Saturday, February 28, 2009

Omaha Film Festival 2009 – Friday, Day 7

I think we can officially call this the home stretch. That is if home stretches are covered in snow and ice. Why does this happen every year during the festival? Oh, because we have the festival in Nebraska in February. Anytime anyone asks why we do this in February, I always tell them that if people can go to Park City, UT in January, then they can come to Omaha at the end of February. And why at this point in our lives people are still afraid of snow I’ll never understand. We ended up having great turnouts all evening so it was a very successful night.

Tonight was the second screening of the Nebraska Shorts and we had another great crowd. We moved the screening into the largest theater we had and I think it was a great move. Once again after the screenings we had all of the filmmakers in attendance go up for a Q&A and they all fielded a variety of interesting questions. I’ve heard a lot of feedback from this year’s group of locally produced films and most people are saying this is our strongest group of Nebraska short films so it’s good to hear that that block is getting better.

Other highlights included films with filmmakers in attendance. Lane Wyrick, director/editor of the documentary “A Friend Indeed: The Bill Sackter Story” has done a great job promoting his screenings and was in attendance for his first screening. As you would assume from the nature of his film, his Q&A was moving and gave everyone further insights into the filmmaking process and into Bill himself. Three of the promotions people for the OFF the EDGE film “Clear Lake, WI” were also in attendance in support of their film. Hearing how they were able to shoot the way they did and were able to navigate through a town and make it look like a ghost town covered in snow was an interesting conversation.

The Q&A sessions are always my favorite and the Saturday screenings will have a ton of them. We have seventeen screenings and eight of them will have filmmakers in attendance, so that should keep us on our toes.

There are still plenty of tickets available for all of the screenings and being outside won’t be any fun, so you might as well head down to the Great Escape Theater and watch some films. It’s entertaining, inexpensive, and it shows us that the community supports what we’re doing and would like us to do it all over again next year (and the ticket sales help keep the creditors at bay).

Thanks to everyone that’s come out so far. Seeing the faces of people that are entertained by the movies that we’ve chosen to screen makes all of the work (and lack of sleep) totally worth it. I’d break into song with “you are the wind beneath my wings” but no one really wants to hear me sing.

And thanks to that one special person that brought Jeremy, Jason and I a RedBull today. It went down nice and smooth and helped get us through the day.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Omaha Film Festival 2009 – Thursday, Day 6

“Hey, who scheduled this thing?!” as quoted by myself and Jeremy as we looked at today’s schedule. You see, we’ve had this crazy karma or spidey sense or dumb luck that has somehow allowed us to schedule various films over the years and having the scheduling magically work out. Truth be told, we do put a lot of work into it and a lot of thought and planning goes into how we schedule things and it always seems to work fine. When we put the schedule together (typically at least a month before the festival), there are often some lingering unknowns such as what format the filmmaker will send in to screen (35mm, Beta SP, Digibeta, HDCam, DVD, BluRay) and the question as to whether or not the filmmaker will be in attendance. Somehow with all of those variables and running four films at once with various runtimes, the schedule has always worked out. Today however we were going over the schedule now that all of the “unknowns” are “knowns” and it was interesting to see that we actually had four filmmakers in attendance in four different screenings, and the end times of each of the films ended approximately 10 minutes apart. For those of you that have attended our screenings, you know that the three of us (Jeremy, Jason and myself) like to get up after each screening with the filmmaker and help facilitate the Q&A sessions. With four at once and only three of us, that was going to prove to be challenging. And as I write this, I’m not really sure how we pulled it off. I know I conducted the final Q&A with Logan, Noah and Jeremy after their film “Touching Home” but I’m not sure how the others came out. I guess props to the other guys for making it work (assuming it did).

This day has been a big red star on my calendar for about a month now because we were going to be short staffed in the projection booth and I kept hoping that it would just “work itself out” but sadly the “itself” that it “worked” meant me spending the first half of the evening upstairs making sure the films went off on time and in the proper format. As I look back on the chaos of the last twelve hours, it’s good to know that everything worked out and I assume that it was all seamless to our attendees. Granted, I didn’t do as many introductions so I’m sure a LOT of our festival goers missed seeing me!

A few of the highlights included Q&A’s with filmmakers Matt Desotell from “Agent 5: A Night in the Last Life Of,” Rollin Binzer and Tom Hurvis from “The Providence Effect,” Chris Taylor with “Food Fight,” Logan and Noah Miller from “Touching Home,” and Frank Monteleone from the short film “Valley of the Moon.” It’s always great to have filmmakers brave the Nebraska weather and come out in support of their films. We tried to help out with the sixty degree weather yesterday, but it (obviously) couldn’t hold up and we’re back to February in Nebraska.

