Monday, April 06, 2009

Tea Smith promotional web videos

We're starting to shoot a web series for Tea Smith, a fantastic tea store in Omaha, NE (two great locations). We shot the introductory video last Wednesday and got some great footage. It's currently being edited now so I'll post a link when the first one is done. The series is planned to be about 12 episodes and should give you all of the information that you need to understand and appreciate tea. Trust me, you'll be cooler for it!

Risen Drum videos with Matthew Tobias

We're going to be shooting some promotional web videos for Risen Drums and Empty House Studio for Matt Tobias. Look for several videos coming in the next several months. The initial teaser is up on youtube right now if you want to check it out.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Omaha Film Festival 2009 – Sunday, Day 9

It hasn’t completely sunk in that it’s over. It’s such a surreal experience watching something unfold over the course of the last nine days that you’ve spent twelve months planning. Each little element of the festival, from the font size and type on a poster, to the items of food at a party, to each of the films that we screen, to the number of tables in our booth, are all results of conversations and decisions that we’ve made and to see them all in action is a pretty cool feeling. Another amazing feeling is having so many incredible volunteers and staff members that are just as dedicated to this project as we are. So many things just magically happen and get done around us where we don’t have to do anything, so it’s great having people that are willing to fill in all of the gaps that we leave.

It’s such a massive undertaking to pull something like this off and we know we absolutely couldn’t do it without all of our helpers. To start with, Julie Matthews is responsible for wrangling all of the volunteers as well as a lot of the other office-type duties and I know we couldn’t run the festival without her. Plus the sixty-or so volunteers that give up their free time to spend it with us is fantastic for us, and great for the attendees and filmmakers as well. We’ve got the best group of volunteers out of any of the festivals that we’ve attended so that makes us really proud.

One of the other things I’m proud of in regards to our festival is our judging staff and our judging process. Huge thanks goes out to all of our judges in the feature film, documentary and short film categories. You guys all did an amazing job helping us break down hundreds of excellent films into what we programmed this year so thanks to all of you.

The venues were fantastic again this year as well. Thank you to Teresa at Creighton, Karli at the Omaha Community Playhouse, and Kenny and Walt at the Great Escape Theatre for all you’ve done for us over the last nine days. We couldn’t have asked for more perfect venues and have received nothing but great feedback from all of our attendees and guests about how great they were all treated at each of our venues. We’re proud to call each of them our home for OFF’09 and into the future.

As for our award winners and all of the filmmakers that submitted and attended, I want to thank each of you as well. Picking “winners” is always the most difficult thing to do at the festival, and gladly some of that decision is shared with our audiences in the form of the audience choice prizes. This years’ audience choice awards went to:
“Granny Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty” directed by Nicky Phelan – short film
“A Friend Indeed - The Bill Sackter Story” directed by Lane Wyrick – documentary
“Touching Home” directed by Logan and Noah Miller – Feature Film

A special award was given this year to the short film for best Cinematography which was a $500 certificate for Eastman/Kodak film which went to the short film:
“Valley of the Moon” directed by John Monteleone

Omaha Film Festival jury prizes were also given in six different categories to the following films:
“Agent 5: A Night in the Last Life Of” directed by Matthew Desotell - OFF the EDGE
“Varmints” directed by Marc Craste – Animated Short
“Coons” directed by Chris Cloyd – Nebraska Short
“Sugar” Alex Beh – Short Film
“Phantom Punch” directed by Robert Townsend – Feature Film
“The Providence Effect” directed by Rollin Binzer – Documentary

Due to some very generous donations and sponsors, we gave out over $14.000 worth of prizes during our awards ceremony so another huge thank you to all of our sponsors. And yes, it is frustrating having to give all of those prizes away!

