Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Call 2 Action: BIFF’s signature outreach program

Director of Digital Communication, Boulder International Film Festival

Can a movie really make a difference?

If so, can we translate its passion into action?

Films rouse us; they fascinate us. Whether they are documentaries, or dramas that raise our consciousness, they move us.

Veterans featured in the film "High Ground" applaud the audience after the screening of Michael Brown's documentary, which took both the Best Call 2 Action award and the People's Choice award at BIFF 2012. [Photo by Leah Mayotte]
And then we move on. Countless times, filmgoers have confronted a compelling issue in the dark cinema, then stepped out into the light or night and perhaps discussed it over coffee or dessert, and forgotten it completely by the time they got home.

In 2010, a constellation of groups and individuals in Boulder, Colorado – the Boulder International Film Festival (BIFF), Philanthropiece, the Twisted Foundation, Mothers Acting Up, and Sandy Younghans -- came up with an innovative new way to integrate audience and film. Call 2 Action is a program that offers concrete ways for filmgoers to translate the energy and passion that film evokes into action -- to utilize cinema to organize a community. A film is a springboard, a departure point that unleashes a torrent of thought, dialogue and energy – all of which can be purposed toward healing the world, one person and act at a time.

Since then, BIFF has devoted 25 to 30 percent of its programming each year to the Call 2 Action initiative, with remarkable success. BIFF’s volunteer Call 2 Action committee matches film topics with social change groups in the region, partnering with them on the presentation of the film and its focus, during which they present the “Five Ways” in which they feel the audience can take immediate and effective action. Call 2 Action films are a well-promoted highlight of the festival, drawing a dedicated coterie of fans throughout the event.

Call 2 Action films feature representatives that lead post-screening discussions, debates, interviews, and Q-and-A sessions, as well as providing resources for immediate engagement and involvement for motivated filmgoers. Entities associated with the causes championed in these films will be on hand in The Call 2 Action Tent (yes, a big tent) erected at 14th and Pearl Streets, conveniently close to all our screening venues. Our festival program contains detailed information on all Call 2 Action topics, for continuing reference.

Past Call 2 Action films have consistently drawn sold-out crowds, and have offered insights into subjects such as the struggle of returning veterans (“High Ground”), the attractions of gang life (“Down for Life”), the not-so-incremental ebb of glaciers (“Chasing Ice”), and a triumph of developmentally disabled musicians (“For Once in My Life”).

Convinced of the effectiveness of the program, its originators are now crafting a Call 2 Action Toolkit, a blueprint available to all that outlines how to generate and grow a Call 2 Action program as well. We are very excited about this expanded opportunity to help people connect and make a difference!

"Patriocracy" in action -- director Brian Malone leads the talkback after his  documentary on political polarization airs at Boulder High School at BIFF 2012. [Photo by Bonnie Chaim]
You can find out more information about our Call 2 Action films on our Web site, at Plus, we’ll be discussing these movies in greater detail, and outlining the special activities and groups involved in the presentation of each, in future blog posts.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Shootout success: honors go to current, former Y.A.C. members

The Youth Advisory Committee's Shoot Out Boulder film team. (Photos in this post courtesy Ruth Wight)
Congratulations to the many members of the Boulder International Film Festival's Youth Advisory Committee, who participated, and won honors, in the ninth annual Shoot Out 24 Hour Filmmaking Festival Boulder!

The festival took place from Friday evening, Oct. 19 through Sunday afternoon, when the top 10 entries were screened and prizes were awarded at the beautiful new eTown Hall at 16th and Spruce Streets. Teams were tasked with creating a seven-minute film in only 24 hours, edited in-camera and including five of eleven items outlined in the opening "Brief." 

The awards for Best Performance and Best Film went to "Appearances," created by former Y.A.C. member, BIFF 2012 video editor, and Selection Committee member Ted Chalfen. Best Art Direction went to Y.A.C. member Carter Linsley for his "The Path." And our all-Y.A.C. effort, led by screenwriter/director Sabrina Caplis, received an honorable mention for their film, "Good Amid These." The other members fo the Y.A.C. filmmaking squad -- Derek Aiello, Danie Thomas, Dane Fogdall, Hunter Schoech, Tristan Santos, Clara Horst, and Anson Adams.

Other winners:

Best Linear Editing - Team #15 "ZOLO"
Best Screenplay - Team #24 "The Phone-y Bad Boy"
Best Comedy & Best Director - Team #31 "Ditchin'"
Best Sound Design & Best Cinematography - Team #26 "Autumn"
Best Original Score - Team #25 "Son of a Mitch"
Honorable Mention - Team #45 "Inhuman"
Silver Spur - Team #49 "The Voter"

Friday, September 14, 2012

What happens at BIFF doesn't stay at BIFF . . .

