A Thanksgiving Post: 24 cinematic things I’m thankful for in 2016

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To all my friends celebrating Thanksgiving today… I hope that you’re all enjoying yourselves, whether it’s time spent together with family/friends or just chillin’ with your loved ones (like my hubby and I). It’s nice to be able to sleep in today and going to dinner/movies later today. To those in other parts of the world, I bid you happy-almost-weekend day 🙂

This has been quite a tumultuous year to say the least… but I always try to focus on the positive side of things. As this is a film blog, I thought I’d take the time to express my gratitude for blogging/cinematic-related things I’ve been blessed with this year… so naturally I have to start with…

1. My blogging friends who’ve supported my blog and comment regularly… Jordan, Keith, Cindy, Steven, Michael, Margaret, Jenna/Allie, Courtney, Nostra, Dan, Jay/Sean, Brittani, etc.

2. Living in a city with not one but TWO robust film festivals… TCFF and MSPIFF!

3. Being a part of TCFF staff as the official blogger, which allows me to meet wonderful filmmakers and talents.

4. Discovering indie gems at film festivals (esp. Blood Stripe and Moonlight at TCFF, and Beeba Boys and The Fencer at MSPIFF)


5. The wonderful opportunity to meet Lea Thompson and director Jim Hemphill during the MN screening of The Trouble With The Truth.

6. Discovering awesome new actors I’d love to see more of (I’ll be blogging separately on this later next month), special shout out to Kate Nowlin & Dominic Rains!


7. Getting an interview with the composer of Age of Adaline, Rob Simonsen, one of my favorite soundtracks I recently discovered.

8. The breathtaking New Zealand scenery in one of my fave films of the year, Hunt For the Wilderpeople.

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9. The amazing trifecta performance from the actors portraying Chiron in Moonlight

10. Wonderful classic films like Casablanca, which I rewatched on Thanksgiving eve.

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11. Female filmmakers in Hollywood & beyond…  here’s hoping to see even more of them in years to come!

12. Amy Adams’ performance in Arrival

13. Sam Riley‘s wonderfully-amusing performance as Mr Colonel Darcy in Pride + Prejudice + Zombies

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14. Aneurin Barnard‘s soulful performance as Richard III in The White Queen miniseries (that spurred my obsession on the last Plantagenet King.

15. The delightful Love & Friendship & discovering the droll Tom Bennett as the scene-stealing Sir James Martin.

16. Awesome Marvel series on Netflix: Daredevil + Jessica Jones (hoping to catch Luke Cage soon!)

17. The Wonder Woman trailer… which I’m feverishly anticipating to see come Summer 2017!

18. The fun cast of The Magnificent Seven remake

19. The wonderful,  music of Sing Street… a love letter to the 80s and the power of music.

20. Viggo Mortensen‘s bravura performance in Captain Fantastic.

21. The arresting beauty of Jeff Nichols’ film LOVING, and the affecting performances of Ruth Negga + Joel Edgerton.

22. The wonderfully uplifting Queen Of Katwe, featuring wonderful performances of Lupita Nyong’O + David Oyelowo.

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23. The originality and thought-provoking concept of The Lobster

24. Last but not least… I’m thankful that I finished my script this year… plus having the opportunity to do a script reading later in January! 🙂

 


What are some of the things you are THANKFUL FOR this year? 

It’s a wrap! ‘Moonlight’ and MN-made ‘Blood Stripe’ won TCFF 2016 top awards

It’s a wrap!!

tcfflogoThe 2016 TCFF has concluded Saturday night with a festive closing night party.

I saw four films Saturday night. Starting with two great documentaries Actors Of Sound and Free Cece, followed by two powerful emotional dramas, Lion and Moonlight.

I had been crying so much watching Lion, a wonderful depiction of an incredible true story, and Moonlight was an even more emotional experience. It was a well-written, well-acted and simply powerful film about Black sexuality, featuring the kind of deep emotional intimacy I haven’t seen in many films, regardless of race and gender.

I also enjoyed the short film that preceded Actors of Sound called Boom Up!, it was hilarious! I won’t have the reviews of the films I saw in last two days of TCFF until later in November, but let’s just say I recommend all the four films I saw on closing night!

Concluding a star-studded showcase that featured more than 100 films spanned over 11 days, this is perhaps the largest-ever Twin Cities Film Fest ever with over 130 films, including shorts and documentaries! Top awards went to the critically-acclaimed coming of age drama Moonlight, which had been hailed by critics as the best film of the year and will hopefully gain more traction until the Oscars next year. Just like Room and Brooklyn last year, TCFF continues tradition in screening critical darlings that went on to win accolades at the Oscars.

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Here are the winners from Twin Cities Film Fest 2016:

Best Short Film: Lend a Hand For Love, directed by John and Amy Thompson

Audience Award – Short: Waabooz, directed by Molly Katagiri

Best Documentary: I Do? directed by Joe Brandmeier

Audience Award – Documentary: Iron Will, directed by Sergio Valenzuela

Indie Vision — Breakthrough Non-Fiction Film: They Call Us Monsters, directed by Ben Lear

Indie Vision — Breakthrough Feature Film: No Light and No Land Anywhere, directed by Amber Sealey

Indie Vision — Breakthrough Performance: Kate Nowlin (Blood Stripe)

Best Feature Film: Moonlight, directed by Barry Jenkins

Audience Award – Feature Film: Blood Stripe

I’m so thrilled for Remy Auberjonois and Kate Nowlin who won the Audience Award in the Feature Film category. As you know from my review of Blood Stripe, I was so impressed with this film. It’s so well-written, well-directed AND phenomenally-acted by Kate Nowlin, who deservedly also won Best Breakthrough Performance this weekend. I certainly think Kate’s performance is Oscar worthy!

