The John Hughes Movie of Climate Change

April 04, 2016   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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Our globe never ceases to change, falter, adapt, and thrive. Thanks to those dedicated to study these transitions, what we learn from our past can help dictate the choices we make for our future. Daniel Miller, director of the 2008 film “The Linguists,” a film documenting languages on the verge of extinction, seeks to bring social sciences to life yet again with “The Anthropologist.”

“Anthropology is how we learn about changes through people,” Miller says. “This film brings a human face to climate change.”

Filmed over the course of five years, the story is told from the perspective of Kathryn, the teenage daughter of anthropologist Dr. Susan Crate. Amidst traveling to the South Pacific, Peru, Siberia, and other ends of the world to study the state of our planet where plenty of issues could have arisen, the greatest source of conflict existed—unsurprisingly to some—in the mother/daughter dynamic.

“We shot the film when [Kathryn] was 13 to 18 years old,” Miller says. The film recognizes the fact that “[her generation] didn’t ask to be born into climate change, but asks how they will change as individuals to deal with the challenges of the future.”

Simply stated, “This is really a coming of age film,” he says. “Think of it as a John Hughes movie of climate change.”

In addition to inherent struggles between mother and daughter, the film also draws parallels with the discoveries of renowned anthropologist Margaret Mead. Her research on major cultural shifts society faced in the 20th century, like war and globalization, mirror the “doomsday” fears some people have of the effects of climate change. Although many felt the challenges of the generations before us were insurmountable at the time, we’re still here to talk about it.

“They survived it,” Miller says. “It showed the resilience of human beings.”

He adds: “Not only will we get through it, but we’ll get through it together. I know that’s not a popular theme in a film about climate change.”

Miller is optimistic about the future of anthropology and the passion people have for gaining a better understanding of the world around them.

“The next generation loves to travel and learn about different cultures,” says Miller. “This will help us and our communities survive the changes [ahead].”

Ultimately, “If a teenager can make a transformation, so can we.”

—Amy Brown

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Related Screenings:
04/04/16 @ 2:00 PM – The Anthropologist
04/05/16 @ 12:00 PM – The Anthropologist
04/06/16 @ 9:30 PM – The Anthropologist

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From Off-Broadway to Onscreen

April 04, 2016   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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Gerald McCullouch has been acting on stage and screen since the early 1990s, but his debut as a feature film director, with “Daddy,” has been a life-changer. “It’s all storytelling to me,” he says, “but I kind of prefer the journey of directing over acting. I like the collaborative journey of directing and find it immensely creatively fulfilling.”

McCullouch also stars in “Daddy,” portraying Colin McCormack, opposite screenwriter Dan Via as Stewart Wisniewski. From the time he auditioned for the off-Broadway theatrical premiere, he and Via are the only actors who have played the characters.

“I found the story utterly unique and compelling from my very first read and loved its many twists and turns,” he says. “A story hadn’t kept me guessing like that in quite a while.”

McCullouch and Via followed up the play’s 2010 off-Broadway run with an extended run in Los Angeles that began in 2011. The themes of the play—which he sums up as “a beautiful and funny tale of friendship and getting older and the horrible consequences of things left unsaid”— had taken firm root within him, so he decided that he wanted to adapt it to the screen. That turned out to be both more challenging and more rewarding than he expected.

“Dan Via's play was a three-character play with basically only three locations,” he explains, “so countless changes were made during the adaptation process.” Interiors were shot in Los Angeles, but the story was set in Pittsburgh, so he had to plan a 36-hour trip to shoot exteriors, something that “induced many sleepless nights and emotional roller coasters.”

The action of the film occurs over a period from late fall to early spring, so they needed wintry exteriors. When they arrived in Pittsburgh, however, the forecast was sunny and mild, with temperatures in the fifties. It looked like the most cheerful disaster ever was imminent.

“Luckily,” McCullouch recalls, “when we landed, we not only got sun, but also rain and very windy briskness and—crazily—the most beautiful fluffy falling snowflakes I have ever seen.”

That variety of weather in 36 hours was “pretty freakin’ incredible, and brings a smile to my face to this day.”

