Thanks to major funding from ITVS, “The Promise of Freedom” is coming to PBS! Sean and I had a phenomenal time in San Fransisco last week for ITVS Orientation – thanks Cheryl, Richard x2, Matt, Annelise, Jorge and the rest of the ITVS family! We also had the pleasure of eating the best dessert ever: cheese-based sorbet with olive oil and sea salt. Phenomenal. Now we just have to make a movie!
We do have BIG news to share… soon.
(Pictured: Beth Murphy and Sean Flynn at the TDF pitch table. Photo courtesy of Christian Pena.) Our project, The Promise of Freedom, was the first and only one at TDF to receive on-the-spot funding (for both production and outreach) at the pitch table.** Thank you Judith Helfand, Julia Parker Benello and Wendy Ettinger! (Read my blog entry on Chicken & Egg Pictures site, too.) We also received a commitment for distribution and support for making a pre-sale. It is phenomenally exciting, and I’m looking very forward to our follow up meetings tomorrow with some commissioning editors. There was really only one way to celebrate: meal seven of sushi. And the Ryan Harrington fan that I am, I couldn’t miss the International Premiere of P-Star Rising. I didn’t want it to end. P-Star and her Dad showed up after the film, and, surrounded on the sidewalk under a full moon, P-Star… LEARN MORE
Producing documentaries is not easy. In large part because it is not inexpensive. We mused over drinks that it would be nice if every once in a while a film could fit this description: “lucrative, easy and meaningful.” I was celebrating the world premiere of “21 Below” at the Toronto Hyatt with the film’s creators and supporters. In the film Sharon, the oldest and most stable of three sisters, returns to her dysfunctional family to help her 21-year-old sister, Karen, who is pregnant with her third child. The baby’s father is an older black man who sells drugs and teaches Karen’s older son (fathered by another man) that Jay-Z has 4000guns. The diapproval from Sharon and Karen’s Jewish mother creates the tension and drama that drive this intensely personal film. Karen also has a 15-month-old daughter who is dying of a rare degenerative disorder. I nearly found myself hyperventilating during… LEARN MORE
Judith Helfand and Robert West, co-founders of Working Films, continue to prove why they’re the best at what they do! As they listened to and helped tweak each of the five pitches (inluding ours) that will be given on Thursday in front of hundreds of people, good pitches evolved into great ones. Their mission to link non-fiction film to cutting edge activism is gaining even more momentum now that they’re partnering with Channel 4 BRITDOC Foundation and the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program to have the “Good Pitch” here in Toronto. Most of the day was spent in this three hour workshop and an invite-only Doc Mogul lunch honoring Sheila (as Nick Fraser points out, HBO’s Sheila Nevins is a one name wonder in the docu world). The films I saw today were as heart-wrenching as yesterday’s. Children of God tells the story of a 12-year-old Nepalese boy and his… LEARN MORE
In my next life, I want to come back as Nicholas Kristof. His writing for the NYT is done with such humanity and insight, and I loved watching him in action tonight at the International Premiere of Reporter. The film follows Kristof on a mission of (as the director calls it) “dismal illumination” to the Congo. As Kristof searches for the one person who will illuminate the massive suffering of millions caused by war in the Congo (5.4 million killed in the past decade), filmmaker Eric Daniel Metzgar distastefully comments that hunting down the saddest stories “doesn’t feel very good.” (There were moments when I couldn’t help but think of the book, Anyone Here Been Raped and Speak English?) But, Metzgar admits, the worst stories will exist whether Kristof finds them or not. When Kristof meets Yohanita, a woman so thin from starvation she is mistaken for a bundle of… LEARN MORE
I have several “must see” films on my HOT DOCS schedule, but topping the list is Sergio, based on Samantha Power’s Pulitzer-winning biography, Chasing the Flame: Sergio Vierira de Mello and the Fight to Save the World. A career diplomat whose calm, suave style and good looks earned him a reputation as equal parts James Bond and Bobby Kennedy, Sergio answered the call to duty one final time in Iraq. You can watch the Sergio trailer here. No time to read Power’s book? Her New Yorker article (The Envoy: The United Nations’ doomed mission to Iraq)is an excellent read.
See article in today’s NYT. I’ve just started reading Ahmed Rashid’s new book, “Descent Into Chaos.” It is an incredible analysis of why Pakistan, unstable and armed with nuclear weapons, is terrorism’s ground zero. In the book, Rashid questions how NATO can survive as the West’s leading military alliance if the Taliban is not defeated and bin Laden remains uncaptured. He goes on to say: What is at stake in Pakistan is even greater. A nuclear-armed military and an intelligence service that have sponsored Islamic extremism as an instrinsic part of their foreign policy for nearly four decades have found it extremely difficult to give up their self-destructive and double-dealing policies after 9/11, even under the watchful eye of the CIA… President Bush’s embrace of (Pakistan President) Musharraf and the military, rather than of the Pakistani people and the development of state institutions and a democratic process, has created immense… LEARN MORE
It is a beautiful sunny day here in Boston as I make the final preparations for our trip to Hot Docs. My biggest concern the last few days has been making sure Beth and I have all the materials we need to pitch The Promise of Freedom both in the Good Pitch forum and at the many informal networking events offered by the festival. On the packing list right now are 50 DVDs of The Promise of Freedom trailer and sample scene, 30 DVDs of our previously completed work Beyond Belief , 3 copies of the 4-minute screener we’ll be using during our pitch, and a whole armload of proposals and budgets. Our schedule for the week is packed with film screenings, Rendezvous meetings, panel discussions and of course the big pitch on Thursday, May 7. I’ll try to report back with notes from as many of these events as… LEARN MORE