Friday, September 30, 2016
  • Friday, Aug. 18, 2000
Director's Cuts, Round III

Three years ago, when director Charles Stone III's two-minute film True debuted at the first annual Music Video Producers Association (MVPA) Director's Cuts Film Festival, no one realized that it would soon change beer advertising as we know it. True, of course, was the inspiration for Budweiser's award-winning and hugely popular "Whassup" ad campaign, out of DDB Chicago, which Stone directed via C&C/Storm Films, New York.

What the Festival organizers did know, according to Heidi Herzon, Festival co-chair and music video rep at Hollywood-based Oil Factory, was that "we were embarking on something special." Addressing an audience of about 520 people at this year's show, which was held last month at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills, Herzon said, "Directors who participate in the Director's Cuts Film Festival have gone on to make a distinct mark on films and commercials, most notably Charles Stone III and the 'Whassup' guys. It's a thrill to bring all of the talented individuals whose work is shown here to the attention of the entertainment industry, and to offer a first look at pro-jects by people who will be the stars of tomorrow."

In a sort of tribute to the film that exemplifies the Director's Cuts mission, Festival producers kicked off this year's show with a screening of True, followed by 13 films by up-and-coming music video, commercial and independent directors. Films were selected from a total of 85 entries. The judging panel included: Herzon; Jerry Cancellieri, president of Method, Santa Monica; Gregg Dallesandro, head of commercials and music videos at Montana Artists Agency, Santa Monica; Janet Eisner, executive producer of music videos for bicoastal The Artists Company; Janet Haase, Festival co-chair and executive producer of music videos at bicoastal/international Satellite Films; John McGinnis, directors rep at Bonfire Films of America, Los Angeles; Cathy Pellow, head of music video sales at bicoastal Original Film and its London-based satellite, Baby Pictures; and Sheira Rees-Davies, executive producer of music videos at bicoastal Anonymous.

The program began with Negative, a black-and-white film about an unsuspecting

couple and a daring voyeur, directed by Jamie Thraves of Oil Factory. Thraves has helmed several shorts and music videos, and recently wrapped his first feature, The Low Down, which debuts at the Edinburgh International Film Festival later this month.

Negative was followed by Is This Clone Revolt, a mock documentary about a rap duo, by Marcos Siega of Bonfire Films of America. An established clips director, Siega has also directed the short film Stung, which debuted at last year's Director's Cuts.

The four-and-a-half minute Gutbuster followed Morituri Te Salutant, Philipp Stölzl's film about a failed prison escape plan. Featuring a bizarre scenario about an Eskimo, a sheet of ice and a pair of headphones, Gutbuster was helmed by Garth Jennings of directing trio Hammer & Tongs. Best known for its award winning clips, Hammer & Tongs is repped by Anonymous. Stölzl is with Oil Factory, and recently directed Madonna's "American Pie."

Next came Silent Film, by Anonymous' Malcolm Venville, which told the story of a young deaf couple coping with the fear that their infant child is deaf. The autobiographical film—based on Venville's parents—was commissioned by the U.K.'s Channel 4, in '96. Venville is currently writing a feature script called The Deaf Road Movie, which he plans to direct.

The animated short Littlest Robo, by Richard Kenworthy, followed. Kenworthy is part of directing collective Shynola, which is repped by Oil Factory. His film tells of a young boy's estranged relationship with his father, and won best computer animated film at the Ottawa International Film Festival.

Lost Casting Tape, by 26-year-old up-and-comer Howard Shur, offers a very frustrated actor's doomed audition. It was Shur's first film. He has also helmed "Punk Virtuoso," a music video for 30 Amp Fuse, which was run through Satellite.

Next up was Little Girl, by Juliette Garrison of Oil Factory. This director's fourth film, Little Girl follows the adventures of a young wannabe Latina gangsta girl, interspersed with several animation sequences.

Mark Osborne's animated student film Greener followed. The film is a prequel to the director's Oscar-nominated short More, which screened at last year's Director's Cuts. Osborne, who is repped by Satellite, recently made his commercial directing debut with "On the Go," for dial-up information service BeVocal via Citron Haligman Bedecarre, San Francisco (SHOOT, 7/21, p. 32).

Next came Peep Show, by Charlie Call. The independent director's debut film, Peep Show offers up a for-women-only twist on that fixture of red-light districts. The film bowed at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colo., in '99, and is being adapted as a half-hour comedy series for Columbia TriStar Television.

Films by two Oil Factory helmers followed: The Fear, a nebulous musical montage by Doug Aitken, and Baby, which explores a teenage boy's erotic trip to a public swimming pool, directed by W.I.Z. Aitken has helmed numerous experimental films, including Diamond Sea, about the diamond mines in Nambia. W.I.Z. is developing a feature film about drug culture, which is based on his short film Weekender.

Wrapping up the show was the stylized black-and-white film Lady's Point of View, by L'Wren Scott, an established costume designer who recently signed for commercial and music video representation with Los Angeles-headquartered Ritts/Hayden. Since launching her directorial career, she has directed "Santa Baby," a clip for Russell Simmons featuring Run DMC, Salt n Pepa and others, as well as a promo for USA Network's La Femme Nikita.

Title design and introductory sequences for Director's Cuts were produced by Griffin Guess and Gene Gilbert of Machete, Venice, Calif. (Machete was formerly Digital Millennium Productions, Torrance, Calif.)

About this year's festival, Herzon observed that the filmmakers seemed to be "gearing their work toward a more commercial angle. They're making trailers for their feature films." That's certainly true of Garrison, who said she is looking for investors for a feature-length Little Girl. She plans to begin shooting in the spring and, as with her short film, blend live action and animation sequences.

On the other hand, Osborne characterized Director's Cuts as "an important show," not only because shorts tend to offer up fresh new voices and experimental material, but because there aren't that many film festivals dedicated to the short format.

"It's going to be hard to find the next True," conceded Oil Factory president Billy Poveda. Director's Cuts is the brainchild of Poveda, who also serves as VP of the MVPA. "But what is good is that the festival hits many different notes. There's a range of emotion. Some films were sexually charged, some were melancholy. Others were funny. But they're all diamonds in the rough."

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