Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Omaha Film Festival 2008 – Sunday, Day 7

The last day of the festival. We made it. The day started with encore presentations of the two excellent films “Jetsam” and “Placebo.” The “Placebo” screening was a lot of fun and everyone responded well to the film and the Q&A session with filmmakers Keith and Faith, despite the fact that Keith was extremely sick and was essentially a zombie for the entire festival. Why can’t we live in a warmer climate?!

After the screenings, we had our third annual awards ceremony. The attendance was great and the ceremony was a lot of fun. This year for the first time we brought in “professionals” to emcee the event. On air personalities Brian Mastre and Rachel Pierce from WOWT (NBC) hosted the event and brought a professionalism that we don’t typically have ourselves (thanks guys). I think the crowd enjoyed the event and it was great to see the audience respond to some of the announcements.

The winners were:
Screenplay Awards
Short Length Screenplay – “Zaid’s Cup” by Kimberly Coleman
Feature Length Screenplay – “The Third Realm” by Nino Del Pesco
Nebraska Screenplay – “This Old Porch” by Jim Christensen

Jury Prizes
Feature Film – “The Flyboys” directed by Rocco DeVilliers
Documentary – “The Listening Project” directed by Dominic Howes, Joel Weber
OFF the EDGE – “The Wretched” directed by Daniel B. Iske
Short Film – “Validation” directed by Kurt Kuenne
Animated Short Film – “Ark” directed by Grzegorz Jonkajtys
Nebraska Short Film – “Temper Espresso” directed by John Albrecht

Audience Choice Prizes
Feature Film – “The Flyboys” directed by Rocco DeVilliers
Documentary – “Strongest Ever” produced by Ben Crane, Christopher Lavigne, Colleen Evanson, Jacqueline Willemsen
Short Film – “The Replacement Child” directed by Justin Lerner

After the ceremony, we had encore screenings of “The Flyboys” as the audience choice feature film, “The Replacement Child” as the audience choice short film and “Strongest Ever” the audience choice documentary.

And then, we rested. Okay, not really, instead we went out to Heidelberg’s for our closing night party and I ended up staying there until after the Oscars. I set a camera up and we did a few interviews as well as a couple of interesting audio-only interviews that will show up on the podcast. Fun night and a great way to wrap up an incredible week.

Thanks so much to everyone that attended the festival this year. We had so many of our All Access pass holders attending so many films. Much love and respect to those that “get it” and understand that the only way to keep something like this going is to continue to support it. The more people that attend our events, the better experience it is for the filmmakers that travel to get here and it certainly makes all of the hard work in putting on such an event feel worth while.

Additional huge thanks to Julie Matthews and all of the volunteers for keeping the festival running smoothly. Jeremy, Jason and I didn’t have to worry about that part of the festival because we knew it would run smoothly with their involvement. So many of the volunteers put in so many hours over the last several weeks and their contribution absolutely did not go unnoticed, and we got tons of compliments on how smoothly things ran. Thanks so much.

Another huge thanks goes to the projectionists. Knowing that the booth was running smoothly allows J, J, and I the ability to participate in the social aspects of the festival that are so important for attendees and filmmakers. Thanks go Jonathan, Dave, Steve, Shaun, Aaron, Ben, Chris, Eric, and Ken.

We absolutely can’t do the festival without those two groups of people. Okay, more thank yous to come over the next few days. Right now I should sleep.

Omaha Film Festival 2008 – Saturday, Day 6

For the entire festival, we will have 60 screenings. 20 of them happened today. Yes, that’s 1/3 of the festival in one day. Four screens, open to close. Seven feature films, four documentaries, three short blocks, two special screenings and all four OFF the EDGE films. Of the twenty screenings, nine of them had filmmakers in attendance. Sweet. It’s a good thing I got lots of sleep last night.

