundlessness of the universe and the insignificance of man. Cosmicism is a philosophy that asserts there is no divine being in the universe, no God. Humans are merely insignificant specs existing inconsequentially in a vast, boundless galaxy. The insignificance of the human race can be proven through the theory of deep time, the idea that there existed a time before man. Man is self-involved and self-centered; only egotism exists. Therefore, a concept such as deep time may be hard to come to terms with. This can be illustrated by looking at a scene from the 1990s TV show “Growing Pains.” During the sequence, Mike Seaver (Kirk Cameron) pretends to be sick and stays home from school. Everything is going swimmingly until, while watching an episode of “Gilligan’s Island,” Mike hears the school bus outside. He becomes incensed with the idea that school, or life, has continued without him, which is a real turning point in the character’s life. The fear that the world doesn’t start and stop at your convenience (to quote Walter Sobchak) can be quite demoralizing. But not for Lovecraft. He pointed to Man’s potential inability to exist in the infinite spaces that science opens up, the large emptiness of the cosmos to which Man is as insignificant as dust. Lovecraft’s feelings that human beings are not the most important of beings on the planet, what’s called anti-anthropocentrism, is a central theme in all of his work. It is believed that he held an overall disdain and mistrust of people in general. This misanthropy can be seen not only in his creative work, but also in many of his personal correspondences with friends and family members.

These themes are worth noting if only for the uncanny parallels to Lovecraft’s life. Like most writers he wrote what he knew, drawing from his own experience to create, and most likely escape to, an imaginary world.

Truly studied horrorphiles are all students of Lovecraft, whether they know it or not. They are all tiny specs, creating art under his divine guidance. After all, he was Providence.

Mawwage Is What Bwings Us Togeva Today

It’s wedding season, folks, and what better way to get pumped for it than to take a look back at some cinematic classics involving the fine institution of marriage?

Here’s the thing: most movies about weddings suck. Try as they might by packing them full of stars (i.e., The Big Wedding; this time, De Niro, I am talking to you. How far will you sink?) or by following a played-out, once popular formula (the father can’t handle it, she’s marrying the wrong guy, or both), they all still suck.

Maybe it’s me. I hate weddings. There’s always been something sickening about lavish, costly parties filled with miserable, gossiping people. Most folks are there to get a free meal and hopefully an open bar, not to join in the celebration of a blessed union.

That being said, my wedding was awesome. My wife, a brilliant wedding photographer, and I created a unique, rustic experience. She reads these articles. Did I mention my wedding was awesome?

There are actually some mainstream films that include weddings, or at least threats of them, that aren’t all that bad. There’s Steel Magnolias, no doubt the inspiration for Barbershop, Barbershop 2: Back in Business, and of course, Beauty Shop. It really is like a lifetime movie for most of the film (albeit sans Steve Guttenberg) though Tom Skerritt saves it from being such in an hilarious turn as the bird-killing, gun-toting father.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding is the highest grossing wedding movie of all time. A winning formula really. Take a one-woman show, add her crazy Greek family, and then equal parts former boy band member and “Northern Exposure” hunk (and Applebee’s voiceover man) and there you have it. Seriously though, this is a cute little film. Made for $5 million, it grossed over $241 million, paving the way, in a sense, for other independent films to be picked up and released by major studios.

High Society was Grace Kelley’s last film before moving to Monaco and crushing my dreams of a Mrs. Robinson-style affair. In the film she plays a wealthy Newport, Rhode Island, socialite who falls into a love square. That’s right – not triangle, square. Three men are vying for her attention: her ex-husband (Bing Crosby), the man she’s supposed to marry (John Lund) and the tabloid reporter (Frank Sinatra) sent to uncover some dirt about her old man. It’s a fun, musical version of The Philadelphia Story and definitely worth a look.    

If you don’t like The Princess Bride, I don’t like you. 

Beetlejuice, while certainly not a wedding movie, does contain a wedding – a prearranged one that is both terrifying and fun. The Maitlands (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) get exorcised and begin to decay in their wedding garb. Lydia, typically played by Winona Ryder, summons the title character (the awesome Michael Keaton) and agrees to marry him to save her new ghost friends. It really becomes a carnival of the grotesque as sculptures come alive, a creepy preacher appears, and Mr. Juice performs a tap dance duet with a set of chattering teeth. It is pure, old Tim Burton:  darkly funny but without Johnny Depp playing a caricature of a character he played successfully in one movie once.

