Tuesday, October 11, 2011

New review!

Figaro! Living in the Moment of a Character. color. 119+ min. Dan Schaefer, IndieBlitz c/o Entertainment One, www.eone.com. 2011. DVD UPC 634479999482. $19.98. OPERA

This fascinating documentary brings its viewers inside a production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro (1786). Not any opera enterprise, this is a coproduction of the University of Louisville School of Music, KY, and the Szymanowski Academy of Music in Katowice, Poland. It is said that opera brings all of the performance arts into one, and ­Figaro well documents that process, from planning and rehearsal to ultimate performance. Though a university/academy production, it is one that pays as much, if not more, attention to the important details needed for great opera. Rehearsal times are greater than even first-class professional companies but not at all less intense. Viewing this program will be a revelation and a learning opportunity for the opera uninitiated, and a delight for aficionados. Comments from the producing teachers and students from both institutions demonstrate their total commitment. Stage director Michael Ramach has a wry sense of the realistic and keeps the production, and thus the film, humming. Though the technical film qualities are basic, most likely owing to cost limitations, the creativity and skill displayed get the job done well. Bravo.

—Gerald A. Notaro, Univ. of South Florida Lib., St. Petersburg

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Figaro at Derby City Film Festival! Recap!

On February 19th at 10:00 am Figaro: Living in the Moment of a Character screened before an audience on the second day of the Derby City Film Festival. Personalities from the film included Brett Landow(Lighting Designer), Hilda Carr and Suzanne Stone(Costume Designers), and Alice Baldwin(Set Designer). The director, Dan Schaefer spoke briefly in a Q & A about the making of the film. Announcements about the film appeared in the Leo, Courier Journal, and channel 32 WLKY featured filmmakers on Sunday morning.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Eugene Weekly review of Mania and Figaro!

Cinematic Cornucopia
Local settings fill the screen at Open Lens
By Rick Levin

There’s a certain special something we experience — New Wave critics called it frisson — in recognizing locations projected onto the big screen, an undeniable thrill that comes from seeing, say, the Eugene Masonic Cemetery on the UO campus used as a set piece in a modern retelling of the Jack the Ripper story. When this happens, the familiar is viewed anew, bathed in the celluloid aura of heightened awareness. And so the familiar becomes strange, becomes a piece of artistry torn from the everyday.
Figaro! Living in the Moment of Character screens at Open Lens

DIVA’s Open Lens Festival, now in its seventh year, provides countless moments of such odd displacement as local filmmakers, often shooting on Eugene’s home turf, add to the burgeoning Northwest movie industry. Hosted by storyboard artist and illustrator Dan Schaefer, the Winter Short Film Festival pours out a cinematic cornucopia of drama, comedy, gothic horror, political ads, animation — just about anything you can do on film, sometimes with nothing more than a hand-held digital camera.

This year’s offerings include two longer films — Mania, a documentary about the history of the Portland Trailblazers, and Figaro! Living in the Moment of Character, a behind-the-scenes peek into an international collaboration centering on Mozart’s great work — as well as a series of juried short films and a teen video challenge spotlighting short works by local high school auteurs.

Schaefer will host a seminar on storyboarding where he will give demonstrations of the art and talk about his experiences in the film industry since starting out in 1989. All films will screen at UO’s Baker Downtown Center, with an opening night meet-and-greet Saturday, Jan. 29, at Davis’ Restaurant.

Blazing the hardwood

One of the most pleasant surprises of the festival is Mania, which tracks the birth of Portland’s NBA expansion team in 1970 through the Blazers’ topsy-turvy history of unlikely triumphs and epic struggles, right up to their present incarnation under coach Nate McMillan. Directed by festival host Schaefer, the documentary focuses less on the sport itself — altogether there is about a minute of actual game footage — than the cultural revolution and community bonding sparked by the arrival of a professional franchise in a city that was practically unknown east of the Mississippi (when the late, great Maurice Lucas was selected by the Blazers in the 1976 ABA Dispersal Draft, he said he didn’t even know where Portland was). Mania is as much a story of time and place as it is of steals and slam-dunks.

