Strange Bird Seeks Production & Distribution Partner

A New Script from Andrew Mudge

STRANGE BIRD look book cover art

Andrew’s new project is a feature length thriller called STRANGE BIRD. The story is about a teenage drone enthusiast who, with the help of his outcast classmate, reluctantly embarks on a mission to rescue three friends who’ve been kidnapped by the deranged caretaker of an abandoned insane asylum.

The idea of STRANGE BIRD came to Andrew in 2015 when he was flying his quadcopter drone past the boarded up windows of the abandoned Medfield State hospital. The idea that struck him was simple: what if I saw something horrifying through those windows, and then crashed my drone on the roof, and had to figure out a way to get it back?

The Logline: A teenage drone enthusiast, with the help of an unlikely love interest, reluctantly embarks on a mission to rescue three friends who’ve been kidnapped by the deranged caretaker of a long-abandoned insane asylum.

The Synopsis: Kenny Pitts, president of his high school’s remote control drone club, accidentally crashes his quadcopter on the roof of a derelict insane asylum, just moments after the camera captures a few frames of a mysterious and sadistic ritual occurring within a top floor window. After his heedless friends vanish while trying to investigate the peculiar happenings, a terrified Kenny begins to receive hostage videos that seem to reveal the scheme of a deranged night watchman. With the help of a misanthropic yet alluring girl named Neera, and her lethally customized drone, Kenny finally musters the courage to return to the scene of the crime and bring down the lunatic kidnapper.

A depiction of what is seen through the window with the drone.

Writer/Director’s Statement: A few years ago I purchased a quadcopter drone, the Phantom 2, and went looking for a place to practice flying it. I found myself at the abandoned Medfield State Hospital in Massachusetts, its eerie campus sprawling with overgrown lawns and vast empty parking lots. Watching the drone first lift off the ground, with its feverish vibration, and hearing the incessant whine from its propellers, I was struck by something: what an unnerving little robot this was!

Diabolical, you might even say. A character that belonged in a movie. Strange Bird, I thought.

Later, while I was flying the drone alongside one of the buildings, and looking at the camera feed in my monitor, I was struck with a thought that sent a chill down my spine. What if this drone allowed me to see something horrific — truly nightmarish — through one of the top floor windows. And what if, moments later, I crashed the drone on the roof, and I had to go inside that building to get it back…

Medfield State Hospital entrance

I envision STRANGE BIRD with a PG-13 rating, with an intended audience of primarily teenagers and young adults. First and foremost, it’s supposed to be fun. In this regard, it fi ts the comedy/horror model in the purest form. But while many films of this genre balance the scary with screwball (SCARY MOVIE, SHAUN OF THE DEAD, GHOSTBUSTERS), STRANGE BIRD’s comedy is darker, more situational. It exploits the minefields of teen angst in a John Hughes/Stephen King sort of way. As in Stephen King’s IT, the innocence of our young protagonists is ruptured by The Boogeyman. Adults don’t help much (Kenny’s parents are never on screen). The kids must face the demons head on. Their ultimate triumph over evil parallels a coming-of-age theme that is reminiscent of such classic films as NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and THE GOONIES, or more recently, Netflix’s STRANGER THINGS. (However it should be noted that STRANGE BIRD’s characters are older than the aforementioned examples).

The hospital salon

At the same time, STRANGE BIRD plays with a contemporary cultural ill; society’s obsessions with social media and the measuring of our value by our accumulation of likes, views, shares, and tags. The subplot stabs at this undercurrent playfully; balancing horror with comedy in a tone similar to BLACK MIRROR and GET OUT. There are also traces of FARGO in this movie, best exemplified by a pair of eccentric middle-aged men who own the local drone repair shop. On some levels, STRANGE BIRD might be what would result if the Coen brothers worked in the horror genre.

STRANGE BIRD will scare the hell out of you. Yet, at the same time, it winks at you with a certain nostalgia surrounding its ghost-story-told-around-the-campfi re premise — a demented groundskeeper at the local abandoned insane asylum who digs up corpses.

When Kenny mentions this to people, nobody believes him, a nod to the audience that we’re playing with clichés here. And yet when violence happens, we don’t hold back. As if to say, don’t get too cozy with this, we’re about to show you what a man’s face getting chopped up by drone propellers looks like.

Locations:

Medfield State Hospital (Massachusetts)
The Medfield State Hospital is the precise location Andrew Mudge had in mind as he wrote the script. It has an ideal three story building with a flat roof. The location also has large, cracked-asphalt parking lots and a sprawling, dilapidated campus.

The abandoned Windsor Insane Asylum is so prominently featured in STRANGE BIRD, it could be considered one of the main characters.

Shooting in Massachusetts brings the added advantage of its Film Incentive Program: A Film Tax Credit that is both transferable and refundable and includes production spend above and below the line with a minimum spend of $50,000. That’s hard to beat. Having said that the writer/director has also scouted other locations in the Commonwealth as well as in Connecticut, New York, Georgia and Kentucky where he has identified abandoned hospitals that could be suitable.

Andrew Mudge on set

Andrew Mudge is a Massachusetts native (grew up in Sherborn), whose student short fi lm, CHICKEN POX PAL played at the Sundance Film Festival. He went on to make other shorts, including THE PERFECT GOOSEYS, which was shot in Fairhaven and Ipswich and features actor Will Lyman. The film won top awards at the Hamptons Film Festival and the Los Angeles Short Film Festival, and was later sold to HBO. It can be seen here.

