March Spotlight on Leah Warshawski | BIG SONIA

…audiences are responding to the positive messages within the film sort of like an “antidote” to the hate. They leave feeling like there might be just a little bit of hope for humanity.

Leah Warshawski via IMDB

Leah Warshawski and Todd Soliday are the brave filmmakers who produced the documentary feature FINDING HILLYWOODThrough the eyes of Warshawski and Soliday we witness the power of healing through a newly emerging film industry bringing people together in post-genocide Rwanda. Creative expression, storytelling and collaboration mark the incredible journey of repairing a country after unimaginable atrocities. I had the great pleasure of welcoming Leah and Todd to Kansas City in 2014 when they came to screen FINDING HILLYWOOD for a KC FilmFest Spotlight event. I was taken with the clarity of their vision, the boldness of their documentary work and I knew then that they were artists to watch. Their next project is a feature documentary six-years in the making – BIG SONIA, the story of an unlikely hero…a woman with “an enormous personality and fragile frame [that] mask the horrors she endured in the Holocaust to make a new life in Kansas City…” [via BigSonia.com]

We are thrilled Leah Warshawski agreed to be our next KC Film Spotlight. Leah is the co-director and producer of FINDING HILLYWOOD, the director and producer of BIG SONIA and has been assistant marine coordinator on familiar titles such as – LOST, ALONG CAME POLLY, HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU, SURVIVOR and BAYWATCH to name a few.


KCFO: Your latest documentary feature film BIG SONIA is about the life of Sonia Warshawski, a national treasure [and Kansas City treasure] and Holocaust survivor. What motivated you to make this film?

socialmediagraphicLEAH: We were motivated to make BIG SONIA because Sonia – and her family – have important lessons that are so needed in today’s world. We began making a humorous short film about a tiny tailor shop in a dying mall, but the film turned into a deeper exploration of trauma and the affect this has on generations – and lots of other surprises along the way. Our story arc grew and changed throughout 6 years of production and we could not be happier with how the film turned out.

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Updated: 18 MO and KS Connected Films at 2017 Sundance and Slamdance

People travel from every corner of the globe to be among the first to see what the festival’s curators have determined are the best independent narrative and documentary films, selected from nearly 11,000 submissions.    – Pat Mitchell, Producer

Each year the KC Film and Missouri Film Offices go to Sundance Film Festival to network, host a party and support Missouri and KC connected films that screen at Sundance or Slamdance. In 2017, there are at least 16 films that are MO and KS connected. If you are going to Park City this year, consider adding these films to your ticket wish-list. And if not, it’s great to know that we have Midwest ties at one of the biggest and most prestigious festivals of the year.


#1  BRAD CUTS LOOSE | Writer/Director: Christopher Good

Summary: Brad, an uptight office drone, seemingly discovers the perfect vehicle for letting off steam when an advertisement for a business catering to his innermost desires pops up one morning on his computer. Brad’s subsequent visit to the business and encounter with its receptionist Janine, however, don’t quite go as planned. (via IMDB)

Connection: Writer/Director Christopher Good, Producer Andreina Byrne, Cinematographer Jeremy Osbern and Sound Mixer Danny Bowersox are from the Greater Kansas City area. Their work is can be seen in film, music videos, commercials and webseries. This is the third year that Jeremy Osbern will have a film at the Slamdance.

BRAD CUTS LOOSE is in Shorts Block 3 at Slamdance Film Festival, January 20-26 in Park City, Utah.


#2  COLOSSAL Writer/Director: Nacho Vigalondo

Summary: Gloria (Anne Hathaway) is a hard partying New York scene girl who is thrust into crisis when her boyfriend, Tim (Dan Stevens), grows sick of her antics and kicks her out of their apartment. With no other options, she moves back to her hometown and quickly regresses, drinking every night until last call and accepting a job at a bar owned by her childhood friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis). One day she wakes up and blurrily finds out that Seoul was terrorized by a giant creature the night before. Eventually, Gloria begins to suspect her own drunken actions are bizarrely connected to the monster rampaging in South Korea. (via Sundance.org) Continue reading

December Spotlight – SongHue

Music licensing for film is a relatively new way for the everyday musician to monetize their music in a substantial way. Though it has taken off on the coasts, we couldn’t find anyone in the Midwest who was curating an online catalog of tracks for filmmakers to license.