Attention, filmmakers! The late submission deadline for the Boulder International Film Festival is Oct. 1. Why is that important? Here's a partial list of the Oscar-nominated and -winning directors, producers, screenwriters, actors, and editors whose work has appeared at BIFF, and/or who have been our guests:

Jason Reitman
Eric Roberts
Don Hahn
Danny Boyle
Andrea Arnold
Daniel Junge
Bill Plympton
Alex Gibney
Helen Hunt
Alec Baldwin
Frederick Marx
Marshall Curry
Rick Goldsmith
Oliver Stone
Lawrence Kasdan
Andrew Bregman
Lasse Hallstrom
William H. Macy
James Franco

And here's some of the BIFF selections that went on to become Academy Award nominees or winners:

"Monsieur Lazhar," "Burma VJ," "Revanche," "Wasp," "Miracle Fish," "The Conscience of Nhem Eh,"  "Waste Land," "Incident in New Baghdad," "Raju," "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore," "West Bank Story," and "The Secret of Kells."

Don't you think your name would look good among these? Submit to BIFF -- we have very good taste! Details at

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Women in Filmmaking: free panel tonight

Director Beeban Kidron (she won't be there tonight, but she's awesome!)

SPECIAL, FREE EVENT TONIGHT IN BOULDER! WOMEN IN FILMMAKING! We HIGHLY recommend this action -- we at BIFF are constantly looking to redress the imbalance concerning women's efforts in film. Female actors are tossed aside once they reach maturity . . . the women behind the camera often don't get the respect, recognition and support they need. Even Kathryn Bigelow.

Participating in events such as this is how to change it --

Join screenwriter Tod Davies, producer/cinematographer Meryem Ersoz, executive producer/head of production Sarah Liles, and producer/director MaryLee Herrmann as they discuss women's unique skills in all aspects of film production. This Salon takes place as a panel discussion, exploring why women often do not utilize their strengths or have their creative input pushed aside, and how that affects world cinema. You'll also have an opportunity to address the crowd if you have a project to showcase or crew positions you'd like to fill!

The Salon starts at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, September 12, with ample time to meet new people of all ages and creative disciplines, as well as enjoy great complimentary food and drinks! BDA's Digital Salons are a fun and unique hybrid of schmoozing and networking, art and technology, entertainment, and education. These FREE quarterly events bring together people from all different disciplines - filmmakers, photographers, web designers, mobile app developers and more! Partial funding for this program provided by a grant from the Boulder Arts Commission.

More info here:

Friday, August 31, 2012

A week to go for BIFF 2013 filmmakers

In the Spotlight, Withoutabox
Boulder, Colorado - USA
February 14 to 17, 2013

In the Spotlight this week is the 9th Annual Boulder International Film Festival (BIFF), a four-day celebration of cinema that attracts over 20,000 film enthusiasts, media, and industry each year. With exciting networking events, A-list filmmaker and celebrity attendees, an inviting local community, and some of the best films and filmmakers working today, it's clear why BIFF was named one of Moviemaker Magazine's "25 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee" and "25 Coolest Film Festivals." BIFF offers independent filmmakers first-rate hospitality, numerous opportunities for exposure, and huge, enthusiastic audiences eager to embrace unique voices.

Last year's BIFF celebration was a banner event; the festival honored veteran television and film star Martin Sheen (Apocalypse NowThe West Wing), Oscar-nominee William H. Macy (FargoBoogie Nights), producer Anthony Bregman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), and writer-director Lawrence Kasdan (Raiders of the Lost ArkThe Big Chill). Year after year, film fans descend on Boulder by the tens of thousands to rub elbows with the best in the business, and this year's festival promises to be no different.

Whether you're a household name, an established filmmaker, an up-and-comer, or just a fan of outstanding storytelling, BIFF is ready and waiting to give you the star treatment. Visiting filmmakers enjoy complimentary accommodations just a few blocks from the festival's main venue - the historic, 900-seat Boulder Theater - and receive a VIP pass to galas, parties, and other great networking events. With all of this outstanding hospitality, it's no wonder why Chris Gore, founder of Film Threat, called BIFF "a festival that should be at the top of every filmmaker's list." For cineastes eager to mix and mingle with like-minded film lovers, BIFF is a must-visit destination event.
Add to your Watchlist   View Listing
September 7, 2012 - Regular Deadline
The Boulder International Film Festival is committed to bringing the best in international filmmaking to the heart of Colorado and to celebrating talented filmmakers of the past, present, and future. More than a film festival, it is a community that expands and intensifies with each passing year, creating opportunities for filmmakers to further strengthen their connections and their output.
BIFF has hosted some of the industry's most talented and celebrated artists including Academy Award-winning director Oliver Stone; Academy-nominated actors James Franco, Alec Baldwin, and Eric Roberts; Emmy Award-winning actress Blythe Danner; legendary comedian Chevy Chase; and Golden Globe-nominated actress Maria Bello, along with many other independent filmmakers, directors, producers, and stars.

Located at the foot of the stunning Rocky Mountains, Boulder is just 45 minutes from Denver International Airport and has been voted "#1 Most Creative City" by The Daily Beast, "Smartest Town in the U.S." by Forbes Magazine, "Place you Dream of Living" by Backpacker Magazine, "The Foodiest Town in America" by Bon Appetit, and "Best Place to Live" byMen's Journal. And with stellar ski slopes, restaurants, and attractions not far from the festival action, there will be plenty to see, do, and imbibe when you're not basking in the light of the big screen. Don't miss out...submit your film to the Boulder International Film Festival today!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Attention, filmmakers: deadline approaching!

