Archives: News

Home Media

DEG Q2 Home Entertainment Report Shows Rebound in Sellthrough

ARTICLE BY: THOMAS K. ARNOLD

Is the buying bug once again biting consumers of home entertainment?

Consumers spent 4% more on buying movies and other content on disc as well as digitally in the second quarter of this year than they did in the second quarter of 2015, according to numbers released Aug. 4 by DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.

Disc sales, which for years have been declining virtually every quarter, rose 3% to $1.2 billion, buoyed by a 35% increase in Blu-ray Disc sales.

Electronic sellthrough, also known as “Digital HD,” rose 8.7% to $466 million in the quarter, up from $429 million in the comparable period a year ago.

Total consumer spending on home entertainment purchases is estimated at $1.67 billion for the three-month period that ended June 30, a healthy increase of 4.5% from $1.59 billion in the same period last year.

Ron Sanders, president of Warner Bros. Worldwide Home Entertainment Distribution, notes that the box office value of movies that came to the home market during the quarter was up 18% from the previous year’s quarter.

Observers say the launch in March of Ultra HD Blu-ray also may have been a factor. Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc is the next-generation disc format with four times the pixel density of HD Blu-ray as well as high dynamic range (HDR), with greater contrast and deeper, more life-like colors. The format got off to a successful start in the first quarter of this year, with the first volley of Ultra HD Blu-ray discs hitting stores in March and selling far better than expected, according to studio executives.

The format’s launch was even more successful than regular Blu-ray Disc back in 2006.

According to DEG, 1.4 million 4K Ultra HD TVs were sold in the U.S. market in the second quarter of this year, up 119% from the second quarter of 2015 and bringing the total number of sets purchased to more than eight million.

More than 45 Ultra HD Blu-ray title releases were available in the first half of the year, with impressive sales of about 288,000 units.

Total home entertainment spending rose 6% in the second quarter, to an estimated $4.33 billion, up from $4.08 billion in the April-to-June period in 2015.

Subscription streaming, led by Netflix, continued its explosive growth, with estimated consumer spending jumping 20.6% to $1.5 billion, up from $1.25 billion in the year-ago quarter.

Traditional video rental, at brick-and-mortar stores, fell by a similar percentage, coming in at just $122.9 billion, a 21% decline.

Kiosk rental revenue, reflecting the recent woes of market leader Redbox, was pegged by DEG to be down 13% for the quarter, to an estimated $380 million.

Video-on-demand, the other digital component (in addition to streaming and Digital HD), posted a 7.2% gain in consumer spending, to $518 million.

For the first six months of the year, consumer spending on home entertainment is up nearly 2%, according to DEG estimates, at $8.89 billion, compared with $8.7 billion in the first six months of 2015.


Beach Reporter

Gravitas Ventures 'lives long and prospers' in indie film world

ARTICLE BY: MICHAEL HIXON

Gravitas Ventures celebrates its 10th year distributing films to a global market in 2016, including the documentary “For the Love of Spock,” which honors the memory of the iconic character as well as the actor, Leonard Nimoy, who embodied the Vulcan.

“For the Love of Spock” is directed by Nimoy’s son Adam and was completed thanks to a Kickstarter.com campaign that raised more than $600,000. The release also coincides with the 50th anniversary of the first “Star Trek” episode which aired on Sept. 8, 1966.

Gravitas Ventures
Adam Nimoy, who directed the documentary ‘For the Love of Spock,’ which is being distributed by Gravitas Ventures.

“We acquired world-wide rights because we think that Leonard and his character have mass global appeal,” said Gravitas Ventures founder Nolan Gallagher. “When we release that film on Sept. 9, we’re going to be releasing it, not just in 25 theaters here in the U.S. … but in 100 million homes thanks to Comcast, DirecTV, Apple and Amazon, and a 100 other platforms.”

Gravitas has lived long and prospered in El Segundo. But Gallagher’s road to Gravitas started when he developed VOD (video on demand) strategies during the early days of the technology for large companies such as Comcast, which he worked for in Philadelphia before moving to California, and Warner Bros. He worked with movie studios to license their films on behalf of Comcast and tried to convince studios to spend marketing dollars to tout a new service called “on demand.” That was in the days when people still rented videos from stores like Blockbuster or Hollywood Video.

