KCET Spring Cinema Series Q&A’s

March 4th, 2014 by

A heads-up from GITS development assistant Wendy Cohen:

For you L.A. folks — the KCET Cinema Series continues its spring season TONIGHT at 7pm with a screening of the upcoming romantic comedy LE WEEK-END, featuring a Q&A with star Jeff Goldblum following the screening.

For more information, click on More.

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KCET Spring Cinema Series

February 14th, 2014 by

GITS development assistant Wendy Cohen here. For those of you based in L.A., I highly recommend taking advantage of KCET’s Spring Cinema Series starting February 25th at the Television Academy Theater in North Hollywood. In the past, Scott and I have posted Q&As from several screenings, including some of this year’s Oscar contenders. Each screening is followed by a discussion with cast/crew involved in the film and Deadline Hollywood film critic Pete Hammond. It’s an excellent opportunity to see some great movies, learn about filmmakers and their process, and ask questions to some of the top and most prolific creative people in our field.

As we have done for their fall series, roughly each week we will post a transcript or excerpts from the past week’s Q&A. If you’re a fan of independent cinema, I strongly recommend reading these and visiting the KCET website to see what screenings in the series may interest you.

The series’ first film, “The Face of Love,” stars Annette Bening as a grieving widow who happens upon a man (Ed Harris) who looks almost exactly like her deceased husband. The two then strike up a relationship and a flood of old feelings come rushing back to her again. Arie Posin directs this emotionally thorny drama about how we cope with loss, live in the moment and ultimately move forward.

Posin, also a co-writer of the movie, will be present after the screening for an exclusive conversation with Pete Hammond.

“The Face of Love” Screening Info:

Date/Time: Tuesday, February 25, 2013 at 7:00 PM

Guest: Director/Co-writer Arie Posin

Location: Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Theater, 5220 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601

Please call (747) 201-5800 for information.

Passes for the Spring 2014 KCET Cinema Series are now on sale. For reservations call 747.201.5800, download and mail the registration form, or buy your season passes online.

This screening and Q&A is a great opportunity to learn about the creative process and background for what looks to be a terrific movie.

For those who can’t make it, look for a partial transcript of the Q&A later here on the blog.

KCET Cinema Series Q&As

October 29th, 2013 by

A heads-up from GITS development assistant Wendy Cohen:

For you L.A. folks — the KCET Cinema Series continues its fall season tonight at 7pm with the highly-anticipated Matthew McConaughey-starrer DALLAS BUYERS CLUB, which will feature a Q&A with actress Jennifer Garner following the screening.

The quarterly series is hosted by nationally recognized film expert and Deadline Hollywood columnist Pete Hammond. Passes for the Fall 2013 KCET Cinema Series are now on sale. For reservations call 747.201.5800, download and mail the registration form, or buy your season passes online.

Last week, as part of the series, a special Q&A took place at the Television Academy’s Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre following an advance screening of the upcoming comedy LAST VEGAS, which features 5 (that’s right, five) Oscar-winners in the cast: Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline — and actress Mary Steenburgen, which Deadline Hollywood film critic Pete Hammond sat down with to talk about her experience working with the Hollywood legends, how she got her big break, ageism, her unexpected talent, and how casting and the film industry at large have changed over the years.

Below are some of the highlights from their conversation.

On the process of obtaining her role in the film

Steenburgen recounts that Michael Douglas “to her surprise” had suggested her for the role, however scheduling issues had almost forced her to drop out. Fortunately, her reps kept their eyes on the part and when an opportunity to join the production again presented itself, Steenburgen was more than ready to commit.

On ageism in Hollywood

Steenburgen laments that substantial older female roles in any film these days are rare. “Most of the industry is only interested in depicting young love onscreen. Older people aren’t depicted in film very often, especially as love interests.”   Thus, it’s no surprise that she praises the film’s writer and director for portraying its older relationships in a “genuine” light.