Thanks to everyone that’s come out and supported us over the last several days. We literally plan this event for a year (we’re already making plans for oh’ten) and having decent turnouts is an awesome thing (especially for the filmmakers that travel here). Check out the website, create a screenname, rate and review some films. Guilt session over.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Omaha Film Festival 2009 – Wednesday, Day 5

Commitment – [kuh-MIT-muhnt]
1. the act of committing, pledging, or engaging oneself.
2. walking across a parking lot in Nebraska when it’s 60 degrees in February and staying indoors all day to run a film festival.

So yeah, the drive to the theater with the sunroof open and the windows down was pretty awesome and the fresh, spring air made it really tough to start the day inside, but the show must go on. After doing all of the usual prep-work during the day, we geared up for what we hoped to be a pretty busy evening, especially since it was our first night with four theaters.

The first film of the day was a special screening of Jeff Saxton’s “Heart of the City,” and if you know me personally, you know my involvement with that film. Being in a position, running a film festival, and having an opportunity to program Jeff’s film was a real honor and a treat for me and I was glad to have it be one of our special screenings this year. In talking to Jeff over the last couple of months I told him I wanted 100 ticket sales out of him and tonight’s crowd ended up being 189 so we were thrilled with the turnout! Seeing so many of the people that had worked on the film together again was a pretty surreal experience and a treasured moment. There were fourteen people up front after the film involved in the Q&A session and it was great to hear Jeff talk about the film again. Thanks a ton to everyone that came out and supported this particular screening.

The other two highlights of the evening were the two films with filmmakers in attendance. Ben Kempas’ documentary “Upstream Battle” had its second screening and he had a nice crowd. He’s heading out of town on Thursday so we scheduled both of his screenings early in the week, and while attendance numbers tend to be lower during the early parts of the week, he ended up attracting decent crowds in both of his screening slots. Short film block #2 had Cosmos Kiindarius’ short film “Family Recipes” in it and he had a great Q&A after the block was over. A lot of people were engaged and liked what he had to say about his film specifically, and about independent film in general. Cosmos is a well spoken and intelligent filmmaker and was able to draw the audience in and give them a behind-the-scenes look at filmmaking, which is one of the main reasons I love having a festival in the first place. And we were treated with one of my favorite festival moments this year during the ending credit sequence with an older couple who was leaving (or rather “walking out”) after his film. As he passed us, he simply said “booo” which cracked us up. I’m sure he didn’t realize that the filmmaker was standing right there with me. It is true that given the subject matter, “Family Recipes” isn’t for everybody, and that particular reaction proved it.

We’ve increased our attendance each night from Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, so hopefully we can keep that streak alive and keep growing over the last four days. One thing I’m encouraged by is our attendance at the short film blocks. Four years ago when we first started the festival, I don’t think the city of Omaha had ever seen a short film and over the years we’ve seen a steady increase in support of those blocks, so it’s great to see those films and those filmmakers getting the support they deserve. We spend so much time going over the hundreds of short films we receive, and running a short film block is a difficult thing to do because you have to switch each film and adjust the picture and volume on each one (thanks Johnathan), so when you have a great turnout it makes all of the work seem worthwhile.

After the festival we all headed out to Jake’s, a pretty cool cigar bar in Benson for our official after party. Since the place is only a nine iron away from my house, I figured it would be a good last-stop on my way home. It was a great little place and a cool opportunity to unwind.

As for us, we’re all holding up pretty well. Tomorrow we’re running four screens again and we’ve got some more filmmakers coming into town so it’s going to be a great day. By Friday though I think I’m going to offer a free ticket to the first person that brings me a large, ice cold RedBull. And if there’s a masseuse out there, stop by the booth and ask for me…we should talk.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Omaha Film Festival 2009 – Tuesday, Day 4

Our first full day of in-competition films and our first day of multiple screenings. Tonight we showed our first documentary, our first OFF the EDGE film, our first short film block and three feature films. The first film to kick off the evening started us off on the right foot. With a sell out. We actually brought some folding chairs in to fill in the seating areas for wheel chair access to allow people that wanted to come in a chance to see the Nebraska Short Film block. I remember two years ago when we actually separated the NE films from the rest and showed them by themselves, and how the attendance wasn’t that strong. We actually considered for a minute about not even having a special category for local films, but last year the attendance was fantastic and this year is starting off the same way, so I’m glad we kept it in. To see the city come out and support the local filmmakers, and to have such a high percentage of cast and crew of the various films in the audience is always a pretty cool thing.

Two other highlights of the evening were the screenings of “Upstream Battle” and “Touching Home.” “Upstream Battle” is a fantastic doc about the “Native Americans fight for their fish – against an energy corporation.” Filmmaker Ben Kempas made the trip from Munich to participate in the festival and had a great Tuesday night crowd that was eager to participate in the Q&A session after the film. There were several local ties (including some interesting footage and commentary about our own Warren Buffet) that was sure to stir up some controversy, but overall the audience was very receptive.

“Touching Home” ended up being the second highest attended film of the night, after the NE Shorts and the crowd seemed to truly enjoy the film. Tears were shed and laughter was had and it was a great festival experience. The Q&A after the film with the brothers was among my favorite of all time, seeing the energy that they have between each other and their innate ability to finish each other’s thoughts and sentences with such frequency and completeness, that it made it a real treat hearing them talk.

