Posts Tagged ‘AFI’

POV on Soulless Hipsters

August 10, 2011

A new addition to the viral video series featuring irrelevant subtitles against footage from the 2004 film Downfall was created in response to AFI’s #1 ranking on THR‘s list of top film schools on the planet. I’ve enjoyed most of the videos in this spoof viral series (the one in which Hitler finds out he wasn’t accepted into Hogwarts has 77,300 views), but this edition (haha, only 2,300 views) was extra special since the subject matter was personal. The video made me laugh because I am on of those/love those “soulless hipsters” causing Hitler’s rage.  And it’s easy to laugh when you’re number 1 on the list.

But for the record:

1. I have yet to make a film about horse sex. Not yet. Never will. Not this “fellow.”

2. They definitely got something right — I’ll talk to you about POV all day long.


AFI Now Needs a Fight Song

July 28, 2011

AFI (the American Film Institute) is my alma mater — Directing Class’05, baby! Woo-whoop!

I have big love for the school and the Directing Program. I learned an incredible amount about my craft in the classroom and on the zillions of AFI sets (mine and other AFI fellows’) that I worked on. I also met of some of my best friends and best collaborators during that harrowing/beautiful two years.

Yesterday, The Hollywood Reporter ranked AFI as the #1 Film School in the world.

Repeat: IN THE WORLD. Congratulations, AFI!

We even graded higher than Bejing’s Film Academy, which at number three does sound like a pretty dang cinematic institution considering this byte: “if one film school anywhere in the world has shaped a whole nation, it’s the Beijing Film Academy.” And I thought getting into AFI was tought? Beijing only takes 500 out of their 100,000 applicants.

We also ranked about NYU which is a personal sweetness to me because though I really enjoy much of the work its alumni create and am fans/friends of many of its graduates, I had the worst interrogation experience of my life when they asked me to come into interview as a prospective grad student.

The Hollywood Reporter describes AFI as an unrivaled stomping ground for auteurs. It’s quite a compliment, and I agree with it whole-heartedly. It’s one of the many reasons AFI has always been #1 on my list.

The A-Team

September 30, 2009

I’ve been asked to be a member of the AFI Alumni Steering Committee. It’s a small, freshly-assembled group of crackerjack, young alums who love AFI like a fat kid loves cake. Lead by Patrick Creadon (C ’93), we’ve been charged with generating an alumni community that connects the AFI grads to the school and to each other.  We are not fundraising.  Thank. God.

This endeavor is long overdue.  Our alumni network is made up of talented, extremely independent, ambitious, one-of-a-kind filmmakers.  They are the kind of people who don’t naturally seem to stay tightly connected after graduation.  Maybe if we had a football team (like USC) to rally around, things would be different?

The steering committee and I think our alumni network has tremendous potential to be a stronger community and industry network-y system for its members.  We’ve already rocked our first meeting and brainstormed ideas that included events, weekly screenings, mentorship programs. We’re sussing stuff out; I’m inspired.

An Actual Post Production Team

September 24, 2009

I’m off editor duty!  Thanks to Patty West, a fellow AFI alum and my KD sorority sister, we’re working with a very talented editor (another AFI alum): Cindy Thoennessen.  Cindy viewed our lastest cut of APPOINTMENT IN VANCOUVER and visualized/verbalized changes that we could not for the next cut. Fresh insight from a smart, speedy, capable editor — Thank you movie gods!  Lucky for us, her schedule and interest matched ours, and we’ve been collaborating all week.  She’s been absolutley invaluable in shaping a “rough” cut to send to NBC Universal Sports at the end of this week.

Furthermore, we’ve secured a music supervisor too!  Mo Grosser has joined the small but tenacious AIV team.  Mo and I met at Northwestern in the R/TV/F program. When I was a senior, she hired me to direct the annual Niteskool music video.  The Niteksool video had one of the biggest budgets on campus and was always a showcase of some of the most creative storytelling.  As a freshman Wildcat, I decided that I wanted to direct the yearly video when I earned the position as a senior.  Mo made that aspiration a reality.  It’s a joy to reunite with her now as she is growing her music supervisor credits and already doing a hella good job pulling selects for us.  Go ‘cats!


“The Bachelorette” Fantasy League: Week 2

June 2, 2009
My mom and I

My Mom and me

This week’s episode of the Bachelorette, I’m ranked 8th out of 11 in our fantasy league.  Arrgh! Will I be able to catch up in time?  My biggest competition is MY MOM.  The original blonde of the family is currently number 1 in the league with 134 points – an enviable nine points ahead of the next team.   While tallying points with the Commissioner,* I explained the standings and my mom’s excellent gameplay with “My mom knows love.”  