Andrew’s debut feature film, THE FORGOTTEN KINGDOM, was filmed in South Africa and Lesotho. It won awards at over a dozen international film festivals (including Woods Hole, where it won the audience award), as well as three awards at the African Movies Academy Awards. The film’s trailer can be seen here.

Andrew Mudge has created a STRANGE BIRD Look Book where he has additionally outlined the characters along with their relationships to one another. It’s spooky. Contact him at andrewmudge@gmail.com.

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“Annabelle Hooper” Sequel in the Works at Angelina Pictures

By Paul Serafini

ANNABELLE HOOPER AND THE GHOSTS OF NANTUCKET will get a second film at Angelina Pictures. (IMAGINE Magazine featured the teen mystery adventure last year in our AFM Special Edition.) The film had secured worldwide distribution for the film via MarVista Entertainment prior to shooting. MarVista Entertainment is a worldwide distributor, with nearly 1,000 licensees across 125 plus territories. So, when the movie was released, we had great carriage on most of the major OnDemand and Digital services, which really helped us gain a solid audience, especially for a family genre film like ours. The movie also played in ten film festivals and won multiple awards, and then eventually, a worldwide deal with Netflix was made, which is now helping to give the film an enormous potential audience around the world.

At AFM this year we’re hoping to connect with financial and distribution partners that will help
us move our various film projects into production. At Angelina Pictures, we have several films in active development in addition to ANNABELLE HOOPER 2.

The Last ShephardWe’ve optioned a wonderful Christmas book called “The Last Shepherd”, written by Boston author Mark Duffield, which we’re developing into a feature film. We already have a great script, concept trailer, and actor interest. The story, which was inspired by true events, is set in the Beacon Hill section of Boston, and follows a young reporter as she investigates a mystery that ultimately changes her own life in ways she never thought possible.

Read more about the book here.

Our hope for the project is that it becomes a Christmas movie that has year-after-year staying power for audiences around the world, like IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, A CHRISTMAS STORY and THE HOUSE WITHOUT A CHRISTMAS TREE. We think it has the depth and heart to be a Christmas classic someday!

Additionally, we have a romantic comedy feature in development that brings familiar elements from rom-coms like MOONSTRUCK and SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE, and a sports dramedy feature film that’s based on a true story and harkens back to classic sports films like HOOSIERS, THE BLIND SIDE And the BAD NEWS BEARS.

Starring Bailee Madison as Annabelle Hooper, along with Robert Capron and Rachel Resheff

We were fortunate when we made ANNABELLE HOOPER AND THE GHOST OF NANTUCKET in that other U.S and international territory licensing is still ongoing and there are still some rights available, so it’s an ongoing process.

But what really kicked the project into overdrive was when we made the distribution deal at AFM several months before we shot the movie. We are certainly an “AFM success story” and a testament to the fact that AFM is an event that can really help move a project forward if you have the right material. For ANNABELLE HOOPER, we had always designed it to be a franchise with the hope that we would create multiple films featuring the main characters. So this year we are in advanced development on ANNABELLE HOOPER 2, and will be attending AFM once again to connect with potential financial and distribution partners. As a family genre mystery adventure series, there is a solid demand for this type of film, and ANNABELLE HOOPER has built a great audience of worldwide followers for the first film who are dying for a sequel. So we’re trying to make that happen!

The script for the sequel has already been written by our fantastic screenwriter Stefne Miller, and is set in a ghost town.

We hope to retain many of our original cast members, as these are the actors that the audiences have fallen in love with playing these characters. Of course, schedules and availability always play a role in casting, but our hope is that many will return. Always a challenge, as actors get busy with other projects and commitments, but I think the experience of making ANNABELLE HOOPER for virtually all of these actors was such a positive one, and they have all expressed their enthusiastic interest in returning for a sequel.

At Angelina Pictures, our mantra is to make movies that entertain and inspire audiences around the world. We are a dedicated team of people who all share this mission. Life is too short to be spending precious time doing projects that don’t inspire yourselves or your audience. The success of ANNABELLE HOOPER has given us a worldwide audience for our projects and we can’t wait to share more!

Director Paul Serafi ni on the set of Annabelle Hooper along with with Robert Capron, Bailee Madison and Rachel Resheff.

Paul Serafini is a Daytime Emmy Award winning Director/Producer and a nine-time national Daytime Emmy nominee. He has directed and produced feature fi lms as well as over 300 episodes of national television. He has worked with such companies as Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon, Disney, TimeWarner, PBS/WGBH, Universal, and he is the CEO of Angelina Pictures, a fi lm/television entertainment production company. He is a member of the Producers Guild of America, the American Film Institute, the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and his other awards include multiple U.S. International Film & Video Festival awards, WorldFest Houston awards, Parents’ Choice awards, Promax Awards, and New York Festival awards.

Angelina Pictures can be contacted via email at contact@angelinapictures.com and/or by phone at
978 610-6141

All photos courtesy of Angelina Pictures.

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Works Wrinkles and Wraps for September 2017

WWW stands for Works (in progress), Wrinkles or Whoops (whenever they happen), and Wraps (completed films and projects of any kind). Your contributions are encouraged. email to: publisher@imaginenews.com.

Catching-up with Becki

A selfie in Becki’s trailer in November 2016 while working on the Netflix show GLOW. She plays a Clinical Assistant ion Episode 8.

New England Actor Becki Dennis moved from Massachusetts to Los Angeles to pursue her acting career, particularly in TV. IMAGINE caught up with her over the summer and here is what we found.

