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Ciao at AFI

Yen's newest feature "Ciao", produced by Jim McMahon, is premiering on Sunday at AFI in Dallas. Here are the times and locations: Sunday, March 30th 7:15pm at the Angelika and Saturday, April 5th 10:30pm at the Magnolia.

I had the immense pleasure of working closely on this production with Yen and Jim. They are both dear friends of mine and I wish them well as the big night approaches. I hope that you all will support the film and come to the screenings.

CIAO Trailer from Yen Tan on Vimeo.


Another friend, Barak Epstein has a film playing as well: Blood on the Highway. DP'd by the great Clay Liford I'm expecting a veritable feast for the eyes and a fun time. Here's all the info for that screening.
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SXSW '08

For me the 2008 South by Southwest Film Festival was definitely the year of the short film. The program was overflowing with technically proficient short films that had richly developed characters and profoundly touching narratives. A prime example of this can be found in my absolutely favorite film of the festival "Glory at Sea". There is no synopsis or explanation I can give that will do the film justice. I will say that I haven't gotten misty eyed at a film since watching "The New World" for the first time. If you'd like to try and catch a tiny glimpse of it's greatness here is the trailer:

Here's the Quicktime version with is much higher quality and well worth the wait to load and watch: http://www.court13.com/glorytrailer.mov

"Glory at Sea" along with most of the other amazing short films that played this year were over 10 minutes long. This is a trend I hope to see continue in programming throughout the U.S.A. I've said this before but I really feel that many festivals obsession with the 10 minute cut-off is unjust and ridiculous. If we want to encourage filmmakers to make emotionally complex, well crafted films we have to allow them the proper time to do it in and not apply internet standards to the craft. Sometimes it feels as though you either have to make a feature or a short under 10 minutes if you want the chance to play a film festival and that's just stupid. There is so much amazing work being made out there in that no-man's land of 20 to 60 minutes and it deserves to be seen.

Here's my list of favorite shorts from SXSW '08:
Bachianis No. 5, Blindspot, Closing Night, Crossbow, Dynasty Handbag - The Quiet Storm, The European Kid, Frog Jesus, Glory at Sea, I hate you don't touch me or Bat and Hat, Kid, Knock Knock, Madame Tutli-Putli, MAN, Mr. P, Paradise, The Problem With Machines That Communicate, Rock in a Hard Place, The Rambler, Safari, The Second Line, Small Apartment, Spider, The Stain on the Sidewalk, Swedish Blueballs, Warlord.

Of course one section of David's triptych "A Catalog of Anticipations" screened and I loved watching it again on the big screen. It plays very well and is so amazingly done it definitely held it's own amongst the other excellent short films it was playing with.

As far as features go, well, I didn't gorge myself on them like I have in years past. Amy and I were trying to relax a little bit. As a matter of fact I missed a great deal of films I wanted to see. Nevertheless, there were some great ones. My top favorite was probably "Medicine for My Melancholy", check the trailer:

Here's a list of my favorite features:
American Teen, Goliath, Medicine For My Melancholy, The Pleasure of Being Robbed, Present Company, Nights and Weekends, Woodpecker, and Yeast.
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GDMF - Watch the whole damn thing online now.

A little under two years ago I shot GDMF. Now it is finally available in full for public viewing.

My friend and fellow Fort Worth filmmaker Erik Clapp's upstart film website Atombomb.tv is hosting the film. Erik saw the film when it played at Dallas Video Festival about a year and a half ago and told me way back then about his idea to start an online site for local short films. Thanks to him for taking a chance with GDMF for his site.

I would also like to thank David Lowery for consistently encouraging me to put the film online. I was always hesitant about it and worried about how it would play. His advice was to just put it out there and let it find an audience for better or worse.

I am severely proud of the film. It's definitely one of those projects that has enriched me as a filmmaker and will always mean a lot to me personally. It represents everything I needed to be doing to move forward in my creativity. I'm most proud of learning to hone in on my instincts and follow them at almost every turn. One of the prime examples of this was the casting of Abbey Collins as the lead. I literally saw a picture of her on one of my friends MySpace pages and followed the link to look at her page and knew she was it. Even though she was a completely inexperienced non-actor, somehow I knew it. I didn't even audition her. I just set down and had a conversation with her (David in tow to make sure I wasn't crazy) and we both agreed. She was it. When I watch her raw, honest, tour de force performance I know I made the right decision.

I've typed and erased many sentences where I felt the need to somehow make excuses for certain aspects of the film or the process of making it but in the end that is pointless and weak. You'll either like it or you won't.

Either way, I hope that you'll watch it and let me know what you think.

Visit the GDMF page Atombomb.tv where you can find info on the film with it streaming in standard definition along with links to audio commentary by Abbey and myself and a little behind-the-scenes video.

For best quality please watch GDMF in streaming HD here: http://www.vimeo.com/462565.

WARNING: This does contain mature content and is NOT SAFE FOR WORK. Also, it's 30 minutes long so it's a bit of a time commitment.
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St. Nick is over

Technically principal photography ended last week but we had some stuff to shoot this weekend. It didn't feel final until yesterday when art wrapped out the picture house. As I walked through the empty house returned to it's state of normal decay in preparation for construction to begin again I felt sad and lonely. It really is over. Even though we still have a few pick-ups the house is the big symbol of it all ending.

Below is a short film full of some behind-the-scenes clips that I shot on my Casio Exilim still camera.

St. Nick Behind-The-Scenes Short from James M. Johnston on Vimeo.