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

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

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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Spotlight on TRUST FUND MOVIE

One of our favorite locations to film at was the “Italian Villa” which was an amazing home located only about 15 minutes south of downtown…we could not have asked for a better place to shoot our Italy scenes. The funny thing was, we filmed the family home in “Chicago” right across the street, that’s how diverse some of the neighborhoods are in Kansas City.

It’s not everyday that an independent film gets a deal with the AMC Independent program. But that’s exactly what Kansas City filmmakers Sandra Martin (SM), writer/director and Isaac Alongi (IA), cinematographer have done. Their film, Trust Fund, opens in KC on January 8 at AMC Theatres.  We invited Martin and Alongi to be the January KC film spotlight to celebrate the release. Congratulations to these incredible KC film talents and to all the cast and crew!

KCFMO: How did you film KC as Chicago and Italy? Tell us about your location selections.

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Focus Features Gifts Early Screening of “The Danish Girl” to KC Organization

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The Danish Girl, a thought-provoking true story of a transgender artist who goes through one of the very first gender reassignment surgeries, is scheduled for wide release in theatres December 25 but there are people in Kansas City who have the opportunity to see it a week and a half earlier than the rest of the U.S.

An early screening of The Danish Girl has been granted by Focus Features to the Kansas City non-profit organization The Transgender Institute.

We met the founder and director of The Transgender Institute (TTI), Caroline Gibbs, in December of 2014 during Kansas City-based Discovery Life television show New Girls on the Block, produced by Kansas City production company HINT with Los Angeles company Conveyor Media. TTI serves transgender patients globally with therapy, mentoring, resources and training programs as well as consultation for clinicians.

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