“I saw that Comcast customers were renting movies at a very healthy clip and thought to myself the movie studios will always have very deep relationships with a company like Comcast, but what about independent filmmakers?” he said. “I knew there were over 10,000 filmmakers who apply to Sundance every year and probably only dozens or hundreds were getting their films up large media companies like Comcast or Time Warner Cable or others.”

With that in mind, Gallagher started the company from an apartment in Playa del Rey in 2006 with just a poker table, laptop and cell phone, as well as maxed out credit cards. He and his business partner, Michael Murphy, lived in Manhattan Beach, sharing a beach rental that had an office and kitchen, before they realized they needed to move in real offices.

When Gravitas was founded 10 years ago, DVD rentals and sales was still a strong market. Netflix streaming didn’t exist and iTunes was in its infancy. The traditional selling of a film to different local distributors around the world and selling it to TV stations was their “bread and butter,” which still continues to some extent to this day. Gravitas was one of the first companies to “develop a global network of digital media platforms as partners.”

Since its inception, Gravitas has grown substantially. They now distribute more than 400 films a year, becoming the largest distributors of documentaries in the country.

Horror films also have a solid fan base.

“From a fan base perspective, generally fans of horror are really passionate, it’s easier to engage that fan base,” said Julie Candelaria, senior vice president of marketing. “Also from a PR perspective, when you’re trying to get the word out on a limited budget, there are more outlets that are very nichey and specific to that genre, but we are always looking for good content. Between the outlets and their support and the consumer fan base, with a good film, it generally tends to work very well.”

Gravitas Ventures
Nolan Gallagher, pictured with actor Jai Courtney (‘Suicide Squad’) at the premiere of ‘Felony,’ founded El Segundo-based Gravitas Ventures 10 years ago.

 

Gravitas has distributed films with shoestring budgets of $10,000 to exceeding a $10 million budget. Their first big hit was “The Secret,” a self-help film which was the basis of the best-selling non-fiction book about the “law of attraction.”

“It’s still our top performer,” Gallagher said.

Recent or upcoming films set for release include “Billionaire Ransom,” where a reform school of rich kids gets overrun by criminals. That film will be released in theaters and on demand Friday, Aug. 19: “Buddymoon,” a road trip movie starring David Giuntoli (NBC’s “Grimm”) and Flula Borg, now on iTunes and on demand; and the comedy “Total Frat Movie,” where a man returns to his college to recruit 15 members to get his fraternity’s chapter reinstated, which will be in theaters and on demand Sept. 23.

Recent films distributed by Gravitas that have made headlines include 2015’s “All Things Must Pass,” the Colin Hanks directed documentary on the rise and fall of Tower Records. They first saw the film at South by Southwest Festival and pitched Hanks, son of Oscar-winning actor Tom, on Gravitas releasing the film. Hanks did extensive media promoting the film.

“Colin was a fantastic partner … artists that are as invested in their project as he was are gold in our book,” Gallagher said.

Another documentary, “Unbranded,” the story of a Texas horseman and his three friends who bring wild mustangs 3,000 miles, from the Mexican border to Canada, to train and ride, debuted in theaters and iTunes as the No. 1 documentary on the website. With a small marketing budget, the film received free publicity through word of mouth when the journey was documented on Facebook.

Most of their films have little marketing budget.

“We will do activities to generate either media review or articles or social media chatter for fans,” Gallagher said.

Gravitas, which also has an office in Cleveland that focuses on international films, receives approximately 2,000 submissions a year from filmmakers looking for a distributor. The company attends around 10 film festivals a year looking for something with global appeal. They also send every employee to major film festivals to get their perspectives.

“We all go to the same film festival to acquire films, we shop from the same agencies,” Gallagher said. “It comes down to what relationship and rapport that you’ve had with past filmmakers so that they can hopefully provide great word of mouth.”

That word of mouth might have helped Gravitas land “For the Love of Spock” when Gallagher and Candelaria met with Adam Nimoy and another producer in November before the documentary debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival in April. They acquired the film shortly after.

“Our company has a great reputation … with hundreds and hundreds of filmmakers,” Gallagher said.

For more information, visit gravitasventures.com.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE


Industry Beat: The Digital Lowdown

 

ARTICLE BY: ANTHONY KAUFMAN

Is online distribution a boon to independent filmmakers or a boatload of false promises? Given that streaming/downloading is the primary way that many audiences are now consuming content, this may be the most pressing and important question for today’s business-savvy independent filmmakers. But it’s difficult to discern the answer.