Hey, kids! We know that 250,560 minutes seems like a long time, but it's not. That's how long we have until Opening Night of the Ninth Annual Boulder International Film Festival!

Another deadline to keep in mind is two weeks. That's how long you have, filmmakers, to submit your work for BIFF 2013. The time for submitting your film to BIFF is NOW.

BIFF is rapidly solidifying its reputation as one of the most innovative and influential young film festivals in the U.S., having recently been selected as one of MovieMaker Magazine's "25 Coolest Film Festivals” and one of the “25 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee.” 

Founded by a pair of filmmakers, BIFF knows the challenges of making your work and getting it seen by savvy and enthusiastic crowds. We have one criterion -- quality. Let us help you bring your best to the screen.

Quite simply, The Boulder International Film Festival offers filmmakers superb hospitality, excellent exposure opportunities and huge, enthusiastic audiences, all combining to create a unique festival experience, Boulder-style. Filmmakers enjoy luxurious accommodations just a few blocks from the Festival's main venue - the historic 900-seat Boulder Theater - and receive a VIP pass to the galas and legendary parties, where plenty of elbow-rubbing with producers, directors, and critics is the norm. Great food and drink, skiing just 45 minutes from Boulder, and fantastic parties every night all add up to one of the most welcoming, filmmaker-friendly festivals on the circuit.

BIFF attracts over 20,000 film enthusiasts, media, and industry each year, and has been proud to host and celebrate some of film's most talented artists, including award-winning actors Martin Sheen and William H. Macy at BIFF 2012, Oscar-winning director Oliver Stone and Oscar-nominated actor James Franco at BIFF 2011, Oscar-nominated actor Alec Baldwin at BIFF 2010, Emmy Award-winning actress Blythe Danner, legendary comedian Chevy Chase, along with many other independent filmmakers, directors, producers and stars including /writerdirector Lawrence Kasdan, producer Anthony Bregman,  Michael and Mark Polish, Golden Globe-nominated actress Maria Bello, writer John August, Academy-Award nominee Eric Roberts, Patrick Warburton [Seinfeld]), and writer/filmmaker Chris Gore (The Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide and Film Threat).

Submit to BIFF today, you'll love it here.  Go to for more information.  The next Boulder International Film Festival is Feb 14 – 17, 2013 in Boulder, Colorado

Monday, July 16, 2012

BIFF 2013: Let the games begin!

Howdy, folks! How've you been? It seems just a few days ago that we were saying farewell to our crowds, guests, and volunteers from BIFF 2012. However, the wheel of the calendar has turned and it's time for us to prepare for the upcoming festival.

Our early-bird deadline for submission of films to BIFF 2013 is Thursday, July 20. For full details and a link to our submissions provider, please click here. Remember, each year we feature a full spectrum of outstanding new films -- features, shorts, animation, and more -- and share them with an enthusiastic and discriminating audience. Have you created something you think we should screen? Let us know!

It's been a scorchingly hot summer here in beautiful Boulder, Colorado. Our core staff has been toiling away all this time, working on plans to improve, expand and enhance our next edition.

Stay tuned to us via this blog, our website,, or track us via Facebook or Twitter. We will keep you in the loop as to what's developing. Thanks again to everyone who helped us in the past -- and we welcome old friends and new who, like us, are dedicated to making this the BEST BIFF EVER!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Die offizielle Zusammenfassung! (The official BIFF 2012 wrap-up announcement, y'all!)

[Photo by Ashley Meek]
Boulder was swarmed by film enthusiasts and filmmakers for the eighth annual Boulder International Film Festival (BIFF). The four-day festival featured 50 films as well as a variety of special events, including conversations with Martin Sheen and William H. Macy, the third annual DiMe (Digital Media) Symposium, and filmmaker panels and parties. BIFF saw a 10% percent increase from last year's attendance, with a total audience of 19,514. Award-winning films, celebrity guests and increased attendance continue to establish BIFF as one of the premier international film festivals.

Twelve events sold out during this year's festival, including the Opening Night Gala with "Darling Companion," A Conversation with William H. Macy, "Jeff, Who Lives at Home," "High Ground," "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen," "The Lady," "Surviving Progress," "Lucky," "Kumare," Shorts Programs 1 and 2, and the Closing Night Awards Ceremony and screening of "Chasing Ice."

"We had another outstanding year and provided our audiences with compelling independent films and left them with issues and themes to think about," said Robin Beeck, BIFF's Executive Director. "The 2012 Festival was a huge success made possible by BIFF's unique combination of celebrities, accomplished filmmakers, cinema lovers, sponsors and volunteers, and we thank them all for their important contributions, without which the festival could not succeed."