Kate & Remy receiving the award from TCFF exec director Jatin Setia
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Kate with TCFF artistic director Steve Snyder

Another well-deserved award, that is the TCFF North Star Award goes to the massively talented indie actor Dominic Rains. You may not know who he is yet folks, but mark my words, you will! He’s already won Best Actor in a U.S. Narrative Feature Film at Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year for his performance in Burn Country (originally named The Fixer), which also screened at TCFF, along with two others, Funeral Day and The Loner.

Dominic Rains with Steve + Jatin

I have seen two of the three films he’s in and was really impressed by his strong screen presence and versatility as his role in the thriller/drama Burn Country (as a former Afghan journalist) and the comedy Funeral Day (as a rather obnoxious American realtor) couldn’t be more different from each other, but yet he pulls off both roles effortlessly. Stay tuned for my in-depth interview with Dominic on his career, as well as with Funeral Day‘s director Jon Weinberg!

As I’ve mentioned in this post, I’m glad to see quite a few female filmmakers as well as female-driven films represented at TCFF! One of the finalists for Breakthrough Feature Film that I was really impressed with was Claire In Motion, which was directed by a pair of female filmmakers, featuring a terrific performance by Betsy Brandt.

It was already close to 11pm by the time I came out of the Moonlight screening, TCFF’s final film, but I couldn’t miss the award ceremony at TCFF lounge. I was only there for an hour or so and I had a blast hanging out with my friends, Kirsten Gregerson and Emmylou Barden.

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me with Emmylou & Kirsten

I don’t know how long the party went on but clearly everyone had a great time! I’m glad I got a chance to congratulate Kate Nowlin for her award, my interview with her and her husband/collaborator Remy Auberjonois are certainly one of the highlights of covering TCFF, not just this year but of all seven years I’ve been with the film fest! Just before I left for the night, I even got a chance to chat with Remy about the enigmatic ending of Blood Stripe. Once you see it, I think you’ll know what I mean!

Thanks to my darling hubby for taking pictures of the closing party festivities! Check out his Instagram for his awesome travel photography (and I’m not just saying that ’cause I’m his wife) 🙂


Congrat Jatin, Bill, Dani, Steve and Naomi for another great year!
It was so gratifying to be a part of TCFF once again… watching, discussing & celebrating indie films and the art of filmmaking.


Musings on the TCFF 2016 Award finalists … championing indie films & women in film

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I haven’t had even an hour to blog all day today as I was watching films, interviewing talents and socializing at the mixer at the beautiful festival lounge at the Shoppes at West End. My head is still spinning as I’m writing this… my body is exhausted but my spirits are high from the exhilaration of meeting so many great people. My day started with an a delightful interview with actor Dominic Rains, and got to meet Jon Weinberg (the director and star of Funeral Day) whom I had interviewed the night before. Then in the afternoon I got to meet the director of The Babymoon Bailey Kobe, as well as Kate Sloate who’s in the film’s producing team. I will post more pictures in my wrap post!

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I stopped by TCFF lounge for a couple of hours, which was even busier as the night went on. For sure the closing night party tomorrow will be a blast, and I sure wouldn’t want to miss the Award Ceremony!

Speaking of award, Twin Cities Film Fest has announced the TCFF award finalists a few days ago here. I’m so thrilled for so many of these indie filmmakers, whether it’s shorts, features or documentaries, that their hard work are being recognized. For many of them, their indie films are their sweat, blood and tears… as most of these films are made with shoestring budgets. This is why I LOVE covering TCFF, as I get to see more indie films than I otherwise would in a given month! As I meet filmmakers and talents, it’s apparent to see that the limited budget/resources just made them more innovative and creative! This is why I will always support indie films and indie filmmakers!!

2016 TCFF FINALISTS

Best Feature Film:

  • “Blood Stripe,” directed by Remy Auberjonois
  • “Burn Country,” directed by Ian Olds
  • “First Girl I Loved,” directed by Kerem Sanga
  • “Lion,” directed by Garth Davis
  • “Moonlight,” directed by Barry Jenkins.

Best Documentary:

  • “Denial,” directed by Derek Hallquist
  • “The Eagle Huntress,” directed by Otto Bell
  • “Free CeCe!” directed by Jacqueline Gares
  • “I Do?” directed by Joe Brandmeier
  • “IRON WILL: Veteran’s Battle with PTSD,” directed by Sergio Valenzuela.

Best Short Film:

  • “Duffy’s Jacket,” directed by Brian Hoesing
  • “I Want You Inside Me,” directed by Alice Shindelar
  • “Lend a Hand For Love,” directed by John and Amy Thompson
  • “The Story,” directed by Cameron Digwall and Carolyn Pender
  • “Twinsburg,” directed by Joe Garrity.

