filmschool, Nathan Callahan, Mike Kaspar, independent film news and interviews, film school

January 9, 2007
An interview with Katharina Otto-Bernstein
, director of the documentary Absolute Wilson. As a collaborator with America's underground icons, Philip Glass, Tom Waits and Williams S. Burroughs, Robert Wilson wowed the theater world with innovative spectacles that sometimes lasted as long as a week. His choreographic work and revolutionary approach to visual story-telling include the theatrical sensations Einstein on the Beach, Deafman Glance and The CIVIL WarS. Katharina Otto-Bernstein spent five years following Wilson around the world with her camera. She has a distinguished career as a filmaker with credits that include Coming Home, a documentary she made in Berlin about reuniting families, The Second Greatest Story Ever Told, a comedy with Miro Sorvino and Malcolm McDowell, The Need for Speed, the story of hard-core bicycle messengers in New York City, and When Night Falls Over Moscow, a German television production about the illegal arms trade. Otto-Bernstein's Beautopia: The Dark Side of Modeling was was the hit of the 1998 Chicago and Sundance Film Festivals.


December 26, 2006

An interview with Gregg Schwenk, executive director of the Newport Beach Film Festival. In 2007, the Festival will spotlight over 350 films from around the world including features, shorts, documentaries, and animation that will compete for a series of awards including Jury Awards and Audience Awards. In addition to film screenings, the Festival will host several premiere galas, yacht parties, and question and answer sessions with filmmakers. The Festival runs from April 19th through April 29th, 2007. The event is expected to attract more than 35,000 film devotees.


December 19, 2006

An interview with Frederick Wiseman — award-winning producer of thirty feature length films. One of the greatest living documentary filmmakers, Wiseman is noted for his ability to capture the nuances of life in American institutions such as prisons, hospitals, welfare offices, and high schools. He started out in 1963 by producing a fictional feature film, The Cool World, an examination of the lives of Harlem teenagers. Titicut Follies, his first documentary, is an exposé of life in a prison for the criminally insane. His four subsequent documentaries were all exposés of other tax-supported institutions designed to show the ineffectiveness of the bureaucracy that not only threatens to destroy them, but also dehumanizes the people they were meant to serve. His films are never narrated, allowing viewers to make connections between the sequences themselves. “Documentaries, like theatre pieces, novels or poems are forms of fiction,” claims Wiseman.


December 12, 2006

An interview with Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern producers and directors of The Trials of Darryl Hunt — a documentary about a brutal rape/murder in the American South, that offers a deeply personal story of a wrongfully convicted man, Darryl Hunt, who spent twenty years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Base on an ID made by a former Klan member, a 19-year-old black man, Darryl Hunt, was charged. No physical evidence linked Hunt to the crime. Hunt was convicted by an all white jury, and sentenced to life imprisonment. In 1994, DNA testing cleared Hunt, yet he would spend another ten years behind bars. Winner of more than a dozen Film Festival awards, The Trials of Darryl Hunt is among 15 films in the Documentary Feature category that will advance in the voting process for the 79th Academy Awards®. Eighty-one pictures had originally qualified in the category.


December 5, 2006
A conversation with Academy Award-winning cinematographer, Haskell Wexler. Judged to be one of film history's ten most influential cinematographers in a survey of the members of the International Cinematographers Guild, Wexler has directed only a handful of movies, but among them was the influential Medium Cool, a film written by Wexler and shot in the cinéma vérité style. It incorporated riot footage from the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Wexler's film credits include Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Bound for Glory, Matewan, In the Heat of the Night, The Thomas Crown Affair, Coming Home, Three Fugitives, The Secret of Roan Inish, and Silver City. His latest documentary, Who Needs Sleep?, shows how sleep deprivation and long work hours are a lethal combination.å

A discussion with screenwriter Tim Albaugh M.F.A., the recipient of the Jack Nicholson and William Froug Screenwriting Awards, UCLA Graduate Program in Film and Television. Albaugh wrote the film Trading Favors, starring Rosanna Arquette, Devon Gummersall and Cuba Gooding, Jr. Along with his producing partner, Sean Sorensen, Albaugh has various projects in development under their Popular Films banner. His students have sold scripts to numerous producers and production companies including John Cusack’s New Crime Productions; The Coen Brothers, Michael Bay, Wendy Finerman, Nickelodeon Gough/Millar and all the major studios and television networks. The latest film written in one of Mr. Albaugh’s classes was The Machinist, written by Scott Kosar and starring Christian Bale and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Mr. Albaugh was awarded the 2005 Dean’s Outstanding Service Award at UC Irvine Extension.