BIFF 2013 is February 14-17, 2013!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

FESTIVAL REPORT: "Love Free or Die"

By Andy McClellan
BIFF DigiComm Commando

Love Free or Die: How the Bishop of New Hampshire is Saving the World is not just a film that chronicles the trials of Bishop Gene Robinson of the New Hampshire Episcopal church as "the first openly gay bishop in Christendom." It is a film about social injustice. It is a film that, inevitably, unavoidably, and purposefully, directly addresses gay rights within a religious frame.

Many in the LGBTQ community struggle with a sexuality that is not accepted by their religion. The director of Love Free or Die, Macky Alston, has a personal connection to the film and the subject. Growing up, religion was the family business, and several generations of Alston men were ministers. But as a gay man, Alston wrestled with the conflict with his faith, the lack of acceptance, for years.

To the question, "Who are we to change 2,000 years of thinking?" Bishop Robinson responds, "Why not us?" This was "something I needed to amplify," says Alston.

"My rights, my freedom, my ability to have my husband and my children, is a fight that's taking place on a religious battlefield," Alston said during the Call 2 Action discussion following the film. "The frame is a religious frame."

"Love Free or Die" director Macky Alston
There is still much resistance within the religious community, and the United States as a whole, to acceptance of LGBTQ individuals and same-sex marriage. "People who love us still vote against us for religious reasons," Alston points out. A change in viewpoint can be extremely difficult. For many people of faith, if same-sex marriage is acceptable, "then everything they've ever believed is wrong. People are wrestling with this stuff, and need help," said Alston.

An important point made by the discussion panel was that people cannot be expected to shed their religion. Acceptance of gay and alternative lifestyles must tally with religion doctrine, and emphasis must be placed on accepting people, and not accepting injustice.

In Love Free or Die, through the efforts of Bishop Robinson and many others, we see the Episcopal church bless gays and lesbians, not only as members of the church, but also as eligible for appointment to official positions, such as bishop, and same-sex marriages. For Alston, this was "God's dream coming true, and certainly mine, and I believe Gene Robinson is right."

Later in the nearly hour-long discussion, Alston added simply, "What it takes to be a moral person is to live justly."

More information can be found at

FESTIVAL REPORT: Producing Your Own Documentary Workshop

Abigail Wright, who led Sunday's documentary workshop.
By Kristen Daly
BIFF DigiComm Commando

On Sunday afternoon in the Canyon Theater at the Boulder Public Library, filmmaker Abigail Wright brought up passion early in her discussion of making documentaries.  With all the work that goes into making a documentary, you need a passion which will sustain you for a long time.  The Workshop was a co-production of Boulder Digital Arts and BIFF and was a fascinating look at both the tangible and intangible aspects of documentary filmmaking. 

Wright of Miranda Productions has an award-winning background in documentary film and provided both an inspiring and practical overview of the making of a documentary.  Beginning with intensive and broad-ranging research, Wright covered the preparation that goes into a documentary well before any shooting begins.  She presented a different way of thinking about documentary in terms of classic feature genres like Western, Detective, War (with subsets for Survival and Sports), Science Fiction/Fantasy,  Music & Dance and Art & Culture.  She also stressed the visual nature of the medium, noting that only in recent centuries with widespread literacy have we begun to think in words whereas huge areas of our brain have been hard-wired for thinking and dreaming and even communicating in pictures and gestures. 
Abigail Wright leads the Documentary Workshop. [Photo by Donna Crain]
She also asked for participants' emails, in order to send a package of material to help in making a documentary. From budget to framing, Wright gave an inspiring presentation not to be found in a typical how-to seminar.

FESTIVAL REPORT: Master Animation Class with Bill Plympton

Bill Plympton's drawing for Donna Crain --
By Donna Crain
Workshops and Panels Coordinator and BIFF DigiComm Commando
On Saturday, February 18, Academy Award nominee and Cannes-award-winning animator and filmmaker, Bill Plympton, kicked off BIFF's 2012 Workshop Series with a Master Animation Class held in the Canyon Theater at the Boulder Public Library. Plympton charmed the house with drawing demonstrations interspersed with film clips, telling hilarious stories while advising how to make it as an independent artist. 
Bill Plympton addresses his Master Animation Class. [Donna Crain]
Plympton joked, "People say negotiating with Disney is not so much good cop/bad cop as good cop/anti-Christ. I had to say no (to them.) But it's a question we all have to ask ourselves. If you want to work for Disney, you'll make a lot of money, have health benefits (which I don't.) You'll work on a film that is seen by millions of people. But I'm a little underground." He went on to encourage attendees to follow their passion, giving specific advice on how they could make a living if they chose to remain independent as he has done.

He also took questions from the audience. When asked about his process, Plympton noted that he still drew with pencil on paper, having people in his studio scan each hand drawn image into the computer. "I just really love drawing pencil on paper," Plympton shared, "I've been doing it since I was three. There's something precious about the sound and the feel." That is best evidenced by how prolific he is, arriving at his studio around six each morning, and completing between 120 and 150 drawings per day. 

And, while that may seem like a lot of drawing, "a feature length film is about 30,000 images," he told the crowd.

