Tag Archives: film

Dustin Lance Black’s VIRGINIA Starts Monday

WRONGVIRGINIAWHAT’S WRONG WITH VIRGINIA, a film that was written by (and will be directed) by Dustin Lance Black (the Oscar-winning screenwriter of MILK) begins shooting Monday, 28 Sep, in Michigan. Gus Van Sant (who will be honored at the POWER UP 9th Annual Power Premiere in November) directed MILK and serves as Executive Producer on VIRGINIA.

Jennifer Connelly will play the charming but psychologically disturbed mother of a 16-year-old son (according to a tweet today, the role will be played by Australian newcomer Harrison Gilbertson). In the film, Connelly’s character, Virginia, has been having a 20-year clandestine love with a sheriff (played by Ed Harris), who is running for the state senate. Harris’ senatorial bid and Connelly’s secret are challenged when her son begins a relationship with his daughter (played by Emma Roberts).

Tictock Studios is financing the film and founders Hopwood DePree and Scott Brooks will produce with Killer Films’ Christine Vachon and Eric Watson. Roar’s Jay Froberg and Greg Suess will be exec producers and Film Bridge Intl.’s Ellen Wander is handling international distribution. CAA, which packaged the picture, will broker the domestic distribution deal.

Last Chance for Sundance 2010


As a filmmaker, this is it. Your last chance to enter your film in Sundance 2010 is Friday, September 25, 2009. As a film lover, you should be starting to make your plans for the Sundance Film Festival of 2010. The 2010 website is up and it’s got lots of stories about previous festival successes. There’s information on places to stay and how to get tickets. So, those who don’t like to come screaming up to a deadline, now is the time to get ready for the festival.

For the deadline (aka adrenaline) inspired, here are the links and information on the final moment to enter your film.

Monday, September 21st, 2009 – $75 ENTRY FEE

Friday, September 25th, 2009 – $100 ENTRY FEE

Please note that the above dates are not postmark deadlines — they are the dates by which your film MUST be received in their office! If your film does not arrive by the deadline for which you have registered, you will be prompted to make an additional payment in order to bring your account up to date.

If you already have an account with withoutabox.com, you may use it to login in. If you do not, one will be created for you when you fill out the application. You may make changes to your application at any time by logging in at www.withoutabox.com. If you have any questions, you may contact them via e-mail at programming@sundance.org.

CLICK HERE TO GET REGISTERED! You’ll have to deliver your film TOMORROW!

And, to find out about the different Sundance categories, here’s the FAQ PDF link!

The Last Laugh

Today, Pamela Jo found this interesting article on Robert Mugabe in The Daily Post. Here’s the story – possibly false, but with a whiff of truth – no Zanu-PF spokesman will tell you about his boss, Robert Mugabe. Back in 1958, when he was teaching in Ghana, Mugabe met fellow teacher and Ghanaian national Sally Hayfron and fell in love. He took Sally back to what was then Rhodesia, and the couple were married in St Peter’s Catholic Church in Harare.
Many difficult years later, Mugabe became President of newly independent Zimbabwe, and the couple moved into Harare’s majestic State House. sallyhayfronstamp Before long Mugabe took measures that echoed those of dictators all over the world. He robbed the national exchequer, and opened a bank account in Switzerland with the proceeds – some millions of dollars, apparently. However, anxious to avoid exposure by the western press, he cunningly put the account in Sally’s name.

Sally died of kidney failure in 1992 – a lasting pity because she had been a restraining influence on the man. But it left him free to marry his South African mistress, Grace. Then, naturally enough, he moved to take control of Sally’s Swiss account. But no. It was explained to him that under Ghanaian law the property of a wife goes, on her death, to her family. Not to her husband.

Sally’s Ghanaian relatives got the lot. Mugabe is said to have broken every window in State House.

Desperately Seeking Sally

Today, we’re back on the story of Sally Francesca Hayfron Mugabe, the first wife of Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe. The more I read about Sally, the more I adore her. I think she would have been an amazing person to know. Almost everything you read says she was a tempering influence on him. When she was alive and in his life, she could settle him down, make him be more reasonable, mitigate much of the vindictive anger that he used against others. Her love calmed him, sweetened him.

