Monday, December 3, 2012

Notes from our December 1st Screening

After being rained-out by Superstorm Sandy, the Iron Mule bounced-back better than ever with a strong lineup from some of our favorite filmmakers.

The evening kicked-off with a presentation on paint toxicity that was as informative as it was funny by Kriota Willberg. Then we screened the Iron Mule classic, WHITE BLOOD CELL SAVES CHRISTMAS by Dano Johnson & Tate English. This holiday favorite features a giant white blood cell that takes over for Santa when he's too sick to deliver gifts to all the good girls & boys.

Next we showed THE LOST TRIBES OF NEW YORK CITY by Andy & Carolyn London featuring some great interviews with some of the often overlooked residents of NYC,  like phone booths and manholes...

Then we took a trip to Norway for a good old fashion mother-son suicide pact, subtle hilarity ensues, DIN TUR by Vegard Dahle. Keeping with the theme we then watched the campaign spoof, POLITICAL SUICIDE by Kevin Maher & Bill Scurry.

Next we showed some hilarious, single-take videos featuring heavy metal and cut-out puppets from musician/ filmmaker, Watt White (I WANT TO BE A FASHION BLOGGER and THE BATTLE AT IKEA).

Then we showed a film about a cranky, old couple who, after falling and not being able to get up, are forced to spend a night together on their front yard, TWO OLD NUTS by Spencer Lenzie.
From Iron Mule's vaults we brought back Ryan Arey & David Valentine's FLORIDA?, and their latest, FLORIDA? 2, featuring a cute, green puppet, his dead father and their harrowing journey across the sea.

We ended the night with the WANNA BE A STAR? film, INVINCIBLE ANTICHRIST VICTORY by Jay Stern and featuring audience member/ actor, Joanna Parson.

We will return to 92Y TriBeca on Saturday January 5th for the next installment of the Iron Mule. See you there!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Notes from our October 6th Screening

The October edition of the Iron Mule featured a strong lineup and a nearly-packed house. We began with a film from our friends at, a funny short about a new student confronting the unnavigable social strata of high school called Everything You Always Wanted To Know About High School... Next we showed a great animated piece by Michelle Brost about a lumberjack who has a passion for knitting, Leonard.
 The latest from Periods was a hit, an hilarious retelling of John Steinbeck's classic East of Eden *Full disclosure, none of us -- no, not even the guys at Periods-- has read it, we've only seen the film starring James Dean. But it was still hilarious and had more dick jokes than you could shake a stick at. Next, repeating Iron Mule offenders Ben and Chris Blaine had their new film What Time Do You Call This? featuring a drunken Brit wooing his disgruntled girlfriend with a little dirty dancing.

We then changed gears and screened an excellent stop-motion piece called Cowboy, Clone, Dust by Matt Christensen. It was a very imaginative and unassumingly profound film... Or at least our guest judge, best-selling author Myla Goldberg, thought so! But seriously, Matt's film was a highlight for all of us at Iron Mule.

Next we showed The Shuffle by Robert Nguyen, a film about a guy who can't muster-up enough courage to talk to the girl of his dreams, so he does what any normal, tax-paying everydude would do... He stalks her and has his friend steal her yoga mat. Hilarity ensues.

Before all the votes were counted we showed our latest Wanna Be a Star? film starring audience member Joshua Breeze. The title, selected by the audience at the August edition of Iron Mule, was In the Arms of the Angel and was directed by and co-starring Iron Mule newb, Ryan Decker. Moral of that story: don't buy dogs while intoxicated. Just don't. It's a uniquely terrible idea.

After all the ballots were counted and the judges conferred with the inimitable Ms. Goldberg the victors of the October screening series were Cowboy, Clone Dust giving Matt Christensen the audience award and Giovanni Autran of Periods took home the judges' award for East of Eden.