For one reason, the digital distribution revolution is always evolving, and what was standard procedure three years ago is no longer the norm. A few years ago, everyone was talking about multiplatform day-and-date hits Margin CallArbitrage and Bachelorette — starry films that received huge grosses through simultaneous theatrical and digital releases.

But today, few specialized distributors are releasing their big films day-and-date, and more and more independent filmmakers are struggling to survive in the crowded universe of online platforms. That’s because of two factors.

One, as Dan Truong, vice president of release strategy and financial planning at The Orchard, states, is that “the first window is now more important than ever, because audiences [young and old] are more savvy, so if it’s available on digital, they’ll find it and it will eat into the theatrical sales.”

And two: The online market is glutted.

There are still plenty of success stories on digital (coupled with theatrical). The Orchard’s biggest digital releases from the past year include the New Zealand vampire  flick What We Do in the Shadows (total digital gross: $2.5 million) and the Oscar-nominated doc Cartel Land (total digital gross: $2 million). But both of those films also received hefty theatrical pushes (What We Do in the Shadows earned nearly $3.5 million in box-office sales). However, Truong admits there is no consistent relationship between theatrical and digital grosses.

Unsurprisingly, those indies with sex, horror or stars still perform well digitally. For example, Gravitas Ventures’ 2014 rom-com The Longest Week, with Jason Bateman and Olivia Wilde, and the company’s 2013 Rob Corddry horror comedy Hell Baby both earned seven figures across transactional and subscription VOD services, according to Gravitas’ CEO Nolan Gallagher.

But success stories don’t tell the whole story. What about the vast majority of independent films — those that play at a few marquee or major regional festivals, with one star (or none), and a catchy logline?

“A festival drama that isn’t an easy ‘genre sell’ will see digital grosses in the range of $100,000 to $200,000,” admits Truong.

Numbers provided by Gravitas Ventures bear this out. For a range of festival titles, including Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong (LAFF, 2015), Brightest Star (Austin, 2013) and Jamie Marks is Dead(Sundance, 2014), digital earnings — after small cash-infused awareness-boosting theatrical runs — amounted to multiple six-figures (approximately $200,000 to $400,000). The one exception to the theatrical-first rule was the 2014 rom-com Lust for Love, which pop-culture wunderkind Joss Whedon supported on Twitter and ended up earning a similar six figures going straight to iTunes.

Obviously, every film is different and distinct, but Sundance #ArtistServices director of creative distribution Chris Horton concurs with the six-figure goal. “If a filmmaker spends about $100,000 in P&A to finance a theatrical run, they’re probably going to be making that much from digital sources,” he says. “So if you’re a low-budget narrative film with not much if any cast or zero P&A, that film is going to struggle.”

On the Sundance #ArtistServices website, distributor Matt Grady of Factory 25 recently posted a highly specific cost-to-revenue breakdown for Charles Poekel’s low-budget Sundance drama Christmas, Again. Spending roughly $25,000 on a theatrical release to gain publicity, the film went on to gross $10,665 in transactional VOD. After iTunes took its standard 30 percent cut, net TVOD earnings amounted to $6,204, while the filmmaker also signed a $10,000 SVOD deal with Netflix.

Sundance #ArtistServices’ Joseph Beyer clarifies the miniscule numbers. “Success doesn’t have anything to do with revenue,” he says. “For many of these filmmakers, visibility is important, and if you can get onto a platform like Netflix, it’s hugely valuable.” (Given the numbers provided by Poekel and Sundance, a solid SVOD deal is also financially valuable — in their case, matching total transactional grosses.)

“It’s a lot easier to save money than to earn it,” adds Beyer. “That’s why we still believe now, more than ever, that because the profit margin is so small, you have to be disciplined in terms of production costs.”

And yet, there are hopeful signs. Documentaries, particularly those serving particular niches, have continued to do strong digital business. Small festival docs released by Gravitas — such as Fastball (Tribeca, 2015), about baseball; Unbranded (Hot Docs, 2015), about horse riding; and Being Evel (Sundance, 2015), about the famous stuntman — all earned mid- to high-six figures via digital.

“Documentaries definitely over-index on iTunes,” says Gravitas’ President Michael Murphy, who also sees potential in international digital markets, which currently represents about 10 percent of the company’s revenue. (Having seen 100 percent growth from 2014 to 2015 in digital numbers, Murphy is hopeful that foreign digital earnings will become a third of the company’s total revenue in the next two years.)

