Archive for February, 2011

Cinequest countdown — TICK! TOCK! TICK! TOCK!

Get Ready!

The countdown is ticking its last tocks, as Cinequest kicks off TOMORROW!  And we have some great news already.


First thing to be prepared for is Opening Night, Tuesday at 7pm.  Buy your tickets and get to the California Theater early (there is always a long line to get in), and be ready to party after!  Maverick legend John Turturro will be there to present his film PASSIONE, and to receive Cinequest’s Maverick Spirit Award.  After the film, head over to Eulipia Restaurant & Bar AND The Swinging Hookah on South First Street for cocktails, food and music.  This is always a super packed event and you MUST have a ticket to get in.

And then get a good night’s sleep, because there are a LOT of films to watch in the next twelve days.  And what could be better than a discount?

Groupon has a special today of up to 63% off for the weekend of March 5-6.  For just $75 (a $200 value) you can get a pass that will let you in to any film that weekend.  Noted films playing that weekend are Falling Overnight, Togetherness Supreme, Samuel Bleak, Here’s the Kicker, Shorts #1, 2, 4 and 6, Acquainted with the Night, NEW YORK DECALOGUE, Super Hero Party Clown, Dying to do Letterman, Midnight Son, Small Town Murder Songs AND MANY, MANY MORE.  This is a GREAT weekend to have a pass as most of my favorites are playing then.  But if you don’t have a pass and can’t get the Groupon, I hope you still come by to watch as many as you can – these are all outstanding films.

The next piece of exciting news for extreme dedicated Cinequesters is that Festival Fanatic has updated their website to include Cinequest 2011.  Cinequest has its own scheduler which is awesome for the average festival attendee, and of course there IS an app for that as well.  But for those of us who spend these two weeks watching as many films as possible, Festival Fanatic is an absolute necessity.  Just click on which films you want to see, enter which dates and times you are unavailable, and Festival Fanatic kicks out a schedule for you.  It is also highly tweakable, and super user-friendly.  Note: The “dates/time unavailable” section can be tricky, but follow this method: 3/7 11am-3pm.

We’ll have more film reviews, director interviews, and personal recommendations in the days to come.  I think this year is shaping up to be the best ever as almost every film I have previewed has been outstanding.  Join in the fun and excitement, and come out for the films, the parties, and the opportunity to rub shoulders with these incredible filmmakers and actors.  There is no more enjoyable time to live in San Jose!

Library vandalized

Library vandalised

You see, San Jose?!? This is why you can’t have nice things.

Amazing things come in tiny packages at The Pear Avenue Theatre

We were recently invited to attend a show at the most darling theater in Mountain View.  Started in 2002 and tucked away in the back of some warehouses, the tiny Pear Avenue Theatre (seats about 40) apparently has access to some of the best talent in the Bay Area.  I was not thrilled to be going out in the freezing temperatures Friday evening, but I am now very excited to have found this theater and look forward to seeing more shows there.

Currently they are playing Death of a Salesman, the classic Arthur Miller drama that takes place in the 1940s and introduced the world to Willy Loman.  I have studied this play several times over the years but have never seen a live production; my 19 year old daughter, who attended with me, did not know anything about the story – and I had not told her anything beforehand, afraid that she would decline my invitation.  But when we left the theater she was quite affected, and though she said she was emotionally worn out by the play, she really liked it.

I was in love as soon as I walked in and saw how tiny the place was.  I have been to other extremely tiny theaters before, and for some reason these venues seem to attract the highest level of talent.  The set was the very detailed interior of a bi-level house, comprised of a kitchen, downstairs master bedroom, and the boys’ room upstairs.  The full area of the theater was put to use as Uncle Ben often stood at the top of the bleachers to speak to Willy, and other characters also ran up and down the bleachers.  The stage was right at the feet of our chairs, giving the feeling of being directly in the middle of the action.

I cannot imagine a more perfect production of this particular show.  Every single actor played their characters beautifully.  I keep thinking, “Particularly impressive was Don DeMico as Willy, oh but also Alex Shafer as Ben, but also Larry Raboy as Charlie, and Jeffrey Adams was awesome as Happy, but Jeff Clarke really pulled it out as Biff, but I can’t forget Jackie O’Keefe in her heartbreaking portrayal of Linda Loman…” So who do I single out?  I cannot. (more…)

Bay Area Pet Expo 2011

The Bay Area Pet Expo at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds is this Saturday February 26, 2011. Admission is free and pets are welcome proof of current age-appropriate immunizations (if applicable) and that your canine companion is on a non-retractable lead.