Initially, I meant this as a cheeky way to crack us up and relieve the tension created by bachelor David and his Mel Gibson crazy eyes/agro tendencies.  (Jillian, no roses for dudes on the brink!)  But my mom’s expertise on love is unquestionable.  That’s why she’s always my first reader.

I went to AFI where sensitivity to critique was beaten out of us FAST and with a broom handle.  In weekly Narrative Analyses, we would sit silently in front of the whole school (and then later the members of our specified disciplines) and absorb our colleague’s feedback. All of it – the positive, the negative, the crazy.  To survive, you needed a thick skin, an open ear and the mentality of “nothing’s personal.”

That said, I wouldn’t be able to take that kind of critique on the first draft of something.  No. Way.  The stuff is so freshly sprung and still so intimately connected to me — like I’ve been having a secret romance with it.  It’d be hard to face a professional colleague, let alone an audience, at that stage of the game.  Plus, I’ll admit that I’m human and often cranky and tired after finishing the first draft.  

A zillion rewrites loom and a bathtub of notes are inevitable.  But first. In that vulnerable state.  It’s Mom’s feedback I crave.   Not because she’s an easy critic, blinded by affection for her offspring (I wish!), but because I know she can see the heart of the material and assess that.  Just like she can see my core.  

She knows me – past, present and future in only the way my mom can.  She brings that valuable perspective to the newborn material, giving it a chance that I wouldn’t dream to expect from anyone else.   Heck, I’ve only got one mom.  And, she’s kicking my ass at Bachelorette Fantasy League.

* I am Vice-Commissioner and have thus agreed to see the game through to the end should our Commissioner be rendered incapable of her duties.

Alia Shawkat in the LA Times

April 5, 2009

Alia and I rehearsing in the empty pool set.Tony Shawkat, Alia Shawkat‘s dad, just sent me a clip (see below) from the April 2 LA Times in which Alia is profiled for the release of her new film Bart Got a Room. Of course, I could have kept up on one of my favorite young actresses by finding the article myself, but it makes me feel all warm ‘n fuzzy inside to be sent the piece directly from her Pops.  Like I’m a distant aunt or something.  It’s partly “Production Syndrome”  — no matter how big or small a project is, making a film together bonds people.  Together you survive/love the crazy uphill battle/joy of making a film.**

In this case, Alia had the lead role in my AFI thesis film, Queen of Cactus Cove, which meant we spent a lot of time together. And by ‘we,’ I also mean our families.  Both of us have parents who, without being overbearing, insist on being supportive of us.  On Queen, this translated to both our parents bonding ‘rents-style on set.  

Alia and the Mustang... and a giant camera.Alia and I bonded through rehearsals, six days of production, reshoots, ADR, her being a teenage girl/me fairly recently being a teenage girl, AND driving lessons.  Let me explain.   She didn’t know how to drive (she turned 16 on set), but we needed her to drive for a few feet for one shot; suddenly Alia and I are sharing a moment that is usually between parent and kid but now it’s me in torn-up jeans and cowboy hat in director-mode teaching her as ‘Billie’ to drive a powder blue ’60s Mustang.  I cannot wait until the next opportunity to work with the witty, extremely talented and really-good-driver Alia Shawkat.

**It’s never downhill… no matter how smooth the production or how much it looks like it is — those are just the results of when it’s uphill but everyone’s doing their job and enjoying the process.

April 2, 2009 LA Times talks to Alia Shawkat for ‘Bart Got a Room.’

AFI Alum Dinner: We Ate Steak

March 18, 2009

We = Sixty-seven AFI alumni, including some of my absolute favorite friends and collaborators as well as older alums who I’ve wanted to meet.

Ate = Without exception of non-chewing activities like drinking, talking really loud, bashing and praising Watchmen, brainstorming films featuring St. Paddy’s Day (Curtis Pierce wins with Leprechaun), and seeing people we hadn’t seen in years — yes, I’m talking about you Kevin Abrams. I’m so glad you aren’t dead!

Steak = Imagine a huge hunk of medium-rare meat the size of your paperback of Twilight. Thank you, Mr. Morton. I can’t even believe I was considering ordering the salmon. Thank you, Sarah for scowling at the notion.

The Two Bobs (Dean Robert Mandel and Bob Gazzale) and Allen J. Bernstein hosted the event benefiting the AFI Conservatory Scholoraship Fund, and Cathy Wischner-Sola (Alumni Coordinator & my former writing prof) organized it. Thanks to Cathy, this year’s dinner focused on bringing more young’uns into the nexus, which is one reason I was thrilled to host a table.


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