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Mark Buergler

We first became aware of Mark Buerlger when he participated in the bi-city film competition between Kansas City and Chattanooga, Capture Filmmaking Contest. Mark was one of the composers selected to be paired with an editor. This team of two would create an original short film using footage uploaded by the public in both cities. It was a strong pairing. Together, editor Kyle Hamrick and composer Mark Buergler won the Best of Show award, the highest honor in the contest. As they say, good attracts good, and on the heels of his win Mark met Todd Davidson of Fountain City Studios and a new venture was born – SongHue. We are visiting with the team at SongHue to learn more about music licensing and their growing roster of Midwest artists.


KCFO:  What gave you the idea for a music licensing company for motion pictures/video/media production?

MARK: SongHue started through a film + music collaboration between myself and Fountain City Studios. I graduated out of UMKC in 2015, and was able to support myself making license-able music for film right off the bat! Though I was stoked that a career in music was an option for me, I was also seriously bummed that I was doing it all by myself. This is when I partnered with Todd Davidson at Fountain City Studios to compose music for film in-house.

To simply have a crew to bounce ideas off of and collaborate with was huge to me. Coming from a background of being in bands, and having a close crew of friends in college, I didn’t want to do everything on my own. Sitting in my studio apartment creating music for hours on end was really fun, but it was also incredibly lonely! On top of that, I couldn’t find anyone else who was doing what I do in KC.sh28

After working together on several film projects, Continue reading

October Spotlight: Michele Fatturi

MEET MICHELE FATTURI

I have just returned from Brazil where I worked as Broadcast Venue Manager during both Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Each month we talk with an influential individual in our film industry and this month we have the opportunity to learn about a KC woman who recently worked at the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games – Michele Fatturi. 

KCFO: You’ve spent most of your career living and working in Brazil. Are there any distinct differences between producing American media versus Brazilian media – how is it the same/how is it different?

MICHELE: It is hard to trace this parallel at the moment because in Brazil I have worked for over 12 years mainly for TV and Radio but in KC my working experience is in the cinema area and not yet TV.

Brazil has a great tradition in TV and advertising, being considered one of the best in the world for its high production standards. So, both countries share leading roles in this area and highly qualified professionals. However, the US produces more globally distributed content while Brazil produces for local and Latin markets. I think that’s the main difference. Also, as we deal with much smaller budgets, Brazilian professionals are very good at finding solutions outside the box to solve problems when resources are limited and crews are smaller. It’s the so called “jeitinho brasileiro”(Brazilian way) applied positively. I would say we are very resourceful.

It is also the difference between a KC media professional and someone from New York or the West Coast, for example. With less productions and smaller budgets you guys here need to do way more juggling to get things done, what makes the local talent very versatile.

KCFO: You’ve produced content for large entertainment companies like MTV and ESPN. Can you give us an example of a project(s) you worked on at each and what your role entailed?

MTV gives you a lot of freedom to create and to do things your way Continue reading

Remembering Rick Cowan

This special edition of KC Film Spotlight brings members of the Kansas City film industry together to honor our friend Rick Cowan, a pillar in our industry, who passed away suddenly August 8, 2016. Some of us knew Rick for decades, some of us met him this year – no matter how long you knew him, you felt like you “knew him.” The City of Kansas City proclaimed the date of his “Final Wrap Party,” August 17, 2016 forevermore “Rick Cowan Day.”

