JAGVELD (Hunting Emma), WHAT CHILDREN DO and CITY OF JOY won top Jury Awards; CHARGED: THE EDUARDO GARCIA STORY won Best of the Fest Audience Award
The Woods Hole Film Festival, the oldest film festival on Cape Cod and the Islands, concluded its 26th year on Saturday, August 5th, with the announcement of this year’s winners at the Captain Kidd Restaurant in Woods Hole. Although the festival has historically focused on filmmakers from and films set in New England the festival has more recently expanded its international focus: all but one of the Jury Award winners this year is from or set outside the U.S.
WHAT CHILDREN DO (USA), a comedy written and directed by Dean Peterson about two estranged sisters who return to their home town to take care of their dying grandmother that features John Early (BEATRIZ AT DINNER), won the Jury Award for Best Narrative Feature-Comedy. JAGVELD (Hunting Emma), a thriller directed by South African filmmaker Byron Davis about a woman who is hunted by police after she witnesses a murder they commit had its international premiere at the festival where it won the Jury Award for Best Narrative Feature-Drama. Madeleine Gavin’s CITY OF JOY (USA), about the women’s leadership center in the Democratic Republic of the Congo co-founded by radical feminist Eve Ensler (THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES), won the Jury Award for Best Documentary Feature. CHARGED: THE EDUARDO GARCIA STORY (Mexico), a documentary feature directed by Phillip Baribeau about the eponymous chef and adventurer who slowly regained his life after being shocked by 2400 volts of electricity in a freak accident, won the Best of the Fest Audience Award.
“We received more than 1000 submissions—from everywhere from Mashpee to Maine and South Africa to Sri Lanka—from which our programming committee selected 52 narrative and documentary features and 81 narrative, documentary, and animated shorts,” said Founder and Executive Director Judy Laster. “Consistent with our mission to support the careers of emerging independent filmmakers, more than 100 filmmakers attended the Festival, the majority of which were making their directorial debuts, such as RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK actress Karen Allen,” she added.
Additional Jury Award winners include: Best Narrative Short-Drama: PROMISE by Tian Xie (China); Best Narrative Short-Comedy: RHONNA AND DONNA by Daina O. Pusic (UK); Best Documentary Short: PATAGONIA AXUL: THE INTERCONNECTION OF LIFE by Daniel Casado (Chile); Best Animation Short: A LITTLE GREY by Simon Hewitt (Mexico).
Additional Audience Award winners include: Best Feature Drama: BLUR CIRCLE by Christopher J. Hansen (USA); Best Feature Comedy: QUAKER OATHS by Louisiana Kreutz (USA); Best Feature Documentary: DATELINE SAIGON by Thomas D. Herman (USA); Best Short Drama: GAME by Jennie Donohue (USA); Best Short Comedy: THE FINAL SHOW by Dana Nachman, starring Marion Ross and Nancy Dussault (USA) Best Short Documentary: BLIND SHSHI by Eric Heimbold (USA); Best Short Animation: STARS by Han Zhang (USA);
Jury members included: Feature Narratives: Future Films USA Vice President Ricky Margolis; Golden Child Ventures Producer and Attorney Sandy Missakian; and Circus Road Films Founder Glen Reynolds. Feature Documentaries: Principle Pictures founder, and award-winning director and producer Beth Murphy; documentary filmmaker, media studies lecturer, and founder of the UMASS Boston Film Series Chico Colvard; producer, director and Assistant Teaching Professor at Northeastern University David Tames; and writer and producer Madison O’Leary. Short Narratives & Animation: documentary filmmaker, writer, and development consultant Megan Sanchez Warner (LOVE AND HIP HOP), House Lights Media co-founder Sandy Moore; producer and Bunker Hill Community College Adjunct Professor Howard Phillips; and Best Dog Ever Films producer and director Liz Lerner. Short Documentaries: Independent Film and TV Producer Jill Lutz; Producer and Documentary Filmmaker Jay Spain; and W2 President of International Sales and Distribution Julie Sultan.
For his upcoming documentary film, Gabriel Polonsky had the perfect subject: a talented, innovative, renowned artist. It was also a subject he had close proximity to: the artist in question is his own father. So one would think it would all be easy, and simple to tell the story.
Until, that is, he started to learn the story. As he began making a film about his father, Arthur Polonsky, Gabriel wound up teaching himself about his father’s life and work as well as a little-known, but seminal group of mid-20th century artists known collectively as the “Boston Expressionists.”