Outside of English-speaking territories, Murphy says Scandinavia, Germany and Benelux are all buying more U.S. indie product on digital platforms. In addition to global-minded docs, LGBT content also tends to travel well. “Filmmakers and rights-holders need to think globally,” he says.

It would also help if filmmakers and rights-holders knew the rules of the game. Currently, it is still extremely difficult to get a firm grasp of digital revenue projections for any given film. Companies such as IFC Films and FilmBuff, which previously have divulged digital earnings numbers to the press, declined to participate in this story. What’s the big secret?

Conversely, The Orchard’s Truong says it’s important that filmmakers understand the full picture of a film’s earnings. Unlike weekly box-office grosses, which are a terribly inaccurate and gross misrepresentation of a film’s success, he is making the company’s “Dashboard” tool public this summer, which puts ancillary revenue numbers into context.

“We’re really interested in being transparent,” he says. In that way, Truong believes filmmakers and distributors can work together to better understand those fundamental questions: “When does it make sense to throw dollars at a release or not?” he says. “What are realistic revenue expectations? What is the potential audience for your film? And how do you spend correctly to get there?”

Maybe someday soon we’ll have something close to the answers.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE


Backstreet Boys

Gravitas Ventures Adds Three In Sales & Acquisitions

by 

Gravitas Ventures said today that it has hired three new staffers: Laura Florenceas senior director of sales, Dan Fisher as senior director of acquisitions and Rachel Koehler as acquisitions manager. Florence and Fisher will report to company founder and CEO Nolan Gallagher, who made the announcement.

LauraFlorence mug
Gravitas Ventures

Florence will lead sales of Gravitas titles to on demand and home video platforms. She brings more than 10 years of experience in product and brand management, most recently serving as the executive director of sales for Alchemy. She began her career with Alchemy in 2007 when it was First Look Studios and remained with them as a Brand Manager when they became Millennium Media.

Dan Fisher mug
Gravitas Ventures

Fisher oversees acquisitions for Gravitas, setting strategy for identifying and tracking 20-25 annual theatrical releases and 300-plus direct-to-VOD films. He also maintains the company’s film festival and market coverage program. Previously, Fisher served as director of worldwide acquisitions at Entertainment One, licensing theatrical and home entertainment content for domestic and international distribution.

Rachel Koehler mug
Gravitas Ventures

Koehler will work alongside Fisher to track and acquire projects that contribute to Gravitas’ slate. She most recently worked at Cinedigm as manager of digital sales and Acquisitions, having joined the company in 2013. While there, she managed key digital accounts including iTunes, Amazon, Hulu and more. As Gravitas’ acquisitions manager, she will work alongside Fisher to track and acquire projects for the company.

“When we founded Gravitas in 2006, we only dared to dream we’d be celebrating ten years of working with so many diverse and talented independent filmmakers,” said Gallagher. “It’s always exciting to add more experienced executives to the GV family, and we look forward to the next 10 years.”


Backstreet Boys

Indie Film Distributors & Financiers Praise The Boon Of VOD – Produced By

by

VOD Panel produced by

There’s plenty of art in arthouse and indie film productions, but today’s indie-focused panel at the Produced By Conference was all about commerce. Despite its pointed title – “Is The Sky Falling?” – the session certainly wasn’t all doom and gloom, thanks to the force of VOD.

Moderator Ted Mundorff, president and CEO of Landmark Theaters, kicked off the session by noting that the three highest grossing indie films of 2014 took in $192 million at the box office while the three top grossers in 2015 dropped to $91 million.

The panel of indie distributors and financiers agreed that VOD has been a boon to indie filmmakers.  “You have to be nimble today, ” said Molly Smith, Partner, Black Label Media. “You have to ride the theatrical wave and you need to pull back and find a life in the VOD space.”

“VOD helps mitigate the risk,” said Jonathan Saba, VP of Marketing, Saban Films.

Daniel Hammond, CCO, Broad Green Pictures, said, “VOD is a part of the business today,” before adding a reassuring “The sky has been failing for a couple of years now.”

On the other hand, Andrew Karpen, CEO of Bleecker Street Media, argued that there is still a very strong market for movie-goers 35 and older in theatrical.

