Interview with Festival Director Jayson Simba (KEW GARDENS FESTIVAL OF CINEMA)

Already being hailed by The Wall Street Journal as New York City’s next major film event, and as mentioned on The Huffington Post, Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema is a non-profit organization established to support the development of and help expand the audiences for independent cinema from around the globe. The inaugural festival will take place Aug. 4-13, 2017.

http://www.kewgardensfestivalofcinema.com/

Matthew Toffolo: What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Jayson Simba: Simply, our festival is succeeding in getting filmmakers films in front of the right people at the right location. We wanted to make sure we were able to present films in an actual theater, giving them the proper environment in addition to optimal sound and visuals. We are also working extremely hard to have audiences attend and have a very active campaign on social media as well as various print outlets. Finally, we want to assure that filmmakers are comfortable and confident with their submissions, so along with obtaining great sponsors that are offering amazing opportunities, we guarantee that every film is watched by a board member in its entirety.

What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2017)?

Attendees and participants can expect to experience an event, not just a film festival. We are not only concentrating on the Films, but we want to offer filmmakers and attendees a great time, so you can expect Movie Trivia Night, Happy Hours Specials at various Bars and Restaurants throughout the area. We also will be having an outdoor screening in Flushing Meadow Park under the famous Unisphere presented by The Queens Museum!

What are the qualifications for the selected films?

The ONLY qualification is that the film isn’t backed by a major studio. Other than that, anything and everything goes! We have already received over 350 amazing films which include subjects and genres such as Horror, Drama, Fantasy, Noir, Thriller, Action, LGBT, Docs, Animation and Experimentation.

Do you think that some films really don’t get a fair shake from film festivals? And if so, why?

Absolutely without question. With the rise in popularity in ‘independent film’ A lot of major studios have developed divisions that fund and produce these films, usually with a budget of $10 million plus. It’s become unfortunate that film festivals which have gone on to become some of the biggest in the world, seem to have forgotten the true purpose of a film festival and generally seem to cater to films with multimillion dollar budgets and A list actors – something that the truly independent film rarely if at all has access to. There are some amazing films out there (as our festival is setting out to prove) that do an amazing job without the large budget and A list celebrities.

What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

Honestly it’s the love of film. Our festival was formed by filmmakers who have the experience of creating content that has been rejected by major festivals for the very same reasons as others. Knowing at the end of the day that we are providing an great service, presenting great material and allowing everyone to fully enjoy this festival as an event, makes it all worth doing.

How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

Filmfreeway is only one of the five platforms where we are accepting films. But FilmFreeway is #1. Alone we have surpassed 200 submissions!

Where do you see the festival by 2020?

My personal vision is to have this event become a NYC staple. An event that people plan and book in advance because its “THE” place to be in August.

What film have you seen the most times in your life?

Oh wow. That’s tough. I’m a huge cinephile and have been since as long as I can remember! (As a kid, my mom and I would go to the local videostore and rent 5 movies at time!) …..But If I must claim ONE – I’d say its probably the original Clash of the Titans and/or Star Wars – I knew both films VERBATIM.

In one sentence, what makes a great film?

goosebumps

How is the film scene in your city?

In our CITY – the film scene is intense. Besides all the multiplexes and over 200 film festivals, I’d say NYC has one of, if not the largest film going population in the world….Now if you ask me about the film scene in QUEENS? That’s another story – and we are about to change that!
 

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 2 times a month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

SUBMIT your TV PILOT Screenplay or TV SPEC Script
Voted #1 TV Contest in North America.
Screenplay CONTESTSUBMIT your Short Screenplay or FEATURE Script
FULL FEEDBACK on all entries. Get your script performed
Screenplay CONTESTFIRST SCENE (first 10pgs) Screenplay CONTEST
Submit the first stages of your film an

Interview with Festival Director Warren Workman (Family Film Festival)

The Family Film Festival will take place this summer at the Covey Center for the Arts. They will be screening films and producing 3 short films the week prior to the award program. Come join in the fun with the entire family in Provo, Utah.

http://www.familyfilmfest.org/

 Matthew Toffolo: What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Warren Workman: At the Family Film Festival we are cultivating an environment for young filmmakers to learn the skills it takes to tell great stories through cinema. By providing a venue for them to learn the skills and watch films by great filmmakers, we provide a well rounded experience to help anyone dive into the family friendly filmmaking genre.

What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2017)?

Expect a different vibe at the Family Film Festival than you are used to. You will see a lot of young children running around in the lobbies and cheering and laughing along with your film. We provide a relaxed atmosphere while showcasing films in our posh theater to audiences of all ages.

What are the qualifications for the selected films?