“I’m making this film for many different reasons. Five years ago I went to a movie at the Museum of Fine Arts, about a prominent Boston painter named Hyman Bloom—also an Expressionist— who was a friend of my father’s. My father was briefly in the film, and I thought, ‘where is the full story on my father and the group of other key artists in their circles?’
“(My father) has had an interesting life. His work is breathtaking. He’s one of the best artists I’ve ever seen, and I would think so even if he wasn’t my father. Yet he never quite attained the recognition he deserved, nor has the movement. I want to expose his art and that of the other Boston Expressionists to a whole new audience.
“So I decided that when my father turned eighty five, I’d go over to his house and just start filming. It was now or never. At first I didn’t have a plan; I just knew that he’s a fascinating character. He’s brilliant, funny, and has an amazing story to tell: from son of Russian immigrant tailors in Lynn, MA, to an MFA scholarship recipient painting in Paris with friends like Ellsworth Kelly in 1948.
Amazing, also, to his son, is the environment in which his father works, and what he does with it.
“He lives in this unusual house. It’s sort of a ‘Grey Gardens’ style Victorian house that’s decaying around him, while he’s still creating this beautiful art work in it. He does these really crazy “Rube Goldberg” household repairs. He took the radiator hose from his 1962 Renault, and attached it to the two faucets in the Victorian marble bathroom sink, to mix the hot and cold water.
“I think that these DYI repairs are as interesting and beautiful as his paintings that hang in museums. But what is most unusual is to capture him painting, which is a rare gift; he has never opened his studio and artistic process to the public before.”
Thus inspired, Gabriel Polonsky began filming his father’s story—and, in the process, learning about it.
“I didn’t know much about his career. He didn’t talk about it when I was growing up, or maybe I wasn’t listening very much.
“The movie took a much different course than I ever expected, growing much larger than I ever anticipated and it is generating a lot of interest. Almost every museum and university I speak to, including the MFA and ICA, has asked to screen it once it is completed. And I am amazed and grateful for all of the help and support we’ve received from the Boston film and art communities. So, this is quite a journey for me as well.”
How did Gabriel’s vision for the film change from his original idea? “I started learning about this whole movement of Boston Expressionist painters, my father’s role in it, and realized that though their work is held in prominent collections, they are little known by the broader public.
I learned about his world of art—all these amazing people he’s known since the 1940’s. Curators, collectors, other painters, authors, former students.”
“Every inch of his house is full of art, towering stacks of news clippings, photos, books and articles about his career and the history of art in Boston since the 1940’s—it’s a virtual museum. And at 88, he is still painting and having major exhibitions.
“So I go over to shoot cinema verite footage of my father at home, drawing and painting. He starts opening up about his life before he had the family, as a young artist, and to his journey as an artist now in his late 80’s. I realized that my father, and the artists’ movement he helped initiate, was a much deeper, broader subject than I had known about.
“As I began interviewing other people, one of the first was Nick Capasso, who at the time was head curator of the DeCordova Museum. I asked him, ‘Tell me something about Arthur Polonsky.’ He said, ‘Arthur Polonsky was one of the most important Boston painters of the 20th Century… period.’ That amazed me. So, I decided to set out for the next two years with my camera to find out exactly what Nick meant.
“I ended up doing over thirty interviews. I spoke with Boston’s leading curators, collectors, authors, my father’s former students, and my whole family of artists.”
Why did it take the production of this film to allow Gabriel Polonsky to learn so much about his father? “It was a combination of things. As with many kids I wasn’t listening to a lot of what my dad said when I was younger! Also, he was very modest and self-deprecating, and for certain reasons, he just didn’t talk about that part of his life very much when I was growing up.
“Both of my parents are artists. They had studios in the house. It was creative chaos. My father made etchings in the bathtub with nitric acid. I would see them working, and I would go to their art openings, but I didn’t quite ‘get it.’ I was eight years old, and my father would take me to museums with his work hanging on the wall. These interesting artists and students would come up and tell me how much they adored him and admired his work. They had this long history with him that I wasn’t familiar with. He taught at Boston University for twenty-five years, and Brandeis before that and at the Boston Museum School for eleven years before that.
“These were parts of his life that were all connected, and were outside of the way I knew him as a father.”
In particular, the “Boston Expressionism” movement which is recognized by curators and academics is not always accepted by the artists themselves. Like many of his fellow artists from that period, my father rejects the title ‘Expressionist,’ they don’t really call themselves anything but ‘painters!’
