Monday, February 8, 2010

Notes from our February 6th Screening

Greetings and thanks to those who got a coveted seat at last Saturday's show, our first-ever sold-out Iron Mule program! It was standing room only on a cold February night as we gathered for 12 short films, two trailers and our fancy new 3-D title intro. Almost as good as Avatar, and a hell of a lot shorter.

For those who've attended any Iron Mule shows in the last year, you may remember that this was the moment of truth for hosts Jay Stern & Victor Varnado who had each made a pledge to shoot a feature film before February or host that month's show naked. And boy, did they deliver!... their films. The audience was witness, not to the full monty, but to the trailers for Victor's movie, "Lasergun," and Jay's movie, "Jay Stern's Still Untitled Movie About a Ghost in an Apartment." While they both agreed that shooting a feature in a weekend may not be the way to go, it did kickstart both of them into working on their next project. In Victor's case, that means using the footage he shot to try and scare up money to go back and shoot it better, and in Jay's case, that's preparing for the other two features he plans to shoot this year.

On to the main event, Jay & Victor introduced our guest judge, Ritch Duncan, who shared some wisdom from the book he co-authored with October's guest judge Bob Powers entitled "The Werewolf's Guide to Life." After answering audience questions about silver bullets and the veracity of Teen Wolf, we began the evening with a pair of British films about trying to get ahead. "Audition," by Simon Brown, features a monkey puppet trying out for the role of Othello, and Kat Moon's "The Initiative," revolved around an office drone named First who always comes in second. Kat, a New York native, was on hand to tell us about making the film while attending the London Film School, and how her DP ended up starring in the film after her lead actor quit the night before shooting started.

Next up, "Official Selection" skewered the Hollywood "Art vs. Commerce" debate as two budding screenwriters battle to rewrite the movie they're in. And following that, previous Iron Mule participant Louis Grenier shared his latest short, "Don't Put That There," a monologue about littering that features footage he'd shot fifteen years ago and recently completed. Louis talked about the process of adding new footage to the film and how he first started recording his stand-up monologues. Checking in with our guest judge, Ritch explained that he had been taking "copious notes," such as "monkey puppet" and "exploding car." Any further opinions he was clearly keeping close to the vest.

We then moved on to an animation bloc, beginning with David Baas' "Skylight," from Canada. A mock nature documentary (and a rare success in the genre, see here), "Skylight" examines the majestic arctic penguin and the danger he faces from laserbeam-accurate holes in the ozone layer. After that, Iron Mule was very lucky to have longtime-viewer, first-time-screener Laurie Rosenwald on hand to share three of her animated films. Employing temps she pays "little or nothing" to set her cut-paper-collage animations into motion, Laurie's films use anecdotal monologues to explore superlatives, cable TV addiction, and other pitfalls of modern life. Her third film, "David's Diary," centers on a diary entry read by author David Sedaris, whose articles she has previously illustrated for The New Yorker.

Rounding out our competition entries for the evening, we ended with "Brinquedos (Toys)," a silent, surreal short from Brazil about a little girl's perilous quest for a doll carriage, and "Time Travel: An Allegory," from Portland, Maine filmmaker Ritchie Wilson. In the film, the main character invents a time machine to kill Hitler but mostly uses it to steal cereal, while his roommate watches the many doppelgangers come and go and tries to keep him from inadvertantly killing himself. Ritchie made the trip down from Portland to talk about the film and discuss how he came to live in Maine. (A girl was involved, he said mysteriously.)

Before concluding the program, we introduced a special guest in attendance: Ming-Yi Smith. She met future husband Alan Smith when she was chosen to be in the Wanna Be A Star? film "Kumquat," which Alan directed. The two hit it off immediately and went on to make a sequel, "Avocado," and last month tied the knot. (Their story was recently covered in this New York Times "Vows" article.) In honor of our first Iron Mule wedding, we screened "Kumquat" and talked with Ming-Yi about her memories of the shoot. This month's Wanna Be A Star? film, directed by Iron Mule producer Lin Sorensen, featured a couple Iron Mule faves, filmmaking team dp & Kasey Williamson. In the film, "Go For The Win," dp plays a job applicant struggling through a very unorthodox interview. So far, no one involved in the production has decided to get married. For more information on the Wanna Be A Star? competition, please visit our website and check out our next show for your chance to win.

After all the ballots had been collected, guest judge Ritch Duncan announced the winners: "Official Selection" won our Audience Award, and "Time Travel" picked up our Judges' Award. Congratulations to Vince & Ritchie on your accolades, and thanks to everyone who helped us pack the house. Our next show is March 6th and we'll have lots more great short comedy, including films from Germany, Newfoundland, and Los Angeles, so get your tickets early!

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