The attendance for the evening was fantastic and it’s apparent that the community of Omaha is finally realizing what the OFF is and wanting to come out and support it. Awesome.

And I’ve got two words – hospitality suite. No more words about that, but it’s almost 3:00am right now.

Today was three screens, tomorrow will be four. It’s going to be fun!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Omaha Film Festival 2009 – Monday, Day 3

The day started off with a nice leisurely morning, gently waking up without an alarm clock, knowing that we didn’t have to be at the theater until after 10:30am to start getting things set up. Wrong! I smartly scheduled an interview on Star 104.5 fm’s morning show for Jeremy and myself. We had to be there at 8:15am (which is a lot earlier than 10:30). But the interview went great and Glennboy and Glo were incredibly supportive and enthusiastic about what we were doing, so it was a no-brainer heading down there and talking about the festival.

Tonight was our opening night film and our first day at our new venue, so we were all anxious to get in and start taking delivery of all of the things we’re going to need for the week. We had shipments of equipment coming in from a furniture rental place, Dog & Pony, North Sea Films, Lights-On, Editech and Midwest Sound and Light, so it was fun coordinating all of the gear we needed and getting it all up and running. The other main task was digging out from under the litany of boxes that had been transported from our homes to Creighton, to the Omaha Community Playhouse, and back to Creighton for the weekend panels, to finally arrive at our new home for the week. The Great Escape Stadium 16 Theatre was an absolute joy to work with on our first day and gave us everything we needed to get our booth up and running. Within about 3 hours, we had things fully functional and we were ready for business. As we worked through all of the technical needs and organized our plan for the week, people started trickling in for our special screening of “The Great Buck Howard” starring Colin Hanks, John Malkovich and Tom Hanks. As the lobby filled up, it was great to see so many familiar faces and reacquaint with people who’ve come to previous festivals. When someone new would come up to the booth and ask questions, I always like asking how they heard about the OFF, and on a few occasions tonight it was great to hear “oh, I heard you on the radio this morning” or “I’ve seen your commercials on WOWT playing all the time.” My favorite response to a person who’d never come to the festival before was “How could I avoid it, I heard about it everywhere!” So huge thanks to our official media sponsors WOWT (NBC) and The Reader, and huge thanks also to the other media outlets that are helping us by promoting the event (Star 104.5 who’ve done two interviews with us, KPTM (FOX) brought a camera out tonight, KETV (ABC) brought a camera out on Friday, and KVNO who will be interviewing all of the documentary filmmakers in a special series that’s airing all week long).

It was a real treat, once again, to have Mayor Mike Fahey get up and give our opening speech and hear him include the Omaha Film Festival among the other great annual events that happen in Omaha. He has come to each of our four festivals and has always been supportive, and for that we are truly grateful. And with that, the festival officially kicked off and the film was a complete success. Everyone seemed to truly enjoy it and we heard tons of great feedback after it was over.
One of my favorite things about the festival, and one of the things that truly makes it worthwhile investing so much time and energy into putting on an event like this, are those special moments and tonight offered one of those moments. For me it was several months in the making, but for two of this year’s filmmakers, it was years in the making. The film “Touching Home” was written and directed by twin brothers Noah and Logan Miller, and it was a story about their lives. They’ve lived pretty interesting lives and people that they’ve known have always told them that their story would make a great movie so after hearing that enough times, they were finally provoked into going to a book store and purchasing a book on screenwriting. The book that was recommended to them was Lew Hunter’s Screenwriting 434 so they purchased it, read it dozens of times and wrote their first screenplay. Then, over the next several years, they wrote 12 more. And when they were going to finally make their first movie, they decided to go back to their first script, in honor of their father, and that’s what gave us “Touching Home.” So I’ve known this story for several months and when the brothers arrived at our theater tonight, I spent some time talking to them, then casually mentioned that Lew was there in the theater and they both freaked out. I went into the theater and brought Lew out and they had an opportunity to meet him in person after years of admiring him and crediting him with basically changing their lives. To be a part of that moment and to see the excitement on their faces makes whatever happens at this years’ festival completely worth it.

The evening ended like so many festival evenings in the past. At Julio’s. They’ve taken care of us so much over the years it made sense to head there for our opening night party and it was another tremendous event. And this year, the bell only rang once. And if you don’t know what that means, I suggest you come to our Julio’s party next year!

It’s 2:00am. I have a lot of work to do before we start day four of the festival, with three screenings running six film blocks. I’m glad I don’t have an interview at 8:15am.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Omaha Film Festival 2009 – Day 2

Day two of the conference is always easier than day one. Most of the people that are coming showed up the day before and got signed up and got their festival badges, and now all they have to do is show up for day two. That and everyone in attendance pretty much knows the drill, so it cuts down on announcements and directions and such.