“But it does describe a way of working and a style that many of them were doing, though not always with intentionality.
“I almost feel that now I have a PhD in the history of Boston Expressionism. Not by reading about it in books, but by talking to the surviving people who lived it and wrote about it. And my father was one of the prominent Boston Expressionists. He played a major role in creating this artistic movement since the late 1940’s, and he’s still part of it.”
And What is Expressionism?
“The simple answer is that (Expressionism) is a type of art or painting that’s done from imagination, and frequently involves the figure. It’s different from Abstract Expressionism, which was popular at the time, and came out of New York with Jackson Pollock, (Willem) de Kooning and (Mark) Rothko among others. Those artists’ paintings were nearly devoid of the figure. Expressionism often has dreamlike, imaginary, distorted figures. The brushwork is usually coarse, agitated and dramatic, and the colors are vibrant. There’s sort of a mystical, emotional theme to it. These are words often used to describe my father’s work.”
And how did one particular form of Expressionism emerge in Boston?
“Boston Expressionism really started in the 1940’s at the Boston School of the Museum of Fine Arts. Before and after the war, some of the prominent European Expressionists came over and began the program. The majority of Boston Expressionists were first generation Americans from Eastern Europe. Many of them were Jewish; my father’s parents emigrated from Russia. (Arthur Polonsky grew up in Lynn, Massachusetts.) They studied Expressionism, and created this historic movement in American art. But, it was unheralded. It never reached its due and hasn’t been promoted to the extent that Abstract Expressionism has.”
But according to Gabriel Polonsky, it was in Boston, not New York, where Expressionism first took root in America. “They were called ‘The Bad Boys of Boston.’ They were breaking all the rules. Some of my father’s work looks like a beautiful nightmare. At the time, it was disturbing and controversial. They were changing art.”
From what Gabriel has learned, it is almost a historical accident that this movement began in Boston; it just happened to be the place where so many of these European immigrant artists came from. But there were some aspects of Arthur’s Lynn, MA boyhood that may well have influenced his later artistic visions. “There were big marshes near the Saugus Iron Works. They used to burn off the dead grass to prevent natural brush fires. He saw that when he was a kid, and he liked the color of the fire. So, that may be the reason that he incorporates fire into many works. Of course, the reviewers see that, and say, ‘Polonsky has this raging inferno from within, that comes from deep inside his psyche.’ This makes him laugh.
“My father and I went back to Lynn, with a camera crew. We drove around while he told stories about growing up there. We went to the Lynn Public Library where he spent much of his childhood. On the wall is an enormous, painted mural that depicts the creation of man, with angels and cavemen. When my father saw that mural as a little kid he said to himself, ‘I want to be a painter. I want to be able to do that.’ So, I had to film him returning to the library to see the mural once again, while talking about how it inspired a lifetime of painting”
Fortunately for Gabriel, one of the important periods in his father’s life was already on film—film that he was able to use in his documentary.
“When he graduated (from the Boston Museum School), my father received a two-year fellowship to the booming art scene of post-WW II Paris. That was a life-changing experience for him. It was an amazing time. He lived up the street from Picasso and drew every day with friends like the aforementioned Ellsworth Kelly. Arthur was featured in LIFE Magazine, had acclaimed international solo shows, and was in group shows with Pollock and Picasso. From what I’ve learned about it, my father lived a real-life Woody Allen MIDNIGHT IN PARIS experience.
“He had a girlfriend in Paris and did many beautiful drawings and paintings of her. I found out that she’s alive and well, and living in Massachusetts. So, I ended up doing a great interview with her and struck gold! She had this amazing B&W 8mm movie footage of them in Paris together. All these artists in the street, it’s like a Fellini movie. My father is young and handsome, with his pipe. She’s in the footage, too. It’s an incredible document of an era to include in the film.”
Also in the film will be scenes describing the impact that Arthur Polonsky’s work—and that of other Boston Expressionists—has today, and the following that their work has attracted. Among such followers is Katherine French, Head of the Danforth Museum, Arthur’s friend and lifelong collector, Carol Klein, and Boston’s Herbert Grey, known as one of the biggest private collectors and an admirer of Boston Expressionism. Such people are in the vanguard of a revival of interest in Boston Expressionism, which Gabriel’s film, inevitably, will spotlight. There is little doubt that the completion of this film will raise the profile and value of these works. According to Gabriel, this film is the first feature length film which will cover Boston Expressionism.