She was born into a powerful and political family in Ghana. She was a good student, loved politics and trained to be a teacher in Ghana. sallyhayfron Sally was in her formative teen years during the period that Ghana struggled to separate from Britain. She was 24 years old in 1957, the year Ghana gained its independence. In 1958, she became entranced with the young man from Rhodesia who taught African history at the famous Achimoto School. Founded in 1927, the Achimoto School was famous for its all-inclusive philosophy, teaching boys and girls, blacks and whites in the same way, at the same time, from the beginning. The young Mugabe shared his frustration at his country’s subservience to Britain. He wanted to bring freedom to his people. Sally became his most ardent supporter. They were married in 1961.

During the next 20 years, they helped lead Rhodesia to become the independent nation of Zimbabwe (1980), they both endure imprisonment for political reasons, they lost their only son to malaria, Sally came to known as Amai (mother) for her work in Zimbabwe, Robert started an affair (and later married) Grace Marufu.

Reading List

One of the great things about being a professor is that I was always getting (and reading) new books. Publishers shipped them to us constantly because they hoped we would adopt them for our classes. If it’s a popular class it can mean hundreds and hundreds of sales. In addition to Review copies of books, it seemed that I was always picking up something or another for class. Something wonderful and exciting to share (to go along with one of the BEST things about teaching, always something new to LEARN). Which leads me to mention my latest reading musts!

I was reading HOW TO WOW IN FLASH on the plane. Written by Colin Smith, the book is nine chapters of the things you most need to know and use when building a flash website … things like incorporating a dynamic image page, a scrolling text box and bitmap caching for faster image loads. Best of all, it’s written from a designer’s point of view. So, it included the code but emphasis is on how it’s going to look and work. Great book. I’m looking for more books like it.

I think I already mentioned the Rockable Press book HOW TO BE A ROCKSTAR WORDPRESS DESIGNER. Still amazed at how accessible PHP, CSS and WP became after reading that book. I’ve taught CSS in the past and, had this book been around, it would have been required reading because it takes you really far, really fast.

Emily Dickinson's HERBARIUMWhile I’m unpacking (groan), I also like to take time to read things for pleasure (gasp). I’m working on the Emily Dickinson story so I’ve got two wonderful pleasure books I’m perusing (now that I’ve got my books unpacked). The first is the Emily Dickinson HERBARIUM, a copy of the 400+ plants and flowers that 14-year-old Emily collected, pressed and labeled in her own inimitable hand. In later years, she would use plant and flower imagery in many of her poems. The HERBARIUM is the genus of her genius. Alec picked this up for me in Manhattan at Strand Bookstore (18 miles of rare books). I love it, absolutely love it.

I’m also reading Martha Dickinson Bianchi’s FACE TO FACE WITH EMILY DICKINSON. The daughter of Austin and Susan Dickinson, the niece of Emily, Martha has the unique perspective of someone who grew up in the presence of these two amazing women. Her firsthand account of their lives is fascinating.

Cam Gigandet to Star in Screen Gem’s PRIEST

priestxNews on the internet is that Cam Gigandet (who played the evil vampire in TWILIGHT) is going to be starring in a new movie called PRIEST. Screen Gems, a division of Sony Corp will be distributing it. To be directed by Scott Stewart, PRIEST is a horror, Western, vampire flick.

The film is set in a world ravaged by centuries of war between humans and vampires. People are congregated in cities for their “safety and protection.” The skies are polluted, there is little privacy, daily religious observance is required. Only rebels and outcasts dare to live outside the city walls in the Wasteland. Gigandet will play a sheriff who is part vampire who joins the rescue team to save his niece. Michael De Luca, Josh Donen, and Mitchell Peck will be producing the film.

Short Filmmakers BEST Shot at Success

Short filmmakers who are committed to being successful and catapulting their film career into motion have an amazing resource available to them. Roberta Munroe, Short Film ExpertFormer Sundance programmer Roberta Munroe has written a book entitled HOW NOT TO MAKE A SHORT FILM. During her five-year stint at Sundance, Roberta watched THOUSANDS of short films. She’s seen every mistake, every cliche, every bad choice beginning filmmakers make. And, she’s seen the films that shine, that stand out from the crowd, the films that launch careers.

If you’re thinking about making a short film, RUN (don’t walk) to the nearest bookstore. The book is a bible for short filmmakers. Among the things Roberta covers: How Not To Make A Short Filmhow to keep your story fresh, getting your story to the right length, finding and keeping a great producer, finding the money, getting the talent, getting into an A-tier festival and using your film to launch your career. It is simply excellent. There’s even a cliche list of things to avoid. It is painful to find something you wrote on the list but infinitely better than losing a shot at a festival because you didn’t know every lame short has that cliche in it. Get the book. Read the book.