Probably the most iconic wedding scene of any movie has to be from The Graduate. Benjamin decides, most likely out of guilt, to marry the daughter of the woman he’s been schtupping all summer, but she don’t wanna marry him. Elaine Robinson wants to marry some other dude, or not. It’s all very 70s. Either way, Benjamin makes it to the wedding just in time to passionately bang on the window yelling “Attica!” or some shit and then, after a fight with the mayor from Jaws, he and Elaine run away together.

Anyway, here are some lesser known wedding movies that are worth checking out:

Emir Kusturica’s Underground is fucking brilliant. During the opening sequence a marching band, which later becomes the wedding band, tries to keep up with a carriage carrying two drunken guys, one of whom throws money in the air while the other randomly fires a gun at them. This film is a true epic – maniacal and wonderful with multiple wedding sequences with singing, dancing, drinking and eating – all framed as a satire of war, World and Civil, in Yugoslavia.

Robert Altman’s A Wedding is another satire, this time on the rituals of American weddings. This is classic Altman with a huge ensemble cast (Amy Stryker, Desi Arnaz, Jr., Carol Burnett, Geraldine Chaplin, Mia Farrow, Lillian Gish, Viveca Lindfors, and Lauren Hutton), multiple plot lines and seemingly ad libbed dialogue. There’s dark comedy here as usual, too. In the opening scenes, a senile bishop forgets the lines to the wedding ceremony and the groom’s grandmother drops dead in an upstairs bedroom. That’s comedy.

After the Wedding (2006), directed by Susanne Bier, stars Mads Mikkelsen as the manager of an Indian orphanage trying to keep the place afloat. In order to receive financing, he must return to his hometown in Denmark and personally meet the CEO of the Danish corporation that is promising the money. For some reason he gets invited to a wedding where the plot thickens, so to speak. What follows are many twists and revelations of familial proportions.

Speaking of the Danish, Lars von Trier is known for creating films that “should be like a stone in your shoe,” to quote the man himself. And most of them are. There isn’t necessarily a genre or style to peg Von Trier to, though his films are unified in the fact that they successfully make the audience uncomfortable. From unsimulated sex scenes to graphic hangings, his films exist on the edge. His 2011 film Melancholia is no different. Part of the “Depression Trilogy,” along with Antichrist and Nymphomaniac, Melancholia is an apocalyptic melodrama looking deeply at how people react during times of impending tragedy. The film takes place during and after the wedding of one of the two sisters we follow through the narrative, while the news of a rogue planet crashing into Earth threatens their existence.

Sisters and marriage you say? Jonathan Demme’s Rachel Getting Married has that, along with depression and drug abuse. Anne Hathaway plays Kym, the depressed recovering drug addict, who leaves rehab to attend her sister Rachel’s wedding. The dysfunction of family rears its ugly head as we realize that Kym isn’t the only family member who’s fucked up. Everyone’s got their baggage. The film is honest and real, something we see rarely in Hollywood.

Finally, perhaps the greatest, most beautiful and star-studded movie wedding appears in The Muppets Take Manhattan. Every Muppet, including the Sesame Street crew, is there to witness the Frog and Pig finally getting hitched after so many years of living in unmarried sin. It’s just perfect.

code: bridal-2013

This One Time, at Film Camp

Why would you go on some long, expensive vacation this summer where all you do is stand in line and get treated like crap by bleach-blonde nerf herders with a semester of community college under their belt and more acne than brains? You shouldn’t!
Nor should you ship your spawn off to any number of Walmart-sponsored day camps chaperoned by slack-jawed yokels and creepy Mister Rogers look-a-likes where they will be forced to swim in bodies of urine-tainted water and probably catch lice.
Sleep-away camps are no better. Your kids will just smoke pot and imbibe copious amounts of four loko only to be chopped in half by a masked killer while trying to lose their virginity.
If you really want your summer camp fix, just watch Meatballs, Earnest Goes to Camp, or Camp Nowhere and save yourself a whole mess of aggravation.
Or better yet, send the little scamp over to one (or all) of these excellent film and art programs happening all over Rhode Island this summer. These are professionally run, quality programs where kids and teens can learn filmmaking, cooking, dance and many other fun and educational arts-related skills.

