No Festival Required
Sometimes our egos can get too big and need to be lanced, like a boil. I’ve found that the fastest way to make my ego shrivel up is to look at just how old certain artistic giants were when they made their marks on the world.
Orson Welles directed, co-wrote and starred in “Citizen Kane” when he was just 25. Arthur Rimbaud stopped writing poetry at 19, after producing brilliant poem after poem in his teens. And animator Don Hertzfeldt won the 2010 San Francisco International Film Festival’s “Persistence of Vision” Lifetime Achievement Award when he was just 33 years old.
That’s a lifetime achievement award at 33. Don’t be alarmed if you’re feeling a strange tingling sensation, ladies & gentlemen: that’s just your egos diminishing. I know mine is.
If you’re wondering just how good a filmmaker has to be to win such acclaim at such a young age, you’ll have a chance to see Hertzfeldt’s award-winning work for yourself when No Festival Required screens Hertzfeld’s animated trilogy “It’s Such A Beautiful Day” this Saturday at the Phoenix Center for the Arts.
No Festival Required’s Steve Weiss wanted to bring Hertzfeldt’s animations to the Valley after seeing some of Hertzfeldt’s work in one of the touring “The Animation Show” festivals (that Hertzfeldt put together with “Beavis & Butthead/Office Space” creator Mike Judge). Weiss told me that he’s been trying to do a Hertzfelt program for the last 8 years, and that Saturday’s screening of “It’s Such A Beautiful Day” (which includes a bonus short film by Hertzfeldt) is the first time that this work will be screened in Phoenix.
And it may also be the last: the prolific film-maker self-distributes his work and is very meticulous about their presentation (bootlegs of his work are all over the Internet, much to Hertzfeldt’s chagrin, who laments their poor film quality). He’s also known for his stance on licensing: Hertzfeldt refuses to do commercials (which hasn’t stopped many advertisers from biting his style, the worst offenders being Pop Tarts).
His style of animation is deceptively simple, using pen and paper stick figures (photographed on a Richardson 35mm animation camera stand, one of the last of its kind) and imbuing them with tremendous pathos and soul. He is so good at doing so much with so little that it’s going to be hard to think of stick figures and NOT think of him, much in the same way one can associate sunflowers with Van Gogh and Sweden with ABBA. It’s like his stick figures are the Platonic ideal that all stick figures throughout human history have been aspiring to be… and always falling a little bit short.
I’ve seen the first film in the “It’s Such A Beautiful Day” trilogy, “Everything Will Be OK.” If the other two films (“I Am So Proud Of You” and “It’s Such A Beautiful Day”) are as good as “Everything,” then this screening is a NOT-TO-BE-MISSED cinema event.
“Everything Will Be OK” is funny, disconcerting, strange and beautiful. It’s the kind of film that can make a person feel like they’re tripping on drugs, or wish they weren’t. Watching it I could understand why a man in his 30′s deserved to win a lifetime achievement award; and if he continues to produce this kind of work in the future, I hope he wins dozens more of them. I just don’t want to hear about those awards: the last thing my poor ego needs is another lancing.
“It’s Such A Beautiful Day” screens Saturday, November 24, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $7 at the door and are also available online.
Steve Weiss took out his yellow highlighter.
The local resident and film programmer was preparing to show an independent documentary at the Phoenix Art Museum and was marking up the resumé of Los Angeles filmmaker, Andrea Kreuzhage.
He wanted to mention some of her most significant projects to the audience during his introduction to her piece, “1000 Journals,” but he realized he was highlighting almost all of them. Unable to choose from the impressive list of experience, he asked Kreuzhage what he should talk about.
“I don’t want you to mention any of that,” she replied. “If you want to say anything, say that I sold my house to make this film.”
“That’s why I like independent films,” Weiss explains as he tells the story that has stuck with him for the last three years.
Weiss’s Phoenix-based, one-man film programming company, No Festival Required, is turning a decade old this year – a milestone he’s amazed by.
“It was a total crapshoot 10 years ago,” he says.
The idea developed out of his and the film community’s discontent with the traditional process of film festivals, which Weiss says rarely includes explaining to filmmakers why their pieces aren’t selected and often includes charging such filmmakers the same entry fee as those who receive slots in the festivals.
Weiss came across filmmakers in search of other avenues for presenting their short films and, in 2002, he began forming “the anti-festival.”
In June of that year, Weiss and former Modified Arts booker Leslie Barton threw up a sheet at the gallery and performance venue and waited to see if anyone would show up to watch the approximately 60 minutes of content Weiss had gathered. After seeing a decent turnout, Weiss and Barton deemed the inaugural show a success and decided to continue it. They played more than 600 short films in 50 screenings over a period of five and a half years.
While still screening regularly at Modified Arts, Weiss began showing movies at other venues. His first show outside of NFR’s Roosevelt Row home occurred at the Phoenix Art Museum in February 2004 and consisted of a compilation of what he considered to be the best short films from the screenings at Modified Arts.
In 2010, Weiss heard about FilmBar, a independent movie theater-slash-bar, slated to open in Downtown Phoenix. He approached owner Kelly Aubey about getting involved, and after assisting with six months of pre-planning, Weiss spent six more programming for the space until his departure in August 2011.
Weiss has learned over the years that bringing a film to an audience is much easier than bringing an audience to a film.
While screening at one location, Weiss had to attract people who were willing to see a flick that they knew nothing about and maybe wouldn’t even relate to. But showing movies at various locations allows him to present a broader range of work and attract viewers who actually have an interest in the specific content of the films.
He says his Building Communities Cinema series, which includes films about improving the livability of cities, attracts many Downtowners and arts advocates.
