Congratulations to my friend Jason Stutter, whose feature film Predicament will be screened in Los Angeles at the Directors Guild of America (DGA) on November 5th.
Jason has been invited to L.A. as part of the DGA’s “Director Finders” program, established in 1998 to draw attention to undistributed independent feature films and their directors. Since its inception the program has highlighted more than 100 films, and most of those were then picked up for North American distribution.
Based on a novel by Kiwi writer Ronald Hugh Morrieson, Predicament is Jason’s third full-length feature film. It’s a dark comedy … with murder, suspense, and a few familiar faces, including Jermaine Clement and Rose McIver. Unfortunately, I missed seeing Predicament in grand style at the New Zealand International Film Festival because of travel conflicts. Dr McWaine and I did finally see it yesterday at the Lighthouse in Petone, and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Speaking of the Festival, I got back to town in time to tag along with Jason, David White, and a few other film buffs to see Wah Do Dem, a micro-budget film by Americans Ben Chace and Sam Fleischner about a young tourist’s misadventures in Jamaica. Before the screening, our little group had a rollicking discussion over beers about classics, misfires, work in progress, the film canon, the challenges of film careers, and the joys of old theaters. I had a great time. I always enjoy talking about film with other passionate cinephiles.
For that reason … and for that reason alone … nothing to do with Entourage … I took advantage of his presence at the Festival to pull Adrian Grenier aside for lunch to talk about his compelling and entertaining documentary, Teenage Paparazzo. The film has been a hit on the festival circuit and has now been picked up by HBO.
Adrian and I also talked about his new media eco-project, SHFT.COM. The site offers original video series, curated shopping, and a variety of other resources designed to support an eco-conscious lifestyle. Adrian sees a major cultural shift occuring in how we approach our relationship with the planet, and SHFT.COM is intended to help us make informed choices.
I take great pleasure in all kinds of filmed entertainment and in the folks who labor in the fertile fields of cinema and television. It was no accident that I moved to Los Angeles the week after I graduated from law school. Or that my first project as an intern the prior summer at the California law firm Irell & Manella was an entertainment industry project, doing clearances for a young comedian’s first HBO special.
I have a particular fondness for – and deep envy of – those who teach filmmaking or film studies … because they have what is probably the best job on the planet. And because they bring to the table a vast store of information and insight. Professor Hilary Radner, chair of the University of Otago’s Film & Media Studies program, and I recently had a spirited debate about propaganda films that was one of the most enjoyable discussions I’ve had in a long time.
I also very much enjoyed my recent conversation with Tommy Honey, director of the New Zealand Film & Television School, about our respective favorite films. Tommy and a few of his students were among my Festival buddies at the screening of Wah Do Dem. It’s a pleasure to get something other than a blank stare when I reference The Deer Hunter, A Clockwork Orange, The Philadelphia Story, All About Eve, Some Like It Hot …
… and Metropolis, Fritz Lang’s 1927 German Expressionist masterpiece, perhaps the most influential science fiction movie ever made. I have a special fondness for such silent classics, which are sorely under-appreciated in our explosion-laden, video-gaming, hyperdriven 3D culture. I’m delighted that a newly restored Metropolis – including 25 minutes of supposedly lost footage recently discovered in small museum in Argentina – is now in release. I’m only sorry that I will miss the screenings back in L.A., some of which I hear will include a live orchestral performance of the original score.
Since I’m whining a tad, I’ll also say that I was disappointed to miss last Wednesday’s Beverly Hills “premier” of legendary director John Ford’s backstage drama Upstream. Filmed in 1927, this silent feature was long considered lost, until Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences archivist Brian Meacham came across it when he visited the New Zealand Film Archive during his vacation last year. Upstream was just one of 75 “lost” films that Brian uncovered in an Archive storage facility. The Academy is planning future screenings in Los Angeles of two of the other films, The Sergeant (1910, by Francis Boggs) and The Better Man (1912, director unknown).
Many thanks and congratulations to the New Zealand Film Archive for its excellent stewardship in preserving those precious titles. Now underway is a multi-year collaboration (dubbed “The New Zealand Project”) among the National Film Preservation Foundation and the five major American silent film archives (including the Academy and the Library of Congress) to take custody of the nitrate originals and manage the necessary preservation work. The New Zealand Film Archive will receive new prints of the films when restoration work in the U.S. concludes.
Getting back to Jason’s Predicament, I heartily encourage my L.A. film industry friends to get yourselves over to the DGA’s Sunset Boulevard theater on November 5th to take a look at Jason’s work, have a cocktail, and welcome a fellow cinephile to town properly. If he hasn’t yet eaten that day, please take him across the street to my favorite Baja Fresh and introduce him to the joys of a Baja burrito or the grilled mahi mahi tacos.