“I don’t think the sky is falling,” he said “It’s easier to make films than ever before and yes there are more options for consumers to view movies than ever before”.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE


Digital Home Entertainment

Is the Sky Falling for Independents? Film Execs Say Not Yet

By 

A WALK IN THE WOODS

A trio of newbie distribution outfits — Bleecker Street, Broad Green Pictures and Saban Films — remain upbeat amid the profound changes percolating through Hollywood.

Execs with each, plus “Sicario” producer Molly Smith, appeared Saturday at the Produced By conference at the Sony lot on the panel alarmingly titled “Is the Sky Falling? The Challenges and Opportunities Facing Independent Film Producers.”

“I don’t think the sky is falling,” said Bleecker Streets’s Andrew Karpen. “There’s clearly a market for over-35 audiences in  theatrical releases.”

Bleecker Street’s successes so far include “Eye in the Sky” with $18 million, “I’ll See You in My Dreams” and “Trumbo” — the latter two with over $7 million each, despite limited theatrical release. Karpen noted that it’s crucial to not overreach with more screens than needed, and to recognize where the audience is going to be.

“If we can’t determine who that core audience is, we’re probably not going to get involved,” he added.

Daniel Hammond, chief operating officer for Broad Green, noted that the new studio decided that “A Walk in the Woods” had enough broad appeal to merit a wide release of nearly 2,000 screens, taking in nearly $30 million — despite mixed reviews.

“On a wide release, reviews are less important,” a bemused Hammond noted.

He added that Broad Green sees a focus on wide release as the sensible approach, underlined by making “Straight Outta Compton” producer Matt Alvarez its president of production as the majors focus most of their resources on tentpoles and franchises.

“We’re pushing in-house development,” he added. “We’re strongest in wide release.”

Smith said a similar approach worked with drug war drama “Sicario,” financed by her Black Label Media which found plenty of traction and wound up grossing $46 million domestically via Lionsgate. “You have be nimble today, disciplined and conservative,” she noted.

Jonathan Saba of Saban Films noted that his label has often opted to go the VOD route rather than theatrical. Saban released 2014’s “The Homesman,” starring Tommy Lee Jones and Hilary Swank, and generated $2.4 million theatrically, a move it will make perhaps once a year.

“We’re agnostic to the medium of distribution,” Saba said. “We have not lost money on a film yet.”

The hour-long panel, moderated by Landmark Theater’s Ted Mundorff, lacked any bashing of the new giant players Amazon and Netflix. ‘For an independent producer, Amazon and Netflix are great partners,” Hammond said.

Broad Green signed a TV output deal in April with Amazon Prime.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE


Backstreet Boys

Gravitas Ventures Boldly Goes ‘For The Love Of Spock’

 

For the Love of Spock

EXCLUSIVE: Gravitas Ventures has beamed up worldwide rights to For the Love of Spock, a documentary on the original Star Trek character and actor Leonard Nimoy and an homage to their dedicated fans. The film, which premiered at Tribeca last month, will encounter U.S. theaters and VOD day-and-date on September 9 — one day after the 50th anniversary of the NBC series.

Featuring never-seen home video and family photos, the docu Gravitas Venturescelebrates a half-century of Star Trek through an intimate look at the late Nimoy’s life and career — and Spock — as told by the actor’s son Adam Nimoy, who directed the film. There are interviews with  Zachary Quinto — who plays the Vulcan in the new film series — along with Star Trek originals William Shatner and George Takei and others including J.J. Abrams, Simon Pegg, Zoe Saldana and Jim Parsons.

“It’s no secret that Star Trek is internationally beloved and has shown the world both on screen and off what it truly means to be a global community,” said Nolan Gallagher, founder and CEO of Gravitas Ventures. “We are honored to be collaborating with Adam Nimoy and look forward to bringing this film to audiences everywhere during a monumental year in the Star Trek timeline.”For the Love of Spock was executive produced by David Zappone, with Kevin Layne and Joseph Kornbrodt of 455 Films at Paramount Studios as the producers. The deal was negotiated by Gallagher for Gravitas and Douglas A. Lee on behalf of the filmmakers.


Parables of War: A new documentary film exploring if civilization can bind wounds of war

 

By VNN

Starring Liz Lerman, Bill Pullman, Joshua Bleill, Keith Thompson, Tamara Hurwitz Pullman, and Marjani-Forte Saunders

Dance, documentary, and drama.  All converge in “Parables of War” in a meditation exploring the timeless question: can civilization bind the wounds of war?  

