Monday, April 25, 2016

DARK SKY - IndieGoGo campaign for short film

Logrolling this campaign because I do have some tenuous connection - Joseph Niedelander I've worked with before, and this is his brainchild; plus, it's science-fiction AND has Ed Asner participating! They're well on their way, but there's still a long way to go... if you can help out either by donating some of that disposable income their way (and getting some nice perks), or, if you're not in a position to donate, tell your friends (sci-fi/film geeks, Asner fans, etc.) about the campaign and direct them to the campaign page.


Monday, February 29, 2016

GOBW - THE KLANSMAN

It's that time of year again...  hear the baliff's cry of, 'Hear ye! Hear ye! Court is in session!" ... and the slam of the gavel and for the Judge to declare, yet again...


The offender in the dock... well, this is almost too easy, when all's said and done. And yet, there are some that, no matter what the good intentions were, just Turn Out Bad.

For those who care about such things, the movie would appear to have a good pedigree. Based on a novel by William Bradford Huie (who wrote the novels THE AMERICANIZATION OF EMILY, THE EXECUTION OF PRIVATE SLOVAK and did some good journalism during the Civil Rights era) and was originally to be written & directed by Sam Fuller. Apparently the studio got cold feet over Fuller's take, and hired another writer and a new director. Unfortunately, Fuller wasn't able to remove his name from the project, so we have the following credit, though the movie shot bore little relation to the draft he wrote.
 The story concerns the goings on in a 'small Southern town' when Nancy Poteet, a white woman (Linda Evans, pre-DYNASTY comeback) is raped and a black man is accused - the local klavern is up in arms and go to extract Klan justice from... well, it's never exactly known WHO the rapist was -




Sheriff Track Bascomb (Lee Marvin) attempts to keep the peace by taking the 'suspect' into protective custody, but denied the chance to dispense 'justice', the klavern decide that getting another Black man is just as good, and after a pursuit in the woods, 'dispense justice' - here meaning castration and a gunshot to the head. What they don't know is that this is witnessed by their prey's friend, Garth, played by O.J. Simpson.
The Klavern are also worried about the arrival of an 'outside agitator', Loretta Sykes (Lola Falana) who has come to help the local progressives, one of which is Breck Stancil (Richard Burton), whose family is one of the oldest in the county.
Amidst these goings-on, someone is killing Klan members; Nancy Poteet is shamed by her friends and neighbors for allowing herself to live after the rape and the klavern start getting twitchy, trying to discover who's responsible for killing them off. Suffice it to say, it ain't too hard to figure out who the Avenging Angel is.

There's a lot of luridness going on - you've got rape, murder, racism, revenge, and some questionable decision-making, in which everyone is tarred with the same brush and No One Is Innocent. Especially with the added irony of O.J. Simpson's 'troubles' later on in life, now being detailed in FX's The People Vs. O.J. Simpson. In fact, the main reason THE KLANSMAN came back into view was due to the fact of one scene that has O.J. in the back of a Ford Bronco with a gun... in this instance holding Richard Burton hostage - but still...


Despite an otherwise fine cast and a director (Terence Young) who had done JAMES BOND films, fer Chrissakes, this has a reputation as a disaster - one of the games you can play while watching it is in any scene with Marvin and/or Burton, try to decide which one is drunker.

However, at GUILTY... OF BEING WHITE!, the quality of the defendant is not what's on trial, but the content of their character. And despite such lurid shenanigans that used to be written off as 'that was way back in the Past', we like to remind Everybody that The Past isn't quite as far away as we all assume - otherwise things like this and that... well, they just wouldn't be.

 VERDICT: Well, it's pretty obvious -- GUILTY AS FUCK!





The Klansman (1974) - O.J Simpson, Lee Marvin... by FilmGorillas


Tuesday, December 08, 2015

A quick glance at the films of Kevin Willmott (after you've watched CHI-RAQ and want more...)

This looks to be the breakout year for filmmaker Kevin Willmott - after 6 feature films made in KS and gaining some critical recognition, he'll be getting some mainstream attention due to the release of Spike Lee's CHI-RAQ, which was originally pitched years earlier and fell to the side, until Lee resurrected the script and it was retooled to reflect the Chicago setting.


CHI-RAQ Trailer from 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks on Vimeo.

 With the movie out this past weekend (although in only ONE theater in the KC Metro area -- and then in a suburban multiplex to which I can only add - REALLY?) and posed to be a successful pioneer in Amazon Studios' experiment, it can only help in bringing awareness to the rest of Kevin's work as writer/director.

To wit: CSA: THE CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA:



Probably Willmott's best known film to audiences - it had major distribution by IFC Films (which meant it did play in arthouse theaters in major cities), was 'presented' by Spike Lee who signed on as Executive Producer, although he had no direct involvement during the production of the film... which didn't matter at all to internet trolls and online racists.

Also, the subject matter of the film hasn't dated at all, as witness the bruhaha over the confederate flag earlier this year. One note regarding satire - sometimes people don't get it, as the Dalton School in NYC proved last year; and why Lee goes to such lengths as to leading off his film BAMBOOZLED with a definition of the term, and making sure Chi-raq is understood as satire. As the saying goes, "Sometimes ya gotta laugh - otherwise I'd be screaming."

Another Willmott satire on the way is DESTINATION: PLANET NEGRO!


Destination Planet Negro Official Trailer from Candy Factory Films on Vimeo.

