Friday, May 8, 2015

Notes from the May 3, 2015 Iron Mule Screening

The was a warm Spring evening this May 3rd and a happy crowd gathered at Symphony Space for a night of short comedy films.

Co-host Victor Varnado began the evening with a dramatic reading of the New Yorker’s pompous review of The Avengers: Age of Ultron, and then we introduced our guest judges: the team of Steve Rosenthal and Peggy O’Brien. They’re a team because the work together, but also because they’re married. Peggy is a writer and comedian and Steve is an editor.

Peggy O'Brien and Steve Rosenthal talk to Victor and Jay.
Steve showed us a “leaked” video of Marvel’s plans for phase four of comic book movies. It’s pretty amazing – take a look!

While our audience fantasized about the upcoming Marvel movie War Thunder: Thunder War, we showed the first film in the lineup: The Desk, written, directed by, and starring George Gaffney. The Desk tells the story of a concierge team in a swanky hotel that has to fight for their jobs when a new boss takes over.
You can see a trailer here.

George Gaffney talks about The Desk
George was at the screening and talked about how the project came about, what it's like to direct yourself in a movie, and how he hopes to expand the story of the characters in The Desk into other episodes.

The next block of films featured the Australian short Batman and Jimbo by Angus Mullane, and Yellow Brick Hell: Michelle, an episode of a webseries starring Rob Asaro and Matt Cohen, directed by Justyn T. Davis. Rob and Matt were at the screening and talked about how these episodes are based on true experiences in Rob’s life.

Rob Asaro and Matt Cohen of Yellow Brick Hell
Next up was Knights of the Long Table, written by Andrew Burlinson and Scott Kruse, directed by Andrew Burlinson. This movie, from LA, tells an age-old origin story in unexpected ways. Next we showed Woman Who Hates Plants by New York animator Morgan Miller.

The next block of films included, from the UK, Jonathan Brooks’ Glasshole,  about what really happened to Google Glass, and from Australia, Granny Smith, written by Julian Lucas and Jack White, and directed by Julian Lucas. This movie tells the story about a man who employs the ultimate excuse to get out of work and pays the price. Co-writer and co-star Jack White was in town from Australia for a wedding, and his entire rowdy family was in attendance. Jack talked about how the film came about and his plans for more.

Jack White representing the entire country of Australia
Our final film in the line up was Keith Bearden’s How to Get Rich in 13 East Steps, a unique, borderline surreal short shot in beautiful black and white 35mm film! We didn’t realize people could still do that, especially for a short! We spoke with Keith about credit card debt and what he’s up to next.

Director Keith Bearden talks with Victor and Jay
Then, while votes for audience favorite were being tallied, we presented the world premiere Applesauce, our latest “Wanna Be a Star” movie starring audience member Emma Kane and directed by Iron Mule co-host Jay Stern.

May's "Wanna Be a Star" winner Emma Kane announces the star of the June "Wanna Be a Star" movie.
Peggy and Steve then took the stage to announce the Judges and Audience favorites – both went to Granny Smith. It was a tough competition with a split judges’ vote, but in the end, this scrappy movie from Australia carried the day.

Jack White accepts his award on behalf of Australia.
Then it was off to our award-winning after party at Café Thalia for drinks and a fun hang with audience and filmmakers.

Join us for our next screening at Symphony Space on June 7th for another round of short comedy films!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Notes from our March 1, 2015 Screening

It was a snowy night at the March 1st Iron Mule screening, but the crowd was out in full for a new lineup of short comedy films.
The Iron Mule audience, ready for some short comedy films
It was a snowy night, and the Leonard Nimoy Thalia was marking the passing of its great benefactor.
Hosts Jay Stern and Victor Varnado were joined by guest judges Eleanor Kagan and Kseniya Yarosh of the Bonnie and Maude podcast, a monthly podcast that examines film and television from a femme-centric perspective.

Kseniya and Eleanor talk about the kinds of movies they like, good and bad,
Our first movie of the night was That’s Not Mine by John Tuccillo, Jr. about a teen confronted by his parents once they find drugs in his room. They’re not his, but who they belong to is a bit of a surprise.

