Being Bené: Pop Star, Éclair Enthusiast

March 22, 2015   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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As the lead actor, writer, director, editor and music composer of the bizarre comedy, I Am a Knife with Legs, Bennett Jones drew inspiration from real-life experiences to concoct an out-of-the ordinary tale of European pop star Bené and his sidekicks hiding out from an assassin in L.A.

“I had lost someone very special and found it helpful to concoct stories with grief and loss at their center,” Jones says. “The story started to take shape and the comedy came from heightening the dark thoughts one thinks after suffering a loss.”

While drawing from a place of despair to develop his main character and storyline, the setting that would ultimately drive the film was sitting right before his eyes.

“The view out my window of Marathon Avenue climbing up the hillside inspired the plot as well,” Jones comments. “It struck me as very cinematic that I could watch someone descend that hill, cross Silver Lake Boulevard, climb the stairs to my building and come right in my window. Knowing that I could easily shoot such a sequence triggered the idea for an assassination plot.”

However, not all elements of the filmmaking process were just outside his window. As the sole creative director of most aspects of this “absurdist comedy heavy on the voiceover,” Jones slowly began to realize any sort of initial time frame he set out for completion would soon be blown out of the water by a lengthy extension.

“I finally came up with a rule: If I thought something would take an hour, it would take six,” Jones says. “If I thought something would take two months, it will take a year. Take any estimate, multiply by six, and that's how long it will take.”

Although Jones wore many creative hats to bring this film to life between the songwriting and composition, animating graphics, looping tracks of dialogue and channeling the idiosyncrasies of Bené, Jones’ favorite role remained in the music. “Compared to filmmaking, it's much more immediate and it costs nothing.”

As for words of wisdom for up and coming actors and filmmakers? Jones says, “I'll repeat Ed Begley, Jr.'s advice from years ago: Keep your expenses down. The less money you need to live on, the more money, and time, you can spend on refining your craft. For filmmakers: Make the movie you want to make, not the movie you think will sell.”

And, one must ask the very important question: How many éclairs were consumed through the making of this film?

“One, believe it or not,” Jones replies. “We only bought a box of three.”

— Amy Brown

PDF  Download Related PDF [1.2 MB]

Related Screenings:
03/21/15 @ 11:45 PM – I Am a Knife With Legs
03/22/15 @ 9:40 PM – I Am a Knife With Legs

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Taking Feature Films in a New Direction

March 22, 2015   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Festival Events

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Photo by Nanekia Morgan.
New Direction filmmakers participated in a Q&A session with the audience to talk about their experiences as first-time filmmakers. From left to right: Douglas Boswell ("Labyrinthus"), Brian and Ann-Marie Schmidt ("Incredible Adventures of JoJo"), Abhay Kumar ("Placebo"), Khalil Sullins ("Listening"), and Joshua Tate ("Love Land"). Clint O’Connor, film critic from the Plain Dealer, moderated the panel.

New Direction, a new program showcasing debut feature-length directors, brought together six filmmakers to talk about their experiences. They discussed everything from getting funding to problem-solving on the set to making intriguing trailers.

On financing: Sullin used the insurance money he got when his home burned down during the 2007 California wildfires as "seed money" to finance his film.

Problem-solving: The Schmidts had to deal with children growing during the course of a long shoot.

Trailers: All directors noted that they don’t like it when the trailer gives away too much. You still want people to see your film. Kumar relayed this story: Somebody who saw "Placebo" noted that [the trailer] doesn't do the film justice. "And I said, 'thank you.'"

Lisa Curland and Anne M. DiTeodoro



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Related Screenings:
03/19/15 @ 12:05 PM – Labyrinthus*
03/19/15 @ 2:10 PM – The Incredible Adventures of Jojo (and his annoying sister Avila)
03/19/15 @ 8:30 PM – Listening
03/20/15 @ 2:00 PM – Listening
03/20/15 @ 4:30 PM – The Incredible Adventures of Jojo (and his annoying sister Avila)
03/20/15 @ 7:00 PM – Labyrinthus*
03/20/15 @ 9:20 PM – Love Land and Guest Room
03/21/15 @ 9:20 AM – Labyrinthus*
03/21/15 @ 11:20 AM – Placebo
03/21/15 @ 12:10 PM – Love Land and Guest Room
03/21/15 @ 7:30 PM – The Incredible Adventures of Jojo (and his annoying sister Avila)
03/22/15 @ 9:30 AM – Listening
03/22/15 @ 6:00 PM – Placebo

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Round 2: Building a Lasting Legacy

March 22, 2015   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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Audiences of the 37th CIFF reveled in Des Kilbane’s “A Fighting Heart,” a documentary tracing the life and boxing career of Irish immigrant and Cleveland native Johnny Kilbane. This time around, Des Kilbane continues the story of his distant cousin in “Kilbanetown Comeback” as the boxer’s old neighborhood honors his legacy.