Indie Vision — Breakthrough Feature Film:

  • “Claire in Motion,” directed by Annie J. Howell and Lisa Robinson
  • “The Eyes of My Mother,” directed by Nicolas Pesce
  • “Girl Flu,” directed by Dorie Barton
  • “June Falling Down,” directed by Rebecca Weaver
  • “No Light and No Land Anywhere,” directed by Amber Sealey

Indie Vision — Breakthrough Non-Fiction Film:

  • “In Pursuit of Silence,” directed by Patrick Shen
  • “IRON WILL: Veteran’s Battle with PTSD,” directed by Sergio Valenzuela
  • “Prison Dogs,” directed by Geeta Gandbhir and Perri Peltz
  • “Tarkovsky: Time Within Time,” directed by PJ Letofsky
  • “They Call Us Monters,” directed by Ben Lear

Indie Vision — Breakthrough Performance:

  • “Blood Stripe,” Breakthrough: Actress Kate Nowlin
  • “Donald Cried,” Breakthrough: Actor Kris Avedisian
  • “First Girl I Loved,” Breakthrough: Director Kerem Sanga
  • “Hunky Dory,” Breakthrough: Actor Tomas Pais
  • “The Other Kids,” Breakthrough: Director Chris Brown
  • “Lend a Hand For Love,” Breakthrough: Directors John and Amy Thompson
  • “Moonlight,” Breakthrough: Writer Barry Jenkins.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Lea Thompson

I’m so glad I got to chat with Lea when she was in town last month for TCFF gala. I also got to interview Jim Hemphill whose wonderfully-crafted drama The Trouble With The Truth was screened at one of TCFF’s Insider Series!

In addition to the staff and audience awards, the 2016 event is also bestowing two North Star Awards to visiting actors Tim Guinee (in town to celebrate the 10th anniversary of “Sweet Land”) and Dominic Rains (starring in three TCFF films now touring the festival circuit — the James Franco-Melissa Leo mystery “Burn Country” screening Saturday night, the neo-noir thriller “The Loner” screening Friday, and the dark comedy “Funeral Day” showing Saturday morning).


Now, I haven’t seen all of the films nominated, as there are only so many hours in a day and I still had to work at my full time job the first week of TCFF. But of the ones I have seen, I definitely agree with most of the choices! I’m especially thrilled to see SO may female filmmakers and talents being represented AND recognized. I think people who read my blog and connected w/ me on Twitter know that I’m not only a big champion of indie films, but also women in film! It’s clear that indie films are the place for women and diverse talents thrive… so I’m glad I got to see many of them thanks to TCFF!

Whether in front of or behind the camera, it always perks me up to see women storytellers, creating and/or portraying multi-dimensional, fully fleshed-out female characters and bringing their stories to life. One of my all time favorite performances is Kate Nowlin in Blood Stripeand having chatted with her in person, she is an inspiration both on and off screen!

Both Prison Dogs and The Eagle Huntress have become two of my all time favorite documentaries! I can’t review the latter until mid November where it’s released here in Minnesota, but I can’t recommend it enough. I guarantee you’d fall in love with 13-year-old Aisholpan who defied the odds to become a champion eagle huntress!

mnwiftIt’s always a blast hanging out with friends and new people you meet at TCFF lounge. But tonight is especially awesome as I got to hang out with two ladies from Minnesota Women in Film and Television (MN WIFT), Joanne Liebeler and Deborah Fiscus. I love their positive energy and warm personality, it’s always encouraging and inspiring to be around such wonderful people!

I feel so blessed to have met to these smart, accomplished, yet warm & lovely ladies, so thank you to my pal Kirsten Gregerson for introducing us! I’m definitely going to join the organization and learn from local women who work in film, television, and new media in Minnesota.

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with MN WIFT’s Joanne, Deborah and my pal Kirsten Gregerson

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Well, tomorrow is the last day of TCFF already! It’s a jam-packed closing day with three gala screenings: LION, Moonlight AND Burn Country, with its star Dominic Rains attending!

I’ll be seeing FOUR movies tomorrow, starting with the documentary on foley artists, Actors Of Sound at 10:15AM, which ends with the closing film Moonlight at 8:30PM! I’m writing this past midnight and in dire need of sleep, but I’m excited for what’s in store for me tomorrow!

 


Highlights from TCFF 2016 Opening Night + Review of ‘Blood Stripe’

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For the seventh year in a row, Twin Cities Film Fest is keeping up with tradition of opening the film festivities with a strong film. Last year it opened with an inspiring documentary A New High which goes with 2015’s Changemaker series that supported Homeless Youth, along with the heart-wrenching drama Room featuring Brie Larson who went on to win an Oscar. This year’s social cause is veteran support and once again TCFF picked a stellar Minnesota-made film that features an Oscar-worthy performance by Kate Nowlin. Check out my review below…

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Highlights from Opening Night

I’m thrilled that I was able to see Blood Stripe on opening night! In fact, I was at the first screening of the night as initially there was only one screening of the film at 8:30, but it was sold out even two weeks before its screening. The film’s writer/director Remy Auberjonois and writer/lead actress Kate Nowlin, along with supporting cast members René Auberjonois (yes, Remy’s own father) and Rusty Schwimmer were on hand for a Q&A following the screening.

It was awesome meeting some people who worked on the film at the red carpet at the bustling Showplace ICON lobby. I had a nice chat with Blood Stripe‘s script supervisor Aleshia Mueller, whom I had met at TCFF gala last month. My pal Kirsten Gregerson, who played a supporting role in the film, was there also with her sister Kim. I also ran into fellow blogger/actress Emmylou Barden before the film started.

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‘Blood Stripe’ Review

When I interviewed filmmakers Remy Auberjonois and Kate Nowlin a couple of weeks ago, I hadn’t seen the film yet. I knew it was a terrific film based on the reviews I’ve read out of L.A. Film Festival, well, to say I was floored by it is putting it mildly.