We are looking for family friendly films so if it would fall in the G-PG or TV-G to TV-14 area then we are the festival for you. The films are selected by a committee of parents and kids that are looking for films that entertain, inspire, and educate audiences without alienating younger viewers.

Do you think that some films really don’t get a fair shake from film festivals? And if so, why?

Not at all. We work with several festivals and see that each film is viewed by multiple members of a selection committee. However some films just don’t make sense for all film festival. A film probably wont get accepted to a horror genre film festival if it is a feel good family comedy. Filmmakers would see a higher acceptance rate if they submitted their projects based of what the festival is looking for. Its always a good idea to see if the festival is a good match for the film before submitting.

What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

Provo City asked us to help bring a film festival that would resonate with their younger family demographic. Having young children ourselves we have found it difficult find events that cater to the entire family. We are excited to present and event that is fun for everyone no matter their age.

How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

We have had a tremendous response! We had 50 submissions come through in our first week since we opened our call for submissions. Almost every single one of the films and screenplays submitted is exactly what we are looking for and we are excited to start programing a wonderful first year.

Where do you see the festival by 2020?

We would love to see the event grow into a week long festival tradition bringing grandkids and grandparents into the same theater to provide a unique educational experience.

What film have you seen the most times in your life?

Other than the annual watching of “It’s a Wonderful Life” I have probably seen “Sound of Music” more than any other film.

In one sentence, what makes a great film?

If a film can connect with me on an emotional level, thats what makes a great film to me.

How is the film scene in your city?

We currently have 21 films/series being filmed in Utah County right now. It’s super busy here if you in the film business.

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 2 times a month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

SUBMIT your TV PILOT Screenplay or TV SPEC Script
Voted #1 TV Contest in North America.
Screenplay CONTESTSUBMIT your Short Screenplay or FEATURE Script
FULL FEEDBACK on all entries. Get your script performed
Screenplay CONTESTFIRST SCENE (first 10pgs) Screenplay CONTEST
Submit the first stages of your film an

Hot Docs Review: INTEGRAL MAN (Canada 2016) ***

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival: http://www.wildsound.ca

He chose two young architects that would come to change contemporary architecture. Jim Stewart is the most published mathematician since Euclid, a concert level violinist, calculus professor, philanthropist, and gay rights activist. He is a true polymath, a modern day renaissance man. He had a bold vision and the conviction to follow through.

Director: Joseph Clement

Review by Gilbert Seah<

As this reviewer teaches mathematics at a college in Toronto, it is expected that INTEGRAL MAN be selected as a documentary to be reviewed.

The human subject of INTEGRAL MAN is Jim Stewart, the most published mathematician since Euclid, a man of unparalleled ambition. His books are sold the world over. But this man is also a music lover.

Stewart set out to create one of the most renowned pieces of residential architecture in North America and succeeded, demonstrating the perfect match between client and architect. The other subject of the film is this residence, overlooking a ravine in Rosedale, Toronto which the film spends more than half the time showcasing. Unbeknownst to Jim however, an unexpected turn of events is set to unfold.

He is diagnosed with cancer. The film is a worthy tribute to a man who has devoted his life to music and has paid back his dues to that art from. Beware! The film is full of glorified decadence!

Trailer: https://vimeo.com/209647946

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Also, Free logline submissions. The Writing Festival network averages over 95,000 unique visitors a day.
Great way to get your story out: http://www.wildsound.ca/logline.html

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival:http://www.wildsound.ca

Watch recent Writing Festival Videos. At least 15 winning videos a month:http://www.wildsoundfestival.com

I, DANIEL BLAKE (USA 2016) ***** Top 10

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival: http://www.wildsound.ca

i_daniel_blake.jpgA middle aged carpenter who requires state welfare after suffering a heart attack is joined by a single mother in a similar scenario.

Director: Ken Loach
Writer: Paul Laverty (screenplay)
Stars: Dave Johns, Hayley Squires, Sharon Percy

Review by Gilbert Seah 

British director Ken Loach is one director that constantly makes films about the country’s social problems – be it child services (LADYBIRD, LADYBIRD), the working class (RIFF-RAFF) or growing up poor (KES his first and best feature film, SWEET SIXTEEN). In I, DANIEL BLAKE, his new film, the setting is Newcastle where the Geordies speak with their accent. The accent can be understood as the actors speak slow enough and enunciate clearly but the film still comes with English subtitles.