The scene set in a gay bar posed a further challenge. Unable to schedule the shoot during their 12-day LA production schedule, McCullouch had to get creative again. “I guerrilla shot the wrap party,” he reveals, “which is what you see in the film.”

In spite of all of those hitches, it was one of the creative high points of his life. He is already developing his next directing project, adapting another off-Broadway play that he starred in shortly before he began pre-production on “Daddy.”

Lara Klaber

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Related Screenings:
04/04/16 @ 7:15 PM – Daddy
04/05/16 @ 2:05 PM – Daddy

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The Quest for Quiet

April 04, 2016   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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Our days and nights have become bombarded by a clutter of sounds. Our phones buzzing, music blaring, and subways screeching are deafening our ability be still and exist with ourselves in silence. Patrick Shen explores the physical and emotional benefits—and essential need—for quiet “In Pursuit of Silence.”

“We have allowed the noise around us and inside of us to take hold of our bodies and minds to the point that we are constantly overloaded cognitively, emotionally and even spiritually,” Shen comments. “Life is no longer lived in real time and we often confuse all the busy-ness, all the doing, for being.”

With its intangible, all-encompassing demeanor, where do you begin to tell silence’s story? How do you fully capture its impact—especially through film—that typically relies on sights and sounds to effectively communicate?

Shen cites one of his favorite filmmakers, Nathaniel Dorsky, who said that his silent films are “not about something but being of something.”

“I found myself treating silence as a character in exactly the same way that I treated those who verbally speak in the film,” Shen says. “The film leaves a lot of space for silence and the mysterious nature of it to express itself.”

Viewers are encouraged to embrace quiet moments of the day and make silence a priority in their lives and communities. Constant noise is detrimental, and without pausing to take an inventory of the damaging sounds around us, our world will only get louder.

“We'd like audiences to leave the theater with fresh eyes and ears, to see the world as new again somehow,” challenges Shen. “I want audiences to get curious about what sort of thoughts and revelations they may be missing out on while their minds are so overloaded with simply coping with the noise or filled with thoughts of what's next.”

Thankfully, it seems Shen has taken his own advice as he plans for his “what’s next” endeavor. He has a knack for turning subject matters often considered nothing into a captivating something. This time, his new film, tentatively titled “In Praise of Shadows,” is entirely composed of shadows, and “explores the movements and the spirit of a city and its people,” he says.

For other filmmakers determined to tell the stories they are meant to tell, Shen offers some smart guidance.

“Stop thinking about for whom, when, and where your film will premiere and just make your film,” he says. “Everyone brings a very unique element to a project and that usually grows out of one's personal encounter with a subject or story.”

If only they allow themselves to quiet their mind and surroundings to do so.

—Amy Brown

PDF  Download Related PDF [6.0 MB]

Related Screenings:
04/04/16 @ 4:10 PM – In Pursuit of Silence
04/05/16 @ 11:50 AM – In Pursuit of Silence
04/06/16 @ 8:50 PM – In Pursuit of Silence

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Filmmaker Hutton Happy to Return to CIFF

April 04, 2016   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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Several patrons of the Cleveland International Film Festival may have seen “Crude Independence” when it screened here in 2009. Filmmaker Noah Hutton returns to Stanley, North Dakota, to continue the story with “Deep Time.”

Hutton describes his new film as an “update” rather than a “sequel,” and includes footage from his previous film, but says this is “a larger story about the whole arc of the [oil] boom, and eventually its relation to the larger issue of climate change.”

If you haven’t seen the first one, which was filmed in 2008 at the beginning of the Bakken oil boom and when Hutton was a junior in college, Hutton assures us that by combining new and old footage together in the same film, “the whole story is here.” (The Bakken Formation, according to geology.com, is one of the largest contiguous deposits of oil and natural gas in the US.)

Hutton continued to stay in touch with many of the people he met and interviewed for “Crude Independence.” They kept him updated on “how much things were changing and how crazy it was getting out there.” He made a return visit to Stanley and saw that it was now “the story of the boom spreading to the Native American reservation.”

Fracking and climate change is a story that is universal. “… It’s no surprise to me that many communities are dealing with some of the same challenges that North Dakota has faced,” says Hutton. He thinks that his films are different from other environmental films about fracking because “I focus equally, if not more, on the social impacts, and also present people within the film who support what’s going on.