Rhode Island School of Design Continuing Education offers many classes and certificate programs for kids and teens throughout the summer, including classes in animation, digital video production, and a Young Artist Program where artists ages 7 and up participate in printmaking, claymation, ceramic sculpture and more.
Where: RISD campus Providence
When: Classes begin June 10
Contact: ce.risd.edu

KidsEye™ Summer Camp with Rhode Island International Film Festival (RIIFF) is in its 15th year! KidsEye is an intensive and fun five-day summer camp held at the University of Rhode Island that exposes young people to the basic elements of the filmmaking process, culminating in a premiere screening of their finished work.
Where: URI Kingston campus
When: July 8 – 12
Contact: film-festival.org/kidseye.php

RIIFF offers another wonderful teen summer film opportunity for high school juniors and seniors, including those who just graduated. The youth film jury is a program where students will attend multiple screenings, Q&As and other events during the Rhode Island International Film Festival. It’s not a class, but it is a great way to get young filmmakers involved in critique and discussion.
Where: Multiple locations throughout RI
When: August 6 – 11
Contact: film-festival.org/YouthJuryProgram2013.php

URI, Adoption RI and First Star is having the First Star URI Academy for Foster Youth where students entering 9th grade will get full on-campus immersion with a month of academic classes, including media and communication, video game design, web design and videography. Students will receive college credits and have fun learning many different skills such as martial arts, cooking, yoga and painting.
Where: URI Kingston campus
When: July 1 – August 3
Contact: Matthew Buchanan: 401-865-6000; firststar.org

VSA Arts Rhode Island is also premiering “Adventures in Video Game Design” with Central Falls Expanded Learning where Central Falls students in grades 7 through 10 will work with a digital media artist and learn how to use computers and digital tools to create their own video game. No prior experience is necessary.
Where: Central Falls
When: July 8 – August 14; Mondays and Wednesdays 12:30 – 3 pm
Contact: Jeannine Chartier , VSA arts RI Director 401-725-0247; programs@vsartsri.org
Andrea Summers, Central Falls School District 401-727-7726 x 21030; Asummers@cfschools.net

Hendricken High School will put on a summer camp for boys and girls ages 12 to 16. Programs include New Artist Writer’s Workshop, where students will learn the fundamentals of playwriting or screenwriting through practical demonstrations, guest lectures and hands-on exercises, and Summer Screen, a week-long camp in filmmaking where students will write, produce, edit and star in their own short films. Hendriken’s summer program will also offer Showchoir and Stage workshops.
Where: Hendricken campus Warwick
When: July 1 – August 16
Contact: Richard Silva, Director of Arts: arts@hendricken.com

Everett Company’s Summer Arts Program includes film as well as dance and theater. Students will work with professional artists in intense and fun classes, including filmmaking, acting, hip-hop and creative dancing. Students must be at least 10 years old to participate.
Where: 9 Duncan Ave Providence
When: Session one is July 15 – August 2 and Session 2 runs from August 5 – August 23
Contact: 401-831-9479 or everettsummerarts@gmail.com
This is by no means an exhaustive list. There are many more educational and fun programs for you and your brood to get involved with this summer all over New England Do it!

SENE Any Good Films Lately?

Five years ago, Phil Capobres, Don Farias and Linda Dwyer decided to put together a film festival that wouldn’t be just another film festival. And so, Sl (SENE) was born and has been “bringing people together through film, music and art” ever since.
Known for its all-encompassing festival, the SENE organization facilitates and participates in many events throughout the year here in Rhode Island. Their intention is “to cross-promote the works of filmmakers, musicians and artists to new audiences.” That’s the way it should be, really – artists from all mediums, backgrounds and hovels, working together for art’s sake. “We try to program something for everyone,” Capobres says. “By having film, music and art in a single festival, we’ve been very successful at bringing people from those three communities together.” The festival is 100 percent volunteer run with all donations going directly to producing programs and events as well as supporting the work of filmmakers, musicians and artists.
This year’s festival is a six-day event that includes 100 short and feature films in 20 film programs. Film categories include: Animated Short Films, Documentary Films, Music Videos, Narrative Feature Films and Narrative Short Films. The festival will also feature the artwork of 21 artists and includes nine music performances. As far as which films make it into the festival, what makes SENE different might be the selection process. Capobres and fellow director Farias screen every film that’s submitted, this year almost 400 of them, but it doesn’t end there. “Most of the short films are reviewed at our short film screening nights, which are open to the public at the Brooklyn Coffee and Tea House,” Capobres explains. “We like to make sure we get the opinions of people in the community who are interested in independent films. We also try to have the public review all of our local short film submissions. We are connected to a lot of people in the local film community and we want to make sure we’re not seen as playing favorites.”