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Right from its opening scene when the film’s protagonist first touched down on the airport, I was immediately intrigued by her. Known only as Our Sergeant, she just returned home to Minnesota from her military duty. The film didn’t specify which country she was placed in, though later she did talk about her time in Iraq and Afghanistan. The film isn’t political, nor does it point finger about the cause of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) many soldiers suffer. It’s a story about a combat vet who happens to be a female Marine, and the trials and tribulations she goes through in the film.
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Despite the dark subject matter, the film is far from somber. It’s effortlessly engaging, thanks to Kate Nowlin‘s immense screen presence. She is tough, powerful yet vulnerable, and Nowlin embodied her character so beautifully. I have to admit I’m not really into war-themed films in general, but I’ve always been drawn to those that focus on the psychological aspect of the soldiers, i.e. The Thin Red Line. But Blood Stripe captures the brutality of war without actually showing it. It’s a mental torture that the ‘Sarge’ endured, at times she’s on the brink of losing it, and it’s a truly haunting performance. Remy Auberjonois contrasted that mental torment with the striking serenity of Lake Vermilion in Northern Minnesota. This film could practically double as a tourism video of Minnesota’s Arrowhead Region, the scenery is absolutely stunning that it made me want to book a trip there pronto.

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I was truly in awe by Nowlin’s extraordinary performance. She also co-wrote the script so she must’ve spent a lot of time with her character, but it’s still quite a feat given that she had no military training prior to taking on this project. I also appreciate the fact that the film utilized all of the supporting cast well, as each had their moment to shine. Chris Sullivan (who I just saw recently in Stranger Things) was terrific as Sarge’s husband, as was Rusty Schwimmer who played the camp’s caretaker where Sarge worked. Tom Lipinski also did a memorable turn as The Fisherman who befriended Sarge. Last but not least, we’ve got the venerable character actor René Auberjonois as the church elder Art who’s the comic relief in the film.

It’s so rare to see female soldiers being depicted on the big screen and I think Nowlin’s portrayal does them justice. The enigmatic ending lingers long after the opening credits, this film certainly adds the conversation to the topic of PTSD in a compelling way. I can’t recommend this one enough to anyone who loves war-themed films, as well as those in the lookout of a captivating, character-driven drama. I sure hope this will get a decent theatrical release around the country as Blood Stripe absolutely deserves to be seen.

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What’s in store for Day 2!

Check out all the films playing on Day 2 of TCFF here, tons of great indie films such as June Falling Down, Funeral Day, Road To The Well, as well as great documentaries such as In Pursuit of Silence, I Do? and Have a Baby.

Stay tuned to my interview with June Falling Down‘s writer/director and star Rebecca Weaver!


TCFF Opening Night Film: ‘Blood Stripe’ – Interview w/ Remy Auberjonois & Kate Nowlin

Every year Twin Cities Film Fest selects a social cause to bring to light and this year the subject of the Changemaker series is veteran support. Five powerful films paint a picture of what our vets face post-combat and foster important discussions around how to better serve those who’ve given us their all, which starts with BLOOD STRIPE.

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A female Marine veteran, battling unseen wounds from her recent service in Afghanistan, flees her suburban life in search of solace and escape in the North Woods.

Directed by: Remy Auberjonois
Written by: Remy Auberjonois & Kate Nowlin
Runtime: 87 min
Cast: Kate Nowlin, Rene Auberjonois, Rusty Schwimmer, Tom Lipinski, Kristen Gregerson


Additional TCFF screening:
October 28 | 3:00 pm


I had the honor to speak to both the director Remy Auberjonois and lead actress Kate Nowlin, who also co-wrote the film. I interviewed them separately within the span of a couple of weeks. They are both so wonderful to talk to, I’m so inspired by their amazing talents, humility and generous spirits. I’m so thrilled to see the success of ‘Blood Stripe’, winning the Best Fiction Award at L.A. Film Festival is just the beginning. It couldn’t happen to two nicer people!

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Remy Auberjonois

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Q: What inspired you to that story about PTSD. Is that a personal thing for you is that something that somehow we come across something and then it’s like oh I want to make a story about this.

Remy: Oddly enough, the story was an organic outgrowth from the location in a way. We sort of decided to make a movie, first of all. Then we decided to make a movie on Lake Vermilion and then we were looking around to think about a story that we could tell that could feature Kate in a central role because I knew that I would have her full commitment and she would work all day every day. And I know what a wonderful actor she is. And and in doing that and figuring out what that character could be, we came upon the fact that there are a lot of veterans in that area. Once that opened up for us, then the story sort of took shape. There was been a tremendous amount of a lot of awareness about moral injury, about PTS, about veterans suicide and you know, it was sort of an undeniable aspect and military sexual trauma… there was an undeniable story where we felt that there was room to tell. It also appealed to me in the sense that I saw ways in which he could use the sort of tropes of a thriller film to get inside a sort of paranoid mindset. You know we’re not paranoid but hyper alert. So that aspect appealed to me as there are a lot of movies like that that I’ve really liked. Those that you know create a real sense of unease, and we wanted to try to get inside that.

I felt like the tools of both movies were a useful way to shed some light on that. And because we’ve seen a lot of documentary and we’ve read a lot about this thing that people call PTS or PTSD, we thought that telling a narrative story about it making a dramatic narrative feature about it was another way to contribute to that conversation, to that awareness. We were hardly aware of it except as regular consumers of news, but when we started looking into that character and things that that character might be burdened with, we started to really understand the scope of the really sort of epidemic of this thing. We thought ‘oh yeah this is something that we want to understand more about and we feel like the audience could as well.’

