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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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

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

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

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

March Spotlight: Stephen Locke

Each  month we connect with an influential professional in the industry. This month our Spotlight is on Stephen Locke from Tempest Gallery.

I’m a painter, photographer and filmmaker. Making visual art immerses me in the world. Through painting and film I explore the fathomless experience of being alive. Deep presence allows me to explore both the dramatic and mundane with equal exuberance.

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STEPHEN LOCKE goes where the wind takes him -literally. He is a man who captures storms. His weather photography business is appropriately named, Tempest Gallery and he sells “hi-def time-lapse videos to producers around the world” [KC Star, July, 26, 2014] – his clients include LG Electronics, Kia Motors, BMW, Wrangler, Fuji Television, Scottish snythpop band Chvrches, European culture television ARTE and ZDF German public-service television.

His films are so captivating and mesmerizing I’ve kept his site up on my computer and replayed them for hours. Stephen captures the sheer power of a storm with thousands of still images that make up his own distinctive style of time-lapse video and the outcome is beautiful. The outcome is art.

With Spring storm season approaching we thought it was the perfect time to talk to Stephen Locke for our March Spotlight.


KCFMO: You began capturing storm systems later on in your career. What drew you to this type of photography/videography?

Stephen: Originally I was interested in general landscape photography. As a landscape photographer in Kansas it was inevitable I would discover thunderstorms. They made the horizon more dramatic. I began planning my landscape photo excursions based on forecasts for severe weather. Eventually I learned to make my own forecasts so I could plan trips 3-10 days in advance. Initially my intent was still photography but I discovered I could combine several hundred stills to make a high resolution movie. Thus my career in time lapse film making was born.

KCFMO: From spotting a developing system on the forecast to finalizing the video, how long is the process of creating a time-lapse video?

Stephen: The entire process can take several days or weeks. The post production procedure of grading still pictures and combining them to make a movie can take several days to produce 30 seconds of footage. As technology improves and my methods evolve I’m often remaking movies shot several years ago. I regard all my movies as continual works in progress.

KCFMO: When you begin tracking a storm system, how often do return with the footage you were hoping for?  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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January Spotlight: Melissa Willis – Producer/Production Manager

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I had the pleasure of working with Melissa Willis at Take Two (now HINT) several years ago. She was the kind of producer who respected the Production and everyone’s roles in it. She seemed to always stay late, she was amazingly organized, and meticulous about her production books. One of the truly great things about her is her willingness to teach young associate producers and production assistants who were interested in how to run a commercial production. Melissa is what I call a “crackerjack.” She knows her stuff and accepts nothing but the best from those she works with. Melissa is now the Senior Producer at Northpass Media in Kansas City.


KCFMO: How long have you been in the production industry and how did you start?

Melissa: I started about 22 years ago. There are many moments which shapedmy first 2 years. I answered an ad in a local paper, the Pitch, I think. The ad was asking for people to participate in a documentary. We met at the Westport Library. At that meeting I met Kirby Cobb the director and creator of the project. We met every Wednesday night. From those meetings the Independent Filmmakers Coalition (IFC) was born.

Via the IFC I met Patti Watkins the Film Commissioner of Kansas City. I interned for her during Ang Lee’s feature “Ride with the Devil” and during Frank Pierson’s HBO movie “Truman” when they were scouting Kansas City. Patti recommended me for Production Secretary on “Truman”.  I’m forever grateful to her for that opportunity. My script cabinet was Emmy worthy!

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Spotlight: 7 Questions with Patrick Rea

Patrick Rea is a local Kansas City filmmaker and Co-founder of SenoReality Patrick ReaPictures. 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?

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