After some second-day-setup, we were ready for panel number one. All of the people that attended day one knew they couldn’t miss the first panel which was Mauro Fiore, ASC and Neil Krepela, ASC together, discussing action movies. We figured this was an appropriate topic since just about every major action film over the last two decades had one of these two gentlemen working on it. To my amazement, they had never worked on a project before and up until about fifteen minutes before the panel, they’d never even actually met before. It was fun sitting in the green room and hearing stories though, and they were both one degree of separation through multiple people that each had worked with before. The panel, which was moderated by Ben Drickey, was fantastic. Hearing the different perspectives on how a film gets created from a Cinematographer’s standpoint and a Visual Effects Artist’s standpoint was an incredible treat, as they drew from their huge pool of work to give everyone a behind-the-scenes look at filmmaking.

Session two had a return to the stage of Andrew Robinson and Daryl Sabara, with additional actors Sean Durrie and Rachel Lien. One of the things that movie goers are interested in is how directors and actors communicate so having this discussion with writer/director Andrew and three of his actors from the film April Showers gave everyone an incredible insight into how that process works, from auditioning, to the initial collaboration, to rehearsals, and working together to create a living breathing character that appears real within the context of a film. It was a tremendous treat hearing the different perspectives of the actors who all worked on the same project with the same director, and were also able to draw on their experiences over the years working on other projects

Panel number three was with none other than the legendary Lew Hunter. Lew has been a huge supporter of us and the festival since day one and it’s an incredible honor to have him speak at our festivals. In previous years he’s talked about screenwriting, but today he gave everyone an insider’s look at the Oscars with an open forum discussion on how it works. It was a huge treat for everyone in attendance and gave everyone something to look forward to later that night.

Our final panel of the conference ended on an extremely high note with writer/director Nik Fackler, producer Dana Altman and cinematographer Sean Kirby, from the film Lovely, Still, another film that was shot locally over the last year. The film stars such heavy weights as Oscar winners Martin Landau and Ellen Burstyn and it was incredible to hear the journey of the story that started in the head of a sixteen-year-old kid, to being realized seven years later with Nik directing his first feature film. One highlight was having an opportunity to see about four minutes of the film and it certainly made everyone in the audience excited to see it. We’re all looking forward to its fall ’09 release.

Without question, all eight of our panels flew by. Each one was 90 minutes in length and each of them could have easily gone a lot longer based on the panelists’ energy and the enthusiasm of the crowds.

Now that the conference is over, we’re ready to jump full speed ahead into the film festival. Before that, I want to be sure to thank Ron Gerard for moderating six of our panels over the two days of the conference. He always brings professionalism and polish to the sessions that far exceeds expectations and makes our panelists feel comfortable and focused and keeps the audiences engaged. Thanks also to Teresa Affleck and Creighton University for once again hosting our conferences, and to Julie Matthews and all of the volunteers, without which none of this would have been possible.

So the conferences are done and it’s a Sunday night, what should we do? How about a fully catered party at the Cellar to watch the Oscars? Huge thanks to Whole Foods for catering one of the best food spreads I’ve seen in a long time, and huge thanks to the Cellar and the Glacier for hosting our Oscar event. We had a nice, intimate gathering with two projected screens and an incredible sound system for us to watch and enjoy the Oscars, and with printed ballots, we were able to pick our favorites and route for Slumdog Millionaire. We were sad that OFF’08 panelist, editor Mike Hill didn’t win in the editing category for Frost/Nixon, but it seemed to be Slumdog’s year. Congratulations to Mr. Hill for his nomination.

So that concludes the first two days of the festival. Tomorrow is our opening night with the film “The Great Buck Howard” and it should be a ton of fun. I’ve seen the film so I know it’s going to be a great time for everyone that comes out. For a complete list of films, be sure to check the website.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Omaha Film Festival 2009 – Day 1

I’ve been to a lot of film festivals and so far today is the best festival experience I’ve had. The day started like any other day (too early), but waking up was easier because of the schedule for our first day.

We got underway at the conference with actor Daryl Sabara (the Spy Kids trilogy, The Polar Express, A Christmas Carol ’09) with an excellent session about his life and his acting career. It’s amazing to hear the story of a 16-year-old who’s basically had a 16 year acting career. He’s worked with so many great directors and actors and had tons of great stories to tell, and the audience was all very engaged. A great way to kick off the festival.

Panel number two was with Mauro Fiore, ASC an amazing cinematographer who’s worked on Avatar, Training Day, The Kingdom, The Island, and Tears of the Sun. He was also the gaffer on Schindler’s list and it was incredible watching some of the clips he’s worked on and listening to him explain the behind-the-scenes of how many of the shots were created. Having an opportunity to watch a film clip, then to have a Q&A with the person who shot it, is a great experience and the audience participation was very enthusiastic.