It’s me, Cinematographer Radium Cheung, and Underwater Camera Operator Steve Speers (who is a Minnesota cameraperson). – Photo by Andrew Messer
Remy, cinematographer Radium Cheung, and underwater camera operator Steve Speers (who is a Minnesota cameraperson) – Photo by Andrew Messer

Q: I think the fact that you are focusing on a female combat vet specifically sort of adds another layer of novelty to your film too, because there are so few meaty roles for women as it is. I know that’s what appealed to me immediately, I mean aside from the military aspect of it. And I’m sure it appeals to others as well.

Remy: Yeah, you know I’m a male filmmaker, and for me I didn’t really see a difference. I worked with a very high profile wonderful actress. At one point she was telling us, she was talking to a filmmaker friend of hers: ‘just write the part for a man and I’ll play it.’ And Kate and I in approaching this film, we wrote the part just for a person. It’s complicated… you know she does things that you don’t see women doing a lot of, but that women do. She’s chopping wood, she’s mowing the lawn, etc. She has a husband and then she has the potential connection with another man. She’d get to fight, you know. Not to give things away, but you know, we just wrote it for a good complex character for Kate who is a powerful, physically very strong woman and an emotionally deep actor.

Q: What a great combination, yeah. One of the reviews I read was from Variety, and the reviewer said that it’s kind of rare that you’re not using the method of flashback in this. And so narratively was that something that’s deliberate that you want the story to be in present but of course implies that something has happened in the past?

Remy: Yes. You know it’s interesting it was something that was unintentional in some ways and then became very important to us, as we’re going ahead. We’re going we actually have written an event that happened in the past and that was a factor of time and money that we didn’t get to shoot it. It was something that could happen in a totally discreet location. So we kept it out of our principal photography because our budgetary and time constraints were such that we couldn’t get that, in a way that satisfied me.

And then as we were looking at the footage and telling the story and cutting it, it really felt that there were there so much thing unsaid, I mean this is not a dialogue-heavy movie. Having that event felt like it would be incredibly limiting to what the audience’s understanding could be. I’ve since spoken to someone who made a comment about that very fact and said they appreciated that [the trauma] wasn’t pinpointed to one event. Kate was very interested in these people who were exposed to war time, in a foreign country for a year or 18 months, you know that kind of heightened experience is ongoing, extended… so what is that like. So to sort of narrow it down to say it was this one thing that created this condition is very limiting. There’s lots of things. Her relationship with a man in the film is very fraught. Maybe there was something there. She has some physical impact from the war that she carries. Maybe it’s that. We didn’t want to limit it. Plus, to shoot that [scene], it’s as if we’re trying to be a different kind of movie than we were. I had a scene that I could do that I could accomplish. We had it written and I knew how I was going to shoot it. But I eventually thought, you know Hollywood has made war movies. We’ve seen The Hurt Locker, American Sniper, we’ve seen a lot of great depictions of these wars and wars in general. Let’s trust that the audience has these associations and we’ll bring them in with that.

Remy, Kate, and producer Julie Christeas of Tandem Pictures – Photo by Andrew Messer
Remy, Kate, and producer Julie Christeas of Tandem Pictures – Photo by Andrew Messer

Q: I think that’s what they appreciate this reviewer appreciate. It’s like they just you know don’t spoon feed too much. You don’t want it to challenge the audience.

Remy: Yes, we wanted to respect and challenge our audience. I think some people find that infuriating because they want to be told something. And I think some people have really appreciated it. We had a guy on one of our screenings, he said I felt so smart watching this movie because I kept on being forced to make connections, to connect the dots. As a movie goer, I’m usually quite a head of a particular film. I don’t know that anybody is surprised by what happens in our movie, in terms of the sort of outcome insofar as you really know what the outcome is. And you don’t, we don’t make it very explicit.

Q:  For this film, did you talk to anybody like from the military field to make sure you get certain things right?

Remy: You know we did a lot of reading, we did a lot of watching. We also have a female Marine veteran on set with us. But we had already written the script by then and she was great in terms of validating a lot of the right thing. I sent it to that vet but because we weren’t shooting the war. It was a creative, imaginative exploration of the thing. So we watched some wonderful documentaries like the film Lioness, The Invisible War to see stories about female marines. A lot of really wonderful books, there’s one by Sebastian Junger called War. But we wanted to sort of imaginatively take the hallmarks and the symptoms and the sort of generalized story of what those people experience and then imagine it into our location and our story. We wanted it to feel authentic and we’ve been very gratified. You know, Kate spent four months in physical training for the film. We wanted to have a sense of authenticity but we also wanted to not be telling a certain story. And hopefully that that approach is the thing that makes [the subject] a little bit more universal.

Q: I see. It’s a character driven piece so it’s not about a specific event. 

Remy: Exactly. It’s a lot about the performance, about [Kate’s] understanding of it. There’s some of her own experience which she was able to bring to [the role], but she’s also just a very skilled actress and has a lot of technique.

Q: Last question. Is directing something you want to keep doing in the future?

Remy: Yeah I would love to get the opportunity to do it again. I have a couple of different projects in the beginning of story development and we’ll see which one I can get more traction on. I’m very much hoping to direct it again before too long. Maybe another film, and I’d love to direct episodic television actually. There’s a lot of exciting, wonderful thing happening in that medium, but it’s a difficult thing to get into. It’s hard to get a movie made, but at least it’s a discrete thing and in some ways it’s up to you.

Q: Yeah that’s true, but at the same time now it seems like there’s a blending between TV and films now, it’s not a big divide like was before. Lots of TV directors doing major, big-budget films and the other way around.

Remy: Yeah, who knows. We’ll see where it takes me.