As for Gabriel’s own career, the Boston native has his own extensive portfolio of work as a filmmaker, artist, animator, and educator. In 1992, he founded Gabriel Polonsky Studio. (Gabriel’s awards include a national Emmy nomination.) The documentary film about his father is the Studio’s latest production.
The film’s working title is RELEASE FROM REASON. It comes from a statement Arthur Polonsky gave in an interview: “In a world where reason is the goal, I think that art is the release from reason.”
The film has completed all primary filming and production work, has over 150 hours of interviews and scenes recorded and is now raising funds to begin post-production. Gabriel Polonsky can be contacted directly at info@releasefromreason. com, or by calling 617 515-5642. Updates are available at http://releasefromreason.com/news/.
Hartley Pleshaw has been a writer for IMAGINE since 2006. He has worked in Boston-area media and theater for over three decades. His email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’ve been following Worcester-based producer Kristen Lucas and her journey to bring the feature-length comedy short GIRLS NIGHT OUT to the big screen.
When Kristen Lucas and co-screenwriter Rufus Chaffee finished the feature length script for GIRLS NIGHT OUT in November of 2012, Kristen was not content to wait for someone to come to her. She wanted to bring GIRLS NIGHT OUT to life her way. Lucas is the founder of the lifestyle brand and movement “Respect Her Hustle” so no one is surprised she was willing to hustle for it.
After holding a table read of the script, Kristen said, “Hearing the words come to life, we knew we had something great- we thought the best way to drum up interest in the project would be to get the characters on screen to show people just how funny this world was.” Lucas and Chaffee quickly wrote an eight page short based on the characters and situations in the feature length script and with Chaffee set to direct and Lucas to produce, they started assembling a team.
First the auditions. With characters based on real people, Kristen knew she had big shoes to fill, but after a series of auditions that December an amazing leading cast was assembled: Molly Kelleher, Jami Tennille, Erin Olson and Sam Pannier. Co-Producer Barbara Guertin was instrumental in helping to find a few of the supporting male characters, by recruiting some actor friends of hers, Peter Husovsky and Jeff La Greca. Local actor Kevin Peterson rounded out the cast by playing Officer Pecs (for obvious reasons).
From table read to audition all the actresses were able to meet their “real-life” counterparts creating a unique pre-production process. “It is every actor’s dream situation,” said Molly Kelleher. “The chance to observe and talk to the actual person my character is based on helped my process of developing Jo. I felt comfortable stepping in her shoes and authentically bringing the character to life.”
Lucas also called upon Jennifer Dunlea for fashion styling and close friend Lisa Roche (upon whom one of the “girls” was actually based) for hair and makeup. Lisa said of the shoot, “It was such a great experience creating looks for each character, especially when I could incorporate elements from the actual personalities of the women who inspired the script. The small differences between a power business mom (stylish but no nonsense) and an insecure neglected wife (trying to impress, but ends up looking like she’s going to a prom) were so fun to explore and translate to the screen.”
Dunlea, echoed this sentiment, using different colors and dress styles to define the distinct personalities. “In a short film format, you have even less time to get across what you are trying to say and who the people are- we needed people to ‘get’ the characters right away and have their wardrobe demonstrate who they are,” she said.
The film was originally scheduled to be shot in February of 2013, but a record 30-inch snowstorm postponed the one-day shoot, which was eventually filmed in March with post-production completed in May. As Kristen put it, “I was able to pull together a talented team to support the vision; the best of the best. It takes so much work to make things happen in this industry, but they all supported me and my passion for GIRLS NIGHT OUT making it much easier than I even dared to hope for.”
Within hours production designer Rebecca Sumner converted a community center into the setting: a police station. All the props necessary to replicate the scene of an interrogation room and police observation area were assembled. The cast of seven and crew of ten went to work.
“We walked through the front door at 7 am to set the scene, coordinate hair and makeup and start shooting,” said Lucas. “At 3 am we walked out with all our footage. It was a huge accomplishment.” Cinematographer Dee Wells added, “We had a lot to do and not a lot of time. Without the teamwork on both sides of the camera, we never would have finished, let alone get the amazing look and feel that we had envisioned.”