November 28, 2006

Documentarian David Di Sabatino discusses his film Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippie Peacher. Lonnie Frisbee was a young hippie seeker fully immersed in the 1960s counter culture when he dropped acid, ran into God and became an itinerant Christian evangelist — a John the Baptist of Southern California who compelled thousands of fellow spiritual seekers to make a profession of faith in Jesus. Frisbee provided the charismatic spark that launched the Calvary Chapel church into a worldwide ministry and propelled many fledgling leaders into some of the most powerful movers and shakers of the evangelical movement. However, his call into the ministry came while deeply involved in the Laguna Beach homosexual scene. Treated with contempt by the ministers whom he helped establish, Lonnie has been written out of their collective histories . . . until now.

Bob Balaban talks about his work with Christopher Guest in the new film For Your Consideration, as well as his work with director Robert Altman. Playing a succession of bespectacled, soft-spoken, yet vaguely superior characters, Balaban starred in many films including Clockwatchers, Pie in the Sky, Best in Show, Altered States and Catch-22. In 2001, he scored a major critical success helping create, produce and playing one of the main characters in Altman's murder-mystery Gosford Park.


November 21, 2006

Director and writer Jeff Lipsky discusses his film Flannel Pajamas — a love story, a stunning courtship and, later, a reversal of fortunes where disparate family backgrounds and religious chasms inform selfishness, naiveté, and destiny. Lipsky is a 28 year veteran in the independent film world. Co-founder of both October Films and Lot 47 Films, Lipsky is prominently featured in books about Oscar nominated writer/director Mike Leigh and filmmaker Spike Lee. Among the more well-known of the 235 films he has shepherded into the marketplace are My Life as a Dog, which earned Lasse Hallstrom his first two Academy Award nominations, Jim Jarmusch’s first film Stranger Than Paradise, and the film that introduced actor Gary Oldman to the world, Sid & Nancy.

Director and writer Ali Selim discusses his new film Sweet Land — a film following the life of an American immigrant as she buries her husband Olaf on their Minnesota farm in 1968. We relive her life story as she tells her grown grandson about how she arrived from Norway in 1920 as Olaf's postal bride and of the epic obstacles they overcame in order to marry. Selim has been an advertising commercial director for the past fifteen years, during which time he has directed over 850 television commercials, five half-hour documentaries and several music videos. His script for the film Sweet Land was the only screenplay selected for the inaugural year of the Cyngus Emerging Filmmakers Institute and was produced in 2005 starring Alan Cumming, Ned Beatty, and John Heard. The film was the recipient of the 2005 Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature Film at the 13th Annual Hamptons International Film Festival. Ali is currently in production on a feature-length documentary titled “Trash Dawgs,” which focuses on the history and problem of garbage in America.

November 14, 2006

Director James Longley discusses his new film Iraq in Fragments — a documentary of post-war Iraq in three acts, building a picture of a country pulled in different directions by religion and ethnicity. Filmed in verité style with no scripted narration, the film explores the lives of ordinary Iraqis to illustrate and give background to larger trends in Iraqi society. Winner of Best Director, Best Cinematography and Best Editing awards in the 2006 Sundance Film Festival documentary competition, the film was also awarded the Grand Jury Prize at the 2006 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.

November 7, 2006
Christopher Darga, Mary Scheer and John Cervenka of the hit Spike TV comedy series Most Extreme Elimination Challenge (MXC) discuss their writing and voice over work. A combination of Jackass, What’s Up Tiger Lily? and Iron Chef, with a touch of Mystery Science Theater 3000, MXC uses actual footage from one of the most popular primetime Japanese reality game shows, Takeshi's Castle, to create an entirely new comedy storyline.

Korean-American Director Chris Chan Lee — who wrote and directed the critically acclaimed Yellow in 1998 — discusses his latest film, Undoing, a neo-noir set in Los Angeles’ Koreatown that explores the emotional, spiritual, and physical loneliness of disenfranchised beings, and the irony that such a diverse American city could lead to such solitary existence. Undoing will screen as part of the UCI Film and Video Center's Fall Film Series this Thursday, November 9 at 7pm. A reception for Lee begins at 6:30 pm.

October 31, 2006


It's Halloween and Kelly Kirshtner of UCI's Visual Studies Ph.D. Program discusses the sounds that creep you out — from Dracula to The Exorcist, from Invasion of the Body Snatchers to Eraserhead.

T R Black interviews horror film reviewer Staci Layne Wilson about her favorite horror films past and present.