On winning an Oscar at a young age (for Jonathan Demme’s MELVIN AND HOWARD)

At the time Steenburgen had just become a new mom, and had reservations about raising her family in Los Angeles, moving shortly after to Ojai, CA, where she has resided (with husband Ted Danson) for the past three decades. Though the award was certainly a blessing, Steenburgen never saw her early recognition as a hindrance to her career. As Steenburgen explains, “there were times when my career supported my interests, and times when my interests supported my career.”

On working with the all-star cast

Steenburgen hadn’t worked with any of her fellow co-stars before, except for Kevin Kline in the drama “Life as a House,” which was released shortly after 9/11. “I had never worked with any of the others and they had never worked with each other. I don’t know how that happened, but they never had. They were legends to me but on our very first day of the read through, about one minute into the read through they became my peers, my buddies and my fellow actors. The guys included me and it felt like The Rat Pack. They treated me with this very sweet respect, but also like one of the guys, which is exactly how I love to be treated by men. We had so much fun together and we would sit kind of huddled together. If there was an overview of us we looked like this little island and on all four sides of us were people taking pictures and waving. It was this crazy circus in Vegas and we were this little island of actors in the middle of it. At our age, having a job that feels good, and that you have a good feeling about the script, the director, and each other is amazing. At this age you’re not thinking about your next job, you’re not thinking about what’s going on somewhere else, or is this person getting more scenes, or a better costume, or whatever the hell people worry about when they’re young. We were just drinking in the moment. I think that’s one of the not so nice things about being this age, which is that you know when you’re lucky. You know when to count your blessings and I think everyone of us did.”

On discovering her unexpected talent

After undergoing a minor surgery on her arm in 2007, Steenburgen immediately faced unanticipated side effects — “I felt like there was a radio in my brain. Everything was kind of musical. Someone would say a sentence, and the sentence would get put into this whirlwind of music. It was very confusing and eventually when it hadn’t gone away after a number of days, it became upsetting, terrifying. I couldn’t sleep at night. After a few weeks I looked in the mirror and thought, ‘Look, you’re a mother, you’re a wife, you’re a daughter, you’re a sister, there’s a lot of people who count on you, and you cannot go crazy. You better figure out how to make this work for you.’ So I started studying music and composition and great songwriters. I went back and revisited songs that I loved that I never paid attention to, to study how they were written. Then eventually I started to take the fragments of what I was hearing and the songs out of them, and then I picked out a musician I respected and I said, ‘I don’t have the greatest voice but if I sing this note for note for you, can we make music together?’ We did it, and I sent 12 of the songs under my mom’s name to a very wonderful music lawyer, who said, ‘Let me see that kid.’ And the manager said, ‘Yeah, kid doesn’t quite describe her.’ And now I write for Universal Music.”

On being “discovered” by Jack Nicholson

The tale of Steenburgen’s “big break” is the kind of story actors dream about — while working at a New York restaurant  she found out that they were casting a female role in Nicholson’s latest film, the 1978 Western “Goin’ South.” Although she didn’t even have a script to read for the part, Steenburgen waited in the reception room of Paramount’s New York office and was handed her lines by Nicholson himself. He was enchanted by Steenburgen and devoted the next two hours to reading scenes with the 24-year-old Arkansas native. Flown to Hollywood and auditioned on the Paramount lot (she had never set foot on a soundstage), Steenburgen enchanted everyone else she met, too. How did she find out that she had gotten the part? When she needed some money during auditions, Nicholson assured her that it wasn’t an issue. “Don’t worry about it kid,” he apparently told Steenburgen. “You’re on the payroll.” He then cast her as the lead in the film, which he directed, and the rest is history.

On improvisation vs. sticking to the script

Steenburgen admits there wasn’t much ad-libbing on the set, especially from [Bob] De Niro, who’s known for sticking to the script, but noted that Kevin Kline, who’s recently done more comedies, including Natalie Portman’s “No Strings Attached” and the TV show “Bob’s Burgers,” did occasionally indulge in some improv. Referring to her experience on a previous Will Ferrell movie, “it definitely wasn’t ‘Step Brothers,’” she laughed.

