"The universe is made of stories, not of atoms."
—Muriel Rukeyser

Hollywood: Adapt or Die!

Big studios are gobbling each other up as smaller movies struggle and even name-brand titles tank at the box office. Netflix is revolutionizing the way people watch films, while major new streaming services from Apple, Disney, Warner Bros. and other deep-pocketed studios are coming soon. And every aspect of the movie industry — from the diversity of its storytellers to the spoils of Oscar season — is being called into question.

“This is the biggest shift in the content business in the history of Hollywood,” producer Jason Blum recently said.

But what will it all look like when the dust settles? To find out, I convened a virtual think tank of key Hollywood figures, and their message to the movie industry was clear: Adapt or die.

“The more that you talk about how to uphold these old systems,” director Ava DuVernay said, “the more you will lose when it all slips away. It’s going to be traumatic for you, but it’s inevitable — it’s going to happen.”

Q: Is there a future in theaters for anything besides blockbusters?

J.J. ABRAMS: For a long time, people have been saying the business is changing, but that’s undeniable now. It’s on.

JASON BLUM: I’ve never felt the nervous energy in Hollywood that I’ve felt over the last 12 months, and it increases every day. There’s an uncertainty about the future, because the change is happening in an incredibly dramatic way.

JOE RUSSO: You’ve got so many options for viewing content that there has to be a need for you to leave your home. What is going to drive you to do that?

ANTHONY RUSSO: There were 350 more movies released theatrically in the United States last year than there were when “Avatar” came out in 2009. The same thing’s happening on television. There just used to be fewer of everything — fewer movie stars, too — and when the numbers start to get up this high, you start to lose the trees for the forest.

ABRAMS: When you have a movie that’s as entertaining, well-made and well-received as “Booksmart” not doing the business it should have [the teen comedy underperformed at the box office despite critics’ raves], it really makes you realize that the typical Darwinian fight to survive is completely lopsided now. Everyone’s trying to figure out how we protect the smaller films that aren’t four-quadrant mega-releases. Can they exist in the cinemas?

KUMAIL NANJIANI: I read a stat somewhere that the average person goes to the movie theater around four times a year, and these huge movies come out and kind of suck up all the air. You look at comedy especially, and it’s been pretty tough going at the box office for the last couple years. I think it’s because there’s this sense that only certain movies are worthy of watching at the movie theater.

JESSICA CHASTAIN: What happens to these beautiful, small, dramatic stories? Are other studios going to make them so that we don’t lose part of our art form?

JORDAN HOROWITZ: I don’t feel particularly optimistic about the traditional theatrical experience, especially for independent films.

JOE RUSSO: When you talk about making character movies like “Cherry” [after four Marvel sequels, the Russos will next direct this mid-budget drama], even we are finding that is becoming increasingly difficult as the months pass — not as the years pass, as the months pass. It is a tough market, even for us coming off “Endgame,” to make a darker, character-driven movie. It’s not what the market was even two years ago.

ABRAMS: We have to find ways to get people into theaters for movies other than the giant event movies. Not that those are a given either, by the way!

MICHAEL BARKER: I don’t think there’s a death knell — I think it’s a wake-up call.

TOM ROTHMAN: The word we use here is “theatricality.” What movie is going to get people to go out to a theater to see it? There now has to be something about it that gives it that theatrical urgency, and it’s true whether it’s a small-budget horror film, a gigantic event film or a mid-budget original drama.

NANCY UTLEY: We have to be even more selective, because if the audience perceives that it’s something similar to what they have seen on a streaming service or a cable service, it may not rise to the level of theatricality for them.

AMY PASCAL: I just don’t want us to self-impose rules where we say, “This can’t be put in a movie theater because nobody will go see it.” If we decide that, then it will happen, and that will be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Q: Is a theatrical release still important?

PAUL FEIG: I’ll be honest: There are times when I go, “God, we should have done ‘A Simple Favor’ for streaming” [that studio thriller, which grossed $53 million domestically, broke Feig’s streak of $100 million-plus movies] because that’s the kind of movie you want to watch when you’re ready to have fun, but is it necessarily the kind of movie where you rush out to the theater, park your car and pull out your wallet just to see it?

HOROWITZ: I’m dealing with it right now with “Fast Color” [a film Julia Hart, his wife, directed], which had a lot of trouble finding distribution and is ultimately going theatrical, even though I wish I could make the movie available to people much faster than I am. Five years from now, I think it would be very different. That movie would be made by one of those streamers, or sold to one of them.

BLUM: [“Whiplash”] was a disaster theatrically! A disaster! What I wanted for that movie was for students and kids to see it, and they eventually saw it on TV, but they didn’t come to the movie theater to see “Whiplash.” The people who paid to see “Whiplash” were like me: too old. [He’s 50.] All things being equal, would I much prefer the experience of seeing “Whiplash” in a movie theater? Absolutely. But I would also prefer the experience of driving through Los Angeles with no traffic. And that’s not realistic, either.

OCTAVIA SPENCER: Here’s what I don’t want, and I’m going to be real honest about it: I don’t want people to not show their movies in a movie theater first. I like the idea of movies showing there and then going to streaming and devices. I’m a loyalist to that degree.

ROTHMAN: In a world where everything is on demand, I think that’s what makes movies special: Exactly because it’s harder is why it’s a more significant leisure choice. Guess what? You can’t see [the upcoming Quentin Tarantino film] “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” on your phone right now. If you want to see Leo and Brad together on the screen — the biggest star pairing since Butch and Sundance — you gotta get a babysitter.

JON M. CHU: If you had asked me two years ago where the film industry would be in 10 years, I might have had a different answer. But after what I’ve experienced with “Crazy Rich Asians,” seeing the audience show up, it’s sort of reinvigorated the idea of going to the movies. That social aspect of sharing a movie with friends and strangers and family, that’s such a strong part of our tradition. The success we had would not have been possible any other way.

LENA WAITHE: I know there are people who can’t afford to go to big movies. Some people live in small towns where the theater doesn’t play “Moonlight” or “An Oversimplification of Her Beauty.”