In the summer of 2013, Kilbane was told the Irish American Archive Society (IAAS) had commissioned renowned Irish sculptor Rowan Gillespie to sculpt a bronze statue of World Featherweight champion Johnny Kilbane.

“I learned that further rare archive footage of Kilbane’s life was uncovered and that Kilbane’s closest relatives, his two grandsons, were willing to be involved in the film,” Kilbane says. “This convinced me that a new and fresh look could be taken of Kilbane’s life and times.”

The yearlong process spent working with Rowan Gillespie to complete this film was a key part of making it successful. “The work of a sculptor is a tough and dangerous one, and Rowan does all the work himself so I was privileged to have filmed the process from the very beginning.”

Although Kilbane resides in Ireland, his connection to Cleveland is fostered by his aunt and uncle who settled on the west side of Cleveland not far from Johnny’s home in his boxing heyday.

Boxing may run in the Kilbane gene pool to a certain degree. Johnny served as an inspiration to Des’ father who earned several local boxing titles before his own emigration forced him to give up the sport. Des has never boxed himself, but has “maintained a lasting interest in the sport.” Regardless of his skills inside the ring, he is committed to paying homage to Johnny Kilbane in an era of a very prosperous Cleveland and the impact that may have on the city’s future.

“I am very interested in Cleveland and its people as I have many relatives living there,” comments Kilbane. “The rebirth of a new confident Cleveland is a pleasure to behold, and the spirit evident in the support of the Johnny Kilbane sculpture project is still there.”

Kilbane is “thrilled to be attending CIFF 39 with Kilbanetown Comeback” and is confident this film will have a positive impact on Cleveland locals.

“I think that the film will hopefully inspire local community groups to take on projects for the benefit of their neighborhoods. Can they do it? Yes they can!”

Next on the docket for Des? “Our current project, “The Doctor and The Dictator,” is based on the life of a friend of ours who is a Chilean refugee to Ireland,” Kilbane says. “It involves torture, corruption and Nazis, but it ultimately is about faith and the resilience of the human spirit.”

--Amy Brown

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Related Screenings:
03/21/15 @ 7:15 PM – Kilbanetown Comeback and Hidden In Plain Sight
03/22/15 @ 7:30 PM – Kilbanetown Comeback
03/23/15 @ 5:00 PM – Kilbanetown Comeback and Hidden In Plain Sight

Related Events:
03/22/15 @ 5:00 PM – Capitol Theatre

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Taking Action

March 22, 2015   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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It was a New York Times headline in 2006 that inspired blair dorosh-walther, director
of “Out in the Night.”

The headline read: “Man is stabbed after admiring a stranger.” dorosh-walther, who
identifies as gender non-conforming and uses both male and female pronouns, could not believe it. A man does not ‘admire’ teenage girls on the street at midnight—that is harassment.

dorosh-walther wanted to understand why this man, who had harassed a group of black lesbians walking through New York’s West Village was considered by the mainstream news media a potential suitor, not a threat. The filmmaker questioned why these women were not seen as survivors of homophobic harassment, as well as why the girls were being charged as a gang, even though they had no criminal records.

The media labeled the group of young women “Killer Lesbians,” “Girl Gang,” and “Wolfpack.”

“I believe this story would have unfolded differently had the women and gender non-conforming youth involved been white,” says dorosh-walther. “Race and class, as well as gender and sexuality, were and remain critical issues in this case.”

Four of the women were convicted of gang assault and other crimes and two years after the original arrest dorosh-walther couldn’t stop thinking about their story and wrote to them in prison about making their story a documentary.

“I wasn’t totally sure they knew what a documentary feature would entail. In retrospect, neither did I,” says dorosh-walther. “One time we were chased by a truck of prison Correctional Officers for about a mile or two up the road.”