Here is a trailer for the film:

Last Vegas opens nationwide on November 1st. You can buy tickets to the movie here.

Excepts credited to I AM ROGUE’s Jami Philbrick and Metro’s Matt Prigge for their additional coverage. 

One of the advantages of living in L.A. is the ability to attend film and TV events like this one. Fortunately for those who live outside Southern California, we have Wendy who is tireless in seeking out these type of presentations and covering them for us. Look for more of them in the future. As always thanks, Wendy!

Special Screening: “Short Term 12″

August 20th, 2013 by

For you L.A. folks — the KCET Cinema Series starts its fall season tonight at 7pm with the Sundance favorite SHORT TERM 12, which will feature a Q&A with writer-director Destin Cretton and cast following the screening.

The quarterly series is hosted by nationally recognized film expert Pete Hammond.

Passes for the Fall 2013 KCET Cinema Series are now on sale. For reservations call 747.201.5800, download and mail the registration form, or buy your season passes online.

Here is a trailer for Short Term 12:

Here is a DP/30 interview with actress Brie Larson:

Larson recently won the Best Actress award at the Locarno Film Festival. Tonight’s screening and Q&A is a great opportunity to learn about the creative process and background for what looks to be a terrific movie.

Background: “JOBS”

August 14th, 2013 by

This backround on biopics and the new movie Jobs from Wendy Cohen:

“Screenwriting Drafts of History”

Four years ago, when Gus Van Sant’s MILK, Oliver Stone’s W. and Steven Soderbergh’s CHE — political biopics as varied about the figures they covered as the critical praise they received — were in the midst of awards season contention, The New York Times produced this intriguing article highlighting the films’ screenwriters and their process of, as writer Dennis Lim astutely noted, “wrangling a life into the shape of a narrative.”

Here at GITS, we’ve talked about biopics as a movie story type — a shorthand way to describe a specific narrative conceit that is almost always tied directly to the movie’s central concept. They can be found in any genre, cross genre, or subgenre.

One recent example we’ve analyzed is Aaron Sorkin’s THE SOCIAL NETWORK, the effective use of Mark Zuckerberg’s two deposition scenes as a narrative device to travel back and forth in time, and jumps using lines of dialogue, pre-laps, and visual clues to serve as touch points for each transition.

Sorkin’s next project: a tell-all biopic of Apple innovator Steve Jobs, structured around three 30 minute scenes all set right before three major product launches. The products: The Mac, NeXT, and the iPod.

This will be the second biopic of Jobs. The first, Joshua Michael Stern’s JOBS, will be released this weekend.

The difference in structure between the two movies? Seismic.

As Scott has previously noted, biographical adaptations are one of the most difficult screenwriting challenges for two big reasons: 1) You have to find the movie in the subject’s real life story; in other words, you can’t let the facts get in the way of the movie you write and 2) What historical details and personal dynamics you omit about the subject is as important as what you choose to keep in the script.

At a Q&A following a special screening of JOBS, director Joshua Michael Stern spoke with Deadline Hollywood film critic Pete Hammond about his serendipitous collaboration with the entrepreneur responsible for the movie’s inception, working with a first-time writer and structuring the film around what he believes to be the most narrative-friendly and dramatic moments of Jobs’ life.

JOBS Q&A

Below are several excerpts from their conversation.

PH: You never met Steve Jobs himself. What I think is so interesting is that it came from a guy way outside of Hollywood.

JMS: It’s a guy who owns a magazine in Dallas, Texas — and he tells the story that when Steve Jobs retired, his whole business shut down to give homage to that, and he thought “that’s interesting, that’s something that’s part of the culture,” so he hired a writer to write a screenplay. And he had seen “Swing Vote” and called me up and said “I’ve got a script.” At the time, it was 205 pages. We brought it to town and got it to Ashton, and it sort of took off from there, but he really was from outside of the system.