This year’s festival runs from Tuesday, April 23 through Sunday, April 28. Technically, though, the event already began on March 2 with the opening of an eight-week long juried art show at the Warwick Museum of Art. Titled Exploring Digital Arts, the exhibit explores how contemporary artists utilize digital technology. This event will conclude with the SENE Limelight Party & Art Exhibit on Thursday, April 25 where SENE will honor five individuals who are leaders in the film, music and arts communities in Southeast New England and who were also instrumental in helping launch the inaugural SENE Festival in April 2009. Honorees include: Daniel Kamil, owner of the Cable Car Cinema and Café, Toni-Ann Laprade, former SENE Festival board member and co-founder of Two Sisters’ Productions, Jim Vickers, former editor of Motif Magazine, Christian de Rezendes, president and founder of Breaking Branches Pictures and Carrie Decker, former SENE Creative Director. There will also be a special screening of the documentary Shut Up and Look, the story of Richard Artschwager, the 88-year-old American artist, on Tuesday, April 16 at the WMOA at 7pm. Producer Morning Slayter will be in attendance for this screening.
General admission for film screenings is $10 ($8 for seniors, students and RIFC members). Admission to the Limelight Party & Art Reception on Thursday, April 25 is $20 ($15 for RIFC members). Tickets to the Closing Night Party are $10. For people planning to attend multiple events during the festival, SENE offers an All Access Pass for only $40. The pass allows you to attend the SENE Music Event, Limelight Party, Closing Party and as many film programs as your heart desires.
Visit www.senefest.com or email info@senefest.com for more details.

Give Me 5 or Give Me Death!

When I was a film teacher at a high school in RI, I was amazed at the number of film programs in high schools around the state. Not only the number of them, but the high quality projects these programs were producing. With many school districts cutting funding to the arts, partly out of fear brought on by the unattainable goals the No Child Left Behind bill set (of every student hitting 100 percent proficiency by 2014), it was inspiring to see many schools holding on to what they saw as important.  Our program wasn’t just about making movies. Students learned problem-solving skills, cooperation, the importance of setting and sticking to deadlines, and oh yeah, they got to make movies — some of which are of higher quality and substance than much of the garbage Hollywood force feeds us. Maybe not refined, but moving in their rawness and honesty.

One of the ways I was able to get involved with students from other programs across the state was at the Give Me 5 Film Lab. The Lab is a one-day program, facilitated by the Rhode Island Film and Television Office, in conjunction with the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts Education Program and the Rhode Island Arts Learning Network.  There, teens between the ages of 14 and 19 from around the state work with coaches made up of filmmakers and educators to conceive of and execute a film.  For three years, I coached a group of teen filmmakers. Some had experience, others didn’t, but they all were genuinely interested in making film. The students are given some guidelines to follow, but the story is theirs to create. After a brainstorming session comes scriptwriting, then shooting and editing. Finally, a screening of all of the groups’ films. Last year, there were even professional actors who made themselves available to be cast. The Lab is not a festival, but an event where teen filmmakers come together to network with each other and challenge and expand their filmmaking skills. It’s a wonderful day that many folks, young and old, give up an entire afternoon to be a part of.

On Saturday, March 16, 2013, the fourth annual Give Me 5 Film Lab will be held at the University of Rhode Island, Providence Feinstein campus from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm. The theme of this year’s Lab is “Make a Minute Movie” Challenge. The day will begin with instructions about the film challenge.  Then teams will make their 1-minute films with the guidance of a coach, and screen and discuss their work with film professionals. Work produced at the Lab will be eligible for broadcast on RI PBS’ Teenage Critic.