Becki says, “It’s been a great two and a half years in LA for me and all of my hustling has been paying off, especially in the last year. I am grateful for the support and encouragement that the New England acting and film community continues to provide me. Working in the Boston market before coming to LA prepared me so well for everything that I am doing here now. New England is a wonderful place to get your first credits as an actor.

She can currently be seen in GLOW on Netflix, The series is produced by the same team behind Orange Is the New Black, and she will be in an episode of I’m Sorry on truTV this month. She has been in two episodes of ABC’s Comedy Fresh off the Boat playing a cashier, which she says garnered her a very comedic moment.

Becki Dennis playing the Cashier in the ABC Comedy Fresh Off the Boat. Screenshot courtesy of RipIt

Becki has been racking up co-star credits in multiple episodes of Pretty Little Liars, Pure Genius, Speechless, The Fosters, This is Us and The Young and the Restless. IMAGINE collected some photos for all her fans here.

Mark Your Calendars! The 5th Annual Boston International Kids Film Festival Comes to Somerville on November 2 – 5, 2017.

The Boston International Kids Film Festival invites Parents, Students and Educators to a Four-day Celebration of Imagination and Creativity!

Filmmakers Collaborative created the Boston International Kids Film Festival in 2013 at a time when the average teen was spending almost seven hours per day on some form of an electronic device. The goal in showing films from around the world, all made either for or by kids, is to show teens and tweens that there is more to tech than texting, snapchatting, and instagramming their friends —that making a film can be a powerful way to tell a story, express your emotions, state a point of view and (more importantly) to have fun!

By screening amazing student-made films from around the world while at the same time offering young filmmakers a look at professionally-made films created just for them, the festival is enabling the next generation of filmmakers to realize the power and potential of media.

The festival also showcases professionally-made films that promise to entertain the entire family while giving the storyteller in each of us something to strive towards. In 2016 the festival screened ANNABELLE HOOPER AND THE GHOSTS OF NANTUCKET by Concord writer/director Paul Serafini and shot on location on Nantucket.

Combine all that with hands-on workshops on stop-motion animation, special effects, and Gopro movie-making, and you are in for an event that families of Greater Boston will be enjoying for years to come!

For more information visit http://bikff.org/

Auspicious Phoenix Production Ends Unconventional Exhibition Tour in Sommerville

Auspicious Phoenix Productions recently completed an unconventional exhibition tour called the Rolling Revue, which hearkens back to the storied roadshow engagements of the 1970s. It’s an independent studio production and photography company that specializes in film in Somerville, MA. Their slate of films spanned the continent with a US theatrical roadshow that began in Los Angeles and zig-zagged across the country to end in Boston.

A throwback to the days of the traveling roadshow, the Rolling Revue gives new life to the time-honored event, paying homage to all the glory of the roadshow — audiences can expect 16mm movie projections, slide photo carousels, and practical effects movie magic brought right to their doorstep. The old and the new collide to present a truly one of a kind event, featuring movies never to be released or distributed again.

The troupe finished in Boston on, September 10th, wrapping up its first of a kind, roadshow consisting of short films directed by independent Boston filmmakers at The Space Studio, the company’s Somerville headquarters. People attended the event to watch brand new, original short films that were almost entirely filmed inside the studio over the past year and a half. A 360 VR behind the scenes documentary of CRANIAC! (dir. Paul Villanova) was also on display as an interactive experimental exhibit.

The tour lineup represented a collection of diverse narratives and visions from a talented group of filmmakers — all of whom are alumni of Boston University’s Cinema and Media Production graduate or undergraduate programs and included: QUIETUS directed by Joy Song, LADIA directed by Álvaro Congosto, BLOOD HIGHWAY directed by Joseph Dwyer) THE LITERAL LENS directed by Jim DanDee and the afore-mentioned CRANIAC directed by Paul Villanova.

Auspicious Phoenix is currently undergoing pre-production for two features and a handful of short films in 2018.

For more information visit www.auspiciousphoenix.com

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ITVFest – Largest Independent TV Market in U.S. Hits Manchester, Vermont

By Vinca Liane Jarrett, Esq.

ITVFEST Executive Director Philip Gilpin, Jr. and Al Tesler, the original founder of ITVFEST.

If you’re not going to the Independent Television Festival, recently moved to Manchester, Vermont, the weekend starting Wednesday October 11, you’re probably either not in the know or you’re just not in the business, especially if you’re living in New England. ITVFest entering its second decade after moving from Hollywood to Vermont four years ago under the tutelage of Philip Gilpin, Jr., a visionary industry veteran, wanted to set the festival apart from the milieu of noise in California,
where it’s hard to get attention between festivals,premieres, and award seasons. And that he has done, making it the go to place for all the majors including to name a few, HBO, Viacom, Bravo, and
growing management and finance companies such as Buffalo 8.

Bobby Farrelly and Kris Meyer at ITV Fest.

Participants include producers such as Bobby Farrelly (THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY, DUMB AND DUMBER), Kris Meyer (ME, MYSELF & IRENE, FEVER PITCH), Bernie Su (The Lizzie Bennet Diaries) winner of two Primetime Emmys and four Streamy Awards, and Dana Kuznetzkoff (Boardwalk Empire, Smash), and showrunners such as Jerome Perzigian (Frasier, The Nanny, The Golden Girls), Joel Surnow (24, La Femme Nikita, Miami Vice) and Richard Korson (The Daily Show). Executives from the full gamut of TV programming, both traditional and non-traditional, including, to name a few, NBC Universal, Comedy Central, IFP, HBO, IFC TV, Discovery Channel, and Bravo, and new content companies such as Adaptive Studios, New Form, and Jash, all participate. While this is called a festival, it is far more like a market for industry insiders, and in the know climbers, who want direct access to decision makers.

