February 28, 2013

Oscar Nominated Doc To Become ABC Miniseries

HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE, the acclaimed indie doc about the AIDS activism movement of the 1980's and 90's, may have lost at the Oscars (to the feel-good crowd-pleaser SEARCHING FOR SUGARMAN) but it's winning in the world of television. The Hollywood Reporter today announced a deal for the feature length movie to be turned into a mini-series saga for ABC. It's surprising news on multiple fronts; not only is the mini-series format returning to network television after a long absence but it will also be telling the remarkable story of AIDS activism and how it lead to the modern LGBT civil rights movement. 

The documentary, produced by my friend and fellow filmmaker Howard Gertler along with director David France, was incredible and  my only critique was that I wanted to know more about these incredible activists. So now that wish will be answered in a major way this with new multi-hour series exploring the characters who made these remarkable changes in the FDA drug approval system and saved the lives of thousands of people infected with HIV. 

There are scant details so far about timing of this series as the show is in development but I look forward to hearing more and seeing it on the "little screen" soon.

February 26, 2013

Billy Eichner Interviews Pink Up In The Air

I'm a big fan of Billy Eichner and his show BILLY ON THE STREET on Fuse. Now, he's branching out of a bit from his man-on-the-street schtick to do an interview with the fabulous Pink. But since it's Billy, this is no ordinary celebrity sit-down. In fact, the entire interview takes place about 40 feet off the ground as they dangle from harnesses, as Pink likes to do lately

Billy consistently cracks Pink up with his odd questions and off-the-wall comments (Kelly Clarkson!). Truly funny stuff--hope to see more of these crazily honest style of interrogations on his show. Or Conan, where he is now a semi-regular as well. 

February 22, 2013

Doc Up For Oscar Was Shot (And Saved) By An iPhone App

The documentary SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN, which has been nominated for an Academy Award, was partially shot using a $1.99 iPhone app. The story of the film itself is remarkable, about an Detroit singer unknown in the U.S. but wildly popular in South Africa in the 1970s.  The filmmaker, Malik Benjeliou, was originally shooting his b-roll on Super-8 film to get that groovy, 70s vibe. But, like all indie filmmakers, he ran out of money.  Enter the iPhone app called iSuper8 (of course) that recreates the look of that classic stock by shooting with an iPhone. Voila--film saved.

Malik shows exactly how he did it on this piece that ran on CNN last night. It's a very clever move by a filmmaker whose efforts have been rewarded with a trip to the Oscars on Sunday night. Let's hope he shoots some vintage-style footage of the big night on his phone.

February 21, 2013

After Furor, The AP Stylebook Recognizes Marriage Equality

Last week, the AP caused on online fury when it said that it's Stylebook, which sets the standard for journalism in the US, would not recognize gay marriage. Essentially, they said that the use of the word husband and/or wife were exclusively the domain of heterosexual couples, regardless of whether gay couples were legally married in states where it is now an option. Bloggers went nuts, as did journalism watchdogs, and today the AP relented and, in a statement, made public it's new inclusive entry for husband and wife.

Americablog, which was one of the most critical voices in the discussion, today has some great details on the back and forth of this and the advocacy both inside and outside the company that put on the pressure when this broke last week.  It started out, apparently, as an internal debate which got leaked when some irked AP employees  got the word out. And good thing---because words matter. And the AP Stylebook is the essential for writers/journalists (some of whom are often covering the issue of marriage equality itself).

Despite the initial AP misstep, it's good news in the news room. And for the acceptance of marriage equality as well.

February 20, 2013

The End of the Oscars...Literally

Producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan are known for their big musical productions of films like CHICAGO and, one of my favorites, HAIRSPRAY. This year they are also producing the Oscar telecast and promise to bring a musical touch to the proceedings, with performances by Adele, Shirley Bassey and even Barbra Streisand in her first song at the awards show since 1977. Today's Hollywood Reporter has news of another unusual touch they are adding to the show--an actual ending.

Usually, the telecast ends with the Best Picture statue being handed out as producers thank their wives, God and Harvey Weinstein. But this year they want to utilize their host Seth McFarlane's musical skills and do a big closing number after the big award. It seems they are taking a cue from the Tony broadcast which, in recent years, has ended with Neil Patrick Harris doing a memorable original song that recaps the evenings highs and lows. No words on whether that was the source of their inspiration but, clearly, as Broadway producers themselves, they are surely Tony watchers and attenders. Regardless, it will be a welcome addition to the ceremony instead of the usual rush to the local news.

February 19, 2013

My Short Films Are Headed To UCLA Archive

Over the weekend, I boxed up the 16mm negatives of my two NYU short films SHALL WE DANCE and POOL DAYS for a trip out west to the UCLA Film and Television Archive.  The archive, partnering with Outfest, has created the Legacy initiative to preserve LGBT films for scholars and researchers. It's a massive collection, with thousands of holdings which make it the largest repository of LGBT media in the world.