The Expo features pet-friendly exhibitors and rescue groups, pet care tips, along with live demonstrations in agility, obedience training, and more.

Fun includes the pet fashion show, costume contest, and the pet/owner look-alike contest.

In addition, low-cost immunizations and pets will be available for adoption.

The Expo is indoors.

Bay Area Pet Expo
Santa Clara County Fairgrounds
344 Tully Road, San Jose

Saturday February 26, 2011
10:00 am to 6:00 pm

Admission: Free

Interview with Joseph Sims, cool Aussie with a heart full of …blood.

Local filmmakers aren’t the only ones coming to Cinequest this year.  Joseph Sims, director of the Tarantino-esque film BAD BEHAVIOUR is coming all the way from Australia!  I was able to preview his film which is spectacular and racking up the praise from all over the world.   Here is my interview with him:

Joseph Sims

1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of BAD BEHAVIOUR, from concept to financing.

Bad Behaviour was originally an extension of a short film I made called Smiling Faces. It taught me a lot but in the end the film was a bit crap. The really cool idea behind it seemed to have been spoiled due to me over-stylizing and messing with shit that didn’t need to be there. The editor on Smiling Faces was a guy called Steven Caldwell and whilst we edited it he encouraged me to start writing a feature. We both seemed to be at a point in our lives where we wanted to commit to a large project. So in early 2009 I set about writing what eventually became Bad Behaviour. I met with Kris Maric who would later come on board as the second of the three producers right before going back to the UK where I finished the screenplay. It turned out pretty awesome and we managed to persuade some bigger names to come on board through Kris. I executive produced and raised all the financing. I originally thought it was going to be a $20,000 uber low budget kinda thing, but when we got John Jarratt (who in 2005 played Mick Taylor in Wolf Creek which found him worldwide recognition and friendship with Quentin Tarantino) and Dwaine Stevenson (from another Aussie cult movie called Gabriel) I was able to raise more money. I’ve worked as a bookkeeper as a means to an end since I left school and was able to pitch the project to some clients. Suddenly we got a nice chunk of cash to get this thing made and from there it snowballed.

2Q: It appears that the film has been screened at other festivals; how has it been received? Do audiences respond differently at some festivals than they do at others?

We’re now known as ‘that film where the scary man blood-voms into that chicks mouth’ which I’m extremely proud of. Who wouldn’t be? We wanted to shock audiences and stand out – which is generally what every film maker wants to do so it was our intention to take it as far as we could with every aspect of the film: the drama, the violence, the humour, the dialogue. (more…)

Interview with Frank Door, director of FIVE PROOF.

In what may be a record year for local (and repeat!) filmmakers with films at Cinequest, we also have an interview with Frank Door, the director of the short film FIVE PROOF. Not only is Frank a local filmmaker and director of a locally based film production company, but he also enlisted the help of students from the East Side Union High School District to help produce this film. Here is our interview:

FIVE PROOF movie poster

1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of FIVE PROOF (playing at CQ with SUPER HERO PARTY CLOWN), from concept to financing.

The script for FIVE PROOF was brought to me by a good friend and collaborator of Element 151, our production company based here in San Jose, Rory Campbell. At the time Rory had just finished helping us with a motion graphic title sequence for one of our previous short films. I received an email with about half a dozen scripts for shorts from him that said I could take my pick, and FIVE PROOF stood out to me most. The writing is amazing, the ideology behind it was sharp, and the fact that it was the most  technically difficult script to make into a film out of the lot, intrigued me. And to be honest there is a lot of subtext underlining the story in a comic book nature, of which I am a fan.

The financing for the film is a unique situation. My partner and producer at Element 151, Chante Cardoso and I founded a non-profitsummer youth program focused on teaching real-life filmmaking skills to youth in the East Side Union High School District here in San Jose, two summers ago. Our initial summer program worked off a grant from the city. However, last summer that grant was not made available to us. We felt we needed to try and continue the program regardless, and sat down with some of the students from the previous summer and let them know we had no funding for the program but if they wanted to dedicate themselves to working on FIVE PROOF and help us fundraise then we would continue the program and work side by side with them to shoot the film. They jumped on board in a heart beat. Which was amazing. From there we went into pre-production and started fundraising.  A Kickstarter was formed, we held various fundraising events including a concert at the Improv hosted by our good friends at Live 105, and did just about anything we could to make it happen. On top of that our collective filmmaking crew all chipped in by reducing rates and doing what was needed to just see the film finished. We were incredibly lucky to have an amazing group of kids to work with as well as an enormous amount of support from our local community here in San Jose that ended up reaching across the nation.

