Yes, there are spoilers herein. If you are planning to see Dunkirk at a theater near you and don’t want to read about how the new Christopher Nolan film treats this historical event then you may be excused. Here’s a trailer of the film below that should serve as a visual break in this Ricochet post before the review begins.
Let me begin by articulating that I am an admirer of Nolan’s work. He breathed new life into the Batman stories and made something that had been targeted previously primarily to adolescent boys something that adults could find entertaining and at times thought provoking, exploring such themes as chaos, evil and nihilism. With Interstellar, he and his screenwriting brother, took the time to explore the actual science of the astrophysics that the film relies upon with renowned physicist Kip Thorne, so it would have an air of authenticity and highly-probable believability (well, the ending was a stretch). If only Ridley Scott had applied Nolan’s same discipline and attention to detail to the laughably unscientific, Prometheus.
Are you a liberty-minded director, writer, or producer? Bring your perspective to the Liberty Lab for Film(LLF) to fine tune your craft as a filmmaker and storyteller while making a great, professional quality short film or web series.
LLF is an advanced program from Taliesin Nexus, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, for those who have filmmaking, screenwriting, or producing experience eager to work alongside like-minded creatives with the guidance of seasoned professionals such as Daniel Knauf, (executive producer, NBC’s The Blacklist) Adam Simon, (creator of the FOX series Salem) screenwriters Bill Marsilii (Deja Vu, Cold), Paul Guay (Liar Liar), David H. Steinberg (American Pie 2) and Erica Beeney (The Battle for Shaker Heights and “Project Greenlight” winner) in making your film.
If selected, you will receive $10,000 to make your short film and embark on a 100 day development and writing phase, before moving into production and post. You and your team will work together from script development until your film or web series premieres at our gala SmashCut screening in Los Angeles and/or selected cities across the country.
LLF participants will also take part in CineShots, intimate discussions focusing on screenwriting, producing, directing, and post-production lead by industry veterans. Participants will also receive a free copy of Final Draft 10 (valued at $249), the industry’s leading screenwriting software.
The LLF is not for the faint of heart. You will undergo a compressed studio experience including script development, pre-production, production, post-production, and editing before finally seeing your film on the big screen!
(Taliesin Nexus is the owner and operator of the SmashCut Culture blog.)
SmashCut Culture is proud to highlight the work of creatives who share a passion for a freer society. Please consider the following when deciding which book you will sink your teeth into next.
James Duncan is the author of Blood Republic, arguably the first-ever “Libertarian” political-thriller. Published by Primal Light Press, the highly praised work of fiction has arrived just in time for the current-election cracks within the two-party system, leading many readers to the question, “did the author have a crystal ball?”
Corrupt politicians, crazed generals, biased media, NSA surveillance, and viral hate; Blood Republic examines current extremism through a heart-pumping thriller with the fate of the country at stake. Will America survive its next election, or collapse into a 2nd civil war of conservative versus liberal?
During the closing hours of the tightest presidential election in US history, firebrand Annie Daniels is a Democratic-socialist senator determined to win the White House. She dreams of eradicating injustice, and hopefully, saving her dying daughter’s life. Major Amos Daniels, her conservative Green Beret brother, might have something to say about that though, if her plans go against his faith. As an Electoral College tie nears, the country erupts into rioting, and Annie and Amos are thrust to opposite ends of a constitutional crisis with guns drawn. Will the Daniels family find common ground above ideology to prevent a second civil war? Or, will an unknown enemy-of-the-state escape justice while pushing the nation into chaos? (more…)
Much like the word “genius,” the label “artist” gets bandied about quite a bit. When I was taking fine art classes in college, one of the more colorful and exuberant life drawing and painting instructors — let’s call him Charlie — a very hyperactive and passionate painter, talked to us about what it meant to be an artist.