All in all it was a great night filled with great films and side-splitting humor. Come on down to 92YTriBeCa on November 3rd for the next installment in the Iron Mule canon to see the next installment in the Wanna Be a Star? (Invincible Antichrist Victory!!!) other original, strange and funny short films.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Notes from our July 7th Screening

A happy crowd of New Yorkers braved the July heat to pack 92YTribeca’s air-conditioned screening room on July 7th.  The show began with the standard recap of what was going on in Jay and Victor’s lives.  Victor has two web series online right now: The Realm of Larp, and Funny Cause it’s True.  Jay is finishing up tow features with the promise of a trailer for one of them at next month’s show.

Joining Jay and Victor was guest judge Ben Roesch, a film fan who Jay described as “a foremost Iron Mule expert.”  Ben has been coming to Iron Mule screenings since 2007 and has probably soon more short comedy films than your average person.  Who better to judge than him?

Victor and Jay welcome Ben Roesch
(photo by Tom Henning)

The first film of the night came courtesy of our partner organization,  We screened an episode of their series Husbands, which tells the story of the aftermath of two gay celebrities’ accidental marriage in Las Vegas.

Our first block of films in competition included Dave Green’s Ham Sandwich, a story of a man who discovers a magical sandwich that sends him back in time with potentially disastrous consequences.  Next was a short from UK animator Felix Massie, Keith Reynolds Can’t Make it Tonight.  This film is sort of a stick-figure Mad Men gone deadly.

Felix wasn’t at the screening, so instead Jay and Victor interviewed 92YTribeca intern Paolo Avenati as if he was Felix.  They didn’t learn much, but they had fun.

Victor and Jay interview Paolo -- um, Felix.
(photo by Tom Henning)
The next film in the lineup was Paolo Sasseneli’s Uerra.  Paolo is a famous TV and film actor in Italy, and this was his first short.  Beautifully shot (in 35mm! remember that?), Uerra is a period film that tells the story of a group of people living in an apartment building struggling with the aftermath of the Second World War.  And it’s a comedy.  Paolo couldn’t make it to New York, but he sent a representative, his friend and fellow actor Laura Caparrotti, who was on hand to talk about Paolo and his work and Italian shorts in general.  Laura explained that the film was shot in a very thick Italian dialect that few people outside of the region can understand.  (Naturally, our audience couldn’t understand it either, but that’s why there were English subtitles).

Victor and Jay with Laura Caparrotti
(photo by Tom Henning)
Two more films were up next:  Chris Capel’s commercial spoof Naptime! in which we learned about a product that will silence even the most annoying of children, and First Mate, from brother filmmaking team, Conor and Tyler Byrne.  Conor and Tyler were at the show to talk about their movie and what it’s like to makes movies with your brother (apparently there’s punching involved).

with the brothers Byrne
(photo by Tom Henning)
Our last film in competition was Stephen Neary’s Doctor Breakfast.  We’ve shown some other films by Stephen at past Iron Mules, but this one is really something special.  It’s about a guy whose soul escapes and starts eating things and then some deer show up and try to console the guy, and, well, it’s going to make absolutely no sense unless you watch it.  So take a look.

Then, while our vote counters were tabulating the audience votes and our secret cabal was tabulating the judges’ votes, we premiered out latest installment in the monthly “Wanna be a Star” series, Zombie Barbeque.  The film starred Aaron Rudelson, who was randomly chosen at the June screening to star in his very own film.  It was written by Ryan Guiterman and directed by Jovon Outlaw, and starred Aaron as a Zombie having trouble getting people to attend his barbeque.  Aaron happens to be an actor, so his performance (done entirely in zombie language with English subtitles) was quite convincing.

Then it was time to announce the winners, and the audience favorite went to First Mate and the judges award went to Keith Reynolds Can’t Make it Tonight.  But everyone was a winner as we moved on to the after party where drinks were had,  jokes were cracked, and mingling was done until it was late and people went back to their (hopefully air-conditioned) homes.