2Q: You attended Cinequest last year with another short film.  How was your experience with the festival, and were you able to show at any other festivals?

Cinequest 20 was great, we met some amazing people. I have gone to several Cinequests past and always felt it was important for us to be a part of it, being that we are local. The free beer isn’t a bad perk either. Our film from last year, Parallels, did screen at the Carmel Art & Film Festival and was invited to the Toronto Film Market as well.

3Q: What was your best and/or worst experience while making FIVE PROOF?

The best part, was the opportunity to collaborate with some amazing people. I got to work with my good friend Eric Callero (Conan O’Brien, The Runaways, Terminator : The Sarah Conor Chronicles) again, he was in our first short film Whiskey Tears. Eric and I have a great relationship as director / actor, I trust him and that gives him the freedom to take risks. The film also took me to a new venture in filmmaking and that is dealing with visual effects. In turn I was introduced to Mark Christiansen. Mark has worked on titles such as Pirates of The Caribbean, 2012, and The Day After Tomorrow. He is just a mind blowing person to talk to when dealing with the reality of something that is not real or for that fact can’t even be seen when shooting. Our team has also expanded locally working with the likes of Brandon Van Auken from Moving Red and Steve Murr a local music producer with a sharp cinematic sensibility. These new relationships have grown past FIVE PROOF and we are all continuing to create locally together. The worst experience, we had some technical issues with the RED files. Even to the point that RED itself couldn’t lend a helping hand. Some shots in this film were saved frame by frame, which sucked.

4Q: Festival audiences often have to make hard decisions about what to see, and the catalog descriptions sometimes run together. In your own words, why should people see your film?

That is really tough for me. As I’m writing this we are literally wrapping up the final locks on picture and sound, getting ready to print later this week. So I still have an unsettled feeling about the film. It’s great, don’t get me wrong. I’m extremely proud of it. But right now selling it to people is hard for me to process. We will be promoting it like crazy though…and good people like CQCentral are key to us getting the word out. So, thanks.

5Q: Short films often have no means of wide distribution. What are your plans for FIVE PROOF in the future, and what sorts of things can you accomplish by making a short film?

Plans for FIVE PROOF are to just get it out on a wider festival run. I feel strongly that this film is the start of something greater as well. So, Shawn West could potentially be developed into a longer format. The three shorts I have directed over the last two years are all stepping stones towards a feature length production. They are proof that we can accomplish successful work and are key for us to know our strengths and limits when moving into a feature. There is an original idea in development right now for said feature. The plan is to be in production by late summer / early fall of 2011. Unless something epic comes along, FIVE PROOF will be our last short film. I feel that in itself is an accomplishment for my team and collaborators.

Interview with Jarrod Whaley, director of THE GLASS SLIPPER

And a third repeat Cinequest local! Jarrod Whaley moved to Palo Alto from Tennessee two years ago, just in time to premiere his first feature, HELL IS OTHER PEOPLE. This year he is back at Cinequest with THE GLASS SLIPPER, a film that also stars several Bay Area locals.

Jarrod Whaley

1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of THE GLASS SLIPPER, from concept to financing.

In college I read a Flaubert novella called Un Cœur Simple (A Simple Heart in English), and was quite taken with the austerity of both the central character and the narrative style. Flaubert’s Felicity is a kind of pious naïf who fails at every turn to take charge of the trajectory of her own life; she eventually slides into the deepest depths of penury–and then death–because she trusts that the “Holy Spirit” (whom she confuses with a stuffed parrot) will save her. It’s a rather fatalistic story, and it lacks the typical character arc of almost all Western literature. She doesn’t change; she doesn’t learn (which is not at all to say that the reader can’t learn from her mistakes). I think most of us end up living a similar kind of life in one way or another, and that the standard structure of our narratives might therefore have a certain willful falseness at its core.

I’ve wanted to adapt the novella into a film for about seven years, and The Glass Slipper is the end result of that. Mind you, my film is almost nothing like the novella- there’s a character called Felicity, and I’ve certainly taken some cues from Flaubert in creating her, but there’s much going on in my film that’s completely unrelated to the ostensible “source material.” A large part of the film deals with another character who fails also to improve his lot, and we watch his family crumble while he flounders around. This thread is entirely mine.