I had been called by a festival programmer last summer and asked about putting my films in the archive. At the time, I was working on another project and though it sounded like a great idea I just didn't get around to it. Fast forward to last month and this became my New Year's resolution; to get my previous films in order and properly stowed for the future. I THINK I DO, my first feature, will be heading to the archive shortly from a vault in Glendale, where it's been for the last few years. And I'm currently making some transfers to digital media of my Super8 movies from even further back.

For my film school shorts, it's certainly a lot better having these negatives stored in proper archival conditions rather than in a cardboard box under my bed (where most filmmakers tend to put their projects "in storage"). I'm very grateful to Outfest (which has screened 6 of my films over the yeas) and UCLA for supporting this project and making it possible for filmmakers to have some peace of mind, knowing their work is in a safe for place for generations to come. 

February 15, 2013

Missouri High School Loses In Gay Prom Date Case

A Missouri high school failed this week in it's attempt to keep a male student there from bringing his boyfriend to the prom. The school initially pointed to a policy in the student handbook that said "girls invite boys, boys invite girls". But when the adept student in question, 17-year-old Stacy Dawson decided he was going to fight, he contacted the Southern Povery Law Center and they reminded the school that Stacy has some constitutional rights, per previous court rulings.

The whole story is on Queerty as the high school administrators are that site's official "Douche of The Week". I think it's great not only that Dawson can go to the prom but that he actually challenged the school publicly and won. It's a measure of how far things have come in terms of LGBT rights in just a few years. In 2005, my first novel A REALLY NICE PROM MESS was about a similar situation dealt with very differently, when the lead wants to take his b.f. to prom but does so secretly on a double date with two girls. (He's at a private school so there is not court-ordered option, and he's semi-closeted too.) Unfortunately, the secret gets out on page one and the night becomes a comedy of errors.

Fortunately for Dawson, his real world prom will be neither comic nor an error--it will just be a romantic night with his main squeeze. Cute! :)

February 13, 2013

Newark's Subway Stars in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES

The Newark what? you might ask. Not many people know that Newark has it's own subway. Though with only 3 stations underground and a scant 20 minutes from one end of the line to the other, it's not exactly the A train.  But still is was subway-ish enough to get a small starring role in the most recent Batman blockbuster THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.

There's an article about the subway and its' recent claim to fame in the NJ.COM website this week.  Initially, the plan was to shoot Pittsburgh's subway as an NYC double but then director Chris Nolan  saw scouting shots of Newark's system and thought it looked more authentically "Gotham" (as it shares similar white tile walls as the MTA). So the production came in for 2 days in 2011, changed all the signage, and turned underground Newark into a star. At least for a day. It's the scene where Batman meets Anne Hathway underground if you want to check it out on the DVD.

February 12, 2013

A Different Opening For LINCOLN's International Version

LINCOLN, the Spielberg film about the President who ended slavery, is a historical drama which involves some knowledge of the Civil War. For most American audiences, that knowledge is a given as it's part of the history curriculum in schools.  However, for audiences abroad, this is often not the case. So the filmmakers created a different opening of the film for its international release, involving the use of black and white photos and some title cards.

The Hollywood Reporter wrote about this in an interesting item on their website about how some famous films were altered for their international rollouts. Not surprisingly China is the most censorious, eliminating scenes and Chinese characters in a number of major American films for scenes which they deem "offensive". The most recent film to hit the Chinese chopping block was SKYFALL and some of it's scenes set in Shanghai.

February 11, 2013

A Film Archivist And The Strange Story Of THE KIDNAPPER'S FOIL

There was a fascinating article in this weekend's NY TIMES about a film archivist in UT Austin, Caroline Frick, whose been tracking down some rare, unusual films--actually the same film that was shot over and over again in small towns throughout the US in early part of the 20th century. A filmmaker/huckster named Melton Barker went from town to town selling locals on putting their kids into a film called THE KIDNAPPER'S FOIL...for a fee. He made the film over and over again hundreds of times though today, only 20 copies have survived.

This story of film history would have been interesting in and of itself. Especially as THE KIDNAPPER'S FOIL is now on the National Film Registry due to Ms. Frick's efforts. What makes this all doubly interesting is that Ms. Frick was my next door neighbor when I was growing up in Kensington, MD and I actually used to babysit her and her brother!  I had heard she worked in film preservation and, for a time, was here in NYC working for a cable channel that played old movies. Anyway, it was so cool to read this story and learn about these FOIL films, which I've never heard of before. You can actually watch some of them on a website she started called Meltonbarker.org

February 8, 2013

The DVD Now Available For AUGUST

As the photo indicates, you can now get your DVD copy of AUGUST, the film that I co-wrote/produced with Eldar Rappaport. My copies of the movie arrived this week via Wolfe Video, where you can purchase the film for just $19.95. For those of you who are strictly digital these days, you can also stream the film for rental or purchase it digitally on Wolfe's website as well.