Daniel Blake (Dave Johns, who won this year’s BFTA Award for Best Actor for this performance) is caught in a rut. The government services are sending him in circles and he is out of patience and money. After Daniel suffers a heart attack, he is on the dole. But he is ‘sanctioned’ and has to show that he is applying for a job to keep his benefits. But he cannot really work because of his heart condition. It does not help that Daniel is not digital by default, i.e. he is not familiar with using the computer. While at one of these meetings, he meets Katie (Hayley Squires), a single mother who has moved from London to Newcastle with her two children because she is finally given a flat to live in. The two poor souls become good friends – each helping each other out.

There is a nice tune in the film called “Sailing On” by Ronald Binge. The tune has a great significance as Daniel’s late wife used to tell him while sick with him looking after her: “All I want to do is sail away, with the wind at my back.” These words will have again special significance at the end of the film.

Unlike a lot of films about social problems, Loach’s film (written by Paul Laverty) shows that there are still good people around – even in government offices, particularly in the scene when one sympathetic officer, Ann (Kate Rutter) offers him, for the first time, decent and heart-felt advice.

The most important message of the film is uttered no less than by Daniel himself. “When you lose your self respect, you are done for.” But the film shows how difficult it is to keep this self-respect and honesty. His neighbour, a black nicknamed China (Kema Sikazwe), finally had it and starts selling sneakers mailed from China selling them at 80 quid while these same shoes are found sold in stores in the high street at more than double the price. Daniel frowns on China. The film shows easy money could come by like an opportunity knocking at ones door, though it may not be a good thing. Katie’s children are in dire need of essentials like food and shoes. She opts for the easy way out like shoplifting (though she does get caught) and later on more desperately as an escort. Daniel finds out. The confrontation scene between the two on the subject is deeply emotional and gut wrenching to watch.

Ken Loach shows that a film appearing so simple with no special effects, cheap theatrics, sugar coating or pretentious dramatics can turn out to be so moving and absorbing. I, DANIEL BLAKE is a great film. It took away the Palme d’Or this year at Cannes. Bring lots of Kleenex!

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahWgxw9E_h4

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Also, Free logline submissions. The Writing Festival network averages over 95,000 unique visitors a day.
Great way to get your story out: http://www.wildsound.ca/logline.html

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival:http://www.wildsound.ca

Watch recent Writing Festival Videos. At least 15 winning videos a month:http://www.wildsoundfestival.com

Film Review: LOST CITY OF Z (USA 2016) ***

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival: http://www.wildsound.ca

the_lost_city_of_z.jpgA true-life drama, centering on British explorer Col. Percival Fawcett, who disappeared while searching for a mysterious city in the Amazon in the 1920s.

Director: James Gray
Writers: James Gray (written for the screen by), David Grann (based on the book by)
Stars: Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller

Review by Gilbert Seah

(Spoilers)

LOST CITY OF Z is an exploration film about British explorer Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnan) obsessed with finding the lost city which he nicknames Z (pronounced zed in Britain and in the film and Zee in North America) in the wild Amazon jungles of Bolivia in South America.

The film is as expected of this sort of big productions, a handsomely mounted production with lots of candid shots of the horrors as well as the beauty of the wild. But it follows the same mould as many past exploration films, those that say track the expeditions into Africa or up Mount Everest or into Antarctica.

These films normal includes the identical premise consisting of:

getting limited or no funds for the expedition.

The same can be said for LOST CITY OF Z. Though Percy is first coerced into taking up the plight to Bolivia, he is initially reluctant. He is a soldier and a major (he gets promoted later to Lieutenant Colonel) in the British military. There is extended segment of him fighting in World War 1, always advancing towards the enemy lines, showing him the titular hero, but distracts from the main story at hand. In fact, Percy makes no less than 3 separate expeditions. For his final expedition – he had to fight for funds, most of it provided by the Americans and secondly but he British Geographical Society. It is ironical that the film was also financed by the U.S. with director Gray (THE YARDS being my favourite film of his), an American director offered the job of director. He was himself surprised, as many, for the reason he was offered the job.

The objection of the explorer’s immediate family to the task and the conflict that ensues.

The wife, Nina (Sienna Miller) objects but also decides to join him, though never realized. A strong argument is given here to update the film on a strong feminist point of view. The son (Tom Holland, the new SPIDER-MAN) objects vehemently but buries the hatchet at the end by joining his father n the third expedition.

The white man always doing what is right in the wilds

It is odd to see white men in full uniform or suits traversing the humid and wet jungles. Percy is often seen in full military garb in the incredibly uncomfortable hot weather.
But there is always something fascinating about watching a film about explorers making an expedition to foreign lands. This fascination is present and Gray capitalizes it with the strange vegetation and dangerous insects and animals around. There are scary scenes involving piranhas devouring human beings and native shooting arrows at Percy and his men.

