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

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

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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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

April Spotlight: Misti Boland | Red Bird

Each  month we connect with an influential professional in the industry. This month our Spotlight is on Misti Boland – screenwriter, director, producer, production designer, art director.

Using the internet to distribute film and TV content is sort of like the new Wild West…

You might recognize Misti Boland from the Sundance/Slamdance blog we did earlier this year when we highlighted area people at the fests. Misti was a member of the jury at Slamdance Film Festival. We got together at the Missouri Film/KC Film party in Park City and we had a good laugh as she shared a story about dancing with Emilio Estevez, who was very much enjoying himself at the party she just came from. She also spoke of her exciting project Red Bird that she was in post-production on.

Misti Boland is known as a a production designer and and art director, with more than thirty (30) films to her credit. She is one of the founders of Women of Lawrence Film (WOLF). She has been finding success as a writer-director as well and has just launched a new webseries called Red Bird. We are honored to have this rising star as our film office spotlight this month.


Misti Boland on Location Directing "Red Bird"
Misti Boland on Location Directing “Red Bird”

KCFMO: Where did the idea for Red Bird come about? And where did the name come from?

MistiI grew up watching Western television shows and movies, and as a filmmaker I’ve been looking for the opportunity to create one.  When I was approached by actor friends Alexandra Goodman and Ian Stark about writing a script with two characters who encounter struggles with living off the land, I thought it would be a perfect fit Misti-Boland-on-setfor making a Western.

My co-writer, Jeremy Osbern, and I live in Lawrence, Kansas, and we both share an interest in the history of Bleeding Kansas and in particular Quantrill’s raid. We wanted to showcase a woman who lived through a similar event and witnessed the murder of her young son, which sparks her bloody quest for revenge.

The name for the web series came about when Jeremy and I decided that Sam’s (Kitty Mae’s father) special nickname for her would be Red Bird. 


RED BIRD HorizontalKCFMO: You are the writer, director and co-creator of this series. Tell us about those roles and any others you took on. Continue reading

Why a Local Film Incentive for Kansas City?

collageWhile at the at the AFCI Locations Trade Show in Los Angeles representing Kansas City and the state of Missouri, a screenwriter, let’s call him “Steve,” engaged us in a conversation about a romantic comedy script he wrote called “BBQ.” I immediately pitched the virtues of our incredible Kansas City BBQ scene and our strong crew base and he easily became interested in adding Kansas City to the list of cities he would consider. In the next beat he asked, “What are your incentives?” This question is the norm in the industry. In fact we may have been the only booth at the trade show without active incentives.


 

Last year the AFCI drew over 3,000 attendees, over 1,000 producers, 684 production associations, 227 directors, 108 film commissions and 83 independent filmmakers. [Source AFCI]


 

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Kansas City Represents at Sundance and Slamdance

IMG_1709In Park City I almost literally ran into the legendary founder of Sundance Film Festival, Robert Redford. Lucky for him and especially for me, a bodyguard type gentleman threw a “mom style arm-as-safety-belt” in front of me and I halted before plowing into Mr. Redford. Running into him could have been a national tragedy, or (and I like this idea better) he would have brushed himself off and so would begin our long-lasting, deep and meaningful friendship. Alas.

The KC Film + Media Office attends Sundance to connect with independent filmmakers, producers and other industry people. We support locally-tied films that play in the festivals. And one of the highlights is the networking party that we co-host with the Missouri Film Office on behalf of Missouri and KC-connected people which is steadily gaining a reputation as a don’t-miss affair.

Kansas City area people I ran into during the Sundance and Slamdance Film Festivals are only slightly less famous but no less important than the Sundance Kid:

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February Spotlight: Kevin Willmott

Each  month we connect with an influential professional in the industry. This month our Spotlight is on Kevin Willmott -screenwriter, director, producer, actor and professor.

To have one of your film heroes say that about your work is about as good as it gets.

Kevin Willmott

Kevin Willmott grew up in Kansas and attended college to study Drama at Marymount University in Salina. His work as a peace and civil rights activist after college resounds in his filmography. After Marymount he created two shelters for the homeless and fought for integration within several long-standing segregated institutions. Later he went on to the graduate program at the prestigious NYU, Tisch School of the Arts where he won several writing awards and earned an MFA in Dramatic Writing.

Although I didn’t have Willmott as a professor at KU, I did have the great pleasure of working as a camera assistant/loader for a 2nd unit team in 1999 on his critically acclaimed feature film, “C.S.A.: Confederate States of America” (2004). The film explores what America might be like had the Civil War been won by the South. “C.S.A.”, as well as “The Only Good Indian” (2009) premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and represent only a few of his many professional credits.

Willmott’s numerous credits range from actor (11 credits), writer (8 credits), producer (9 credits) and director (8 credits). [Source IMDB]

As a professor Willmott inspires students by example – by creating consistently, working hard and having the determination to make films he believes in that often take years to enter into production. Our intern, Rachel Kephart, a former student of Willmott says, “he’s very present as a professor and teaches from a real knowledge of filmmaking from idea to distribution without pretension.”

We are grateful that he shared some of his experiences and photos with us, even with an incredibly busy schedule.


KCFMO: What were you doing before you came to University of Kansas to teach?

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