Vinca Jarret as panel moderator at ITVFEST.

I was asked to be on a panel and moderate another panel two years ago (2015), and returned last year
to moderate several panels enthusiastically to join my ITVFest family of regulars, who include content producers such as Jesse Albert, former agent at ICM, Khara Campbell, who produced in-house at AOL, the glamorous and A-list vegan chef Leslie Durso, and comedy writer Mike Rotman, whose credits include Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher for which he was nominated for a Primetime
Emmy. Asked to join the Board of Advisors (who in actuality appointed me followed by my whole hearted consent, as you don’t say “no” to Phil Gilpin) last year, I did so happily, as amongst the big five festivals and markets that I regularly attend (AFM, Sundance, Berlinale, Cannes and TIFF), ITVFest stands out as a place where the networking leads forward to real projects, real clients, and real friendships, all in Vermont during fall foliage, at the loveliest time of year. To really profit from a visit to ITVFestival coming up in just four weeks, pack your business cards, a pad of
paper to take massive notes on (or, ok, just use your smart phone), your casual clothing, and a pair of hiking boots for good luck.

Producers Jesse Albert and Vinca Jarrett at ITVFEST.

No one that consumes TV today is surprised that Variety recently noted that traditional TV is dying rapidly. Yet content providers have a deep need for programming, and are looking for nontraditional
sources, as budgets inevitably must come down as advertising must spread itself wider to the array of channels and websites providing content. ITVFest is a worldwide community of creatives and executives making and sourcing episodic programming (both fi ction and nonfiction), and currently ITVFest is the only festival in the United States that focuses exclusively on independently produced content with content submissions from over twenty countries each year. There will be literally hundreds of executives on hand at this year’s event providing a pipeline for direct connections to major networks, digital television, agents, managers, attorneys, writers, showrunners, and producers.

Manchester, Vermont is a vibrant arts community set in Central Vermont with a nearby airport, and easy access from New York, Boston, Chicago, Montreal, and Toronto by car, and the city has embraced ITV. New production incentives are available through the Vermont Production Council to give episodic content creators resources to produce their next projects. Thus the location is a win win for attendees and the state alike. There are prizes for the winners of this year’s multitude of submissions, and opportunities for development meetings, potential management, meetings with literary agents, and professional script consultation. Pack your bags, and head to glorious Vermont for some leaf peeping and opportunity in the television business.

Vinca Jarrett is an entertainment attorney and finance consultant with nearly thirty years practice experience, and films that include THE PERFECT GAME, THE FOURTH KIND and FAROUT ISN’T FAR ENOUGH. She is also the Producer and Creator of the global television and film finance series, Show Me The F#©K!NG Money, how to invest, raise, and recoup your money in
the entertainment industry.

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AIFF Celebrates its Seventh – Year Kick-Off

Starts with an Homage to the Serbian Community in Boston

Arlington International Film FestivalFor the past seven seasons, the Arlington International Film Festival (AIFF) has curated a festival in October that celebrates the very best of new local, national, and international independent films for audiences to enjoy. AIFF’s Selection Committee watches hundreds of submissions each year and is delegated with the task of choosing films that represent the creative in storytelling and technical execution while holding to the festival’s mission of fostering appreciation for different cultures by exploring the lives of people around the globe through independent fi lm. Each year brings forth amazing visions of filmmakers that we are honored to bring to Greater Boston.

This year, the judges have selected a film that will kick-off the 2017 Festival, homage to our Serbian community, which represents the vision and passion of the French as well as the Serbian communities.

THE PROMISE by director Zeljko Mirkovic

Synopsis: A century ago Rogljevo, a remote village in the far eastern corner of Serbia, was incredibly prosperous, one of the top five wine regions in Europe. The wines of Rogljevo were to be found at exhibitions in Bordeaux and Paris. But today this region is poor and deserted. In ‘cinema verite’ style, this documentary follows the extraordinary experience of a French family who moved
into the village to make wine, believing they had discovered a promised land. Their arrival sparked high hopes with some villagers and great resistance and mistrust with others. Can Europeans from two opposite sides of the continent come together to revive the ancient glory of this forgotten wine region? Winner of the Best Documentary at the Mediterranean Film Festival in Italy and Eugene International Film Festival, Oregon.

The Arlington International Film Festival (AIFF) runs from Thursday, October 26 through
Sunday, October 29 at the Capitol Theatre in East Arlington. AIFF will be screening feature narratives and documentaries as well as programs of short narrative, documentary and animation. Please visit www.AIFFest.org after September 20th for program details.

Our feature Student Filmmaker’s Program, VOICES OF OUR YOUTH will be screened on Saturday, October 28 at 12 noon whereupon voices of Arlington/Greater Boston will converge with the voices of youth across the country and around the world; i.e. Australia, Canada, China, India, Mexico, Netherlands, and Portugal. Watching High School student films is a process of discovery. Come, sit back, and wait for the unexpected. This year’s shorts address topics ranging from social justice, fictional exploration, depression, equality for women, disabilities, relationships, and artistic aspirations.

Independent films chosen this year by our Selection Committee range in topic from social justice, art, dance, music and marriage.

