February 27 2015 by Tom Wilton @TomWilton

The thing that you never remember about film festivals, but are duly reminded of every time, is just how overwhelming they can be. You bounce from movie to movie, meet up to meet up, conversation to conversation. Time slips as you’re promising to go to any number of movies, whilst also reminding yourself to stop and grab a bite to eat from some place.

Day one for me at Cinequest 2015 happened yesterday, although it was day three for the 15 day event itself. I promised myself that I wouldn’t use lazy superlatives when it came to writing these posts, avoiding such descriptors as “awesome”, or “a total blast”, but honestly, as I type this out on four hours of sleep, these are the last adverbs I’ve got in the tank. So if you’re in the TLDR-camp, and want to know what Cinequest has been like so far, it’s an awesome fest, just a total blast.

Of course, it’s San Jose. We’re in a pleasantly warm California, and I’ve just flown in from a brittle (and brutally) cold NYC, so just being back here is a blessing. But the organisation and engagement of the festival is awesome (dammit - I really don’t have much left in the toolbox right now). To show up and be welcomed by so many excited and happy volunteers and staff was a rather rock n roll feeling - seriously, one of the warmest welcomes I’ve ever had when landing at a festival. And it’s great, because I can imagine that, for so many filmmakers for whom public screenings and fist-pumping meet-and-greets bring them out in hives, this was the kind of open-armed-acceptance that just sets you up to engage.

Myself, Andrew Leland Rogers and Fiona Graham flew in for the US premiere of Elsewhere, NY, the debut feature from director, Jeffrey P. Nesker. We had a 9.30pm slot, so that meant we hung at the soiree and caught a bunch of movies.

The soiree (their term, not mine), was held at Mosaic, taking full advantage of the warm weather and hosting us outside. Filmmakers needing some Dutch courage were able to take advantage of the open bar, and it was a really great opportunity to check in with filmmakers and some select film fans as we swapped business cards and checked in on all things movies. From a personal perspective, this was a great way of bedding in on the first day, and as a daily occurrence, I’m looking forward to being able to put faces to films.

Speaking of the movies, I caught several shorts yesterday, the best of which were Barrio Boy from writer/director Dennis Shinners and The Dam Keeper from animators Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi.

Barrio Boy’s premise is very simple - a barber, working out of a shop in Brooklyn, meets a customer who’s obviously not a local, and his emotions are stirred. The film’s simple setting - the barbershop, a guy-hang for those with time to kill - is in an interesting choice. This is a romance in fantasy, a charming, cleverly observed look at those five minute flirtations of the mind when we meet a beautiful stranger. Tender, funny and writ-through with a well-constructed dialog, it’s one to check out.

The Dam Keeper was one of those films you stumble across at times - literally running into catch a movie before the Elsewhere, NY screening - and it was a wonderful find.

The story of a pig whose job it is to keep the dam going (which is actually a windmill), and to keep out the darkness. But the pig is a social outcast, constantly met with jibes and mocking imitations from all the other animals in the town. And then, one day, the fox arrives, and a quiet friendship stirs.

What makes The Dam Keeper work is consideration for not just the animation (which is heartachingly good), but the writing itself. The measured beats, coupled with such imaginative art made the film just sing. Even in the smallest details, such as the school bus running on cable car lines, or the light breaking across the town - all of these things taking time to craft, and it’s to the film’s benefit.

Again, if you can see this film, find it. Trust me.

Lastly, the first US screening of Elsewhere, NY. It was well attended (always a worry when a film plays so late), and the Q&A had some blisteringly good questions - especially around the writing and the performances on screen.

What I love about festivals is not so much the ego-rub of watching a film you’ve been involved with, but rather the conversations that occur around it. Indeed, one film-goer questioned the stylistic choices of a fast edit in such a weighted drama, whilst others felt the gut-punch that comes from having your own experiences closely imitated on screen. To talk about that, discuss the who, the why and the what, that’s what it’s all about. And from this, I may just be heart-deep in love with festivals again.


16 February 2015 by Tom Wilton @TomWilton:

One of the best things that can happen to a filmmaker is an approach from a sales agent or an offer from a distributor. It’s not just the sudden promise of untold riches, but also that your parents can finally breathe a sigh of relief over your choice of career.

But not every deal is created equally, so whilst the bragging rights are awesome, often the details themselves are not. From crippling licensing periods to fuzzy clauses in relation to royalties, signing a deal can quickly turn into a bad dream.
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February 7 2015

By Tom Wilton:

Back in late 2007, I sold my first feature film to a distributor, believing that I was climbing aboard a boat setting sail on milk and honey. Yeah, that's not quite what happened. Stop me if you've heard this one, but essentially, the film was released and my promised residual checks never materialized, swallowed up by 'marketing costs' and other expenses outlined opaquely in my contract.
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February 5 2015

By Tom Wilton:

Picture this; you return to your hotel room after a long day at a conference. You're miles from home, been away for a week. You take the obligatory call from a colleague when all you really want to do is kick back with a drink from the mini bar and relax.

You get off the phone, you call your wife. Except, the maid answers. You don't have a maid you say. It's her first day, she tells you, a work trial. You ask to speak to your wife, awkwardly, she tells you that she can't disturb her.... You push, and reluctantly tells you that your wife is with another man... 
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