So as not to cause everyone reading this to fall asleep, I won’t go through the entire day, I’ll just list the filmmakers and their films that were in attendance. At 11:30am in short film block #2, writer/director Adem Weldon came in support of his short film “Some Apologies” and helped us generate a decent sized crowd. At noon the encore screening of Derek Baker’s “Ulterior Motives” generated a great second crowd. Producers Colleen Evanson and Jacqueline Willemsen joined Becca Swanson for an increcible Q&A session after the second screening of the documentary “Strongest Ever.” Director of the film “The Listening Project” Dominic Howes and on screen interviewer Hahn participated in an extremely moving and powerful Q&A session after the second screening of their documentary. “The Living Wake” had a very fun Q&A session with producer Chadwick Clough in attendance and gave us a lot of interesting behind-the-scenes info on this fantastic narrative film. Writer/director Rocco DeVilliers was in attendance for his second screening of “The Flyboys” and the film played to a much bigger audience the second time and everyone was once again moved and loved this film. The Nebraska Shorts block had another huge crowd and had most of the filmmakers in attendance for another rousing Q&A. Doug Lantz, director of the documentary “From the 50 Yard Line” remained in town for his second screening and treated the crowd of band folks (I didn’t use the word “geeks” here) to a great look at the filming process. Short film block 3 had Jeff Hoferer, writer/director of the excellent and hilarious short film “Finding Emo” and Justin Lerner, writer/director of the incredibly shot and touching “The Replacement Child” in attendance and the audience responded extremely well to both films, as well as the rest of the short film block. The last film of the day that had filmmakers in attendance was the second screening of “The Wretched” and it gave us our biggest audience of the day. Another rousing screening and another great Q&A session to round out the day.

For reviews of each of these films as well as info about all of the films that we screened, be sure to check out www.omahafilmfestival.org and if you haven’t already done so, be sure to create a screen name and review the films that you saw.

Sunday is the last day. Raise a toast to Sunday. Unless you were in the private party at the hospitality suite, in which case you were raising a toast to just about everything.

Omaha Film Festival 2008 – Friday, Day 5

The weekend is upon us and the crowds are getting bigger. We showed four feature films, two documentaries, a short film block, and went fully into OFF the EDGE with the remaining three films in that category. Of the ten screenings we held, four of them had filmmakers in attendance so we had some great Q&A sessions.

One of the cool things about this years’ festival versus previous years, was the attendance at the short film blocks. Much more time goes into creating these blocks, starting with receiving, viewing, judging and finally programming all of them, plus the work that goes into screening them with the various formats, aspect ratios, audio levels, etc. These make for a lot more work than almost all of the rest of the festival films combined (huge props to JL this year in the booth!) That being said, attendance this year for all of these short blocks really helps make it all worth while. In the short film block 1 which screened tonight, we had two of the filmmakers in attendance, Kurt Kuenne from LA with his film “Validation” and Jason Beresford, all the way from the UK, with his film “Double Act.” The Q&A sessions are always more fun when there are filmmakers there and both of these guys were interesting and engaging and made the film block a lot more fun.

Luke Eberl, writer/director/editor of the film “Choose Connor” was also in attendance and drew a nice crowd. It was cool for me to see a young filmmaker that put together a pretty impressive film in his first significant effort. I know he’s got a serious future in the film world so it’s good to be a part of his first festival run.

The film “Placebo” played to a decent audience and had filmmakers Keith and Faith Feighan in attendance to do a Q&A. Keith and Faith are OFF’06 alumnus, so it was great to have them back to Omaha with their next film (hopefully we will see them in two more years?!)

The biggest crowd, not surprisingly, was for “The Wretched,” the locally produced OFF the EDGE film. The entire cast and crew were there and it was very much a circus-like atmosphere. The Q&A session was a ton of fun as well and the whole front of the theater had everyone involved answering questions.