With attendees ranging from kids just starting out as animators, to an older, self-proclaimed lifelong fan, Plympton made himself accessible to all after the workshop. He chatted and signed autographs,  sending everyone off with a "Dog" drawing and the impression that they had just spent a memorable morning with an incredibly cool dude.
Bill doing the sgining thing for fans. [Donna Crain]

Sunday, February 19, 2012


Tommy and the Tangerines rock the house at the B.A.D. party. [Photo by Peter Wayne]
The first annual BIFF After Dark (B.A.D.) party took place on Saturday, Feb. 18 at the Odd Fellows Hall in Boulder. This incredible bash was, by unanimous consent, the best BIFF party ever! Here are some photos and footage from that event (no one was injured or arrested). Thanks so much to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Francis Ford Coppola Winery, Avery and Boulder Beers, 303 Vodka, Vodka 14, The Vocal Q's, Tommy and the Tangerines, Hippieman (comedian John Novosad), DJ Space Monkey and everyone who helped make it happen!

Wendy Sakol Goldner (left) and Anne Tengler at play. [Photo by Peter Wayne]

FESTIVAL REPORT: "Make a Short Film" Workshop for Students

[Photo by Donna Crain]
By Kristen Daly
BIFF DigiComm Commando

The student workshop was presented Sunday afternoon by Boulder Digital Arts in conjunction with the Boulder Film Festival.  BDA is an amazing resource providing classes, events, technology and space to creators in the digital arts.  The workshop was free to students 13 to 18 and was well-attended by students in a wide age range and various filmmaking goals. 

The instructor, Antony Cooper, is an award-winning documentary filmmaker who cut his teeth working for MTV shooting rock stars in London and is now based in Colorado.  He shared a number of Colorado-specific notes such as, don’t leave your eyepiece flipped up to the sun if you don’t want to burn a hole in your camera.  And “wind is your enemy.” 

Cooper’s focus was on the technology and logistics of filmmaking and he started by outlining his five steps:  concept, plan, shoot, edit and show.  The workshop was interactive with students coming up to demonstrate casting sessions, recording dramatic dialogue, what colors and patterns to watch out for on an actor or documentary subject, lighting, and the pitfalls of automatic aperture. 

Cooper did a nice job weaving together general information with individual anecdotes and details and also noting what one would absolutely need versus what you might hope for and what would be ideal in filmmaking in terms of equipment.  It was well-directed to the audience.   

In the sound section he gave examples from his work and stressed that although it may make things more complicated that getting the characters out doing what they do, where they do it will make a documentary or corporate video much more compelling.  He also noted and came back to the need to capture close ups and b-roll and other tricks-of-the-trade to make cutting a documentary possible. 

Cooper's low-key nature made for an inspiring workshop that will encourage students to believe that they really can make a short film and get their work out there.


By Mary Rususky
BIFF DigiComm Commando

Kurt Miller and Greg I. Hamilton both love happy endings.  They recognize that festival films are often calling attention to tragedies, and they were determined to create a film that would be inspiring and give people back something that was lost. Building on a lifetime of high-risk action ski films, Kurt Miller, former head of Warren Miller Entertainment, turns his attention to adaptive sport skiing. This uplifting film shows that even after a disabling tragedy, people can find that their life is not over, they can get something back that they lost, give something back, and go forward.

"The Movement" tells the amazing stories of athletes with disabilities who have regained freedom and brought joy into their life through adaptive sports.  Not being able to do things in the same way, we see a paralyzed athlete build a life again against all odds. When you take away one skill, others compensate and ultimately one becomes whole again. It’s not letting life have the last say and instead saying “this is me now, and I’m excited to be me. I have the last say”. 

“Movies are fun and we will be taking this film in as many directions as possible. The film is not about making money, it’s about giving back.” The film is being shown in sold-out venues at independent film festivals, calling attention to and raising funds for adaptive sport programs throughout the country. It’s being taken to rehab hospitals giving people hope in the midst of their trauma. It’s inspiring adaptive athletes to compete and win against able bodied athletes. And it motivates everyone to be grateful for what we have, our movement, our freedom.
Most of the money raised by the film stays in the community to support local adaptive sports programs. For more information visit

FESTIVAL REPORT: Master Animation Class with Bill Plmypton

Bill Plympton with BCM reporter Kaiti Williamson at the Boulder Public Library. [Photo by Beth Kovacs]
By Mary Rususky
BIFF DigiComm Commando 

One of the great animators, a multiple Oscar nominee and Cannes honoree, Bill Plympton, held a master animation class Saturday during BIFF. He's made his career as an independent filmmaker and spent the morning showing his new films, demoing his drawing techniques, and sharing his personal story.

Bill's wacky, surrealist, goofball humor had him drawing from an early age. "When I realized I wanted to be an animator is the moment when people started laughing at my film en masse. It was the most magical feeling I could think of, I just glowed. I felt like I was at home, and I wondered, why did I wait so long?"