Thanks to all who attended this year, it was a great event. Let’s do it again!!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Omaha Film Festival 2009 – Saturday, Day 8

Seventeen screenings with films starting at 10:00am and running through 11:45pm in three theaters. That’s about 32% of the entire festival in one day. Sounds like a real treat huh? Today was actually a fantastic day. We went through ten feature films, four documentaries and 27 shorts in three short blocks and in spite of the snow and the ridiculous cold (remember it was 60 degrees out just a couple of days ago) we ended up having some pretty good crowds. The two biggest gatherings were for the special screening of “Sunshine Cleaning” (of which I only got to see about half) and the locally produced film “Grapes: the Story of an Aspiring Serial Killer.” Saturday is also the day when most of the films have their second screening so the filmmakers that were in town for their first screening typically stick around for this one too and we had some tremendous Q&A sessions today.

The crowds that surprised me the most were for the documentaries. People came out in good numbers and the Q&A’s for those are always engaging. I was also pleased with the turnout for the shorts programs. We played all of the shorts except for the Nebraska Short block and people really seem to be enjoying those.

Now with only one day left, I’m starting to feel the melancholy that comes with planning an event for a whole year and finally see it winding down and elation due to the fact that it’s winding down! Sunday will have the two remaining feature film second screenings, and then we’ll have our awards ceremony, followed by the best short film, feature film and documentary, based on the audience choices throughout the week. Gathering the ballots after every screening and tallying them up afterward, then summarizing them and presenting that award is always a fun and interesting process as we get to see what the audience’s reactions are to the films that we’ve chosen to screen.

Tomorrow’s e-mail will be the wrap up and will have all of the thank yous in it, so for today I’m signing out and looking forward to a week’s worth of sleep. And a new thank you to the mystery person that brought us the tall cans of RedBull this afternoon. We couldn’t have gotten there without you.

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

Interested in volunteering for the festival?
E-mail us at with “volunteer” in the subject line.

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.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

And the winner is…

The Wild Rose Independent Film Festival gives out two awards in each of their nineteen categories. A Certificate of Distinctive Achievement (basically second place) and a Wild Rose Award (first place). “The HIT” was nominated in two categories, Best Short and Best Editing.

And the Certificate of Distinctive Achievement for best editing goes too….”The HIT,” directed by Marc Longbrake, edited by Johnnie Travis. What a shock. Very cool! All of the films (shorts, docs and features) were put into the category, so to get basically second place out of the entire festival for editing is a great honor. Amazing job Johnnie! Thanks a ton for all of the work that you put into this film for us. And thanks to the Wild Rose Independent Film Festival for having us this year and giving us this treasured award.

Wild Rose Independent Film Festival – Sunday 11/9 – Day 2

Day two started off like every other film festival day (if you’ve read my other festival blogs, you’ll already know this). A dip in the hot tub. We then gathered for an amazing brunch buffet at our hotel with Chris (writer), Julie (casting), and Lindsey (lead actress, who make the five hour trip to come see the film.) After having my first real meal in a couple of days, and hanging out in the restaurant for a couple of hours, we headed over to the festival in anticipation of our film. Upon arrival at the theater, we were greeted by a decent crowd already gathering for our screening. Garrett (actor) made the four hour trip to see it, Lindsey’s folks and four of her high school classmates drove over an hour, Chris’ parents and wife drove over two hours, and my buddy Scott drove…well…across town.

It was a ton of fun having an enthusiastic crowd on our side before the film even started, but that puts the pressure on as well. If the film is no good, then you get the awkward “oh yeah, we loved it” while they struggle to make eye contact with you afterward. Fortunately, I think everybody truly did enjoy it, and based on the reaction of the rest of the crowd, I think it was a hit. No pun…

Our film played in a short film block with three other short films, all of which I thought were terrific, so it was a great block to be in, and I think everyone got their money’s worth.

For the Q&A I brought Chris, Julie, Lindsey and Garrett down with me and we had a chance to interact with the crowd a bit so that was a lot of fun. After the screening and Q&A, the five of us grabbed a conference room and recorded a conversation about the making of the film, as well as the screening, so be sure to look for that on a podcast in the next couple of days.

