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!