We are honored to open this year’s festival with a dynamic US premiere Thursday, October 26, 7 PM, SHADOWGRAM acclaimed Italian director Augusto Contento. An astonishing documentary about the African-American community in Chicago, it captures the memories of African-Americans living in the USA – fifty years after the abolition of the ignominious Jim Crow Laws… what has changed? Did anything really change? Who does remember how it was? Has there been an evolution of the African American community? Their hopes, their dreams, their will? The film features a cross-section of people – a psychiatrist, an administrator, a teacher and a hip-hop artist to name a few -, who reminisce about their childhoods, reflect on the hopes of generations gone by and their influence oncurrent daily life.

SHADOWGRAM, was scheduled to screen at the United Nations meeting of the High Commission on Human Rights in Geneva in March of 2017 organized by US, European, South American, and Asian diplomats.
Unfortunately, this screening event that was supposed to take place on the Worldwide Day in Defense of all Human Rights was canceled by the US Embassy in Geneva upon request of the Trump administration. SHADOWGRAM was being screened officially in front of the whole diplomatic community and what truth were people going to discover about US African-American integration (or dis-Integration) that is not already known?

The short that will be screened with this feature is Honk: A Festival of Activist Street Bands by director Patrick Johnson featuring Boston’s own local international jazz musician, Ken Fields. There will be a Panel Discussion followed by an After-Party/Reception at Bistro Duet Restaurant in East Arlington.

Marriage and its relationship to love is examined from the perspectives of conservative Christians, Jews, Indians, and Indonesians in the films A COURTSHIP, (documentary), KOSHER LOVE (documentary), RATTLED (narrative), and PRIA (narrative) respectively.

Set for wide release in 2017, CHASING TRANE is the defi nitive documentary film about an outside-the-box thinker with extraordinary talent whose boundary-shattering music continues to impact and influence people around the world. This smart, passionate, thought-provoking and uplifting documentary is for anyone who appreciates the power of music to entertain, inspire and transform. Written and directed by critically-acclaimed documentary filmmaker John Scheinfeld (THE U.S. VS. JOHN LENNON and WHO IS HARRY NILSSON…?) the fi lm is produced with the full participation of the Coltrane family and the support of the record labels that collectively own the Coltrane catalog. Scheinfeld brings his strong story-telling skills to the creation of a rich, textured and compelling narrative that takes the audience to unexpected places.

THE SETTLERS looks at Jewish settlers in the West Bank and their allies – Jewish and non- Jewish alike.

THE SETTLERS by filmmaker Shimon Dotan takes a look at Jewish settlers in the West Bank and their allies – Jewish and non-Jewish alike – in Israel, America and Europe. The origins of the settler phenomenon, which reach back almost half a century, are explored in this documentary along with a look at who the settlers are today and how they impact the Middle East peace process.

PHIL’S CAMINO, a short documentary film that has officially been submitted to the 89th Academy for Oscar nomination consideration, tells the story of free spirit Phil, a man living with Stage four cancer and dreaming of walking the 500-mile spiritual pilgrimage Camino de Santiago across Spain. Inspirational!

Cannes Short Film Competition nominated LUNCH TIME for the Palm d’Or. Shot in Iran, this narrative follows a sixteen-year-old girl who has the responsibility of identifying the body of her mother. It is a story that speaks to the issues of a harsh bureaucracy and gender inequality.

Let’s watch a narrative comedy that will keep you laughing, HAVE A NICE FLIGHT! Yes, the airline personnel generally wish us a nice flight but what happens to a Vietnamese man needing to return to his country on a family emergency? He prepares to leave a US airport encountering rules of culture and language that are foreign to him, causing a lot of confusion and laughter, ending in appreciation and love.

EVERYONE KNOWS ELIZABETH MURRAY, is a tribute to a dynamic artist Elizabeth Murray, an intrinsic figure in New York’s contemporary art landscape scene from the 1970s until the early 2000s. This documentary highlights her struggle to balance personal and family ambition with artistic drive in a
male-dominated art world. It also addresses her later battle with cancer, at the peak of her career. Director, Kristi Zea is a two-time Oscar-nominated production designer and filmmaker and has designed classic films such as SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, GOODFELLAS and REVOLUTIONARY ROAD. This film
screens on Saturday afternoon and is followed by a Q&A/Reception at 13 Forest Gallery.

the man who wanted to change the world
From the Netherlands, THE MAN WHO WANTED TO CHANGE THE WORLD depicts African-born artist Peter Westerveid who claimed he had developed a solution to combat desertification and ultimately climate change.

Closing night features the U.S. premiere of THE MAN WHO WANTED TO CHANGE THE WORLD by director, Mariëtte Faber from the Netherlands. In the nineties, African born artist Peter Westerveld claimed he had developed a solution to combat desertification and ultimately climate change. His designs for
restoring the water cycles in Africa are unlike any organization has embarked on before, let alone a single man. But in Peter’s mind there is no doubt that he can heal the land. He is quarrelsome and his ideas are controversial. Despite being ridiculed he relentlessly pursues his dream for a green and drought-resistant world. Panel Discussion to follow.

You are invited to enjoy amazing independent films at the Capitol Theatre October 26 – 29! For more information visit www.aiffest.org.

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“It’s Alive!” Horror Film Art at the Peabody Essex Museum

By Robert G. Pushkar

Metallica’s Kirk Hammett introduces Horror Movie Memorabilia on Display at the PEM in Salem

It's Alive at PEMThe world trades on nostalgia today as never before. A look backwards not only shows evolution, but also shows a comforting continuity with the present. That’s why when a museum mounts a show rooted in Hollywood horror films of the 20th century, it’s irresistible. In Salem, Mass., the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) did just that, and called it “It’s Alive! Classic Horror and Sci-Fi Art.” The exhibition is culled from the personal collection of Metallica’s heavy metal guitarist Kirk Hammett.