After principal photography was complete, industry vet Don Packer of Engine Room Edit took on post-production responsibilities. In addition, Don brought in the talented folks from Soundtrack Boston and BrewHouseVFX, who created the eye-catching title design. Says Packer of the GNO team, “They’re the top of the heap in my book. I was thrilled at the opportunity to work with Kristen and the Goldilocks crew – it was a collaborative effort from the start; they brought me their best work and honored me by allowing me to do what I do best. I totally appreciate their dedication, creativity and style and I’m really happy with the end result.”
For more information about GIRLS NIGHT OUT, please contact email@example.com.
Kate Sheridan is an actor and writer living in central Massachusetts. In addition to a B.A. from Holy Cross, she has trained in comedy and musical theatre at The Second City Chicago and North Shore Music Theatre, respectively. She is a regular contributor to Crazytown Blog (http://www.crazytownblog.com) and can be found on Twitter at @ahhkatesheridan.
New film by Jim Ohm heads to the Film Festival Circuit in April
Filmmaker Jim Ohm has spent over twenty years editing award-winning documentaries for Turner, National Geographic and PBS, and directed his own independent documentary film, “Spring Training,” about the Red Sox’s pre-season in Florida. Captivated by the stories of human tragedy behind the financial collapse of 2009, Jim began what would become a three-year labor of love, writing a script for a short film entitled PRETEND. The story is a contemporary drama set days before Christmas about an affluent family man, Roger, who’s lost his job, is going broke, but pretends that everything’s all right. The only one who senses trouble is Roger’s pre-adolescent daughter, Maddie.
To bring the film to life, Jim chose established, local SAG-AFTRA actors. Bradley J. Van Dussen led the cast as Roger, his performance expertly capturing the desperation of a man in freefall. Georgia Lyman played his wife, Susan; Ian Lyons his brother, Chris; Cindy Lentol played Chris’ wife, Joyce; Corey Scott played a street busker Santa Clause; veteran actor William Bloomfield – the pawnshop owner to whom Roger, in dire need of ready cash, sells his silver; Paul C. McKinney played the angry driver; and Jack Tracksler played the real Santa. For the role of young Maddie, Jim cast his own daughter, Maddie Ohm, and had the unique experience of directing her first film performance.
As with any low budget project there are huge challenges at every turn. Jim tells us, “I didn’t have a lot of money, but I was able to tap my industry connections and get a core group of talented people who loved the story and really wanted to make a film of the highest possible quality. Led by Director of Photography Matt Thurber and Producer Beth Tierney, we assembled an amazing crew of local professionals.”
That group featured First Camera Assistant Tom Fitzgerald, Gaffer Chris Brown, Key Grips Walter Stone and Tony Ventura, Sound Recordist Djim Reynolds, Set Designer Alexandra Kayhart, and Make Up artist Ashleigh Taylor along with many others from a pool of talented, local technicians.
Jim Ohm continues, “They brought a sense of purpose and dedication, which made for a highly successful shoot and Matt just brought it all together. It shows in the footage”
The nine-day shoot travelled throughout the greater Boston area. As the story moves from the home of Roger to the home of his brother, Chris, Jim was looking for one location that could serve as two distinct interiors. He was fortunate to have a close family friend offer his gorgeous, spacious Lynnfield home to the cast and crew for a three-day shoot. After Lynnfield, the crew set up shop in quaint downtown Dedham—where the drama of an independent film shoot, which closed down part of High Street, made local headlines. Finally, Waltham played a gracious host by providing four separate locations: The Goldcrafters Exchange on Moody Street; the woods of the Robert Treat Paine Estate; the Lyman Estate; and the grounds of the old Fernald School.
Jim says, “Securing locations was quite time consuming, but I had support from friends who helped make vital connections. The story of PRETEND really grabbed people and it seemed everyone knew someone like Roger, whose life had been upended by the financial crisis, and they all wanted to be part of getting this film made.”
Jim’s script for PRETEND has already received accolades from the L.A. Fresh Voices Screenwriters’ Competition as one of only 13 scripts that are semi-finalists in the Short Film category, out of hundreds submitted. Renown Hollywood director, Joel Shumacher (ST. ELMO’S FIRE, BATMAN & ROBIN, A TIME TO KILL) will be one of the judges selecting the winning screenplay which will be announced in April.
Additionally, the D.C. Shorts Festival had high praise for Jim’s script: “The characters really popped and had their own voice,” “gut wrenching at the end,” “writer did a fantastic job.”
PRETEND is headed off to the film festival circuit in April and will have its local premier in May. To get more information on the premiere and the latest news check out the Facebook page for PRETEND.