DuVERNAY: I’m trying to urge people to realize that their privilege-preferred presentation of cinema is outdated. You might want to watch a movie on 35-millimeter in a cinema that’s climate-controlled in your preferred part of town, but that is not the reality of most people’s experience, and that is not sustainable any longer. Some people are going to be stunned and shocked that their preferences aren’t shared and really don’t matter anymore.

BARRY JENKINS: In the same way that social media approximates the experience of being in a community, I think the way we now watch these things — whether on our flat screens or laptops or phones — is also an approximation of what the original foundations of this medium always were. It’s bittersweet. Five years ago, you couldn’t just get on your laptop and find Claire Denis films. Now you can, which is a really awesome thing and better for the world, for sure. But there’s a trade-off.

FEIG: In “Lawrence of Arabia,” one of the greatest shots of all time is when he comes over the vast landscape as this tiny little dot on a camel. There are moments when you want to do a cool shot like that, but you go, “When people end up watching this on their phone, they’re not going to see anything.” It’s a terrible way to have to think, but you’ve got to keep it in your brain. Even when we’re doing an insert shot of writing on a computer screen, I’m like, “You’ve got to make that bigger, because when that’s on somebody’s phone, they’re not going to be able to read that.”

DuVERNAY: There is a privilege embedded in [a theatrical release] because I’ve had it, I’ve seen it and I know what it is: It’s a lot of ego. I’m told by the system that this is what matters, but then people aren’t seeing your movies. Take the number of people who saw “Selma,” a Christmas release with an Oscar campaign about Dr. Martin Luther King. Well, more than a quadruple amount of people saw “13th,” [her Netflix documentary] about the prison-industrial complex. If I’m telling these stories to reach a mass audience, then really, nothing else matters.

Q: If theaters wane, what will the streaming era look like?

ELIZABETH BANKS: For someone like me who grew up on romantic comedies, watching them come back on streamers has been really gratifying. People actually like this stuff that the studios stopped giving them, and the streamers picked up the slack. So that’s one example of how streamers can make these sorts of midrange movies that the big corporate studios are not as interested in putting out theatrically.

JENNIFER SALKE: There’s a huge opportunity for other kinds of movies, like those sexy date-night movies that have been left by the side of the road in the movie business, like “No Way Out” and “Basic Instinct.”

CHASTAIN: I’ve seen a lot of female filmmakers get opportunities at Netflix and Amazon that they haven’t gotten through the studio system. So I’m very, very happy about the new shape our industry is taking.

SCOTT STUBER: I think the trick is recognizing that there’s a giant global audience and everyone’s taste in L.A. and New York is not necessarily everyone’s taste in France or in South Africa.

ROTHMAN: With the streaming services, it’s the difference between a strategy to obliterate and a strategy to curate. At Sony, we make only 20 films a year, and every one of those films must make cultural impact. It’s really hard to have both enormous volume and significant cultural impact. It’s never been done.

NANJIANI: This is very cynical, but I think the standard of quality for people who watch stuff at home is not the same. If you go see “Avengers” in the theater, it better be great, but if you’re just watching stuff at home, it doesn’t matter so much. I don’t want to diss on Netflix too much, because they make amazing stuff, and they’re giving shots to people who would not have been given shots 10 years ago, but I also think Netflix would rather have five things that people kind of like than one thing people really love.

STEVE GILULA: Take Bo Burnham’s “Eighth Grade,” Lenny Abrahamson’s “Room” or Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight”: I do not believe those films would have ever found a significant audience if they had premiered on streaming, because they did not have either the stars or the established directors that could have gotten them attention. I believe there’s still an incredibly vital role that festivals and movie theaters play in giving those films time to be discovered.

SALKE: We can pivot to a theatrical release if we need to, but the goal is really audience-focused. They don’t want to wait it out at the theater for three months or longer.

ABRAMS: You can’t put the genie back in the bottle. It seems like leaving money on the table if there are people who might pay a premium to see a movie but they can’t get out of the house.

BLUM: I do think the kind of movie that gets that window [the amount of time a film remains in theaters before home release] is going to narrow even further. Not only are mid-budget movies going to go, but I think most dramas are not going to have a traditional theatrical window.

HOROWITZ: I do think [independent] movies will be distributed with limited theatrical or no theatrical at all. As more and more streaming services are making features, I think we’ll start to see festivals be the theatrical experience for a lot of these movies. The movie will premiere at Sundance or Toronto, and then premiere on streaming that week or the week after.

Q: Will the streaming era force us to rethink the Oscars?

JENKINS: We have to find ways to protect some of these traditions. So I do think that screening in a theater will always be a qualification for the Academy Awards, I truly do. Part of that is going to be to ensure that we always share a communal experience watching movies in a theater. But hey, maybe I’m a dinosaur.

FRANKLIN LEONARD: I’m an associate member of the academy, and it’s my belief that the Oscars and the academy, generally, should be about celebrating exceptional motion pictures wherever they exist. The notion that the Oscars should be limited to films that get an exclusive theatrical window is, to me, limiting the number of films that can be considered based on their artistic merit.

TOM BERNARD: What’s a movie supposed to be? Is it supposed to be on television or the movie theater? That’s for the people at the academy to decide. I think we have to be aware of the artistic aspect of the film and how the artist made it to be viewed.

CHASTAIN: It’s a complicated thing, because a lot of the people who’ve spoken up about this were very active making films in the 1970s, and when I look at the kinds of films that not only won best picture but were the top box-office hits of that time, it’s a very different landscape than what is happening now.

DuVERNAY: The patterns are already going in the opposite direction, and this is why you have people clinging to old systems that do not work anymore. I’ve been in some of these rooms, I’ve read some of this stuff that people are saying, and I say you are contributing to your own destruction. When you say that you care about the future of this medium, this legacy, then you have to think about what happens next, and I just don’t think enough people are doing that.

Q: Will young people still care about movies?

NANJIANI: I was at a bar with a friend who directs big movies, and while we were in line for the bathroom, he was saying that movie theaters were going to go away. He was like, “Kids don’t watch movies, they watch YouTube.” Which I thought was crazy. So he goes, “Watch this.” There was a girl in front of us in line, and he said, “Hey, excuse me, what’s your favorite movie?” And she said, “I don’t watch movies.” Just randomly, he picked someone — and she was like 25, she wasn’t a child or anything. We were like, “Well, do any of your friends watch movies?” And she said, “Not really.”

