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Billy Gil

Film Blog

, Web Editor/Marketing Director

Billy Gil graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and has worked for People and Daily Variety. He is the editor of the Pipeline section and IndieFile, both of which highlight independent films on DVD. For IndieFile tips and inquiries, email bgil@questex.com. For inclusion on IndieFile's Feedroom channel, contact Renee Rosado (rrosado@questex.com). Follow IndieFile on Twitter, at Twitter.com/IndieFile.

January 17, 2011
Indie ‘Kids Are All Right’ Cleans Up at Golden Globes

Annette Bening in
Annette Bening in The Kids Are All Right

Independent films did exceedingly well at the 68th Annual Golden Globes, with wins for Best Picture and Best Actress (Annette Bening), Comedy or Musical, for Focus Features’ The Kids Are All Right, which is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

That film’s win again raises the question as to how films benefit by having been released on DVD before major awards shows. Crash and The Hurt Locker famously won the Best Picture Oscar over bigger movies, possibly in part due to their easy availability on disc building hype. The Kids Are All Right was released on DVD and Blu-ray by Universal Studios Home Entertainment in November of 2010. The only other film nominated here that was available on disc was Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, although that film and the other nominees (Red, The Tourist and Burlesque) didn’t exactly give Kids a run for its money, critically speaking.

Indies, in total, won eight major awards at the ceremony. The King’s Speech (The Weinstein Co.) got a Best Actor win for Colin Firth, and Barney's Version (Sony Classics) scored a Best Actor, Comedy or Musical, win for Paul Giamatti. The Weinstein Co.’s The Fighter won Best Supporting Actress (Melissa Leo) and Supporting Actor (Christian Bale), Drama. Additionally, Denmark’s In a Better World won Best Foreign Language Film, and Best Mini-Series / TV Movie went to Sundance’s Carlos.

“We applaud the independents that have won tonight in a tough race,” said Independent Film & Television Alliance President-CEO Jean Prewitt. “HFPA’s nominations and awards have again highlighted the breadth of fine film-making from both studios and independents.”

The King’s Speech (which will be released by Anchor Bay Entertainment, the first Genius title releasing by Anchor Bay after a deal signed Jan. 4), Barney’s Version (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment), The Fighter (Paramount), In a Better World (Sony Pictures) and Carlos (MPI/IFC) have yet to be slated for home video release.

By: Billy Gil

January 10, 2011
Filmmaker Reignites Cinema Verité With 'Alamar'


Pedro González-Rubio takes a unique approach to filmmaking with Alamar, on DVD Jan. 11 from Film Movement, at $24.95.

The film follows a boy (Natan Machado Palombini) and his father (Jorge Machado) playing alternate versions of themselves (as they are a real-life son and father) spending time together before being separated after a divorce. The father, of Mayan heritage, takes his half-Italian son to live simply, as fishermen, near Mexico’s Banco Chinchorro coral reef. Alamar creates a lush film world out of the real father-son bond as it exists in the film’s gorgeous natural setting.

I spoke with the Mexican-born director about his filmmaking process.

IndieFile: So tell me about the making of Alamar. I’ve read a bit about it, that you filmed this father and son doing tasks and so it was fiction based on reality. Was there a script guiding you?


Pedro González-Rubio
Pedro González-Rubio

González-Rubio: There was no conventional script. I was being guided by a story treatment based on the location, the main activities of the fishermen living there, the story of Jorge, Roberta and Natan, and, finally, my own anxieties regarding all of these. But all the dialogues and all the ways of resolving the scenes were decided on location, on the spot.

IndieFile: How much extra footage did you take? And will any of that make it onto the DVD or another release sometime?

González-Rubio: There are a couple of great scenes that didn't make the film in my final cut, but will be available on the DVD. In them you can see the electricity between the camera, the natural elements and the characters. One of the scenes starts with a full shot of a hermit crab’s shell. At the beginning, we just listen to the movement of a small eolic turbine, the body is motionless, and, after several seconds, the shell is lifted up by the fragile body of this beautiful hermit crab. What happens next is a ballet between nature and the protagonists of the film. This I am very excited to share it on the DVD.