Panel number three had Visual Effects Artist Neil Krepela, whose credits include Bolt, Heat, Outbreak, E.T. and Raiders of the Lost Ark as well as a couple of Oscar nominations for Cliffhanger and 2010. He had an amazing film reel that went back 30 years and provided the audience with some phenomenal insights as to the role of a visual effects artist on a film. He showed us a powerpoint presentation of a scene from Dinosaur that broke down how the shot was previsualized and all that it took to make the completed scene, then we watched the finished product. Incredible.

The last panel of the day was with Andrew Robinson (writer/director), Jenna Edwards (producer) and April Wade (producer) of April Showers, a film shot here in Omaha last summer. Most of the people in attendance either had some experience working on the film, or had at least heard of it while it was in production, so that panel was very enthusiastic. Everyone wanted to hear more in depth about the film they’d heard so much about, and this was a great opportunity to interact directly with the three main people that put the film together.

The panels wrapped on time at 5:00pm and everyone headed over to the Omaha Community Playhouse for the reception and film screening of Shimmer 2. Ticket sales online had been brisk so we knew we were going to have a nice crowd, and did we ever. With nearly 600 people in attendance, the night was a complete success. I won’t say much about the film but it was an unbelievable night that ended with a Q&A session lasting over 30 minutes with 13 cast/crew on the stage taking questions from a packed house. How can you go wrong? Add to that a 30 minute poster/autograph session with an enthusiastic crowd and you’ve got a pretty good first day.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Omaha Film Festival – the calm before the storm

Okay, there isn’t actually any “calm.” Jeremy and I ran errands non-stop today, which included three interviews, one with Glo from 104.5 fm that will air on Sunday, one with Malorie Maddox on WOWT which aired live today, and one for Mike’l Severe’s show on KETV which will air on Monday morning.

The rest of the day was a lot less sexy - hauling and moving and picking up and delivering stuff. But it all has to get done.

We’ve got our conference panelist dinner tonight so I’m looking forward to that (it’ll be my first meal of the day).

Day one will be here before we know it.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

OFF'09 Filmmakers Conference

Omaha Film Festival 2009 – Filmmakers Conference


The fourth annual Omaha Film Festival is proud to present the 2009 Filmmakers Conference, an event that’s open to the public for anyone interested in films and learning about the filmmaking process.


The conference will be held from 9:00am to 5:00pm, Saturday and Sunday, February 21st and 22nd. A Special Screening of the film Shimmer 2 will screen Saturday night at 7:30pm with a filmmakers reception party starting at 6:00pm.


Saturday and Sunday panels are at Creighton University, Hixson Lied Science building. The Saturday night special screening will be at the Omaha Community Playhouse in the main theater on 6915 Cass Street.


Information for all films, events, tickets, passes, and pricing is available at

Who? (our confirmed panelists – all appearances are schedule permitting)

Daryl Sabara - A film and television actor, Sabara is perhaps best known for playing Juni Cortez in the Spy Kids trilogy. As well as starring Spy Kids, Sabara has made numerous other television and film appearances, including Halloween, Father of the Pride, The Polar Express, A Christmas Carol ’09, and Keeping Up with the Steins.

Mauro Fiore, ASC – One of the industry’s top working Cinematographers with film credits such as Avatar, Training Day, The Kingdom, The Island, and Tears of the Sun.

Neil Krepela, ASC – A two-time Oscar nominated Visual Effects Supervisor whose credits include Bolt, Heat, Outbreak, Cliffhanger, 2010 and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Andrew Robinson - writer/director – April Showers
Jenna Edwards & April Wade – producers – April Showers

Nik Fackler – writer/director of Lovely Still
Dana Altman – producer from North Sea Films - Lovely Still

Lew Hunter – One of the most revered and beloved screenwriting instructors in the country.


Saturday, February 21st

9:00am – 10:30am
TELL YOUR STORY - working as a professional actor in Hollywood.
Panelist – Daryl Sabara

Daryl will recount tales of growing up in front of the camera and working with directors like Robert Rodriguez, Robert Zemeckis and Bobcat Goldthwait.

10:45am – 12:15pm
BEHIND THE LENS – A cinematographer’s look at filmmaking
Panelist – Mauro Fiore, ASC

Film clips and discussions with a view from behind the lens on big budget Hollywood films.

1:30pm – 3:00pm
VISUAL EFFECTS IN HOLLYWOOD – Filmmaking through the eyes of a Visual Effects Artist
Panelist – Neil Krepela, ASC

An inside look at visual effects with an in depth look at the making of the film Dinosaur.

3:15pm – 4:45pm
SCRIPT TO SCREEN – APRIL SHOWERS - Making an independent film in Nebraska
Panelists: Andrew Robinson, Jenna Edwards, April Wade

Discussions on the process of writing the script, preproduction, casting, being on set, post production, distribution, etc. A frank look at the collaborative effort between a writer/director and the producers.

6:00pm – 7:00pm
Filmmaker Conference Special Screening reception at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

7:30pm – 9:30pm
Filmmaker Conference Special Screening of the film “Shimmer 2” with cast and crew in attendance with a special Q&A after the film.