ROTHMAN: Young people don’t go to “the” movies, they go to “a” movie.

NANJIANI: I don’t want to sound like an old idiot, because I try to keep up with what’s happening on YouTube, and it’s a lot of people talking to camera, very personality-driven. I grew up watching “Ghostbusters” and “Gremlins” and “Indiana Jones.” If I had grown up watching YouTube, I don’t know if I would like movies.

BLUM: What I find striking is how much they’re watching pieces of things: “I saw some of that movie.” They’re multitasking while they’re watching the things that we’re making. That’s not what we want, but by the same token, I don’t subscribe to the notion that you should mandate how young people watch what you’re doing. That’s an arrogant position. If they watch half of my horror movie, I’m glad they watched half as opposed to not watching any of it!

SALKE: When we saw “Guava Island” [the Donald Glover movie released on Amazon in tandem with his Coachella appearance], I don’t think there was like one conversation like, “Oh my God, you guys, it’s only 55 minutes. How does that fit in our thinking?” It was more about what kind of effect we thought “Guava Island” will have on a global audience of Prime members. I thought, “Oh, it’ll absolutely be a huge attractor for a young, diverse, relevant audience that we’re not servicing regularly.” And in fact, it was.

JOE RUSSO: With this audience, when they binge-watch a season of “Stranger Things,” that is training them to expect a greater payoff from their commitment than they might get from something that’s two hours. We’re not sure that the two-hour, closed-ended film is going to be the dominant narrative moving forward for this next generation. They are craving a different kind of thing.

JEFFREY KATZENBERG: What Quibi [his upcoming streaming service for mobile] is trying to do is get to the next generation of film narrative. The first generation was movies, and they were principally two-hour stories that were designed to be watched in a single sitting in a movie theater. The next generation of film narrative was television, principally designed to be watched in one-hour chapters in front of a television set. I believe the third generation of film narrative will be a merging of those two ideas, which is to tell two-hour stories in chapters that are seven to ten minutes in length. We are actually doing long-form in bite-size.

DuVERNAY: My nieces and nephews don’t really care about produced content in the way that we do traditionally — my niece can sit there and watch IGTV for hours, which is on her phone, on Instagram, and it’s basically little clips of nothing. That’s why, when I hear people being so rigid and so strict about certain forms and presentations, it just reminds me of that “Simpsons” cartoon, “Old Man Yells at Cloud.”

Q: Is there a way to make this work financially?

ABRAMS: As uncertain as everything is, there’s probably never been a better time to be a creative person in this business, just because of the near-term demand for programming. It’s going to require great stories for these platforms to survive and get attention.

BANKS: It’s interesting, because there’s a lot more work, but it’s a lot harder to make money on anything.

JENKINS: The problem is that making films is as expensive as it’s ever been. There’s no big budget-department store, $1.99 white-T-shirt version of making films — every film is some version of a really fancy $300 T-shirt from Calvin Klein. That’s just how much this kind of art takes to make! I don’t know how you offset that cost, and that’s why there’s so much tension between theatrical and digital distribution.

BLUM: I make a show for Apple. They sell a million more phones — how are you ever going to connect those two things? With Amazon and Apple, they don’t ever have to be just in a profitable business on movies and TV shows. That’s crazy! And it makes people go nuts, because people have worked so hard to put a business model around content, and now they’re competing with people who don’t need to make that profit.

Q: Can greater opportunities for women and people of color save an industry in turmoil?

LEONARD: If you’re not making movies like “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Black Panther” and “Searching” and “Captain Marvel” and “Wonder Woman” and “Beale Street” and “Moonlight” in 2019, good luck. I challenge anyone to build a company around narratives and stories that are totally driven by the people they’ve historically been driven by, and expect to deliver better for their investors than a company who has a more representative portrayal of the world in which we live.

WAITHE: I’m not trying to gas Jordan Peele up more than he needs to be gassed, but “Get Out” changed things. It just did! It was a surprise, a shock to the system. And the industry couldn’t ignore the numbers for that.

NANJIANI: Emily [V. Gordon, his writing partner and wife] and I wrote a movie, and a really huge studio told us, “Hey, a woman of color should be the lead of this movie.” And we went, “Great!” I don’t think we would have heard that five years ago from a major studio.

FEIG: That’s great because at least it opens the gate, but it’s really up to us as filmmakers to change the default setting of who we could cast in these roles. Before we go to the regular people we always go to, why couldn’t it be a woman? Why couldn’t it be a person of color?

SPENCER: The fact that people are calling me, a woman of a certain age and demographic, to sit down on studio films — which have not been my bread and butter — there’s definitely a paradigm shift.

WAITHE: I think black people in this industry are making art that is so specific and unique and good that the studio heads [are] saying, “How can we support you and stand next to you?” The tricky part is they also want to make money.

LEONARD: What happens when you have a generation with the sort of education that we had long deified people like Quentin Tarantino for having because they worked in a video store, or lived close to a movie theater where indie films were playing? For a very long time, Hollywood functioned as a choke point. Now that people have access to that education, paired with the shifts in the industry that are opening up more opportunities, I think we are on the brink of a remarkable period in film and television that’s going to be unlike anything we’ve seen before.

CHASTAIN: It’s going to bring to the top some very interesting creative talent who would not have had the opportunity to work in the system of old. Look at “Russian Doll.” People love this show, and Leslye [Headland, who helped create it] is being recognized. In the past, in the studio system, they would say, “Oh, the only female filmmaker we know is Kathryn Bigelow.”

BANKS: The good news is that there’s more than just Kathryn Bigelow, although there always has been more than Kathryn Bigelow. I encourage female filmmakers to reach for bigger movies. We work in an industry where we’re second-class citizens on many levels, and it takes a lot of courage and confidence to say, “Give it to me.” But I meet those women all the time. They just need the opportunity.