Using MacArthur “Genius” choreographer Liz Lerman’s, theatrical performance piece “Healing Wars” as a point of departure “Parables” witnesses the journey of three men who are, in one way or another, all casualties of war:  Bill Pullman, the actor; Keith Thompson, the dancer; and Josh Bleill, the former Marine.  

Transcending performance, “Parables” explores the intricate nexus that exists between art and artist, between representation and personal narrative, and between historical truth and contemporary experience.  

Ultimately, what is laid bare is the struggle of the wounded and their healers that expresses itself both in art as in life itself.

 Parables of War: Awards and Accolades

  • Peter C Rollins Award for Best Documentary Film in Popular and American Culture, 2016
  • International Atlas Award for Best Documentary Short Film, 2016
  • Gold Award – California Film Awards, 2015
  • Platinum Award Winner – Oregon International Film Awards, 2015
  • Best Documentary Short Film –  Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Award, 2015
  • Nominee – Los Angeles Film Review, Best Documentary Short 2015
  • Gold Award Winner  – International Independent Film Awards, 2015

ORIGINAL ARTICLE


Digital Home Entertainment

Raindance: Rachel Mason on Making the Jump from Art to Film with ‘The Lives of Hamilton Fish’

Raindance: Rachel Mason on Making the

COURTESY OF RACHEL MASON
BY DAMON WISE

LONDON — Unsurprisingly for a musical made by a director and musician with no formal training in either, Rachel Mason’s feature debut “The Lives of Hamilton Fish” — which made its European premiere at London’s Raindance Film Festival — looks and sounds quite unlike any other entry in the festival. With striking visuals that owe as much to Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie as the art of Picasso, it is a Fortean rock opera that tells the life stories of two very different men, both linked by a macabre quirk of history. Described by the New York Times as having a voice that is “part Emmylou Harris and part Yoko Ono,” the L.A.-based artist first screened her film at Hong Kong’s Pineapple Underground festival, where she sang with it live. “After that, I toured with it and I would sing the entire vocal track,” she recalls. “For me, one of the great pleasures is that, thanks to festivals like Raindance, it’s starting to get a life of its own. The programmers saw it and immediately understood that this could be just a film screened by itself.”

How did you come to write “The Lives of Hamilton Fish”?
It really all started with the songs, and the songs came from the characters that I was researching. I discovered this really strange fact. I came across the front page of a newspaper that happened to report the deaths of two famous men, both named Hamilton Fish, who had died within 24 hours of each other. And when I looked up who they were, their stories really inspired me. One of them came from the most prominent American family you could imagine, descending all the way back to one of the founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton. And the other was one of the most depraved serial killers of all time!

Did you immediately see it as a film project?
My first thought was, “Wow, I wish somebody who makes movies could do something with this — but that’s not me. I write songs and I make art.” [Laughs] I hadn’t made a movie, ever. It was a very long journey that eventually led me to make the film. I just started writing the very first song that came to me, and it kind of went from there.

When did you realise it had potential?
My background is as an artist, and I do shows in the art world and museums and galleries. I was invited to do a show in Philadelphia in a little gallery, and the friends that organized it actually suggested the idea that I perform some of my songs. So I did an installation, and after the show, I had so many people come up to me, asking questions. It led me to think, “How could I make this idea better, more clear, and take it out of the art world, where everything can easily live as this weird, esoteric thing that nobody understands?”

Did you have any experience?
I had never really set out to make a feature film at any point, but, as an art student, I went to UCLA and I took a number of film classes. I shot a very short 16mm film while I was there, and I learned about editing. My dad actually worked in the film industry. He worked on “2001” and “Star Trek,” so I’d kind of known a few things about film, and I had made a few video artworks. So basically I put together all the different skills that I’d acquired over the years.

How did you finance it?
In the U.S. a lot of people use non-profits. You get fiscal sponsorship, and then you can ask for donations as a charity. So I was able to get a really good fiscal sponsor, called the New York Foundation for the Arts. They became my charitable sponsor, and then I asked for donations from friends and family.

What inspired the very stylised look of the film?
“The Threepenny Opera” (1931) is a really huge point of inspiration to me. Films made around that period often had a staged, theatrical look, and I really wanted to capture that. I love composition. Also, I should say that abstraction in painting, and Cubism, is a big inspiration to me as well. That’s kind of what I feel the idea of filmmaking is. I’m not trying to compete with the reality of our world. I’m making a theatrical version, and that’s why I use face make-up that is really obvious. It’s like a rock opera.