“So you all want to be artists, huh?” He shouted as he strutted in and around our rows of easels as we worked. “I’m just here to teach you how to paint and hopefully paint well. I can’t teach you to be an artist. An artist is a way of life, man. Are you willing to starve for your art? Are you in it for the money? Van Gogh sold one painting in his life. He went mad and then committed suicide. He was an artist. Are you willing to let it consume you? Let’s just concentrate on painting for now.”
Now, I’ve always been fascinated by illustrators who were adept at rendering the human form, faces, and textures were able to put their subjects into fascinating settings and conjure up just the right mood. I had a knack — still do, though not so practiced of late — of being able to capture likenesses fairly well when I drew. The best illustrators and painters are very talented at drawing and their pen and pencil work alone is worthy of collecting. Without a foundation in accurate lifelike drawing a lot of paintings and illustrations meant to be realistic tend to look less real, less lifelike and dull.
In America, there have been several periods where talented illustrators emerged. In the 1910s, 20s and 30s, the works of Maxfield Parrish, J.C. Leyendecker, Norman Rockwell, N.C. Wyeth, and Howard Pyle (to name just a few), adorned the covers of Collier’s, the Saturday Evening Post, or in Wyeth’s case numerous works of literature: The White Company, Robin Hood, Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe, and The Last of the Mohicans.
Sometimes, these talented men worked on a grand scale – many of them, like Wyeth and Parrish were commissioned to do large murals — and much of their work for magazine covers, stories, and book covers were originally painted much larger and reproduced much smaller for print. When I worked at Stanford, helping to put out the Stanford Daily back in the early 1980s, I happened upon an exhibit of N.C. Wyeth’s work at a small gallery in Palo Alto and was awestruck by one of the paintings he had done to illustrate Robin Hood, depicting the outlaw’s band of merry men crouched behind the base of a massive oak tree with their bows pulled back waiting to let their arrows fly. The texture and color of the grass and the men’s costumes looked as rich and fresh as if it had all been painted yesterday. My recollection was that the work was enormous but time has a tendency to romanticize and embellish the truth. In fact the work is an oil on canvas about 40 inches tall and 32 inches wide; i.e., about the size of a standard movie poster (though five inches wider). And the painting was actually for sale at the time for about $25,000 and I dreamed of owning it one day. I still dream.
MPI invites applications for a Screenwriter-in-Residence. This year-long, full-time position allows aspiring screenwriters to dedicate themselves to their craft. In the course of the year, the Screenwriter-in-Residence will write at least one feature-length screenplay on a topic aligned with MPI’s mission to promote freedom through film. The Screenwriter-in-Residence will also host several screenwriting workshops as part of MPI’s ongoing virtual workshop offerings.
The screenplay will tell a story that advances human freedom in a broadly appealing, mainstreamable way, and that has the capacity to anchor a social action marketing campaign of the sort that Participant Media frequently launches alongside its issue-based films. Examples of topics that lend themselves to this endeavor include but are not limited to free speech, resistance to tyranny, right to self-determination, human rights, free-market economics, innovation, and entrepreneurship. MPI’s creative and marketing staff will work closely with the screenwriter from concept development through completion, with an eye to producing the film, ensuring distribution, and launching a social action marketing campaign that educates and activates audiences on behalf of freedom.
To apply for the position of MPI Screenwriter-in-Residence, please apply with a cover letter, CV, and writing sample to [email protected] before the closing date of Friday, July 15th, 2016. As part of your application, please be sure to pitch your idea(s) for the screenplay you’d like to develop as MPI’s Screenwriter-in-Residence.
As an independent filmmaker, the single biggest obstacle to getting your film made is: paying for it. You can have all the other elements you need lined up: a great story, a fast and efficient crew, talented actors, and your aunt has even agreed to let you film at her vacation home in the mountains, (as long as you pay for the maid service afterwards,) but if you don’t have a budget to pay for it all, you will not make your film. This is where Taliesin Nexus’ Liberty Lab for Film program comes in.