Production is like a big puzzle, some times you can find all the right pieces, other times you need help because one piece has fallen on the floor and is under the table.  Rick and I helped each other find the missing pieces no matter who’s job it was.            – K. Krieger

The people we visited with are directors, producers, production managers, art directors, and location scouts who worked alongside Rick Cowan for years. You may have your own memories to share – feel free to include those as a comment.

Rick Cowan Extra 2

INTRODUCTION

Jim Wheeler – I met Rick about 20 years ago.

Abby Dix – I am trying to pinpoint the year I met Rick, which escapes me, but it was long ago.

Kathy Krieger – 30+ years. God, where does the time go?

Brad Slaughter – I’ve known Rick for 22 years

Bryan Mangan – I have known Rick for 30 years.

Melissa Willis – Ummm I don’t know…..I met him on “Ninth Street..” I was PA. The movie was released in 1999 but as with independent film it took years to complete and release. I’m sure the shoot I was on was around 1995?  It was the club shoot in downtown KC. The day was dedicated to the amazingly long and beautiful steadicam shot of the entire club starting at the front door. Continue reading

August Spotlight – Tuc Watkins

…if you wanted to be a player in the industry you had to live in Los Angeles or New York city. Thanks to the Internet, that is no longer the case.

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Photo Courtesy of Soap Opera Digest

Each month we talk with an influential individual in our film community. This month we had the pleasure of speaking with  yet another incredibly talented Kansas City native  Tuc Watkins. Tuc Watkins is an actor and producer known for his roles on successful  ABC shows like One Life to Live and Desperate Housewives, NBC‘s Parks and Recreation, in hit films like The Mummy, and in web series like Where the Bears Are.  He is incredibly versatile, with credits ranging from broad comedies to stark dramas, and nearly everything in between. With a long career spent starring in both daytime and Primetime television, as well as film, Tuc has a unique perspective on the industry. Tuc was kind enough to talk with us about his career, life and his love for his hometown.

KCFO: What is your story from Kansas City to Hollywood?

TUC: I grew up in Mission and Prairie Village. I went to Indian Hills Junior High and would have attended Shawnee Mission East, but my family moved to St. Louis when I was in high school.  My family moved back to KC while I was attending Indiana University. After graduating I spent my last summer in Kansas City, working odd jobs, saving money so that I could move to Los Angeles. When I had saved $6,000 I jumped in my jeep and drove to California.

KCFO: What was your very first job in Hollywood?

TUC: When I arrived in Los Angeles I was lucky enough to book my first commercial audition: Miller Lite Genuine Draft Beer. We spent a week shooting on the beach in Malibu. Between Lee Majors’ house and Bob Newhart’s house. It was an awesome experience to say the least! Continue reading

July Spotlight: AMERICAN HONEY

AMERICAN HONEY Filmed in KC

If you didn't know the 2016 Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize
winning film AMERICAN HONEY filmed in Kansas City last year, don't worry. 
The reason you didn't know is because the production kept their presence 
here very quiet. They asked  us not to discuss the project, actors or locations 
with anyone outside of those who were involved on a "need-to-know" basis. 
That meant no media, no social posts, no newsletter content about how 
exciting it was that they were here filming here. 

It was a great pleasure assisting this production. Knowing that this 
brilliant director was bringing her first US feature to Kansas City was 
incredible. Now that filming is done and they have premiered at Cannes, we 
can share some anecdotes that shed light on how the film office works with a
production like AMERICAN HONEY. First, watch their trailer and see how 
much KC you can find -

Andrea Arnold’s “American Honey” plunges the audience, with dizzying hand-held exhilaration, into the lives of a couple of dozen young pierced and tattooed drifters who have banded together into a roving derelict cult, driving around the Midwest in a van, where they have a scam going to use their hustle and beauty to guilt-trip people into buying magazine subscriptions. You may never have seen a movie that so eloquently captures the feeling of living not for the future but for the moment — and, let’s be clear, living that way is not a good thing. But there’s a haunting question that shadows the flying-high hip-hop catharsis of “American Honey,” and that is this: How did these kids get here? -Owen Glieberman, Variety

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June Spotlight: Scott Jolley

Each  month we connect with an influential professional in the industry. This month our Spotlight is on Scott Jolley – DP/videographer, jib commander, Steadicam operator, UVA pilot and ringleader at Scott Jolley Production Services. 