Overall, an excellent film festival experience. Thanks a ton to Kim and John Busbee for treating us great and to all of the volunteers for having everything run smoothly. Julie would like to thank the lady that poured the wine samples all weekend. The WRIFF is a great festival and I recommend it. Hopefully I can get another film to them some day.

Wild Rose Independent Film Festival – Saturday 11/8 – Day 1

We blew into Des Moines for the sixth annual Wild Rose Independent Film Festival at around 12:30. It was below freezing with ridiculously icy winds at or near 100mph. Okay, I’m sure it wasn’t that bad, but the last film festival I was at (Austin) it was like 85 the whole time, so by contrast this was worse.

We started our festival journey by getting checked in, buying a couple of t-shirts, putting up some posters for our film, then we got ready for the first short film block of the day at 1:30. Five short films played and the quality of the films was excellent. Sam Holdren, writer of “The Paradigm Shift” which screened in this block was in attendance so he got up and did a Q&A afterward and everyone was enthusiastic about his film. I’d had a chance to talk to Sam a bit before the screening so I was looking forward to seeing it, and it didn’t disappoint. If you go to and look it up, you can see a trailer.

After the short film block, we checked out the feature film “Clear Lake, WI.” There was a pretty good crowd for this psychological thriller and it was fun to watch the audience react to some of the more shocking moments in the film. Brian Ide (director) and Dustin Booth (lead actor) were in attendance and had a great Q&A after the film.

4:30 started the filmmaker’s reception where all of the filmmakers in attendance had a chance to hang out and chat, enjoy some food, and sample some wine. After that, there was a filmmaker panel which I had the privilege of sitting on. Those of you that know me well know that I can dominate a panel discussion, so you’ll all be proud to know that with seven panelists, I only spoke a few times. Yes, inside my head I had answers and comments for everything that was said, but I picked my spots and didn’t overdue it. The audience can thank me now. It was a great panel though and there were lots of interesting topics that were brought up, and ironically (or maybe not) the main topics were centered around the same things that were discussed on the panels at Austin and Estes Park. The state of independent film and the filmmakers is nothing if not fairly consistent with itself.

The last film of the evening was “Route 30” by OFF’06 alum John Putch. With its ensemble cast and quirky stylings, the biggest audience of the weekend really enjoyed the film, and everyone loved the musical number at the end as well. John was in attendance so it was great catching up with him and hearing him talk about his film and independent film in general. He was the moderator for the filmmaker’s panel and has a ton of great things to say about the state of independent film, film festivals and following your passions and dreams to create the art that you want to create.

The last event of the evening was the awards ceremony. The festival gives out thirty-eight awards in nineteen categories so it’s a pretty exciting event. I just checked the festival’s website and they haven’t posted the winners yet, so I won’t break the news here, but if you’re interested, be sure to head over to to see all of the nominees as well as the eventual winners.

Day one was a great time. Julie and Chris made the trip with me and we enjoyed the various events together, so that made it even more special.

Tomorrow is the big day. “The HIT” makes its second festival screening!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

First Step Omaha with Darcy Lueking

I had a great night hanging out with Darcy Lueking and her acting class going through mock auditions. Darcy is running an acting workshop and has had several guest lecturers and I had the privilege of sitting in with her group and playing the role of Director as each of her students came in and went through the audition process. Great job by all of the actors that came in a read, and great job by Darcy in running a fantastic class.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

“The HIT” to screen at the Wild Rose Independent Film Festival

Our short film “The HIT” is now an official selection at the 2008 Wild Rose Independent Film Festival! We will screen with three other films as part of a short film block on Sunday, November 9th at 1:30pm at the Iowa State Historical Building in the East Village Cultural and Entertainment District in Des Moines, IA

In its sixth year, the Wild Rose Independent Film Festival has shown some tremendous films and had some excellent guest speakers including Nebraska’s own Lew Hunter at their 2007 festival. We’ve got at least a couple of carloads of people heading over so we’re looking forward to having a great time in Des Moines.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