October 24, 2006


An interview with Phillip Noyce, director of Catch A Fire — a political thriller about the real-life story of South African hero Patrick Chamusso's journey to freedom. Noyce achieved commercial and critical success in 1978 with Newsfront which won Australian awards for Best Film, Director, and Screenplay. In 1989, Noyce achieved his highest acclaim in the United States with the thriller Dead Calm. His greatest commercial success to date was the Tom Clancy spy thriller Clear and Present Danger. Noyce also directed Rabbit Proof Fence, which won the Australian Film Institute Award for Best Film in 2002.

An Interview with writer Jeff Abelson, producer/writer/editor and Barbara Multer-Wellin, producer/writer/director of the documentary, Paul Conrad: Drawing Fire — part of PBS's Independent Lens series. Over the course of his remarkable 50-year career, political cartoonist Paul Conrad has drawn and quartered 11 American presidents (from Harry S. Truman to George W. Bush) and fearlessly tackled every major social and political issue the nation has confronted. An extraordinary artist and journalist, Conrad epitomizes the fiercely independent voice that has been vanishing from American news media in recent years. Conrad has won three Pulitzer Prizes. His favorite distinction, however, is his 1973 inclusion on Richard Nixon's Enemies List

October 17, 2006


An interview with Eric Steel director of The Bridge — a documentary exploration of the mythic beauty of the Golden Gate Bridge—the most popular suicide destination in the world—and the troubled souls drawn by its allure. Inspired by the New Yorker story, Jumpers, Steel decided to film the Golden Gate Bridge during daylight hours from two separate locations for all of 2004, subsequently recording most of the two dozen deaths in that year (and preventing a number of others). Steel also captured nearly 100 hours of interviews with the families and friends of these suicides, with bystanders who witnessed them, and even a few failed attempters—all trying to make sense of something at once painfully and infinitely unknowable.

Professor Simon Leung discusses the series of six short videos he organized for UCI's Film and Video Center Fall Film Series under the title The Look of Law. Chosen from contemporary videos made mostly by visual artists who have a peripheral relationship with the current video/film world, these videos address the affective ramifications of state and political power using hybrid forms of verbal and textual narration that owe as much to the history of video art in galleries as they do to experimental cinema and video. Included among the contemporary works is a rarely-seen mid-70s work by Ron Clark, which eerily foreshadows the tone of the American psyche in a post 9-11 age of homeland (in)security.

October 10, 2006

An interview with Amy Berg, director of the documentary Deliver Us From Evil. Moving from one parish to another in Northern California during the 1970s, Father Oliver O'Grady quickly won each congregation's trust and respect. Unbeknownst to them, O'Grady was a dangerously active pedophile that Church hierarchy, aware of his predilection, had harbored for over 30 years, allowing him to abuse countless children. In Deliver Us From Evil, filmmaker Amy Berg exposes the deep corruption of the Catholic Church and the troubled mind of the man they sheltered.

An interview with director Michael Kang and producer Gina Kwon of the film
The Motel — a coming of age story about thirteen-year-old Ernest Chin, who lives and works at a sleazy hourly-rate motel on a strip of desolate suburban bi-way. The Motel will screen this Thursday, October 12 as part of UCI's Film and Video Center Fall Film Series.

October 3, 2006

Directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady discuss their new documentary Jesus Camp which follows evangelical Christian children at a religious summer camp. The movie, which just opened in OC, has split the Christian community and horrified those who fear the ascendance of the religious right on the national stage. Some web surfers have been so appalled by YouTube streams of the film that they bombarded the film's central subject, camp founder Pastor Becky Fischer with hateful e-mails — prompting her appearance on ABC's Good Morning America.

Before he attained notoriety as Dean of the Hollywood Ten — the blacklisted screenwriters and directors persecuted because of their varying ties to the Communist Party — John Howard Lawson had become one of the most brilliant, successful, and intellectual screenwriters on the Hollywood scene in the 1930s and 1940s, with several hits to his credit including Blockade, Sahara, and Action in the North Atlantic. Gerald Horne, author of The Final Victim of the Blacklist: John Howard Lawson, Dean of the Hollywood Ten discusses this major figure's rightful place in history and recounts one of the most captivating episodes in twentieth century cinema and politics.

September 26, 2006
Patricia Foulkrod discussesThe Ground Truth
, her documentary about patriotic young Americans who heeded the call for military service in Iraq. The conflict in Iraq, depicted with ferocious honesty in the film, is a prelude for the even more challenging battles fought by the soldiers returning home.

Man Push Cart director Ramin Bahrani discusses his film's look at a month in the life of a former Pakistani rock star who now sells coffee from his push cart on the streets of Manhattan.