In making the film, dorosh-walther learned the meaning of resilience and resistance in a completely new way. Two of the women spent a lifetime of surviving everything from police harassment to sexual abuse. The one night that they fought back, they were immediately turned into criminals.

“It really is a demoralizing and indicting commentary on the state of things in our society,” say dorosh-walther. “So I think the thing viewers should take away from this is the women’s ability to be strong resisters while maintaining an unbelievable sense of humor.”

The filmmakers have been in conversations to partner with a number of organizations
including the United Nations’ Free and Equal Campaign that seeks to decriminalize
homosexuality worldwide. These partnerships have yielded results, as the film is slated to screen at 77 sites worldwide.

“I think this film translates to other cultures because women, queer people, people of color, marginalized people know what it is like to be harassed on the streets,” says dorosh-walther. “They know the feeling of not having the protection of the police. It’s a universal theme. Marginalized people do not have the same protections.”

Lisa Curland
Photo by Elaine Manusakis

PDF  Download Related PDF [1.2 MB]

Related Screenings:
03/22/15 @ 7:00 PM – Out in the Night
03/23/15 @ 9:00 PM – Out in the Night
03/24/15 @ 4:30 PM – Out in the Night

Related Events:
03/22/15 @ 5:00 PM – Shaker Square Cinemas

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Touches of Magic: Local Filmmaker Finds Inspiration in Community Theater

March 22, 2015   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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Northeast Ohio is filled with many rich stories, interesting people, and authentic locations for director Ted Sikora. It’s why he likes staying close to his hometown to tell them.

His latest film, “Move On!” is about Near West Theater’s move from St. Patrick’s Club Hall in Ohio City to their own building in the Gordon Arts District. It started out as a small project chronicling the June 2014 rehearsal
period and performances of “Move On!” the final production in their home of 36 years.

“As I kept interviewing people and watching their process I became more and more
fascinated,” says Sikora. “It felt like I was getting these touches of magic each time I went.”

The Near West Theater has a unique identity as a grassroots intergenerational theater that has a mission to build relationships and engage diverse people through transformational theater arts experiences with an emphasis on serving youth.

“The actors really go for it. They are all-in on every number,” he says. “It’s very raw and fearless. I was never around such a richly diverse group of people. All different ages, ethnicities, backgrounds.”

He credits much of the program’s success to its leadership. He says its strength starts with Artistic Director Bob Navis, Jr.

“His directing style is unlike any I’ve ever seen,” Sikora says. “Then there’s this holistic balance from Executive Director Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek. It’s almost cultish—in all the ways that cults are good.”

Sikora is a natural fit for creating a documentary about a theater company. He
was heavily involved in writing two musicals in the ’90s, and when those initial runs were completed he had a sad feeling about the shows being done and gone. He likes that with filmmaking the work continues to exist for others to see exactly as the creators intended it.

He also is able to combine his filmmaking with his other passion, comic books. His voice lights up even more than usual as he talks about his ongoing comic book series, “Apama—The Undiscovered Animal,” based on a character he created in his highly-acclaimed first film, “Hero Tomorrow,” which screened at the 31st CIFF in 2007.

“Working on our comic book as a colorist has improved my cinematography,” explains Sikora, “because I’ve had to think much deeper about the way characters and scenery are affected by light.”

Recently, he and co-creator Milo Miller published a hardcover volume of the first
five issues of Apama. In addition, he has a new screenplay titled “Bloom,” about the origin of Apama’s arch-nemesis, a 1969 flowerchild who becomes Cleveland’s psychedelic mistress of mayhem!

Sikora acknowledges that to be successful with indie films, young filmmakers need a great story and should try to have an identifiable niche market.

“However much time you have spent—or imagine you’ll spend learning the craft of
filmmaking, plan to spend an equal amount of time writing stories and developing your own voice.”

Lisa Curland
Photo by Tim Safranek: Diane Davis Sikora (l) and Ted Sikora (r).

PDF  Download Related PDF [1.2 MB]

Related Screenings:
03/22/15 @ 5:00 PM – Move On!
03/23/15 @ 2:10 PM – Move On!
03/24/15 @ 8:45 PM – Move On!

Related Events:
03/22/15 @ 5:00 PM – Capitol Theatre

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