Since age five, Hammett has been transfixed by all things horrific. He’s always “felt the outcast” and
“relates to monsters and feels like them,” he tells museum-goers in a video. His biographer, Stefan
Chirazi, writes that as a shy kid he was “dreamily obsessed with monsters, ghouls, toys, music and guitars.” Thrilled that his collection was chosen for display at a major museum, he wrote an original composition, “Maiden and the Monster,” for the audio room as you exit. It seems an appropriate coda in a city that prides itself in the macabre.

Kirk Hammett makes a point about a vintage FRANKENSTEIN (1931) poster.

Boris Karloff
Boris Karloff latex-sculpted fi gure wears the original suit from THE BLACK CAT
(1934). Photo by Robert G. Pushkar.
The exhibition displays 135 pieces; over 90 are vintage movie posters, bursting with explosive colors and monster mayhem. Bu, there are related items too: masks, scary toys, sculptures, even Boris Karloff’s suit from THE BLACK CAT (1934), worn by a latex-sculpted figure of the movie star. His contemporary horror-meister, Bela Lugosi, also appears in a lifesize statue, dressed in the jacket and vest he wore in WHITE ZOMBIE (1932).

Eight themes guide visitors through the collection, plus one is a grateful nod to Hammett showcasing a splashy collection of eight of his guitars. He partnered with ESP Guitar Company to create the instruments, emblazoned with movie poster images on the body.

Other themes such as “The Unnatural & Undead,” “From Realms Beyond,” and “Mad Science” bring into focus what’s displayed. Another theme, “She,” offers gender context to the graphic depictions found in posters at the dawn of the film genre. Women scantily clad in submission to monstrous predators established the stereotype of the defenseless female. In the poster for James Whales’ THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935), Karloff’s monster menaces his swooning bride, reclined in his grasp, her bridal bouquet thrust back over her head in total surrender.

Bela Lugosi statue wears the suit from WHITE ZOMBIE (1932). Photo by Robert G. Pushkar.
These portrayals refl ect gender norms and women’s status in the culture during the 1930s through the 1950s. In the Sixties, the feminist movement challenged sexist mores, raising awareness about inherent gender bias in the media. Hollywood reacted, and the hypersexualized, predatory female was born in new celluloid roles, embodied as threats, not victims, originating from outer space or from under the sea.

Considered as an art form, these meticulously handdrawn posters stand as a unique genre. The use of photography had not come until much later. Therefore each poster represents a personal interpretation of film content by an individual artist. Universal Pictures, a leader in horror productions, contracted the Morgan Lithograph Company to create its posters. A cadre of ten artists worked exclusively side-by-side with Universal’s art director who controlled the marketing.

DRACULA front cover. Photo by Paige Besse
The posters, of course, were promotional, designed to lure people into theaters. They were shown in entrances and lobbies, and in train cars. They were reproduced in magazines and newspapers. A steady flow of new movies opened each week, and inevitably the posters were discarded. The poster for the original FRANKENSTEIN, perhaps the only one of its kind around, was discovered in a projection room of a defunct movie theater in the Midwest.

The imagery is rich with colors, especially green. “Green grabs attention,” Dan Finamore, who curated
the exhibit, said. “It started in the Thirties, and as you can see it never went away.” Finamore is PEM’s Russell W. Knight Curator of Maritime Art and History, and grew up watching horror movies, collected black light posters, and played in a rock band.

Still, the artists who created the poster art were kept anonymous. At the preview opening, Hammett spoke at the podium and dedicated the exhibition to “all of the unsung, unknown artists who put together all those incredible beautiful movie posters.”

For more information about this exhibit and Peabody Essex Museum visit www.pem.org.

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ROBIN SWEET: Castle Rock TV Series Producer Home At Last in Massachusetts

“You have no idea what’s happening here, do you?”

Well someone does and her name is Robin Sweet. She’s the producer of J.J. Abrams Castle Rock new TV series for Hulu Originals in production in conjunction with Warner Bros on stages set in the grand location of Orange, MA and in studios at New England Studios in Devens, MA.

Here’s the set up: “Castle Rock is a psychological-horror series set in the Stephen King multiverse, Castle Rock combines the mythological scale and intimate character storytelling of King’s best-loved works, weaving an epic saga of darkness and light, played out on a few square miles of Maine woodland. The fictional Maine town of Castle Rock has figured prominently in King’s literary career: Cujo, The Dark Half, IT and Needful Things, as well as novella The Body and numerous short stories such as “Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption” are either set there or contain references to Castle Rock. Castle Rock is an original suspense/thriller — a first-of-its-kind reimagining that explores the themes and worlds uniting the entire King canon, while brushing up against some of his most iconic and beloved stories.”

As we all know there has been so much pressure on Massachusetts to land a television series that will create an abundance of work for local talent and crew. Our goal is TV series that would be in production six or seven months a year and come back again and again. The last major TV series was way back in the 80s when Robert Parker written books “Spenser for Hire” (s not a c) turned out to be a hit starring Robert Ulrich. A bit of Deja vu as Spenser was also produced by Warner Bros.

When I learned that Castle Rock’s Producer Robin Sweet has been a resident of Concord, MA for nine years, I couldn’t wait to interview her. And it’s amazing how she got there (Concord) and how she got the job of producing “Castle Rock”.

Robin was born and raised in Atlanta. She went to school in North Carolina and then took off to New York City to get her MBA. Cautioned by her strict parents to be responsible and make something of herself and make a lot of money she went to work on Wall Street. She had been on an accelerated academic program so she was still very young when at twenty three she decided that Wall Street was not a good fit for her. She quit, went to work as a bartender, living off her retirement (retirement at age twenty three?) when a customer intervened in her life, literally.

