Sharing stories, gaining understanding: An Interview with Becca Roth

March 22, 2014, 12:15 AM   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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Director Becca Roth of “One: A Story of Love and Equality,” has been dreaming up stories since before she could type. Here, she shares her personal passion for storytelling and encourages people on both sides of divisive issues to stop arguing and start listening.

CIFF: How did you decide to pursue a career in film?
BR: In high school, I would make up fictionalized versions of my life to cope with the fact that I had a huge crush on this girl and had no idea why this was happening. I would think about it all the time, writing catchy dialog, picking out a soundtrack, everything. I took a filmmaking class for fun, and it was the first time I put everything I had into something, worked extremely hard on it, and was actually excited to work extremely hard on it. I took more film classes and eventually got up the courage to make the movie that I dreamed up in high school and used it as a vehicle to come out. The terrifying feeling of putting myself out there was unbelievable. I realized that this was something I need to do for the rest of my life.

CIFF: What inspired you to create One: A Story of Love and Equality?
BR: I attended Kenyon College in rural Ohio. My senior year, some Kenyon students organized a queer prom for high school kids in Mt. Vernon, a pretty conservative town nearby, who didn't feel comfortable at their own prom. I was shocked to see protestors outside the venue. I realized that I had never really been exposed to ways of thinking that were so extremely different from my own. As I watched my classmates and the protestors engage in a screaming match, I took a step back and thought about how unproductive this was.

I decided to take a new approach to this issue. I wanted to get to know the individuals who were anti-gay. Surely they had reasons for believing what they believed, even if I didn't agree with it. When I found out about Amendment One in North Carolina, a state that is full of towns and cities that range greatly on the political scale, I knew that it would be a great opportunity to find this story.

CIFF: Where does the name Tip Jar Films come from?
BR: I moved to New York and found a job as a coat check girl. I was spending all of my time there, developing calluses on my hands from carrying ten pound fur coats, working mostly for tips. Once coat check season was over, I gathered my hard-earned tips, assembled a crew, and with the modest amount of money I had earned, I produced my first independent short film, Rain in Summer. The budget was tiny, but the passion was immense.

CIFF: What important message in “One” would you like CIFF audiences to take away?
BR: I think stories are the most powerful thing someone can share with the world. That's what this film is all about. Sharing personal stories and allowing people to get to know who we are as people.

Interview by Amy Kersey

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Related Screenings:
03/22/14 @ 12:30 PM – One: A Story of Love & Equality
03/23/14 @ 9:20 PM – One: A Story of Love & Equality
03/24/14 @ 11:30 AM – One: A Story of Love & Equality

Related Events:
03/22/14 @ 12:00 PM – Terminal Tower Observation Deck
03/22/14 @ 2:30 PM – Day at PlayhouseSquare's Hanna Theatre

'Handy' – Truly a One-Hand Show

March 22, 2014, 12:10 AM   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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Being a filmmaker isn’t always glamorous.

“I stopped having a normal life,” says Italian filmmaker Vincenzo Cosentino. “It seemed a huge mountain where you can't stop and you can't look down either otherwise you feel that you can fall down any minute.”

His feature-length movie, “Handy,” took four years to complete. The film grew from his popular seven-minute short, “Being Handy.” And he did all the work himself. A crew was a luxury he couldn’t afford.

After learning nine new software systems–spending two years alone on visual effects–Cosentino turned to editing and sound, another “very painful” part of the process. Completing his film was a "one-hand show," rather than a "one-man show," he jokes.

It’s a movie with stand-alone hands as the characters. Cosentino admits his film is “a different kind of movie,” but “I wanted to bring something new to the table; I wanted to narrate an impossible story,” he says.

His story got the attention of an acting legend.

Italian actor Franco Nero, who has starred in many movies, including “Die Hard 2” and “Django” (the 1966 original and the 2012 remake), saw Cosentino’s short at a film festival. The two met and Nero asked what production company he was working with. Cosentino answered: none. “I made the short film mainly all by myself, with no funds.”

A surprised Nero told him that if one day he decides to make a feature out of the short film, that Cosentino “could count on him to play in it for free.”

With this huge boost of self-confidence, Cosentino went to work immediately. The next day, he says, he reached Nero at the airport, right before he was leaving town, and gave him the part he wrote for him overnight. Nero said ‘are you crazy? When did you write this?’ Cosentino answered, “Last night. I didn't want you to re-think your offer."

Nero read the first two pages right then and told Cosentino, "I love this character. OK, I will play it."

One month later, the two met again in Sicily to shoot the scenes. Four years and several months later, the completed “Handy” is in Cleveland.

Cosentino is “super excited” to be here. He says that when “Handy” premiered at the Austin Film Festival last October, he heard many people talk “about this amazing festival in Cleveland where the audience is so open minded.”

Having “Handy” accepted by these well-known film festivals “is a great joy,” he says. He can’t wait “to shake the ‘hands’ of the ones who believed in my hand.”

— Anne M. DiTeodoro
Photo by Nanekia Morgan

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Related Screenings:
03/21/14 @ 8:45 PM – Handy
03/22/14 @ 6:30 PM – Handy
03/24/14 @ 2:00 PM – Handy

Related Events:
03/22/14 @ 12:00 PM – Terminal Tower Observation Deck
03/22/14 @ 2:30 PM – Day at PlayhouseSquare's Hanna Theatre

Small-Town Blues

March 22, 2014, 12:05 AM   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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What would you do if your best friend and girlfriend were leaving you behind in your small town for new adventures? Rob your boss of petty cash? Maybe.