The Liberty Lab for Film (or LLF) is an advanced program for those who have filmmaking, screenwriting, and/or producing experience and want an opportunity to work alongside liberty-minded creatives under the guidance of seasoned professionals such asDaniel Knauf, (co-executive producer, NBC’s The Blacklist)Adam Simon (creator of the FOX series Salem) and screenwriterDavid H. Steinberg (American Pie 2) in developing, writing, filming and editing your short film or web series idea.
If you and your treatment are selected, you will receive a grant for $10,000 to fund your project and be paired with an established industry professional who will mentor you through a 100 day process. At the conclusion, Taliesin Nexus will host a gala showcase screening in Los Angeles where your film will premiere along with your fellow LLF participants’ projects.
This is not for the faint of heart. You and your partners will be responsible for producing a high quality film. For 100 days, you must contend with: a rigorous development process, valuable collaboration, working within a budget, and notes & feedback from your mentor and the network. It’s a process not unlike aspects of the Hollywood system or any independent film production.
To submit, all you need is a one-page treatment of your story idea for a short film or web-series that touches on some aspect of liberty. Why Liberty? Taliesin Nexus is committed to helping storytellers, who share a passion for human freedom and diversity, succeed in their entertainment career.
One great aspect about applying is, if you apply early, it will give them time to review your application and reach out to you to offer feedback. If they can help you with your treatment even before you make it in to the program, they want to do it. Taliesin Nexus is committed to ensuring that you and your project receive as much support as possible.
Pleasefollow this link to learn more about the program, the application process, and what to expect when you are selected into the program. Applications are being acceptedNOW and you have until April 15, 2016 to submit.
(Taliesin Nexus is the owner and operator of SmashCut Culture)
Before I launch into Foxcatcher, which I finally got around to watching, I should note that dramatic films based on real personalities are rarely true accounts of an individual’s life. At best one hopes that they are at least close approximations. Filmmakers must deal with the constraints of compressing events into a two-hour timeframe so their film is more marketable upon release. As a result, in the making, important factual information is often left in the editing bay. Of course, other filmmakers make conscious decisions to omit key information about their subject in order to enhance or sully the reputation of the personality being portrayed or to make other ideologically slanted statements. Thus approaching any film based on real personalities or real historical events should always be met with a degree of skepticism.
Foxcatcher is a well produced and well acted, though plodding and lumbering, film. It has an air of authenticity and is set for the most part on a sprawling estate standing in for the former du Pont estate near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania which, since the murder of Olympic gold medalist wrestler Dave Schultz by John du Pont, has been parceled out for a school and housing tracts.
Foxcatcher producer and director Bennett Miller (Moneyball – 2011 and Capote – 2005) gives us a John du Pont (played very seriously and adeptly, by Steve Carell) who bears some physical resemblance to the real John du Pont with the help of some prosthetic makeup on his proboscis. But at its heart Foxcatcher is an incomplete portrait and ultimately a dishonest portrayal of du Pont and the events that took place.
Taken at face value, Foxcatcher’s du Pont could easily be described as simply an unloved, eccentric and egocentric rich man/child longing for the approval of an aloof mother preoccupied with her line of pampered purebred horses. Foxcatcher’s John du Pont character (or caricature) displays moments of eccentricity tinged with an ominous undercurrent of potential rage. However, the glaring omission that Miller makes about du Pont, especially during the time that the heir to the du Pont fortune hosted and dubiously trained the USA wrestling team on the family estate, is that the man was suffering what was diagnosed at trial as paranoid schizophrenia that exhibited itself often in delusional tirades about people, including wrestler Dave Schultz, who du Pont believed was part of an international conspiracy to kill him. There is no mention of this in the film. In fact, there is no mention at all of du Pont’s psychosis.
There are actually two recent films about the events that took place on the du Pont estate near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania – Foxcatcher which was released in 2014 and a subsequent documentary The Prince of Pennsylvania released in 2015 by ESPN’s 30 for 30 film group. Had the ESPN documentary, which describes Du Pont’s psychosis in more detail, been released and viewed on television prior to Foxcatcher, it would have been easier to detect how Bennett Miller made a conscious decision to dismiss the disturbing aspects of du Pont’s mental state, which any reasonable person would conclude was the overriding factor in the murder Dave Schultz – not an inferred jealousy for Dave Schultz’s brother, star athlete, Olympic wrestler, Mark.