There’s even a better option for short filmmakers. Roberta offers a one-on-one consulting service. She’ll review your script, let you know if it’s worth your time and effort to make and, if it is, offer notes and detailed advice on how to strengthen it for the A-tier film circuit. If you’re working on a feature, she can help you with that as well.

I sent her a short script I’d been loving for a couple of years and the guys were wanting to shoot. Before we committed the time to do it (because we have so many other projects going on), I wanted to get her thoughts on it. She was direct and thorough in her analysis of the characters and the story. She offered concrete suggestions (without rewriting it or making it her story) to bring it up a notch. She cut to the chase and now I’m more enthused than ever about doing it. More importantly, the film will be stronger because of her input.

So, if you’re a short filmmaker, read the book and consider having Roberta read your material. It may make the difference between a tepid response and a rapid rise in the festival circuit.

Emily, Oh Emily

On my Facebook account, I’ve been updating my status frequently with the comments about my work on “the Emily and Susan” story. I’m always a bit obtuse about it because, like all writers, I have this basic fear that someone else will see the story and decide to do something similar. And I think this is a really good, really amazing story.

A bit more than two years ago, I was “in a poetry phase.” I’d recently re-watched SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE and was enamored of the written word. I started messing around with sonnets … again … almost with the same enthusiasm as when I was in college. Soon, the rigor of the form dampened creativity and the sonnet lost its appeal. So I started playing with free verse and, for inspiration, I spent time re-reading my favorite poets. only known image of emily dickinsonI stumbled back into Emily Dickinson. Her biography was well-known to me. Unmarried, probably agoraphobic, woman dies with only ten (10!) poems published. Following her death, over 1700 (that’s one thousand, seven hundred) poems are discovered in her home in bound books she called “fasicles.” One thousand, seven hundred.

I started writing a poem a day using Dickinson as my standard bearer. I loved her imagery, her cadence, her style.

Her breast is fit for pearls,
But I was not a “Diver”–
Her brow is fit for thrones
But I have not a crest.
Her heart is fit for home–
I–a Sparrow–built there
Sweet of twigs and twine
My perennial nest.

I started noticing the tenderness and longing and eroticism in her writing. So, how does a reputed agoraphobe have these sorts of thoughts? Did she have relationships in her adolescence of which I was unaware? So, I started reading more. More on her biography and more of her poetry.

WILD nights! Wild nights!
Were I with thee,
Wild nights should be
Our luxury!
Susan Gilbert Dickinson
Futile the winds
To a heart in port,—
Done with the compass,
Done with the chart.

Rowing in Eden!
Ah! the sea!
Might I but moor
To-night in thee!

Who the heck is she mooring in? Wild nights with whom? Whose breasts? Doesn’t sound much like a (male) editor that she’s pining for, does it? And then I find information on Susan Gilbert Dickinson, her sister-in-law. A woman she knew from school, a woman who married her brother, Austin, and lived next door to family home for Emily’s entire adult life. About half of Emily’s correspondence was to Susan and many poems were written TO her or ABOUT her (in spite of efforts by others to obliterate Susan from Emily’s writings.


Scholar Martha Nell Smith‘s wonderful books OPEN ME CAREFULLY and ROWING IN EDEN offered a more complete, richer biography of Emily. Using the poetry and correspondence of both Emily and Susan, Professor Smith brought an entirely new understanding of Emily Dickinson and her work.

Tomorrow, more about the mistress of Austin Dickinson and the writings of Susan Dickinson. If you haven’t figured it out, I’m working on a screenplay about the Dickinsons.

Barbara Hammer at Berlinale

hammershort.jpgThe Berlinale ended the 15th of February and I am pleased to report that Barbara Hammer’s short film A HORSE IS NOT A METAPHOR got the Teddy Award for Best Short. I am told we can read and see it in the Feb. 13 online video at Berlinale. If someone finds the link, forward it to me so I can post it. I first met Barbara Hammer at the 1996 Sundance Film Festival (my FIRST Sundance) following a panel discussion. She was inspiring and insightful. That year, Sundance programmed her film TENDER FICTIONS.

The links are in!

The link for the film is:

The link for the interview with Barbara is:

According to the Berlinale Catalog, “Filmmaker Barbara Hammer fights ovarian cancer with visions of horseback riding and river swimming in her new experimental film A Horse Is Not A Metaphor. Hammer says she is a “cancer thriver as well as survivor” in this hopeful and densely layered personal work with music by composer Meredith Monk.”

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