He said it is now an incredibly fortunate time to become an animator and encouraged young people to begin now. We are in a Renaissance, he stated, entering the second Golden Age of animation, with gaming, commercials, television and Internet offering countless opportunities for expression.

Bill shared with the class the Plympton Dogma of animated film success, which is 1) make it short, 2) make it cheap and 3) make it funny. Wacky films that make people laugh are films people want to see and buy. He's used social media to enhance his Oscar-nominated short "Guard Dog," including illustrations from hundreds of fans in the final version.

He's been happy that he's made the decision to remain independent, as he loves doing wacky films on his own terms. "Everything I draw, I want to, that's why I'm here."

Saturday, February 18, 2012

FESTIVAL REPORT: Martin Sheen at BIFF 2012

Master of Cinema Award winner Martin Sheen. [Photo by Beth Kovacs]
By Sandi Butchkiss

BIFF DigiComm Commando

The adoration of Martin Sheen wasobvious from the minute he set foot on the stage at the Boulder Theater Saturday afternoon. The entire sold-out premises rose as one to welcome him and theirenthusiastic and joyful applause visibly moved the actor, who asked “Why aren’tyou all outdoors in the sun doing something athletic?” He said he couldunderstand a massive crowd like this if there was a foot of snow outside andthe temperature was below freezing.

He accepted his Master of Cinema Award graciously, but called it the "You’re not Dead Yet" award . . . andsaid he was off to Irelandnext week to get another.

When talking about his role in the TV series "The WestWing," he said it was true that people still think of him as the president eventhough he made 16 features while in the series and his been in other TV seriesand feature films for over 50 years. And just recently when he was boarding a planeat JFK, someone said “Good morning, Mr President.What’s a matter, Air Force One in the shop?”

He spoke of "The Way," an independentfeature which he starred in and which was written and directed by his son Emilio, who wasalso in the film.

They used all their own money tofund the film he said, their time was very limited, they were shooting in aforeign country and stress was high. (They had run out of money and son Charliecame to the rescue.) But by the end of the filming he had come to look uponEmilio as his hero.

As an alcoholic himself (who hasn’thad a drink since l989) he commiserated with Charlie who he said is athoughtful, caring person who has his problems.

Now a very handsome and healthy-looking 71, he has received over 70 major awards and honors and been arrested67 times due to his non-violent but anti-government behavior as an activist.

[photo by Peter Wayne]

He spoke lovingly of his mother andfather, both immigrants (Irish and Hispanic, respectively) who met atimmigration in New York City.

He was not anxious to speak ofFrancis Ford Coppola or of his experience during the making of "Apocalypse Now" (being drunk andlater having a heart attack on screen, both incidents kept in the film by thedirector). He said it was not an instant hitbut when Vietnamveterans started going to see it and said it was totally true to life, itbegan to be popular.

His philosophy of life was inspiredat 14 when a caddy at an exclusive (in other words no Jews or blacks) golf clubin Dayton, Ohio. He tried to start a union, the attempt which got him fired, and he realizedhe would never join any group that was restricted or “exclusive.”

Mr. Sheen was so ebullient that hecontinued talking long after his time was really up and the Q & A from theaudience continued until it was time for the next event at the theater.

Sheen accepts his Master of Cinema Award as Ron Bostwick looks on. [Photo by Peter Wayne]

And so he finally departed, leavingeveryone in attendance with the feeling that they had just had a wonderful andvery personal conversation with an old friend.

FESTIVAL REPORT: "Patriocracy"

"Patriocracy" director Brian Malone (left) and Congressman Jared Polis prior to the screening. [Photo by Randy Malone]
By Kristen Daly
BIFF DigiComm Commando 

Introduced briefly by our very own Congressman Jared Polis, "Patriocracy" screened to a large crowd that was bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and ready to face issues at 10 a.m. at the Boulder High School.  The opening was a cacophony of voices from Congress expressing frustration and refusal to compromise.  With a nostalgic visit to the 2008 inauguration, the movie then delves into the central issue, that Congress has not been this divided and partisan in over 100 years and that the large majority of Americans are unhappy with the dysfunctional government. 

"Patriocracy" gives us a brief history of how we got so divided, as well as a blow-by-blow of the last few years of hyper-partisanship -- including the debt-ceiling debacle, Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford’s shooting, the  ratings agency’s downgrade and the Citizens United Supreme Court decision.  Denver filmmaker Brian Malone does this through a wide-ranging slew of interviews with media personalities, academics, advisors and former and current Congresspeople, many of whom provide some priceless quotes.   

Just when we are about to lose all hope, Malone brings us some glimmers.  He starts with the 250,000-person Restore Sanity event in which John Stewart and Stephen Colbert gave people a forum to express displeasure with the current political environment and ideas for more reasonable approaches.  He also provided some concrete, pragmatic changes being suggested by former Oklahoma Congressman Mickey Edwards and current Tennessee Congressman Jim Cooper, many of which were met with applause from the audience. 