What I am most proud of is seeing the people I have helped get started go forth and kick ass.

scott 4I heard of Scott Jolly well before we met. Scott is someone in Kansas City that I heard of through colleagues and when spoken of people say he’s great at his job, he’s reliable, he’s a team player and he calls it like he sees it. People like Scott inspire us to elevate one another in our work and life. In our industry, our websites showcase reels of work, personal bios and resumes to help land business. Scott has all of that at SJPS.tv but also includes contact information for other people, including potential competitors as well as links to other productions sites and The Onion. He seems to have the opposite of “lack” mentality – he trusts that there is enough for all. This is one of the reasons we’re putting the June spotlight on Scott Jolley.


KCFMO: How long have you been in the film industry?

SCOTT: I got my first TV job when I was a freshman in high school. Abilene Kansas had a little public access station in the basement of the city library. It would have been 1979. It was primitive tv and I loved it. One of my jobs was putting the letters on a black magnetic board. That was our graphics.

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Jolley’s first job.

KCFMO: What is your role(s) in the industry? (your jobs on a crew)

SCOTT: It depends on what the day is. Some days I am a director of photography, or I might be the jib op, or Steadicam guy, or drone pilot. I also do a little editing and writing. I try and learn a new trick as often as possible. I remember 20 or so years ago, an online editor proclaimed to me that he would always have a job and that there was no need to learn non-linear editing. Last time I saw him, he was sinking in a tar pit.

The competition for work can be brutal and mean. It can force you into a fear based level of operation.


KCFMO: Do you have a philosophy/quote that inspires your work or life?
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KCMO Launches Local Filming Incentive May 31, 2016

When the KC Film Development Program unanimously passed in City Council only a handful of weeks ago, Kansas City became the first and only city in America to offer a local incentive in a state that does not offer its own state incentive. Since that day the KC Film and Media Office, along with the Kansas City Office of Culture and Creative Services have been working together to ensure that the entire incentive process, from initial application, to rewarding the rebate, is a smooth successful one. With the help of city lawyers and guidance from other film commissions across the country, we have made every effort to create a program and process that is easy for both the production and the city.

After a great deal of work and planning we are excited to announce that Monday, May 31st is the official launch of the KC Film Development Program. Eligible productions will be able to apply for the two tiered rebate program with the hope of receiving a cash rebate on all qualified and verified KCMO expenditures. Those productions that apply for the program will be reviewed by the Office of Culture and Creative Services to determine if they qualify for the program. Continue reading

May Spotlight: Bebe Wood

Each  month we connect with an influential professional in the industry. This month our Spotlight is on actress Bebe Wood. 

bebe 2At fourteen, Bebe Wood has had more success than many actors will see in their entire careers. Wood, a Kansas City native, has starred in some of the biggest shows on television including 30 Rock, Veep, NBC’s The New Normal, the Netflix mini-series Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, About a Boy and films like A Merry Friggin’ Christmas. Today, Bebe stars in the new ABC comedy “The Real O’Neals” as Shannon, the clever daughter of Irish Catholic parents adjusting to their son’s coming out and their impending divorce. We got the chance to speak with Bebe about her KC roots and what it’s like being a successful young actress.


KCFMO: What would you say is the most common misconception about being a young actor?

Bebe: Acting is hard work. I love my job and I’m blessed to have it, but it’s not easy. People think being an actor on television would be a walk in the park and tons of fun. It is fun, but it also means a crazy schedule and a lot of responsibility.

I think staying in KC helps keep me grounded. I don’t get caught up in Hollywood competition.

KCFMO: How has your Kansas City upbringing affected you and your career? Continue reading