Sunday, February 22nd

9:00am – 10:30am
Panelist – Neil Krepela

Working on the set of big budget action movies in Hollywood.

10:45am – 12:15pm
THE DIRECTOR/ACTOR RELATIONSHIP. A discussion on the creative collaboration between a director and an actor.
Panelists – Andrew Robinson, Daryl Sabara, Sean Durrie, Rachel Lien

A discussion on the process of working on April Showers with insights on auditioning, casting, developing a character, and collaborating on the overall film.

1:30pm – 3:00pm
THE OSCARS AND YOU: PICKING AND PRODDING – A discussion about the Academy Awards
Panelist – Lew Hunter

Discussions from behind-the-scenes about the Oscars from an insider.

3:15pm – 4:45pm
SCRIPT TO SCREEN – LOVELY STILL - Making an independent feature film in Nebraska.
Panelists – Nik Fackler, Dana Altman

A discussion on the process of writing the script, getting the film optioned, preproduction, casting Oscar winning actors, filming, post production and distribution.

OFF the EDGE filmmaking - show 28 - Topler|Champoux

Marc and Jeremy sit down with Chris Topler Ahrens and Christian Champoux, writers and directors of the short film Richard Dooling’s Bush Pigs which will screen at the Omaha Film Festival on Tuesday, February 24th at 6:00pm, and again on Friday, February 27th at 8:30pm at the Great Escape Stadium 16 Theatre as a part of the Nebraska Short Film category.

They talk about the creative process, from adapting a short story to a screenplay, to casting, preproduction, filming and post production.

For more information about the festival, go to Feel free to sign up, create a screen name and start putting your festival calendar together. It’s a great way to interact with the festival, filmmakers and other film fans.

OFF'09 Features and Documentaries

Omaha, NE—The Omaha Film Festival today announces the line-up of films selected for the Narrative Feature, Documentary Feature, and OFF the Edge Feature Competitions for the 2009 Omaha Film Festival. The Omaha Film Festival sets out to deliver a fresh and innovative cinema arts experience through the exhibition of independent film and the growth of the festival's film education program. In the words of Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey, “the Omaha Film Festival is quickly becoming a staple of Omaha's developing cultural identity, and we hope it will continue to grow for many years to come.” Additionally, thirty-six short films and five out-of-competition feature films will be announced shortly. A complete list of films and show times will be available at

The Omaha Film Festival will take place February 23rd through March 1st, 2009 in Omaha, NE. Kicking off the festival will be a two-day Filmmaking Conference on February 21st and 22nd at Creighton University and the Omaha Community Playhouse. Panelists for the conference to be announced by early February. For the 2009 Omaha Film Festival, 10 Narrative Feature Films, 6 Documentary Feature Films, and 3 OFF the Edge films were selected from over 400 entries submitted from 22 countries, and the selected films will screen from February 23rd through March 1st at the Great Escape Stadium 16 Theatres at 7440 Crown Point Avenue.

Tickets are currently available online at and available at the various venues during the festival.


A Deal is A Deal
Sad-sack London Underground driver Paul (Mackenzie Crook) has had two people commit suicide beneath his train in a week. When he learns that a third within in a month would result in a handsome pension, he goes looking. Enter depressed Tommy (veteran Colm Meaney) who agrees to a deal. Or does he?
Directed by Jonathan Gershfield. Cast: Mackenzie Crook, Colm Meaney, Imelda Staunton, Gemma Arterton

A Line in the Sand
A homeless man's personal hell is further complicated after he spends a night in jail for urinating on the Mayor's limo. Three jaded NY detectives find compassion within themselves as they piece together his tragic emotional descent into insanity. His dark secret stuns the detectives. As the details of Banzai's life slowly emerge they realize that his life is more complicated than it appears. They learn that Banzai is a fugitive with a dark past as a drug dealer. His fall from grace as an all star high school quarterback to a man on the run makes them examine their own personal beliefs of right and wrong. They judge for themselves whether Banzai is suffering in a hell far worse than imprisonment.
Directed by Jeffrey Chernov. Cast: Jon Bernthal, Bruce McGill, Mark Nassar, Charles Malik Whitfield, Elizabeth Rodriguez, John Getz

Writer-director Rob Margolies' debut feature bristles with smart dialogue, complex characters, and heart wrenching performances. Set against the backdrop of suburban utopia, the Bernstein family leads a dysfunctional existence. With three foul-mouthed kids (Robbie Sublett, Dreama Walker, and Jacob Kogan), a caffeine-addict mother (Jane Adams) on the brink, and a less than forthcoming father (Josh Pais), they suffer an atmosphere so heavy with collective hostility and tension it seems as if the floral-papered walls will come crashing down at any minute. Forced to the breaking point, they concede to a family therapy session, where it quickly becomes clear that what's at stake is "about a lot more than dry turkey." Repressed anger and antagonism give way to moments of self-revelation, as a patient and compassionate Dr. Livingston (Joe Morton) draws out demons and dark secrets, allowing the family to start accepting their own humanity. Brutally hilarious, warmly intimate, always honest, "Lifelines" is an impressively fresh take on the family drama.
Directed by Rob Margolies. Cast: Joe Morton, Jane Adams, Josh Pais, Jacob Kogan, Robbie Sublett, Dreama Walker