The film is based on a true story. Percy and his son never returned from the last expedition,. This fact elevates the film out of the normal exploration films. Gray etches the main character here to a romanticized hero, worthy of the audience’s time at the cinema.

LOST CITY OF Z is long and runs close to 140 minutes. But the 3 expeditions and the war segment make the time run fast. Still, Gray’s film is a beautiful piece of filmmaking.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hjqtP459uo8
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Also, Free logline submissions. The Writing Festival network averages over 95,000 unique visitors a day.
Great way to get your story out: http://www.wildsound.ca/logline.html

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival:http://www.wildsound.ca

Watch recent Writing Festival Videos. At least 15 winning videos a month:http://www.wildsoundfestival.com

Film Review: COUNTING FOR THUNDER (USA 2015) ***

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival: http://www.wildsound.ca

counting_for_thunder.jpgAn actor unlucky in work, money and love goes back home to the deep south to help out during a family crisis and is inspired to find his true voice as his mother is finally finding hers.

Director: Phillip Irwin Cooper
Writer: Phillip Irwin Cooper
Stars: Phillip Irwin Cooper, Mariette Hartley, John Heard

Review by Gilbert Seah

 It should be noted that this autobiographical film started out as a one-man play where Phillip Irwin Cooper played no less than 30 different odd characters. But Cooper has taken his play out in the open quite well, as it is difficult to guess that the film originated that way. Cooper does the writing, directing and lead role in the film.

Phillip Stalworth (Cooper) is an actor unlucky in work, money and love. He goes back home from California to the deep south, Alabama to help out during a family crisis. His mother, Tina (Mariette Hartley) has been diagnosed with cancer. He is more attached to her than to his father, Garrett (John Heard) who in turn is closer to his sister (Alison Elliot). So why is this film advertised (billed) as a LGBT film? Phillip is bi, who has made out with both sexes. While back in Alabama, he has a fling with an old school-mate, Joe Tishman (Peter Stebbings). There is no nudity or skin in this film.

The film benefits from two veteran actors, Hartley and Heard. Stebbings is sexy enough or at least plays sexy quite well. Cooper, however, is fond of making awkward faces whenever conversation is made. There is one scene with a key dialogue that goes against Cooper’s face making. Mother says the wise words that in a photo, the snapshot taken of there person is one that is frozen and that person will be remembered forever with that pose. This means Cooper will be remembered forever in his film as the man who makes awkward faces.

On the more serious side, COUNTING FOR THUNDER is an honest and earnest film from the heart of Cooper. There is the pain and tenderness of the lead charter that emancipates from the screen. The audience can tell that Coper is playing a real character. Cooper does not go for cheap laughs such as joking about people of the deep south.

The film contains a few really odd yet funny scenes. One wonders if they turned out this way by accident or were they carefully planned. One is the meeting outside the house where

Joe Tischman gives Phillip some collard greens from his garden telling him that he looks frazzled and the greens with olive oil and sea salt will brighten any day. While the two talk, their body language turns weirder, as if they were two roosters fluttering their feathers to see who is the more attractive.

At one point in the film, Thomas asks his mother while high on hashish, “Have you ever felt at any time that nothing in your life has every went the way that it should?” And they burst out laughing. It is an excellent scene showing that Cooper is able to laugh at his own material. But the film is more touching than funny. The film’s confrontation scene between Phillip and his father, however feels a bit forced.

COUNTING FOR THUNDER works better as a family drama than as a south middle age coming out story. The film will be released in the U.S. and Canada via Wolfe Video on May 2 on DVD & VOD and across all digital platforms including iTunes, Vimeo On Demand, and WolfeOnDemand.com and many major retailers.

Trailer: https://vimeo.com/202288712 

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Also, Free logline submissions. The Writing Festival network averages over 95,000 unique visitors a day.
Great way to get your story out: http://www.wildsound.ca/logline.html

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival:http://www.wildsound.ca

Watch recent Writing Festival Videos. At least 15 winning videos a month:http://www.wildsoundfestival.com

In Living Colour: American Broadcast News on Film

A World of Film

I recently wrote an essay regarding political representations of TV news in film by comparing Network (1976) with Christine (2016). The essay focuses on the political ideology of TV news, attempting to work out what value such media holds in communatating truths to mass audiences, while asking if this is even possible when situated within a deep and embeded ideological structure. 

Take a look at my essay thesis below, and, if interested, click the link at the bottom of this page to read the entire piece.   

Keep engaged in film viewing, theory, and criticism. Cinema is one of the most important arts of expression we have at our disposal… in times such as the modern age, never forget that!

Thesis:

In this essay, I shall examine the political critiques of Network and Christine, focusing on the aesthetic qualities and thematic content of each. The films map an important shift…

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