Weiss’s predictions for the future of NFR include continuing to work with many different venues and individuals, becoming more involved in the film distribution process to help filmmakers promote and sell their films, and maybe even bringing shows to small towns interested in creating art house, documentary and independent film environments.
Weiss enjoys gathering the community around uncommon cinema and championing filmmakers’ good works.
“There are a few films that I’ve screened and re-screened because I just think if the whole world hasn’t seen these films, I’m just going to show them again and again until just one person is left in the theater,” he says.
For Weiss, one of the biggest benefits of working with independent films is developing close connections with filmmakers like Kreuzhage, whose “1000 Journals” documentary he has screened twice.
“For the viewer, I think it’s knowing that people really put their hearts into these things,” he says.
Film: “Trimpin: The Sound of Invention”
Filmmaker: Peter Esmonde
Date: Thursday, June 14, 2012
Time: 7:30 p.m. (Doors open at 7 p.m.)
Where: SMoCA Lounge, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
Synopsis: “A documentary feature profiling the life and work of a highly creative and somewhat eccentric artist/inventor/engineer/composer. The artist Trimpin generally shuns publicity, yet he has received a MacArthur ‘Genius’ Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and many other international accolades for his outrageous musical investigations.” Learn more
Film: “Two Americans”
Filmmakers: Dan De Vivo and Valeria Fernández
Date: Monday, June 18, 2012
Time: 7 p.m. (Doors open at 6:30 p.m.)
Where: 3rd Street Theater, Phoenix Center for the Arts
Synopsis: “The life of a 9-year old child is forever changed when ‘America’s Toughest Sheriff’ arrests her Mexican parents for working at a local carwash. Fighting to rescue her parents from deportation, Katherine Figueroa becomes the poster child of a movement to oust Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio from office. Exposed by the media, Kathy’s family is challenged to overcome their fear of living in Arizona. But when Sheriff Joe uses his power to retaliate against the County Board, it’s the legality of his actions that is questioned. Now the Sheriff’s fate hangs in the balance of an FBI criminal probe.” Learn more
I’m a big fan of The Insecure Critic. Have you read it? You should.
Chad Swaney reviews movies and pairs them with a great meal or decadent dessert. My favorite is, “‘Juno’ and Delux — Now I Feel Pregnant.” They are all solid, though; be sure to not miss out. In any case, I’ve had an idea hiding away for a long time and only recently has it reemerged into the daylight — largely thanks to Chad’s inspiration.
For those of us living, working and playing in and around Downtown Phoenix the movie selection is pretty limited. There’s the AMC 24 at Arizona Center and… and… yup, that’s about it.* Furthermore, to watch a decent film on the big screen, one has to travel out to Camelview 5 or over to Tempe Valley Art. Sometimes it’s worth it. Sometimes. I would, however, be way more apt to take a risk on an unknown art flick or independent film if the theater were closer. And, I’d practically run there if it had a bar to go along with it.
The concept is not new — Tucson, Portland and many cities around the country have movie theaters and bars in the same building. But, as light rail, professional sports and great food has showed us, it doesn’t need to be a new idea to have a huge impact on Downtown Phoenix.
I’m not a stranger to crazy ideas, but this one has some validity. A movie theater that shows worthwhile films within walking distance of the rail? A movie theater with beer? Something to do Downtown that doesn’t involve coffee or sports? Shoot, there’s even an opportunity for adaptive reuse: The sanctuary of that abandoned church on the northwest corner of 3rd Avenue and Monroe Street would make a perfect spot for (warning: working title) The Swig & Screen. Who’s in?
*No Festival Required shows outstanding films at Space 55, including one next Saturday. The thoughts here are in no way meant to diminish the work of those bringing film into the friendly confines of Downtown Phoenix.
Downtown Voices Coalition, Modified Arts and No Festival Required present “Malls R Us,” a documentary film by Helene Klodawsky.
“Malls R Us” examines North American’s most popular and profitable suburban destination – the enclosed shopping center – and how for consumers they function as a communal, even ceremonial experience and, for retailers, sites where their idealism, passion and greed merge.
The film will be shown on Tuesday, June 30 at 8pm at Modified Arts, 407 E. Roosevelt St. Admission is $6 but students with a valid I.D. receive $1 off.
For more information on the film, visit www.nofestivalrequired.com. For more information on the Modified Arts, visit www.modified.org.
In an effort to promote filmmakers living and working in Arizona, No Festival Required and Movies at the Museum presents Dreamland, a documentary directed by University of Arizona film teacher Lisanne Skyler.
The film will be shown for free on Sunday, April 26 at 1pm at the Whiteman Hall in the Phoenix Art Museum located at 1625 N. Central Ave.
Dreamland takes a sharp but disarming approach in examining the romance of gambling, and reveals the decidedly unromantic reality. Following several full-time residents of Las Vegas over a two-year period, Dreamland shows the cityscape beyond the grandiose casino-hotels on the strip. It is a world of smaller, dingy gambling halls and countless gambling arcades that survive throughout Las Vegas. Among the locals that patronize these casinos, many struggle daily with compulsion and self-impoverishment while walking the tenuous line between dreams and denial.
Lisanne Skyler is a writer and director of both fiction and nonfiction films. Lisanne’s debut feature film Getting to Know You, an adaptation of three short stories by Joyce Carol Oates, co-written with her sister Tristine, played in the 1999 Sundance Film Festival Dramatic Competition and opened the 1999 Venice Film Festival Critics Week. Lisanne recently relocated from Los Angeles to Tucson to teach filmmaking at the University of Arizona. She will attend the screening and do a Q and A following the presentation.