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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Weekend at the Phoenix Film Festival

I just got back from Phoenix, AZ this past weekend. A film I produced, I Saved the World from Global Warming, screened at the Phoenix Film Festival. I'm not going to lie, I'm tired. Though, I had a great time. Considering the last time I was in Arizona was back in January '06 when I went to Tucson and almost died. Still have not drank Mike's Hard Lemonade since (Long story that I won't go into right now. My only advice is don't drink six pack of Mike's unless you want to spend the night puking like you've never puked before.).

Phoenix is one of these growing film festivals that I think can really only go up. It treats the filmmakers well and everyone just wants to have a good time. I met some nice people and drank a lot of alcohol at very cheap prices (aka free). Could have the parties been better attended? Yes, but I have no complaints. They still had great energy and like anything it's what you make of the party. Sometimes you have to make your own fun and drinking frozen alcohol drinks or beers always helps that cause.

I met some great filmmakers at the festival. I honestly wish I was a little more sober when talking to them since I forgot most of what we talked about. Plus, it's a lot of information to take in, but I tried my best. I hope that I made some connections that help me in the short or long term.

I also have to say that if you were fortunate to see me at the parties it was one of the few time you will see me dance in front of a crowd and get on stage with the live band and sing along to the songs of "Wild Thing" or "Sweet Caroline". In the words of Ringo in A Hard Day's Night, Mikey Filmmaker is a mocker.

As for the films, I saw four feature films along with the shorts package with Global Warming. I would have loved to see more films, but I was only there for a limited time and needed to choose my films wisely. So what did I see? Well, let's take a look at them in chronological order.

The Arizona shorts program was the first thing I saw at the fest. First of all, I respect the filmmakers for making the films especially being from Arizona and screen their films in Phoenix. It's always exciting to go to your "home" turf and be able to show your accomplishment (I should know regardless of how it turned out). I thought the screening was average in quality. Some better than others. Most of them were on the very short side (under 10 minutes) and I thought they were effective in getting their messages across. I've learned that about most short programs in general. It's tough to hit a homerun with every film in the program. I also tend to have a selective taste, so I'm also a little harsher than most people. It's not that I'm trying to be a jerk, it's just that not every film made is amazing. It's sad, but true.

Finding Kraftland was a feature documentary. Honestly, I was not a big fan of this film. The festival director said there was just something he liked about this film. Well, there was just something that I didn't like about this film. First, I didn't like the way it was set up. The filmmakers decided to tell it in form of a top ten list with a host, yet it was a movie. It was about a rich and arguably spoiled agent of composers, Richard Kraft, and his obsession with nostalgia items from board games to bobble head dolls as well as his unconditional love of Disneyland. His residence is conveniently titled Kraftland. It also deals with his relationship with his son, Nicky, and how the two connect and love each other. I found at times that I wanted to reach across the screen and just struggle this man, who needs to grow up. That was until I realized that he did use some of his money to battle Crohn's disease, which sadly took the life of his brother. I respect that as I think it should be an unwritten law that every rich person donate a portion of their money to a charity of their choice. With everything said, would I recommend the film? I just can't say yes. It's not horrible, but nothing to get that excited about unless you just want to see a 75 minute film about a man's endless obsessions and his eccentric behavior.

On Broadway is a film that some people could argue I'm a little biased about. First, it's made by filmmakers from Boston about Boston (specifically life in an unnamed Irish community). It deals with a man coping with the death of his uncle by writing a play about coping with family and friends. It serves as his therapy and a way to accept it as a part of his life. With the death of Auntie Tina only a month old, I couldn't help think about that during this film and it hit home with me. Believe it or not, the film stars Joey McInteryie and I thought he did a hell of a job. I didn't think he could pull it off, but he just really got the role. The film also has a supporting cast of Boston natives such as Mike O'Malley, Eliza Dushku, Will Arnett, and Amy Poehler. I thought it did a good job of capturing the Boston culture and the film knew its identity. I guess my only issue with the film was it had some cliches and the film may have problems relating to people outside of New England. Still, there's a good story in there with a great idea of running a play at a pub. I also got an opportunity to meet one of the producers and actors, Lance Greene, and he was a class act. I wish him luck. Oh, and I have to mention that Chris Collins (Peabody native and NECN sports anchor) has a small cameo at the very beginning of this film. I just thought that was funny. I don't know if this film will ever see the light of day outside of New England (currently a platform release), but it's worth giving a view especially if you're from Boston or Irish.

Remarkable Power is one of those films that has a cast of some well known names, but it fails to live up to the expecatations. Although, that is really if you call Kevin Nealon and Tom Arnold "names". For the sake of indie film, I will since it does attract financiers and they are well known to most people (I hope). My issue was this film tried to do too much and then rushed the ending. Plus, the ending was way too smooth for such an elaborate plan by Kevin Nealon's character. Everything does come full circle and I give the filmmakers credit for that, it just didn't blow me away. The film is still looking for distribution and I hope it gets picked up, but only time will tell. After talking to the filmmakers, it looks like a video release (direct-to-video) is more likely.

American Teen was the last film I saw at the festival. And, it was the best one I saw. It was from Sundance and it's a documentary that I really think you'll be hearing about as time progresses. The premise to the film is rather simple. It follows around four main high school students during their senior year in Warsaw, IN. It features a geek, jock, popular girl, and artsy girl. Their friends also have secondary roles in film. It might seem like a stretch to really care about these kids, but quickly you grow an attachment to them. I guess it also depends on what clique you belonged to in high school. It brings you back in time to your high school days and makes you cringe at certain parts. It brings back memories both good and bad. And, when the movie is over, you really want to never let them go. After the film was over, my friends and I kept talking about wanting to find out where they are now (the film followed class of 2006 students). I even debated for five seconds whether I should drive up to San Francisco to meet the artsy girl and offer her to be my producing partner (she wanted to make movies). I found this film to have a lot of heart. It never bores you and you'll be laughing and possibly crying throughout.

Overall, I had a great time in Phoenix. It's the best festival I've been to in my short career as a writer/director/producer. It just felt like what a festival should be like. Granted it's only the third one I've been to (Boston and Whittier are the others), but it was such an improvement. It was a weekend that I won't forget anytime soon.

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