OFF the EDGE filmmaking – show 22 – Austin Film Festival wrap-up

In this podcast Jeremy and I talk about some of our fun experiences at the 2008 Austin Film Festival and we have a chance to sit down with Kristen Case, Director of Marketing and Director of the Young Filmmakers Program. It's a fun show so give it a listen!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Austin Film Festival – Monday 10/20 – Day 4

I intentionally booked my flight as late in the day as possible so that I could spend as much of my Monday at the festival. What I didn’t realize was that the festival really didn’t get going until after 5:00pm on weekdays, so I had a chance to sleep in, then go out for a casual lunch and spend some time at the University of Texas. I toured their film school and even got a behind-the-scenes look and tour at the Austin City Limits. Amazing.

My flight left Austin at 5:40 and it was a pretty uneventful trip back to the Big O, arriving around 10:30pm. It makes me happy that my flight left Austin five hours after Jeremy’s and we got to Omaha at about the same time.

Thanks Austin. Excellent trip and you guys treated us great. We made a ton of contacts and brought home a stack of films. My calendar is marked for next year.

Austin Film Festival – Sunday 10/19 – Day 3

Sunday morning started with the “Hair of the Dog Brunch” which was another VIP event for the filmmakers, producer badge holders, etc. Amazing food, free drinks, huge crowd. A great way to start our Sunday.

11:30am – 12:45pm – panel – Frame to Frame: Adapting Comic Books to the Screen
Beau Thorne (Max Payne), John Turman (Hulk, Rise of the Silver Surfer)

1:00pm – 2:15pm – panel - What Actors Look for in a Script
Dana Wheeler Nicholson (Friday Night Lights, Fletch, Boston Legal), Tom Skerritt (Alien, Top Gun, A River Runs Through It)

2:30pm – 3:45pm – panel – The Film Festival Circuit
James Foust (AFI-Dallas), Kelly Williams (Austin Film Festival), Chris Holland (B-Side Entertainment)

After the panels there were many more films. One highlight was heading back over to the IMAX to catch the end of “The Flyboys.” I snuck in the back and watched the end of the film so that I could hear writer/director Rocco go through his Q&A. So I’m in the very back row in the far corner of a huge IMAX and one of the audience questions was with regard to screenings and film festivals, to which Rocco responded that the director of the festival of their very first screening was in the audience, and he mentioned the Omaha Film Festival and pointed me out. I didn’t even know he saw me clear back there, so it was cool that he noticed and that he gave the OFF a little press at the AFF. Thanks Rocco!

Austin Film Festival – Saturday 10/18 – Day 2

Film Festival Day 2 right? Okay, that’s certainly not the biggest event in Austin today. A little something like two of the top college football teams in the country (Missouri and Texas) also had a small event. So a town that’s already crazy was kicked up a notch. There were tons of Missouri shirts walking around and the town was electric. A part of me felt like blowing off the festival and going to the game. We got the next best thing though…we spent a bunch of time on campus before and during the game. There were tailgates and street parties for blocks surrounding the campus and we could have easily slipped in and been a part of it. So tempting. And the Sports Day crew stayed at our hotel. They have a nicer bus than the OFF does. On to the festival..

9:00 – 10:15am – panel – Dialogue: Finding the Voice
John August (Corpse Bride, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Big Fish), John Lee Hancock (The Rookie, The Alamo, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil)

10:45am – 12:00pm – panel – Concept to Creation
Shauna Cross (Whip It!), Kirsten Smith (10 Things I Hate About You, Legally Blonde, The House Bunny(

2:00pm – 3:15pm – panel – Titans of TV
Greg Daniels (creator of King of the Hill and The Office ), Tim Kring (creator of Heroes & Crossing Jordan), Phil Rosenthal (creator of Everybody Loves Raymond)

3:45pm – 5:00pm – panel – Action Thriller
Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang), Tim Kring (see above), Terry Rossio (Pirates of the Caribbean, Shreck, Aladdin, The Legend of Zorro), Beau Thorne (Max Payne), John Turman (Hulk, Rise of the Silver Surfer)

I peeked into several films, but one film I watched from start to finish was “Summerhood” starring John Cusack (or at least his voice). The film screened at the IMAX, so it was a very cool place to catch an independent film. Plus, “Top Gun” was screening there later that night and we had a meeting scheduled with someone connected to that film. So after the movie, Jeremy and I had a chance to sit and chat with Mr. Tom Skerritt for about a half hour in the green room. What an opportunity. Without question the highlight of the day and this was a pretty good day. And by the way, seeing “Top Gun” on an IMAX screen? Are you kidding me?