Shady Grove Rest Home promises residents tranquility in their final years. Instead, it delivers terror in the form of Bingo, a palliative care cat that snuggles up to whichever resident is next to die. Is Bingo’s power supernatural, or is something more ominous at play?
Death Cat is written by SCC contributors James C. Harberson III & Frazer C. Rice with the script by Harberson III. Artist is Stephen Baskerville, a brilliantly-talented comic book, video game, and advertising artist. He has worked for, inter alia, Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Egmont Fleetway, Curve Studios, Asylum Entertainment, and KUJU Entertainment. He resides in the UK and you can learn more about him here.
Click top right arrows for full screen.
[The NSFW version is available after the page break.]
Smash Cut Culture is proud to support the up & coming filmmakers who make up part of the nexus that is Taliesin Nexus. Please take a moment to check out alum Jeremy Michael Cohen’s pitch for his latest feature film project Yinz and its Kickstarter campaign below:
The first day is the most important time for any Kickstarter campaign. It’s the make-or-break day for whether it will go viral. We know not everyone can or wants to put money into a Kickstarter, and we’re cool by that. But we’d love and be grateful if you’d share the campaign with your friends today.
There’s a ton of information about YINZ on the Kickstarter page and in the video. However, we’ve come up with this nifty little phrase to sum up the movie: Yinz is a dark comedy about growing up in Western Pennsylvania. A violent and funny forbidden love story in the the heart of the Rust Belt.
I’d like to ask you to do two things, please:
1)Please visit our Kickstarter page and watch the video. We’re pre-selling the movie for $25, and we’ve put together some pretty cool rewards for higher levels of backing. There’s a ton more information about the project on the Kickstarter page. We’d love any comments you want to leave on the page, too. Watching the video and chipping in even a single dollar is the most important thing you can do for us. If you want a direct link to the campaign, it’s: www.jerm.co/yinzkickstarter
ReasonTV’s Nick Gillespie sat down with writer/director Courtney Moorehead Balaker to discuss the adaptation of Jeff Benedict’s book Little Pink Houseinto a major motion picture scheduled to begin filming this fall. It’s been 10 years since the SCOTUS decision decided in favor of the city of New London over homeowner Susette Kelo in an eminent domain abuse case that sent shockwaves throughout the country.
Next up in our ongoing series highlighting the film projects that were produced during the 100 day challenge laid out by Taliesin Nexus’ Liberty Lab for Film, we bring you another comedy web-series. Wigs was created by writer Richard Mattox and director Matt Edwards (both SCC contributors).
Sick and tired of seeing all the attention that comic book superheroes garner on the sidewalks of Hollywood Blvd., Virginia, a widowed grandmother with some disposable income, forms “Wigs on Wheels”, a group of historical re-enactors who travel around Los Angeles bringing real American heroes like Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and Dolley and James Madison to life. Overzealous police, smart-aleck kids, and internal subversion are all present in this hilarious comedy.
Wigs garnered first place and the filmmakers were awarded $2000 for their work during the 100 Day Challenge of the Liberty Lab for Film.
[Update: Taliesin Nexus has extended the deadline to apply for this year’s Liberty Lab for Film until midnight Monday the 25th for all you last minute shoppers out there.]
Smash Cut Culture: What drew you to becoming a filmmaker?
Richard Mattox: I was always interested in the performing arts. I had experience acting, playing music, and singing all throughout my childhood. But I think it was Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy that inspired my to become a filmmaker. I remember writing my own sequel to the films. It was a 10 page script in which I was the lead. I can still remember standing behind my mom as she operated the camera, banging pots and pans together for sound as my neighborhood friends tromped around the snow fighting with plastic swords.