AUGUST is a romantic drama about a love triangle set in L.A. during a heatwave. It features great performances from Murray Bartlett and Daniel Dugan as a pair of ex-boyfriends who meet up again when one of them returns to the city.  Complicating matters is the fact that one of them is in a committed relationship, with the sexy Adrian Gonzalez. It's the perfect steamy movie for a snowy weekend so check it out and thanks for supporting the project! :)

February 7, 2013

Morris Engel's LITTLE FUGITIVE Is Amazing (And At Film Forum)

Over the weekend, I went to Film Forum and saw a film called LITTLE FUGITIVE. Directed by Morris Engel and shot in beautiful 35mm black and white, the feature tells the simple story of a boy who runs away from home to Coney Island circa 1953. But what is truly amazing is Engel's cinematography, some of it shot clandestinely with a handheld 35mm camera that he created specifically for the shoot. There are some stunning images, like the one above of the said fugitive hanging out under the boardwalk. 

Also notable is the performance of the lead, a non-acting Brooklyn kid named Richie Andrusco. (He was actually at the screening before the one I attended to do Q&A and is a man now in his 60s.) Andrusco gives a remarkable spunky performance, along with other non-actors in the film, as he scavenges the beach for bottles, ride ponies (real and fake), and tries his scrappiest to survive in old New York.

LITTLE FUGTIVE is said to have inspired Francois Truffaut's 400 BLOWS (one of my all-time favorites) and, Truffaut claims, the entire French New Wave movement. You can definitely see hints of Antoine Doinel and his troubles, as well as the handheld cinema verite style which became the hallmark of the nouvelle vague. But this picture is lighter, cornier and filled with Americana, like the scene of the fugitive devouring a slice of watermelon. Ultimately, the movie is an utter delight and well worth checking out...today is its final day at Film Forum.

February 5, 2013

The Songs From SMASH's Fake Musical Become Popular

There's a fun piece on the TIMES City Room blog today about the growing popularity of songs from a Broadway musical that was never on Broadway. "Bombshell" is the name of the fictional show withint the NBC show SMASH, which follows the behind-the-scenes story of this fake musical's journey to the Great White Way.  While there has been much speculation about whether "Bombshell" might actually be a musical some day, that hasn't stopped patrons of piano bars from singing it's praises alongside standards from SOUND OF MUSIC or LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS. Marie's Crisis, one of my favorite village nightspots, gets a heavy mention in the piece as a joint where this trend is taking off.

There was a great detail in the story about the writers of SMASH's songs, Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman. They been a couple since they met in the 1970s...at Marie's Crisis! (Talk about meeting cute for two songwriters.) Now their tunes from SMASH are well, a smash. At least with the gay piano bar crowd.  The songs have also not done too badly online either. In fact, later this month, there will be a real fake cast album released on iTunes for "Bombshell" with 22 tracks from the non-existent show. And the show itself starts its 2nd season tonight on NBC.

February 4, 2013

Netflix Debuts HOUSE OF CARDS Entire Season

Some are calling it the end of television as we know it. Others are calling it a bold experiment. And some are calling it a huge mistake. But Netflix has broken new distribution ground this weekend when it released all 13 episodes of David Fincher's HOUSE OF CARDS political series via online streaming. I was more curious about the show than the way it's being delivered as David Fincher is one of my top contemporary directors. So I checked out this first three episodes on Friday and Saturday.

The first two were directed by Fincher himself and they are exquisite; dense and beautiful, sharply written and expertly acted, especially by Kevin Spacey playing a House majority whip with a sinister Southern nature. Robin Wright is just as good as his wife. Some of the plotting was a little pat (did a lifelong DC politico really never talk off the record to the press?) but the mosaic Fincher created is rich and rewarding to watch. Not surprising as they spent north of $100 million on the series. It could be the most expensive show on television...except it's not on television, technically.

The show is so good and dense that I can't imagine doing the binge-watching thing with this particular show. That seems more suited to guilty pleasures like REVENGE which are akin to bon-bons that you just keep popping. But this show is a steak and was delicious to watch. And I'll be watching more, just at a more leisurely pace.

February 1, 2013

Well Gollll-eeeee, GOMER PYLE Star Jim Nabors Marries His Partner

So it's not exactly news that Jim Nabors, the star of GOMER PYLE, is gay. I mean, I think I figured that one out when I was 10 and had it confirmed a couple years later when was in those ads for his records where he sang opera arias. Hello. Anyway, the cool part that is news is that Jim Nabors, a sprightly 82, just got hitched this week to his partner of 38 years in the state of Washington, where marriage equality passed last year on the ballot.

Nabors had never publicly discussed his being gay and that's his choice. But this week, Towleroad reported that he did do a short interview with a Hawaiian TV station (Nabors lives in the 50th state) and released the below photo taken after his big gay wedding. I think it's wonderful that he not only did he he get married but was he willing to talk about it to the media too. And also he said that he was never ashamed about being gay, was open about it to all his friends and co-workers and never "made a public spectacle of it."  I wonder if he was inspired by Ms. Foster's similar situation and announcement at the Globes?

Anyway, what's truly wonderful is that he's been in a committed relationship for nearly 40 years. God bless you Jim Nabors....and I wish you a long, happy married life.