Next up was Herminio Cardiel’s Runner, a movie from Spain about a man, a woman, and some unexpected news.

Rounding out the block was Liz Rizzo’s gamer/thriller comedy Zero Hour: Bad Call.  Liz and one of the stars of the film, Kerry Hite, were in town from Los Angeles for the screening, and they were there for a brief Q&A following the film.

Liz Rizzo and Kerry Hite talk about their movie and what they're working on next.
The next block started with another movie from Spain, Alvaro Martín’s Estocolmo, about a child who’s father is in a unique line of work. Following this was Michael Goldberg’s What’s Eating Dad, which chronicles the uncomfortable experience of what it's like to meet your boyfriend's family for the first time. 

Michael Goldberg and producer David Chan were at the screening to talk about their film, as well as most of the cast.

Victor and Jay with Michael Goldberg, David Chan, and the What's Eating Dad? cast.
Our last film of the night was Trust Me I’m a Lifeguard, written by and co-starring Christian Keiber and Tyler Hollinger and directed by Tony Glazer. Tony Hollinger and one of the stars and producers of the movie, Bree Michael Warner were there to talk about the movie, and how you can get eager cooperation and support to make a film from a local community outside of NYC or LA.

Tyler Hollinger, Jay, Victor, and Bree Michael Warner
The last movie of the night was Health Food Cult, our "Wanna Be a Star" film starring David Stein, who was randomly chosen from the audience at the February Iron Mule to star in his own movie. The movie was written and directed by Darren Santa Maria.

Victor and Jay with Darren Santa Maria and David Stein
Following Health Food Cult, Elanor and Kseniya returned to the stage to announce this month's audience and judges' awards, both of which went to What's Eating Dad?

Then it was off to our after party at Cafe Thalia, where much mingling and fun was had by all.

Thanks to all of you who made it out, and we'll see you again at the April 5th Iron Mule!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Notes from the February 1, 2015 Iron Mule Screening

A warm crowd of non-football-lovers braved the cold and sleet on this Superbowl Sunday to join the gang at Symphony Space.

Hosts Jay Stern and Victor Varnado's guest judge for the evening was filmmaker and video artist Joan Grossman.

Victor and Jay greet the Iron Mule audience.
Joan talked with Jay and Victor about what she likes in short comedy films (being funny and having a strong story helps) and what she doesn't like (a slow lead up to just one joke).

Then it was time for the films. Our first movie of the evening did have a slow build-up, but concluded with a series of jokes, each one building on the last. Shot in a creepy CSI style, Jean-Pierre Michael's Impact, our entry from France, was a classy way to begin the evening. It was followed by a West Coast film, Damien Patrick's Directors on Directing, in which, through a series of profound interviews, three movie directors reveal what they have discovered to be the real power of filmmaking.

Our second block of films began with Sam Frazier, Jr.'s documentary, The Ghost Pepper Eating Contest of Jefferson County. We've shown a few films by Sam before, and this one was just as good as the others, documenting a competition in which people perform the stupid act of seeing how many ghost peppers they can eat before their body shuts down.

Next was a film by another returning filmmaker: Perry Strong was back with his movie The Stick, a slickly-shot film about a very poorly executed caper. Perry was there to talk about his film afterwards, and we discussed his choice to shoot this very funny movie like a thriller.

Actor/writer/director Perry Strong talks to an adoring audience.
Out last film in competition was the epic Down in Flames: the True Story of Tony "Volcano" Valenci directed by William Stribling, and written by him and R.J. Lewis. This movie, featuring real Guinness World Record holders and performers Todd Robbins, The Great Throwdini, and Richie Magic, tells the story of a fire eater who decides his greatest stunt will be becoming the first person to blow fire while skydiving. Needless to say, his amazing journey is fraught with risks and challenges. Producer / writer R.J. Lewis was at the screening, along with actors Sarah Blaze and Richie Magic. We talked to them about their work on this ambitious film, which straddles reality and fiction in some interesting ways.