Lightbulb is a serious comedy about two friends, a small-time inventor and a fast-talking salesman who deal with mishaps and failed inventions before coming up with a product that becomes a worldwide phenomenon. Lightbulb is a story about hope and persistence in the face of hard times.
Directed by Jeffrey Balsmeyer. Cast: Dallas Roberts, Jeremy Renner, Ayelet Zurer

Phantom Punch
Sonny Liston, the controversial former world heavyweight boxing champion is brought back to vivid life by actor Ving Rhames. From his discovery by a priest while serving time at the Missouri State Penitentiary to the infamous 'Phantom Punch' by Cassius Clay which effectively ended his career, the movie spans the years from 1950 to Liston's mysterious and untimely death in 1971.
Directed by Robert Townsend. Cast: Bridgette Wilson, Nicholas Turturro, Stacey Dash, Ving Rhames

Remarkable Power!
With the plug about to be pulled on his late night talk show after a fifteen year run, and his wife engaged in a steamy affair with a pro baseball star, host Jack West is desperate - to keep aflame his fading celebrity, and avenge the misdeeds of his adulterous spouse. With the clock ticking, Jack concocts the mother of all media stunts, killing two birds with one unforgettable stone on the road to redemption. The scheme entangles an eclectic collection of colorful locals navigating their way through unpredictable twists and turns. A plump private eye teams with a macabre webmistress to investigate the strange disappearance of a dead body. A glassy-eyed cheddar head falls prey to a phony get-rich-quick guru. Imperiled actors embark on a quest for a fresh corpse. Cops in costume, a peculiar special effects make-up team, porn stars with dreams of stardom, a Jewish drug lord with very large brothers, Russian mobsters and others converge in this unique roller-coaster ride of comedy, mystery, murder and mayhem through the underbelly of modern day Sodom and Gomorrah.
Directed by Brandon Beckner. Cast: Kevin Nealon, Tom Arnold, Nora Zehetner, Kip Pardue, Evan Peters, Dule Hill, Christopher Titus, Johnny Messner, Whitney Able, Bob Sapp

Say it in Russian
While vacationing in Paris, Andrew meets and falls in love with Daria, a young Russian girl. He ends up following her to Russia, a country that, much like Chicago in the 1930's, is a dangerous environment in political turmoil. Destiny takes its own course, and Andrew and Daria get involved in a hurricane of events surrounding Daria’s father, Raf, a rich Russian mafia oligarch. The cast includes Steven Brand ('The Scorpion King'), in the leading role of Andrew. Cast as Daria is actress Agata Gotova, who makes her U.S. lead role debut. Academy Award Winner Faye Dunaway plays the part of Jacqueline, the elegant Parisian matchmaker who puts the two together. Acclaimed European actor Rade Sherbedgia ('Surface') is cast as Daria's father.
Directed by Jeff Celentano. Cast: Steven Brand, Faye Dunaway, Agata Gotova, Alex Nesic

The Magistical (animated)
Once upon a time a guardian was chosen to watch over all living things. She was called the Magistical. Hoping to preserve all precious life, the Magistical created a spell. This spell granted the last of every type of creature, immortality. However, to one very evil Draken the spell would carry a very different meaning than intended. By killing all other Drakens she would become the last. Without fear of death such a beast could rule the world. Now only one baby cub stands between her and her evil ambitions. And between them stands a small, but determined, obstacle, named Foible.
Directed by John Cernak and Danny Oakley. Cast: Megan Blake, Stanley Bernstein, Ray Collins, Beth Bostic, Lee Strickland, Ashley Summerrow, Gene Johnson, Chirie Dautel, Betsy Hamilton, Derek Cernak

The Thacker Case
A controversial wrongful death suit in a small town is the backdrop to The Thacker Case. When the body of Kevin Thacker is discovered behind the police station after he is brought in for drunk driving, the stories simply don’t add up to the accidental death the police claim. His parents bring a young attorney onto the case to try to find justice for their son. Jun’s feature has a new take on the classic courtroom procedural, mixing in the gritty realism of New Hollywood with a moving family story.
Directed by Lorena David

Touching Home
Touching Home is a coming of age story about a homeless father struggling to make amends with his twin sons as they pursue professional baseball. It is a courageous and honest portrayal of a family fighting to overcome the pain of wasted years and the crushing forces of addiction.
Directed by Logan Miller and Noah Miller. Cast: Ed Harris, Noah Miller, Logan Miller, Brad Dourif, Robert Forster, Lee Meriwether, Evan Jones, Ishiah Benben, Brandon Hansen