Also, new to this year’s Lab is an opportunity for the more experienced Give Me 5ers to become part of the documentary team. This team will document the Film Lab and the resulting film will be shown at the Give Me 5 Teen Film Festival in May.

As always, the Lab is free, but students need to register with the sponsorship of a teacher from their school or a community media program director. There is also a release form that needs to be completed. Enrollment is on a first come first serve basis, though there is a 10 student per school limit.  The deadline to sign up for the lab is Friday, March 8.

This kind of event is exactly what’s right about arts education in RI. People come from as far as Westerly and Woonsocket (the Westerly folks have to pack a lunch for the drive up to Providence) and from many different economic backgrounds and cultures to work together for one goal.

For information, contact Sherilyn Brown at 222-6994 or sherilyn.brown@arts.ri.gov



Cable Car Cinema Launches Kickstarter Campaign

The Cable Car Cinema and Café was opened in 1976 by Ray Bilodeau and has been providing Rhode Island with high quality, independent films since. In 2008, the theater changed ownership.  Daniel Kamil and Emily Steffian have owned and operated the Cable Car since then, and they have maintained the uniqueness that has made Cable Car a beloved RI institution for more than 35 years.

The one thing that sticks with most people is the couches; a wonderfully distinctive detail that separates Cable Car from other independent theaters and especially from any corporate multiplex.

My memories of the place are a bit more quixotic.

My parents were the musicians playing in between films on Saturday nights. I was the one passing around the hat for change.  This was the late 1980s when the couches and loveseats were still fabric.  At times I was allowed to stay as they went over to Stone Soup Coffee House where they were volunteers. Sitting on a couch watching those films, sometimes the same film twice, I was in awe. I saw Bicycle Thieves, Hairspray, and Mystery Train. I wasn’t even sure what I was watching, but I knew I needed more of it.

My parents are now well-known musicians, and I am a film educator. The Cable Car didn’t only spark the young filmophile in me, but also facilitated the careers of many up-and-coming musicians, artists, and filmmakers.

On February 20, the Cable Car Cinema launched a Kickstarter Campaign to assist them in the upgrade to a DCI-compliant digital projection system. This is something that has challenged smaller independent theaters in the last couple of years. An expensive, yet necessary, conversion ensures theaters stay relevant in the continually changing digital age. Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) is owned by the six major motion picture studios: The Walt Disney Studios, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Universal Studios, and Warner Bros.  In July 2005, they issued the first version of the Digital Cinema System Specification.  What theaters have to do is seemingly comparable to you switching your home theater system over to Blu-ray format, though much more expensive.

Here’s the rub:  Digital distribution of movies saves money for film distributors, not exhibitors. Printing a feature film can cost $1,500 to $2,500, so making thousands of prints for a wide-release movie can cost millions of dollars. In contrast, the same film can be stored on a hard drive for $150. With several hundred movies distributed every year, the industry saves billions of dollars. The digital cinema conversion process hasn’t happened overnight; in fact, in some places it stalled altogether at first. Many exhibitors refused to purchase the equipment to replace their projectors since the savings would be seen by distribution companies rather than by theaters themselves. Since then, folks have been forced to comply. Film prints have become an ever-dwindling minority in theatrical releases, so theaters truly have no choice. If they want to stay in business and remain relevant, they must change their equipment over.

Going digital, as it were, is not necessarily a good thing. Many filmmakers have fought the conversion, citing an inferior quality. Paul Thomas Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, and Stephen Spielberg are just three. Others, like David Lynch, have truly embraced digital, choosing to shoot solely on it.

A lot of this harkens back to similar changes in the early days of the film industry. In 1926, talking pictures became a reality. Some thought it depraved, many more embraced the new technology. Film studios had to change over all of their equipment, which was quite costly. The result was that many smaller studios went out of business or, even worse, had to get into bed with the larger studios’ fat cats, taking out huge loans to subsidize the conversion.

Call it survival of the ‘fattest’ where the rich get richer and the less fortunate, independent working class gets the proverbial shaft. Either way, we are looking the digital age square in the face and we either have to accept its friend request or be forgotten like dial-up, the Nickelodeon, and unsliced bread.