“If you’re living in one of these communities, you’ll likely encounter the whole spectrum of support and opposition,”
he notes.

Hutton is also the composer for the film and reviewers attribute his music as an integral part of the story.

“I have always written the music for my work, so it’s been a natural part of the creative process,” he says. “I do it during the editing of the film … Because I don’t narrate the film, I believe the music is where my commentary is felt.”

Hutton is happy to be back at CIFF. The Cleveland festival “is known among filmmakers as a no-nonsense, support-the-work-first festival where filmmakers are rewarded with passionate audiences and treated well, no matter who they are,” he says. “It has a great reputation in the
community, and I personally will keep coming
back because CIFF has supported all of my work and encouraged me through the years.”

This is his second time at CIFF, but he’s been to Cleveland many times. His mother, actress Debra Winger, grew up in Cleveland Heights, and Hutton is looking forward to seeing his uncle and cousins in the audience for his screening. “It’s always nice to come back and see my family,” he says.

Anne M. DiTeodoro

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Related Screenings:
04/04/16 @ 11:35 AM – Deep Time
04/05/16 @ 7:05 PM – Deep Time

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Persistence Pays Off: Shooting in 35mm Is 'Cool,' but Story, Characters Are Key

April 04, 2016   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

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From Cleveland to Atlanta to Tallahassee, and ultimately, to Los Angeles—sounds like a typical travel pattern for someone determined to make his or her mark in filmmaking.

“I went to film school in Tallahassee [Florida State University College of Motion Picture Arts],” recounts Dennis Hauck, writer and director of “Too Late.” “There were 24 students in my class, and within a few weeks of graduation, almost all of us ended up in LA.”

Even at a young age, Hauck knew that he “always wanted to do something creative.”

As a kid, he was drawing his own comic strip. But he realized his drawing wasn’t that good. In high school, he turned his creativity to music and started a band. He says they were good, but not great. When he happened upon film, that’s when it all clicked. “I do think I can do this.”

He was obsessed with old-school private eye novels from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, he says. Hauck decided that he wanted to do a modern take on these stories, and at the same time came up with the notion of experimenting with long takes.

He started writing the script in 2010 and fatefully finished it in 2011, the same day John Hawkes, who stars in the film, received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for “Winter’s Bone.”

Hauck knew he wanted Hawkes in his film from the beginning. “I tailored the whole part to John,” he says. The two met via a mutual friend and exchanged phone numbers.

At first, Hauck approached Hawkes’ agent and got a ‘no,’ but he says he “wouldn’t take no for an answer.” Hearing the answer from Hawkes’ agent wasn’t good enough. “I wanted to hear it from him,” said Hauck.

Hauck reached out directly to the actor. It took a couple of weeks for a call back, but he was able to talk with Hawkes and convince him to take another look at the script.

Persistence paid off; Hawkes agreed to be part of the film. One down, it was now onto the next hurdle—shooting in 35mm film. Typically, one roll of 35mm film would last 11
minutes, but Techniscope, the format invented in Italy and
typically used for Spaghetti Westerns in the 1960s, allowed for 22 minutes. The format has since died out.

Hauck, again, was determined. In 2012, he began shooting his film in Technicscope in five acts, each comprised of a single 20-plus-minute uncut shot. They ran out of funding, and “nothing happened for over a year.”

Finally, the last scene was shot in May 2014.

“A million times we heard ‘no,’ or ‘it couldn’t be done,’ or it’s ‘technically impossible,’” says Hauck. “But we kept brainstorming and looking at other solutions.”

Even though Hauck says shooting in 35mm “is cool,” he’s quick to point out that “if the story and the characters aren’t compelling, then none of that really matters.”

Hauck is excited to return to Cleveland and is appreciative that the Cleveland International Film Festival has “gone out of their way” to show his film at the Cinematheque. He chuckles and says that two of his shorts were previously “rejected” by the CIFF. “I hold no grudges,” he says.

Persistence truly does pay off.

Anne M. DiTeodoro

PDF  Download Related PDF [6.0 MB]

Related Screenings:
04/04/16 @ 8:15 PM – Too Late

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