Matt Edwards: Growing up in Los Angeles I was exposed very early on to the behind-the-scenes action of some of my generations favorite TV shows. With action scenes from shows like Knight Rider, The Fall Guy and The A-Team being filmed on the streets of my neighborhood, I figured every kid knew how the “sausage was made” and it was no big deal. When I hit college and met more people not from LA, I realized how lucky I was to have sort of a home court advantage when it came to being comfortable trying to make it in Hollywood and I better not waste the chance. Plus I fell in love with Hitchcock movies at about age 9, and never looked back.
[Editor’s note: The following is a guest review by Brian Watt originally posted in the members only section at Ricochet. It has been posted here with permission from author.]
Only a handful of theaters around the country are still showing the Ridley Scott-produced and Daniel Espinosa-directed Child 44. It is available for pre-order on Amazon and iTunes now, so should be released for sale or rental within a month. If you search for reviews of the film you’ll find a mix of opinions and several of them negative though IMDB does display an overall rating of 6.4 out of a possible 10, which isn’t that bad. Most critics and moviegoers have complained that as a thriller Child 44 is just not taut or thrilling enough and instead is too dark, brooding, oppressive and ponderous — essentially not akin to other flashier blockbusters in the genre – any of the films in the Bourne series or even more realistic and slow-paced spy thrillers that probably tread more closely to actual spycraft, like Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.
If you want extreme car chases through the streets of Moscow, motorcycles racing over rooftops, explosions hither and thither or endless and preposterous martial arts fights where good guys and bad guys leap onto walls and do back flips and break each other’s kneecaps, then Child 44 will surely disappoint — though it does have three intense fight scenes, particularly one aboard a train, that all appear much more realistic and chaotic and less choreographed than anything you’ll see in a Bourne or Bond film.
It seems to me that the more salient reason Child 44 will disappoint is because it is not a spy thriller at all and I would argue is not intended to be a thriller but more of a detective story while also a graphic indictment of how dehumanizing communism is when practiced. The film is based on the Tom Rob Smith novel of the same name (which admittedly I’ve yet to read), but which I understand is loosely based on real-life serial killer, Andrei Chikatilo, also referred to as the Butcher of Rostov or the Rostov Ripper, who was active between 1978 and 1990 and who sexually assaulted and brutally murdered 52 women and children that authorities know about in Russia, the Ukraine and the Uzbek regions during the latter years of the Union of Soviet Socialist states.
May 15 is here and if you thought you missed out on applying for 2015’s Liberty Lab for Film, then good news… you’ve got seven more days to get your act (or three acts) together and apply for a $10,000 grant, a Hollywood insider to mentor you and 100 days to make your film.
You can read more about the program here or below on the next page. But perhaps you are more easily persuaded by the visual and would like to watch a short reel showing off last year’s lab participants.
In our ongoing series* highlighting the film projects that were produced during the 100 day challenge laid out by Taliesin Nexus’ Liberty Lab for Film, we bring you the comedy webseries C.A.R.E. Force created by comedy writer Crystal Hubbard and fiction writer Mike Pauly (both SCC contributors). The series centers on an obscure law enforcement agency that may or may not be fighting actual crime. Nonetheless, they exist to enforce the laws that time forgot.
SCC: What drew you to be a filmmaker?
Mike Pauly: I’ve always felt compelled to tell stories. The medium of film/television reaches the widest possible audience and can have the most impact.
Crystal Hubbard: I was too old to be Indiana Jones.
Jimmy Lui is one of 2014’s Taliesin Nexus Liberty Lab For Film Fellows. He wrote and directed the short film thriller When We Meet Again. His partner fellow Nevil Jackson was the cinematographer on the project. The film is a sci-fi drama about a teacher visited by a time-traveller who tries to convince her that he knows what is best for her. Smash Cut Culture asked Jimmy Lui a few questions about the project and on himself as a filmmaker.
SCC: What drew you to be a filmmaker?
