…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 and Todd Soliday are the brave filmmakers who produced the documentary feature FINDING HILLYWOOD. Through 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 FilmFestSpotlight 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?
LEAH: 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.
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.
MTV Live interviews
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?
…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.
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.
Parks and Recreation
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 →
In 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:
Halloween has come and gone, but a good scare has no expiration date. How convenient then, that this Friday, November 6th, the horror film The House on Pine Street, which was shot and made locally, will screen on the opening night of the 15th annual Kansas International Film Festival.
We talked with producer and writer Natalie Jones about her experience making this psychological horror-thriller alongside co-directors Aaron and Austin Keeling. All of whom, happen to be KC natives!
KCFMO: Why was it important to you to shoot this film in Kansas and Missouri?
Patrick Rea is a local Kansas City filmmaker and Co-founder of SenoReality Pictures. Since 2002 Rea has written, directed, and produced numerous films, including two feature DVD releases in 2007 with “The Empty Acre” and “Heartland Horrors”, as well as winning two regional Emmy’s for the short films “Woman’s Institution” and “Get off my Porch”. Working primarily within the horror genre, Rea has received many honors and awards for his work, with his films being featured in film festivals around the world.
In honor of Halloween we thought we ought to talk to someone who knows just as much about horror as he does about filmmaking. Rea answered some of our burning questions about filmmaking, Kansas City, and of course horror.
KCFMO:As a filmmaker who works within the horror genre, what would you say are the pros and cons of making a horror film?
Storyboarding – “Visualizing a Film” Vince Medellin will share character development boards, environment boards and storyboards from his own work as a visual developer/art director as well as storyboards from the films of local director, Patrick Rae. You will see how a production is ‘seen’ well before any camera roll. Plus you’ll have a chance to give storyboarding a try yourself!
Casting – “Audition to Land the Part” Heather Laird of Wright/Laird Casting in Kansas City will be will be at Script-to-Screen Saturday, June 27th in the Casting Booth area. Heather has worked on 65+ films including THE GOOD LIE, PETE’S DRAGON, WINTERS BONE, ALL ROADS LEAD HOME (screening at Maker Faire) and more than 1,000 commercial and print projects such as Google, McDonalds, Walmart, MetLife, Microsoft, United Way, Time Warner Cable, Wendy’s, Sprint, Gillette, MasterCard and many more. The W/L booth will provide the opportunity to observe the audition process and for the fearless, a chance to try it yourself!!
Talent Agency Booth – “Have Your People Call My People” Several area talent agencies will be in the Talent Agency Booth – I&I Agency, Exposure Inc and Moxie Talent Agency. You may be surprised at all of the amazing talent Kansas City has – from actors, to models, to voice over artists. Stop by the booth and they can teach you about the world of booking a job from headshots to auditions – they may even send you to one! Continue reading →