Great night and another late night. Conventional wisdom dictates that since Saturday will be our busiest day (literally 1/3 of the entire festival plays that day) that we would be home and in bed early. Well, we haven’t used any conventional wisdom yet, so why would we start now. Thanks to the Regency Lodge for the hospitality suite. Sorry to the other residents around us that didn’t really plan on staying awake until 3:00am every night.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Omaha Film Festival 2008 – Thursday, day 4

Day four is in the books, and what a day four it was. We screened three feature films, two documentaries, three short film block and had our inaugural screening of an OFF the EDGE film.

Every evening after the festival (insert chuckle here – it’s actually much later than “evening”) I put together a director’s list that Jeremy, Jason, Julie and I carry around with us at all times that indicates all of the start and end time of every film, and highlights which films have filmmakers in town so that we can coordinate Q&A sessions. After putting the Thursday list together we knew we were up against it. It seemed every fifteen minutes had a film starting or stopping and of the nine screenings, six of them had a filmmaker in attendance so we were spread pretty thin. As a rule I prefer to have all three directors doing an introduction talk before each film and where possible, having all three of us available for the Q&A. Well, as everyone knows that was there, most films had just one of us, and not always for the whole time. It’s always fun participating in a Q&A or giving an intro talk, only to have your ear on fire listening to all of the chatter on the walkie because 50 other things that need immediate attention are happening. All that being said, day four was a huge success.

I’ll start with the biggest crowd of the festival so far. Derek Baker brought in a sold out crowd to the premiere of “Ulterior Motives” and it was very much a party like atmosphere. The second biggest crowd of the festival (also a sell out) was the Nebraska shorts block, which ended at 7:34pm and we had a huge Q&A with all of the directors. So the whole time we’re doing the Q&A, I’m hearing “we’re filling up out here” from the lobby walkie and “we need more volunteers to control this crowd” on the other walkies. At one point I had to pull Derek and Sho out of the NE block to escort them to their feature. Timing is everything. It was fantastic to see such enthusiastic crowds in both theaters and it was an honor and a privilege to be able to provide screens for the local filmmakers.

So I mentioned nine screenings and six filmmakers. So far I’ve only talked about two. It was a huge treat to talk to Alex and Mikiko from the short documentary block “Movement.” I remember watching that film six months ago and remembered how moving it was, so it was incredibly cool to be sitting there six months later listening to Alex talking about the process of making the film and how it’s affected his life. Awesome.

Another cool Q&A was with Doug Lantz, director of the documentary “From the 50 Yard Line.” Those band folks sure do stick together and they always have a passionate group of followers. The feature film “The Flyboys” had director Rocco DeVilliers and two of his producers in attendance and the crowd was very enthusiastic about that film. Look for this one in theaters soon as it seems like a no-brainer for a theatrical release. The last director Q&A of the night was with Shawn Linden, writer/director of the film “Nobody” which kicked off our first ever OFF the EDGE category for horror and experimental films. Everyone had their thinking caps on for that one and it was a very cool conversation about how the film was put together and what it all meant. Each of these films has a second screening over the next few days to be sure to come and check them out and talk to the directors!

Julio’s had us back again after the screenings and a lot of people took advantage of the OFF specials. I think I only heard the bell ring about five times, so I’m considering it a good night. And the after party was one of our best yet. As fun as it was, I don’t think getting home after 4:00am should be a habit. It’s a good thing the festival is only a week during the year. If anyone has more Red Bull, please bring it by the booth, I think I’ll need it.

Everyone that reads this, please be sure to come out Friday and Saturday. We have a lot of filmmakers that have traveled a long way to see us and to share their films with us, so let’s do everything we can to give them good crowds. Check out www.omahafilmfestival.org and pick out a few films to see. Our Mini Pass goes into effect today so it’s a great and inexpensive way to see a lot of films over the next few days so take advantage!