Brothers Zeke and Simon Hawkins, co-directors of “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” know a little something about relationships, good and bad. Their film is a Texas thriller where everything goes wrong from the very beginning.

Though presenting their first feature film, Zeke and Simon have been working together since they were teenagers.

“Simon did the editing while I sat close by and did things like drink coffee,” jokes Zeke. But he adds seriously, “The process of working together makes total sense and is a natural ebb and flow.”

Making the film took two years, according to the Hawkins’ brothers. Producers Brian Udovich and Justin Duprie were originally inspired to tell the story because of their own family ties.

Duprie is a fourth-generation cotton farmer, and the co-producers built the idea around his community. Screenwriter Dutch Southern came into the mix and wrote the script based on the producers’ stories.

The Hawkins brothers were last to join the team.

“In making a lower-budget movie, things tend to take longer,” says Simon, “but we always have each other to utilize to make things happen.”

Zeke adds, “We have differentiated roles in the process. We each have our own specific thing, and we talk a lot about what we want to do.” So why did they choose this film to be their first co-feature?
“We saw a script we believed was unique, and we thought it was an opportunity to make something special,” says Simon.

“We Gotta Get Out of This Place” is unique in that it is accessible. Desperation, confusion and sexual tension abound in this thriller.

Just like characters in their film might not always agree, Zeke and Simon have had their doubts. However, they consider themselves lucky.

“With the two of us, we have a support system,” Zeke says. “You get to push for what you really need to do rather than listening to the million reasons telling you to stop.”

— Molly Drake

PDF  Download Related PDF [1.1 MB]

Related Screenings:
03/22/14 @ 11:40 PM – We Gotta Get Out of This Place
03/23/14 @ 6:30 PM – We Gotta Get Out of This Place

Related Events:
03/22/14 @ 12:00 PM – Terminal Tower Observation Deck

Don't Dance? 'Five Dances' Offers You More

March 22, 2014, 12:00 AM   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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Which comes first, the story or the cast? For Filmmaker Alan Brown, it was the dancers he cast for his film who inspired him to create his story. “I developed the story—and the characters—around the dancers I cast,” says Brown. “I wrote the story as I grew to know them.”

Early reviews of the film, “Five Dances,” have lauded the superb dancing of Ryan Steele, the film’s lead. Steele was recommended and was asked to audition. The first audition focused on dancing. When he was called back, it was time to test his acting.

“I’d already seen him dance, so when I discovered that he had wonderful, natural dramatic instincts and talent, I hired him on the spot,” says Brown. Later that day, Steele and Brown met for a coffee and got to know each other. That’s when Brown knew that he would write the film around this character.

“Five Dances,” as the film’s webpage says, “is a classic tale of finding success and romance in the big city.” We follow Steele, who plays Chip, as he interacts with the rest of the members 
of this small modern dance troupe. That’s why Brown insists that this film isn’t just a dance film and encourages those who aren’t necessarily dance fans to come and watch.

You’ve “likely never seen a film quite like this,” Brown says. “And ... certainly never seen a dance film like this one. [You’ll] be enthralled by our talented dancers and by Jonah Bokaer’s amazing choreography.”

The film has screened all over the world, and now it plays in Cleveland. Audiences may be different, or decide to attend the film for a variety of reasons, but “everyone everywhere loves a good story.”

“Some people come for the dance, others for the love story,” says Brown. “... The most satisfying, and common, [audience] reaction I’ve gotten is from people who come up to me after a screening and tell me that they’re not dance fans but loved the film.”

Audience reaction means a lot to this writer/director, but it’s filmmaking and the creative process that keep Brown going.

“... I really wouldn’t want to be doing anything else,” he says. “I’m happiest when I’m making a film.”

Anne M. DiTeodoro

PDF  Download Related PDF [1.1 MB]

Related Screenings:
03/20/14 @ 7:40 PM – Five Dances
03/22/14 @ 4:30 PM – Five Dances

Related Events:
03/22/14 @ 12:00 PM – Terminal Tower Observation Deck
03/22/14 @ 2:30 PM – Day at PlayhouseSquare's Hanna Theatre

Focus on Filmmakers

March 21, 2014, 12:15 AM   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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Liz Marshall, director of “The Ghosts in Our Machine” was the first filmmaker at the 38th Cleveland International Film Festival to accept the Focus on Filmmakers award. Designed to showcase minority and less visible filmmakers, this year’s Focus on Filmmakers program emphasizes films and filmmakers from the LGBT community, featuring those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.

“I’m here to engage in dialogue with you,” said Marshall, “so ask me anything.” Her feature film, “The Ghosts in Our Machine,” is a documentary that reveals hidden truths about the animal industry.

Filmmaker Malcolm Ingram is the second Focus on Filmmaker Award recipient at the 38th CIFF. He is thrilled to bring his own “gay culture” to Cleveland, especially because he believes “there’s a really interesting and vibrant queer community in Cleveland.”

Ingram’s feature film “Continental” is a documentary focused on exposing gay bathhouses, specifically The Continental in New York. Ingram wants to share “a gay history” with Cleveland audiences and says it is his privilege to tell these stories. CIFF is proud to present the Focus on Filmmaker program to Cleveland audiences and hopes to engage in dialogue like never before.

Molly Drake
Photo by Nanekia Morgan.

PDF  Download Related PDF [1.0 MB]

Related Screenings:
03/20/14 @ 5:10 PM – The Ghosts in Our Machine
03/20/14 @ 9:35 PM – Continental
03/21/14 @ 1:50 PM – Continental
03/21/14 @ 3:00 PM – The Ghosts in Our Machine

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