From the founding of the team by Harry Glickman to the arrival of flower-child center Bill Walton and the Blazers’ miracle upset of the 76ers in the 1977 NBA finals, on through the injury-riddled collapse of that team, the notorious advent of the “Jailblazers” and the rebirth of a competitive team in the ’80s, on up to the present (where, notably, history seems to be repeating with a team devastated by injuries) — Mania is a riveting, enlightening movie that harkens to what seems a more innocent, team-oriented era of pro hoops. Non-basketball fans, and even those who proclaim a loathing for all sports, will be hard-pressed to not find uplift in the story of the loyal, spirited bond between a team and its city.

Short and sweet and everything in-between

The short film is an odd beast, a cannon shot that darts across the screen leaving you baffled or burned or blown away, and sometimes all of the above. It’s an easily acquired taste, seeing as there’s always this truth: Short films don’t have all that much time to truly suck, and when they’re done well they have all the compressed emotional impact of a great short story. Consider them an art form analogous to weather in the Northwest: If you don’t like it, wait five minutes.

This year’s offering of short films provides a few real gems. Near Mint, produced by Vancouver Film School, is a little burst of Twilight Zone fantasia about a snooty retro-dude (he only listens to obscure ’80s punk on vinyl) who orders a 1980 Telsamatic microwave only to find he’s opened a portal into the past, which leads to some very surreal communications. Director Eric Dion’s Sons La Pluie is a hilarious piece of poetic mock-Truffaut about a woman pining over a lost love, containing one of the most hilarious subtitles ever: “I think in English.”

Perhaps the finest entry of the series, The Tell, puts a new twist on the dramatic device of the high-stakes poker game. Directed by Devon Lyon, this nearly perfect short film is creepy, bloody, hilarious and, in the end, completely shocking — like a musical conceived by Scorsese, scored by Sondheim and directed by Guillermo del Toro.

The kids are all right

The Teen Video Challenge is an absolute delight. Conceived and created by local high school students including Springfield’s A3 program, what these films lack in polish and professionalism they more than make up for through ingenuity, inspiration and the sheer, unbound excitement of smart kids getting their hands on a camera and having at. The pieces run the gamut from comic sketches, nightmare scenarios and slapstick comedy to movie spoofs, political ads and public service announcements. All this energy and inventiveness shouldn’t surprise you, unless you are in the unfortunate habit of underestimating the intelligence and freedom of young people making art.

Seventh Annual Film Festival Draws National Interest!

Seventh Annual Film Festival Draws National Interest

Story by Stephen Zegalia
Photos by Branden Andersen

This weekend the OpenLens Winter Short Film Festival featured a number of screenings, workshops, and competitions. Held at the University of Oregon Baker Center at 10th and High Street, the Downtown Initiative for the Visual Arts (DIVA) sponsored the festival. For the short film competition, first prize and honorable mention received prizes of $500 and $200, respectively. A vote by OpenLens attendees determined the $100 Audience Choice award.

This year’s host was Dan Schaefer, a storyboard artist, filmmaker, and conceptual designer whose work in film ranges from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon show to Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park. The festival opened Friday night with a showing of Schaefer’s documentary film Mania, an exploration of the history of the Portland Trail Blazers as seen through the eyes of some of the most important people involved with the team, including Brandon Roy and Harry Glickman.

Saturday began with a storyboarding workshop run by Schaefer, in which he shared some of the artistic and conceptual lessons he has learned during his career. A showing of Schaefer’s latest film, Figaro, followed the workshop. Also a documentary, Figaro is about the collaboration between University of Louisville students and Polish students on a production of the opera, The Marriage of Figaro. It follows the production through rehearsals to the finished show, which was staged in both Kentucky and Poland. After the film, Schaefer and Philip Piele of the Eugene Opera hosted a Q&A session where they explained the making of the film and the differences between college and professional productions.

This was the first year that the short film competition drew entries from across the state, instead of just the Eugene area.

“We got forty submissions but could only accept twelve,” says Eric Ostlind, the DIVA program coordinator. “I sent out the standard rejection letter saying we had too many good submissions, but this year it was actually true.”

(From left to right) Eric Ostlind, program coordinator for DIVA; Dan Schaefer, the show's host and resident filmmaker; and a volunteer chat before the start of a screening Saturday night.