Karearea: the Pine Falcon
Wildlife photographer George Chance spent the 1970's following and studying the New Zealand Falcon; now some thirty years later he is suffering from ill health and going blind. Filmmaker Sandy Crichton gets ever closer to a remarkable wild population of falcons as he attempts to realize George's dream by adding movement to his photographs.
Directed by Sandy Crichton

Food Fight
Food Fight is a fascinating look at how American agricultural policy and food culture developed in the 20th century, and how the California food movement rebelled against big agribusiness to launch the local organic food movement.
Directed by Chris Taylor

The Providence Effect
The Remarkable Story of Chicago's Providence St. Mel. A school in the heart of the inner city where neighborhood kids learn to work hard and dream big. This is a school where 100% of the high school graduates are accepted to four year colleges and universities and where the elementary students read 22 points higher than the state norm.
Directed by Rollin Binzer

Upstream Battle
Native Americans fight for the survival of their fish and their culture -- against an energy corporation. Their struggle is about to trigger the largest dam removal project in history.
Directed by Ben Kempas

School Play
In this charming film, a group of fifth graders in upstate New York stages a performance of The Wizard of Oz. From the daily challenges of being a child to the realization that the end of elementary school might mean the end of youth, the film is a touching window into the lives of five ordinary and extraordinary children. With fantastic use of music, this film draws you in to the story of Joey, Jeffrey, Elizabeth, Isabel, and Nick.
Directed by Rick Velleu and Eddie Rosenstein

A Friend Indeed: The Bill Sackter Story
Abandoned in an institution for 44 years, Bill Sackter would never see his family again. Forgotten and alone, his life changed through the help and friendship of a young college student, Barry Marrow and several other caring individuals. With a harmonica, a warm cup of coffee, and an incredible embrace of life, witness Bill’s incredible transformation from neglected individual to a national hero for the disability community. An inspiring real-life documentary about hope, compassion, and the power of friendship.
Directed by Lane Wyrick


Agent 5: A Night in the Last Life Of
A man is lost on a desolate street. He’s not sure how he got there, but he’s got a job to do. Over the long and empty nights he seeks to complete his objectives, all the while haunted by verdant images of a cowboy in the woods. Soon, this odd “agent” discovers he has outlived his use. Desotell’s strikingly shot play on film noir utilizes unique digital imagery and a stark existentialist narrative to turn a melancholy eye on modern society and relationships. Agent 5 is a piece that will stay with you long after you leave the theater.
Directed by Matthew Desotell. Cast: Ryan Burnham

Clear Lake, WI
In 1993, some residents of the small town of Clear Lake, WI fell victim to a strange and horrible disease. An influential preacher blamed the deaths on the heresy and sins of some in the town. A group of 5 former high school students revisit the desolate campus and a three day killing spree ensues.
Directed by Brian Ide. Cast: Michael Madsen, Dustin Booth, Morgan Simpson, Grinnell Morris, Shi Ne Nielson, Carla Toutz, Heather Simpson

Resurrection County
A Warning to outsiders. When traveling through Resurrection County, watch your step and mind the signs. One false move out here could be your last. When four suburbanite campers roll into the backwoods southern town of Enoch, they find that southern hospitality still exists. As long as you mind the signs. Things are not what they appear to be as a weekend camping trip turns deadly. The locals are all too happy to serve up their own brand of eye for an eye justice! A pulse pounding, take no prisoners descent into neo southern gothic horror. Resurrection County. There’s a reason things are so quiet here.
Directed by Matt Zettell. Cast: Adam Huss, Robert Miano, Rus Blackwell, Dayton Knoll, Kathryn Michelle, Dan Kruse

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OFF the EDGE filmmaking - show 27 - OFF09 Features & Docs

Marc and Jeremy talk about all of the features and documentaries that are in competition at the 2009 Omaha Film Festival. Be sure to check out the website at for a complete schedule of films and to purchase tickets and passes.

OFF the EDGE filmmaking - show 26 - OFF09

We're back, starting fresh in the new year, and we're less than two months away from OFF'09, the fourth annual Omaha Film Festival.

Marc and Jeremy are once again joined by Jason to talk about the latest preparations being made for the festival and look forward to being able to make some film and interview announcements coming up over the next month.

Stay's going to be a fun year.

OFF the EDGE filmmaking - show 25 - OFF09

Marc and Jeremy talk behind the scenes about the upcoming Omaha Film Festival.

OFF the EDGE filmmaking - show 24 - Wild Rose Film Festival

Marc travels to the sixth annual Wild Rose Independent Film Festival in Des Moines, IA with The HIT, the short film he directed and records a conversation after the screening with writer/producer Chris Zech, casting assistant Julie Matthews, and actors Lindsey Jo Clemenson and Garrett Sheeks. Marc, Chris and Julie spent two days at the festival and had a great time watching films and talking to the other filmmakers in attendance.

The HIT walked away with a Certificate of Distinctive Achievement in the Editing Category, so props to Johnnie Travis for doing a great job on the edit.
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