And it went something like this: you have an MBA and know how to handle money. Why don’t you come on board with a friend of mine who is making a documentary film and let’s see if you can help out.

She did and it went well. As a result she was called by a producer who was making a short film with Cindy Crawford on Martha’s Vineyard. Wow, she thought, that sounds exciting and so off she went….

So you see, she fell into it. Robin said “If I were able to be the architect of my future career and life, I could not have done a better job. It was a perfect fit for me.” She loves the work she does. Her early work in film and television began in NYC.

Soon state sponsored film tax credits made it possible to produce anywhere, to live anywhere and travel to work in the business. Nine years ago her husband (a noted composer) was offered a position at Berklee College of Music and they moved to Concord, MA to raise their son in Massachusetts.

Of course, there are sacrifices she said. My work requires long days, extended travel for extended periods of time.

Robin Sweet was Emmy nominated two times as Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Drama in 2016 and 2017 as well as once for the same category by the Producers Guild of America for “Better Call Saul”.

She has worked in Massachusetts before. She line produced two Massachusetts productions previously and one was one of biggest budgeted films ever shot in the Commonwealth: Tom Cruise’s “Knight and Day”. She also line produced EQUALIZER, which recently filmed its sequel here. Much of her work has been in Albuquerque and Atlanta.

She was just coming off two years producing “Better Call Saul” when her agent called her and said I know you usually like to take a few months off between assignments, but this one is set in your own backyard. You might like to take a look at it (Castle Rock).

Sissy Spacek
Still of Sissy Spacek in Castle Rock. Image courtesy of IMDB

Robin interviewed with “Bad Robot” and writers Sam Shaw and Dustin Thomason. “I loved the show. They asked me if I were comfortable bringing a TV show to Massachusetts being that there was no TV here, TV particularly TV series can be very demanding in many ways a feature film is not.”

She said she would be thrilled to bring a TV series here and looked forward to being close to home and sleeping in her own bed.

A TV series can be more complicated than feature film she explained. TV is a totally different beast. It needs an enormous amount of space with offices close to the production. J.J. Abrams and the writers scouted Maine for reference. The series was scheduled to shoot in Canada. But, when they scouted Canada they discovered Canada could not be shot for Maine. They then scouted Massachusetts and found the town of Orange. Imagine three guys in a van coming upon Orange in central Massachusetts where they found their Castle Rock. They fell in love with Orange.

Massachusetts locations will contribute so much to this series. Orange is the genuine article – the real McCoy if you will. Robin says all their locations are tremendous.

Bill Skarsgard Castle Rock
Still of Bill Skarsgård in Castle Rock. Image courtesy of IMDB
“It is so fortunate that New England Studios is only forty five minutes from Orange,” Robin said. “New England Studios is perfect. The stars definitely aligned for this project in Massachusetts,” she added.

Castle Rock is using three of the four NE Studios. Two with permanent sets and one filled with swing sets that are constantly changing and being rebuilt. Construction is a heavy lift for TV series. The day I interviewed Robin, the New England Studios’ huge parking lot was full to the brim.

“Daily there is a crew of 150 and an offset crew of about fifty – so we’re preparing a crew lunch for 200 to 250 people to say nothing of the actors and extras,” said Robin in answer to my question during our interview. All of whom are on payroll for six to seven months. And there’s a great extra story here as well.

Robin explained that one of the reasons she does this particular job is that she is always meeting a new group of creative and talented people; there are always new locations, new challenges. And she enjoys reconnecting with local crew she has worked with before and noticing how far their careers have come since she worked with them last.

She says the cast is lovely, kind, professional and that she enjoys that with every episode she gets to work with a new director. Remember when she is prepping a new issue, she is managing the one in production. It’s always a big job. But, now she gets to sleep in her own bed every night.

It is expected that Hulu will premiere “Castle Rock” next April.

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Karen Allen brings A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud. to life

By Hartley Pleshaw

Award winning Actress directs her first film—in the Berkshires

If it were only for her appearances in two iconic films which have long since acquired legendary status, she would have a secure and admired place in film history. But Karen Allen has accomplished far more in her life and career than just her roles in National Lampoon’s ANIMAL HOUSE and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. She has given many memorable film performances outside of these two classics, and is an acclaimed stage actress and director.

For some who have accomplished so much over the course of four decades, it might seem like a good time to take a break, or, at the very least, to not venture into new creative territory. But Karen Allen has, literally, other ideas.

She has just completed her first film as a director, an adaptation of Carson McCullers’ short story A TREE. A ROCK. A CLOUD. It was filmed in the region that Karen has called home for much of her adult life, the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts.

Why, now, has she decided to direct a film?

“I started directing in the theater about ten years ago. I just found that I had a very strong sense of myself as a director, almost right away. I have worked with some extraordinary directors over the years, both in the theater and in film. I think I found myself very much intrigued by how directors worked with actors, how well some directors did their work with actors and how much of a struggle it sometimes was, and how easily a director can shut an actor down, by approaching something the wrong way, or by saying something the wrong way. This had been something that I had been particularly interested in.

“I really didn’t have any interest in directing a film. It’s not that it had never crossed my mind, but when it did cross my mind, I would sort of put it off to the side, as something that I probably wasn’t going to embark on in this lifetime. I felt that between acting and directing in the theater, and working as an actor in both theater and film that was really plenty of avenues for me to develop my creativity.”