The humor is slightly broader - it's also a genre parody of the sci-fi films of the 50's, but the underlying serious commentary on the state of race relations in the contemporary U.S.A. ensures the film still has a stinging slap even as one is in the throes of laughter. DPN has been playing in festivals for the past year and 1/2 and is scheduled soon for release from Candy Factory Films.

His most recent film is JAYHAWKERS:



Jayhawkers Trailer from Through A Glass Productions on Vimeo.

Set in the mid-50's, it centers on the time period when KU Basketball coach Phog Allen recruited a young Wilt Chamberlain to play basketball for the university and its aftereffects in integrating Lawrence, KS and KU. Shot in black and white and in a docudrama style, JAYHAWKERS isn't merely a biopic - Wilt Chamberlain is the core element, but there's other things going on - bigotry and the attempts to overcome it; celebrity and it's usefulness to suspend bigotry but how it ultimately becomes a trap; and lots and lots of jazz. Former KU basketball player Justin Wesley is phenomenal as Wilt Chamberlain; Kip Niven, Jay Karnes, Blake Robbins and EMPIRE's Trai Byers round out the main roles. There's no main distributor for the film yet, but you can order a DVD and/or Blu-Ray directly from the filmmakers.

If you liked these, and are inclined to do some digging, the rest of Willmott's CV is pretty good as well...




THE ONLY GOOD INDIAN, written by Thomas Carmody, takes place at the beginning 20th Century, as the Western Frontier has, for the most part, been 'tamed', mainly by subjugating many of the Native Americans who resided there. One of the ways of accomplishing this was by taking the children of Native Americans and forcibly relocating them to boarding schools to be 'civilized'. TOGI is the story of one of these children, rechristened 'Charlie', who escapes one such school to reunite with his parents, only to be pursued by a bounty hunter, also a Native-American.

Indian makes great use of the Kansas landscapes, as well as good performances from Wes Studi and newcomer Winter Fox Frank, and J. Kenneth Campbell and nice character bits from supporting actors, some who could be called Willmott's Ensemble Group - you'll see them from film to film.
TOGI was featured on the Encore Networks for a few years, then disappeared. There was a DVD release, but again, you need to purchase it from the filmmakers.


THE BATTLE FOR BUNKER HILL was the followup film after C.S.A., but is probably the hardest film to locate, due to poor distribution and a title change that, if one Googles it, will bring up at least several thousand OTHER films with a similar title, only about the Revolutionary War battle. Set in Bunker Hill, KS, the film is about Peter Salem, the stranger who comes to town to settle some personal business, when an occurrence takes place that isolates the town from the rest of the world. As everyone attempts to make some kind of sense out of events, paranoia and suspicion grow and lines are drawn. Starring James McDaniel and the late Saeed Jaffrey, as well as actors Kevin Geer, Laura Kirk, Scott Allegrucci and Blake Robbins, Bunker Hill was intended as a post 9-11 allegory filtered through a 'Twilight Zone'-type premise; most of its thunder was appropriated by the television series JERICHO which was also made at the same time. It appears to have disappeared from its streaming platforms for the time being, and no home video distribution - although DVDs were available for time directly from the filmmakers. If you're interested enough to order some of the other films, you might inquire about BUNKER HILL...



Ninth Street (1999) ~ Trailer by FilmGorillas

Finally, there's the first film - NINTH STREET - which Willmott co-directed with Tim Rebman and which was based on his play about growing up in Junction City, KS. As with most first films, it's a bit rough around the edges - it doesn't completely transcend its stage origins - but its virtues, like performances from Kaycee Moore (KILLER OF SHEEP, DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST), Queen Bey, Isaac Hayes (!) and Martin Sheen in what amounts to an extended cameo, outweigh its flaws.
Worth looking for a copy, which isn't as hard as it may appear to be.

There's quite a bit to discover; with lots of discussion about the need for diverse voices in film, Willmott has been one of the few who have been fortunate enough to be able to produce a continuing body of work, mainly outside of the Hollywood system - all of his films have been made in Kansas and with independent financing, making him one of the important independent Black filmmakers in the past decade.

Obviously, my objectivity will come into question, since I've been fortunate enough to be part of the production crew working with since BUNKER HILL... now coming up on a decade since principal shooting. I think the facts - 6 features over the past 20 years (actually 7 counting THE ASSOCIATION, coming in 2016), with various subjects, in various genres - speak for themselves.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

What I Did After My Summer Vacation This Fall...

After finishing up the shoot in Portland, and a quick trip up to Seattle, it was time to head back East...



Bonus points for those who get the reference in the following...




and home for a week before heading out for the next project - GOODLAND.





A crime thriller set in Goodland, KS, expect to hear more about the film in 2017 - there's really not very much out there yet, except for the Kickstarter campaign promo - and don't expect much to be given away here.











More to come on GOODLAND as it makes its way through post-production.

What I Did On My Summer Vacation...

I hit the road...


to Portland, OR, for a month long shoot - the upcoming adaptation of SOMETHING LIKE SUMMER.


Portland was GREAT!!






And so was Seattle...






Saw some old friends...






and made some new ones!

Producer/Screenwriter...



Line Producer...

A.D.

1st A.C.

D.P./Director...

Art Director...

Key Grip...

 Costume Designer...

Set Electrician...
 Set Costumer...

And the many others whose pics I didn't get and/or don't have room to put up.


More about SOMETHING LIKE SUMMER in the next year, when the film finishes post-production and gets closer to festival screenings/release.