The event drew over hundred people to the screening Saturday night, where the short films ranged from music videos to high school basketball-themed projects. The winner of the $500 first prize was The Tell, a short about the story of two demons playing poker in order to win a human soul. Honorable Mention went to Mutate, a stop-motion animation about the evolution of several clay characters. The French-language Sous La Pluie received the Audience Choice award.

Sunday brought the Youth Visions’ Teen Video Competition, in which fifteen shorts made by Oregon residents aged thirteen to eighteen were screened and judged. The competition included shorts about archery accidents, dating, and an undead Beethoven.

Part of the reason for the festival’s success, Ostlind says, was that this was the first year it was held at the Baker Center instead of DIVA’s old space. Longtime DIVA supporter Leslie Oldenburg was happy about the change: “If you’ve ever seen a film at the old place, it was about half this size, and dark. It was terrible. This year is much better.”

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Figaro at OpenLens in Eugene!

1:00 PM Saturday, January 29th
Admission: $7

Synopsis: Schafer’s “Figaro! Living in the Moment of a Character,” is a feature-length documentary about an opera production by the University of Louisville School of Music and Szymanowski Academy of Music in Katowice, Poland.

Fifteen singers, two countries, and the music of Mozart. The stage was set for an incredible collaboration between two music schools: The Louisville School of Music in Kentucky and The Szymanowski Academy of Music in Katowice, Poland. The music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s comic opera “The Marriage of Figaro” would be the language to unite both casts. Schaefer followed the development of the production over a three-month period, capturing not only the rigorous schedule of its performers, but behind-the-scenes glimpses of everyone responsible for bringing the house to its feet. See Preview.

Joining Dan Schaefer for the post-film discussion will be Philip Piele, Eugene Opera's Executive Vice-President, to share insights and experiences in opera. (Presented with support from the Eugene Opera.


Press release for the Derby Fest!

Contact: Kristofer Rommel

Kentucky & Regional Films Showcased At The Upcoming Derby City Film Festival in February
Film Festival includes 20 films from Kentucky filmmakers and 10 more from Indiana & Ohio.

LOUISVILLE, KY. (January 25th) —

Gritty crime dramas, quirky love stories, clay-mation sci-fi and stirring documentaries are just some of the themes being offered from films by Kentucky filmmakers at this year’s Derby City Film Festival.

In all 20 films from Kentucky filmmakers and 10 from Indiana & Ohio will be screened during the festival, which takes place February 18th through the 20th at the Clifton Center. Two more films are from filmmakers with ties to Kentucky, both documentaries. One, “Figaro: Living in the Moment of a Character” by D.V. Schaefer, focuses on a collaboration of the opera “Figaro” between the University of Louisville School of Music and the Szymanowski Academy of Music in Poland. The other, “Our House” from Greg King and David Teague, deals with an illegal squat house designed to be an alternative to New York City's impersonal homeless shelter system. Greg King is a native of Louisville. Both films screen on Saturday February 19th.

The festival opens with a group of short films from The Bob Rogers Group, a Louisville based production company and features seven films from four Kentucky filmmakers; Kristofer Rommel, Jacob Goldberg, Jake Snider and Steven Matthews. The screening group is at 6:00 PM on February 18th and is free to attend. Two more Kentucky films follow on Friday night; “The Very Worst Thing” from Georgetown filmmakers Michael Crisp and Andrew Moore, and “Hell is Full” from Dawson Springs filmmaker Steve Hudgens. “The Very Worst Thing” is a documentary about a 1958 bus crash in Floyd County and “Hell is Full” is narrative feature film about what happens...when Hell is full. Both films are finalists in their respective categories.

Three more Kentucky narrative feature films screen Saturday, two of which were shot in downtown Louisville. “Mountain Mafia” from Lexington filmmaker Cherokee Hall plays Saturday afternoon and “Almost Nothing Good Happens” and “Queens of the Dead” screen Saturday night.