FEIG: “Someone Great” [the Gina Rodriguez Netflix comedy that he produced] is the kind of movie we just knew a studio probably wasn’t going to make, and Netflix was a place I knew I could get [Jennifer Kaytin] Robinson behind the camera as a first-time feature director. I’m a studio guy, and I love studio movies, but it’s harder to get a studio to invest in new voices because the stakes are higher. That’s why they’re generally going to play it safe and say, “Well, at least this director has a track record.” Streamers just need content that is good, not necessarily content that is so undeniable that people will uproot their entire evening. I think they’re more able to say, “Let’s take a chance.”

SPENCER: There are very few people who are still box-office draws, so the studios are going to have to play an outside game and look at the demographics that are underserved, then bring the stories that they want to see to the theaters.

CHU: With “In the Heights,” I knew we wanted to go theatrical because it’s a musical, and we wanted people to experience it in the dark with a focus on the screen. And, similarly to “Crazy Rich Asians,” this is a moment to make a statement about what the audience is willing to go see. Seeing Latinx faces in the museum of cinema is important right now.

JENKINS: You’ll love this. We had a screening of “Beale Street” in Washington, D.C., at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and a fire broke out. So, irony of ironies, we had to go across the street to the Air and Space Museum, where there’s an Imax theater. To see Regina King as a black mom trying to save her family on that larger-than-life screen, in the Air and Space Museum — where, when you walk out, all you see are images of white men going into space — I thought, “O.K., this is what it was like when people sat in a movie chair and thought a train was coming toward them.” I can’t get that feeling on my flat screen at home, so we’ve got to figure something out.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Author: Kyle Buchanan Source: New York Times

Katherine Klefffner, The Nerdy Girl Express Interviews Nicole Conn

Filmmaker Nicole Conn will be premiering her new feature film, More Beautiful for Having Been Broken, at Frameline 2019 on June 30th. Many may remember her from her previous work, Elena Undone and A Perfect Ending, both of which were crucial in the realm of lesbian media. This new work is focused on her own life and was inspired by her son Nicholas. More Beautiful for Having Been Broken is a piece that speaks to beauty that can come out of the broken. I spoke with her about this movie and her previous work in her interview and appreciate her candor in answering my questions.
Would you tell our readers a little about yourself?
I’ve been a filmmaker since 1991 when I made my first feature, “Claire of the Moon” – I moved to LA to forge my career and in the meantime ended up getting married and having two extraordinary children. My youngest son, Nicholas was born 100 days early at 1 pound. I ended up making a documentary, “little man” that won 12 Best Doc Awards. Because Nicholas is medically fragile, I wasn’t sure if I would continue filmmaking but when I partnered in my second marriage to Marina Rice Bader, we ended up creating Soul Kiss Films and I made “Elena Undone” and “A Perfect Ending” with Marina producing. With “More Beautiful for Having Been Broken” I’m debuting my 9th film.
Could you discuss your feature, More Beautiful for Having Been Broken?
This film project has been the absolute most challenging I’ve ever encountered. Not just because it is so personal to me, but because of a variety of problems with funders, producing partners, scheduling issues, Nicholas’s health, the tragedies in my family (lost my father, oldest sister and kid brother within 20 months of each other). But through it all, one thing was very clear to me. I had to make this film!
It’s a love letter to both my children, based so much on our lives, events, and dialogue we’ve shared. I had always wanted to put a character with special needs into my films but producers just weren’t into it they felt that having such a character was a “downer” and that “people don’t want to see it.” I know how much people don’t want to see it because I’ve been in places where my son simply becomes invisible. Everyone’s always talking about “inclusion” – but this is one community that has not been included. In many cases in studio features those with special needs are played by very competent and skilled actors who don’t have special needs. I became more and more committed. I want people to see my son through Cale Ferrin (who has special needs and plays “Freddie”) – as the extraordinary child that he is. And like Cale Ferrin, Nicholas is full of love and laughter and all good things. He lives completely in the moment and has the sweetest nature you can imagine. Why would we want that invisible?
What led you to create this film?
In 2013 my son became very ill and had to endure one hospitalization after another. I was a mess and became an even bigger mess when my sister passed in a violent suicide in 2014. I had started a film based on characters from a book Simon Schuster had published in 1996 called “Passion’s Shadow.” That became “Nesting Doll” which I tried to make on and off until 2017. Having been completely broken by my sister’s death and Nicholas almost passing twice in 2015, I finally got some help and through the love from my mother, son and daughter, Gabrielle (who makes her debut in the film) out of the ashes sprang sheer beauty in the most surprising places. In the little moments. And in the great loves. My “Silver Tribe” a group of women from around the world are my very dearest friends and they held me up during the shoot and have had my back every single day since! And my inner circle: Lissa Forehan (Producer), Chakinta Jones (EP), Jayne Goldstein (EP) and Fontessa De Ridder have helped me become the strongest I’ve ever been and the film that began as “Nesting Doll” evolved into “More Beautiful for Having Been Broken.”
McKenzie Freddie Samantha
Was it challenging working on such an emotionally focused work?
Yes. Absolutely. And last year Nicholas ended up back in the hospital for 10 days so extremely ill and no one could figure out what was wrong with him. It was in the middle of my first rough cut and I remember sitting in the hospital staring at my unconscious son thinking – what the hell are you doing, Nicole? Nothing matters next to a loved one being so sick. It made me question everything. But Nicholas finally came home and while he was bed-ridden the next couple of months, I saw the film we had shot and that I was editing and realized I loved it. Plain and simply just loved its message and its beauty. And I really wanted Cale to experience his first big role, because like Nicholas his condition comes with medical fragility and any number of things that can become fatal before their time.
I read that inclusion is very important to you and your work, how did this impact the film?
Casting the role of Freddie was the most critical aspect of this film.  I would not cast anyone who did not have special needs. When we first read Cale in 2015 he was only 8. The minute he came into the room he owned it. His energy was palpably loving. When I picked him up at the end and hugged him, I felt like I was hugging God. No joke. And from that point on, I feel like Cale and I and his incredible mom, Britteny have been on a mission to make this film and get it out there – even through all the bumps along the way.
Could you share a bit about the festival More Beautiful for Having Been Broken is screening at?
Yes, Frameline International Film Festival is the largest and longest-running LGBTQ+ film festival in the world, with more than 60,000 attendees annually, making it one of the largest film festivals of any kind in the United States. As a filmmaker it’s impossible to beat screening at Frameline to give your film a really good start. We’re thrilled to be holding our World Premiere for the film at my single favorite theatre ever — the Castro Theatre.  An historic treasure, it was built in 1922 and has over 1,400. The theater’s ceiling is the last known leatherette ceiling in the United States and possibly the world. It’s magical!
What do you hope viewers take away from seeing the film?
That no matter how broken you’ve become, or how broken something may seem, that if you allow yourself to really feel it all and move through it at whatever pace you need, that you will be blessed by one treasure after another. Out of that brokenness comes beauty. And I for one feel like today more than ever we are all starving for beauty. And romance. I’m so proud to have this film be filled with both.
You are also well known for your work connected to lesbian cinema, could you discuss Claire of the Moon and Elena Undone?
Well, “Claire of the Moon” has been the gift that keeps on giving. Even after all these years I’m constantly hearing from people who say they came out to the film, that it’s their favorite film, etc. etc. Its Cult status makes me a little squeamish. The film is my least sophisticated work and the filmmaking as a first-time effort is a bit clunky. But where it works – it really works – exploring one woman’s journey to her sexual identity. But the thing I’m the very proudest of is that film was the first lesbian feature to have ancillary product – “MOMENTS-The Making of Claire of the Moon” is the best-selling doc of its kind (https://www.reelhouse.org/nicoleconn/moments-the-making-of-claire-of-the-moo)
I produced a soundtrack, T-shirts, artwork, sculptings – even Xmas ornaments one year. It had been the first film since “Desert Hearts” 7 years earlier that really spoke to our community.
Elena Undone took me by surprise. Perhaps because it was based on my relationship with Marina Rice Bader – and was totally authentic – maybe that’s why it has such a rabid and avid following. I believe Traci DinWiddie and Necar Zadegan are absolutely breathtaking in this film. Their chemistry and talent is off the charts. And, we happen to hold the Longest Kiss in Cinema History record in this film.
Did you anticipate the impact these movies would have?
Not even remotely! Seriously!! But if I had to guess why – I would say it’s because I have a very distinct style and people know what they will get from me. My stock in trade is romance – all the nuance of romance and shades of romance and not in a cheesy Harlequin novel manner, but how real women feel the first time they fall in love, or what happens when a straight woman discovers she has fallen in love with another woman, or as in “More Beautiful for Having Been Broken” a “slow burn” romance when an over-burdened single mother finds solace from another woman. And how that woman falls in love with her son – and she sees him light up like he never has before. Those are emotions people want to feel. Over and over again. And for me all the thousands of fans who have written to tell me they watch my films over and over and OVER again – I believe it’s because as I said earlier we are all starving for that kind of yumminess in our lives.
Are there any additional projects you’d like to discuss?
I have two projects in development right now. One is a lesbian thriller and the other is a project that’s pretty damn heavy – but it’s calling out louder and louder to my soul every day and it is based on the experiences I had when my sister passed.
Where can our readers find updates about you and your work online?
Ohhh happy to give you my social media sites:
You can find KATHERINE KLEFFNER on Twitter, @kleffnotes, on my blog, kleffnotes.wordpress.com, and on my kleffnotes YouTube channel.