Also, if you’re coming tonight to see “The Wretched” or if you saw locally produced films “Imitation Life” or “Ulterior Motives” and want more information about the filmmakers and to hear some behind the scenes info on those films, check out the podcasts that Jeremy and I did with them at www.OFFtheEDGEfilmmaking.com. You won’t be disappointed. Okay, you might be, but do it anyway. It’ll make Jeremy happy.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Omaha Film Festival 2008 – Wednesday, day 3

Day three had four feature films, two documentaries and our first full slate of short films, running in two separate blocks. It was a great day that started with a full moon and ended with none at all. Pretty cool.

My favorite part of film festivals is usually the directors’ Q&A sessions and we were treated to three of them today, one after the incredible documentary “the Listening Project,” one after our short block #1 (two directors in town), and one after the short/feature combo “Wake Up Filmmaker” and “Imitation Life.” I had a chance to listen in to all three of these for a little while and it was great to see the crowds reacting favorably to the films and the people that made them. The biggest crowd of the festival so far was at the screenings of “Wake Up Filmmaker” and “Imitation Life,” so we’re glad to be giving local filmmakers a showcase as part of the festival. Hopefully those folks enjoyed the film and will come back out and support some of the other films we’re screening.

It was my latest night out of the theater and I had the good fortune of being able to go to not one, but two parties afterward, which put me home about three hours later than I had anticipated. There’s really not much point in sleeping anymore this week though so I’ll see everyone out there tomorrow night too.

A special thank you goes to the fine folks at Red Bull for coming out and passing out some cans. I’m not sure if you’re supposed to drink two of them as fast as I did and my heart might have raced a bit faster than it should have, but when you’re in survival mode, anything can happen.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Omaha Film Festival 2008 – Tuesday, day 2

Today we screened five feature films, two full length documentaries and one block of short documentaries. The crowds were moderate in size, and there were a lot of attendees that had been to several of our events over the last few days, so it’s great to see so many repeat faces coming out and supporting the festival.

For me, the day started pretty early and had me basically sequestered up in the projection booth helping setup the various media decks and projectors and going through all of the films for the day. You would think that only screening eleven films on four screens would be easy enough, but due to a lot of varying mitigating circumstances, it took most of the day and we finally had everything setup and ready to go just before we started screening the films. Fortunately things ended up working out just fine (they always seem to) and all of our screenings went off great, on time, and without a hitch. Not bad for our first day with four screens.

The highlight of the evening was the documentary “Strongest Ever” featuring Becca Swanson, the strongest woman in the world, who happens to be from Omaha. The documentary made by some New York film students was entered into our general competition and our judges loved it enough to give it a screening. Becca was gracious enough to attend the screening and got up afterward to do a very enjoyable 30 minute Q&A. Before the film started, I asked the crowd how many people in the audience knew Becca, and every hand in the place was raised, except for one, so they were quickly introduced and we started the film. This was our biggest crowd of the day so we were happy that the word got out about this terrific documentary. We will have an encore screening of the film at noon on Saturday and Becca will be attending that screening as well, so if you missed it tonight, be sure to check it out then.

The rest of the films for the evening were all fantastic as well, and why wouldn’t they be, since we culled them from over 400 entries. Be sure to check out the website to see how people are rating what they saw. Hopefully people are putting some good reviews up.

Wednesday is going to be the first of our four Nebraska feature film nights, so we’ll see how that goes.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Omaha Film Festival 2008 – Monday, Day 1

Jeremy’s been trying to land a particular film for a long time. The opportunity to screen a film that almost nobody in the world has seen before, and giving that opportunity to the OFF crowd months before a film gets its theatrical release is very satisfying. We do a great job of finding independent features, docs and shorts for the festival, but often it takes as much if not more work finding special screening films that will fit in with our program, and that will hopefully get some good theatrical buzz in the future. We screened “Half Nelson” at one of our Summer Film Series events over a month before it got theatrical release and it went on to win several Independent Spirit Awards and got Ryan Gosling an Oscar nomination. And the people of Omaha had a chance to see the film before most of the rest of the world. So back to Jeremy. He’d been working with new distributor Overture Films to get the new Charlize Theron film “Sleepwalking” and through persistence (and if you know Jeremy, you know how painful that can be) he was able to land the film.