"Down in Flames" team from left to right: Richie Magic, Sarah Blaze, R. J. Lewis
Closing out the night were not one, but two "Wanna Be a Star" movies, featuring audience members from previous shows who won a chance to star in their own movie. This time, Jay and Victor each made a movie, both starring the same two ladies, and both starting with the same two lines of dialogue. First up was Jay's Velociraptors in Heat starring audience member Hannah Stone, and then Victor presented Salmonella, starring Trilby Schreiber. The ladies came on stage for an interview and seemed delighted with their appearance on the big screen.

Victor and Jay with Hannah Stone and Trilby Schreiber
Joan Grossman returned to announce this night's winners: the Judges' Award went to Down in Flames and the Audience Favorite was The Stick.

Joan Grossman announces the winners.
But as Joan said, all of the movies were winners, and we repaired to the Bar Thalia for our after party, where R.J. Lewis and Richie Magic thrilled the crowd with magic tricks!

R. J. Lewis starts a trick with filmmaker Pamela Wess...
…and he picks her card!
Thanks to all of you who made it out to the February Iron Mule, and we'll see you next month at our March 1st screening!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Notes from the January 4th, 2015 Iron Mule Screening

Happy 2015 from Iron Mule! 2014 was a year with great shorts and what better way to celebrate than by presenting the "Best of's" from the year's past shows!

Jay and Victor greet the crowd
Our first guest judge of the new year was comedy producer Sam Varela.
Victor and Jay chat with Sam
Sam talked about judging each work of comedy on its own terms and to determine if it successfully achieves what it tries to do. Of course with a "best of" her job of judging a favorite film was going to be extra hard, since all of the films in the lineup were quite successful.

There were many international submissions in 2014 with a quite few from Australia, two of which made to the top ten list. The first one of the evening was Craig Melville's THE POLYGAMIST, a funny story about a woman's life juggling three men. Next up was David Foster and Donald Russell's YOU GOOD!, a humorous twist of drug dealers working as doctors on the streets. Comedian Perry Strong also features in the film and co-produced. He was there to talk about the film, his work, and how to successfully get away with using the "n-word" in comedy.

Perry Strong explains it all to Victor and Jay
We went back to Australia with Nick Hunter and Seaton Kay-Smith's FLOAT, a long-standing favorite about a man disturbed by meeting his ex-girlfriend's new beau at a party. Director Pamela Wess presented her film, ON WOMEN WHO VALIDATE THEMSELVES THROUGH SEX, about one woman's angst in not getting enough attention from men as her friend lays spread-eagle on the ground, casually drawing in every guy walking by.

Pamela Wess talks to the crowd. You can't see it in this picture but she was wearing green galoshes!
Next up, from the West Coast, was Jeremy Ungar's I'M 23 AND THERE'S A FUCKING MONSTER UNDER MY BED about, well, a 23-year-old still plagued by a monster under his bed, and his last-ditch attempt to get rid of it. Then came SPOONERS, in which writer/director Bryan Horch playfully exposes how a man struggles to buy a mattress for him and his husband without having to make a big deal out of it. Co-star Ben Lerman was there to represent the film.

Ben Lerman talks about SPOONERS - now a webseries!
We closed with one final live action film, and three animated ones. First, Chris Capel's LIVING WITH JIGSAW starred a scary but very funny puppet playing twisted games.  Last month's judge's award winner, HIGHWAY OF HELL by Andy and Carolyn London, returned for an encore performance of this unique charcoal on paper animation about the "beauty" of Clam Cove, Long Island.  Next was Natalie Labarre's PAPA, a sweet father/daughter story where dad tries his best at being a good dad, despite the obstacles.  Finally, Jason Coates' creative DICTIONARY MODELS, about a dictionary-model duo, capped the "Best of" list for 2014.

Animators unite! From left: Carolyn and Andy London, Jason Coates
Then votes were tallied and Pamela Wess brought home the Audience Award for ON WOMEN… and in one of our toughest votes ever, Chris Capel's LIVING WITH JIGSAW squeaked to the top to win the Judges' Prize.

Thanks to all of you who came out, and to all the filmmakers who made 2014 so memorable.

Join us February 1st for the next Iron Mule screening at Symphony Space!

Photos by Angela Manzolillo