IndieFile: You also did the making-of featurette for Babel. As a filmmaker, what you think of going behind-the-scenes of a narrative film and also what you bring to something like that as a documentarian?

González-Rubio: Babel was a big school for me. I was very close in the process of the director and every choice he had to make regarding the creative issues of the film. I was invited to do the making-of in Babel because of my personal documentary approach with my camera and the characters that I am photographing. I like them to feel comfortable with the presence of a lens aiming at them. Then for Alamar, I think I was able to try some mise en scene that fiction requires but maintaining the freshness of the spontaneity in doc genre.

IndieFile: Alamar’s creation seems to be unique. Do you hope to keep making films such as this, that are part narrative, part documentary? What other genres could you envision?

González-Rubio: I want to maintain my own personal exploration of the film language, but that doesn’t mean I will have a specific categorization for my films. I am guided by intuition rather than by formulas or preconceived styles. I film from my heart.

IndieFile: How did you meet Jorge and Natan? Is their real-life story anything like the movie?

González-Rubio: Even though it feels like Jorge comes from the area where the film is shot, it’s not true. He comes from a village in Chiapas and was working as a tour guide in the touristic spot of Tulum when I met him. They are not portraying a character as an actor would do, they are portraying themselves but the film gives them the opportunity to live a different situation from their daily lives.

IndieFile: Would you ever like to revisit this film and give a behind-the-scenes look at it?

González-Rubio: I think I’d like to do something else with different people. If you look at my first feature length (documentary Toro Negro, unreleased in the United States), it is very different from Alamar. I like to step away and discover something new for me. Kind of like children do, otherwise I would get bored very rapidly and would just be a cheap copy of my own self.

By: Billy Gil

January 03, 2011
‘Picture Me’ Tells the Tale of the Model

Ole Schell and Sara Ziff delve into the modeling world with their documentary Picture Me: A Model’s Diary, due Jan. 11 on DVD ($24.99) from Strand Releasing.

The film follows model Ziff as she travels around the world, modeling for such companies as Tommy Hilfiger, with then-boyfriend (and co-director) Schell.

“The film kind of happened by accident,” Schell says. “I had just come out of NYU film school and started to date Sara Ziff. She was starting her career as a fashion model and I was just sort of tagging along with her everywhere she went …. with no real intention of making a film.

“I was shooting a lot of home video footage. I would go with her to the Bahamas or to Morocco and edit together these clips for her. My father is a film journalist and said you have something interesting here — a fly-on-the-wall look into the modeling industry.”

Juxtaposed with those home videos are interviews with models, who were given cameras to create their own video diaries, as well as with others in the industry, such as designers and casting directors.

“At first I didn’t know what we were sort of trying to tell,” Schell explains. “Then these issues kept arising that Sara faced. Then we realized that almost all the girls faced these issues: age, money, objectification, sexual malpractice. Every girl faces [them] at one point or another in their career.

“Every time one of these issues came up, we interviewed other models about the issues. The film took a long time to make, so these issues kept showing themselves and rearing their head.”

Ziff adds, “I think the film is really unique in that it is a really inside look at the industry from the model’s perspective. I think Ole and I were trying to give as unfiltered a look at the industry as possible.”

While one model speaks of being sexually mistreated during a photo shoot, another model’s interview was cut from the film because the model was working at the time and was afraid it would jeopardize her career, Schell and Ziff say. They say the point of their film, and Ziff’s raison d'etre, is to achieve better working conditions for models.

“It’s sort of opened a lot of eyes, especially for people in the fashion industry,” Schell says. “Models have come up to Sara after screenings in tears.”

The DVD also includes footage from the film’s premiere at the Gen Art Film Festival.

By: Billy Gil

December 17, 2010
Katie Aselton, Dax Shepard Deliver ‘The Freebie’

Katie Aselton and Dax Shepard

A one-night stand seven years into marriage is proposed as the solution to a couple’s doldrums in The Freebie, coming to DVD Jan. 11 ($29.99) from Phase 4 Films.

Katie Aselton, a former Miss Teen USA contestant and current writer, director and actress, said the idea for the movie came to her while shooting the breeze with a friend.