Kate Nowlin

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Q: What I got from Remy’s was that the story grew organically from the location in Lake Vermilion. So I’m just curious how do you approach that role of the female Marine. I mean do you have any military experience or or was there any research. Do you have to do more to prepare?

Kate: Oh god no, no military experience before. Tremendous research.

Q: How long did it take you to do that? I mean did you have somebody on set?

Kate: I feel like I’m still doing research. I started when we started writing in October and we were shooting in August. I was doing research the whole, the whole time we were writing and learning about the subject matter, which evolved organically. Once we just decided on the subject matter, we felt obviously a real responsibility to this type of story, as we would to really any story. But this one was, we realized it was a large undertaking and something I knew nothing about, from a strictly military standpoint. In terms of dedication and exploration of her strength and her vulnerability, and just being a human being, I think there’s ways in which we can all relate. So the military part, I did my homework and then eventually yes I met I spoke to a number of servicemen and women. There’s one in particular, a woman named Amber Patton who’s a Marine herself.

Q: Is her last name spelled like the famous general?

Kate: Yes Patton, like the general. She’s a Marine veteran, USMC got her in. And she was on site. We met here in Minnesota and then we offered her I said ‘would you read the script and consult with us?’ We had some questions and we talked about some story points, and then I said ‘what are you up to this summer?’ As she was interested to get more into it. I mean she was in the film industry but she wanted to keep working on that, and so we said if you want a job, we’d love to have you on our set as a production assistant. So she came on as a production assistant but obviously she served as a consultant. She just was like my right hand she was, an assistant to me and in many ways and in the creation of the story.

Q: That’s cool because you’d want to make sure that the story is truthful and accurate and she’d have the experience.

Kate: Well there were there were things that we could research, but there were very practical things about like how the uniform is worn, things like that. She’s been an invaluable part of the process, and she’s still you know, we’re still close and and she was an invaluable part of the team.

Kate in a scene on Lake Vermilion
Kate in a scene on Lake Vermilion

Q: As for Lake Vermilion, it seems that you both wanted to shoot the film there and it works because there’s a lot of veterans there, so that makes sense.

Kate: Yes, there’s a tremendous amount of veterans. There’s a woman in the town, when we were just considering that idea [of filming at Lake Vermilion], she had just been named soldier of the year by Army Times in Cook Minnesota. And so we kind of thought… even though we didn’t tell her story but we wanted to give a little nod to keep moving in that direction.

Q: Remy mentioned that you both wanted to add to the conversation about the condition of PTSD. Tell us a bit more about that.

Kate: We want to add to the conversation about the traumatic aspect, but also really more about the female soldier, the female Marine. It’s rarely depicted even though they make up about 15 percent of our military, 20 percent of our reserves. So they should be more represented. I think as we were writing there was this great New York Times op-ed piece saying why aren’t we telling the story [of female soldiers] in film. So we were like, ‘we’re writing something, we’re doing our part, we’re trying to do our part!’ So it was so interesting how it evolved, but yes we were trying to add to a conversation about a lot of things… women in media, how women are portrayed in the media. The female fighter, the female warrior, representing them, representing veterans issues, across the board. You know, so we kept sort of packing the bag.

Q: That’s great. I just think female driven narrative is still rare, which you would think by 2016 that’s not the case. But yet it is. That is why on my blog I always champion female-driven stories, especially independent stories. I mean if it’s something like Wonder Woman or whatever, those already get the studio backing, but the smaller stuff I really want to support. So I’m grateful you are working on this. 

Kate: Yes me, too. You know, it wasn’t our intention, conscious intention when we started. I mean we know Romney wants to direct and I was a resource of his. But it evolved into that and it became a very significant to us too. And I was aware that there was a lack, just in the scripts that I was being presented or the roles that I would read. I was just like ‘can we create someone full-fledged, someone who’s fully-dimensional… who happens to be a Marine.

Q: I was just wondering as I was reading the cast list. Your character is described only as Our Sergeant. Is it deliberate that there’s no specific name given to your character?

Kate: Yeah it is. It is deliberate. We want her to stand in for a lot of people like her, to be able to sort of let the audience project a lot onto her. Honestly, creatively, as we’re working the name just never came. We never had a name and it always just felt like that there’s a sort of space around her character so people could project whatever they want to. Not necessarily a name but that she is, in some ways, unaccounted for and that she’s nameless.

Q: So the fact that she is nameless is almost a message in itself.

Kate: I think so yeah I think so. And we actually, there was one point when we made her uniform. So on the one hand she’s standing in for someone’s wife, sister, daughter, we keep that open. Once you’re in the military and you have a title, that’s an important part of the identity. That comes first, in that mindset you’re committing your life, you know, to serving your country and then that is an important part of the identity. So that felt like that was going to be an important part, maybe more important than the personal identification. So when we she was in uniform at one point we created a name tag that we chose to be nameless in Norwegian because I’m Scandinavian and there’s a lot of Scandinavian people in Northen Minnesota. At one point we did choose a name. So it was Navnløs, which is Norwegian for nameless.

Kate, 1st. Assistant Camera Yousuke Kiname, 2nd AC Chris Savage (Minnesota based) – Photo by Andrew Messer
Kate, 1st. Assistant Camera Yousuke Kiname, 2nd AC Chris Savage (Minnesota based) – Photo by Andrew Messer

Q: Now this question, it’s up to you whether you want to speak to this or not but given the subject matter, I was wondering if you have dealt with something similar to your character and whether that impact your approach to the role or not.