How was your first experience of making a feature film?
I had the classic experience of doing everything yourself: producing, directing, acting, writing. I realized all the things that I’m good at and not good at. I loved directing — as soon as I was behind the camera, I knew exactly what to do. But managing people and producing was the world’s biggest nightmare. There are people that are great at that. And I’m not one of them.

Do you see the world of art and film as being separate? What’s the difference?
I would say that one of my favourite things to come out of this experience is that, in the film world, the audience is broader. A lot of my screenings have been at museums, where everybody is over the age of 60 — just a sea of white hair. And then I’ve had screenings where there have been a lot of children. They laugh, they cry, they tell me what moved them. Just a huge range. Whereas in the art world I often will see people who look very similar to me! The exciting thing for me about making a film is being able to make something that is more accessible but no less experimental or unusual. I wish more artists were venturing out.


Documentary center director's film picked up for spring release

by Lillianna Byington | Contributing News Editor

Media Credit: Olivia Anderson | Hatchet Photographer

Trophies, honorary plaques and stacks of public records requests fill the office of the founder and director of the Documentary Center in the School of Media and Public Affairs.

Nina Gilden Seavey, a research professor of media and public affairs and history, is now working on a film that has required her to sue the federal government for the release of 386 Freedom of Information Act request results. Seavey’s most recent film was picked up by a distributor last week, and will be one of the first short documentary films sold to big-name video streaming companies like Hulu.

Seavey said her newest film, “Parables of War,” is a 32-minute short film that explores the relationships of three men as they heal from the effects war. The film features three male leads: Joshua Bleill, a Marine Corps veteran, Bill Pullman, an award-winning actor and Keith Thompson, a dancer.

Last week, “Parables of War” was picked up by Gravitas Ventures, an international film distribution company. Seavey said that typically distributors don’t like short films but the film is expected to be a success because it will be released around Memorial Day and near the release of “Independence Day 2,” which also features Pullman.

“This had everything a distributor needs to say this thing has legs and that is how we got distribution,” Seavey said.

She said the distributor is looking to publicly launch the short film in May on streaming platforms like Netflix, Epix, Hulu and iTunes.

“They are developing a model that they hope will carry over to a lot of very high-end short films,” Seavey said. “We are happy to be the guinea pig. It is an honor that we are the first.”

Seavey said they have showed the film to medical and nursing students at GW and at the Department of Veterans Affairs therapy education, and will have more screenings in the medical school next month. The film premiered last year to rave reviews.

“How you heal the wounds of war is such a big issue not only for veterans but also for their families, and this really goes to that question,” Seavey said.

The documentary center has ranked in the top 10 schools for documentary making for the past 25 years, and Seavey was named one of the top 50 journalism professors in 2012. The school offers a graduate degree in documentary filmmaking and takes in about 15 students each year.

Seavey said she chooses to work on films that can tell her audiences something about the human condition. She has directed films on everything from football and country music to disease and war.

“Each one of them is so drastically different, and that is what keeps me fresh and interested, that I am not just churning out the same thing,” Seavey said.

She said one of her next films is a project that’s been in the works for 30 years. Titled, “My Fugitive,” it chronicles the events of May 1970 at Washington University in St. Louis when protests erupted and a cherry bomb was thrown into an ROTC building.

She said her father, Louis Gilden, was the attorney for the students and the faculty who were wrongly accused.

“It impacted a huge number of lives, what happened that night, and some people never got their lives back,” Seavey said.

Seavey said she recently received a $25,000 grant from a private donor to keep her efforts going. She said she will release a five-minute fundraising trailer this summer to give possible donors a preview of the film.

“There was a lot of complication about the various people who were involved,” Seavey said. “We have the lawsuit and it will take them a while to get that whole problem of what to release, how to release and when to release it.”

Seavey said that she wants students to be inspired by the films she makes and has them focus on their own creative work instead of playing a big role in her films. She said that she loves teaching students about her passion.

“Every day I get up, I am excited. I love what I do. I love teaching my students what I love, and that is why I mentor them for so long,” Seavey said. “It feels like every day is some new surprise, and that’s how I feel about this project. That’s how I feel about all of these projects.”

Originally posted at: http://www.gwhatchet.com/2016/02/21/documentary-center-directors-film-picked-up-for-spring-release/