“Almost Nothing Good Happens” is from New Albany filmmaker Tom Whitus, who’s last film “Sam Steel and the Junior Detective Agency” was a 2010 DCFF selection. “Queens of the Dead” is from Louisville filmmaker Ray Cart. Both films were shot in Downtown Louisville, feature a local cast and are World Premieres. Prior to the screening of “Almost Nothing Good Happens” will be a special screening of Louisville filmmaker Archie Borders latest film “Turnaround”.

On Sunday at 1:00 PM there is a “Kentucky Short Film” program which features six films from Kentucky filmmakers and one that was produced in Owensboro by California filmmaker Lee Goldberg who has written numerous television programs, including “Monk”. The other films being screened come from Simpsonville, Louisville, Somerset and Lexington.

The festival closes on Sunday February 20th with the film “Hitting the Nuts” from Cincinnati filmmaker Joe Boyd, which is a mockumentary about the “true” story of the 2009 Scott County, Indiana Poker Championship. Other films from Ohio and screening during the festival include the short films “<3 (Heart)”, “Bubbly” and “Meth”, all of which are from Cincinnati, and the feature film “Demons Rising” from Columbus.

Additional films from Indiana include the short films “The Mercy Seat” and “Crux” from New Albany Filmmaker Jared Hardy, “Bots” from Mary Pollio of Sellersburg, and the feature film “Tow” from Indianapolis filmmaker Adam Newell. In all 68 films from five countries will be screened during the 2011 Derby City Film Festival.

Full film information on all the films which screen during the festival is available on the festival website. The festival also includes panels, workshops, and filmmaker Q&A’s, which take place throughout the weekend. Tickets and passes are now on-sale on-line and start at $6.00.

The 2011 Derby City Film Festival runs February 18th - 20th at the Clifton Center in Louisville, Kentucky. More information on the upcoming festival can be found at the festival website: www.derbycityfilmfest.com or by calling the DCFF office at 502-618-3192

Friday, December 17, 2010

Figaro! Oficial selection at Derby City Film Fest!

Figaro: Living in the Moment of a Character has been selected for the 2011 Derby City Film Festival as of December 15th! The press release and full list of selections are listed below!

Contact: Kristofer Rommel

The Derby City Film Festival Announces Selections For The 2011 Festival held in February 67 films to screen during the three day festival, including 25 international films and 19 from Kentucky filmmakers LOUISVILLE, KY.