“When you're having a glass of wine with a friend, those are the sort of things you talk about,” she said. “The point of what we were talking about was, ‘Remember how easy it was to be single ... and you could just be whoever you wanted to be?’ When you're in a relationship, you owe it to that person to talk over every single thing. Sometimes you just want to give your husband a fake phone number and say, ‘Don't call me.’”

Aselton was looking for something to sink her teeth into after not getting the kind of experience she wanted to as an actress. Her husband, Mark Duplass (writer/director of Cyrus, with brother Jay Duplass), suggested taking his approach — if you’re not getting the projects you want, come up with your own.

“I was just a frustrated actor who was just sitting around,” said Aselton, who may be exaggerating a bit — she and her husband co-star FX’s fantasy football TV show “The League.” “My husband, who’s a big do-it-yourselfer just said, ‘You should just do it on your own!’”

Aselton said everything fell into place from there, with Aselton in the lead actress role, but casting her male counterpart proved more difficult after the first actor didn’t work out. Dax Shepard of “Punk’d” fame came on board at the 11th hour. His addition proved crucial, as his performance has been garnering rave reviews after the film aired at Sundance.

“I met Katie for the first time about five hours before we started shooting,” Shepard said. “Our second day of filming was all of our intimate, bedroom scenes. I have no explanation as to why we had good chemistry, but I know that if we hadn't, the movie would have been very flat.

“We got lucky. She's awfully cute though, so that certainly helps.”

The situation for The Freebie’s Annie (Aselton) and Darren (Shepard) doesn’t quite go as planned, but Shepard thinks it could work for some couples.

“There are a couple billion relationships happening around the world, and I'm sure every conceivable permutation is being played out somewhere,” he said. “I don't think there is a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to love someone.”

Despite coming up with the concept, Aselton is dubious of the prospect of infidelity working to strengthen a couple’s relationship.

“Beyond that first night, it's work after that,” Aselton said. “One night away from what you have now is probably not worth it, especially if you like what you have. The idea of exploring this couple that is sort of over-therapied in their own minds, where they think they are the couple who could completely sort of challenge tradition and monogamy and social ideas and they’re the ones who could rise above and beyond all that — I liked watching them fall on their ass.”

Of the DVD release, Aselton said home video means “everything” to independent films such as this one.

“Most of these small films, that’s where their life is,” she said. “It's hard to do well theatrically in the market today. For the most part, most of us do a theatrical release so we can get great reviews for a DVD release because that really is where we will find our audience. I think if people are going to be spending $14 for a movie, you're going to want to go see big productions … you're gonna see Inception.

“Unless you are a part of the small few who want to support independent film, you're going want to get your money's worth and then you'll save these small movies for the small screen.”

The Freebie DVD includes a commentary with Aselton and Shepard.

By: Billy Gil

December 13, 2010
IFTA Urges Piracy Protection

The Independent Film & Television Alliance has some words about online piracy for the Department of Commerce, urging them and other government agencies to enhance copyright protections. IFTA’s comments came in response to a Notice of Inquiry issued by the department to gather more information from stakeholders to effectively battle piracy.

“The policy and technological solutions that emerge from this proceeding should assist in establishing a transparent framework that takes into account advances in technology and the need for protection of copyright to encourage further innovation,” said IFTA President-CEO Jean Prewitt. “We believe solutions are achievable through government leadership and cooperation among all stakeholders and are necessary to ensure that investment in independent content can be recouped and new online distribution models developed.”

IFTA says piracy inhibits independent filmmakers from recouping expenses on productions in order to create future films. The organization recommends government oversight in establishing mechanisms to protect copyright and innovation digitally.

IFTA also urges adopting international standards for copyright, such as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Act.

It’s good to hear IFTA put their muscle behind this issue. Piracy takes a big chunk out of the DVD pie, where most indie filmmakers make their money.

By: Billy Gil

IndieFile lists new independent films on DVD and Blu-ray Disc, from comedy to horror to short film, as well as news from Cannes, Sundance and other film festivals, interviews and other indie movie news.


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