Starting from his ending quote from Thomas Jefferson, “"We in America do not have government by the majority.  We have government by the majority who participate," Malone in the ensuing question and answer period stressed that active citizen involvement is the way to make a functioning government.  This conversation continued in the packed classroom of the Call2Action where a group of active, informed citizens deftly moderated by Boulder Council Member Macon Cowles came together to go into greater depth with Malone accompanied by his wife and two daughters.  
The Call 2 Action talkback at the Boulder High School after the screening of "Patriocracy." [Photo by Bonnie Chaim]

Books like Healing the Heart of Democracy by Parker J. Palmer and Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone were mentioned.  Some of the organizations mentioned in the film like Americans Elect were questioned as to whom their backers are. Local actions like the idea of pushing for open primaries in CO (there was debate here), and joining organizations like the League of Women Voters (they take men too) were discussed.  

"Patriocracy" director Brian Malone and Festival Director Robin Beeck.
Malone and his family are taking the show on the road to New York City in early March.  They are self-funding a week of screenings at the Quad Cinema starting March 2nd.  The films theatrical future depends on these screenings so if you saw the film and liked it or if this sounds important to you then do encourage your NYC friends to attend. 

FESTIVAL REPORT: Digital Media Symposium, Part 2

Dr. Alvy Ray Smith explains it all to you. [Photo by Peter Wayne]
By Kristen Daly
BIFF DigiComm Commando

The Digital Media Symposium opened with Harris Morris of Harris Broadcasting Communications expounding on a vision to enhance the sports arena experience with digital technologies. This arena experience has been lagging behind the technological capabilities of the “living room experience”. The new technology will allow sports arenas to compete on a new level with living rooms. One of the most interesting aspects of this technology is the effort to synthesize the virtual and the real or “live”. Buying certain sports packages could allow fans of all things ‘virtual’ to combine a real-life venue experience with a digital identity equipped with discounts and other benefits.

Andres Espineira, founder and CEO of Pixorial, aims to “liberate the world’s video.” He suggests that all those videos languishing in closets need to come alive and enter the cloud so that, instead of one storyteller who decides what’s important and meaningful, there would be multiple storytellers. This would be accomplished by sharing video content at a raw level and granting access to the public through the digital “cloud”. He goes on to say that this collective storytelling applies not just to content from the past but to current content as well. He used the example of a school play where all the raw content video would be put in a single place where people would be able to piece together clips that recreate their own story or memory of the event. Pixorial wants to change the passive consumption of content and make everyone an active storyteller.

Rob Shuham of Fearless Revolution shared the organization’s plan to reignite the passion behind the climate change issue. Millions and millions of dollars have been spent to change the issue of climate change from a fact to a “conversation.” The goal of Fearless Revolution is to use a combination of digital technology, grassroots activism and gripping content to “win the conversation.” They have trained 3000 people around the world to present a detailed slide show (a sort of Inconvenient Truth 2.0) as the first tier in a multi-tiered approach to reenergizing this issue. He also mentioned a series of “tent pole” events they have planned, the first of which happened this past September called 24 Hours of Reality featuring Al Gore. This project explored the effect of climate change throughout the world, streaming video through 20 different time zones, and boasted 8 million viewers on UStream, their largest viewing event to date.

Local Internet entrepreneur Micha Baldwin of Graphically, spoke of how although he is new to content creation having been primarily on the marketing side that he feels we are "doing it wrong." Basically, we start with analog and try to put it on digital making it feel as much like analog as possible. As he points out, kids these days don't care if their book is on paper or digital, they just care if its good and don't want anything to stand in the way of the story. Turning the page, he says, stands in the way of the story. He spoke of how too many digital bells and whistles also gets in the way of the story.

At Graphically, they can now extract marketing data in a way that could never be done before and provide it to content creators. He gave the theoretical example of being able to tell a creator whose third novel didn't sell well that 98 percent of people stopped reading after she killed off the cat in novel 2. He noted research that shows that people read on average 8 pages at a time. Maybe, Micah suggests, creators should cater to eight-page sections. He suggested new tools for creators to use, like putting up pieces or titles on social media and paying to direct traffic to them to determine what people like and don't. He notes how Tim Ferriss did this with his book The 4-Hour Workweek bought Google adwords and based his title off what was the most popular. As he says content creators must think about the presentation layer in digital.

FESTIVAL REPORT: William H. Macy Tribute

[Photo by Randy Malone]

By Sandi Butchkiss

BIFF DigiComm Commando

From the applause, screams andwhistles from the packed house you would think Macy was a rock star. Not just an award winning TV, film and stageactor of high repute.

If you couldn’t get a ticket, youmissed him being given the BIFF Vanguard Award for his ground-breaking andinnovative work as an actor for his body of work in such films as “Fargo,”“Door to Door,” Mr. Holland’s Opus,” “A Civic Action” and many dozens more.

If you couldn’t make it, you alsoalso missed him keeping the conversation flowing with comments such as….

BIFF Special Event Producer and Host Ron Bostwick (left) interviews Macy. [Photo by Randy Malone]

About comedian Don Rickles “He ishysterically funny…until the camera rolls.”

And fellow actor, heart-throb BradPitt “I think he’s the bee’s knees.”