(December 15th) — The Derby City Film Festival is proud to announce the selected films for the 2011 edition.
In total 67 films will screen during the three day festival which will be held February 18th - 20th, 2011 at the Clifton Center. Of those screening, 41 of the films have been selected for competition. The festival will open with a short film screening group from The Bob Rogers Group (BRG), a production company based in Louisville. The BRG film program of 8 short films will be free to attend and begin at 6:00 PM on February 18th. The official opening night film at 8:00 PM will be “The Very Worst Thing” a film about the worst bus crash in US history which took place in
Floyd County, Kentucky in 1958. The film is from Georgetown filmmaker Michael Crisp.
In all, 20 films from Kentucky filmmakers will screen during the festival including four feature films and 16 short films. A “Kentucky Short Films Program” will screen on Sunday features short films from Kentucky filmmakers. Both the Saturday night Feature Films (“Almost Nothing Good Happens” by Tom Whitus & “Queens of the Dead” by Ray Cart) were produced and shot in Louisville and will be World Premieres. Other films from filmmakers with ties to Kentucky will screen during the festival as well.
“While this year’s festival is a great moment to showcase the talent right here in Kentucky, we also want to remind everyone that we are an international festival,” points out DCFF cofounder Kristofer Rommel, “in addition we are screening 25 films from international filmmakers and numerous films from other parts of the country as well. It’s a great showcase of independent film
in general.”
Films screening at the 2011 Derby City Film Festival include films from New Albany &
Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Georgia, Illinois, Oregon, New York, California, Switzerland, Poland, Russia, and Canada.
“It was a great group of films that were submitted this year,” says cofounder Ashley Rommel, “the selection committee had their work cut out for them and we all feel that those selected represent some of the best in independent film making out there.”
Films screening out of competition include the Bob Rogers Group short films and another 18 short films included in a short film program entitled “Cyber Bros.”; of which all the films are from Russian filmmakers. The festival has also partnered with the Jewish Film Festival which runs concurrently with the DCFF. On Sunday Feb. 20th the two festivals are partnering to screen “Voice Teacher” a documentary from New York. Don Roberts, the voice teacher and Daniel Mendelson, the director will attend and discuss the film. The festival closes Sunday February 20th with the feature film “Hitting the Nuts” from Cincinnati filmmaker Joe Boyd There will be workshops held during the festival that cover a wide range of topics including:
Writing for the Screen, Green Screen Techniques, Acting, and FX Make-Up. As well as filmmaker Q&A’s following many of the films.
Each of the workshops are hosted by leading regional professionals in independent film and are designed for the experienced filmmaker as well as those just beginning or who have an interest in learning more about the world of independent film. The workshops will be held Saturday and Sunday during the festival and are free for those who purchase a day or festival pass. The festival will bring back the audience vote for the next edition. Each audience member will be able to vote on their favorite film in each category and the votes will be tallied and will comprise 1/5 of the total jury vote. Awards will be given out following the festival conclusion. There will
also be an audience favorite award given out which all films are eligible for. Finalists in each film category will be announced in January.
The 2011 Derby City Film Festival runs February 18th - 20th at the Clifton Center in Louisville, Kentucky. The full festival schedule and film descriptions will be available January 1st, 2011,
which is also when tickets go on-sale through the festival website. More information on the jury, workshops and general festival information, can be found at the festival website: www.derbycityfilmfest.com or by calling the DCFF office at 502-618-3192
The following includes the full list of selected films, directors and origins that are in competition for the 2011 Derby City Film Festival. Kentucky and Indiana filmmakers are noted in BOLD:
Feature Films:
Almost Nothing Good Happens - Tom Whitus - New Albany, Indiana
White Knuckles - Zak Forsman - California
Queens of the Dead - Ray Cart - Louisville, Kentucky
Hell is Full - Steve Hudgins - Dawson Springs, KY
Hitting the Nuts - Joe Boyd - Cincinnati, Ohio
Mountain Mafia - Cherokee Hall - Lexington, Kentucky
Demons Rising - William Lee Ohio
Tow - Adam Newell - Indianapolis, Indiana
Deadlands 2: Trapped - Gary Ugarek Maryland
The Very Worst Thing -Michael Crisp - Georgetown, Kentucky
Our House - Greg King - California
Figaro: Living in the Moment of a Character - Dan Schaefer - Oregon
Mutton Buster - Bruce Claydon - Canada
What’s in a Smile - Andrew DeJohn - California
Miracle on 42nd Street NY, NY - Jerri Sher - California
Smolarze - Piotr Zlotorowicz - Poland
Fried Apple Pies - Natalie Baxter - Lexington, Kentucky
Short Films
Remaindered - Lee Goldberg - California
James Amnesia - Evan Sennett - Louisville, Kentucky
Knife - Matthew Rivera - Louisville, Kentucky
A Moment of Delusion - Steve Cleberg - Somerset, Kentucky
K (Between the Lines) - Nate Morguelan - Louisville, Kentucky
Hindsight 2020 - Bryan Dobson - Simpsonville, Kentucky
Afghan - Pardis Parker - Canada
Two Men, Two Cows, Two Guns - Pardis Parker - Canada
Implants - Pardis Parker - Canada
The Escape - Rajko Jazbec - Switzerland
Red Princess Blues - Alex Ferrari - California
Meth - Michael Maney - Cincinnati, OH
Marble Rye - Max Rosen - Missouri
<3 (Heart) - Josh Flowers - Cincinnati, OH
I Will Hurt You Some More - Gary Lynch - Georgia
Surviving Hunger - Balgum Song - California
The Singer - Josh Hope - Illinois
Crux - Jared Hardy - New Albany, Indiana
My Apologies - Andreas Goldfuss - Canada
Vitruvius Toybox - Dennis Michael Iannuzzi - Pennsylvania
The Mercy Seat - Jared Hardy - New Albany, Indiana
Bubbly - e.E. Charlton-Trujillo & Josh Flowers - Cincinnati, OH
Bots - John Cosper - Sellersberg, Indiana