JL: A charcoal pencil. I find that movies have a certain power that other mediums do not. I grew up an Asian kid in the deep South. To say that I did not fit in with my peers is a bit of an understatement. Yet, at the movies, we were all the same. That is a pretty powerful idea. Movies can be empowering and personal and communal and inspiring and entertaining and influential.The movies I was attracted to most growing up were the films of Bruce Lee, the action films from Hong Kong and Big Trouble In Little China. Perhaps it was seeing heroes who looked like me on the screen, but I think it was more the beauty and power of the martial arts and action in those films.
When I was a teenager, I noticed that most of the movies that I loved were by the same few filmmakers. That’s when I decided that I wanted to be a filmmaker. Unlike most filmmakers of my age group who went to film school, I do not like the Star Wars films and I think Martin Scorcese is a hack. I would rather make movies in the vein of Sammo Hung, John Carpenter, Buster Keaton, Paul Vehoeven, David Cronenberg and Mel Gibson.
Taliesin Nexus is proud to announce that applications have launched for two more of their 2015 programs.
Liberty Lab For Film
Get a $10,000 Grant to Make a Short Film in the Liberty Lab Program!
Taliesin Nexus is seeking applications for the Liberty Lab for Film program, which provides grants of $10,000 to seven teams of filmmakers to create a short film or web series with a liberty-related theme. Each team of two filmmakers will be assigned a mentor from among our faculty of seasoned Hollywood professionals, screenwriters and producers whose credits include hit TV shows like The Blacklist and Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, and hit movies like American Pie II and Liar Liar (with Jim Carrey).
Netflix and Wild West Productions announced this morning that Ayn Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged” will begin production on a 10 episode season set to debut on the streaming service in spring of 2016. The novel just underwent an adaptation across three feature films released to mostly negative reviews over the past four years. Producers for this version have made it clear their intention on using the long-form television format to honor Rand’s magnum opus that, from conception to release, took the author 14 years to complete. Producers are hopeful they can secure at least a three season run of 30 one hour episodes so that they can explore every avenue the epic story can offer. One has to wonder how many episodes it will take for John Galt to deliver that radio speech that runs about 60-90 pages, depending on which version of the book you read.
Producers have attached Randall Wallace (Braveheart) to write and direct the first episode of series. Wallace is no stranger to “Atlas Shrugged” as he was once hired to re-write the film version many years ago during the first of several failed attempts at getting the film made. While the film versions finally made their way to cinemas more recently, they were plagued with multiple cast changes over all three installments which no doubt led to rotten tomato status across the board. Producers have assured fans that “[the] cast you get in episode one will be the same as you get in the series finale.” Speaking of the cast…
Announcing Why I Murdered My Roommate a new television and trans-medial series set and filmed in Buffalo, New York and sponsored by Fractured Atlas.
The project is a creation of three graduates of the Taliesin Nexus 2014 Filmmaker’s Workshop (renamed Apollo Workshop). Feeling inspired by the fact that there was a sympathetic group of liberty-loving filmmakers out there, longtime friends Michael Pauly and Tilke Hill decided to finish working on a script exploring one woman’s desire to live outside of anyone or anything’s control and what ensues when she decides that to be a radical individualist doesn’t have to mean rejecting all human bonds.
Why I Murdered My Roommate is a half-hour dark comedy series where the hash absurdity of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia meets the twisty, violence-promising flashback storytelling of Damages or The Affair. It is the story of EZ Walensa, performance artist, borderline anarchist, and lonely woman looking to make a genuine connection.
The Apollo Workshop: Storytelling in Film and Television (formerly The Filmmakers Workshop) is a weekend conference connecting 25 talented aspiring filmmakers with 25 members of our faculty of Hollywood screenwriters, producers, executives and talent representatives. It will take place in August 14-16, 2015 on the UCLA campus.
And imagine this: the workshop is completely free of charge — free tuition, free room and board, and even travel stipends to those coming from outside of Southern California.
The Apollo Workshop offers training in two critical areas: Storytelling Development and Career Development.