Austin Film Festival – Friday 10/17 – Day 1

My day started off like any other. Alarm going off at 3:45am; heading toward the airport by 4:15am. Connecting flight to Dallas, then off to Austin, landing around 10:20, taking a shuttle to the Holiday Inn to drop off my luggage, then hitting the film festival running. I connected immediately with Teresa, and AFF pro of 8 years, who walked my through the registration process which went remarkably smoothly, then hooked up with Dave, Nicole and Karen, the rest of the Omaha gang that made the trip. Under some small talk under the big steer head (what was his name again?) I did a tour of the festival to see where everything was, and peaked into a few of the panels that were already in session. Jeremy landed at 11:30 and after dropping off his luggage at the hotel, came straight over and we all headed out for some local cuisine.

After a great lunch of Mexican food and AFF catalog reviewing, we all headed back to the festival to our variously chosen and planned events.

During the opening weekend, there are conferences during the day, and films during the evenings. A few films also played during the day, but in the evenings, nine theaters

3:15-4:30pm – Roundtable: Writers/Directors
Mike Akel, Greg Carter, John Lee Hancock, Jake Kasdan, Alex Smith, Andrew Smith, Robert Townsend, Boaz Yakin

The roundtables are pretty cool. You go into a big room and there are eight tables with 10 chairs around them and it’s like speed dating for writers/filmmakers. When everyone was set, the panelists (listed above) came in and each one sat at a table and 9 people had an opportunity to interact directly with the person at their table. After a specified amount of time, the panelist got up and they all rotated, so that during the hour, your table got to sit with three different people. The highlight for me was talking to Boaz Yakin (Remember the Titans, The Rookie). An extremely interesting guy that gave us some intimate details about his processes and how he made his most recent film “Death in Love” which screened at the AFF (which I had a chance to see later).

Friday evening was highlighted by the opening night VIP BBQ, attended by well over a thousand people that included all of the filmmakers in attendance as well as all of the Producer badge holders. Great event; awesome barbeque.

With so many films all day and all night, it’s tough to decide what to see, so I tend to bounce around quite a bit and catch Q&A sessions. Since we have so much access to the films that get screened, I tend to not want to sit in a theater for two hours watching something I can see at home, I’d rather schedule four Q&A sessions at various theaters, so that’s what I did. The highlight of the evening was catching the end of the film “Zero Effect” (which I’ve seen a dozen times) and listening to and meeting writer/director Jake Kasdan. Sweet.

After all of the films for the day, there was an opening night party at Ruth’s Chris. We made it to the hotel sometime after 1:00am. Almost non-stop for 24 hours. A good first day.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

OFF the EDGE filmmaking – show 21 – Chris Holland – B-Side Entertainment

Jeremy and I talk with Chris Holland, Manager of Festival Operations at B-Side Entertainment, and author of the new book Film Festival Secrets.

The Omaha Film Festival has been using the B-Side service for the last couple of years and we’ve loved it, and we’ve gotten loads of positive feedback from everyone who’s used it. Chris has been a fantastic resource for us as well and has really helped with all of the behind-the-scenes work on our festival website. Anyone who checks out the site during festival time, knows how great the B-Side service is.

Huge props also to Chris for the book as well. It’s a fantastic read for anyone that has a film and is interested in having someone other than their mother see it. We absolutely recommend it so log on to his website and grab a copy.

Film Festival Secrets



OFF the EDGE filmmaking
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