Though we’ve recently, through more traditional channels, secured additional funding with which to finish the film, the lion’s share of the actual production phase was funded via a Kickstarter campaign. I’ve found it to be not only a great source of funding, but also an incredible way to build a community around the film from day one.

2Q: You were at Cinequest last year with your first feature which you had filmed in Tennessee. What differences were there between filming in Tennessee vs. Palo Alto, CA? Pros and cons? (more…)

Interview with Jeremy M. Inman, director of SUPER HERO PARTY CLOWN.

Jeremy M. Inman is another local filmmaker making a repeat visit to Cinequest. A Fremont native and SJSU alumni, Jeremy brought his film to Cinequest last year for a rough draft preview. This year, film complete, he returns to premiere where the fans already love him. This is our interview:

Jeremy M. Inman

1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of SUPER HERO PARTY CLOWN, from concept to financing.

SHPC was born out of my desire to tell a comic book-inspired story on an indie budget. The content is ripe with potential for dynamic visual storytelling and is inherently dramatic. I knew that choosing SHPC as my first attempted feature would give me plenty of opportunities to display my range as a director both visually and emotionally.

I grew up reading comic books, so the conventions of the genre speak to me very clearly. Concepts like duality, sense of purpose, conflicts between responsibility and personal desire, and knowing what’s right or wrong are easy to manipulate and relate to in a comic book setting. I think everyone struggles to balance certain aspects of their life; in SHPC, main character Eugene must reconcile the two halves of his personality – one with a clear notion of his duty as a pretend superhero (his “Arachnid-Man” persona), and the other his willingness to give or do anything to be with Emily, his love.

The film started as a short somewhere in the vicinity of four years ago now. I had a clear plan to use the completed short to market my feature-length script (at the time it was already in the works) to Barnaby Dallas. Completing the short wound up not playing too big of a role in the SJSU film department’s ultimate decision to green light the feature, but it helped me shape the concept. The feature script made the rounds at a few festivals; it was a finalist at the CSU Media Arts Festival and it won second place at the Broadcast Education Association’s international screenplay competition. By then the script was vetted enough for Barnaby and Spartan Film Studios to want to produce, particularly since the bulk of the rewriting that would shape the shooting script happened in Barnaby’s screenwriting class (which I took for a second time to ensure that he would have to read the script). (more…)

Interview with Vijay Rajan, director of BASE EMOTIONS

The Cinequest Film Festival starts in one week, and right now there are hundreds of local writers, bartenders, theater operators, baristas, hotel clerks and wait staff (along with thousands of film lovers) who are busily preparing for this special time of year in San Jose.  But there are also quite a few local filmmakers who have been working like crazy to get their films ready for viewing.  It must be a great feeling to have your film premiering in your hometown – and also very scary.  We’ve sat down to interview a few of these filmmakers, and we’ll be posting the interviews throughout the week.

First up is Vijay Rajan, a local filmmaker who graduated from Santa Teresa High School and San Jose State University.  BASE EMOTIONS is not the first film Vijay has brought to Cinequest, and I’m sure it won’t be his last.  This is one of my favorite interviews ever, as it shows how much heart and soul is put into these films, and I think Vijay really represents what Cinequest is all about.

Vijay Rajan

1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of BASE EMOTIONS (playing at CQ with The Sentiment of the Flesh), from concept to financing.

“Base Emotions” is a film that came to me at a time when I was really struggling with the question of faith. How do we trust in people when we have been hurt by them? How do we trust in God — if we do — if we have been hurt by Him? I was considering the word “faithless” one day and was struck by the fact that it had two meanings: one of infidelity, and the other of not believing in something. I wanted to write a piece that would bring into direct conflict two characters who each were faithless in those different ways — one who was an adulterer and another who simply did not know how to believe. It just grew from there. Ultimately, it ended up being a character piece about a maddening woman named Katie, probably the first fully realized female character I’ve ever managed to successfully write; I know her incredibly well, and yet she always simultaneously surprises me. She is someone I hope the audience will desire, despise, be repulsed by, feel compassion for, and then ultimately will come to understand. This is because the film is also to an extent about judgment; we judge other people so easily, yet never seek to understand their perspectives, to realign our thinking to their priorities, their punishments, their sense of morality. In the course of one night, all of this plays out. Can the character of Justin, and through him the audience, seek to understand this woman whose behavior just seems to be so contrary to many of our own conceptions of morality?

