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Indie Film

Tiffany Shlain on Creating The Webby Awards From Scratch

TiffanyShlainTiffany Shlain is an award-winning filmmaker with one of the most watched shows on AOL On Originals, The Future Starts Here. The program focuses on the fusion of culture and technology, a topic which she is especially passionate about.

Shlain also happens to be the creator of the Webby awards. She had just graduated from UC Berkeley and was working with Sting on his new album when she got the gig:

I came back to San Francisco and I was given the opportunity to create the Webby Awards from scratch. They had no budget, and I said, “I know how to do things with no budget! I’m a filmmaker!” So we created the Webby Awards in the early days of the Web, which was very exciting. We used to make a lot of films about how technology was changing our lives, and those films would kick off our show for the Webbys.

To hear more from Shlain, including her advice for aspiring filmmakers, read: So What Do You Do, Tiffany Shlain, Filmmaker And Creator Of The Webby Awards?

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Spike Lee Does the Kickstarter Thing

And… Although this somehow feels way more organic than either Zach Braff or Veronica Mars, there is sure to be a lot of debate about a man who gets paid big bucks to make Nike commercials bringing his pitch to Kickstarter.

Spike wants $1.25 million for an as-yet-untitled “Joint,” and there’s little doubt he will get it (deadline: August 21). Per the video above, this latest campaign is all thanks to a student in Lee’s NYU classes, who brought the filmmaker up to speed on the recent Braff and Mars campaigns:

As I stated in the Video, I promise on my Mother’s Grave and Right Hand to the Almighty – every Red Cent, every Wooden Nickel, every Dollar will go up on the Screen and not into my pocket. I’m not taking a Fee, your generous contributions will get this Film made.

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Neil Gaiman Film Noir Already in the Kickstarter Black

With a few days still left at the Kickstarter end, 1940s-set indie vampire drama Blood Kiss is already well on its way. Amber Benson and Neil Gaiman are attached to star; the initial target-budget of $50,000 has been surpassed; and a companion graphic novel is in the works.

The script for Blood Kiss comes from Michael Reaves, an author and veteran writer-producer on TV shows such as Star Trek: The Next Generation and Father Dowling Mysteries. Because of Parkinson’s disease, Reaves is now wheelchair-bound and must speak through an electronic voice box. Several celebrities have rallied around the Kickstarter campaign, but the biggest angle remains the fact that this will put Gaiman in front of the cameras:

“I’m willing to pretend that the prospect of acting doesn’t terrify me in order to help Michael make his film,” Gaiman says.

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From Birthday Clowns to Teen Pregnancy Tests

So far, the signature aspect of LA’s Collaboration Filmmakers Challenge (CFC) is that the audience and judges agree.

At the 2012 inaugural edition of this short film competition, which gives paired filmmakers two weeks to crank out works based on a “theme” quote, Bethany Orr’s Winner was, yes, the winner of both the Audience and First Place awards. This weekend, at a May 4 event featuring Orr as one of the judges, the Audience-First Place winner was A Simple Test.

During Saturday night’s Q&A at Harmony Gold with judges Orr, actor Matthew Lillard, Reason Online critic Kurt Loder, producer-talent manager Andrew Wilson and StyleHaul head of production Melody Hammer (fellow judge and Slamdance co-founder Peter Baxter, who was unable to attend, announced the winners via taped video message), one of the key pieces of advice offered was that it is best for entrants to not try to literally include the theme quote as spoken dialogue. Sure enough, A Simple Test, written and directed by Jonathan Smith with collaborative help from Mike Carrier, never has either one of its principal characters parrot the Emiliano Zapata words, “It is better to die on your feet than live on on your knees.” Rather, it cleverly embodies the Mexican revolutionary’s advice by means of a teenage girl (Lucy Tarquinio), her MIT-bound suitor (Bill Kottkamp) and an imminent pregnancy test.

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Many Journalists, Fans Wish Zach Braff Wasn’t on Kickstarter

Across Twitter today, a sizable gallery of journalists and fans are rolling their eyes at the idea of TV sitcom millionaire Zach Braff joining the Kickstarter ranks to fund indie sequel Wish I Was Here. Below is a small sampling of that sentiment, from EW‘s Anthony Breznican, TheWrap’s Tim Molloy and Chicago moviegoer Clayton Smith:

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LAT Screening Series Adds the Impressive Company of Robert Redford

Long before Watergate and a starring role in All The President’s Men, Robert Redford knew there was something off about Richard Nixon.