The Advocate: Mom to a Disabled Son Navigates Love in Nicole Conn's New Movie

See clip here

Filmmaker Nicole Conn has been making lesbian-themed movies for nearly 30 years. Her latest, very personal film, More Beautiful for Having Been Broken, will premiere at San Francisco’s Frameline film festival June 30.

An homage to her own children, particularly to her son Nicholas who was born premature and was the subject of her 2005 documentary Little Man, More Beautiful for Having Been Broken features the debut of 11-year-old Cale Ferrin, an actor who is otherly abled.

The film stars Kayla Radomski as Samantha, mom to Ferrin’s Freddie, and Zoe Ventoura as McKenzie, the woman she meets at a lakeside community. French Stewart, Kay Lenz, Bruce Davison, and Gaby Christian (South of Nowhere) costar.

"I believe inclusion means ALL OF US. That’s why it was so imperative to cast an actor with Special Needs. I watch people all the time pretend like we’re not in the frame. Watch the averted eyes and just the ease with which they make our kids invisible,” Conn said in a statement about the film. “Our kids need to be seen. Heard. Laughed with and Learned from! And Loved. Trust me, the love you get back is beyond what you could ever dream. And this world needs a whole lot of that kind of love to deal with the tragedy our nation is immersed in today.”

Conn’s movies include 1992’s Claire of the Moon, Elena Undone (2010), and A Perfect Ending (2012).

Chinese Film Industry Needs to Focus on Quality After Wobbly 2018

The films enjoying the greatest success were those with subjects based on real events, such as “Operation Red Sea” and “Dying to Survive.” The box office success of “The Meg” marked a high point for China-U.S. co-productions.

The economics of China’s film industry is no longer an unbroken story of double digit growth. Nor was 2018 quite as bad many companies have portrayed.

A major report on the business, published in Shanghai this week by the China Film Association, in partnership with the Motion Picture Association, showed the number of cinemas grew last year, but also that per screen attendance dropped. Theatrical box office grew by 9% to $9 billion, but China’s share of the global total only edged up from 21% in 2017 to 22% in 2018.

Liu Jia, film distributor and expert on the industry numbers, called 2018 “an up and down year” at a presentation on Thursday at the Shanghai International Film Festival.

Her analysis of the CFA data showed China as now “firmly the number two film market in the world,” increasingly dominated by female audience tastes, and increasingly driven by word of mouth marketing. Online ticketing is now dominant, accounting for 90% of movie tickets sold, and cinema operators are increasingly engaging in variable ticket pricing.

Perhaps her most surprising statistic, given the pessimism expressed by many executives over the past week of Shanghai presentations, was the continued numerical growth of feature film productions. The CFA data showed the number of completed feature films rose from 798 in 2017 to 902 in 2018. The data also showed 398 Chinese films enjoyed theatrical release last year, a decrease from the 412 that played in 2017. (The number of foreign films getting a release in 2018 was 118).

The CFA data showed that China now has the largest number of cinema screens of any country in the world. Over 9,300 new screens opened for business in 2018, giving an end of year total of 60,000 screens at 11,000 complexes.