About his leading role in Fargo “I wanted that partso badly I told Ethan Cohen if I didn’t get it I would shoot his dog.”

About our state “I love Colorado, My wife Felicity grew up in Aspen.”

In regard to his many years inChicago acting, teaching and founding the St. Nicholas Theater with collegebuddies David Mamet and Steven Schacter “I had a great time in Chicago in thosedays….that was before sex killed you.”

About working on the long-runningTV series, ER “I was a special guest on ER but not really a member of the cast for4 seasons. Then I told them to either give me a contract or write me out. Theywrote me out.”

About working with award-winningdirectors Cohen brothers “They are like two hippies that someone gave a lot ofmoney to.”

Joking about being offered roles inmotion pictures “What I want to know before I accept any part is…how much do Iget paid and do I have to get wet.”

About making decisions over hiscareer “I said I would never play a loser again…and then I read the script forThe Cooler and said ok one more loser.”

About his long time close friend,collaborator and playwright David Mamet “Ilove David and think he is a bona fide genius….but he just became a Republican.I don’t understand that. Maybe just to annoy me.”

Bill Macy was never considered anattractive leading man, but in person his hair is long and lustrous (due to hisrole in the TV smash hit “Shamless”), his eyes are an incredible shade of blueand he’s disarmingly charming, funny and self-effacing ….and kinda sexy too…and,I must admit, that, in person, he is darn attractive.

And when someone in the audience atthe end of the Q & A asked about the rumor that he plays the ukulele, andit suddenly materialized from behind the curtain and he strummed along and sangus all a delightful ditty that he recently wrote in honor of his new next doorneighbor, this was the perfect ending to a great evening….and the standingovation was definitely in order.

Everyone filed out in a blissfulafter-glow, feeling that they were privy to a cozy, personal, real conversationwith a major celebrity who just couldn’t have been any nicer.

FESTIVAL REPORT: Digital Media Symposium, Part 1

Dr. Alvy Ray Smith holding his Lifetime Achievement Award at the DiME. [Photo by Leah Mayotte]
By Kristen Daly
BIFF DigiComm Commando

The DiMe has started out with a groundbreaking line up of new media pioneers.  Dr. Alvy Ray Smith, two-time Academy Award Winner and co-founder of Pixar received the first lifetime achievement award.  As he notes, “we’ve reached convergence and it’s amazing.”  He is originally from Las Cruces, New Mexico where, according to his mom, he could hear the first A-bomb being tested and where test rockets were fired into the hills above the town.  He translated Moore’s law into a more intuitive graph beginning at 1x and postulating that we are now at 1 billion x.

(Toy Story comes around 1 million x.  He traces his career which mirrors this computer graphics trajectory over the years.  His presentation begs the question “what will be possible in the next 10-15 years?” See an interview with Dr. Alvy Ray Smith here:

Paul Berberian, CEO of Orbotix, presented the future as taking place in the interspace between real toys and virtual toys and how their sphero balls (a smart-phone controlled robotic ball) are navigating this space.  This in between zone, the zone of innovation or as they call in in-house, “the zone of really hard shit”, takes place in an area including augmented reality and control of real objects by virtual controllers.  He traces the history of controllers up to the Wii and Kinect which have come a long way in the zone of innovation. Still, he points out, these controllers are limited.  They can only get input and execute; they have no life of their own.  It is only with the smartphones that we have a two-way information system backed by incredible processors.  On their site,  they offer an SDK (Software Development Kit) to download to write apps for the sphere in Android, Apple iOS. A Mac version was even hacked last night, which Berberian encourages, perhaps as a way to engage developers. “We want our balls to be hacked”. He concludes saying, “The machines are coming.  You will be assimilated and you’ll enjoy it.”  
[Photo by Leah Mayotte]
Ben Long spoke of “Music and Sound in Interactive Media.”  He traces the history from video game Pong which had only 3 beeps through the arcade era with the “wall of chaotic sound”, to the birth of the home interactive entertainment where people demanded better graphics and sound.  He mentioned how far behind mobile sound was in video games as compared to the rapid developments in graphics.  The smartphone has changed all that offering an extensive toolset that one would have as a film composer.

Carla Johnson’s company, EarthvisionZ, takes up where Google Earth leaves off.  As she said, “The planet is the most powerful platform.”   She notes how 3D is our natural way of seeing the world and processing information.  We have to train ourselves to understand a 2D map.  For this reason information and data in 3D speeds up cognition.  This is Web 3.0, interacting in a geospatial way.  She touched on mind-boggling, applications that layer vertically on Google Earth that can be personalized.

The Digitools of the Trade Roundtable was full of interesting discussion.  Melissa Harrigan of Pixorial noted that we are moving away from search and toward discovery.  We are trusting our social networks help us discover content.  As she’s learned from her kids, “the right content must always be available”.  Don Hahn asked how TV fits in and if we will be moving to a one-screen environment.  Harris Morris felt that we will have multiple devices and that we will have the right screens for the right project.  Some things will be best viewed on the big screen, others on the smartphone, others on a tablet.