Chatting last night with LA Times “Indie Focus” reporter Mark Olsen at his new Sundance Cinemas on Sunset Blvd. after a newspaper subscriber screening of The Company We Keep, the actor-director remembered the time he was presented at age 13 in Santa Monica with a high school athletic award. “I didn’t know who he was,” Redford said of the 1949-50 school year encounter. “He was just a guy in a suit. But it was Earl Warren, the governor, and Nixon, then a senator. When Nixon handed me the award and shook my hand, it was just a vibe. I thought, ‘I don’t like this guy.’”

There was also some great reminiscing during the Q&A about how Redford gradually became interested in the investigative efforts of Bob Woodward and  Carl Bernstein. ”When I read an article about them, I realized one was a Jew and one was a WASP,” Redford recalled. “One guy was a Republican, the other was a radical; one guy was a very good writer, the other wasn’t so good. They didn’t like each other, but they had to work together. I thought, ‘Wow, that’s fascinating, that’s a great story.’”

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Topanga Filmmaker Set to Tell the Story of Hollywood’s First Female Director

Earlier today, at Kickstarter deadline, Wendy Haines squeaked past her target goal of $100,000. As a result, many will soon be educated about the remarkable and largely forgotten story of Hollywood trailblazer Dorothy Arzner.

As Hopkins told Long Beach Press-Telegram reporter Phillip Zonkel earlier this week for his personal blog “Out in the 562,” the story of Azner stretches well beyond three silent films, 14 “talkies” and the invention of the boom mike:

“Dorothy was a compelling character. She made her place in a completely male world,” says Haines. “Her drive to do what she loved in spite of the world around her telling her it wasn’t possible inspires me.”

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Roman Coppola Vampire Spoof Checks Into Hollywood’s W Hotel

At the opposite end of Kickstarter and Indiegogo lie the independent short film realms of corporately co-sponsored contests and content. Ventures like “Four Stories,” an Intel-W Hotels initiative that came to a close last night in Westwood.

The global screenplay competition, curated by filmmaker Roman Coppola and (his) LA talent agency The Directors Bureau, asked back in August for submissions meeting two simple criteria. Plots had to anchored to a W Hotel and feature an Intel Ultrabook laptop as a central narrative component.

Last night at the Bruin Theatre, four winning filmed entries were screened, as chosen by Coppola, actor judges Chloe Sevigny, Michael Pitt, PJ Ransone and W Hotels global music director Michaelangelo L’acqua. There was also a fifth bonus entry from Coppola himself, vampire spoof Hollywood: Die Again, Undead One, starring Jason Schwartzman. That one was filmed across the street from The Pantages.

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Film Independent Event Commingles John Singleton, Hackers

Long before John Singleton hit it big as a writer-director, he was an intern working on the Columbia Pictures lot in Culver City. As he recalled over the weekend at the 2012 Film Independent Forum, he could find no parties of interest for his script Boyz in the Hood until he finally connected with producer Stephanie Allain.

What’s cool about this particular keynote address is that among those in the audience listening to Singleton was – you guessed it – Allain:

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Publicist-Turned-Filmmaker Ava DuVernay Gets Glowing AP Profile

A year that began with Ava DuVernay claiming the first-ever win by a black woman of Sundance’s Best Director prize continues apace this month for the former film publicist. As she told AP entertainment writer Sandy Cohen, “I’m living my dream.”

DuVernay’s sophomore effort Middle of Nowhere has received Twitter seal of approval from Oprah Winfrey. Her previous, first effort was endorsed by Roger Ebert. With that kind of Chicago backing, it’s no surprise that DuVernay is already hard at work on her next project – a documentary about Venus Williams – and palns to make a movie a year. From Cohen’s profile piece:

There’s a massive congratulatory bouquet of orchids on the desk in her small office overlooking Van Nuys Boulevard… A magnum of Moet with a big gold bow on top sits on the floor…

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