So after an entire day setting up the OFF booth at the Westwood Cinema 8, we gathered our crowd to hear Mayor Mike Fahey give our festival introduction speech (with news crews rolling) and we kicked off the festival with a bang.

After the film, we all headed to the Pizza Shoppe Collective to enjoy lots of pizza, beverages, a fantastic live performance by Thousand Houses, and the opportunity to hang out more with Shane Black.

I couldn’t have asked for a better few days. The fact that I’ve slept about 8 hours total is actually worth it. And we’re just getting started. If you’re reading this and are any where near Omaha, we’ve got a tremendous week coming up and we’ve got a lot of the filmmakers coming so check out the website and put your schedule together. And if you see me, nudge me because I’m probably about to fall asleep.

Screenwriting/Filmmaking Conferences – Sunday, Day 2

Day two started much the same as day one, with Jeff Kitchen talking about “constructing a script with sequence, proposition, and plot” and again, the morning session was filled with tons of fantastic information on screenwriting (I know, I have no excuses now, I need to start writing).

The second morning session was with none other than OFF friend Lew Hunter who delighted the crowd with his insights and wit and wisdom. Great session.

The afternoon sessions were “a conversation with” Jon Bokenkamp and Josh Stolberg in individual one-on-one talks (with the second “one” being the audience) discussing everything filmmaking. So many interesting stories were told, I almost wish I had them recorded. Wait, I do. Sometime after the festival, I look forward to relistening to them all and maybe getting more out of them, in a much less stressful environment (and if you were there, you know where the stress came from).

The last session concluded our time at Creighton and what a time it was. The remaining item on the agenda for the weekend was our closing night party at the Omaha Community Playhouse (incredible) and a screening of “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” (even more incredibler) with none other than writer/director Shane Black in attendance (yes I will say incredible-ist here). The catered in affair was perfect; everything you could hope to have. Great food, lots of drinks, a very full room and lots of great conversations (and not all just about film). The screen and the sound system at the OCP were absolutely perfect for the film and the audience of around 200 (many of which were seeing the film for the first time) were delighted with the action. Shane went up after the film and treated the crowd to a 45 minute Q&A and Jeremy, Jason and I couldn’t help but be proud and satisfied at the weekend that we’d put together. Fast forward to later in the evening with Josh and Shane and a few close friends at the Cheesecake Factory and you’ve got the make’ns of a pretty good weekend.

Now, on to the festival!

Screenwriting/Filmmaking Conferences – Saturday, Day 1

Plan, plan, plan, plan. Almost a full year in the making, the time is upon us to actually execute. We’re so excited about what we’ve put together this year. I keep using the quote, “we’ve put together a festival that WE would want to attend.” After day one I can’t imagine a better time. First off, I want to say that having the conferences at Creighton University in their theater-style classrooms is amazing with the comfort, cool look and available technology, we had everything we could have possibly wanted (thanks Teresa!)

So day one started with Jeff Kitchen, published screenwriting instructor, and he gave some fantastic instruction through two morning sessions “create gripping dramatic action with dilemma” and “plot and character development with the 36 dramatic situations and enneagram.” A perfect opportunity to come in to a morning session and really learn some excellent concepts for writers.

The first of the two afternoon sessions was a panel entitled “life as a Hollywood writer” and included panelists Jon Bokenkamp (writer: Taking Lives, Perfect Stranger, etc.) and Josh Stolberg (writer: Good Luck Chuck, Passion of the Ark which later became Even Almight, etc.). Ron Gerard moderated as the audience enjoyed an hour-and-a-half of entertaining, behind-the-scenes stories about Hollywood, writing, artistic vision, and passion.