Once I’d written it, I called up the guys who I’d worked with since film school, and in our various ways, we found our ways into the project. The entire short film, 22 minutes long, takes place in one hotel room with only two characters. In terms of financing, we found a willing partner and executive producer named Quoc Peyrot who believed in the project and basically donated all the camera equipment for the production. In terms of the actors and the set, it was all very low budget; my crew basically consisted of people who were passionate about this project and the filmmaking process. It was during this time that we basically went from being guys who worked together in film school to being a film company. Together, we bought a jib crane. Together, we paid for the location and the necessary supporting equipment. Together, we made the project work.

I have done work in the past I’ve been proud of, but “Base Emotions” is really the first project for our company — Siren Song Creations. And it’s really an honor to be able to say that now that it’s finally done, it will be having its world premiere at a film festival that is just a block down the street from where we filmed it at the Fairmont Hotel, and maybe three blocks down the street from the school where we as a group learned our craft and met each other. We are about as local as local filmmakers can get; yet we take a certain pride in the fact that our work is absolutely universal in quality. We just believe in the strength of storytelling. You can sink millions into a movie, but I hope our film — low-budget as it is — just has characters and a situation that will churn something visceral in our audiences, something uncomfortable but familiar, and something ultimately hopeful. I mean, it’s a question all of us deal with in our lives, right? How do we forgive?

2Q: You have attended Cinequest several times before as both filmmaker and film viewer. Explain your favorite parts of our film festival.

God, I love Cinequest. That’s the truth. I’ve had some bad years in my life recently, and Cinequest helps to (more…)

March theater show round-up – and films galore as well!

February will be a tough month to beat, quality-wise, but March definitely wins the quantity category – mainly due to Cinequest.  Will the show quality be just as good next month?  I’m betting YES.  Here are the shows that Metblogs is planning to review for you in March – get your tickets now!!

March 1 – March 13
Interactive Schedule
Join Cinequest as they unveil 173 memorable films, soul stirring events and amazing innovations in palatial venues. Cinequest will fuse the community of film lovers with film creators, holding Q&A sessions and forums with the seven hundred (700) plus artists expected in attendance. Experience so much more than a film festival.

As always, Metblogs will be there to cover every aspect of this film festival, and we strongly urge you to follow along and join us.  It’s the most fun we have all year!!


March 10 – March 27
Hillbarn Theatre
Separate Tables is set in a shabby genteel hotel on England’s south coast where the residents, for the most part, dine alone—at separate tables.  The story is about sexual repression, understanding and forgiveness.  Hillbarn’s take on it, although true to the script, pokes a little fun at the repressed mores of the 1950s while at the same time understanding that the glimpse is real.  The original movie contained blockbuster actors Deborah Kerr, Rita Hayworth and David Niven—who won an Oscar for his portrayal.  Our version will make you laugh about some of the outmoded conventions in our past.

Hillbarn has the best track record of great shows so far.  I have no doubt this show will be a must-see!


March 15 – March 20
Broadway San Jose
FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, the Tony Award® winning musical that has captured the hearts of people all over the world with its universal appeal, embarks on its North American Tour.
Based on the stories of Sholom Aleichem, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF has been lauded by critics again and again, and won the hearts of people all around the world. Filled with a rousing, heartwarming score, which includes “Tradition,” “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” “If I Were A Rich Man” and “Sunrise, Sunset,” FIDDLER ON THE ROOF is a timeless classic.
No other musical has so magically woven music, dance, poignancy and laughter into such an electrifying and unforgettable experience. Relive a glorious tradition of the musical theatre with FIDDLER ON THE ROOF.

I’ve actually never seen the show or the film before, and I’m looking forward to my Fiddler introduction in March!

March 24 – April 17
San Jose Repertory
Two brilliant women, centuries apart, push the boundaries of science while grappling with motherhood in this theatrically adventurous comedy.
Physicist Émilie du Châtelet, lover of famous French philosopher Voltaire, and a young poet, worries about her fate after she unexpectedly becomes pregnant. Driven by fear and ambition, she races to publish her theories based on Sir Isaac Newton’s Laws of Motion. Linked together by scientific legacy and maternal instincts, accomplished astrophysicist Olivia and her husband, Peter, want to conceive but cannot. Olivia’s attention turns to her new “child,” a planet she’s discovered in the midst of hiring a quirky and free-spirited surrogate. This touching and whimsical tale leaves us asking: Does the birth of a child ultimately mean as much to the world as the birth of an idea?

It’s the West Coast Premiere of the American Theatre Critics Association “Best New Play” 2010, and this show sounds intriguing!

Which shows are on YOUR calendar?

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