Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy

Hi Again. I think this explains it all pretty well.


Tribeca is the name of a Lower Manhattan neighborhood, film festival, institute and production company, and now it has a strong Chicago association as well.

That's because the company founded by actor Robert De Niro, his producing partner Jane Rosenthal and her investor husband Craig Hatkoff has taken a 50 percent interest in the Loop-based two-year digital media vocational school Flashpoint: The Academy of Media Arts and Sciences. The school now will be known as the Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy as it opens a virtual pipeline between the 75,000-square-foot Clark Street facility and Tribeca's New York headquarters.

"It really means amazing opportunities for our students," Flashpoint president/CEO Howard Tullman said, noting that his school was "looking for a strategic partner as much as an investor."

"It's state of the art," Rosenthal said of Flashpoint. "It's really an amazing place. It just happened to be the right fit for what we were looking for."

Tribeca has been in expansion mode of late, overseeing not only the Tribeca Film Festival (launched in 2002 and running Apr. 21-May 2 this year) but also a virtual version of the festival, a cinema, a production facility and an institute involved in community outreach and education. Rosenthal said her company has worked with middle-school and high-school students before, but Flashpoint represents the first such partnership with an institution for more advanced students.

Built out in a high-rise kitty corner to Daley Plaza, Flashpoint welcomed its first students in September 2007 and has seen its enrollment grow from 110 students to the current 450, Flashpoint Dean Paula Froehle said.

"What Howard has pulled together in a very short period of time, it's almost hard to believe," Hatkoff said.

The school takes a contrasting approach to the film program at nearby Columbia College, which offers a traditional four-year liberal arts degree. Flashpoint is a two-year immersive program designed to prepare students, college age or older, for work in the digital media world.

Local-based filmmaker Harold Ramis has close ties to Columbia College, and also appears in Flashpoint's promotional materials. He said he still values a four-year liberal arts education, but he's also impressed with Flashpoint.

"It's a really cool facility," Ramis said. Calling Tribeca an institution that "does things right," he added, "I can't imagine this is a moneymaking enterprise for them, but as a pipeline for talent and well-trained students, it's probably a good thing."

To Rosenthal and Hatkoff, the partnership is less about bringing Flashpoint students into the Tribeca fold than boosting an industry in a state of wild flux.

"I've been in the industry for over 25 years, and I've never seen the industry change more," Rosenthal said. "The jobs and the skills (needed) are changing dramatically, and you need to stay forward thinking. The students that do come out of this program will help us keep our industry healthy."

Hatkoff cited a question posed by a Gates Foundation report: "How do we prepare students for jobs that don't yet exist?" Flashpoint, Hatkoff said, is poised to do just that.

Tullman said he envisions Tribeca Flashpoint students getting involved in various aspects of the film festival, such as working with filmmakers and helping them develop marketing materials and trailers. (Flashpoint students already have done such work on projects such as "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," distributed by Chicago's Music Box Films.)

Rosenthal said the specifics of the interplay have yet to be determined. "It's too soon to say what students at Tribeca Flashpoint will be doing at Tribeca," she said. "If students have the opportunity to work at Tribeca and if we have the opportunity to work with students, that will be fantastic."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The President and Me

I am feuding with President Obama.

His unintended gaff to Jay Leno comparing his bowling abilities to those of a Special Olympian has set off minor outrage in these parts.

As loyal readers know, my sister, Mary Beth- here with my dad, won a silver medal at the 2003 Special Olympic World Games in Dublin. I made a film about it and growing up with a special needs family member called "what's two+three?" Click on the link on the right and you can see more.

So when I heard about the President on Leno I jumped into action with the goal to get Mary Beth and the film to the White House to bowl against the President and to screen the film for him.

By Saturday morning my sister was on the front page of the Quad City Times Newspaper (where she and my parents live). That night she was the lead on the 10pm news- showing a clip of my film right after Obama's misspeak. A press release went to the Tonight Show- trying to get Mary Beth to the White House to bowl against the president and have Jay Leno finish what he began. Through other connections we got the film to top Obama aids in the White House. I contacted the Shrivers and the Special Olympics in D.C.

It's rare when you get a p.r. shot like this and I did whatever I could to capitalize. Coincidently, I have just begun work on the next Special Olympics film- the 2011 World Games are in Athens, Greece. I think having President Obama's endorsement would be a great way to raise some development funds.

Here are links to the article and Mary Beth's TV appearance- best seen on a PC with Internet Explorer as your browser. Scroll down to the March 21 10pm newscast. She is the lead story.




Saturday, February 28, 2009

Taking Chance

In the news this week was the Obama administration's decision to revisit the policy on allowing pictures of the caskets bringing home dead soldiers. The previous president did not want pictures such as the one here to see the light of day. I am glad about Obama's decision, it's both patriotic and symbolic, but I also understand if family members of the deceased would choose not to want photos like this be seen.

All of this ties in with a new HBO film that screened at Sundance called Taking Chance. It stars Kevin Bacon who plays a real life colonel who accompanies one casket back to its final resting place. I say often that one of the things I like about films is when they take me some place I would never get to go, and this film does that. We follow Bacon's character on his journey from Dover Air Force base to the family in Wyoming. It was fascinating in its simplicity.

I have always thought Kubrick's Paths of Glory was the best anti-war war film I have seen. I think Taking Chance is right there with it. We get to see the very real and very unglamorous after effects of war. I have seen some reviews from its Sundance screening that weren't all that favorable, but I liked it. It's small and quiet and dignified and pays its respects to the fallen soldiers.