Kate: No I really haven’t. Not to that degree. But I think as we’ve said, trauma is a universal experience. It doesn’t have to be military-related. So I can understand it, but no, I have not dealt with it, nowhere near anything she had going through. It’s interesting because I’ve been asked that question a lot and I think that. I guess my answer is no, but I understand what I understand about struggle. It’s my job to be able to portray someone who’s different than I am. That I have to investigate and find my way in the way that I can to create something in an authentic way. I think there are universal things that we know and that we share and feel as human beings and that’s my job to explore that. Because I was writing her, co-writing and co-creating her, I was able to track her so to speak.

Q: Cool. So how was that process when you’re writing. Co-writing with Remy. I mean how do you do that division work goes?

Kate: I loved the writing. We really just sat across the table from each other and sort of plotted things out. Once we got off the note cards you know at first we put everything on no cards and then we sort of sat down. We each had a computer in front of us and we talk through scenes, we created dialogue. I would sort of think about her voice when she did speak. Remy was really good at writing the sort of what we saw, the breakdown the scenes. The emotional journey, in some ways was hard to do because it was all brand new. And because we were doing it in such a really a relatively short period of time. it’s hard to kind of understand or quantify what that experience was. We were just sitting down every day for three hours doing what we could.

Q: How about the physical training. I mean you kind of have to bulk up a bit don’t you? I mean you probably already are a fitness enthusiast.

Kate: Yes I’m naturally athletic. Being forced to play sports growing up and I was a dancer as a kid and all of that. And then of course in graduate school or whatever you do a lot of movement training and stuff. But no, I work from probably about three and a half months, not a tremendous period of time but I work six days a week. I worked with a trainer once a week starting in May, June, July, August, so about three and a half months. That’s on how to get into the role, that’s a mindset. I had to transform my metabolism, my metabolic system. I was inspired by how strong they are and the rigors that they go through in order to become a Marine. And so I knew I had to do something I hadn’t done before and get a kind of mental toughness and physical strength also to set an example, to represent how strong these women are. I just want to create a different portrait of a female in the film. Something we don’t get to see very often.

Q: So now that you’ve written a film that you start in, what’s next for you? Do you want to keep doing it, being a content creator on top of being an actress?

A: Absolutely. Oh that’s you can’t go back. I feel like it’s it’s a hard thing to come back from once you start oncw you start making your own stuff. It’s more challenging in ways but you get to say more… it’s a much more dimensional creative space and I find that incredibly gratifying. I have never been happier from an artistic point of view as when I was making this thing, as we’ve been making this thing. As hard as it’s been, it’s so fulfilling so. And I found that over the course of it that I have things I’d like to say. I really enjoy the writing. Not like a soapbox, but I think that there are I think that there’s room for all sorts of stories and I’m drawn to what I’m drawn to. I like the research, I like immersing myself in new world from scratch.

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THANK YOU so much Remy & Kate for chatting with me about Blood Stripe!


Hope you enjoy the interview! If you’ve seen Blood Stripe, I’d love to hear what you think!

Twin Cities Film Fest (Oct 19-29): The 2016 lineup is here!

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The Twin Cities Film Fest (TCFF) is thrilled to announce its captivating and critically-lauded lineup for the 2016 festival. The 11-day marathon, running October 19 – October 29 and showcasing 100+ films, will for the first time expand to a second city; in addition to its core screenings and red carpet parties at the Kerasotes ShowPlace ICON Theatres at The Shops at West End in St. Louis Park, the 7th annual TCFF will also feature a second screening series at the IFP Theater in St. Paul.

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Kate Nowlin – Blood Stripe

This year’s Opening Night film, Blood Stripe, is sponsored by Stephanie Dillon and will launch TCFF’s 2016 Social Cause: Military Veteran Mental and Physical Support. This locally-filmed PTSD drama directed by Remy Auberjonois, starring Kate Nowlin and top prize winner at the Los Angeles Film Festival, is a story of the trials and tribulations facing a returned female combat veteran and her intense battle with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Four other veteran-related films have been selected to screen as part of TCFF’s “Changemaker Series,” including IRON Will: Veterans’ Battle with PTSD, a Billy Bob Thornton-narrated documentary produced by Minnesota native Tim VandeSteeg that will make its world premiere at TCFF on Oct. 22.

The official 2016 Centerpiece will be the Sundance Film Festival hit The Eagle Huntress (narrated by Daisy Ridley), which follows Aisholpan, a 13-year-old girl in Mongolia, as she trains to become the first female in 2,000 years to successfully hunt with a Golden Eagle. The true-life adventure screens Oct. 24.

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Just some of the great films playing this year!

Two of the mostly highly acclaimed films coming out of this year’s Toronto International Film Festival will be making their regional premieres at TCFF. The critical sensation Moonlight will be the TCFF Closing Night film on Oct. 29 — a coming-of-age story about a young man in Miami during the “War on Drugs” era who finds himself coping with a dysfunctional home life. The story of his struggle to find himself, told across three defining chapters in his life as he experiences the ecstasy, pain, and beauty of falling in love while grappling with his own sexuality, has been hailed by some critics as the year’s best screenplay.

Lion, also screening Oct. 29, is the story of 5-year-old Saroo who gets lost on a train which takes him thousands of kilometers across India, away from home and family. Saroo must learn to survive alone in Kolkata, before ultimately being adopted by an Australian couple. Twenty five years later, armed with only a handful of memories, his unwavering determination, and a revolutionary technology known as Google Earth, he sets out to find his lost family and finally return to his first home.
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The festival will also include the family fantasy Trolls, the Michael Fassbender thriller Trespass Against Us, the Parker Posey comedy The Architect, the James Franco, Melissa Leo, Dominic Rains crime drama Burn Country and the documentaries My Scientology Movie, The Trans List and In Pursuit of Silence, which discovers that the second quietest place on Earth is a specially designed room in downtown Minneapolis.