Join us at 92YTribeca on August 4th for our next screening!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Now That Everyone Has a HD Camera...

A friend of ours forwarded an article from The Atlantic that puts into words a problem we've seen with submissions in the past few years.

Now that everyone has access to HD cameras with nice lenses, everything is starting to look really pretty.

It's becoming easier and easier to shoot something that automatically looks professional.  But that doesn't mean that the quality of submissions is getting better.  In fact, having the ability to make a film look professional without a lot of work has made filmmakers lazy.  With an automatically slick-looking film, young filmmakers are more inclined to settle with that and focus less focus on storytelling, character development, acting, etc.  When we started our festival back in 2002, we would often get submissions on VHS tape that had technical limitations, but we could see how the filmmaker really struggled with what he or she had to make the movie as tight and good as possible.

Now, we get movies shot with DSLR cameras that look really professional visually, but are 10 minutes longer than they should be.

And let's not assume that a camera that gives you good depth of field and wonderfully saturated colors means that you know how to light, compose shots or operate the dang thing.  The camera makes it look like a real movie, but it doesn't make it good.

Director Doug Bayne (whose Factoids and Slapstick and Tiny Legs of Fire have played numerous times at the Iron Mule) puts it nicely in his Open Letter to Canon, posted below.

So don't rely on your camera to take care of everything.  And if you have access to another format, think about trying that out every once in a while and see how it affects your storytelling.  We'd LOVE to get a submission in Super 8.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Notes from our May 5th screening

We officially launched our 10th year with a new lineup of films on May 5th.

Going back to our roots as a screening series designed to showcase our own work, the screening began with Botanical Gardens, a new music video by Jay Stern featuring a song by Dale Goodson and M. Sweeney Lawless.  Following this, Victor presented a secret work-in-progress that we're not allowed to write about here.  This is why you should really come to these screenings.

Victor and Jay with Dale Goodson and M. Sweeney Lawless (they're the two in the middle). Photo by Tom Henning.
We began the competition with our selection, King Temp, written by Jason Saenz and Nick Turner and directed by Justin Tyler.  This series tells the story of a man who makes the most out of his temp lifestyle, with helpful tips for you temps out there.

Next was Raymond C. Lai's wonderfully odd green-screen TV pilot At Your Convenience.  At Your Convenience tells the story of two best friends who run a convenience store.  In the pilot, one of them gets caught up in a gang, leading the other to enter the magical world of crack smokers.  It's much funnier and more surprising than this description makes it sound, with really strong performances by the entire cast.

We began our next block of films with another King Temp episode, followed by Ryan Arey and David Valentine's Florida? which tests just how far you can go combining dark and cute in a 2-minute movie.  Ryan directed the film and David designed the puppet.  The three of them (Ryan, David, and the puppet) were at the screening and we spoke to them about their work and puppet-making in general.

The next film in the lineup was Professor PebblesPierce Davidson's claymation film about a devil that can't do evil no matter how hard he tries, and our Australian addition to the evening.  We closed this block with a final King Temp episode.  Director Justin Tyler and producer Vincenzo Picciano were on hand and Jay and Victor interviewed them about this series and their other work.

As always at the Iron Mule, we ended the screening with our "Wanna Be a Star" film, stars an audience member from the previous month's screening with a title suggested by the audience.

Our star this month was Tom Carrozza, who happened to also play a lead role in our first ever "Wanna Be a Star" film that premiered 10 years ago this very month.  So we had an encore screening of that film, Monkey Balls, followed by the new film The Zebra's Refrigerator.  And just like old times, these were Jay and Victor films (Jay directed Monkey Balls and Victor directed The Zebra's Refrigerator.)

Tom Carrozza talks to Jay and Victor. Photo by Tom Henning.
Next it was time to announce the winners of the evening -- the audience favorite award went to Florida? while the judges prize went to At Your Convenience.