See it if you can.


Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Oscars

A quick post about tonight's Oscars. I don't really care about the awards, especially this year with times so tough it seems strange to celebrate millionaire celebrities and studios when things are so haywire in the world. I look at it sort of like this year's Super Bowl between teams I don't care about. I'll catch a little maybe, by Monday morning the highlights will be everywhere to see.

I miss bad songs and streakers and Cher in a bad dress. Bring back those Oscars or make it a 60 minute highlight show.

That said, here's what I hope happens:

Best Film and Director- Slumdog and Danny Boyle. I've met him, interviewed him, great guy, great filmmaker, I liked the film. Please win.

Best Actor- Sean Penn.

Best Actress- Meryl Streep

Supporting Actor- Heath Ledger

Supporting Actress- Viola Davis

Documentary- Man on Wire

Foreign Language- Waltz with Bashir-

Adapted Screenplay- Doubt

Original Screenplay- Frozen River.

I bet I am wrong more than half the time, but I am not in any pools, those are the folks I want to see win.


Monday, February 9, 2009

No Subtitles Necessary

This past weekend Oscar winning cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond was in Chicago speaking with filmmakers and on Sunday holding a master class for students and industry professionals.

That's Vilmos on the left and director and cinematographer Jim Chressanthis on the right at yesterday's master class, and those are my Flashpoint students there in the front row.

There were two events on Saturday. On Saturday morning from 11-2, in an event only open to students and industry professionals, Vilmos and Jim screened clips from their work, discussed their techniques and choices and took questions from the audience. It was really fascinating, especially if you are a filmmaker.

On Saturday evening, in an event open to the public, they screened Jim's film No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlo and Vilmos and took questions from the audience. The film is excellent- it appeared at Cannes last May and is on the festival circuit now. It depicts the friendship between Vilmos and Laszlo Kovacs from their escape from Soviet controlled Hungary in 1956 to their arrival in Hollywood, and how they helped shape the look of American films from the late 60s to today.

After the screening I was lucky enough to get to go out with them and have a drink and talk film. It was my personal highlight of the weekend.

Here's a quick list of some of the films Vilmos and Laszlo has photographed.

McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Deliverance, Scarecrow, The Sugarland Express, Close Encounters of the Third Kind (won the Oscar), The Deer Hunter, Heaven's Gate, Blow Out, The Witches of Eastwick (where Jim Chressanthis was his intern). To date he has shot over 80 films.

Laszlo ( mere 70+ films before his death in 2007)
Targets, Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, Shampoo, Frances, Ghost Busters, Little Nikita, Say Anything.

This will be the first of several posts about the weekend. More to follow soon.

Peter H

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Sundance Film Festival- a wrap

This is my last piece on this year's Sundance Film Festival, I promise. This time it's my overview of the experience.

First and foremost I had a great time. I was only there for maybe 85 hours, but I went to seven film screenings, three panels, three parties and lots of hanging out. I saw some great films, bad films and some in between. I met a lot of industry folk and learned a few things.

Among the things I discovered:

  • Independent Film is in flux. The small little film that goes big- Sex, Lies and Videotape, Blood Simple, She's Gotta Have It, Stranger Than Paradise, all 20-25 years old- is a thing of the past, BUT also maybe a thing of the future. A good story will go a long way.
  • Distributors have no money for films that don't have a name or can "open."
  • DIY distributing, when put in motion before production is a viable way to get your film seen.
  • Sundance- it seems like all the films in the festival had some Sundance connection- getting into Sundance or the Institute is the trick, once in you are in.
  • 5600 short films for 90 slots. Why even try entering?
  • Where else can one go see a documentary like Old Partner- the Korean film about an old farmer and his 40-year old dying ox. That and the short film panel were worth the trip.
In short I learned a lot. glad I went, I look forward to going next year and hope we can take some students.


Sunday, February 1, 2009

Yet Another Sundance Panel

Sorry if this is getting old, but hang on for just a little longer.

Perhaps the panel I was most looking forward to attending was on Tuesday afternoon- immediately following the Obama inauguration. (A side note on the inauguration... I gave up tickets for an 11:30am screening of We Live in Public- which ended up winning the jury prize for U.S. Documentary to see Obama take office. A good trade, I think.) The panel was looking towards at the future of independent film and on it were Sundance Festival favorites- Tom DeCillo, Barbara Kopple, Gregg Araki and Steven Soderbergh.

I love all those filmmakers, but to me Tom DeCillo had the best insights on independent film. DeCillo was the DP on Stranger than Paradise- perhaps the first indie film of the 1980s indie movement. He went on to make Sundance films- Johnny Suede, Living in Oblivion (all filmmakers need to see this film), Box of Moonlight and others. He has a documentary about The Doors- called When You're Strange in the festival.

Highlights from DeCillo:

  • Independent Film used to be about saying no to Hollywood, no to the suits. Now it's just the opposite. Independent film (and by extension the Sundance Film Festival itself) is more like Indiewood, or Hollydent. People want to get into Sundance and use it as a launching pad for Hollywood.
  • It's a lot harder to raise money now as an independent because Hollywood has taken over so many independent studios.
  • His definition of a director, "The guy who gets the money."
Other interesting comments from the panel.

Soderbergh: The most independent guy in Hollywood is Steven Spielberg beacuse he can do anything he wants.

Kopple: The most important thing is to be good storytellers. We want to see your vision not what you think Hollywood wants.

That's a good place to end, I think.