The report described a “paradox” of growing exhibition resources and the more modest growth in box office results. It said that resource allocation had been inefficient and that headline growth had disguised the poor operation of some cinemas. Liu suggested that the industry needs to shift focus from speed of cinema growth to improving the quality of that growth. Nevertheless, government regulators have set a target of 80,000 cinemas to be in operation by the end of 2020.

Another speaker, Liu Fan, said that the production slowdown felt in the second half of the year was due to “nationwide deleveraging, rather than any (government) crackdown on the film industry.”

Nevertheless his presentation, referenced the application of changes in tax policies from May 28, 2018 – identified by many producers as the beginning of the production slowdown. He urged enforcement of the law – including those against film stars who use illegal drugs.

It fell to the Motion Picture Association’s Asia-Pacific chief, Mike Ellis to look at the bigger picture, and over a longer period. “The global movie market has maintained a rising trend over the past five years,” he said pointing to a $41 billion box office total in 2018.

Strong performances in China contributed significantly to the global box office totals of some Hollywood films in 2018 – 18% of the worldwide total for “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” and nearly 30% for “Venom.”

“Of particular interest, three of the top ten Chinese films (in 2018) were directorial debuts, while the remaining seven were from younger directors. That is a sign that the market is open to new exciting talent,” he said.

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Nancy Nigrosh on Wabi-Sabi; Accepting Imperfection

Nancy Nigrosh, former head of the Gersh Agency's literary department and team member at Innovative Artists has worked in Hollywood since the 70s, and has re-defined her self many times over the course of her incredible career. She discusses working with Martin Scorsese on Mean Streets, re-building after a divorce, and spending her 40th Birthday celebrating the Million dollar sale of a script. She graciously discusses her goal of experiencing aging using the philosophy behind Wabi-Sabi, the Japanese aesthetic centered on transience and imperfection.

The lies our culture tells us about what matters — and a better way to live (David Brooks)

Our society is in the midst of a social crisis, says op-ed columnist and author David Brooks: we're trapped in a valley of isolation and fragmentation. How do we find our way out? Based on his travels across the United States -- and his meetings with a range of exceptional people known as "weavers" -- Brooks lays out his vision for a cultural revolution that empowers us all to lead lives of greater meaning, purpose and joy.

E.B. White on a Writer's Responsibility

In an interview for The Paris Review in 1969, White was asked to express his "views about the writer's commitment to politics, international affairs." His response:

A writer should concern himself with whatever absorbs his fancy, stirs his heart, and unlimbers his typewriter. I feel no obligation to deal with politics. I do feel a responsibility to society because of going into print: a writer has the duty to be good, not lousy; true, not false; lively, not dull; accurate, not full of error. He should tend to lift people up, not lower them down. Writers do not merely reflect and interpret life, they inform and shape life.

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On June 21st, join popular LGBT Horror podcast Blumhouse’s Attack of the Queerwolf for their first live show! – a screening of 1988’s Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers,

Everyone’s favorite serial killer camp counselor, Angela Baker, is back to slew a whole new group of teenagers. After years of therapy (and surgeries), Angela is given a job at Camp Rolling Hills – but history begins to repeat itself when she goes on a murderous rampage once the campers begin misbehaving…
The show begins 8:30PM!  Throw on your shortest summer shorts and prepare to camp until you die!
Says Blumhouse’s Attack of the Queerwolf LGBTQ, “The token queers at Blumhouse go through the horror canon to see where on the undead Kinsey scale your faves belong! Don’t be nervous: we’ve done this before! Hosted by Brennan Klein, Michael Kennedy, Nay Bever, and Sam Wineman!”
Directed by Michael A. Simpson | 1988 | 80 minutes | Rated R
Friday, June 21 — 8:30pm
“I like the out of the box approach — not too many 80s slashers focus mainly on the killer (an unmasked one at that), and was a rather unique way of more or less remaking the original film . . . while giving it its own identity. ” — Brian Collins, Horror Movie A Day
“Every good horror movie deserves a equel and the 80’s classic Sleepaway Camp has thankfully delivered a second helping. . . . Just as the original, the second installment of this movie has some really unique kills.” — Absolute Horror
“What saves this enterprise is its winking, self-referential (and self-mocking) quality, something that makes it a bit of a progenitor for later entries like the Scream [franchise]. . . . The fun of Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers is not in any putative character information, but in the nonchalant way Angela marauds her way through a series of boorish victims. On that level, this is one camp worth visiting.” — Jeffrey Kauffman, Blu-ray.com

Andrea Bocelli in China

On May 15th, by the invitation of President Xi and First Lady Peng Liyuan, Andrea Bocelli performed at the Beijing National Stadium in front of over 1.7Billion viewers on live TV and streaming.

Andrea Bocelli and Frankie Nasso

This portion of the program was produced by Jules and Frankie Nasso, Nova Entertainment Group, working throughout China, Italy, the US and the UK to deliver Maestro Bocelli to a live audience filled with Presidents and Leaders from 48 Asian Nations, from Australia to Israel to Japan and beyond. 

This was the largest government-sponsored entertainment event ever hosted in China, with over 8,000 performers on stage throughout the evening. 

Wouldn't it be great if we did this here in USA?

Research shows that helping others makes us happier. But in her groundbreaking work on generosity and joy, social psychologist Elizabeth Dunn found that there's a catch: it matters how we help. Learn how we can make a greater impact -- and boost our own happiness along the way -- if we make one key shift in how we help others. "Let's stop thinking about giving as just this moral obligation and start thinking of it as a source of pleasure," Dunn says.


Diane Warren doesn't want to miss a thing

Robert and Kenny start the show talking about the trend of the high quality mini-series taking the television spotlight, Godzilla's box office disappointment and run down our guest's incredible songwriting resume.

The only show that takes you inside the studios of Hollywood composers, with engaging conversations and musical demonstrations. Based on the hit film SCORE: A FILM MUSIC DOCUMENTARY, the weekly SCORE: THE PODCAST celebrates the musical heartbeat and emotive power of modern storytelling. Join hosts Robert Kraft and Kenny Holmes as they open the door to the creative, musical and fascinating personalities of the men and women who create music for the world’s most popular films, TV shows and video games. Follow us @ScoreThePodcast.

