Imagine meeting your friends at the local cineplex for a Saturday night movie, but instead finding yourself at a Cirque du Soleil-like extravaganza. As you drive to this new auditorium you look around and realize the cineplex, as a building destination, is a relic of the past. The cineplex is now in your hand. It’s your iPad or Android. This new cinema makes each audience member feel as if they are in the movie, a truly immersive experience. This is the mission of legendary filmmaker, Douglas Trumbull.
At his home and studio in the Berkshires, Trumbull and his wife, Julia, and a team of film specialists, are working on this new immersive technology. Trumbull was the first stop on the Berkshire International Film Festival’s Filmmaker’s Summit.
Spearheaded by the extraordinarily talented, thoughtful and organized, Sarah Patrick Morgese, the two-day Filmmaker’s Summit, was a mix of field trips to the Berkshires luminous filmmaking and theatrical communities and filmmaker panels for the BIFF participating filmmakers. In my more than 15 years of attending film festivals, I have never attended a more satisfying, informative and intimate film event. Check out some of the highlights below. Also, if you are interested in film, distribution and research, check out our RESOURCES.
Trumbull has worked as special photographic effects supervisor for the late Stanley Kubrick, Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, as well as directed his own film, Brainstorm, with Cliff Robertson, Christopher Walken, Louise Fletcher and Natalie Wood in her last film role. Click below to see the segments from the film.
Using his state-of-the-art green screen studio, Trumbull is leveraging the latest technological cinematic advances by capturing metadata, meaning everything there is to know about a shot; the camera angle, lighting, lens, background, it’s all being recorded. If three weeks go by and he realizes he needs an actress to say a different line, or change the outcome of a scene, by using the metadata, he can summon the shot in his studio, and add the line or new sequence in an instant. This flexibility will also decrease Hollywood budgets by more than one quarter of current budgets, he says.
To learn more about Trumbull’s innovations, check out the video above and hear the highlights from his talk to the filmmakers from the Berkshire International Film Festival‘s Filmmaker’s Summit. Trumbull is also an advocate on the history of film. Click below to see the history of Cinerama. It’s looking back that can lead us forward. Can’t view on Vimeo? Watch in on YouTube.
After the yellow school bus brought us to the Red Lion Inn from Trumbull’s Studio, we met with Pamela Yates and Peter Kinoy, co-founders of Skylight Pictures. Their latest film, Granito, is focused on the Guatemalan genocide. Yates closed the panel by saying, “It’s a lifelong commitment to make any change. Keep at it.” No truer words for the life of a documentary filmmaker.
Other interesting panels focused on the state of indie film financing and the use of aggregators, where Debra Fisher, head of digital distribution for Oscilloscope and Josh Braun, co-president of Submarine Entertainment, offered extremely useful advice to all the filmmakers on how to navigate the many distribution channels of hulu plus, netflix, and other platforms to distribute films.
BIFF board members Mary Mott and Gordon Simmering opened their stunning home to the BIFF filmmakers and community for a sumptuous Indian buffet. BIFF founder and director, Kelley Vickery, gives a hearty welcome to all.
The next day we traveled to Lenox, MA and met with Shakespeare&Company‘s Managing Director, Nicholas Puma, for a cross-media workshop. More and more theaters have incorporated film and video as a complement to the storytelling on stage. An interesting aside, about one-third of the filmmakers present had a theater background. As a former actor, playwright and graduate of the American Repertory Theater’s Advanced Training Program at Harvard, I can attest that the theater is a fantastic training ground for storytelling, character and getting to the finish line, no matter the obstacles. These skills come in quite handy in the independent film world. The Shakespeare&Company’s campus boasts an airline hangar-like studio and many black box theaters that can double as a film studio. In the heart of the Berkshires, it is a filmmaker’s dream. We toured the campus, and to the right, met with the creative team in the costume shop.
Another highlight was the panel with Academy Award winning filmmaker, and Berkshire resident, Cynthia Wade, and her husband, Matthew Syrett. They were with Sue Sternberg, the subject of their film, Shelter Dogs. The extremely accessible Wade, fostered a frank discussion on ethics and the relationship of filmmaker and subject. Her latest film for HBO is the wonderful, Mondays at Racine, about a Long Island, New York, beauty salon that opens its doors every third Monday to women with cancer. To the left, Wade, in the back, is surrounded by her inspired cast.
There were so many great films and people to meet at the festival. One of the great advantages of having the Filmmaker’s Summit before the festival is to have time to meet the filmmakers and support their films. I was privileged to be on the short film docket with an incredible diverse group of filmmakers with strong, unique and wildly creative voices. Be sure to get these young filmmakers on your radar and monitor their careers. Morgan Faust’s, Tick Tock Time Emporium is sheer delight for kids and kids in adult bodies. The fantasy world she creates is brilliant in its simplicity. Khadija Diakite’s, film Color Blind, about interracial adoption is extremely insightful and thought provoking. A recent graduate from USC’s film school, she, like the others, have a great future ahead of them. Mark Tobey’s, A Good Thing, is a suspenseful thriller with an unexpected twist. It is shot, directed and acted to perfection. Also of note was Sarah Violet Bliss’s, Priceless Things, that deals with a very ordinary situation, the loss of an engagement ring at a nail salon, in a very complex way.
As far as the features, Matthew Aker and Jeff Dupre’s, Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present, is a total blast and can be seen on HBO. Kirby Dick‘s, The Invisible War, is another disturbing yet essential film. Dick turns his camera on U.S. military soldiers, mostly women, who have been raped while on active duty in Iraq, Afghanistan and in the US. As grim as some of these subjects sound, they are really inspiring films that shed light on subjects many people would rather keep in the dark. I applaud BIFF for curating such a rich mosaic of diverse films that capture the human condition.