Then it was off to our award-winning after party that lasted until the wee hours of the evening.  Join us at our June 2nd Iron Mule screening and experience the magic yourself!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Notes from our February 4th screening

It was a full house at 92YTribeca on February 4th for a special romance-themed Iron Mule.  Guest judge romance novelist Hope Tarr joined us and spoke a bit about her work and about romance in general.  Romance, Hope said, means that there must be a happy ending, which generally fits for comedies.

Guest judge Hope Tarr with Jay and Victor
photo by Tom Henning
First in the lineup was our film, The Rules of the Game, written by Sam Michell and directed by Tom Daley.  Hope liked it because it had a "hot English guy" as the lead, although the happiness of the ending is questionable.  You can judge for yourself by watching it here.

Next was Love, our Canadian entry for the evening, written and directed by Kaveh Nabatian.  This movie is difficult to describe without ruining it, but simply put it's a very whimsical and oddly told odd story about a couple that have a one-night stand and end up with a family in the most unexpected of ways.

Next was Oh Baby, I Love You! by Mary Angelica Molina, which tells the story of a woman who has a sexual quirk that threatens to destroy a relationship she cares about before it gets started.  This lovely-looking film had some great comic performances and a nice twist at the ending.

Speaking of twists, next was a film from Australia, Rupert Le Poer Trench's Appy Ever After, which is about a husband trying to sneak a night out with the boys with the aid of a smartphone app.  This movie actually had two twists at the end, and we won't spoil them for you here.

Next in our lineup was Karen Hope's Buon Giorno Sayonara, about an Italian tourist and a Japanese tourist who meet up on the English seashore after having had arguments with their respective others.  They have a romantic afternoon together, although they don't speak the same language.  This movie was quite charming and made do without much dialogue, and no subtitles for the little Japanese and Italian the characters spoke.

Our final film was from an old friend of Iron Mule, Alan McIntryre Smith, a music video called Espresso Nirvana.  Alan, who also shot and edited the film, had shot concerts of composer and classical pianist Gregg Kallor, and when Gregg asked for a promotional video for his new album, Alan proposed going all out and making a music video.  Alan was at the screening and we spoke about how he developed the movie with Gregg.  As you might imagine, there aren't many classical music videos, but after seeing Espresso Nirvana we really hope the trend takes off.

with Alan McIntyre Smith
photo by Tom Henning
This was it for the films in competition, but before we showed our "Wanna be a Star" movie, co-host Victor Varnado had a movie of his to show.  The newly-completed The Trouble with Charlie was made as part of a Comedy Central competition and was the pilot of a potential series about an unregistered puppet trying to find love and friendship in a hostile world.  Also Charlie's a bit of a jerk, but that's beside the point.

Then the audience cast their votes for their favorite films, and while the votes were being tallied, we showed the world premiere of I'm the Rudest Person in the World.  As always for our "Wanna be a Star" films, the title was suggested by the audience at the previous month's show, and the star, Kerry McGuire, was randomly picked from the audience.  As luck would have it, Kerry is a writer, and in an Iron Mule first, she wrote the movie for her to star in.  Adam Sacks directed.

with Adam Sacks and Kerry McGuire
photo by Tom Henning
After the film it was time for the awards, and Hope Tarr joined us for the announcement.  The audience award went to Oh Baby, I Love You! and the judges' award was a very rare tie between Buon Giorno Sayonara and Love.

Hope Tarr announces the winners
photo by Tom Henning
Then it was off to the after party for drinks, mingling, and for some of us, a late night snack in SoHo.

At the after party, where everything is better in black and white.
photo by Tom Henning
Thanks for reading, and make sure to join us at our March 3rd screening!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Re: Puppet Drama is Wrapped and Ready

So, THE TROUBLE WITH CHARLIE, the "puppet dram" that I conceived of a few weeks ago is finished! It was strange how quickly it came together.  A friend of mine had a production company and told me that they were doing nothing for a couple of weeks and if I had a briliant idea, they would shoot it for me.