An Interview with Dennis Palumbo and Barbara Hodges Mysterical-E

Dennis Palumbo, M.A., MFT is a writer and licensed psychotherapist in private practice, specializing in creative issues. His acclaimed series of mystery thrillers— Mirror Image, Fever Dream, Night Terrors, Phantom Limb and the latest, Head Wounds (Poisoned Pen Press)—features psychologist and trauma expert Daniel Rinaldi. He’s also the author of Writing From the Inside Out (John Wiley), as well as a collection of mystery short stories, From Crime to Crime (Tallfellow Press).

Formerly a Hollywood screenwriter, Palumbo’s credits include the feature film My Favorite Year, for which he was nominated for a WGA Award for Best Screenplay. He was also a staff writer for the ABC-TV series Welcome Back, Kotter, and has written numerous series episodes and pilots.

His first novel, City Wars (Bantam Books) is currently in development as a feature film, and his short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, The Strand and elsewhere. He provides articles and reviews for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Lancet, and many others.

His column, “The Writer’s Life,” appeared monthly for six years in Written By, the magazine of the Writers Guild of America. He’s also done commentary for NPR’s “All Things Considered.” Currently he writes the “Hollywood on the Couch” column for the Psychology Today website.

Dennis conducts workshops throughout the country and overseas, at both clinical symposia and writing conference. (A list of recent appearances is available on request.)

His work helping writers has been profiled in The New York Times, Premiere Magazine, Fade In, Angeleno, GQ, The Los Angeles Times and other publications, as well as on NPR and CNN. He’s also appeared numerous times on Between the Lines, the PBS author interview show.

A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and Pepperdine University, he served on the faculty of UCLA Extension, where he was named Outstanding Teacher of the Year.


BMH: What is something you wish someone would have told you before you became an author?

DP:     That in today’s marketplace, the book author has to do an incredible amount of self-promotion. In my former writing career (as a Hollywood screenwriter), that was all handled by the TV networks and movie studios. The hard part was just getting the job and surviving the tortuous process of getting something on the air or in the movie theater.

BMH:  Why did you become a writer?

DP:     Hard to say. It felt more like a calling than a choice.

BMH:  When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

DP:     By high school, I knew I wanted to write. However, until college (at the University of Pittsburgh), I’d never actually met a working writer, nor any peer who also wanted to be one. That’s why I started out as an engineering major (!), then switched over to the English Department.

BMH: Do you have a daily writing routine?

DP:     Since I have a day job as a full-time licensed psychotherapist, it’s hard to keep to a firm schedule. Which is one of the reasons that, unlike my mystery writing colleagues, I only turn out a new Daniel Rinaldi thriller every three to four years.

BMH: Why crime fiction?

DP:     Ever since my Dad bought me the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes when I was ten years old and home sick from school, I’ve been hooked on the genre. Maybe because I like strong characters in intense situations. I also like trying to figure out the puzzles.

BMH:  Have you written in other genres?

DP:      Yes. I was a Hollywood film and TV writer (MY FAVORITE YEAR; WELCOME BACK, KOTTER, etc.) for 17 years before retiring to go back to grad school and train to be a therapist. In those years I mostly wrote comedy. However, I also wrote a novel, CITY WARS (Bantam Books) that was my one and only foray into science fiction. I’ve also written a nonfiction book about dealing with the psychological aspects of the writer’s life, based on my 27 years working as a therapist specializing in treating writers. It’s called WRITING FROM THE INSIDE OUT (John Wiley & Sons).

BMH:  What is something you’ve never written about, but hope to some day?

DP:     I think I’d try to write a play at some point. I don’t know if I’d be any good at it, but I do think about it. Probably because I so enjoy writing dialogue.

BMH:  What two words best describes your writing style?

DP:     Maybe “visceral and propulsive,” but that’s only when it’s going well! Otherwise I’d have to go with “self-indulgent and hurried.”

BMH:  What comes first for you, characters or plot?

DP:     Characters, always. I believe in Henry James’ description of plot: that it’s characters under stress.

BMH: How do you create your characters?

DP:     There’s no blueprint for it. I usually just see a particular person in a particular situation, start writing, and see how he or she got into that situation.

BMH:  Outliner, seat-of-your-pants writer, or a mix of both?

DP:     Total seat-of-my-pants writer. In my crime novels, I start with no idea who either the victim or the killer is going to be. I like to let my writing flow organically. Of course, this means I have to go back and re-write a lot, to make sure things line up. But that’s okay, I’d always rather write than think.

BMH: How much editing do you do as you write your first draft?

DP:     Not much, since I’m essentially making it up as I go along. I’m a firm believer in the fact that you don’t actually know what book you’re writing until you finish the first draft. It tells you what needs to be done to the plot, what characters really pop (as opposed to the ones you THOUGHT would do so), where to tighten things up and where to loosen them, etc. I think that if you’re doing it right, you and the text sort of co-create the book. You respond to where it’s going, and then it responds to your editing. If that makes any sense.

BMH: What authors influenced you the most?

DP:     Too many to mention. But the list would include Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane, Richard Price, Patricia Highsmith. Non-genre favorites include Scott Fitzgerald, Joan Didion, Phillip Roth, and, in particular, John Fowles.

BMH: How do you handle research?

DP:      I don’t do any until I’ve finished the first draft. Then I do the minimum necessary for accuracy and verisimilitude. As both an author and a psychotherapist, I always try to ensure that I’m depicting the reality of therapeutic treatment (and the state of the current mental health system) as accurately as possible.

BMH:  How do you handle marketing?

DP:     Certainly not as well as I should. For one thing, with a busy therapy practice, I don’t have much time. I must admit, however, I also haven’t investigated all the avenues for marketing available today. Part of my nature rebels against it, I guess.

BMH:  You can go back in time, meet and chat with anyone, who would it be? What would you talk about?

DP:     Again, too many to name. Emily Dickenson, Thoreau, Jane Austen, and Emerson come to mind quickly. Hawthorne and Melville. But especially Joseph Conrad. That covers the writers (with whom I’d talk about writing). Maybe some of the Continental philosophers (Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein). Probably not a lot of laughs, but interesting as hell.