PH: It’s always tough doing a biopic as they say in the business as to what you focus on. How did you hone this to focus on those years and why did you decide to do it that way?

JMS: The story to me was about him and Apple. There’s going to be a lot of stories about Steve Jobs and a lot of movies about Steve Jobs. And the most interesting part of his life for me was everything before the iMac — that computer we all recognize as his first innovation. To me, to be honest, it was a story about a prince who’s raised by working class peasants who he loves and loved him, but he always felt he was bigger than them — then he sort of meets this ragtag group of guys and ne’er do wells and then he finally gets into the palace but he’s never seen as legitimate, and then he’s banished and then comes back resurrected and he decides that he has to take everybody out. The movie’s 2 hours and 5 minutes, and there’s a section, about 8 or 9 years there, where he meets his wife, he works at NeXT which doesn’t really do very well, he’s on the board of Pixar — so that section was the most interesting as to how to deal with that. The problem of his life was that a) The relationship with his wife was so secretive. There wasn’t much meat on the bones there. He was really in the doldrums during that time. So to hazard a guess as to what’s going on in his relationship with his wife would a) be conjecture totally and b) we wanted to respect that. And anything above the iMac — after the end of the movie — that history took off by itself. We know what happened. You have to decide what story you’re gonna tell, and this was just the story about him and Mac.

PH: Was there ever a consideration of doing this in another format, like a miniseries?

JMS: I think you could — that wasn’t what was presented to me — I think there is a lot of information. And the most interesting thing about Steve is that different people have different things invested in him and in his story. Everybody has something that they’re close to him on. We did every once in a while have a line that referenced something. But when you’re making a movie, there are certain things that are either just not active or because they’re such big issues you have to deal with it. And so when you deal with it, you have to actually follow it up. You open up a can of worms. Anyone’s life is always a balance of what would be interesting to know and what we don’t want to know. But I thought Steve’s resurrection was almost sort of a coda. But you had to pick and choose. It was tough.

PH: Can you tell us more about the script and the writer, Matt Whiteley?

JMS: Yeah, it was his first screenplay. It was interesting that he was making a story about Steve Jobs that was totally homegrown. I didn’t really touch the script. I’ve written everything else I’ve ever done. So, for me, the experience was having to step back and not really being able to touch the script very much, and I was really kind of shackled to the script. They had done so much research. There’s a scene in the boardroom and I had them build this beautiful boardroom and I filled it with extras during the scene, and they came in and said there were only four board members. And I said, “I built this huge room — what am I going to do with all these chairs?” So there’s a scene where he’s got his arms back and I have this huge wide shot that showed every empty chair, but I was really hamstrung by being within the accuracy of what was written, and Ashton had an encyclopedic knowledge as well. For his first screenplay, the writer did a good job.

PH: Amazing.

JMS: There’s going to be many movies about Steve Jobs. We’re the first out of the gate, so…

PH: It’s always good to be first.

JMS: In the original script we actually had a scene with Steve and his sister Mona walking through a park, and it didn’t really lead very far, but it created a relationship with his sister, which I think was an amazing story. I think it made it make sense that he was brilliant, because it came from something. The thing about the story of Steve Jobs is it’s not like Johnny Cash. It’s not like he got abused, he had a drug habit… He had great parents, friends… traveled, and then he came to and never left Silicon Valley. He worked eight miles from where he grew up. Everything was within that zone. Which was interesting to his personality, wanting things to be familiar to him. It kind of made sense when you started to get under the skin of him. I think we latched onto the fact that there was a sense that he didn’t belong, but he didn’t dwell on it.

Thanks to Wendy for this post.

A full recording of the Q&A can be found here courtesy of KCET, which sponsored the event. To learn more about the KCET Cinema Series, visit their website.

JOBS goes into wide release on August 16th. For tickets and more information, click here.