The second afternoon session gave us an opportunity to get an insiders’ look into “editing and post production” with editors Tom Elkins (White Noise 2, My Bloody Valentine) and Academy Award winner Mike Hill (Apollo 13, Backdraft, Ransom, A Beautiful Mind, Cinderella Man, The Da Vinci Code). What a tremendous opportunity to hear so many stories about these huge films. The discussion was filled with film clips and lots of great stories.

An amazing day one that was capped off by a private party at the Nomad in two of their cabanas. If you’ve ever been there, you know how cool that is and what a great way to end the evening.

More tomorrow.

Monday, February 11, 2008

OFF the EDGE filmmaking - show 4

Show 4 is now posted at www.offtheedgefilmmaking.com. In this episode Jeremy and I sit down with Mark Booker, writer/director of the feature film "Imitation Life" which will be screened at the Omaha Film Festival. Give it a listen!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

OFF the EDGE filmmaking - show #3

Show #3 is now posted at www.offtheedgefilmmaking.com. In this episode, I sit down with Derek Baker, producer/writer of the feature film "Ulterior Motives" which will debut at the Omaha Film Festival. Give it a listen!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

OFF the EDGE filmmaking – a podcast

Jeremy and I were guests on a local (Omaha) podcast a couple of days ago and the show just got posted today so if you’re interested in hearing some ‘behind the scenes’ info about OFF’08 or if you just love the sounds of our voices, feel free to check out the show.

Don’t know what a podcast is? Okay, it’s basically like a radio show, but instead of being broadcast across the airwaves, it’s listenable and/or downloadable on the internet. You can go right to the website and listen on your computer, or you can download an mp3 and listen on your mobile mp3 device, or you can subscribe via itunes.

So, please take a few minutes and check out Worlds of Wayne and listen to or download the show. We told Wayne we would break his previous record of listens so help us out.

And something interesting gets revealed for the first time on his show. Jeremy and I have started our own podcast! So, after you’ve listed to Worlds of Wayne, come over to OFF the EDGE filmmaking and check out our show. Our first show is a simple introduction that tells what we’ll be doing, and in the second show we talk about all of the feature films and documentaries that will be screened at the 2008 Omaha Film Festival. I think it’s interesting and fun, but I’ll let you be the judge.

Let us know what you think. And even if you don’t feel like listening, click on the link and download it anyway, just so it looks like people are listening. We don’t actually have to BE loved, as long as we FEEL loved, right? We have a couple of exciting interviews coming up in the next week-or-so, so I’ll send out more e-mails letting you know about those. And just so you know, we’re just starting this out and it’s all new to us. We promise we’ll get better!

of poets n’things

Spent a great evening Friday night in Lincoln with two poets that have contracted out to King Penguin Productions to work on their upcoming shows. Dominique and Oscar from Echo Poetico have a fantastic show coming up on Friday, February 8th at 6:00pm at the Lied Center in Lincoln. It’s a free event so everyone that can should absolutely come out and witness the beauty of slam poetry and Andean music. Awesome, moving, thought provoking, entertaining, mind broadening. I highly recommend it. We will be doing a four camera hi-def shoot and will put a promotional DVD together with the footage we collect.

After hanging out with Dom and Oscar, we met up with Felix Freeze to go over details for his upcoming show on March 29th. We’re doing a four camera hi-def shoot for him as well at a different venue so we had a chance to check out the location and talk about what needs to be done over the next couple of months. After that, we took the opportunity to hang out and record some behind the scenes footage for his upcoming DVD. I’m usually pretty happy with my interviewing skills but I literally asked like three or four questions total and got an hour of footage. Felix has a lot to say. Needless to say I’m really looking forward to his show as well. Over the next two months we’re going to get together and record a lot more footage so the finished DVD will be packed with a lot of cool stuff.

Two great poets, two great shows. Anyone in Lincoln has to come out. You won’t be disappointed. And if you absolutely can’t make it out, feel free to purchase the DVDs when they’re available (insert shameless plug here)!
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