BMH: You are going to be alone on a desert island, what three things will you take with you?

DP:     Assuming Internet access, my laptop, my paperback of Emerson’s Essays, and a flare gun to alert passing ships of my presence.

BMH:  How big a part did your upbringing have on your writing?

DP:     As a psychotherapist, I’m aware of the crucial role our childhood experiences and the communication dynamics in our family of origin have on our self-concept later in life. Since these experiences (and the meaning we give them) are inextricably bound up in our creative work, I believe our upbringing plays an enormous role in our desire to write, what we choose to write about, and how we write it. It also influences how we deal with the response to our writing, both positive and negative.

In terms of content, since my Daniel Rinaldi mysteries are set in Pittsburgh, and feature an Italian-American therapist with a beard and glasses who grew up in Pittsburgh and graduated from Pitt, I’d say my writing in that regard is quite influenced by my upbringing!

BMH: How about some hard-earned advice.

DP:     Don’t follow trends. As a writer, keep giving them YOU until YOU is what they want.

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Dublin, Ireland - Emmy Award-winning script-writer Michael Hirst, the script writer for all 69 episodes of the Vikings TV series will be awarded the Bard Award for Story Excellence at the Dublin Writers' Conference this June.

Michael is best known for his films Elizabeth (1998) and Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007), as well as the Emmy Award-winning television series The Tudors and Vikings.

Dr. Ken Atchity, author, literary manager, publisher and producer will be awarded the Bard Award for Story Management at the Dublin Writers' Conference.

Ken is best known for The Meg, the blockbuster movie of Summer 2018, The Kennedy Detail (Emmy nominated), and his novel The Messiah Matrix.

The Conference was established in 2015 by successful Irish thriller author Laurence O'Bryan, as an event dedicated to helping writers.

The Conference will feature five separate session streams over three days and 29 speakers.

There will be break-out sessions including the popular “Pitch a Producer” feature in which participants get a chance to make a brief oral presentation of their work to a panel of producers.

The Saturday evening will feature the Annual Conference Dinner and Awards presentation.

The impressive list of speakers this year also includes New York PR guru Dee Rivera, and million selling Irish author Patricia Gibney, the latest best-selling Irish publishing phenomenon.

Full details of the conference are to be found at:

To contact the organisers email: admin@booksgosocial.com
Or call: +353 86 8369254
5 Dame Lane, Dublin 2, Ireland
Contact: Laurence O'Bryan

"Lest They Forget" by Opinion by Jerry Amernic in The Globe and Mail (Ontario Edition)

Lest they forget: D-Day will fade from memory if we don’t teach the youth

Jerry Amernic is the author of several books, including the novel The Last Witness.

The other night, I watched Saving Private Ryan. It was Memorial Day in the United States. The opening sequence depicting the landings at Normandy on D-Day – June 6, 1944 – is riveting. Although the film never mentions Canada, the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division penetrated further inland at Juno Beach on D-Day than did the Yanks or Brits at the four beaches they tackled.

The biggest military invasion in history, D-Day turned the tide of the Second World War. The 359 Canadian dead and 715 wounded were among 10,000 Allied casualties that day, and next week is the 75th anniversary. It will be the last one with actual veterans, which means there will soon be no more witnesses and that can be a dangerous thing.

We all know the words Lest we forget, but I fear that young people today know little, if anything, about D-Day and the Second World War. This became obvious to me when I taught college. They just don’t know. But when the last combatant is gone, knowing what happened and why it happened will be crucial.

My father served in the war, but was stationed in Newfoundland and never saw combat. I have his dog tag tucked away in a velvet pouch with other things from his youth. While I was born in the 1950s, I learned about Canada’s war effort in school and from my work as a journalist.

I once did a magazine profile on retired major-general Richard Rohmer who showed me his Distinguished Flying Cross, awarded for his service as a reconnaissance pilot. Mr. Rohmer saw the entire Normandy invasion from the skies that day and told me about it.

Another time, I covered the last annual reunion of a group of Belgian citizens and the Canadian soldiers who liberated them in 1945. I still remember the camaraderie, the kinship and the love that existed among them.

A few years ago, I wrote a novel about the last living survivor of the Holocaust. It takes place in 2039 when my protagonist is 100 years old, but knowledge of past history is remote. My agent shopped it around, and one editor turned it down because he didn’t buy the premise about society becoming ignorant about the Holocaust in a generation. The editor said he had to suspend disbelief.


After my novel was rejected by that publisher, a videographer and I interviewed students at a Toronto university and asked them questions about the Holocaust. We asked them about the Allies. We asked if they knew about Churchill and FDR. We asked about D-Day. With few exceptions, these kids knew practically nothing. The video we made has gone viral around the world.

When I asked if they knew what happened on D-Day, their responses ranged from, “It happened in England,” to “It was a place where a lot of bombs went off,” to them just shaking their heads.

My daughter is a high-school teacher, has taught history and is dedicated to her job. But the problem might be rooted in the fact that the young have so many options today, not just in school but outside as well, and maybe there is no room for knowing about the past.

I have a 576-page document from the Ontario Ministry of Education. It’s supposed to explain what is taught in Grades 10 and 11 in high schools in the area of Canadian and World Studies, and it uses phrases such as “Concepts of Disciplinary Thinking across Subjects.”

Frankly, when it comes to teaching history – or any subject – I don’t care what it says in a document about what is supposed to be covered in the curriculum. The fact is that, for whatever the reason, young people who graduate from Ontario high schools do not know seem to know basic history.

Two weeks ago, I attended the funeral of Milton Berger. He was 94. Milt was a long-time Toronto city councillor and we met when I was a young newspaper reporter covering municipal politics. He was also the father-in-law of a close friend.

Milt was said to be the first Holocaust survivor to serve as a politician in Ontario. When he was 17 he was sent to Auschwitz.

Lest we forget? It’s time for us to wake up and ensure that our young know why we have the freedoms too many take for granted. Having them not know disrespects those who made the sacrifice – such as the men at Juno Beach – and may even foretell a future that we don’t want to imagine.

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