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Tickets are now available for Members and Pass Holders. Tickets will open up to the general public this Friday, September 30th. To find out how to become a TCFF Member and for a full list of films playing at this year’s festival please visit twincitiesfilmfest.org

I’ll definitely be blogging more about TCFF in the coming weeks, especially in October leading up to the film fest itself!


Thoughts on 2016 TCFF lineup? Which of these movies have you been anticipating?

Indie Spotlight: I Am Not A Serial Killer (2016) & interview w/ casting director Kirsten Gregerson

I first heard about this project last year when my friend and fellow Twin Cities Film Fest staff member Kirsten Gregerson mentioned it to me. She had worked as a casting director for the independent thriller, director by Irish filmmaker Billy O’Brien, with Christopher Lloyd and Max Records (from Where the Wild Things Are) in the lead roles.

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Sixteen-year-old John Wayne Cleaver (Max Records) is not a serial killer—but he has all the makings of one. Keeping his homicidal tendencies and morbid obsessions with death and murder in check is a constant struggle that only gets harder when a real serial killer begins terrorizing his sleepy Midwestern town. Now, in order to track down a psychopath and protect those around him, John must unleash his darkest inner demons. Based on the cult novel by Dan Wells, this twisted, genre-bending thriller co-stars Christopher Lloyd and Breaking Bad’s Laura Fraser.

The early reviews out of SXSW has been pretty good, including this one from Variety: “O’Brien conjures an infectious sense of place on a small budget: dark but never dreary, haunting but oddly cheerful.”

Check out the trailer:

I’m looking forward to seeing this next Monday as part of TCFF Member Screening!

‘I Am Not A Serial Killer’ Screening
Monday, August 15th – 6:30pm

Showplace ICON – St. Louis Park

The screening FREE for TCFF members, it’s one of the great perks for being a member.
So why not sign up for a membership today?


As most of you know, I’ve always been interested in film casting. This week I had the privilege to chat with my friend Kirsten about the casting process of this film.

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1. You have a decade worth of experience as an actor in various TV/film productions, but this is your first job as a casting director. How did this project come about for you?

Yes, it is hard to believe I have been pursuing the acting/production path for almost 10 years now. IANASK is actually my 2nd Casting Director job. I cast the film The Jingle Dress in the late summer/early fall of 2013. Jakk Netland, a friend that also worked on The Jingle Dress with me, recommended me to the producers. Lynn Blumenthal was the first choice but she was out of town during the IANASK shoot.

2. How has your profession as an actor help you in film casting? Any particular challenges that stood out to you?

I do know what it is like to be on the other side of the casting process which is a plus. I have been told I make the actors feel comfortable and supported which I think helps bring out a more authentic and truthful audition. The challenge for me is caring too much and thinking about the actors that don’t end up getting cast, or worrying about the logistics of everyone getting to set that have been cast. I know these things are definitely out of my control, but I can’t help it. I am “Minnesota Neurotic” as I call it.

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3. Was Christopher Llyod already on board on the film when you started working? I’m curious too about the process of casting Max Records and Laura Fraser, did it involve an in-person audition?

Christopher Lloyd and Max Records were already on board when I started working on the film. They were cast through the Gersh Agency, as was Laura Fraser and her actor husband, Karl Geary (although the two of them were cast closer to the time of filming). I helped cast all the Minnesota talent and worked with Moore Creative and the Wehmann Agency. I am thankful for the agents and all the help I had moving forward with the casting process.

A special thank you goes out to Michelle Nagell, my dear friend and Extras Casting Director, Jessica Bergren and Brittany Cusack. All these women helped with the casting in the weeks leading up to the shoot and went up to Virginia to audition talent for featured extra roles in the film. Jessica, a Virginia native, was instrumental in helping us find the person to play the role of Max Bowen, the only friend of John Wayne Cleaver.

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4. What’s your favorite part about this job for you?

My favorite part is calling or emailing the actors and letting them know they have been cast. I know I always feel like I have won the lottery when I am cast, so it such an amazing feeling to be able to spread the good news to other actors. I also look at each actor in the film as a piece of a big puzzle that has so many moving parts. It is so gratifying to see how the finished product comes together on the big screen after months or years of waiting.

5. A general question about casting. What recent casting in either film or tv project that excites you?

I recently had the opportunity to attend Sundance with my dear friend, Stacey Thunder. She had a small role in the film, Tallulah (which is now on Netflix), and I had the chance to see the world premiere thanks to Stacey and the producer of the film, Heather Rae. The casting was spot on for that film. Allison Janney and Ellen Page worked their magic on screen just like they did in the film Juno. All the supporting cast were exactly the right actors for their respective parts. I was especially impressed with the performance of the third lead, Tammy Blanchard.

Special thanks to Kirsten for the insightful interview!


KirstenGKirsten Gregerson has almost a decade of experience in front of the camera as an actor. She has also worked behind the scenes in various capacities.

In 2013 she had the opportunity to cast a feature film called The Jingle Dress, and followed up a couple years later with the casting of the film I’m Not A Serial Killer.

I’m Not A Serial Killer had its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas. She also can be seen in the upcoming psychological thriller called Blood Stripe starring Kate Nowlin and directed by Remy Auberjonois. Blood Stripe had its world premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival in June of 2016 where it won the US Fiction award.

 


Hope you enjoy the interview! What are your thoughts on ‘I Am Not A Serial Killer?’