Brilliant is subjective, but we did turn around a helluva shoot in very little time.  It has been a while since I had the chance to direct a narrative with a full crew so I was psyched.

New York City premiere coming up at The Iron Mule ( film fest on February 4th at 8 pm 

If you are in town, you should definitely come see it.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Hope Tarr to guest judge February 4th screening!

We're excited to announce that romance writer Hope Tarr will be gust judging our special romantic-themed February show!  Get your tickets now here -- we sold out last month and you won't want to miss out on this one.

Here's some info about Hope:

Hope Tarr is the award-winning author of fifteen historical and contemporary romance novels, including VANQUISHED (a Kindle Top 100 Bestseller) and TEMPTING, reissued this February 2012 as an audio and e-book. Hope is also a co-founder and principal of Lady Jane's Salon, New York City's first--and only--monthly romance fiction reading series, now in its third year. Find Hope online at, and

Monday, January 9, 2012

Notes from our January 7th screening

The audience gathered for a sold out show on an unseasonably warm evening at 92YTribeca and Jay and Victor took the stage to introduce two special guests: Victor brought out Charlie, the star of a movie he's working on, and then Jay introduced Lisa Baylin of, who came to town from Toronto to launch a partnership with Iron Mule, and also to serve as guest judge for the evening.
Victor and Charlie 
Jay, Victor, and Lisa Baylin
Lisa talked about iThentic's programming, and how we're going to be sharing content monthly at the Iron Mule shows and on their website.

First up were two originals, The Ascent of Man and World's Worst Golf Course from The World of Bruce McCall.  These are animated films adapted from New Yorker covers by the famed illustrator and writer Bruce McCall.  We're big fans, so it was a thrill to have Bruce there in person, where Jay and Victor discussed with him the process of having others animate his drawings, and the difference between humor and comedy.

Our next block of films included four excerpts from the webseries Naomi: The Show (which, unbeknownst to us when we programmed it, is also featured on  Naomi: The Show tells the story of Naomi, who is hit on in the most disturbing of ways at the bus stop.  Next was Robert Mond's comedy thriller from Australia Reception, about a kidnapping in the age of cell phones.  Then The Sleepover Story, by Pete Lutz, which tells the story of a scary story come true.  Rounding out the block was Fergus Dingle's Total Insurance, a comedy-horror about insurance advertising that just won't stop.

We checked in with Lisa for her thoughts and waxed poetic about the short film format for a bit, before going on to our last block of films in competition.

The last two were Stephanie Argy and Alec Boehm's Gandhi at the Bat, a lost censored newsreel that tells the story of Mahtama Gandhi's top secret mission to the US in the 1930's, in which he accidentally winds up batting one game with the Yankees.  The last film of the night was The Wallet or the Watch by Jason Saenz and Robert Rugan, about two muggers who pick the wrong guy to mug.  The film could have just been a quick gag, but it was executed with a lot of style and a featured a great performance by comedianTom Shillue as the "victim." We spoke with Jason Saenz and producer Vincento about the challenge of making professional-looking short comedy films

Last up was our "Wanna Be a Star" film Russian Dressing, starring audience member Joy Shatz, who tore up the screen as a desperate and obsessive baker racing to get ready for a dinner party.  Joy and director Ryan Guiterman talked about the process of making the film, which, reflecting the star's namesake, sounded like a joy.

with Ryan and Joy
Then it was time for Lisa to announce the winners, who will go on for consideration for acquisition by  It was a tough competition, but there can only be two winners.  This month it was a split: the audience voted for Gandhi at the Bat, while the judges' prize went to Total Insurance.

Lisa Baylin announces the winners
The audience filtered out to the cafe for an after party where they mingled with the filmmakers and regaled each other with the type of humor and charm that is unique to Iron Mule audiences.  Stop by our next screening at 92YTribeca on February 4th to see it for yourself!