“Then, I was sitting with a friend. He had produced a play I had directed in New York, and a play I had acted in in New York. He asked me: ‘Why not a film?’ We talked for a while. I said, well, if I ever were to do a film, I would want to do a short film, because I’ve worked so many times with first-time directors who kind of skipped that process. They never did a short film. They stepped into directing a feature fi lm for their first film. I watched them on the set. I watched a lot of very, very high-level challenges. I mean, that’s a steep learning curve!

“I just decided that if I were going to do something, I would want to do something that I knew well, that I had a strong feeling about, and that was a short film. “As the conversation continued, A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud., which was a short story I had known for a very long time, emerged as an idea. It was
something that I began to talk about. (My friend) was very enthusiastic about it. I believe that he was quite familiar with Carson McCullers’ work, and although he didn’t know that story, he read that
story right away, and he very much encouraged me to go with him to the office of the attorneys in New
York City who represent her work, to see if we could get the rights.

“Before I knew it, I was embarking on a process which became the next three years of my life!”

The friend Karen had this conversation with was producer Brian Long, who, along with Karen and Diane Pearlman (see IMAGINE November 2016 cover story), produced A TREE. A ROCK. A CLOUD. Although Karen had long experience as a stage director, she found that producing and directing a film was a very different experience.

“I told (Brian) that I felt that it was a very steep learning curve to direct a film, that it took place on a much larger scale. (It was) everything from raising the funds to hiring the crew to casting it to finding a location. I was used to the contained world of directing a play, where I almost always worked under an auspice. I would show up for the first day of rehearsal, work with a stage manager, my designers, my cast and sometimes the playwright, if it was a new play. That was my entire world.

“But in a film, you’re stepping into a much larger world. You have a camera crew. You have a sound crew. You have an Art Department. You have a Costume Department, not a costume designer.

“I was reluctant to think that that was something I would enjoy, or, on some level, feel like I knew
how to face the challenge of it. (Brian) was very encouraging, and I told him that, if I was going to do a film, I would want it to be a short film.

“He said, ‘Do you have any ideas?’ And I said, ‘There’s a Short Story that I know, A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud. that I’ve loved, for many, many years.’ I thought that it would be ideal for a first film, because there are only three speaking roles, and for the most part it takes place in one location. That seemed ideal for a first time film director.

“If you’re going to stick your toe in the water, I don’t think that it should be in the middle of the Pacific Ocean!”

The film’s location would indeed not be in such a faraway place. It would be in a place Karen Allen
knew and knows well: the Berkshires. (Sandisfield Massachusetts, to be specific.)

“It really had to do with having fallen in love with a particular location. When I go to the airport, I use the Hartford airport, which is the closest airport to me. I take a route kind of on back roads. On that route, I had for many years driven by a café. It was an old café. It had a lot of different incarnations. It was a store at one point, a café, a dinner place, a breakfast place.

“I watched it go through these different incarnations, but I never really stopped there. I always looked at it with one eye and thought, ‘That looks like the kind of café in A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud..’ It had to do with its age. It was built in the 1930’s. It had to do with its positioning; it’s literally twelve feet from the road. It’s a little road. It sits where two rivers cross each other.
And there was just something about it that grabbed me.

“I went by it dozens and dozens of times. One day, I finally pulled over, and said, ‘I’m finally going to look into this place!’ And I walked in, and wouldn’t you know, it looked exactly right—at least structurally, if not in the specifics—everything was there. The bar was where I imagined it to be, the booths were where I imagined they would be, the kitchen was where I imagined it would be. “I couldn’t help but make note that this little place was a kind of ideal location for a film that I hadn’t even thought of making yet!”

For A TREE. A ROCK. A CLOUD., Karen Allen got what she wanted from her actors.

“Jeff DeMunn, who I have worked with on stage, and whose work I have admired going back forty years, is for me a master actor. I knew he’d be wonderful in the role.

“(I knew that) James McMenamin, who I’ve directed twice in plays, would take what was basically a one-dimensional role on the page, and turn it into something much, much more interesting.

“Jackson Smith, who plays the boy—I had an instinct about Jackson very early on. His approach to being
that boy in that story was exactly what I felt it needed. He just approached it with a kind of openness, availability, a kind of calmness, a presence….the ability to listen. (He was) a real receptacle for that story, a rare quality to find in a twelve-year-old.”

Karen Allen’s debut as a film director hasn’t meant that she’s abandoning acting herself. In fact, she’s just completed work on a film shot at the other end of Massachusetts—Cape Cod.

YEAR BY THE SEA is based on a book by journalist Joan Anderson about Anderson’s decision to leave her husband of over two decades to live by herself in a cottage on the Cape, in an attempt to reconnect with herself and decide the course of her future life. Karen plays the role of Joan Anderson.

“She grows. She changes. She challenges herself, and she finds this sort of inner joy that was kind of
lacking in her life. She lets all the things that she’s been struggling with….fall away. And she began to see another person emerge. A person who has much more enjoyment of life, and who is much more real
and authentic. Not frightened, and not constantly concerned about pleasing other people. She took
these big leaps toward rediscovering herself.”

In terms of taking risks, doing new things and discovering what she might be capable of, it would seem to be a character that Karen Allen clearly identifies with.

The website for A TREE. A ROCK. A CLOUD. is www.atreearockacloudthefilm.com. Its email address is treerockcloudfilm@gmail.com.

YEAR BY THE SEA opens in New York September
9th, Los Angeles September 15th and in Boston
and San Francisco September 22nd. Its website is
www.yearbythesea.com.

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